PREVENT: How hatchery vaccinations are boosting poultry production in Africa

Marie Ducrotoy, Senior Manager Development Projects and Partnerships, Ceva Santé Animale

Tom Osebe, Senior Manager, Commercial Development & Impact, Africa, GALVmed

Improvement in poultry production is one of the most promising options to provide affordable protein and other essential nutrients to Africa’s rapidly growing population, but poultry diseases pose a constant threat to productivity, and limit the industry’s potential. Even though vaccination is proven as an effective way of protecting poultry, high temperatures in Africa make distribution of vaccines (which mostly need to be kept cold) a challenging task in the continent. This hurdle, combined with a lack of information about circulating infectious diseases, exposes small-scale producers to the risk of losing their flocks and livelihoods overnight.

In 2021, Ceva Santé Animale in partnership with GALVmed, and with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), launched the PREVENT (PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow) initiative to introduce hatchery vaccinations for day old chicks (DoC) in mid-size hatcheries in Africa. The overarching objective was to enable small-scale poultry producers in Africa to become more productive and efficient and to enhance their prospects for progression and advancement in the industry. And the targets were ambitious; over 50 million hatchery-vaccinated day-old chicks distributed annually through 36 medium-sized hatcheries spread across eight Africa countries. These were expected to benefit 150,000 poultry producers.  

Three years since inception and with over a year left on the project, PREVENT has performed remarkably and is on track to achieving, and in some instances exceeding, its targets. Already, 31 hatcheries in 11 countries have been equipped to provide vaccinations to DoCs benefitting over 100,000 poultry farmers.

More vaccines for improved immunity and reduced mortality

Because chickens are susceptible to a range of infectious diseases that can impact their health and growth, it is important they are vaccinated with several vaccines on the day of hatch. At an average of three doses per vaccinated day-old chick (vDoC), small-scale producers are benefitting from a much larger range of vaccination covering more disease than before, which in turn improve the quantity and quality of the birds. PREVENT has succeeded in vaccinating over 98 million DoCs, exceeding the 56 million originally targeted. This is attributed to the unexpected success of most hatcheries transitioning from zero to one hundred percent vaccination, in contrast to the staged gradual increase in vaccination which had been modelled. Overall, 91% of DoCs produced by the hatcheries are vaccinated.  

Additionally, twenty vaccines have been registered variably in the West African Economic and Monetary Union- UEMOA region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) as well as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda offering a diverse offering for use by hatcheries.

Technical support to farmers

Implementing vaccination measures alone is not enough, training on animal health practices, market development opportunities, and advice on biosecurity and good management practices is an important part of the solution for small-scale producers. PREVENT is working with over 200 Field Technicians who have been trained and who serve as the crucial link between the hatcheries and producers. They are providing advice and technical support to the poultry producers and helping to build the customer base of the hatcheries.

A boost for poultry disease data

The SAFER (Sub-Saharan Africa Field Epidemiological Research) portion of the PREVENT project was designed to assess the aetiology of disease outbreaks. Through existing network of field technicians, valuable data on circulation of specific poultry viruses has been collected. This data will be use Ceva and GALVmed to assess if the current vaccines and vaccination program are adequate to protect against  circulating viruses. The data will also be useful to policymakers, hatcheries and their customers for effective disease control. Activities in the SAFER project are providing a significant boost for available epidemiological data for Africa.

Understanding gender dynamics in poultry farming

In order to positively impact women chicken producers through the hatchery intervention, the initiative sought to bring a pragmatic level of understanding of gender dynamics within the poultry sector.  A gender landscaping analysis is helping to shed light on these dynamics which can guide how women can benefit from poultry interventions in the future.

PREVENT has brought about lasting transformational market change as more farmers embrace vaccinated DoCs due to the benefits they offer. Ceva is continually working to create awareness of the advantages of vaccinated DoCs through simplified communication to farmers focusing on better protection improved poultry health, less work for the farmer, and better performance and more money for producers.

How Digital Innovation Will Unlock the Potential of Africa’s Livestock Producers

Written by Enrique Hernández Pando, Head of Commercial Development & Impact, and Tom Osebe, Senior Manager, Commercial Development & Impact, Africa. Originally published by Farming First.

