Amélie, who was an intern at AVSF in 2012, tells us about her thesis on the ethno-veterinary practices of the Pasto people in Columbia and Ecuador.
I studied the ethno-veterinary practices of Pasto livestock farmers in their trans-border territory in the Andes. Within the framework of AVSF's "Transfronterizo Pasto" project and in collaboration with the project's team, I conducted a survey among the livestock farmers and "tradipraticiens" (people who practice medicine using traditional remedies) and took an inventory of all of their practices. The objectives were, first of all, to preserve the community's ancestral know-how and put it to use, and also to help any livestock farmers interested in pursuing agro-ecology adopt the most effective practices.
To do so, I met with any livestock farmers and tradipraticiens who were willing to take part in our study, and I asked them about the remedies that they knew and about the medicinal plants that they use, particularly for treating cows and guinea pigs, which are the two most important species for the region's economy. We published the results of the survey in a pamphlet that is about fifty pages long. The pamphlet is particularly intended for people living in the region who raise dairy cows, and it contains articles on the most common afflictions with suggestions on which remedies to use to prevent or treat them.
I knew that I wanted to work on the topic of ethno-veterinarian practices for my thesis, and I was looking for an organization that could offer me a subject. I was welcomed on the ground by Gonzalo Cardona, who is a veterinary doctor for AVSF and the Columbian teams: Shaquiñan, ADC (Association for Rural Development); and the Ecuadorian team CCM (Rural Communal Council of Montúfar), all of which are local organizations working in partnership with AVSF on this project. They are the ones who put me in contact with the livestock farmers and who made it possible for me to be accepted within the Pasto community. It was thanks to the warm welcome and support that I received from the local teams that the survey was able to be conducted in the best conditions possible!
Working with AVSF and the local organizations participating in the project was a great opportunity for me, because I was able to gain on-the-ground experience and benefit from the serious commitment of the organizations. I worked with the members of the technical teams in their on-the-ground activities, which enabled me to actually see how the work of AVSF and its partners is improving the lives of the Pasto smallholders, and the difficulties that are encountered along the way. The motivation of the families participating in the project is what drives each member of the technical team.
This experience was very enriching both personally and professionally. I was able to observe the Pasto families actually applying the concept of agro-ecology. In terms of animal health, some Pasto livestock farmers first treat their animals using the plants that grow around where they live, before turning to allopathic treatments (conventional medications, products from the pharmaceutical industry).
Some of these remedies are truly effective, albeit in a context of production that is very different from what we have in France. It is difficult to apply the ethno-veterinarian practices of the Pasto people to dairy farming in France. It's difficult to treat one animal that produces 10,000 liters of milk by lactation the same way you would treat a different animal that only produces 2,000 liters. It is possible to use phytotherapy to treat animals, particularly using an individual medicinal approach, but it all depends on what you are treating and the results that you are trying to achieve.