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Animal health provision for poor livestock keepers

Fulani herdsmen with sheep flock, northern Nigeria (WRENmedia)
Fulani herdsmen with sheep flock, northern Nigeria

Livestock keeping has been described as a pathway out of poverty for the world's poorest people, whether in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or South America. Yet each year this pathway is obstructed for many by livestock disease. In Africa, diseases such as East Coast fever, Newcastle disease and Rift Valley fever have a devastating impact, whether through animal deaths, or the loss of markets and income. And, as in the recent outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Kenya, some of these diseases can also impact on human health. While there are means available to treat these diseases, providing affordable and accessible animal health care to poor livestock keepers remains a challenge.

The launch of the not-for-profit organisation GALVmed, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines, has followed northern Kenya's Rift Valley fever outbreak, which killed 150 people. Launched in Nairobi, the ten-year programme aims to tackle livestock disease by partnering with private and public sector organisations. Participants at the launch including farmers, representatives of animal health companies and public veterinary research institutes, gave their points of view to New Agriculturist on the current state of veterinary services, the challenges ahead, and the possibilities for improving livestock health provision for poor livestock keepers.

Impacts of disease

Rift Valley fever has not been reported here at all, but it has affected us completely. When this disease was reported, the market went. People have not been buying meat, because everyone is worried about the disease. You end up taking your animals home and we cannot afford to buy anything because we cannot sell in the market.
Daniel Ole Mpaira, livestock farmer, Kenya

Kids are not going to school. Because of Rift Valley fever, those who are dealing with trade cannot sell their animals because there is a quarantine imposed. So it means no funds for academic or social activities; all those come to a standstill.
Anthony Musoke, Research and Technology Manager, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute

If you only have three animals and you lose two to East Coast fever, your livelihood is completely destroyed.
Hameed Nuru, Senior Policy Officer (Livestock and Fisheries), AU-IBAR

The poor state of veterinary health

Veterinary drug store, Kenya (WRENmedia)
Veterinary drug store, Kenya

We do not have veterinary services around this place. Usually we go to agro-vets to buy drugs and then we come and inject the animals on our own. We rely on people who sell the drugs. A few of us at least know which drug to buy for specific diseases that arise.
Denis Ole Mbelati, livestock farmer, Saigiri, Kenya

The challenge that animal keepers have in accessing services is infrastructure. For example, with vaccinations we lack cold chains to keep all the vaccines under refrigeration. If vaccinations are not put under such conditions, the farmer is not getting the actual benefit from whatever drug he is using.
Frances Kitaka, Chairman, Cooper Uganda Limited

Accessibility to authentic drugs is one big issue. Fake drugs are sold in normal food kiosks and this is a very big problem for the animals. It even causes issues of drug resistance in cattle.
Ali Hassan, Programme Manager, FARM-Africa, Kenya.

A lot of the farmers fear getting the vaccines for Newcastle disease in a dose of 100, when he probably uses 50 and the other 50 is thrown away. He thinks he is losing money, and that gives negative aspects about the vaccine. Actually he loses much more when unvaccinated animals die, but I think the vaccine could be provided in smaller doses.
Joseph Wekunda, Executive Director, Biotechnology Trust Africa

Some of what is causing problems in accessing drugs is market failure. People have not been able to see commercial opportunities. What came out of a recent workshop by AU IBAR was that the commercialisation of the processes from production through to delivery was absolutely critical.
Steve Sloan, Chief Executive, GALVmed

Problems with policy

Treating dorper ewes, South Africa (WRENmedia)
Treating dorper ewes, South Africa

If you look at the last ten years or so, the extension programmes have really gone down and that was the best method of delivering the services. It is that link which is very critical, to get the products and the services from where they are available to that bird, to that cow - that is where the gap is.
David Ngugi, Regional Manager, Ceva Santé Animale, Nairobi

One of the underlying policies that really affects the affordability of these animal services is marketing. We find that currently, there are no policies to favour livestock keepers to have income and to be able to take care of their livestock. This involves building market access in terms of infrastructure, and making every player in the livestock industry able to contribute to the needs of livestock keepers.
Reuben Koech, Monitoring and Evaluation co-ordinator, Heifer International

Provision through partnership

If you look at what is happening in the vaccine sector, the market is dominated by big multinationals. For Africa then, the way to do it is for different institutions to come together, with government support, to make sure that we do not only look at the profit but benefits in the long-term for all stakeholders.
Baptiste Dungu, Chief Operating Officer, Onderstepoort Biological Products

This public-private partnership is the only way forward because it is going to be driven by demand and by the needs of the people, which can no longer be afforded by individual governments. It is the future for how we have to control animal diseases in Africa.
Hameed Nuru, AU-IBAR

The private sector will be able to provide the necessary medicines or vaccines for the livestock. And then the civil service on the ground would be able to disseminate this to the poor farmers in their respective areas.
Joseph Wekunda, Biotechnology Trust Africa

What is being done?

We are working with the development of vaccines, animal health medicines and diagnostics. In terms of East Coast fever, we are working with the African Union-IBAR, KARI and ILRI to increase the 'infect and treat methodology'. In terms of Rift Valley fever, at the moment we are looking at options for a vaccine. Our hope is that with the right funding, we should be able to help bring a vaccine to the marketplace within the next two years.
Steve Sloan, GALVmed

Vaccinating cattle, Afghanistan (© FAO)
Vaccinating cattle, Afghanistan

Vaccines are being developed that do not require cold chain refrigeration. However, the inputs of developing such vaccines are very high and in the short run it is best to just try to optimise the delivery. But there are some that are being developed.
Jamlick Mutugi, Chairman, Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute, KARI

We are hoping through government to identify the strengths of the various institutions, whether it is the private sector, government or national veterinary centres to harmonise ways of thinking and a delivery system to the farmer. By doing that we are going to have a vaccine not just available but also cheaper and more accessible to farmers.
Hameed Nuru, AU-IBAR

Date published: May 2007


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