New animal health platforms are needed to unleash the commercial and development potential of small-scale livestock producers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Home to tens of millions of small-scale livestock producers and a quarter of the world’s livestock, Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to become the commercial powerhouse of the animal health industry. For decades, however, a variety of investment barriers have prevented animal health companies from tapping into this potential. A lack of market data and intelligence makes investment a challenging proposition and the widely dispersed and often remote farms tended by small-scale producers are a challenge to veterinary service networks.

This is not just bad news for business. Limited investment has denied the continent’s small-scale producers the same access to quality animal health products and expertise as their counterparts in the Global North. Reliant on limited and often unregulated medicines and unable to meet regularly with vets, millions of small-scale producers are forced to raise their animals sub-optimally, impacting profits. Livestock’s proven ability to fuel sustainable development through increased incomes, improved nutrition and economic prosperity is being curtailed.

Now for the good news. With digital innovations that are already being developed, we can unleash the enormous potential of Sub-Saharan Africa’s small-scale livestock producers and turbo-charge the animal health industry.

Market intelligence platform

Establishing prosperous and sustainable animal health markets is a long-term goal of the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), an organisation dedicated to making livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible and affordable in Africa and South Asia. For the past few years, GALVmed has been working with a wide range of partners to create a suite of digital platforms designed to finally bridge the gaps between the animal health industry and the continent’s small-scale producers.

The first of these – which is being developed in partnership with AgNexus Africa, Kruger Consulting, Pizzly Consult and Folio3 – is a Market Intelligence Platform. By aggregating reliable and up-to-date sales data from various sources in the animal health industry, the Market Intelligence Platform will give companies an unprecedented understanding of the size and nature of the animal health market across sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2024, a minimum viable product will be developed to allow users to size and estimate the Kenyan market. This will help companies quantify demand, secure investments and reach underserved small-scale livestock producers. The platform will be expanded to include Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria. 

To ensure the Market Intelligence Platform continues to provide accurate information for years to come, GALVmed is also helping to digitise the agrodealer industry. Since December 2023, AgNexus Africa and GALVmed have been equipping hundreds of agrodealers in Kenya and Tanzania with smart devices that log their sales. Not only is this improving the efficiency of the industry, but the logged sales data will be fed into the Market Intelligence Platform, providing businesses with a steady stream of real-time market data. 

Telehealth and e-commerce platform

The second major innovation is the Telehealth and E-commerce Platform, which is designed to tackle the limited reach of animal health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, vets and paravets can only visit about five farms a day as they navigate remote villages, poor infrastructure and seasonal access roads. The Telehealth and E-commerce Platform is set to dramatically increase the number of cases these professionals can take on by enabling virtual consultations and clinical sign recognition.

In partnership with VetNOW, the National Animal Disease Information Service and Africa Veterinary Technicians Association, a team of 10 vets has been enlisted to populate the platform with diagnostic information for an initial 55 priority diseases of cattle, sheep and goats. There are also plans for the platform to enable vets and paravets to give prescriptions, order products, submit cases for laboratory testing and even scan product barcodes to see if a particular animal health product is licensed to be traded. The Telehealth and E-commerce Platform will in future integrate with the Market Intelligence Platform, creating comprehensive market datasets for the poorly understood last mile of animal health value chains.   

In 2024, a minimum viable product offering telemedicine and clinical sign recognition – but without the e-commerce component – will be developed, covering Kenya’s Kiambu and Nakuru counties. This project is being implemented within Kenya’s veterinary medicine practice regulations.

Unleashing the potential of livestock producers

These platforms will be available via AgNexus Africa and VetNOW. The Market Intelligence Platform data will use a fee-based subscription model to ensure its long-term sustainability. The Telehealth and E-commerce Platform, meanwhile, will work on a demand aggregation model – similar to how taxi and food delivery apps work – with VetNOW in charge of the day-to-day operations. 

By ending the disconnect between the animal health sector and small-scale livestock producers, these platforms will help unleash the commercial and development potential of sub-Saharan Africa’s livestock.

Cover image credit: @Shutterstock/Wazzkii

ONELab – Diagnostic Solution to Small-scale Poultry Farming

Chickens play a pivotal role in Africa as both a vital source of food and income. However, poultry diseases pose a substantial challenge to productivity, food security, and the economic progression of small-scale producers. Additionally, mistreatment and improper use of antibiotics to treat such diseases exacerbate the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), crippling the development of the poultry sector.

