Home News General South Asian advisors strengthen GALVmed in region

The first meeting of South Asia Regional Advisory Committee (SARAC) took place in late December 2010. The outcome of the meeting was a set of recommendations and observations, summarised below.

Summary of the key points emerging from the SARAC meeting:

•      There is a strong focus on animal health provided by governments throughout the region with some comprehensive support services provided in India.

•      In all countries there are issues relating to poor farmers’ access to vaccines, diagnostics and medicines. Targeted interventions working with government policy are critical to ensure success.

•      South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka is a critical point of coordination for the region as a whole.

•      Holistic approaches are important. Vaccine campaigns alone will not succeed and they need to be combined with awareness and extension programmes ideally through local partners.

•      Good liaison with governments at all levels is essential but would be best approached through on the ground representative partnerships with local organisations which have closer and more sustainable relationships.

•      The private sector is an important partner as a point of access for poor farmers for distribution of vaccines diagnostics and medicines.

•      Each country has areas of very different need and areas of high concentration of specific diseases that may not be shared by their regional neighbours. GALVmed cannot cater for all of these disease areas and must prioritise.

•      Peste des petits ruminants, Newcastle disease, helminthiasis and hemorrhagic septicaemia are shared issues of concern across all countries for poor farmers.

•      Foot-and-mouth disease is a universal disease of impact. Effective locally developed high-quality vaccines exist but may not be available in large enough numbers. GALVmed (and partners) could be requested to assist in advising on issues of up-scaling.

•      Farmers are willing to pay for vaccines that deliver value for them.

•      There are exceptions where farmers are initially too poor to afford vaccines and here subsidy programmes can stimulate market growth.

The next meeting of the committee will take place in Nepal in July 2011.


At the end of the meeting the GALVmed communications team interviewed some of the committee members to get their impressions of the challenges and opportunities in the region and the role GALVmed could and should play.

SARAC at work. From left to right (going around the table) Dr Shubh Mahato – Nepal; Dr Lal Krishna – India; Dr Wanasinghe – Sri Lanka; Anita Swarup – consultant; Steve Sloan – GALVmed; Dr Prabhakar Pathak – Nepal; Dr C. K. Rao – India; Dr S.N. Singh – India; Dr Mamta Dhawan – GALVmed; Dr Narayan Hegde – India
Steve Sloan, chief executive of GALVmed, said:

“The purpose of the South Asian Regional Advisory Committee is to give us advice and guidance which will fine tune our programmes. It’s not just to comment but also to provide proposals as to what we should do. I want the group to be proactive and work with a consensus approach.

Dr Hegde will be chairing the Regional Advisory Committee. He brings with him his career and extraordinary commitment to the needs of poor farmers. We look forward to working with his wisdom and guidance in the forthcoming years.”


Dr Narayan Hegde with GALVmed Chief Executive Steve Sloan at the SARAC meeting in December

Dr Narayan Hegde is Ex-President of the BAIF Development Research Foundation, India. His expertise is in natural resource management, community development and sustainability.

BAIF has been promoting animal husbandry in India for several decades. Its programmes target poorer neglected communities. It believes that poorer farming communities have remained untouched by advances in technologies that can enhance farm output.

Dr Hegde commented that India has a strong animal sector but healthcare needs a re-orientation. The vaccines do exist but, in his view, access is a challenge and GALVmed could help with the delivery of the vaccines. Breeding has been the main focus, notes Dr Hegde, rather than animal health but “unless focus is on health, the farmer cannot make optimal progress.” 

He added: “I feel extremely proud that with the recommendation of the South Asian Regional Advisory Committee, GALVmed has identified critical areas of animal health which are affecting the livestock production in the region and preparing to solve the bottlenecks.  With technical expertise and professional dedication, I am sure the presence of GALVmed will make a significant change which will soon be realized by the policy makers and livestock owners in the region”.

Dr C K Rao, Intercooperation (NGO)

Expertise: Livestock livelihoods

Location: India

“The small ruminant sector, which is mostly run by women, is very neglected. With regard to vaccines such as peste des petits ruminants (PPR), the communication between the service provider and recipient is also very weak. Infrastructure is needed such as where vaccines can be stored as well as quality control of PPR vaccines and providing advisory services.

Dr Chanda Nimbkar, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute

Expertise: Animal husbandry and sustainable development

Location: India

Dr Nimbkar noted that more needs to be done with regard to animal health in India. The government does have vet clinics in villages but the system is not always effective. She added:

“It’s a great opportunity that GALVmed is mobilising international expertise for local problems in India. I hope GALVmed ensures that there are more vaccines against more diseases – and larger quantities of vaccines available. For example, the pest des petits ruminants vaccine is not so easily available. There is vast potential to do something in India and there is a need for more access and availability of vaccines.”

The Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute is a pioneering institute which has been involved in rural development for the last few decades. It is also part of an India-wide research project on goat improvement. Most of their work is undertaken directly with farmers.

Dr Prabhakar Pathak, Department of Livestock Services, Government of Nepal

Expertise: Livestock production and diseases

Location: Nepal

Dr Patak has 30 years experience in animal health. He noted Nepal’s economy is based on agriculture and livestock and there are places where people are dependent on livestock, but people lose their livestock through lack of vaccines. PPR, the disease of goats, is the biggest problem in Nepal. Although the PPR vaccine is being produced by the government in Nepal, distribution and access to it is more difficult. And there is also a lack of awareness of the disease among many of the people who own livestock. He commented:

“The government and several international non-governmental organisations do distribute goats but the job is over once the goat is given and when health problems occur, there is nowhere to go.”

Newcastle disease is also a serious challenge in Nepal for backyard poultry. The vaccine, according to Dr Pathak, is being produced by the government, but most of it goes to commercial farmers.

Finally, Dr Meeta Punjabi Mehta of Creative Agri Solutions, India – not a member of SARAC but a GALVmed consultant working on market research for Newcastle disease vaccines, was interviewed. Dr Mehta noted that:

 “There is heavy mortality in backyard poultry and so many women are eager to pay for the vaccine. Each bird is worth about 250 to 350 rupees (US$ 5.5-6.6) and when there is an emergency in the family, they sell the birds for cash. 

There is a vacuum in knowledge about Newcastle disease vaccinations. They do not know that something like this existed, never mind access. Delivery and access is very weak for backyard poultry.

There is a need for recognition that this is an important sector for the poorest of the poor. If backyard poultry is recognised as an important issue by government, then this will filter down to regional and local level. Farmers need to get information as to why their poultry or livestock needs vaccinating.

Access and prevention of disease – this approach will add value to government schemes. It will really help the development of the sector. Many of the farmers only have a few birds and the reason why is because the birds are dying.”