During its last two missions from 20 to 26 May and from 2 to 10 June 2022, the Buffarm project team collected ethnological, botanical and environmental data on various components of the buffalo farming system from the Lua community in the village of Ban Huai Phan (Chieng Klang district, Nan Province).
Grounded in anthropology, the Buffarm project has a strong participatory dimension. The objective is to produce original knowledge based on ongoing dialogues between local knowledge and the various disciplinary perspectives involved. The long-term goal is to produce a pharmacopoeia that combines ethnoveterinary practices and biomedicine. This work includes the creation of a database of medicinal plants and the various preparations used by the Lua to treat their buffaloes. The project also aims at assessing the sustainability of the farming system by considering its environmental impact within the village-forest ecosystem. Finally, the project aims to determine the impact of the diversity of plants consumed by the animals on antibiotic resistance. This work involves studying the microbiota of buffalos.
The extensive buffalo farming system in Ban Huai pan is a seasonal activity closely linked to the agricultural calendar. During the dry season (October-April), the buffaloes are left along the rice fields in the village. Their presence helps to fertilize the soil. The animals then spend the rest of the year in their grazing area (pang khwai) located in the forests adjacent to the village. The animals are sent there before the harvest arrives (May-June). The two missions coincided with the annual movement of the animals from the village to the pang khwai, which marks the arrival of the rains and the beginning of rice transplantation. As a crucial event in the annual cycle of agricultural activities, the Lua perform several ceremonies and associated rites that have been documented.
Team members also made several visits to the grazing area adjacent to the village. Following the herders' visits to check on their animals, these visits were an opportunity to equip the grazing area with camera traps in key locations such as watering holes or buffalo crossing points known by the herders. In agreement with the herders and the village chief, some buffaloes - the leaders of each herd - were also equipped with GPS collars. This information will allow to monitor the presence of buffalos in the forest in order to target different areas for further sampling (plants, soil). The presence of photographic traps will help in evaluating inter-species encounters between buffalo and wildlife and in assessing the associated health risks.
In the village, the mission allowed for a series of interviews with buffalo owners and the sampling of medicinal plants and their preparation.
To study the environmental impact of this farming system and its sustainability, several samples (soil, dung, water courts) were collected in different areas (rice field, forest) by the team members.
This mission was funded by the TICA Innovative Animal Health project in partnership with Kasetsart University in Bangkok. On returning from the field, the collaboration with the International Buffalo Information Center (KU Library) in Bangkok was formalised by the signature of an MoU. The plant samples were deposited at the Bangkok Herbarium (BK), Plant Varieties Protection Office, an institution with which a partnership agreement for the deposit and management of the herbarium was signed.
Various activities of valorization are currently in progress. A scientific communication was made on 21 June during the Future Health Sea seminar at Kasetsart University. The data collected as well as the database will be published on the dedicated website Buffarm One Health SEA. Finally, the team members have prepared a research protocol which will be submitted for publication to the journal Plos One.
A video illustrating an outing in the forest with team members and farmers: