Sixty-two-year-old Grace Kamau carries tattered, yellowed documents that she stores in a cupboard in her bedroom with care. These precious documents contain records about the health of her livestock. One of the documents shows when the local vet came to vaccinate her heifers against Foot and Mouth Disease. Another is for when her cow was inseminated. Grace also has numerous aging receipts of animal health products. These documents paint a vivid picture of Grace’s interaction with various veterinary officials over a period. But she rarely brings them out unless specifically requested, which means the various veterinary officials she interacted with in the past did not always get to see the history of her animals’ health but would begin by treating new symptoms.
Many small-scale livestock producers have contact with several veterinary officials but rarely keep records of their livestock’s health, often relying on vague estimates and guesses based on their past experiences to make animal health decisions. And when they do have such records, many of them, like Grace keep them manually, often stored away and rarely consulted.
Making such records easily available can immensely improve decision making at the farm. If a farmer wants to build a financially successful livestock enterprise, record keeping is a must. The records can be used to further develop the farm and the herd, and thereby the sector in the country. Thanks to increased penetration of mobile phones across the developing world, farm data is going digital to improve service delivery for small-scale producers.
“There’s tremendous opportunities that data presents. If we can combine data that exists internally and externally, we are able to use advanced analytics to predict disease occurrence, predict market size so suppliers can estimate how much product they should produce and supply and where they should supply these products,” says Dr Tom Osebe, GALVmed’s Senior Manager for Commercial Development in Africa.
The LastMile Initiative, which seeks to bridge current gaps in access, availability, and awareness of animal healthcare solutions for smallholder farmers in Africa has joined this digital revolution and launched a mobile app in 2020 that would monitor on-farm animal health services for efficient service delivery by animal health retailers and veterinarians.
At the time of the launch, Emilie Veillat, the Key Account Manager and “LastMile” application lead, at Boehringer Ingelheim noted that mobile app was not only critical for accurate data collection and monitoring, but it also helps teams stay connected, particularly in these challenging times of the pandemic.
Fast-forward to February 2021 and Grace has just been visited by Elijah Kiiru, one of the LastMile’s technicians. This time, Grace doesn’t rely on her manual records. Elijah whips out his smartphone and filters Grace’s records. Grace’s heifer recently gave birth and Elijah notes that in the app. They also go through the chicken’s history. Elijah advices Grace on vaccination of the chickens and other biosecurity measures. Grace’s information is stored securely and is readily available when the LastMile team visits her farm. They can track her visits, advisory services given and health of the animals.
“The LastMile team have helped me to organise my records. When I need information, Elijah is just a phone call away. I am happy with the progress in my farm,” says Grace.
Availability of veterinary data is crucial for providing effective and impactful services to small-scale livestock producers and the LastMile app is part of that solution, gathering information that is turned into knowledge, insights and action that will ultimately improve farmers’ livelihoods.
Written by Beatrice Ouma.