How technology can transform 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 has been developed 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 Tom Osebe, Senior Manager, Commercial Development in Africa

Biosecurity: a must for rural and emerging commercial poultry farmers

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) defines biosecurity as a set of management and physical measures designed to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of animal diseases, infections or infestations to, from and within an animal population. The growing importance of poultry in developing countries and the emergence of new zoonotic pathogens, like Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), has highlighted the importance and the need to implement biosecurity measures in backyard and rural poultry farms to minimise human health risks and economic losses.

Poor management practices and absence of disease control strategies often result in high levels of mortality due to predators or infectious diseases. Diseases such as Newcastle Disease (ND), Salmonellosis, Gumboro disease or Fowl typhoid, continue to erode the productivity of rural poultry farmers, depriving them of an important protein source.

Although there is no single biosecurity plan suitable or applicable to all farms, a plan for each farm must include measures and steps implemented in mitigation of identified risks, and broadly include isolation, traffic control and sanitation.  It should aim to minimize or prevent introduction of disease-causing agents and protect animals from predators and vermin infestation.

Potential disease sources include, but are not limited to; people, equipment, supplies, vehicles, wild animals, pets, feed, water supplies, dropping and manure. Some preventive measures are, for example, to build suitable housing and physical barriers (fences), control and restriction of people movement, or cleaning and sanitation (including disinfecting poultry houses, people and equipment and foot bath). These controls could go a long way to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of animal diseases, infections or infestations.

GALVmed has partnered with LAPROVET in Senegal in a project that amongst others, aims to promote prophylaxis practices and biosecurity measures to retailers and farmers. Participating farms and farmers are initially audited to establish a baseline and to identify potential risks. A prophylactic (vaccination) and biosecurity plan is drawn and the farm re-audited every 6 months to ensure compliance and measure improvements. In addition, field trainings to promote prophylaxis practices and biosecurity measures are conducted for veterinarians and farmers. The project has also produced an educational video on biosecurity.  

Biosecurity is often a standard practice in commercial farms, however, the sustainable implementation in rural and emerging commercial farms requires raising farmers’ awareness and knowledge regarding these measures.

Written by Thembinkosi Ramuthivheli, Senior Manager, Commercial Development in Africa

Demand aggregation: The key to reaching small-scale livestock producers

Majority of the animal production in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is scattered. They have traditionally been operated by millions of small-scale producers (SSPs). The number of animals kept by SSPs are few – ranging from one to hundreds. Many of these animals die due to preventable infectious diseases before attaining maturity and those entering productive and reproductive age produce less due to compromised animal health care. Availability of animal health products in SSPs areas is inadequate, greatly affecting the livelihood of SSPs.

Despite the small-scale livestock production supporting the livelihoods of 600 million smallholder farmers in the developing world, animal health product companies have not been able to fully tap into the SSPs market preferring to do business with the small commercial animal production market. Any mechanism to open up and fully take advantage of the SSPs animal health market can help animal health companies grow their business many folds, leading to higher levels of animal health product use and enhanced productivity. This will in turn lead to higher investment in animal health.

In regions where GALVmed is actively working with animal health companies to facilitate availability of animal health products to SSPs, one of the challenges realized from the beginning was the low demand of animal health products due to scattered nature of animal keeping by SSPs. This increased the cost of distribution for the companies and less interest in the SSPs market segment. However, there are innovative ways animal health companies can access the SSPs market reliably.  One example is through engaging with dairy cooperatives which connect these companies to a large number of SSPs and offer them a demand for animal products in an appreciable volume. Women organized in self-help groups is another example through which demand is aggregated to attract the companies. Such examples of demand aggregation indicate a very potentially viable market platform that can benefit both animal health companies and SSPs.

Demand aggregation for animal health products can use different forms of input /output driven or other purpose platforms but it should be able to attract SSPs, veterinary service providers, and animal health companies.  Working with a women self-help group in one of GALVmed’s project areas in India has been instrumental in the uptake of Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) vaccine. The project trained a woman vaccinator to work with the self-help group and the demand for the vaccine from the local veterinary retail shop has significantly increased. Companies that were not selling vaccines through such outlets previously have now recognized this opportunity for their business expansion.

