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Goat keepers in the western regions of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have reared ruminants for hundreds of years, with virtually all households owning up to five goats on average. However, many such goat keepers have no understanding of such illnesses affecting goats as Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) or goat plague that afflict their herds, accepting the consequent losses  as God’s act.

There are two barriers to addressing these losses. First – a lack of awareness of the disease and vaccine, and second – difficulties in gaining access to animal health products and services in remote areas. Both need to be overcome in order to deliver a robust grassroots disease prevention and treatment service that benefits backyard goat keepers and smallholder farmers.

Local NGO, Sharif Gramodyog Vikas Kendra (Sharif Rural Development Centre), with support from non-profit company, Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), has recently completed a project that addressed some of the challenges faced in delivering such a service and produced solutions that will potentially bridge the gap.

The project focused on:

  • Building awareness of good goat health management with the aim of reducing mortality rates through regular vaccination and deworming
  • Creating a supply chain network for a PPR vaccine
  • Improving rearing practices in the goat keeping community and develop goat rearing as a viable means of making a livelihood

“Any intervention cannot be aimed at short term goals,” said Dr Rahul Srivastava, Market Development Manager, GALVmed (in South Asia).

“By raising awareness of the service through training at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, it creates a mindset shift among goat keepers. This is the starting point for delivering a sustainable animal health care service.”

“The first thing we had to do was to apprise them of the treatment for goat plague. Before the training, the villagers simply accepted it as a normal phenomenon,” stated Sharif Hussain, President, SGVK.

Several grassroots level veterinary professionals have availed the training and the results are evident on the ground now. By June 2016, the network had sold over 71,300 doses of the PPR or Goat Plague vaccines and 66,540 doses of the dewormers.

Parvez Alam, 43, from rural Moradabad was one of the para-veterinarians who received training. A para-vet since the age of 22, he found out about the campaign via one of the numerous posters that were displayed to publicise it and was motivated, joined the programme. Soon he was joined by his protégé and fellow para-vet 31-year-old Mohammad Owais. The star vaccinators of the campaign, the duo were responsible for vaccinating herds from over 15 villages.

When asked about the problems he faced Parvez said, “Initially there was some hesitation among villagers. They had never heard of vaccination.”

Both Alam and Owais are old hands at the trade and well known in the nearby villages. The villagers were soon convinced and the results were obvious.

“Earlier, every rainy season would see the goats suffering from diarrhoea and soon enough one by one the entire flock would die,” continued Alam.

As part of the awareness building campaign surrounding the available vaccine, over 23,000 posters and over 1,000 banners were displayed in 231 villages.

To create a demand for the vaccine service, smallholder goat keepers received training on good goat rearing practices in the local chaupals (village halls), and in addition, 131 were exposed to first-hand experience and training in goat health, nutrition and management for commercial goat farming at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Izatnagar.

Another 264 smallholder farmers were trained in 10 villages across the project area. Veterinary professionals from district veterinary hospitals were involved in every stage of the training process. Goat farming recommendations, which farmers reported were new to them, and interaction with veterinary professionals were also part of the training.

By June 2017, the project had reached a total of nearly 19,000 households in the project area with over 68,000 PPR vaccinations administered plus over 65,000 animals dewormed. Veterinary professionals from district veterinary hospitals were involved in every stage of the process, enabling robust support to the service delivery value chain.  The exposure to these aspects of goat farming and active interaction with veterinary professionals were also given to common farmers as a part of awareness creation. For them, this aspect of goat farming was a new component.

Smallholder goat keepers in the project area have spoken positively about the outcome of the project. For 50-year-old Anisa Begum, livestock is an important source of income for her family. Every year Anisa would feel helpless as her animals succumbed to the disease and died. Though some villagers were hesitant, Anisa readily vaccinated her goats.

“When they told me about the vaccine I was ready to get my animals vaccinated. The vets came here to help us, and we benefitted from their service,” Anisa said. The satisfaction among smallholder farmers with the results of the vaccination programme has increased demand.

“Well informed goat keepers will take good decisions in goat husbandry and create demand for quality products and services at the final mile,” said Dr Srivastava.

While demand among smallholder farmers has increased, raising awareness of the business potential of animal health medicines and vaccines was important to ensure the whole supply chain was on board with the initiative. Wholesale medicine traders and shop owners were made aware of the business opportunities while at the other end of the supply chain, goat meat traders were educated about the benefits of clean and nutritious meat from healthy livestock. The traders soon agreed to buy goats directly from the farmers who were vaccinating thus ensuring that the farmers would get a fair price for their efforts.

Future initiatives will target farmers who are enthusiastic about the small business potential of preventative goat health care and develop the market in vaccines to create a sustainable value chain.

(Written by Deepak Bhadana. Photos by ALTERNATIVES)