In 2020, LAPROVET, a Ceva Santé Animale group company, partnered with GALVmed and launched the OneLab initiative, a programme to develop a network of private veterinary laboratories in Senegal to facilitate access to diagnostic tools. Through this initiative, a group of private veterinary doctors in Senegal was equipped and trained to conduct antimicrobial sensitivity tests. Since activities started in July 2021, more than 1,000 analyses have been performed.

The OneLab initiative contributes to reducing misdiagnosis and overuse of antibiotics, playing a crucial role in mitigating the threat of AMR, and safeguarding both animal and public health.

A Rising Tide Doesn’t Lift All Boats: Why Africa’s Livestock Intensification Can’t Leave Women Behind

Written by Katharine Tjasink, Senior Manager, Impact, Evaluation & Learning (GALVmed); Lamyaa Al-Riyami, Senior Manager, Evaluation, Programme Planning, (GALVmed); and Zoë Campbell, Scientist, Gender, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Originally published by Farming First

For many of Africa’s 240 million women livestock keepers, success in the industry is a double-edged sword that brings difficult questions of its own, mainly: what happens next?

On top of existing obstacles women face in Africa’s livestock sector – from a lack of access to land, finance, technology, and information about disease control – a successful livestock business can often lock horns with the prevailing gender and social norms across the continent.

For instance, research from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shows that women face significant challenges when the fortunes of their business rise. These include difficulties balancing an increasing workload with other responsibilities and potentially losing control over their own resources and decision-making by attracting the attention and investment of their husbands or male family members.

As Africa endeavours to intensify its livestock production to meet food security goals, it is imperative to address these gender disparities to avoid unintended consequences and ensure equitable development. Acute care must be taken to avoid leaving women behind and jeopardising gender equality.

This is why the PREVENT project, a Ceva Santé Animale initiative in collaboration with GALVmed, is adopting a “gender lens” to intensify Africa’s livestock production. The Promoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow (PREVENT) project specifically focuses on providing vaccinations for day-old chicks at mid-size hatcheries across Africa.

This approach is crucial as mid-size hatcheries serve many women farmers. Poultry rearing and production, more generally, provides a valuable source of income to women farmers, while also making an important contribution to the reduction of food insecurity and rural poverty across the African continent.

Yet, across Africa, uptake of some veterinary vaccines, key tools to protect advances in productivity,  has been limited. Small-scale poultry production struggle with access to quality vaccines and veterinary services. As a result, rural producers can have their flocks, and the income and stability they represent, wiped out overnight due to otherwise preventable diseases.

By focusing on disease prevention through increasing the accessibility of vaccinated chicks, the PREVENT project is not only boosting productivity by reducing livestock losses but also catering to women farmers, many of whom lack access to critical disease prevention technologies.

Likewise, through the provision of technical training and information dissemination about chicken management, biosecurity, and vaccination, PREVENT is bridging the knowledge and technical divide that holds back Africa’s poultry farmers, including women.

With the support of field technicians, the PREVENT project is contributing to greater animal production and income growth through improved disease control. At the same time, the project is bolstering the knowledge and skills necessary for successful poultry management, benefitting a diverse range of poultry farmers, including those traditionally overlooked women farmers.

In order to benefit future interventions, the PREVENT project is also seeking to improve understanding of the existing social norms impacting women, and their success, in the African livestock sector.

To achieve this, a gender landscaping analysis conducted by the project helped to shed light on these norms by presenting mock case studies of women involved in successful livestock businesses to focus groups across Africa. By collating responses from these groups, the analysis provided insights into the complex social and cultural norms shaping women’s experiences in the industry.

The findings from the gender landscaping analysis are instrumental in informing future development interventions. Quantitative and qualitative impact assessments are also being carried out by the project to contribute to the understanding of gender perspectives in the sector. By understanding the expectations and challenges faced by women in the livestock sector, future projects can act more sensitively to ensure that women’s success does not come into conflict with prevailing social norms. This proactive approach is essential for creating an inclusive and equitable livestock sector in Africa.

Ultimately, intensification of animal production is crucial for providing nutritious food for Africa’s rapidly growing population. Yet, greater success for women livestock farmers can – counterintuitively – bring new challenges of its own.

Therefore, ensuring the overall success of Africa’s food system transformation means also addressing prevailing gender disparities in the livestock sector.

By responding to existing gender gaps in livestock health and improving understanding of complex gender dynamics affecting their livelihoods, the PREVENT project is playing a vital role in ensuring that Africa’s dynamic women farmers are not left behind.