Currently there is a red ocean type of competition among animal health companies to penetrate commercially operating markets like poultry and dairy. But there exist vast and never reached or very less reached blue ocean of SSPs market segment. Such SSPs market can also be lucrative if the demand is aggregated through an appropriate platform. Demand aggregation can lead to entry into a market not served before. SSPs can get the same level of animal health input as commercial animal farming.

Written by Peetambar Kushwaha, Senior Manager, Commercial Development, Asia

The Value of Qualitative Learning

Q: To what extent is animal health the pre-eminent constraint to small-scale livestock producers?
A: To a large extent

To many of us, “to a large extent” may seem a satisfactory answer. But what does it mean? How do we respond to this kind of data and what are the implications for the work we do in the field? We tend to turn to quantitative studies to provide the data we need, but sometimes qualitative data provides more nuanced information that is meaningful and actionable.

One example is our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) work to inform the GALVmed 2030 strategy. With big questions to answer, a relatively small budget, and little time, the usual quantitative approach was not feasible. Instead, the GALVmed M&E Function took a qualitative approach in which we conducted qualitative interviews with 32 animal production academics from around the world.

This turned out to be, by far, the best approach for the job as it provided layers of colour, context and temporal aspects that were almost impossible to obtain from “snapshot” quantitative studies. A key learning from this work was that at different times of year, different constraints to livestock manifest. In periods of drought it becomes difficult to feed and water cattle but during periods of rain, ticks appear and spread disease. Ultimately, constraints are wide ranging.

In this case, the real value lay in the context rather than “the answer”. The GALVmed M&E Function will continue to use a qualitative approach to extract lessons and improve contextual understanding, where this is required.

Written by Katharine Tjasink and Stuart Stevenson

Reflections on how Public-Private Partnerships can address FMD in Eastern Africa

On June 23rd 2020, the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), in collaboration with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), launched an online course: Applying Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in the Progressive Control of FMD and Similar Transboundary Animal Diseases. I had the opportunity to attend this four-week course, and it opened my eyes to key elements of PPPs in the veterinary domain, which are highly relevant to our AgResults FMD Vaccine Challenge Project.

The course covered a range of topics, such as exploring needs and identifying opportunities for PPPs, building a business case for PPPs, and developing an enabling environment for sustainable PPPs. Participants included public and private sector stakeholders from Eastern Africa as well as other parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

During the four-week course, we went through an interactive journey of live webinars, case studies, presentations, working group discussions, and panel sessions with renowned veterinary experts and practitioners of PPPs. We were guided through Zooland, an imaginary country with livestock management and veterinary control characteristics similar to most African nations. The exercises and discussions demonstrated how PPPs can create synergies, mutual benefits, and better outcomes in the control of FMD and similar transboundary (FAST) diseases. As participants, we were asked to develop case studies and solutions relevant to our own countries and share experiences with participants from other regions. 

Of particular interest to me, the course provided vital information on how to develop a PPP Framework for the Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Value Chain (FMD VVC) in Eastern Africa – an upcoming goal of the AgResults project. My colleague describes the role of this framework and its potential to strengthen the FMD VVC in a recent blog.

The course’s experiential learning will significantly benefit the AgResults FMD Project team as it develops and validates the PPP Framework in the coming months. We will engage the course participants from Eastern Africa as ‘PPP Champions’, drawing from their perspectives to shape the framework so that it fits the regional context and each country’s unique situation. Since PPP in the veterinary domain is an emerging concept, a standardized framework will be crucial to highlight the opportunities and challenges. It will also serve as a communication tool, sparking awareness of PPPs among stakeholders and attracting investments into the veterinary domain that could ultimately lead to effective and efficient control of FMD in the region.

I was particularly delighted to be in the inaugural group of course participants, and I look forward to further engaging with ‘PPP Champions’ in the region and beyond.

For more information on the FMD Vaccine Challenge Project, visit the project pages on the GALVmed and AgResults websites.

Written by Badi Maulidi

The other side of GALVmed’s Learning Agenda: What is working well without our help?

GALVmed’s mission focuses on improving the availability and adoption of essential animal health products for Small-scale Livestock Producers (SLPs). In this mission, we focus on the significant constraints imposed by livestock diseases and the considerable barriers in the supply of animal health products (particularly vaccines requiring an effective cold chain) into remote, rural, ‘last mile’ areas.

