It Pays to Invest in Animal Welfare

Written by Carolin Schumacher, CEO, GALVmed.

Animal welfare has the power to transform the lives of those who depend on livestock. Well-maintained animals are not only healthier and happier but also more profitable. By living longer and suffering from fewer diseases, they can save their owners considerable sums in medicines, veterinarian bills and the need to purchase or acquire new animals. Healthy livestock also produce more meat, milk or eggs over their lifetime, increasing the productivity and efficiency of livestock businesses. Whether it’s a cattle ranch in Kenya or a backyard chicken coop in India, it pays – quite literally – to invest in animal welfare.

Barriers to livestock welfare

Unfortunately, many of the 900 million people working in small-scale livestock production across the Global South lack access to the resources to improve the health and wellbeing of their animals. Limited private sector investment in lower- and middle-income countries, together with the challenges of reaching remote rural communities, mean that the high-quality animal health products commonplace in Europe and North America are often rare or non-existent elsewhere. Demand is instead met, if at all, by unregulated products and counterfeits of uncertain quality.

All of this means that producers in Africa and South Asia often have no choice but to rear health-impaired or disease-prone livestock. The owner of a backyard chicken coop in India knows that an outbreak of Newcastle disease could wipe out his or her entire flock, but may lack the funds to vaccinate their animals. A Kenyan cattle herder, meanwhile, may have limited access to vaccination services against Rift Valley fever, a destructive zoonotic disease endemic in Africa.

Locked into unprofitable business models, small-scale farmers are unable to expand their enterprises, pay for medical bills or, in some cases, even send their children to school. For the 600 million people whose diets are centred around livestock, the loss of these animals to disease can also jeopardise their food and nutrition security. Poor animal welfare holds back not only individuals, but families and entire communities.

Supporting healthy livestock

Improving animal health, especially through the creation and distribution of new and improved vaccines is critical. For example, an affordable, thermostable and easily administered vaccine against Newcastle disease was developed, specifically designed to benefit the poor and hard-to-reach livestock producers currently underserved by the private sector. Since 2010, 264 million doses of this vaccine have been sold to more than three million small-scale poultry owners in Africa and South Asia, transforming their lives and livelihoods.

The development of a safe and effective concurrent vaccine against Rift Valley fever and two other important ruminant diseases are also in its final stages. Once approved for sale, this vaccine will enable more frequent and regular administrations of Rift Valley fever vaccinations, reducing the risk of outbreaks and strengthening rural livelihoods.

To ensure game-changing products like these reach small-scale producers in Africa and South Asia, GALVmed is also supporting animal health companies to invest in the Global South. Whether by providing the private sector with much-needed market data, facilitating public-private partnerships or helping governments to develop robust policies, GALVmed works to create an enabling environment for animal health products and an essential bridge between product developers and livestock producers.

Prosperous and sustainable animal health markets

Livestock producers throughout Africa and South Asia, no matter how small-scale or remote they may be, must be able to access and benefit from the same range and quality of animal health products as their counterparts in the Global North.

Animal welfare is the foundation all these efforts must be built upon. By providing small-scale livestock producers with the resources and support they need to care for their animals, GALVmed and its partners are supporting the economic development and empowerment of individuals, families and communities across Africa and South Asia.

Originally published by Farming Firsts.

From lab to field: an enabling environment ensures innovation reaches farmers

Written by Lois Muraguri, Senior Director of Enabling Environment & Partner Engagement.

After fifteen years of improving livestock health in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, we at GALVmed know the huge impact that new animal health products can have for small-scale livestock farmers, their households, communities and countries. Innovations such as GALVmed’s highly effective Newcastle disease vaccines have unlocked life-changing economic benefits for farmers, enabling them to expand their businesses, improve household nutrition, cover medical bills and send their children to school.

However, we also know that product development is only the first step in improving livestock health in the world’s lower and middle-income countries. By itself, research and development cannot put new animal health technologies in the hands of farmers. For that to happen, there needs to be an enabling policy and regulatory environment that encourages animal health companies to register, distribute and sell their products in new countries.

Poor policy prevents investment

Unfortunately, navigating national policies and regulations around animal livestock is a complex and time-consuming ordeal for many organisations. A recent GALVmed survey of major animal health companies confirmed what we already knew anecdotally: businesses trying to invest in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia face significant policy challenges. These include inefficient systems for registering veterinary products, monitoring products in the market, prohibitive taxes or duties on imports and unclear policies on the roles of public and private service providers.

Coupled with the lack of market data and associated risks of investing in lower and middle-income countries, these hurdles are enough to dissuade many companies from selling their products in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. As a result, the private sector misses out on the largely untapped market of small-scale livestock farmers, governments miss out on effective business partners, and most importantly, farmers miss out on incredibly valuable livestock vaccines, therapeutics and other animal health products.

GALVmed is determined to change this.

Creating prosperous, sustainable markets

This is why GALVmed works across the entire livestock value chain – from laboratory to field – to ensure that small-scale livestock farmers can access products best suited to their needs. We collaborate with global organisations, such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, that are charged with developing veterinary standards for use in countries. We support national regulators to establish clear, coherent policies. And we leverage our convening power to promote productive collaboration between the public and private sectors, encouraging better use of resources to create prosperous and sustainable markets.

Since 2011, for example, GALVmed has supported the East African Community to implement the Mutual Recognition Procedure (MRP) project. This registration system has not only harmonised the technical requirements for registration of vaccines and pharmaceuticals, but has simplified the process by allowing applicants to apply for licences for animal health products in multiple countries simultaneously. By saving time and resources for both the public and private sectors, MRP supports the sustainable supply of quality registered veterinary medicines in East Africa. Since its creation, there has been an increase not only in the number of applications for products in the region, but in the number of companies – African and global – submitting applications.

More recently, GALVmed was instrumental in establishing the Veterinary Inputs Suppliers Association of Kenya (VISAK). Established in 2018 and formally recognised the following year, VISAK is a rapidly growing association of companies involved in the manufacture, import and distribution of animal health products and equipment in Kenya. In just a few years VISAK has come to be seen as a trusted intermediary between regulators and the private sector and a catalyst for local manufacturers.

GALVmed’s efforts to create an enabling environment for sustainable adoption of animal health inputs by small-scale livestock farmers are just as important as our contributions to product development. Only when research and development is paired with clear and effective policies and regulatory systems can innovative animal health products reach farmers. By enabling farmers across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to choose from a growing range of quality registered products, GALVmed is working with its partners to improve livestock health, boost business, support governments and strengthen farmer livelihoods.