Why Namibia?

The EIO team has landed in Namibia. It’s an important first step in our efforts to bring our device to market in Africa. “But why Namibia?” people ask.

The very first contact that we received after Chris McCullough’s article appeared in Dairy Global was from Dr. Vetja Haakuria, deputy associate dean at the University of Namibia’s School of Pharmacy, whose expertise includes veterinary pharmacy and animal husbandry.

“A device like yours could make a significant difference in the lives of farmers and public health here,” he said before inviting us to bring our tool to Namibia. Dr. Haakuria has a vision for his country that includes a thriving local dairy sector, but there is a lot of work to be done to get there.

His words were a resounding affirmation for our team. The first time I saw the prototype of our device in action, I told Damir that it had the potential to change the game for small holder dairy farmers in developing countries. It seemed like a long shot for our three-person start up at the time, but it has been part of our business plan since then.

Not three months into our development, the invitation from Dr. Haakuria called that all back into focus and gave us an opportunity to engage on the ground.

You see one of EIO’s core values is “barn truth.” We spend a lot of time in dairy barns gathering data and making sure that we have a set up that is rugged enough to stand up to elements, refining the set up to get the information that we need without getting in the way. We also do a lot of listening - finding out what farmers need in terms of product performance and business models, and who they trust to help them make the decision to adopt a tool like ours.

It’s a long way from the high tech dairies of the Pacific Northwest to the small holder farms of Africa. The work we have done in Canada, the US and Mexico, couldn’t prepare us for working in Africa. We need to collect the “barn truth” of farmers here so we can deliver a tool that will work as well for them, as for any other farmer we work with.

We are here to calibrate our device to the local livestock, the different styles of farm practices, and the different climate and environmental challenges that they face. We are here to see how people are farming, and how they might best use the tool we have developed. We are here to build relationships and understanding.

We are here to learn.

 Damir Wallener with third year students from UNAM’s School of Pharmacy.

Damir Wallener with third year students from UNAM’s School of Pharmacy.