Using a Randomised Control Trial to study the impact of Newcastle Disease vaccine on poultry farmer welfare and livelihoods

In 2020, Oxford Policy Management (OPM) was contracted by GALVmed to implement an intervention and conduct an associated impact study on the adoption of a Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV) by small-scale poultry farmers in rural Tanzania in the districts of Chemba and Mbozi. The objective of the study is to quantify the causal effects that the delivery of NDV has on the “production, productivity, and livelihoods of small-scale producers (SSPs)”. The study involves two main activities:

  1. The design and implementation of an NDV intervention in selected SSP farming areas of Tanzania.
  2. The design and implementation of an experimental study to quantify the causal effects of the NDV intervention.

The impact study was designed as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) where the study sample was randomly split into one treatment group and one control group. The treatment group was offered and will continue to be offered the NDV intervention package. This group will be compared with a control group, who did not and will not receive the intervention package during the study. The control group will receive one round of the intervention after the study’s endline survey.

A baseline study was conducted between September and November 2021 and the endline survey is scheduled for September to November 2023. Further details on the RCT and its findings will be made available upon publication of the results.

Blog written by Lamyaa Al-Riyami

Using vignettes for gender research

Gender research can be used to understand community perceptions of social and gender norms. To better understand these perceptions in the context of poultry intensification, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in collaboration with GALVmed, recently carried out a rapid gender landscaping analysis in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe using a unique method – the vignette. The landscaping analysis was designed to inform the gender context underpinning the PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow (PREVENT) project in these countries.

A fictitious story about a chicken-keeper named Amina is a tool for conversations about social norms

The vignette approach involves reading out a fictitious story involving a main protagonist in a focus group setting and leaving the end of the story blank for the group to comment on ‘what happens next’ as a tool for a conversation about social and gender norms. As the landscaping study was designed to understand community perceptions of women’s involvement in poultry intensification, the vignette in this study was of a chicken keeper named Amina, whose poultry business was flourishing. Amina’s husband approaches her and wants to discuss her business. Responses from the community as to what happened next ranged widely. The following are some examples:

Amina was talented in chicken keeping as she started before she was married and benefited from it. I believe her husband wanted to give her knowledge on the business as well as to congratulate her because what she does is beneficial to the family and the whole society.

– Woman in Tanzania.

There’s no mention on the story where Amina’s business takes a dwindling turn, but it is forever growing, which excites me a lot. So, when the husband wants to talk to Amina about her business, there’s an element of knowledge capacitation the husband wants to offer to her so the business grows to greater heights.

– Man in Zimbabwe.

Maybe the man is jealous she is doing better than him and not getting her attention and other men are eyeing her; she is getting more money. He might think maybe one day she will not be submissive to him. He is afraid.

– Woman in Nigeria.

Through the vignette, we were able to gather information about potential consequences from husbands, family members, and community members when a woman intensifies her poultry production at the expense of her care duties. This includes responsibilities to the family, children, community, or breaking social norms such as speaking to male customers at night. Such consequences include shaming, social ostracization, gossip, jealousy, marital conflict, possibly even domestic violence, or divorce. While support from a husband and family members can lead to growth of the business, as the husband becomes more involved, there is a question about whether women’s ability to control resources and benefits diminishes.

The results of this study raise some interesting questions for the PREVENT project and the gender consequences of poultry intensification. GALVmed will be using these findings to inform a gender intentional approach to understanding, tracking, and communicating the gendered effects of the project.

This blog was written by Katharine Tjasink and co-authored by Zoë Campbell (ILRI)

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

Gender and Livestock: Exploring the trends in the dynamics of livestock ownership and care in small scale producer households

GALVmed conducted a study to build a better understanding of the household dynamics at play within livestock-owning small-scale producers (SSPs) households in India, Ethiopia and Tanzania. In particular, the study would afford a clearer focus on the issue of gender and livestock. This was considered necessary since previous GALVmed Monitoring and Evaluation studies (focusing on issues such as vaccine adoption, livestock productivity, etc.) had collected gender disaggregated data, but at a fairly limited level of detail. These wider studies have suggested highly variable trends and patterns in terms of livestock ownership and management between adult males and adult females. It was therefore considered necessary to undertake a one-off specialised gender study. This would provide the opportunity to drill considerably deeper into this topic of gender and household dynamics and to provide GALVmed with a much more detailed picture than is afforded through its standard livestock health related studies.

