Galvanising action against Newcastle Disease in Tanzania

Since 2011, low income rural farmers in Babati district in Tanzania, who rear indigenous chickens to supplement their livelihoods are seeing the significant benefits of having improved access to the I-2 Newcastle Disease (ND) vaccine to protect their poultry on a regular basis. The disease is a serious problem for poultry farmers; according to Dr Roggers Mosha, poultry project manager at the Global Alliance Livestock Veterinary Medicine (GALVmed), ND is responsible for over 50% of all chicken losses to disease across Tanzania.

Although the I-2 ND vaccine was available before 2011 from the Tanzania Veterinary Vaccine Institute (TVVI), farmers were not aware it existed. To overcome this challenge and help farmers access the vaccine, GALVmed came in to support TVVI with marketing, funding and streamlining the vaccine delivery process from the institute via agrovets to the farmers. As a result of this support and through the efforts of other organisations with similar objectives as GALVmed, over 1.2 million chickens are now being vaccinated in the country every three months.

A collaborative approach
To achieve this success, GALVmed brought together government extension officers, agrovet distributors and dealers at district and ward levels for training on handling and administering the vaccine to poultry. GALVmed chose to pilot the initiative in Babati, Hanang and Mbulu districts, where farming of grains like maize, cowpeas and sunflower is vibrant. “These crops support backyard poultry very well,” emphasises Mosha.

From the three districts, 30 extension officers with a background in animal health were selected and trained by GALVmed and each had to then train 10 community vaccinators (CV), who had achieved at least primary school education. Iboma Abubakar, a 43 year-old CV in Gallapo ward, Babati district, is just one beneficiary of the training; every three months of the year, he now vaccinates 3,000 chickens from around 300 households in the ward. Before vaccinating, Iboma visits the Gallapo households to count the number of birds that need to be vaccinated, which enables him to know how many vaccine vials to Access to the vaccine has resulted in Modesta Kalalu, a grandmother in Gallapo ward being able to successfully rear 100 chickens. Before 2011, the 20 to 30 chickens she reared all succumbed to ND. She has also learned from the local CV about maintaining hygiene in her chicken sheds. “I ensure there is no dampness in the sheds as that causes the disease to linger,” states Kalalu. A young mother, Katerina Maribor, also from Gallapo agrees: “The CVs have made us aware that our chickens are safe from ND, as long as they are
vaccinated every three months.” Today she has almost 70 indigenous chickens, since she started rearing nine months ago.

Accessing the vaccine
Local agrovets at ward level supply the vaccine to CVs like Iboma. In Gallapo ward, William Laiser, a retired extension officer, started stocking the vaccine in 2012. In a month, he used to sell only two vials but today he sells over 10 making a small profit. “Before, people would only buy the vaccine during ND outbreaks; today they vaccinate on schedule due to the awareness campaigns,” he says.

Laiser buys his ND vaccine stocks from the larger Mamba agrovet, which provides vaccines for the whole of Babati district. Since 2012, the proprietor, Rumininsia Mwanga, has supplied 10 ward agrovets and over 50 farmers across the district. In that time, she reports that she has seen demand for the vaccine increase by 80%. Rumininsia also gives poultry-related advice including on deworming and the selection of the right poultry feed. Stocking the vaccine has resulted in a 40% increase in demand for other products at her agrovet store. Rumininsia buys the ND vaccine from Alpha Veterinary Services in Arusha run by Dr Elisante Ngowi. Ngowi buys the vaccine directly from TVVI and, in turn, sells it to 15 district agrovets in Arusha and Manyara regions and around 150 to 200 farmers as well as relief NGOs. The success of the vaccine in rural areas has also resulted in increased demand for the indigenous chickens he hatches for sale. “Monthly, I sell 1,000 to 1,200 (indigenous) chicken to Babati and Kondoa districts,” he says.

The spread of success
After the success of the ND vaccination campaign in the three initial districts, GALVmed has since rolled out the intervention to Chemba, Karatu, Kondoa and Simanjiro districts. The success of the vaccination and awareness campaigns has also spilled over into Gairo district which was not initially targeted. In Gairo district, 39 new CVs in the third quarter of 2015 have vaccinated 120,000 chickens from 12,000 households. “Farmers who regularlymaintain a vaccination schedule have seen their ND infections reduced to zero,” says Mosha. However, he also advises farmers to adhere to good basic animal husbandry practices to help reduce outbreak incidences; such practices include quarantine of new chickens for a month to assess their health status, and vaccinating them before mixing them with others.

