Smallholder farmers: ‘We need a game changer in the fight against Foot and Mouth Disease’

45-year-old Paul Mathai looks forlornly at his nearly empty cow shed. A few months ago, all the nine paddocks were occupied. Today, only three of his dairy cows are left. And he has no calves left. He lost them to the dreaded Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

“I first started noticing a lot of saliva in the cows’ mouths and also noticed they were not feeding well and were inactive. That is when I called the veterinarian who diagnosed FMD and initiated treatment. But within a span of two days, I had lost the cows,” says Mr Mathai who hails from Bahati sub-county in Nakuru.

Paul is one of the many farmers currently grappling with an outbreak of FMD in the county. Nakuru has especially been hit hard because there has been a recent influx of livestock from neighbouring counties of Laikipia, Baringo and Narok.

FMD is a viral livestock disease that not only causes mortality but also severely limits livestock productivity and disrupts trade of animals and animal products, leading to huge economic losses.

“Before I lost my animals, I was getting over 50 litres of milk, now, I am lucky to get even 10 litres,” says Mr Mathai.
The loss of his cows has left Mr Mathai contemplating his agricultural venture which he spent a lot of money to set up. According to him, this particular outbreak is unprecedented, particularly to farmers keeping zero-grazed animals.

Francis Muiru, also from Bahati sub-county, is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of his eleven cows. He says in the nearly eight years that he has been rearing dairy cows, he has never witnessed such devastation.

“The calves were hit especially hard. Within a short period of time, they all perished. All my high production cows went down, one after the other. I am not milking any cows now, we have to purchase milk for our own consumption,” says Mr Muiru.

Nakuru county veterinary officers are currently conducting mass vaccination of cattle, swine, sheep and goats. But for some farmers, it may be too late for them as they count their losses. Vaccination remains the most effective method of controlling the disease as treatment is usually more costly. It can cost upwards of Kenyan Shillings 2500 (US $ 25) to treat one cow.

Ruth Silantoi, a smallholder farmer in Nakuru, didn’t lose any cattle during the current outbreak. However, she spent a lot of money treating her six cows who became infected with the viral disease. “I spent a total of Kenyan Shillings 15,000 (US $ 148) to treat my six cows. This has really put a big dent on our household income,” noted Ms Silantoi.

Farmers continue to express the need for more vaccine options so that they are able to purchase the vaccine and actively prevent rather than treat the disease. As was voiced by one farmer, “I have spent so much money to buy my improved dairy cattle, if there was a vaccine I could reliably purchase to protect my animals from FMD, I would not hesitate. I would not want my cattle to go through this again, we need more options to fight this disease.”

In responding to this gap, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) is implementing a new project that seeks to increase the supply of FMD vaccine through augmenting the government supply with a private sector model for buying and distributing vaccines. The AgResults Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Challenge Project will expand the FMD vaccine offering by encouraging pharmaceutical companies around the world to develop, register, and commercialise improved FMD vaccines in Eastern Africa – specifically in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia. This will enable farmers to have more options for accessing the vaccine and be more active in the control of the disease by vaccinating more regularly even when there is no outbreak.

Written by Beatrice Ouma, Senior Communications Manager, GALVmed

Livestock health provision for smallholder farmers: What will it take to move the needle?

Our professional lives are often so cramped with problems to solve, targets to reach and deadlines to meet that we may find it difficult to think. However, it is when we stop and make time to think that we increase the possibility to gain insights that will “move the needle”. At a recent “Private Sector Meeting” in London organised by Ducker Frontiers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Livestock team created such an opportunity and allowed their private sector partners to “take time out, look back and think about the future”.

Representatives of varying origins and interests discussed the accomplishments achieved since the importance of livestock was approved as a significant component of the BMGF strategy for economic growth for poor people. Since 2012, a strong foundation has been built for animal health deliveries by de-risking market entry and investments into research and development, registration of products and exploring inclusive and innovative business models. More companies are now actively engaged in working with small livestock farmers, and the 2021 targets set for product registration licenses and pharmaceutical products and vaccine doses delivered are likely to be met. In addition, enabling regulatory capacity building, public-private partnerships creation and animal systems facilitation have provided fertile grounds for future private sector entry.

