How one man’s dream is supporting generations

When we meet Moses Kuppa in the outskirts of Iringa town in the southern highlands of Tanzania, his chicken farm is a hive of activities. Two farm hands are busy cleaning the various poultry houses and feeding the more than two thousand chickens. Occasionally, traders arrive at his gate on motorbikes looking to purchase chickens from the farm. At 36-year-old, Moses has accomplished what many small-scale livestock producers aim to achieve, generating a steady income from their produce. But for the father of one, the journey has not been easy. Sheer hard work, passion and knowledge of his trade has contributed to his success as an entrepreneur.

Moses attending to his chicks

Moses started his chicken business back in 2013 with only a few chicks. As with any young business, there were challenges along the way, including having to deal with various poultry diseases that threatened to wipe his entire flock and cut his dreams short. But with time, he gained the knowledge and experiences needed to run a successful poultry farm. Key among the game-changers for his business is hatchery vaccinations. Moses buys his day-old chicks from Silverlands Tanzania, a hatchery that produces high quality poultry feed and day-old chicks which are then sold to smaller businesses and other farmers across the East Africa region. All day-old chicks from Silverland are fully vaccinated from various poultry diseases which gives the farmers peace of mind.

In addition, Silverlands also runs a poultry training college, and it is through these trainings that Moses learned how to properly run his business and deal with challenges such as biosecurity, which is the weakest link for many small-scale poultry farmers.

“We follow all the right processes of production that we have been taught, from feeding, vaccinations and even avoiding mixing the different ages of chickens so that there is no cross-termination.” He says.

Moses then sells his chick from seven weeks old up to nine weeks old to other smaller-scale producers and businesses around. He is what is called a mother-unit, meaning other farmers buy chicks from him to rear and sell to supermarkets, restaurants and even to neighbours for home consumption and social gatherings. By selling his chicks at such a young age, Moses saves on the cost of rearing the chicks to fully grown ages. “Other farmers sell at three months at the same price that I do but having spent a lot extra on the cost of feeds, heating and other essentials,” says Moses.

Moses talks to a trader who has come to purchase chicks from his farm

What Moses has been able to accomplish with his profits is clearly visible. He has built a big family house and at the back, he has constructed modern chicken houses that can house over 2,000 chicks, separated by ages. He also built extra rooms for his relatives who depend on him and help him on the farm.

“My house is built with income from my chicken business. I am no longer renting. Even though I double a bit on crop farming, much of my income comes from my chicken business. I also stay with my brother’s child and other family members who look up to me as their provider.” Says Moses.

Moses has built a modern family house with income from poultry business

A bigger business

But for Moses, this is just the beginning.

“I have big dreams for this business. I want to own a big enterprise and to start exporting chicks regionally. This is my long-term goal.”

In April 2021 GALVmed and animal health company Ceva Santé Animale launched PREVENT (PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow), an initiative that will work with medium-size hatcheries in target countries to annually distribute more than 50 million vaccinated day-old-chicks to farmers such as Moses.

These chicks will be effectively protected against the major infectious poultry diseases thereby improving overall flock health and boosting small-scale producers’ financial prospects.

 Written by Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed Senior Communications Manager

The challenges facing women small-scale producers and how we can help

The International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias, for there is still work to do to achieve a gender-equal, diverse and inclusive world.

Women have tremendous importance in the agriculture and livestock sector as they form about half of the agricultural workforce and are agents of change and resilience builders. However, despite women’s key role in agriculture, there are still many challenges and biases that we need to overcome to enable to fully benefit from their contribution.

At GALVmed, we believe in inclusivity, and we have reflected upon the challenges that women small-scale producers face in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) as we do our part in contributing to women’s empowerment through projects and initiatives.

This blog was written as part of the International Women’s Day 2022 campaign.

Translational Research for Transformational Change: One on One with GALVmed’s New R&D Executive Director

Beginning of October 2021, GALVmed appointed Dr Johnson Ouma as its new Executive Director in charge of Research & Development. Johnson is a seasoned researcher and has provided leadership in establishing and managing strategic product and technology development partnerships which have led to the development of breakthrough products for animal health.

Johnson will play a leading role in shaping and delivering GALVmed’s Research & Development strategy centred on sustainable technologies addressing animal health challenges facing small-scale livestock producers. We sat down with him to know more about his life, career, motivations and his plans for his new role.  

How would you describe yourself?

I am a passionate people person. I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and I love meeting and getting to know new people and finding common ground with them. I like it when people feel comfortable around me. These traits have served me well at the workplace and contributed to my success as a leader.

What are you most excited about in your new role?

I am thrilled to know that this role offers a unique platform through which, together with my R&D team, and working in collaboration with other departments within GALVmed as well as with GALVmed’s esteemed partners, we would be able to develop and roll out products and solutions that would significantly contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of hundreds of millions of smallholder livestock producers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

What experience would you say prepared you for this role?