The results of the study revealed clear and illuminating trends. The widely held generalisation that certain species of livestock are the preserve either of men or of women appears to be a misleading over-simplification. Both genders are active participants in the care of all species and children can also play an important role in the upkeep of household livestock. There are, however, clear trends in the activities undertaken by both men and women and, while these vary somewhat across geographies, they can be broadly described as:

  • For poultry: women perform more labour in the ‘daily chore’ type activities (e.g. feeding, cleaning housing etc.) but the input of men increases substantially for the ‘management and money’ type activities (e.g. buying medicines / vaccines, when to sell / slaughter, what to do with poultry income etc.). This increase in involvement by men does not eclipse that of women in these ‘management and money’ type activities. Rather, it suggests that poultry production is a shared household enterprise, albeit with a higher level of input by women.  
  • For small ruminants: noticeable geographical variations exist, although the general trend of more input by men in the ‘management and money’ categories than in the ‘daily chore’ activities continues. In the Ethiopian and Tanzanian study areas, this input by men eclipses that of women, but, even here, approximately 30 – 60% of households have active input by women in ‘management and money’ activities. Again, as a generalisation it seems fair to consider small ruminant production as a shared SSP household enterprise.
  • For large ruminants:  noticeable country variations exist but the perception that women have very little input or say in cattle (aside from milking) is shown to be largely inaccurate. Again, only in the Tanzanian study area is the role of women in ‘management and money’ activities eclipsed by men. As a generalisation, it seems fair to consider large ruminant production as a shared SSP household enterprise, albeit with a higher level of input by men.

The evidence from this study supports the theory that livestock is best considered as a shared household enterprise rather than a specific male or female SSP undertaking. It also highlights the dangers of collecting disaggregated gender data at a shallow or simplified level (as is often necessarily the case when the focus of the study lies elsewhere on animal health and productivity issues). Please see the full study report.

Challenging gender norms in poultry management

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Necessity is what drove Rahma Joseph to start a chicken business. The mother of four from Iringa in Tanzania, was faced with challenges on how to provide for her family and saw an opportunity in poultry business.

“We started with fourteen chickens that were given to us as a group by Care International. We took turns to take care of the chickens and with time, the flock grew to 100,” says Rahma

After a while, some of the group members dropped out of the programme due to various reasons, but Rahma and the few who were left divided the flock that was left and each went their separate ways to take care of their chickens.  She has since grown her flock to around 200 chickens. She makes decisions around their health e.g., vaccinations and also when to sell them.

It is documented that livestock, and especially small stock is an important entry point for promoting women empowerment in rural areas to enable them to break out of the cycle of poverty. Poultry represents an accessible, and low-investment livestock that may help to secure high-quality food and income, especially for rural women-headed households.  It is therefore not uncommon that the first livestock investment that women like Rahma would go for is poultry.

However, it is also documented that as poultry production intensifies in the small-scale segments, and income increases, the level of women’s involvement in poultry management and decision-making declines. The woman’s role is relegated to labour related activities instead. And yet study after study shows that when women have cash, they will spend it on things that improve the quality of life for their family. That means more money for buying food to improve nutrition, schooling for children, visiting a doctor, or even building a toilet. Empowering women to become active decision makers along the value chain is an integral part of getting them out of cyclical poverty.

Nearby in Chanya village, thirty-six-year-old Helena Kindole proudly shows off her new chicken house. She built the house through profits earned from her small poultry business. She is what is known as a mother-unit, meaning she buys day-old chicks from the hatchery and sells them off at a young age, from six months old to other farmers. She has been able to grow her business and can make decisions such as using the profits to build the chicken house.

Women in rural areas are beginning to think more boldly about opportunities available to them, that can improve their livelihoods, status and influence in their homes, communities, and economies. And poultry production is one such avenue.

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 small-scale poultry producers. PREVENT seeks to be gender intentional,  primarily through Field Technician intervention. PREVENT plans to diminish and reverse the decline of women’s involvement in poultry management activities.

For women like Rahma and Helena, this will be an opportunity to expand their businesses and continue having even greater ability to make decisions on their businesses.

“I would like to build a larger poultry house in order to increase my poultry production and sell more poultry and increase my profit.” concludes Helena.

 Written by Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed Senior Communications Manager

Hatchery vaccination to boost opportunities for poultry producers in Africa

Poultry is an important protein source and an asset for small-scale producers in Africa. However, losses due to preventable diseases continue to significantly impact farmers’ livelihoods and financial stability. Low poultry vaccination combined with inadequate information about circulating diseases and how to treat them form a constant barrier to production by small-scale producers (SSPs).