Valuable lessons have been learned and a better understanding of the opportunity and the challenge ahead obtained: Due to its development trajectory, Africa is uniquely placed to offer investors and businesses both high growth from existing business and new, untapped opportunities. By 2050, one-in-four consumers will be African. Double digit growth rates seen in the 2000s are unlikely to return, but sub-Saharan Africa’s growth will still outpace other regions. Investors are prioritizing Africa (+11%) compared to Asia (4%) or developed economies (-27%). Port, rail and road constructions are making previously difficult-to-reach markets more accessible for firms and their distribution partners. Red tape remains a major challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, but regional countries are making swift progress reducing administrative burden. In 2019, the region had more pro-business reforms than other regions. Digital offers new solutions in some markets. 20% of the world’s landmass is located in Africa, representing a vast agricultural potential. Livestock production is expanding rapidly and markets such as Ethiopia, Tanzania and Burkina Faso will create new food sources to respond to the growing middle classes’ appetite for high-protein diets. In short, with the right strategies in place, businesses can capitalize on Africa’s opportunities and growth (source – Ducker Frontiers).

Business strategies and the efforts of the BMGF grantee and partner community will have to focus on overcoming or removing the remaining barriers for animal health investment in Africa: On top of the list stand the lack of distribution networks to cover rural parts of countries and the unpredictable regulatory environment.

Logistical costs of getting products to the end-customer in remote areas are still prohibitively high. The high operating costs for the local organisations affect the final cost and margin of the product and make competition with low-cost offerings and/or parallel imports challenging. Commitment of multinational companies to long-term investment in Africa is still hampered by the perception of high risk, cost and complexity in the African market (source – BMGF private sector survey).

The participants of the BMGF private sector meeting agreed that to achieve economic development and create functioning markets for the poor, there is a big need to break the vicious cycle of poor investment, lack of quality veterinary health care, animal disease burden (estimated at 6% of the total value of the livestock sector in Africa – D. Grace et al. 2015), reduced productivity and livestock market failures. To engage the animal health industry, there needs to be a better understanding of the size of the opportunity and clarity on the level of business risk. Africa is home to the largest livestock population in the world and will witness the greatest animal health market growth (Vetnosis: CAGR% 2018-23 >4.5%). Scale of the addressable animal health market in Africa is large – and growing, but to capture the opportunity, the business environment needs to become more conducive. And companies will have to make bolder investments, recognise smallholder farmers as customers and build smallholder farmer-specific portfolios, and value-added delivery through EDGE (Every-Day-Great-Execution).

Going forward, the objective of the BMGF and its grantee community is to collaborate more deliberately to remove animal health barriers related to availability, access, awareness and affordability of animal health interventions. The plan is to partner with two distinctive families of partners:

  1. Authorities, organisations and academia to strengthen systemic assets such as data and evidence, policies and advocacy, as well as the regulatory environment.
  2. With animal health manufacturers and distributors to foster research and development, registration and segment specific manufacturing, supply chain innovations, off-take markets and reduced cost of unit delivery.

On behalf of GALVmed I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the BMGF’s Livestock team and Ducker Frontiers for the valuable “Time to exchange, learn and think” provided. It was an inspirational gathering and I am looking forward to GALVmed’s continued contribution to solving the future’s pressing problems and making the African animal health market function for the poor.

Written by Dr Carolin Schumacher, Chief Executive, GALVmed

Addressing Nepal’s veterinary needs, one village at a time

In rural communities where most smallholder farmers live, veterinary centres are often located many kilometers away, closer to the semi-urban areas. The result is that many smallholder farmers such as these ones from Mahua village in Nepal, do not always have reliable access to veterinary products for their livestock.

GALVmed is working with Hester Biosciences Ltd in south Asia to create more sustainable distribution centers of veterinary products so that smallholder farmers can have better access to livestock medicines and vaccines. Increased penetration of veterinary products will mean more economic benefit to the smallholder farmers.