Over the last 10 years, I have served as the Director of Africa Technical Research Centre (ATRC), a multicultural R&D Centre, where I established and managed product development partnerships and built and inspired a strong R&D team, leading to the successful development and commercialization of a portfolio of products for agriculture (livestock and crop protection) and public health.  Before joining ATRC, I worked as a senior scientist with the then Kenya Trypanosomiasis Research Institute (KETRI) and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI, predecessor to the current Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization – KALRO) for nearly 17 years. At KARI, I was a senior member of KARI’s Animal Health research programme. I coordinated KARI’s Epidemiology and Disease Control sub-programme and served as Deputy Director of KARI’s Trypanosomiasis Research Centre.  I am therefore excited to have accepted this role and look forward to leveraging my over 25 years’ experience, skills, knowledge and networks in R&D and R&D leadership to contribute towards the achievement of GALVmed’s strategic goals.

What is your vision for GALVmed’s R&D work?

I envision a vibrant R&D department with a highly inspired team working with our partners to develop and roll out safe (to humans, livestock and the environment), efficacious, easy to use and affordable livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics that are pro-poor. I am privileged to be joining GALVmed at a time when the organisation is just beginning to execute its 2030 strategy implementation plan. The R&D department will contribute to achieving GALVmed’s strategic objectives by delivering on four strategic themes: 1) end-to-end product development, 2) use of current antigens with new technologies, 3) industry support for localized animal health product development technology platforms in LMICs and, 4) establishment and support of specialized manufacturing capabilities. Collectively, these four themes will provide a systematic and comprehensive framework for impactful interventions across the animal health product development chain. Effective product development partnerships have been a key contributor to GALVmed’s success.  Thus, in all our efforts, we will continue to work closely with GALVmed’s traditional partners in research, academia, and the animal health industry.  Where and when necessary, we will seek and establish new product development partnerships.

What are your aspirations for GALVmed’s mandate?

I very much identify with GALVmed’s vision, mission and core values. I am passionate about the use of translational research to develop products that would bring about transformational change in the lives of smallholder livestock producers. It is unacceptable that in this era and age of cutting-edge scientific and technological advancements, smallholder livestock producers should continue to lose their livelihood due to livestock diseases that are controllable. It’s my aspiration that working with GALVmed’s partners and other stakeholders, we shall one day (soon) be in a position whereby, leveraging scientific advancements such as genomics, have a sufficiently diverse portfolio of tools/solutions that meet the needs of smallholder livestock producers. Such solutions should be affordable, abundantly available and widely accessible to the end users.


What are you most proud of accomplishing in your career?

As the founding Director of Africa Technical Research Centre (ATRC) at Vector Health International (VHI), the Board of Directors tasked me with the responsibility of setting up and operationalising a state-of-the-art R&D centre. Prior to joining ATRC, I had worked as a research scientist for nearly 17 years in well-established research institutions (KETRI and KARI). So, the successful establishment of ATRC, building and managing R&D teams and establishing strategic product development partnerships was a significant highlight in my career. By the time of my departure, just about 10 years since ATRC was officially inaugurated, together with my R&D team, and working in close collaboration with our product development partners, we had managed to develop over 10 products for agriculture (livestock and crop protection) and for public health. These products are currently being commercialized across Africa and creating positive impact in the livelihoods of millions of people in this region.

In life, what experience would you say has influenced you the most?

My childhood played an important role in making me the person that I am today. I grew up on a resource poor smallholder farm in rural Kenya (in the then Nyanza Province), where I experienced first-hand, the devastating effects of poverty. My parents raised livestock which were sold to pay for our schooling. They also practiced small-scale crop agriculture for subsistence and to supplement family income. The whole family worked very hard on the farm to earn a living, and I spent a significant part of my early childhood herding livestock. I therefore learned the values of hard work, teamwork, compassion (from herding livestock) and sharing of limited resources quite early in life. These values have stayed with me to date, and I hope to bring them to my new role.

Outside of work, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love spending time with my family. I also enjoy early-morning walks, driving in the countryside and serving at my local church.

For women in rural Uganda Newcastle Disease vaccine is more than just protecting chickens

In the rural villages of central Uganda’s Mukono and Mityana districts and eastern Uganda’s Iganga district, thanks to the introduction of the Newcastle Disease vaccine (I-2 ND) which protects poultry against this deadly disease, women have been taking on more roles in their households and communities. Through the income they get from selling their chickens at market, small, informal women-led business enterprises are popping up around the region.

By selling their increased flocks of chicken at local village markets or to buyers who come for them at their homes, they have created a surplus in their income, which provides the business capital to start small informal businesses. These businesses are helping women diversify their livelihoods, contributing to their households’ income in times of distress.

Among these women, there are several who are excelling in poultry husbandry and their healthy, growing flocks are admired in their communities. Since 2014 when the I-2 ND vaccine was introduced in Uganda, they have been keenly vaccinating their chickens; and their flocks have flourished and multiplied in numbers. As a result, they are being sought by other groups of women in their villages, to train them on proper chicken rearing and vaccinate for them.

