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Teresa’s community animal health role and livestock overcome poverty

I was so poor after my husband died that I was almost a beggar. My house had no roof, doors or windows. Today I am confident and earn money daily – I am a community animal health worker. I have 12 goats, several chickens and I’ve just bought a donkey to carry water. My children are all at school and I am hoping my eldest boy will become a doctor. I don’t need a husband to support me now.”

Teresa lives in Nzeluni village near Mwingi in Eastern province in Kenya. Her husband died a few years ago and she was forced to work as a casual labourer. Part of her job was making tea for her employers, “I was so poor that when my employers finished their tea I used to add water to their tea leaves and drink it“.

But her life has transformed since being trained as a community animal health worker by FARM-Africa and joining the Women’s Dairy Goat project.

Now Teresa runs a successful business treating and giving advice on animal health to local farmers in her community – she is very busy and has many clients earning between KSH 200 – 500 [US $5-8.5]a day – quite a difference to earning a mere KSH 50 [less than US $]a day as a casual labourer.

She treats animals for common illnesses such as diarrhea or worms but if she feels she does not have the knowledge or if the animal needs surgery, she will call the vet or an animal health worker such as Safari Mbui, who runs a veterinary drugstore nearby.

In addition, she also earns some money from the milk she gets from the goats. With FARM-Africa’s goat breeding programme where local goats are crossed with togenbucks (a dairy goat breed introduced from Europe which produces milk), the number of her goats have increased to 19 – though she now has 12 as she sold a few. Dairy goats produce considerably more milk than a local goat. She has also sold some goats – and cross breeds are double the price of a local goat at KSH 4000 [US $49].

The first thing I did when I earned some money was to buy a door, some chairs, a bed and blankets. Now I am able to feed the family comfortably”.

Teresa now wants to focus on the education of her children. She is sending her children to secondary school which she has to pay for – but she wants to save up to send her son to university so he can become a doctor. ‘He is already top of the class’ she says.

But “there are challenges”, says Teresa. “like the availability of drugs such as dewormers for donkeys which I can’t get in Mwingi (the nearest town). The cost of drugs has also gone up – and during times of drought farmers are less willing to pay”.

Joseph Wekundah, Livestock Specialist, BioTechnology Trust Africa says “A decentralised vaccination and animal health system is important as this enables the community to take care of their own livestock, look for drugs, have their own drug stores and treat the animals themselves“.

GALVmed sees it as crucial to work with partners such as FARM-Africa who have access to local people and local networks for distribution of vaccines and animal health care.