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.

A Rising Tide Doesn’t Lift All Boats: Why Africa’s Livestock Intensification Can’t Leave Women Behind

Written by Katharine Tjasink, Senior Manager, Impact, Evaluation & Learning (GALVmed); Lamyaa Al-Riyami, Senior Manager, Evaluation, Programme Planning, (GALVmed); and Zoë Campbell, Scientist, Gender, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Originally published by Farming First

For many of Africa’s 240 million women livestock keepers, success in the industry is a double-edged sword that brings difficult questions of its own, mainly: what happens next?

On top of existing obstacles women face in Africa’s livestock sector – from a lack of access to land, finance, technology, and information about disease control – a successful livestock business can often lock horns with the prevailing gender and social norms across the continent.

For instance, research from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shows that women face significant challenges when the fortunes of their business rise. These include difficulties balancing an increasing workload with other responsibilities and potentially losing control over their own resources and decision-making by attracting the attention and investment of their husbands or male family members.

As Africa endeavours to intensify its livestock production to meet food security goals, it is imperative to address these gender disparities to avoid unintended consequences and ensure equitable development. Acute care must be taken to avoid leaving women behind and jeopardising gender equality.

This is why the PREVENT project, a Ceva Santé Animale initiative in collaboration with GALVmed, is adopting a “gender lens” to intensify Africa’s livestock production. The Promoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow (PREVENT) project specifically focuses on providing vaccinations for day-old chicks at mid-size hatcheries across Africa.

This approach is crucial as mid-size hatcheries serve many women farmers. Poultry rearing and production, more generally, provides a valuable source of income to women farmers, while also making an important contribution to the reduction of food insecurity and rural poverty across the African continent.

Yet, across Africa, uptake of some veterinary vaccines, key tools to protect advances in productivity,  has been limited. Small-scale poultry production struggle with access to quality vaccines and veterinary services. As a result, rural producers can have their flocks, and the income and stability they represent, wiped out overnight due to otherwise preventable diseases.

By focusing on disease prevention through increasing the accessibility of vaccinated chicks, the PREVENT project is not only boosting productivity by reducing livestock losses but also catering to women farmers, many of whom lack access to critical disease prevention technologies.

Likewise, through the provision of technical training and information dissemination about chicken management, biosecurity, and vaccination, PREVENT is bridging the knowledge and technical divide that holds back Africa’s poultry farmers, including women.

With the support of field technicians, the PREVENT project is contributing to greater animal production and income growth through improved disease control. At the same time, the project is bolstering the knowledge and skills necessary for successful poultry management, benefitting a diverse range of poultry farmers, including those traditionally overlooked women farmers.

In order to benefit future interventions, the PREVENT project is also seeking to improve understanding of the existing social norms impacting women, and their success, in the African livestock sector.

To achieve this, a gender landscaping analysis conducted by the project helped to shed light on these norms by presenting mock case studies of women involved in successful livestock businesses to focus groups across Africa. By collating responses from these groups, the analysis provided insights into the complex social and cultural norms shaping women’s experiences in the industry.

The findings from the gender landscaping analysis are instrumental in informing future development interventions. Quantitative and qualitative impact assessments are also being carried out by the project to contribute to the understanding of gender perspectives in the sector. By understanding the expectations and challenges faced by women in the livestock sector, future projects can act more sensitively to ensure that women’s success does not come into conflict with prevailing social norms. This proactive approach is essential for creating an inclusive and equitable livestock sector in Africa.

Ultimately, intensification of animal production is crucial for providing nutritious food for Africa’s rapidly growing population. Yet, greater success for women livestock farmers can – counterintuitively – bring new challenges of its own.

Therefore, ensuring the overall success of Africa’s food system transformation means also addressing prevailing gender disparities in the livestock sector.

By responding to existing gender gaps in livestock health and improving understanding of complex gender dynamics affecting their livelihoods, the PREVENT project is playing a vital role in ensuring that Africa’s dynamic women farmers are not left behind.

Photo credit: Female poultry farmer, Iringa, Tanzania, 2021. @Colin Dames

Vaccine Equality is as Vital for Livestock as for People

Written by Enrique Hernández Pando, GALVmed’s Executive Director, Commercial Development & Impact.

For 33-year-old mother-of-seven and poultry farmer Helena Kindole in Chanya village in Tanzania, one of the main barriers to growing her chicken business is a lack of access to health services. But not for herself or her family – for her animals.

With smallholder poultry farming often a lifeline for millions of low-income and rural families – accounting for 80% of poultry production in the region – access to medicines and vaccines is just as important for livestock as it is for people. And yet, logistical, infrastructural, and supply challenges are hindering access to veterinary services across the African continent and therefore, holding back smallholder productivity.

At the same time, a rapidly industrialising poultry sector in many developed countries, and an increase in grain prices globally, coupled with cheap imports from more developed markets and low access to animal health care is driving inequality between small- and large-scale producers, threatening to squeeze out smallholder poultry farmers.

Thankfully, this is starting to change. Animal health initiatives are helping local hatcheries to vaccinate chicks against common and damaging diseases before selling them to small-scale farmers, who rear the chicks until they are six months old, eventually selling them to neighbours, restaurants, and other businesses nearby.

For women like Helena, who make up nearly half of the global agricultural workforce in developing countries and in sub-Saharan Africa, the poultry sector offers a crucial source of income and healthy animals are essential for decent livelihoods.

Equipping farmers with the right tools can help to set them up for success to compete alongside more industrialised production systems.

Introducing vaccinations at local hatcheries can strengthen small-scale producers’ sustainability and commercial clout. Supporting these hatcheries with the necessary vaccination equipment and expertise means they can provide customers with large numbers of chicks that are vaccinated against common poultry diseases, such as Newcastle disease and Infectious bronchitis, the former of which contributes to 60% of poultry mortalities in many African countries. This reduces the risk of bird loss, contributing to improved income and more successful businesses overall.

PREVENT project in Tanzania/Iringa, 2021, Helena Kindole. Credit: Colin Dames/CEVA

But implementing vaccination measures alone is not enough, as a lack of technical support and knowledge on zoonoses and other infectious diseases that affect poultry can also hinder productivity. Training on animal health practices, market development opportunities, and advice on biosecurity, good management practices, and more are also crucial pieces of the puzzle. Providing this can help to level the playing field between large scale, industrial hatcheries and small-scale producers.

The PREVENT project (Promoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow) is one example of an initiative working to improve poultry production for Africa’s rapidly growing population. In just two years, this four-year initiative has administered 159 million vaccine doses and vaccinated 49 million hatchery chicks. It has also trained 100 field technicians who have conducted 2,600 farm visits and held over 1,400 farmer meetings across four countries in sub-Saharan Africa, to date.

A low-input but high-producing sector, raising chickens offers a reliable pathway out of poverty for many rural households. A small-scale producer can easily sell their chicks or chickens at the market as they are more affordable for the consumer than beef, for example, but also bring a myriad of other benefits. They add value to social structures, are high in protein, and, on top of this, can directly benefit women who in fact make up the majority of smallholder poultry farmers in the developing world.

Small-scale chicken farmer in Tanzania/Arusha, 2015. Credit: Karel Prinsloo/GALVmed

Against the backdrop of a global cost of living crisis, record-breaking temperatures, and ongoing conflicts, closing the inequality gap for smallholder farmers is critical to build a sustainable future for all. Supporting small-scale producers with training, animal health measures, and much more can help to level the playing field, one small-scale producer at a time, just like Helena.

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

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