When Janet Mailuba from Buwolomena Village in Nabaale Sub County of Central Uganda began vaccinating her five chickens against Newcastle disease in 2013, her only aim was their survival.  This 41-year-old mother of ten never imagined standing confidently in front of small groups of women in her village to train them on basic chicken rearing techniques and explain the importance of vaccination.

By following the recommended ND vaccination cycle, every three months, and adopting improved chicken rearing, Mailuba now has 30 chickens and two goats and she is one of Brentec Vaccines Limited’s model farmers in her village.  During the holidays she sells off mature chickens when the demand and prices are high and earns up to UGX 25,000 (US $6.97) per chicken.

Brentec, through a partnership with the non-profit organisation Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), manufactures and distributes the I-2 ND vaccine locally known as Kukustar, to poultry farmers like Mailuba in rural Ugandan villages.  Through GALVmed’s partnership over 25 million I-2 ND vaccine doses have been delivered to poultry farmers.

According to Dr Mamta Dhawan, GALVmed’s gender focal point, it’s important that poultry vaccinations are inclusive of male and female poultry keepers. “When we talk of farmers, the general mindset is that they are men, but women are also farmers and shouldn’t be left out,” said Dr Dhawan. The goal of GALVmed’s gender policy is to ensure that GALVmed-supported projects take into account gender perspectives to maximise impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in developing countries.

With the vaccine protecting her chickens against the disease, Mailuba has a new source of income. Every time she sells one chicken, she earns between UGX 20,000 and UGX 25,000 (US $5.57-6.96). From the income, Mailuba is sharing the household expense burdens with her brick-layer husband by buying soap, food, medicine, uniforms and books for their children.

“My husband now respects me and we live in harmony,” says Mailuba. She has also partnered with four women to form a welfare group for diversifying their livelihoods means, and every week they each save UGX 6,000 (US $1.67) in the group’s kitty. The group has also obtained goats after bartering some of their chicken at the local market  each goat is bartered for seven mature chickens.

Mailuba now has two goats and is planning to buy a Friesian cow, so that she can improve her household nutrition and income through milk consumption and sales respectively. As a result of her being a Brentec model poultry farmer, three women groups in her village have been inviting Mailuba to train them on chicken rearing and vaccination.

Susan Nandiyi from Nambale Village in Iganga district is also a model poultry farmer whose increased income from poultry has provided the opportunity for her take up more household responsibilities. The mother of ten in her late thirties has 30 chickens, but before she began vaccinating two years ago, she had at most five birds at a time. Almost all of Nandiyi’s chickens would succumb to Newcastle Disease and the burden of providing to her family was left to her husband. Today, through improved income from selling chickens, she pays for school fees for their children and buys medicine and food for the family when her husband is unable to or when their crops fail.

“When I see a need in the household I sell one chicken to buy what’s required,” said Nandiyi. Her contribution has added to the wellbeing of the family. She is also happy she can regularly slaughter a chicken for her family at least once a month, without costing her much.  This gives her family much needed protein. Like Mailuba, she plans to buy a cow and goats with her savings from selling the chickens.

Nandiyi also encourages women in her village to vaccinate their chickens, having witnessed the benefits first hand.  She and other women in her village have also secured consistent chicken buyers so they don’t struggle to market them.

For 36-year-old Harriet Mutesi also from Nambale, the income she gets selling chickens now ensures that her husband includes her in household decision making. “It makes me proud to sit down with him and plan,” said Mutesi. The mother of five buys pens and uniforms for her children and her husband buys books and pays school fees. “I used to feel bad when I couldn’t contribute anything to my children’s education, but now I’m happy,” said Mutesi. Between her and her husband they also decide every school term whose turn it is to pay the fees.

Having been a tailor all her life, 71-year-old Magdalene Muyango from Ngulolo village in Mityana district, decided to rear chickens two years ago to supplement her income. The mother of eight almost quit when she once lost 15 out of her 25 birds in a single week. Through a radio advertisement she learned of the Kukustar vaccine and had her chickens vaccinated first a year agoand every three months since then, by local para-veterinary professionals.

Since vaccinating, Muyango has not lost any chicken to Newcastle disease; currently she has 20 growing chickens. These provide her with eggs for home consumption and selling. The secondary income she gets from the chickens she saves in a local saving group called Mayirye Development Group. The 40 member welfare group consists of both men and women.

“Every week I save UGX 5,000 (US $1.39) and the chickens have really helped me to be getting that money,” said Muyango. The extra income she gets from the chickens has also helped relieve her husband from the burden of providing basic household needs.  “I’m happy to see him rested,” said Muyango.

During the implementation of projects, GALVmed ensures its community engagement activities are structured so as to be convenient for women attending according to Dr Dhawan. That means meetings are not scheduled during lunch time or late in the evening when women are busy attending to their households.

Gender discrimination has been found to be a cause of poverty and interventions aimed at poverty reduction need to be gender sensitive, according to GALVmed’s Gender Policy.

(Words and photos by James Karuga.)