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Safari Mbui owns a veterinary drug store providing much needed medicines and qualified advice on animal health.

Safari was trained by the government but there are few government jobs available as an animal health assistant. He now works as a private practitioner and, with a loan from FARM-Africa, has also managed to start up a drug store – although he finds that many farmers cannot afford to buy the drugs. “I can do things that community animal health workers cannot such as difficult calving or simple surgeries”.

He works with five community animal health workers who have also been trained by FARM-Africa in tackling common animal illness such as diarrhea or worms but they often need to refer to him when problems are more complicated such as difficult births with cows or administering vaccines such as for Newcastle disease in chickens.

According to James Kithuka, FARM-Africa, Mwingi, “The level of awareness of animal health in farmers is rising – they are seeking more advice – and that must translate into more healthy animals”.

Unless there are dedicated people like Safari who work within communities, most farmers will not have access to animal health care, medicines or vaccines such as for Newcastle disease which kills millions of chickens.

FARM-Africa and community based animal health

The government of Kenya does not have sufficient capacity to treat all animal diseases and FARM-Africa fills that gap by looking for sustainable community based solutions to enhance the livelihoods of pastoralists and smallholder farmers.

Many animal diseases can be managed at the farm level but farmers lack the necessary expertise to treat the disease. Community animal health workers are trained by FARM-Africa in basic animal healthcare to be able to deliver services and drugs to farmers and to provide farmer to farmer training. There are strong links between community animal health workers such as MacDonald, animal health assistants such as Safari and the local vet.

There is a desperate shortage of animal health specialists in Kenya, particularly in the arid and semi arid lands – there is only one government vet in Mwingi District. In these circumstances, there is a need for a network of community animal health workers who can tackle common everyday illnesses in livestock and who can help livestock keep alive and healthy – and therefore benefit farmers.

The last few years has seen continuous crop failures so people here rely more on livestock” says Gacabu Japhet Mugo, district veterinary officer, Mwingi District. The harvest failure brought on by the drought also means that more people will now have to depend on food relief handed out by the government. In these circumstances, the good health and survival of livestock is crucial.