In April 2021 GALVmed and Ceva launched PREVENT, an initiative designed to establish an innovative and pragmatic veterinary health platform in Sub-Saharan Africa through hatchery vaccination. PREVENT will work with medium-size hatcheries in target countries to annually distribute more than 50 million vaccinated-old-chicks to SSPs. These chicks will be effectively protected against the major infectious poultry diseases thereby improving overall flock health and boosting SSPs’ financial prospects.

Apart from vaccination, there are other key elements in preventing and dealing with animal diseases, such as awareness, knowledge, adequate treatment, etc. In this understanding, the project will train and collaborate with a team of field technicians to assist and provide husbandry advice to poultry SSPs leading to best flock management practices.

PREVENT is an initiative not only focused on the clear benefits of poultry vaccination, but also set to be gender transformative. Intensification in poultry farming typically leads to erosion of the participation of women in management activities. This project will make deliberate efforts to minimise this trend in partner poultry SSPs households.

Lastly, there is a need of building knowledge on diseases that affect small-scale poultry production in scoped countries. To meet this need, an elaborate epidemiological study will be undertaken where samples will be collected at SSPs’ level for further analysis. We believe that this knowledge will not only be valuable for the project but also inform future interventions.

In a nutshell, by implementing vaccination at the level of the hatcheries, we will see an impact all the way across the value chain that will ultimately improve the sustainability of poultry production system across the target Africa countries (Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Mozambique). Healthy poultry equals more opportunities to small-scale producers, who will minimise their losses and develop their business to get a more financially secure future.

The PREVENT project was officially launched on April 7, 2021. PREVENT (PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow) is a 4-year initiative in partnership with the animal health company CEVA.

Press release

Newcastle Disease vaccine: Creating sustainability through commercial delivery systems

Making livestock vaccines and medicines easily accessible to smallholder farmers is a vital component of the value chain. If the vaccines are beyond reach, the farmers will not benefit and their livestock will suffer.  In Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, India, local retail shops provide the much needed solution to a glaring gap by stocking and making readily available, essential livestock vaccines and medicines such as the Newcastle Disease (ND) vaccine. Often, they are regular medicine shop owners, who are now finding that stocking vaccines such as the ND vaccine profitable. Furthermore, these retail shops have the required equipment and knowledge such as cold chain storage management to ensure that the quality of the vaccines are not compromised.

Access to the vaccine and the build-up of new and more efficient commercial supply chains have been facilitated by the Bhodal Milk Producers Cooperative Society (BMPCS), a local NGO in partnership with the non-profit Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed). In the initial days of the project, there were no retailers below the district level who kept and sold the ND vaccine. As a solution BMPCS tried to work with a few vaccinators who could reach the remotest parts of the district.

Sanatan Soren, 32, a vaccinator from Khanda Hari Village, Block Ras Gobindpur comes from a family of farmers. In 2011, BMPCS gave Sanatan and four other vaccinators from the nearby villages a small refrigerator to store vaccines.

This setup or “Vaccination Centre” was one of eight centres that were established in order to streamline the distribution of vaccines in the region. Each vaccination centre would cater for between four and six vaccinators, who would collectively pay Indian rupees 300 (US $ 4.64) to offset the electricity bill (cost) for the refrigerator. However this approach had some drawbacks.

First came the problem of irregular power supply. In the forested parts of Odisha, the period from December to February is locally known as ‘Elephant season’. During this period the government cuts off day-time electricity power supply in entire areas to prevent elephants being electrocuted. This meant that many of the vaccines would be rendered non-potent and cannot be administered. What’s worse is that the Elephant season coincides with outbreaks of Newcastle Disease.

Another obstacle that the vaccination centres encountered was to do with licensing. The distribution of vaccines requires a license from relevant authorities. Most of the vaccination centres did not have formal licenses to operate rendering them technically illegal. This hampered any promotion of the operation and consequently the expansion of the project as most vaccinators would not know of the existence of the centres. Also the entire income was dependent on the sale of a single vaccine and de-wormer unlike the medicine shops where a range of products are sold and small profits from the sale of each product are used to meet the operational costs.

In 2012, BMPCS started to partner with local chemists to stock the ND vaccine. The chemists sold the vaccines at affordable prices to farmers and the results were incredible.

Trilochan Dhal, 48, runs the Jai Guru Dev Medical Store in Kosta, Suryapada a few kilometers away from the district headquarters of Baripada. He has been selling the vaccine for a few years now. He buys each vial at Indian Rupees 18 (US $ 0.03) and sells them at Indian Rupees 22 (US $ 0.35). He sells about 500 vials a month, earning a net profit of about Indian Rupees 2,000 (US $32). It’s a modest amount but it contributes to offsetting some of his monthly expenditure.

