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By: Samuel Adediran, Assistant Director of Global Access

Malawi is one of the countries that is most affected by erratic climatic conditions and animal disease outbreaks, which have a critical negative impact on rural families. Village chicken production is very important to households and livelihoods in rural Malawi. It constitutes a major productive asset, an important form of saving resources and a precious source of protein for rural households’ diet.

Newcastle Disease (ND) is the major constraint to traditional village chicken production in Malawi like in most African and Asian countries. Up to 90% of village flocks are lost annually in affected flocks. Traditional poultry keepers lose millions of Malawian Kwacha (the national currency) annually through preventable animal diseases. Indeed over time, villagers have accepted their annual loss of chickens as inevitable acts of fate. This is where GALVmed and partners come in; to try and change this notion by saving their poultry through vaccinations thus improving the livelihoods of these traditional poultry keepers.

Newcastle disease vaccines have been available to commercial chicken producers but these are packed in large dose sizes to cater for between 500-1,000 chickens. This arrangement is not suitable for backyard poultry keepers probably with five to ten chickens. In addition, lack of awareness, lack of access to suitable agrovet shops, limited and poor access to roads and lack of electricity in rural areas to maintain a cold chain have contributed to inaccessibility of effective ND vaccines. The development of the small packaged, easy to use, thermo-tolerant strain I-2 ND vaccine has brought new hope to traditional village chicken producers in Malawi. Such vaccines can be transported to remote locations in ventilated basket and thermos coolers. The vaccine is also packed in smaller doses that can be used for two to ten households within a five to eight hour window compared with two to three hours for the conventional ND vaccine.

GALVmed is supporting a local NGO, Inter Aide, to increase the use of this ND vaccine in the Lilongwe, Zomba and Phalombe districts of the central region of Malawi. The partnership will promote the availability of this effective solution against Newcastle disease and will train 100 additional vaccinators, which will generate employment for youths in rural areas. Nearly one million doses of ND vaccine will be administered to about 330,000 chickens every three months. The greatest beneficiaries are rural women, who can get disposable income from the traditional chickens, to benefit themselves and their children. It is anticipated that following vaccination and chick protection against predators, more chickens will survive over a period of six months and chicken and egg production will increase creating improved nutrition and income to households in the districts.

Inter Aide is a French organisation devoted to the implementation of programmes that promote resource access for the most vulnerable communities in developing countries. By promoting activities in different fields such as agriculture, water, sanitation, community health and education, Inter Aide’s main objective is to reinforce the capacities of vulnerable populations to improve living conditions in their communities. The general objective of our project with Inter Aide is to reduce disease from the Newcastle virus in the village poultry sector by setting up sustainable vaccine delivery systems in the central region of Malawi, provide affordable ND vaccines to traditional poultry producers and to secure the livelihood of 30,000 families through increased poultry production. In the long term, the partnership will enable Inter Aide to expand ND vaccination activities to new areas and open distribution outlets, which will facilitate improved access to extension and animal health services.