Improving vet services for small-scale producers through digital apps

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.

Transforming veterinary services through a digital app

Smallholder farmers in Africa have limited or no access to high quality veterinary medicinal products due to weak distribution channels, low levels of awareness about animal diseases and how these can be prevented or treated. However, smart technologies can empower those hard-to-reach farmers by being part of the solution to leverage on data, surveillance and interconnectivity. The LastMile mobile app is currently being used to collect data that improves the understanding and knowledge about the smallholder farmer sector in order to provide better informed decisions regarding veterinary care for their livestock and poultry.

How technology is transforming animal health

According to FAO, livestock related food items account for about 30% of agriculture related GDP in Africa. This is with the exclusion of other contributions such as manure, draught power and transportation. When we consider that 75% of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) human population is involved either directly or indirectly in farming activities (FAO 2013;2014), it becomes apparent that livestock farming is an important aspect of human development in the region. Livestock diseases however pose a significant barrier to growth with losses thought to be much higher in SSA than the global average of 20% (AU-IBAR). It also limits access to foreign markets through the export of live animals and livestock products.

Pharmaceutical companies generally focus their resources in the developed markets where they derive most of their revenues. For instance, the US commands 43% of the market ( This has led to gaps on the availability of animal health products in SSA that meet farmer needs as well as supply challenges to last mile level. GALVmed aims to evidence that commercial benefit could be realised by operating in this space with the aim of attracting industry players. To this end, technology is emerging as a key enabler which could transform the animal health industry in Africa.

Technology can be used to build infrastructure and tools linking players in the industry. As an example, GALVmed has partnered with cloud-based, animal health product distribution company Cowtribe, to supply rural agrovet retail shops in Ghana which have historically been underserved, with quality animal health inputs competitively. A business to business (B2B) e-commerce platform called Zhulia is allowing agrovets to order animal health inputs with just a tap of a button. Through this platform, orders can be aggregated immediately leading to quantity related discounts translating to lower cost of goods. This also allows for developing of route plans for delivery of the ordered products as agrovets will be mapped in real time. Agrovets can now better manage their inventory, manage sales, enjoy competitive pricing and other related benefits as this has created an ecosystem of actors in the industry.

Data analytics can also unlock tremendous value for animal health industry players. A combination of online behaviour, media reports, GIS and internal data could be used to predict which products will be needed when, where and by who. It could also predict disease outbreaks which could be useful in informing proactive interventions. Signals from internet searches and media could also serve as early indicators of safety of certain products.

As digital health technologies continue to become an integral part of the solution, those working in the livestock sector need to adapt, as such technologies have the potential to greatly increase access, control quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of animal health inputs.

Written by Beatrice Ouma.

The changes we want for women small-scale producers

The International Women’s Day is globally celebrated on March 8 and it is an important occasion to reflect on the challenges that women face every day around the world. This year’s #IWD theme was #ChooseToChallenge – for a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

At GALVmed, we believe in women’s empowerment through initiatives that strengthen their capability to become active agents of livestock management and animal health. For women to be able to reach their full potential, there are still many things that need to change in the livestock and agriculture enterprise. We #ChooseToChallenge the animal health landscape to drive change towards a better future for women small-scale producers.

What would we like to see change in the animal health landscape for women small-scale producers?

Access to effective veterinary medicines and vaccines is the guarantee of better livelihoods for women in low-and-middle-income countries. Animal health tools, services, and awareness allow them to better take care of their animals, securing an income and reinforcing their role in their communities, all of which will ultimately lead to social and economic empowerment.

What would enhance women small-scale producers access to economic gains from livestock?

Read more about how livestock can help women break the cycle of poverty.

Change agents: The women making a difference in their livestock communities

Livestock is an important entry point for promoting women’s empowerment.

In the rural areas of the state of Bihar, India groups of local women, known as Pashu Sakhis, are trained to provide basic animal health care to their communities. In 2019, GALVmed and its partners, Veterinary Social Business division of Hester Biosciences Limited, and Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotional Society (BRLPS) held a joint training program for the Pashu Sakhis on the importance of vaccination, deworming and basic goat husbandry practices. 

For Pashu Sakhis’ potential to be fully realised, access to veterinary services is crucial. GALVmed-Hester South Asia initiative aims to strengthen the distribution mechanisms which will increase the supply of quality veterinary medicines and vaccines so that women can continue to take better care of their livestock and improve the livelihoods of their families.

Empowering women through livestock

When it comes to livestock, it has been documented that although women assume much of the responsibility for labour, they rarely derive economic and social gains from the livestock, especially from large animals such as cows, whose ownership is closely associated with men. But the narrative is slightly different for small animals such as goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. Women are more involved when it comes to decisions regarding the care of small stock. These animals give women access to family income (the sale of small ruminants can provide an emergency source of cash for medical treatment or school fees, while daily milk provides a regular flow of cash income often used to purchase food and household items).

In northern India, in the states of Utter Pradesh and Bihar, livestock such as goats provide a lifeline for many rural women.  Twenty-five-year-old Saraswati Devi from Chapati village in Kishanganj in Bihar uses income from livestock to take care of her five-member family’s needs. She recently sold off two goats to repair a leaking roof, replacing the grass thatch with cement roofing.  

“Livestock gives us an annual income of about forty thousand rupees (USD 550). This income helps me to manage my household better”, says Saraswati.  

Small animals like goats and chickens are often nicknamed “ATMs” because they are convenient sources of cash. “As long as I have some goats in the yard, I can turn them into money whenever needs arise”, adds Saraswati.

In the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, Shivkumari is also rearing goats, which are her family’s primary source of income. While Shivkumari’s husband engages in other agricultural activities, the responsibility of taking care of the goats falls squarely on her. She makes decisions such as when to vaccinate the animals. She knows her decisions directly impact the household.

“Should we lose any goat due to an illness, we lose a lot of income, about forty to fifty thousand rupees per year. This is money we use to educate our children and meet other family expenses. I therefore take very good care of our goats”, says Shivkumari.

Livestock is an important entry point for promoting women’s empowerment in rural areas to enable them to break out of the cycle of poverty. For this potential to be fully realised, access to veterinary services is crucial. GALVmed is working with Hester Biosciences to strengthen the distribution mechanisms which will increase the supply of quality veterinary medicines and vaccines so that women like Saraswati and Shivkumari can continue to take better care of their livestock and improve the livelihoods of their families.

This blog was written by Alternatives and  Beatrice Ouma.