Photo credit: Female poultry farmer, Iringa, Tanzania, 2021. @Colin Dames

Invest in Women to Accelerate Progress

International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, is a day to reflect on the gender disparities that hinder women’s opportunities worldwide, while advocating for policies and strategies that pave the path to gender equality.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024, as set by  UN Women, is Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress. With this campaign, UN Women shed light on an alarming reality: An additional $360 billion per year is needed to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment across key global goals, including to end poverty and hunger.

In the livestock context, where GALVmed operates, we must advocate for animal health and livestock strategies that are designed with attention to and addressing gender issues and inequities, to ensure women have equal access to resources and business opportunities as men. By investing in women, we not only advance global goals such as food security and poverty eradication, but also build a more inclusive and sustainable world.

How is GALVmed contributing to women’s empowerment?

Why is it important to invest in women in the livestock sector?

Women make up 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force, and therefore their work and contributions are of tremendous importance. Despite their potential to drive change within the agriculture and livestock sector towards more resilient, prosperous, and sustainable systems, rural women still face numerous challenges that leave them, and their communities, behind. We must allocate resources toward initiatives that amplify women’s contributions and opportunities, catalysing progress for women and men alike. This International Women’s Day, as well as every day of the year, let’s advocate for increased investment in women as a crucial step to help closing the gender gap and forging a future where everyone can thrive.

Banner Photo: Pascal Maitre & Chris de Bode/Panos Pictures

Written by Patricia Valdeón Noya as part of the International Women’s Day 2024 campaign on #InvestInWomen

GALVmed’s Achievements

Over one billion people around the world depend on livestock for their livelihoods, of which more than 900 million are in Africa and South Asia. However, preventable animal diseases pose a constant threat to productivity, food safety and security, income, opportunities, and individual and community prosperity. Consequently, protecting livestock is critical to improving human lives.

Focusing on sub–Saharan Africa and South Asia, GALVmed’s vision is transformational improvement in the well-being and economic progression of small-scale livestock producers. We do this through:

  • Improving availability: By researching, improving and developing much-needed animal health products and solutions.
  • Increasing accessibility:  By ensuring the needed products reach the markets and are accessible and affordable to small-scale producers.
  • Improving adoption: By easing barriers in the regulatory and policy environment, facilitating product registration.
  • Increasing understanding: By providing practical data and information from the small-scale livestock producer field to measure impact and facilitate data-driven decisions.

Working in collaboration with partners, GALVmed has implemented, over the years, various programmes across Africa and South Asia. GALVmed’s achievements from 2014 to 2022 are:

  • 1.2 billion livestock vaccines, therapeutics and other animal health products sold to small-scale customers in 15 countries across Africa and South Asia.
  • Approximately 5.7 million cumulative annual customers served.
  • 23.7 million livestock deaths averted saving the sector approximately of $386 million.
  • Approximately $119 million of cattle mortalities averted from East Coast Fever disease.
  • Approximately $52.5 million in poultry deaths averted from Newcastle disease.
  • 15 new animal health products developed since 2010.
  • A total of 9 products registered under the Mutual Recognition Procedure (MRP) to date.
  • Over 90 publications disseminated.

These achievements reflect not just progress but also strong commitment to improving the lives of those who depend on livestock for their livelihoods. GALVmed remains dedicated to collaborating with partners to ensure effective animal health products are widely available in sub–Saharan Africa and south Asia, contributing to our purpose of protecting livestock to improve human lives.

Why combination vaccines are better for small-scale livestock producers

Written by Stephen Wilson, Director, Research & Development (VITAL projects) and Kellen Asena, Senior Marketing Manager, GALVmed. Originally published by Farming First.

Livestock is a crucial source of income for small-scale livestock producers. Globally, it is estimated that around 78 per cent of the world’s poorest communities rely on agricultural work to support their livelihoods and households. However, livestock diseases represent $358.4 billion in lost production per year.

Access to veterinary care is a critical piece of the puzzle, with higher vaccination rates associated with higher productivity. However, expensive vaccines often do not reach those who rely on healthy animals the most for their livelihoods, income and food security: small-scale livestock producers.