For commercial poultry keepers, Mosha urges them to practice an “all in-all out” management system, where chickens of the same maturity are raised and all sold at the same time. Where the practice is not feasible, especially in rural villages, the vaccination remains a viable option. He also urges farmers to be vigilant during festive seasons when chicken movement between different markets is high, as this often facilitates the spread of ND.

Written by James Karuga, WRENmedia correspondent

Produced by WRENmedia

Recognising the vital role of community animal health workers

After seeing a poster advertising training, 30-year-old Jayanti Mohanta (not pictured) contacted an NGO implementing GALVmed’s Newcastle disease control project, BMPCS, in Baripada, Mayurbhanj district, India to become a community animal health worker (CAHW).

In her local area, there was a very high mortality rate of backyard poultry due to the highly contagious Newcastle Disease. Now, Jayanti provides affordable doorstep vaccinations and de-worming. As a result, poultry numbers have risen, there are almost no incidences of disease, and poultry keepers’ incomes have increased.

“We are bridging the gap between rural farmers and para-veterinarians,” Jayanti states proudly. As an unmarried woman, Jayanti has appreciated the opportunity to earn her own income, particularly as she can now support her younger brother’s education.

Galvmed in NepalAssisting rural communities from within
In order to help get CAHWs officially recognised in a legal framework, GALVmed is working with like-minded organisations, such as Heifer International and South Asia Pro Poor Livestock Policy Programme, PRADAN, amongst others. For example, GALVmed conducted a landscaping study to look at the role of non-state actors in the delivery of veterinary services in six states in India, Nepal and Bangladesh and also in sub-Saharan Africa. Using a ‘greater inclusion’ approach, GALVmed has also held various workshops with women farmers to discuss the challenges and constraints they face in accessing veterinary health products and services.

By inviting local veterinary departments to sessions with women farmers, GALVmed has helped to highlight the vast gaps that currently exist in rural animal health care. “Firstly, women farmers have not been aware of vaccines available for poultry diseases. Secondly, the appropriate vaccines are not available in areas where they live. And thirdly, there isn’t a vaccinator,” explains Mamta. Having women clearly express that they are not receiving veterinary services for poultry and goats helps to highlight this gap to state representatives. “These effective government meetings should happen regularly to ensure new veterinary department staff are aware of the ongoing issues,” adds Govinda Hembram, a CAHW from Badabila village in Mayurbhanj district, India.

Three clear areas where CAHWs have expressed challenges in include: (i) gender-related barriers to becoming CAHWs and performing the role; (ii) resources for maintaining a cold chain for vaccinations; and (iii) legal protection for their work; the latter relating directly to advocacy and policy. “If there was one thing I could change for CAHWs it would be that they have legal status from the government veterinary department,” explains Jayanti.

Small steps, big changes
“In the past five years, I have seen a lot of change in how decision-makers are perceiving the issue of CAHWs, as well as increased investment of government public resources in small animals like poultry, goats and pigs,” says Mamta. Jayanti has also seen a lot of changes in the areas where she works: “Backyard poultry keepers’ awareness of vaccinations has greatly increased. There are now higher numbers of healthy poultry and farmers’ income has improved.” Recently, the Indian Government held its first roundtable on a standardised training curriculum for CAHWs. “This in itself is a very good outcome,” acknowledges Mamta.

In light of this, opportunities to formalise the role of CAHWs are increasing. The Government of India and Agriculture Skill Council of India are currently collaborating in developing national standards for skill-based occupations, including CAHWs; this could have huge potential, should it be ratified. “Organisations like GALVmed can only advocate for change. Ultimately the decision has to come from government, which takes time. All the small steps that are happening will lead to a bigger change, when work we are doing now becomes visible in years to come,” concludes Mamta.

Written by Jessica Summers, WRENmedia with contributions from: Mamta Dhawan, Lois Muraguri, Nityananda Dhal, Avni Malhotra, Jayanti Mohanta and Govinda Hembram.

Produced by WRENmedia