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African veterinary officers have agreed that a regional approach is essential in fighting organised fraud and tackling the alarming level of adulterated veterinary medicines being marketed in the continent. This could, in particular, help to reduce the high costs involved in delivering marketing authorisations and testing samples. A pilot approach already adopted in West Africa was considered an ideal model for other regions to draw on.
The regional approach received almost unanimous support from delegates at the OIE’s conference on veterinary medical products, held in Dakar, Senegal in March 2008, and sponsored by GALVmed. Over 160 participants from more than 50 countries attended the meeting, including chief veterinary officers, national veterinary medicine control bodies, manufacturers, donors and regional organisations.
Other agreed priorities included tightening up quality control through the harmonisation of national legislation under the auspices of regional organisations and the strengthening of controls by the national veterinary services in all African countries.
Kimani finds security from ECF vaccination in Tanzania
Kimani lives in Arkatan village, a Maasai area, in Tanzania. He was initially suspicious of vaccines and only started administering the immunisation against East Coast fever in 2004.
East Coast fever (ECF) has a high mortality rate with cows and the disease is rife in many parts of Tanzania, and Kimani quickly noticed the benefits when his herd of calves survived. He used to have 250 cows and now has 670.
With the income from the sale of his livestock he has built five new homes and two water tanks. He was also able to send his children to an international school in nearby Arusha and contributed towards the building of a much needed water reservoir for his cattle with 10 other Maasai.
Cattle are still central in Maasai traditions – they provide everything from food (meat and milk) to an income (sold for cash for school fees or medical care) and for ceremonial purposes as well as dowries for weddings. Although in the past this has served them well, in recent decades diseases such as ECF have been killing thousands of cows – and without cows, the very existence of the Maasai is threatened.
Today, with the use of ECF vaccinations, Maasai are able to earn a good income through selling their livestock. The income pays for school fees, universities, cars and houses. With proof of its success, more than 90 per cent of the Maasai have decided to immunise their herds.
Kimani lives in Arkatan village, a Maasai area, in Tanzania. He was initially suspicious of vaccines and only started administering the immunisation against East Coast Fever in 2004. East Coast Fever (ECF) has a high mortality rate with cows and the disease is rife in many parts of Tanzania, and Kimani quickly noticed the benefits when his herd of calves survived. He used to have 250 cows and now has 670. With the income from the sale of his livestock he has built five new homes and two water tanks. He was also able to send his children to an international school in nearby Arusha and contributed towards the building of a much needed water reservoir for his cattle with 10 other Maasai. Cattle are still central in Maasai traditions – they provide everything from food (meat and milk) to an income (sold for cash for school fees or medical care) and for ceremonial purposes as well as dowries for weddings. Although in the past this has served them well, in recent decades diseases such as ECF have been killing thousands of cows – and without cows, the very existence of the Maasai is threatened. Today, with the use of ECF vaccinations, Maasai are able to earn a good income through selling their livestock. The income pays for school fees, universities, cars and houses. With proof of its success, more than 90 per cent of the Maasai have decided to immunise their herds.
“I appreciate the vaccine. From the time I started I am a friend of the vaccine. I want it to be available to every tribe.”
Malulu Morongo is a village elder and in Mundara village in Longido District, a Maasai area, in Tanzania. He was one of the first Maasai to have his calves vaccinated against East Coast fever and each year he immunises over 200 more, and now has 700 cows.
Malulu’s children are in secondary school or college and he owns a car that helps transport water for his family and livestock.
His son Noah also vaccinated his livestock. He is thankful for the success of the vaccine, “I saw the mortality of the calves reduce. After observing that, the whole society here has come to use it. Almost 90 per cent in Mundara village use it”.
Noah was trained as a community animal health worker by an NGO. The community needs more of their people trained to assist with the livestock.
With their income, several people, including Noah, in Mundarara and other surrounding villages were able to invest in several community projects including a water reservoir in Mundarara village.
“When I had 10 cows it was not really enough, life was very poor and there was not enough food. With just 10 cows, I couldn’t sell the cows and get money. Now I have bought land for cultivation for maize and beans so there is more food for the family,” says Marry. Now she would like a tractor to cultivate the land.