Small-scale livestock producers often live in remote areas and face many constraints around access to veterinary care, including the lack of financial means to pay for the necessary medicines, and sometimes even lack of knowledge on some of the diseases that their livestock may suffer from. Often, suitable vaccines are distributed in disproportionate pack sizes or are simply unavailable. However, combination vaccines, also known as multi-valent vaccines can address these access challenges and more, offering the best value for resource-poor livestock keepers.

Alternatives for smallholder farmers

The prevalence of diseases such as Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) in livestock is rife across the African continent, causing significant economic losses for farmers and harm to animal health and welfare. Yet, major gaps exist in the portfolio of products required by small-scale producers to effectively control pressing livestock diseases. Combination and concurrent vaccines, meaning those which target more than one disease in a single dose or administration, offer effective and affordable value to small-scale producers with an outstanding return on investment and a multitude of benefits.

For instance, combination vaccines are more cost-effective than single-use vaccinations, which tend to be more expensive. The Sheep Goat Pox/PPR combination vaccine, for example, is 40 per cent cheaper than the cost of the two vaccines delivered separately. 

Multi-valent vaccines also provide maximum coverage against multiple diseases, rather than simply one livestock disease. They require just a single dose to be administered and therefore are less burdensome on the farmer, the animal, and the veterinarians. There have also been improvements around pack sizes, with 10, 50 and 100 doses available.

Developing multi-valent vaccines

Together with partners, GALVmed is funding the development of several multi-valent vaccines against livestock diseases that are most endemic across Africa and South Asia and currently have the most negative impacts on food security for smallholder farmers. Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), for example, can result in economic losses of over $507 million per year in endemic areas, while PPR is highly contagious and affects almost 70 countries across the African continent. SGP affects goats and sheep and can lead to economic losses amounting to $48 million per year across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Other diseases that combination vaccines are targeting include Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), Newcastle Disease (ND), and Infectious Bursal Disease (Gumboro) (IBD).

For example, the CCPP/PPR/SGP combination vaccine for small ruminant diseases in affected regions ensures maximum disease coverage using a single vaccine and through distribution networks operating effective cold chains. This combination vaccine is significantly cheaper than monovalent vaccines. The addition of the RVF dosage to the CBPP+LSD/Rift Valley Fever vaccine – known as a concurrent vaccine – is of particular importance to smallholder farmers as it offers enhanced protection against RVF outbreaks when administered at the same time.

Other combination vaccines include the bi-valent PPR/SGP vaccine – of which GALVmed, together with a commercial partner, has sold over 27 million doses to date – as well as multi-valent vaccines against ND and Infectious bronchitis.

Looking ahead

Encouraging governments across the Global South to open up the market for private sector development could ensure small-scale farmers are able to purchase vaccines more easily and efficiently, which is particularly important in the case of a disease outbreak when a rapid response time could make or break disease control efforts.

It is estimated that 800 million people in Africa rely on healthy livestock for their livelihoods. One of the fastest-growing agricultural subsectors in developing countries, livestock accounts for around 30 per cent of agricultural GDP. However, smallholder farmers in low-income, rural areas often lack access to vaccinations and veterinary care resulting from logistical and supply chain difficulties and costs. Combination vaccines could be the answer, offering a viable and cost-effective alternative for small-scale livestock farmers all around the world.

Evaluating the effects of Newcastle Disease vaccination on poultry production and livelihoods

Backyard chickens are a significant source of income and nourishment in developing countries, but outbreaks of poultry diseases like Newcastle Disease (ND) severely affect productivity, flock mortality, and consequently, farmer livelihoods.

GALVmed has made important progress in combating ND with the successful development of two thermotolerant vaccines suitable for the rural environment. Vaccination is a cost-effective means to controlling ND. However, to fully grasp the benefits of vaccination interventions and establish evidence-based approaches for developing future programmes and planning, we need to measure vaccination impacts comprehensively. In order to understand and quantify the causal effects of ND vaccination on poultry production and livelihoods, since 2020, GALVmed has been working with Tufts University and Oxford Policy Management (OPM) to design and implement a Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV) intervention paired with a rigorous evaluation in rural areas of Tanzania.

The study encompasses two main activities. Firstly, a Newcastle Disease vaccination intervention in selected small-scale farming areas of Tanzania, specifically in the districts of Chemba and Mbozi. To execute this intervention plan, Community Vaccinators are tasked to visit each registered small-scale producer (SSP) household at their doorstep to:

  1. Vaccinate chickens with the I-2 Newcastle Disease vaccine, which is administered by the eye-drop method.
  2. Deliver specific training and knowledge content on the disease, vaccination, and improved poultry-rearing practices.