However, just as important as understanding these constraints and barriers is the need to understand what is already working well in the ‘last mile’. Here, our focus is on the existing availability of animal health products to SLPs without any form of intervention.

We are routinely surprised at how strong this is for some animal health product classes and for some SLP segments. The below table shows the availability of several classes of poultry vaccines in the last mile in Nigeria (from a sample of 6 agrovet retailers with 5 found to have a fridge).

Furthermore, the SLP perception of product quality appears to be good suggesting that vaccine failure is not experienced (suggesting that the cold chain works reasonably well). An example from a 2019 M&E in Nigeria demonstrates this perception:

The above examples are a helpful reminder that product availability and adoption by SLPs is not uniformly bad – and that GALVmed’s work needs to focus on the considerable unmet SLP needs that still exist.

Written by Neil Gammon

Learning from GALVmed’s legacy

It is standard procedure to measure the progress and effects of a project within its lifetime, or immediately thereafter. However, GALVmed’s Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) function also considers the performance of projects a few years down the line and the legacy that these projects have left behind. Did they succeed or fail in the long term? Were our underlying assumptions about sustainability correct or incorrect? And, what can we learn from what we have done before?

In 2016, GALVmed M&E assessed the economic sustainability of early GALVmed Market Development projects. We collected data on the supply and demand of Newcastle Disease (ND) vaccines in three pilot project sites five years after these projects ended. Our initial expectation is that we would be carrying out a ‘post-mortem’ looking at learning what might have failed and why in order to incorporate these learnings in future market development work. Instead, we found a remarkable degree of sustainability.

In a similar vein, we have looked backwards at previous market development initiatives such as the Protecting Livestock, Saving Human Life programme (April 2012 – March 2018) to see how work has progressed since the close of the project. Sales data between 2018 and 2019 indicates that millions of doses of ND vaccine were sold to small-scale livestock producers without funds or intervention from GALVmed.

Currently the GALVmed M&E function, in collaboration with partners, are working to model the economic impact of these sales to estimate the ensuing net economic benefit to the communities.

Written by Katharine Tjasink and Stuart Stevenson

GALVmed’s Learning Journey

GALVmed is privileged to be working on a mission that has truly remarkable potential to improve the livelihoods of a vast number of people. Our ability to achieve exceptional results is down to the exceptional benefits afforded by livestock vaccines and other animal health products. These represent an investment to the small-scale livestock producer that can be matched by very few other agricultural inputs and, with over half the world’s poor being farmers in developing nations, this extraordinary potential can be readily appreciated.

However, despite this potential our mission remains a challenging one. We still have a great deal to learn in the small-scale livestock field and we can still anticipate failure in some of our projects and initiatives. The key to transforming our theoretical potential to tangible reality is learning.

In the GALVmed Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) function we are very much part of this GALVmed learning journey. We follow a developmental evaluation approach where pragmatic levels of information are sought to rapidly assess progress and, where necessary, course corrections can be proposed and discussed within GALVmed and with private sector partners. It is our responsibility to serve as the ‘honest broker’ in ensuring a transparent assessment of impact alongside the performance of our initiatives.

We have much to learn and will continue to evolve as iterate as new evidence comes to light, bringing with it new challenges, new lessons, new opportunities and greater understanding.

Written by Neil Gammon

A Step Forward with FMD Public-Private Partnerships in Eastern Africa

In Eastern Africa, the public sector currently leads efforts to control Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral livestock disease with severe economic repercussions. However, private sector innovation and resources could make a big difference in tackling this disease. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the intergovernmental institution responsible for global animal health, asserts that “public-private partnerships (PPP) is a joint approach in which both sectors agree responsibilities and share resources and risks to achieve common objectives that deliver benefits in a sustainable manner.”  If applied properly, such partnerships that leverage public and private resources could dramatically improve animal health in Eastern Africa — but first, we need to raise awareness of the PPP model and its benefits.

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the OIE has recently conducted research across 181 member countries and published a handbook that shows governments and organizations how to develop sustainable and impactful veterinary PPPs. Using the OIE PPP Handbook as a starting point, the AgResults FMD Vaccine Challenge Project aims to catalyze the formation of new PPPs to strengthen the FMD vaccine value chain (VVC) in six target countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Managed by GALVmed, the Project is a Pay-for-Results prize competition that encourages the development and uptake of high-quality FMD vaccines tailored to meet the needs of Eastern Africa. The competition uses a cost-share to reduce the cost-per-dose for buyers, enabling public and private sector actors to better combat FMD through more consistent purchases of the new vaccines.