Marry uses the income from her livestock to send her nine children to school. She feels secure in her future because of the vaccinations and plans build a new home for her family.
“ECF vaccine is very good and important for the family. I have appreciated the vaccine. Before we used the vaccine, we used to treat with antibiotics but the cows still got infected. But the vaccine is for life.”
Since beginning to vaccinate his herd last year he has 315 calves, a positive indication that the vaccinations are effective. East Coast fever has a high mortality rate with cows and the disease is rife in many parts of Tanzania.
Today, with the use of ECF vaccinations, Maasai are able to earn a good income through selling their cows – and can pay for school fees, universities, cars and houses.
Mollel plans to build a house in a nearby town. “In past years, milk and meat was very important but nowadays with new technology, we sell the cows for school fees and to build houses. My children are going to school because we can sell cows.”
Monji, Mollel’s last wife comments, “When I have a lot of cattle I feel secure, I don’t have a bank account as the cattle are a bank. After ECF, the worst problems are drought, they lack water and die of starvation.”
His son, Jeremiah Mepukori Mebolokini is now at college,“When I leave college, I want to deal with wildlife management. But I would still like to keep some livestock, I would go for high quality and low quantity.’ And he wants to travel the world, ”we want to go to Europe to meet you there like you meet us here.”
Teresa’s community animal health role and livestock overcome poverty
Teresa lives in Nzeluni village near Mwingi in Eastern province in Kenya. Her husband died a few years ago and she was forced to work as a casual labourer. Part of her job was making tea for her employers, “I was so poor that when my employers finished their tea I used to add water to their tea leaves and drink it“.
But her life has transformed since being trained as a community animal health worker by FARM-Africa and joining the Women’s Dairy Goat project.
Now Teresa runs a successful business treating and giving advice on animal health to local farmers in her community – she is very busy and has many clients earning between KSH 200 – 500 [US $5-8.5]a day – quite a difference to earning a mere KSH 50 [less than US $]a day as a casual labourer.
She treats animals for common illnesses such as diarrhea or worms but if she feels she does not have the knowledge or if the animal needs surgery, she will call the vet or an animal health worker such as Safari Mbui, who runs a veterinary drugstore nearby.
In addition, she also earns some money from the milk she gets from the goats. With FARM-Africa’s goat breeding programme where local goats are crossed with togenbucks (a dairy goat breed introduced from Europe which produces milk), the number of her goats have increased to 19 – though she now has 12 as she sold a few. Dairy goats produce considerably more milk than a local goat. She has also sold some goats – and cross breeds are double the price of a local goat at KSH 4000 [US $49].
“The first thing I did when I earned some money was to buy a door, some chairs, a bed and blankets. Now I am able to feed the family comfortably”.
Teresa now wants to focus on the education of her children. She is sending her children to secondary school which she has to pay for – but she wants to save up to send her son to university so he can become a doctor. ‘He is already top of the class’ she says.
But “there are challenges”, says Teresa. “like the availability of drugs such as dewormers for donkeys which I can’t get in Mwingi (the nearest town). The cost of drugs has also gone up – and during times of drought farmers are less willing to pay”.
Joseph Wekundah, Livestock Specialist, BioTechnology Trust Africa says “A decentralised vaccination and animal health system is important as this enables the community to take care of their own livestock, look for drugs, have their own drug stores and treat the animals themselves“.
GALVmed sees it as crucial to work with partners such as FARM-Africa who have access to local people and local networks for distribution of vaccines and animal health care.
Elizabeth Wayua Mutoso’s chickens were all killed by Newcastle disease, a contagious disease that usually kills most chickens in a household or village.
She hadn’t vaccinated her chickens against Newcastle disease and did not recognise the symptoms when the disease hit her flock. She now knows that she must have bought an infected chicken at the market as the disease spread to the other chickens.
With nearly all her chickens dead, she has no source of cash and cannot afford to buy food or clothes or pay for school fees. As is the custom, she used to sell a chicken every time she needed something. She used to get around KSH 150 (or US $2) for each chicken which was enough to pay for extra food or household items.
Poultry has most impact on women
Poultry are often owned and managed by women for whom they represent an important source of cash income in times of need through the sale of adult birds, chicks or eggs.