Initially Trilochan served only a few vaccinators but as word spread, his customers increased in number. Today he caters for some 40-50 vaccinators from the neighbouring villages and occasionally a few farmers. “I see the demand increasing further in the times to come,” he beams when asked about the prospects.

Piyush Mishra, the Program Manager for BMPCS states “The regular awareness programmes helped in growing the demand while lower cost of the vaccine and easy availability further boosted sales”.

This approach has yielded positive results. In Mayurbhanj, the number of retailers of the ND vaccine has gone up from six in 2012 to 27 in 2017. The total doses of vaccine sold has also gone up from about 50,000 in the same period to between 250,000 and 300,000 currently.

Building sustainable vaccine retail chains has been a vital part of providing farmers with much needed services. The market continues to grow as retail shops earn profits from the sales.  Many of the retailers also double as vaccinators. This points to a healthy demand for the ND vaccine and a sustainable marketplace.

(Written by Deepak Bhadana with edit inputs from Prasenjit De. Photos by Alternatives.)

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.)

Poultry vaccination pays off for Indian farmers as demand increases

Access to a vaccine for Newcastle Disease (ND) has transformed the lives of communities in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha state.

Local inhabitants, who have traditionally bred poultry, would often experience the death of their flock during an outbreak of ND. The deadly disease has been known to kill entire flocks when an outbreak occurs.

A vaccine against ND was introduced in this district with the help of the Bhodal Milk Producers Cooperative Society (BMPCS), an Odisha based NGO, which in turn was supported by the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed). The vaccine has played a key role in saving the birds and has contributed to increased income and intake of protein in families.

Forty-six-year-old Jitray Marandi from Pandupal village is a farmer. He also rears livestock and gathers Mahua flowers, which are not only a food item for the locals but are also used for brewing country spirit, locally called Mahuli.  He first heard of the vaccine about two years ago from Govardhan Naik, the local vaccinator and rural health worker. Having witnessed the death of his chickens year after year, he was keen to try anything that would stop the outbreaks.

Marandi’s decision to try the new vaccine paid off.  His chickens went almost unscathed after administering the vaccine. Over the past year his flock has grown to an impressive 100 chickens. Out of the 100, his family consumed thirty, while another thirty have been sold off providing much needed income. “I will use forty birds for breeding over the next year,” he said.

Poultry are very important to these communities who have reared them for generations, and are still rearing them. Not only are they a regular fixture in their diet, but they are also a means of income. Moreover, the chickens are also used as offerings in important religious rituals. It is not uncommon to see visitors bringing their own chickens and presenting them to the hosts as gifts.

“My family has traditionally kept poultry, but they were always very few. The Ranikhet disease [local name for ND] wouldn’t allow the flock to grow,” says 60-year-old farmer, Gopal Hembram.

Before the arrival of the vaccine for ND, they had no idea that their poultry could be protected medically.

“We only got to know of this from Govardhan and the awareness videos we were shown,” Mr Hembram said.

Since the introduction of the vaccine two years ago there has been no major outbreak. The flock size has increased from between a paltry two to six to 60.

Adoption of the vaccine has also been very good, as the selling price of a single chicken is enough to cover the cost of vaccinating the entire flock. The money is used to meet various family needs including funding the education of their children and buying crucial agricultural inputs for their fields.

The farmers get their chickens vaccinated four times a year, paying  eight Indian Rupees (or less than 13 US cents) per bird annually. The chickens are also primed for vaccination by deworming for which they pay another eight Indian Rupees annually. Once a chicken is grown, it can be sold for a maximum of 600 Indian Rupees (US $ 9). This is a significant economic investment for the farmers.

Speaking in the local Santhal dialect, Gopal’s wife Chhita (50) observes: “If you take care of your poultry, give them proper food and management, the chickens will take care of you.” She also advises others to vaccinate their birds.

When the project was launched, BMPCS facilitated a discussion among stakeholders and helped them to take a bold decision to charge the farmers a basic fee, instead of handing out the vaccines for free. Initially the sales from the retail shops were low, but later the sales grew considerably. The decision has yielded good results as the farmers soon understood the benefits of vaccination.

The farmers are keen to continue with vaccination even if the current project ends. This essentially points to the development of a sustainable market for ND vaccine in the district.

