Evaluating the effects of Newcastle Disease vaccination on poultry production and livelihoods

Backyard chickens are a significant source of income and nourishment in developing countries, but outbreaks of poultry diseases like Newcastle Disease (ND) severely affect productivity, flock mortality, and consequently, farmer livelihoods.

GALVmed has made important progress in combating ND with the successful development of two thermotolerant vaccines suitable for the rural environment. Vaccination is a cost-effective means to controlling ND. However, to fully grasp the benefits of vaccination interventions and establish evidence-based approaches for developing future programmes and planning, we need to measure vaccination impacts comprehensively. In order to understand and quantify the causal effects of ND vaccination on poultry production and livelihoods, since 2020, GALVmed has been working with Tufts University and Oxford Policy Management (OPM) to design and implement a Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV) intervention paired with a rigorous evaluation in rural areas of Tanzania.

The study encompasses two main activities. Firstly, a Newcastle Disease vaccination intervention in selected small-scale farming areas of Tanzania, specifically in the districts of Chemba and Mbozi. To execute this intervention plan, Community Vaccinators are tasked to visit each registered small-scale producer (SSP) household at their doorstep to:

  1. Vaccinate chickens with the I-2 Newcastle Disease vaccine, which is administered by the eye-drop method.
  2. Deliver specific training and knowledge content on the disease, vaccination, and improved poultry-rearing practices.

The second activity involves an experimental study to quantify the causal effects of the Newcastle Disease vaccination intervention. To assess these effects, the impact study was structured as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) where the study sample of intervention villages was randomly divided into two groups for comparison: a treatment group that received the ND vaccination intervention package (vaccination and training), and a control group that did not. The control group will receive one round of the intervention after the study’s endline survey.

Both the vaccination intervention and the impact study are currently underway.  OPM has completed all 6 vaccination rounds in the study’s treatment villages with one pending vaccination round to control villages. The households that were selected for the impact study have been interviewed at the project’s outset, followed by a midline assessment, and will again be interviewed at the end of the intervention. The midline survey revealed preliminary positive outcomes with reduced ND outbreaks and chicken mortality due to NDV delivery.

Underlying this intervention is a key assumption that offering NDV at an affordable price to poultry-keeping households in treatment villages, together with the promotion of improved poultry-rearing practices, will yield noteworthy benefits with respect to poultry productivity, income from poultry, household welfare, food consumption, and possibly decisions on income-generating activities.

The findings derived from this study will allow us to make informed decisions regarding ND vaccination and further enhance the effectiveness of our efforts in protecting poultry health and livelihoods.

Further details and final findings will be made available at the end of the intervention in 2024.

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

East Coast Fever training curriculum and manual for vaccinators

East Coast Fever (ECF) is a serious, often fatal, disease of cattle that causes major economic losses across 11 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa. Caused by single-celled parasite, the disease is transmitted by the brown ear tick, which is found in hay or standing grass. ECF is a significant constraint to livestock farmers in affected countries with one animal being lost every 30 seconds and more than 25 million cattle at risk.

ECF can be prevented by using the Muguga Cocktail vaccine, which is manufactured by the Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in Malawi and distributed by local companies, Ronheim and PharmaVax in Tanzania.

GALVmed – a not-for-profit company that makes livestock vaccines accessible to smallholder farmers – and its partners has launched an initiative to standardise training provided to ECF vaccinators. A standardised training curriculum and manual originally developed by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, and later with input from the International Livestock Research Institute, GALVmed and Tanzanian stakeholders including the Directorate of Veterinary Services, the Veterinary Council of Tanzania, and Tanzanian distributors is now being used for the training of ECF vaccinators.

View the podcast’s script here.