GALVmed has prioritized poultry as an important investment area for work because all of the evidence available suggests that these impact most upon poor people and specifically upon the most vulnerable groups, including women and children.
If women are the bulk of livestock keepers and GALVmed improve the health and sustainability of their livestock, then protein levels and the capacity to generate investment income improve for women. At a micro-level, this (in money terms at least) gives women an economic voice within their families and thus a right to investment decision-making.
Livestock beneficial to poor
For many poor people in Kenya, livestock is a major source of income particularly during times of drought.
With climate change beginning to bite in East Africa, increasingly unpredictable rain patterns means that people cannot depend on crops such as maize and beans for food and income as they used to. Livestock such as goats, cows and chickens are more drought resistant and a crucial income to pay for food, medicines or school fees.
Yet development aid has neglected livestock for decades. Only 4 per cent is directed towards agriculture and a fraction of this to livestock.
Safari Mbui owns a veterinary drug store providing much needed medicines and qualified advice on animal health.
Safari was trained by the government but there are few government jobs available as an animal health assistant. He now works as a private practitioner and, with a loan from FARM-Africa, has also managed to start up a drug store – although he finds that many farmers cannot afford to buy the drugs. “I can do things that community animal health workers cannot such as difficult calving or simple surgeries”.
He works with five community animal health workers who have also been trained by FARM-Africa in tackling common animal illness such as diarrhea or worms but they often need to refer to him when problems are more complicated such as difficult births with cows or administering vaccines such as for Newcastle disease in chickens.
According to James Kithuka, FARM-Africa, Mwingi, “The level of awareness of animal health in farmers is rising – they are seeking more advice – and that must translate into more healthy animals”.
Unless there are dedicated people like Safari who work within communities, most farmers will not have access to animal health care, medicines or vaccines such as for Newcastle disease which kills millions of chickens.
FARM-Africa and community based animal health
The government of Kenya does not have sufficient capacity to treat all animal diseases and FARM-Africa fills that gap by looking for sustainable community based solutions to enhance the livelihoods of pastoralists and smallholder farmers.
Many animal diseases can be managed at the farm level but farmers lack the necessary expertise to treat the disease. Community animal health workers are trained by FARM-Africa in basic animal healthcare to be able to deliver services and drugs to farmers and to provide farmer to farmer training. There are strong links between community animal health workers such as MacDonald, animal health assistants such as Safari and the local vet.
There is a desperate shortage of animal health specialists in Kenya, particularly in the arid and semi arid lands – there is only one government vet in Mwingi District. In these circumstances, there is a need for a network of community animal health workers who can tackle common everyday illnesses in livestock and who can help livestock keep alive and healthy – and therefore benefit farmers.
“The last few years has seen continuous crop failures so people here rely more on livestock” says Gacabu Japhet Mugo, district veterinary officer, Mwingi District. The harvest failure brought on by the drought also means that more people will now have to depend on food relief handed out by the government. In these circumstances, the good health and survival of livestock is crucial.
Animal diseases devastate the lives of individuals, families and communities around the world. For this reason, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development have entrusted 28 million USD to GALVmed over the next three years to make livestock vaccines, diagnostics and medicines accessible, affordable and available to the poorest people.
Statistics are infamous for their tendency to be, at best, dubious. Some seem just incredible. So staggering is a stat that has recently come to my attention that I preface it with the caveat that there must be more to this figure than meets the eye; surely. The World Bank tells us that, in spite of increases in aid from the affluent world to Developing Countries, only 4 per cent of International Development Aid goes to Agriculture. I don’t doubt this figure, but when nearly 700 million of the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 a day rely on their livestock as a lifeline, it strikes me as remarkable. However, that only 0.04% or just under 34 million USD of the total international aid (83673.47 million USD) that went direct to the Livestock Sector in 2007, causes me to question my maths and early training as an Economist. I only hope that posting under “Food Security” or some other budgetary title is going some way to mitigate this stark statistic that challenges notions of sustainability.
The sheer scale of unthinkable global poverty can become just that, unbelievable, unimaginable and abstract. However, the positive glimpses into the lives of individuals and accounts of dignity and community advancement in adversity offered in our Voices from the Field section demonstrate the crucial importance of livestock and how poverty and the pathways out of it are entirely real and personal.
Steve Sloan, CEO, GALVmed