This has also motivated several young people like Sukanti (17) to aspire to be vaccinators. “I have just finished school. I think I can be a good vaccinator and earn well,” she says. She is from a farming family with backyard poultry and hence has understood the importance of ND vaccination.

Piyush Mishra, Programme Manager, BMPCS, notes: “If Sukanti and a few more girls take up vaccination, they can serve neighbouring villages and teach the villagers techniques for housing and feeding poultry as well.”

Improved income and nutrition of backyard poultry farmers have helped a large number of the population in an otherwise stressed farming situation. The region, like most other regions in India, has seen successive seasons of drought. Vaccinations against ND has boosted their poultry rearing and the vaccine now has a sustained demand in the local market place.

By Deepak Bhadana and edited by Prasenjit De of Alternatives on behalf of GALVmed.

Newcastle Disease vaccination in India creates new job opportunities as well as saving poultry

Newcastle Disease (ND) vaccinators in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha state in India can today look towards bright prospects. The demand for their services has not only spawned new employment opportunities within their locales, but has also helped farmers protect their poultry flocks which would routinely be ravaged by Newcastle Disease outbreaks. In addition, the chance to become a poultry vaccinator and the income that comes along with it has empowered rural women, who can now use their hard earned money to invest in a better future for their families. Access to ND vaccination training in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha has been facilitated by the Bhodal Milk Producers Co-operative Society (BMPCS), a local NGO, and Heifer International in partnership with non-profit Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed).

Thirty-seven-year-old, Govardhan Naik from Suryapada always wanted to set up his own business. A university graduate, he first heard of an opportunity to be an ND vaccinator through a friend. After a four day training course that covered vaccination and first aid, he ventured into the field as a trained vaccinator. This was about four years ago.

Govardhan gets his supplies of the ND vaccine from a market at a nearby town, Kosta. He has also procured a refrigerator to store the vaccines and a motorcycle to help him reach the farmers. He serves around 400 households vaccinating close to 5,000 chickens every month. Providing additional services such as deworming and first aid, Govardhan brings home a net income averaging INR 8,000 (US $ 122) monthly, which has positively contributed to the economic well-being of his family.

His work as a vaccinator has brought him recognition from the locals and several of his friends have now shown an interest in the occupation, with one of them now an active vaccinator. “I will continue as a vaccinator even after this current project ends,” he says, referring to the ongoing GALVmed sponsored initiative, much to the relief of numerous households who are grateful for his services and want him to continue.

The effects of the poultry vaccinators’ work on the local economy are visible. When Govardhan first began vaccinating, an average village consisting of about 20 households would have a maximum of 70-80 chickens. After the first year of vaccination, the number skyrocketed to over 1,000. Farmers’ earnings from poultry rearing increased.

“If you work as a vaccinator, you can have an independent enterprise,” he adds.

A vial of the ND vaccine costs between INR 75 (US $1.16) and INR 100 (US $1.55). One vial can vaccinate up to 100 chickens. A vaccinator can charge INR 2 (US $ 0.03) per vaccination. There is also additional income derived from services such as deworming and first aid. For example, Govardhan earns another INR 3,000 or (US $46) from these additional services.

The involvement of women as vaccinators has also contributed to their economic empowerment and participation in decision making within the family unit and their communities. Mamata Mandal, 42, from Tikayatpur village in Ras Gobindpur block, is one such vaccinator. Mamata first got to know about vaccination from Anup Behra, the team leader of Unnayana, a local NGO. Coming from a family that has traditionally reared poultry and having witnessed high mortality of the birds, she readily took up the occupation.

Mamata procures her supplies from a small shop, about 7 km away from her village. Carrying a cool box to store the vaccines, she serves around 250 households in a 3km radius and vaccinates around 5,000 birds. Her services get her an income of INR 3,000 (US $ 46) every month. “With this income I can school my children and buy agricultural inputs for the farm,” she says.

BMPCS started the programme with just 7,500 families in 2011. By December 2016, the NGO had already reached more than 175,000 households. Today BMPCS supports more than 320 vaccinators in the project area.

Heifer International’s project was launched in September 2015. By May 2017, they had served as many as 62,316 households. Today, Heifer International supports more than 218 active vaccinators in the field.

Newcastle disease vaccination has helped turn around the lives of many individuals in Mayurbhanj. The vaccinators stand at the frontlines in the fight against the deadly poultry disease and their services are benefitting many smallholder farmers. And with a stable demand for their services, the vaccinators can hope for a better future.

Written by: Deepak Bhadana and edited by Prasenjit De of Alternatives for GALVmed