Home News General ECF-ITM in Malawi – The story behind the surge in vaccinations

ECF vaccination in Malawi increased substantially in November and December 2013. In December, nearly one thousand (956) cattle were vaccinated against ECF. In all, 1156 vaccinations or 64% of annual ECF vaccination projection were done in two months only, which contrasts with an average ECT-ITM vaccination of 350 Cattle per year or 30 cattle per month in the recent past.

The obvious question is what have we done differently or what has changed in the landscape in Malawi to explain this surge?

  • Listening to the views of stakeholders, including livestock farmers:
  •  Involvement of partners in developing strategies
  •  Developing a portfolio of intervention programs or activities,
  •  Improved sensitization of livestock farmers on ECF-ITM and
  •  Support to ECF distributors,

All these contributed to the surge in vaccination uptake.

Following an exhaustive desk top assessment of ECT—ITM distribution strategies in Malawi we first undertook two-weeks daily FM radio adverts in two local languages, Chichewa and Tumbuka. The choice of local language broadcast was to deliver a more impactful message on ECF-ITM to a wider section of livestock farmers and the Malawian farming communities. The radio script was developed in-house with contributions from staff of the Market Development and Access (MD&A) and  Communication Departments.  The script is on the GALVmed website and has attracted a significant increase in the number of visitors and clicks on the radio broadcast.

In addition to the above, newspaper advertisements were printed  in two National dailies  in Malawi, in order to reach a wider audience base, especially those without internet access.

In September 2013, during a visit to Malawi, many stakeholders, including staff at the Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases (CTTBD), the department of Livestock and Veterinary Department, ECF distributors, representatives of Heifer International, Malawi Milk Producers Association (MMPA), Land O’Lakes and  a staff of the Agricultural Communication Unit of the Department of Agriculture, were consulted to better understand the livestock production systems, ownership pattern, the marketing landscape, the impact of previous sensitization campaigns and the challenges and opportunities for ECF distribution in Malawi.

Subsequently, regional specific programs were developed. During the following months, 25 lead livestock farmers, considered to be opinion leaders in their respective districts in Northern Malawi, were taken on farmer-to-farmer visits to Kawindula livestock cooperative farm in Mzuzu. The latter had used ECF-ITM and supported members to adopt vaccination. The visit was to enable farmers learn about the benefits of ECF vaccination from their peers. One of the participating farmers summed up their impressions as follows. “We have known for a long time that there is strength in unity or cooperation, but members of Kawindula cooperative, have demonstrated how this time tested principles can be applied to livestock production. It is truly inspiring”.

Following the exchange visit, GALVmed sponsored 200 vaccinations in seven ECF model farms in Northern Malawi. Barely three weeks after, 35 additional cattle were registered for vaccination. Interventions in the Central region involved intensified sensitizations of commercial beef herd owners and representations to the government, through the Livestock and Veterinary Department, for ECF-ITM to protect cattle procured under the “One Family, One Cow” Malawi government initiative. These combined efforts resulted in the vaccination of more than 600 cattle, plus additional registrations from individual farmers in December 2013.

It certainly looks like some of these interventions, building on past efforts, are yielding positive dividends. The livestock farmers are the winners. I commend GALVmed staff and our partners who have been involved. Special thanks however go to the distributors GSJ and BVM who have complemented our interventions with ongoing ground work. There is still a long way to go, but GALVmed and our partners are hopeful that such collaborative efforts will stimulate further uptake of the ECF vaccine in the future. This will ultimately improve the livelihoods of Malawian livestock farmers.