The second activity involves an experimental study to quantify the causal effects of the Newcastle Disease vaccination intervention. To assess these effects, the impact study was structured as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) where the study sample of intervention villages was randomly divided into two groups for comparison: a treatment group that received the ND vaccination intervention package (vaccination and training), and a control group that did not. The control group will receive one round of the intervention after the study’s endline survey.

Both the vaccination intervention and the impact study are currently underway.  OPM has completed all 6 vaccination rounds in the study’s treatment villages with one pending vaccination round to control villages. The households that were selected for the impact study have been interviewed at the project’s outset, followed by a midline assessment, and will again be interviewed at the end of the intervention. The midline survey revealed preliminary positive outcomes with reduced ND outbreaks and chicken mortality due to NDV delivery.

Underlying this intervention is a key assumption that offering NDV at an affordable price to poultry-keeping households in treatment villages, together with the promotion of improved poultry-rearing practices, will yield noteworthy benefits with respect to poultry productivity, income from poultry, household welfare, food consumption, and possibly decisions on income-generating activities.

The findings derived from this study will allow us to make informed decisions regarding ND vaccination and further enhance the effectiveness of our efforts in protecting poultry health and livelihoods.

Further details and final findings will be made available at the end of the intervention in 2024.

‘One Health’: Investing in Animal Health to get the world back on track

Written by Karelle De Luca, Head of Research & Development. Originally published by Fair Planet.

There are just seven years to go until 2030. That means there are just seven years left to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 169 targets. Yet, the world was starkly reminded in July by top United Nations officials ahead of the SDG Summit that it is “tremendously off track” to reach these Goals.

In fact, a mere 15 per cent of the SDGs are on track, while many are in reverse. 

Against the backdrop of a myriad of complex, interconnected global challenges such as climate change and global economic insecurity, reaching all 169 targets by 2030 is looking increasingly less probable – unless action and investment are accelerated.

Indeed, world leaders’ recent political declaration to spur commitment to rescue the SDGs is a welcome step in the right direction, as they call for more investment in climate action, clean energy, education, health and much more. However, there is one important sector that also needs investment and is often overlooked in the role it can play to ensure the world gets back on track to our shared sustainability goals: the animal health sector. 

The ‘One Health’ approach

Investing in animal health – and in particular livestock – has a multitude of benefits for animals, people and the environment. That’s ‘One Health’ – the notion that human, animal, and plant health are interdependent.

Livestock is a crucial source of income for smallholder farmers, with about 78 per cent of the world’s poorest relying on agricultural work to support their livelihoods and households. However, each year, tens of millions of livestock die due to diseases.

Livestock diseases represent around USD 358 billion in lost production each year – production that could otherwise support global food security and more resilient livelihoods for small-scale farmers, particularly at a time when the African continent faces compounded challenges from climate change and supply chain shocks. 

However, investment in animal health and welfare can help. Thanks to a concerted vaccination effort over a decade ago, for

example, which saw the development of an inexpensive vaccine, costing from $3 to $16 per hundred doses, rinderpest in livestock was completely eradicated. Its eradication allows the continent to avoid a loss of $920 million a year, with household income in Ethiopia estimated to have risen by $40 million.

Improving animal health through investment boosts productivity and supports more resilient livelihoods, all of which are considered indicators of the Global Goals.

Beyond boosting livelihoods, enhancing animal health not only keeps livestock themselves healthy but also protects humans by reducing the risk of diseases spreading between the two. Up to 75 per cent of new or emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic in origin – that is, transmitted from wild animals – the importance of better animal health cannot be understated, as livestock often act as the bridge between people and zoonoses from wild animals.

Africa alone has witnessed a 63 per cent increase in the number of zoonotic disease outbreaks in the last decade. 

Increased investment is needed to make the full suite of livestock health tools available to farmers, including vaccines and other measures, which in turn helps to lower the usage of antibiotics on farms. This also helps to minimise the risk of developing new resistant strains of bacteria, reducing the effectiveness of vital antimicrobial treatments in both human and veterinary medicine.

More effective vaccines and delivery mechanisms are particularly critical for small-scale farmers in the Global South. For instance, the development of multi-valent vaccines offer pragmatic and cost-effective disease control tools for smallholder farmers. To date, GALVmed-supported initiatives have sold an estimated over one billion livestock vaccines, therapeutics and other animal health products to smallholders in 15 countries across Africa and South Asia.

