PREVENT: How hatchery vaccinations are boosting poultry production in Africa

Marie Ducrotoy, Senior Manager Development Projects and Partnerships, Ceva Santé Animale

Tom Osebe, Senior Manager, Commercial Development & Impact, Africa, GALVmed

Improvement in poultry production is one of the most promising options to provide affordable protein and other essential nutrients to Africa’s rapidly growing population, but poultry diseases pose a constant threat to productivity, and limit the industry’s potential. Even though vaccination is proven as an effective way of protecting poultry, high temperatures in Africa make distribution of vaccines (which mostly need to be kept cold) a challenging task in the continent. This hurdle, combined with a lack of information about circulating infectious diseases, exposes small-scale producers to the risk of losing their flocks and livelihoods overnight.

In 2021, Ceva Santé Animale in partnership with GALVmed, and with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), launched the PREVENT (PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow) initiative to introduce hatchery vaccinations for day old chicks (DoC) in mid-size hatcheries in Africa. The overarching objective was to enable small-scale poultry producers in Africa to become more productive and efficient and to enhance their prospects for progression and advancement in the industry. And the targets were ambitious; over 50 million hatchery-vaccinated day-old chicks distributed annually through 36 medium-sized hatcheries spread across eight Africa countries. These were expected to benefit 150,000 poultry producers.  

Three years since inception and with over a year left on the project, PREVENT has performed remarkably and is on track to achieving, and in some instances exceeding, its targets. Already, 31 hatcheries in 11 countries have been equipped to provide vaccinations to DoCs benefitting over 100,000 poultry farmers.

More vaccines for improved immunity and reduced mortality

Because chickens are susceptible to a range of infectious diseases that can impact their health and growth, it is important they are vaccinated with several vaccines on the day of hatch. At an average of three doses per vaccinated day-old chick (vDoC), small-scale producers are benefitting from a much larger range of vaccination covering more disease than before, which in turn improve the quantity and quality of the birds. PREVENT has succeeded in vaccinating over 98 million DoCs, exceeding the 56 million originally targeted. This is attributed to the unexpected success of most hatcheries transitioning from zero to one hundred percent vaccination, in contrast to the staged gradual increase in vaccination which had been modelled. Overall, 91% of DoCs produced by the hatcheries are vaccinated.  

Additionally, twenty vaccines have been registered variably in the West African Economic and Monetary Union- UEMOA region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) as well as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda offering a diverse offering for use by hatcheries.

Technical support to farmers

Implementing vaccination measures alone is not enough, training on animal health practices, market development opportunities, and advice on biosecurity and good management practices is an important part of the solution for small-scale producers. PREVENT is working with over 200 Field Technicians who have been trained and who serve as the crucial link between the hatcheries and producers. They are providing advice and technical support to the poultry producers and helping to build the customer base of the hatcheries.

A boost for poultry disease data

The SAFER (Sub-Saharan Africa Field Epidemiological Research) portion of the PREVENT project was designed to assess the aetiology of disease outbreaks. Through existing network of field technicians, valuable data on circulation of specific poultry viruses has been collected. This data will be use Ceva and GALVmed to assess if the current vaccines and vaccination program are adequate to protect against  circulating viruses. The data will also be useful to policymakers, hatcheries and their customers for effective disease control. Activities in the SAFER project are providing a significant boost for available epidemiological data for Africa.

Understanding gender dynamics in poultry farming

In order to positively impact women chicken producers through the hatchery intervention, the initiative sought to bring a pragmatic level of understanding of gender dynamics within the poultry sector.  A gender landscaping analysis is helping to shed light on these dynamics which can guide how women can benefit from poultry interventions in the future.

PREVENT has brought about lasting transformational market change as more farmers embrace vaccinated DoCs due to the benefits they offer. Ceva is continually working to create awareness of the advantages of vaccinated DoCs through simplified communication to farmers focusing on better protection improved poultry health, less work for the farmer, and better performance and more money for producers.