Almost every small-scale farming family in low- and middle-income countries owns small livestock – whether chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep, goats or pigs. While small livestock provide nutrient-rich food, they are also considered a form of a savings account and often referred to as “ATMs” because they are a convenient source of cash.
Small livestock are also a pathway out of poverty and source of economic and gender empowerment for women and young people, especially in rural areas.
And yet for millions of small-scale producers, these very important assets are threatened by diseases. A chicken business can be decimated in a blink of an eye by Newcastle Disease (ND) which can kill up to 90% of the poultry. Similarly, Contagious Caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) is one of the most severe diseases of goats, and morbidity rate may reach 100% and the mortality rate can be as high as 80%. Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) can cause heavy losses, especially in naïve herds (up to 80%), and African Swine Fever, for which there is no vaccine, has a mortality rate which can be as high as 100%.
These are some of the small livestock diseases that GALVmed and partners are currently tackling. For some of these diseases, there already exist control tools such as a vaccine; for others, not yet. But even for those with vaccines, there are still challenges that impede their wide usage by small-scale producers. Together with our partners, we are continuously researching appropriate technologies to increase their uptake. For example, GALVmed has been working with partners to explore co-administration of the ND-Fowlpox vaccines through a non-invasive, needle free route, using feather follicles for the Fowlpox (FP) and the Newcastle disease vaccine via eye. This research has demonstrated to be safe and to elicit immunity in two field studies, one in Tanzania the other in Nepal. These findings are important to appropriately trained small-scale backyard poultry farmers as well as to paraprofessionals and community health workers helping to increase vaccine uptake and the control of both FP and ND in low- to middle-income countries.
GALVmed is also working with a commercial partner to develop a Small Ruminant Systemic Multivalent Vaccine addressing several major small ruminant diseases (CCPP, SGP, PPR), in a single combination vaccine. The multi-valent approach has the advantage to maximise disease coverage through distribution networks operating effective cold chains.
GALVmed has also previously worked with MCI Sante Animale in Morocco to develop a multivalent vaccine for Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and Sheep and Goat Pox (SGP) in sheep and goats. The two diseases affect many of the same animals in the same regions, and are not, in fact, easy to distinguish. Many farmers vaccinate against the more frequently occurring SGP, but not against the less common, but more deadly, PPR.
It is clear that multi-valent vaccines offer pragmatic and cost-effective disease control tools for the small-scale livestock keeper.
Alongside our partners, GALVmed will continue to explore various technologies to address diseases that threaten small livestock, to improve their health, increase their productivity and reduce their mortality, so that small-scale producers can benefit from their small livestock investments.
This blog was written by Beatrice Ouma as part of the campaign “The advantage of small livestock”