Healthier animals and improved livestock management practices can also help to reduce the sector’s environmental footprint – known as the third pillar of the One Health approach – bringing us one step closer to SDG 13 (Climate Action). Animals suffering from illness have a higher carbon footprint, while healthier animals are more productive and produce less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

For example, a reduction of disease levels in livestock of roughly 10 percentage points is associated with an 800 million tonne decrease in GHG emissions. This adds up to nearly as much as Nigeria and South Africa’s total emissions, combined. 

While better livestock health can ensure a higher quality of life for animals, it is also an investment with far-reaching returns: from improved food security, economic growth, better human health and a healthier planet. 

As such, there is therefore a greater need to ensure that farmers are better equipped with the tools needed to improve animal health, particularly in those regions where they have proven inaccessible or expensive. Investing in livestock health through a One Health approach is a key solution to ensuring the world’s sustainability agenda gets back on track.

Image credit: @GALVmed/Alternatives.

It Pays to Invest in Animal Welfare

Written by Carolin Schumacher, CEO, GALVmed.

Animal welfare has the power to transform the lives of those who depend on livestock. Well-maintained animals are not only healthier and happier but also more profitable. By living longer and suffering from fewer diseases, they can save their owners considerable sums in medicines, veterinarian bills and the need to purchase or acquire new animals. Healthy livestock also produce more meat, milk or eggs over their lifetime, increasing the productivity and efficiency of livestock businesses. Whether it’s a cattle ranch in Kenya or a backyard chicken coop in India, it pays – quite literally – to invest in animal welfare.

Barriers to livestock welfare

Unfortunately, many of the 900 million people working in small-scale livestock production across the Global South lack access to the resources to improve the health and wellbeing of their animals. Limited private sector investment in lower- and middle-income countries, together with the challenges of reaching remote rural communities, mean that the high-quality animal health products commonplace in Europe and North America are often rare or non-existent elsewhere. Demand is instead met, if at all, by unregulated products and counterfeits of uncertain quality.

All of this means that producers in Africa and South Asia often have no choice but to rear health-impaired or disease-prone livestock. The owner of a backyard chicken coop in India knows that an outbreak of Newcastle disease could wipe out his or her entire flock, but may lack the funds to vaccinate their animals. A Kenyan cattle herder, meanwhile, may have limited access to vaccination services against Rift Valley fever, a destructive zoonotic disease endemic in Africa.

Locked into unprofitable business models, small-scale farmers are unable to expand their enterprises, pay for medical bills or, in some cases, even send their children to school. For the 600 million people whose diets are centred around livestock, the loss of these animals to disease can also jeopardise their food and nutrition security. Poor animal welfare holds back not only individuals, but families and entire communities.

Supporting healthy livestock

Improving animal health, especially through the creation and distribution of new and improved vaccines is critical. For example, an affordable, thermostable and easily administered vaccine against Newcastle disease was developed, specifically designed to benefit the poor and hard-to-reach livestock producers currently underserved by the private sector. Since 2010, 264 million doses of this vaccine have been sold to more than three million small-scale poultry owners in Africa and South Asia, transforming their lives and livelihoods.

The development of a safe and effective concurrent vaccine against Rift Valley fever and two other important ruminant diseases are also in its final stages. Once approved for sale, this vaccine will enable more frequent and regular administrations of Rift Valley fever vaccinations, reducing the risk of outbreaks and strengthening rural livelihoods.

To ensure game-changing products like these reach small-scale producers in Africa and South Asia, GALVmed is also supporting animal health companies to invest in the Global South. Whether by providing the private sector with much-needed market data, facilitating public-private partnerships or helping governments to develop robust policies, GALVmed works to create an enabling environment for animal health products and an essential bridge between product developers and livestock producers.

Prosperous and sustainable animal health markets

Livestock producers throughout Africa and South Asia, no matter how small-scale or remote they may be, must be able to access and benefit from the same range and quality of animal health products as their counterparts in the Global North.

Animal welfare is the foundation all these efforts must be built upon. By providing small-scale livestock producers with the resources and support they need to care for their animals, GALVmed and its partners are supporting the economic development and empowerment of individuals, families and communities across Africa and South Asia.

Originally published by Farming Firsts.