Drawing from the OIE PPP Handbook guidelines, our team will develop a PPP framework that will capture the unique challenges and opportunities for establishing partnerships in the FMD VVC in Eastern Africa, including production, purchasing, distribution, vaccination and post-vaccination monitoring. This framework will form the basis for future development and realization of actual PPP arrangements between public and private sector entities in the region to address the inherent challenges in the FMD VVC.   

A first step is to collaborate with EuFMD and OIE  on an online course they’ve developed, entitled “Applying Public-Private Partnerships to the Control of FMD and Similar Transboundary Diseases”. Public and private sector representatives from our six target countries are participating in this course, along with our Project team. The course is enhancing these representatives’ understanding of the benefits and key factors to create successful and long-lasting FMD control partnerships.

In the coming months, our team will engage course participants and other key stakeholders from the region to discuss the opportunities and barriers to PPP formation in each country. This input will form the basis of the PPP Framework, customised to the unique environments of the Project’s target countries. Once the framework is developed and validated, we will further promote its use as a catalyst for development of successful PPPs, beneficial to the FMD VVC in Eastern Africa.

For more information on the FMD Vaccine Challenge Project, visit the project pages on the GALVmed and AgResults websites.

Written by Nina Henning, the Team Lead of the AgResults FMD Vaccine Challenge Project.

Breaking the cycle of the zoonotic disease Neurocysticercosis

Much is being discussed about zoonotic diseases currently as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which scientists predict likely emerged from wholesale food market in Wuhan City in China. Globally, it is estimated that 75 per cent of emerging human diseases in the last three decades have originated from animals, increasing the urgency to identify strategies and control tools that will prevent and control zoonotic diseases.

GALVmed has been working on neglected zoonotic diseases that have the most severe constraints on small-scale agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Take the case of Porcine Cysticercosis (PC), which is almost exclusively transmitted between humans and pigs. Porcine Cysticercosis is caused by Taenia solium and humans are the definitive hosts for Taenia solium. People can also act as intermediate hosts and develop human cysticercosis or neurocysticercosis, which can cause severe headaches, blindness, convulsions, epileptic seizures and can be fatal. Taenia solium is the cause of 30% of epilepsy cases in many endemic areas where people and roaming pigs live in close proximity. In high risk communities it can be associated with as many as 70% of epilepsy cases.

Porcine cysticercosis also has a devastating effect on the economy. The farmers incur serious financial losses when their infected pigs cannot be sold, are sold at reduced prices, or are condemned without compensation upon slaughter.

Attempts to control this infection through increased public health education, sanitation, improved animal husbandry and meat inspection, have proven largely unsuccessful in eradication of the disease. Hence, GALVmed and partners set out to develop control tools (vaccine, diagnostics and therapeutics) for porcine cysticercosis in a bid to stop the cycle of infections from pigs to humans.

Since the early 2010s, GALVmed worked with University of Melbourne, Australia, and Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) to develop the TSOL18 vaccine and make it available for use in endemic countries. The CYSVAX™ vaccine for porcine cycticercosis was licensed for the first time in India in 2016.

As part of this collaboration, GALVmed conducted five field trials in smallholder pigs of different regional settings in Asia and Africa to evaluate how the TSOL18 vaccine and the benzimidazole drug Oxfendazole, a pig de-wormer, can be integrated into effective PC control programmes. All studies showed that the TSOL18 vaccine achieves complete elimination of transmission of the parasite by pigs, when concurrently administered with oxfendazole (Paranthic 10%™). This marked a major step towards the integrated control of this important human disease. In addition, GALVmed explored the status of knowledge, attitudes and practices among pig farmers in smallholder settings and farmers’ willingness to pay for Cysvax® and Paranthic 10%™. And while the ‘added value’ of the porcine cysticercosis vaccine will accrue more to the public health sector than the farmer, the concurrent deworming could potentially give economic benefits to farmers through improved pig weight which give the farmers premium prices when selling their pigs. This addresses both the human health and economic aspects of this zoonotic disease.

Written by Beatrice Ouma