Community Land & Sea Newsroom

MAF Paravet awarded life-changing Scholarship to study Veterinary Medicine

With the on-going shortage of vet specialists in Samoa impacting the ability to provide critical services, the Government of Samoa in partnership with the World Bank through the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project (SAFPROM) is strengthening the capacity of the Agriculture sector by funding two scholarships for eligible students to study in the 6 year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program at the University of the Phillipines Los Banos (UPLB), College of Veterinary Medicine.

32 year old, Nelson Meleisea, a trained Paravet in the Animal Production and Health Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is one of the recipients of the SAFPROM funded scholarship. After delays caused by travel restrictions due to the Covid Pandemic, Mr Meleisea was finally able to travel to the Phillipines last month and commence his studies at the University of the Phillipines Los Banos (UPLB), College of Veterinary Medicine.

Qualified veterinary specialists play an important role in the treatment of domesticated and agricultural animals. They also ensure bio-security at the border by preventing exotic animal diseases from entering Samoa and help drive production of animals for food and nutrition security.

Without a locally qualified veterinarian to meet the growing and urgent demand of services needed for cattle farming, domestic animals and biosecurity; Mr Meleisea understands the gravity of responsibility weighing heavily on his shoulders as he embarks on an academic journey that can unlock the potential of Samoa’s cattle farming industry and strengthen biosecurity measures to protect the health of animals and humans.

“In my perspective, having a qualified veterinarian is a game changer for the livestock development in Samoa,” said Mr Meleisea. “There is a great demand for veterinarians because currently we have limited knowledge and expertise around various diseases that can affect our animals. We only possess the knowledge that we have been taught by former animal doctors. When there is a case of discovering new diseases that we haven’t encountered before or have no knowledge of, then it becomes a problem and we walk blindly into certain situations.”

Mr Meleisea is former student of Samoa College. Later, he studied at the National University of Samoa for Foundation level. Before having the interest to pursue animal health, Mr Meleisea spent many years studying medicine at the Oceania University of Medicine (OUM).

“I studied medicine for six years at OUM but sadly, I was not successful. After that, I spent time looking for other relatable fields because I did not want to lose that knowledge that I gained from that experience” he said. This led me to animal health. While I was looking through the circulars I saw a posting for a Paravet in 2018.

“Although I wasn’t successful when I applied for that position, I was determined to get my foot in the door somehow so when I saw another opportunity to apply for a field assistant position in the Ministry, I went for it. Thankfully I got the role and worked my way up by cleaning the farm at Nuu.”

His persistence paid off when six months later, a vacancy for the Paravet role opened up again and this time when he applied for the position, he was successful. 

“I was really happy when I got the job and I started working as a Paravet in 2019” he said. “We went out in the field every day, I spent time helping the farmers when they needed assistance with the health of cattle, pigs or whatever livestock animals they owned.”

Working out in the field

“A former veterinarian I worked with at the beginning taught me everything I know. Dr. Renee helped me transfer my skills and knowledge from my background in human health to animal medicine. It was from there I developed an interest in veterinary medicine. It became an everyday learning experience working as a Paravet in the field and when I went home after work, I continued to do a lot of reading and studying as well to expand my knowledge.”

After several years of dealing with the disappointment of failure in his first attempt to study medicine, being selected for the Veterinary Medicine Program at the University of the Phillipines Los Banos (UPLB) with assistance from the SAFPROM Project and the Government of Samoa, felt like a second chance at life for him.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to succeed, especially because Samoa does not have any veterinarians. It’s a huge responsibility but I feel ready to face this. I am very happy and thankful to SAFPROM for this opportunity. I did not expect that I would get a chance such as this but it’s a miracle and I’m truly grateful.”

Nelson Meleisea and colleagues from the Animal Production and Health Division

As a father of seven children, leaving behind his wife and family to take on a life changing opportunity will be bitter sweet but Mr Meleisea is grateful to them for their support. He also acknowledged the support of his colleagues who have supported him throughout his journey.

“I want to thank my team because they all contributed through knowledge and skill sharing. They are like a second family to me, and if I become successful in the future, I will come back and work together with them.”

“When I travel to the Philippines for studies, it will be the first time I have ever left Samoa. I will definitely miss my family, especially my children but I know they will be the reason for me to keep going. I am determined to do this not only for my family but also for the country.”

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