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Millions of people around the world rely on small-scale agriculture and livestock farming for their livelihoods. For these families, livestock are assets which translate into vital essentials such as food, housing, education, or health assistance. Within this reality, outbreaks of livestock diseases can be detrimental to the livelihoods of these producers.  

We travelled to Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India where GALVmed is implementing animal health projects with our partner Hester Biosciences, to meet some small-scale producers and find out more about them. Who are they? What do livestock mean for them and their families? And how do they use their livestock income?

Soni Pal is a 19 years old sheep farmer from Gosaura Khurd village. Livestock for Soni means better education. ‘’We can build a better future for ourselves from the income we get from rearing sheep,’’ says Soni.

Similarly, we meet Lal Chandra Pal who says his small sheep farming business has contributed to a better life and education for his children. Lal Chandra proudly shows off his flock of sheep while expressing the importance of these animals to him and his family. For Lal Chandra, the herd has to be well taken care of in order to continue securing income and to guarantee his family’s well-being.  

Lal Chandra Pal with his herd of sheep

In the same village, we also met with a buffalo owner, Krishna Devi, and Sohaga Devi, a goat farmer. Earnings from the animals not only help with their family’s education, but also help to meet their daily expenses, enabling them to improve their lives. “The additional income from goat farming helps us have a better quality of life. It is therefore important that we keep them in good health”, explains Sohana Devi.

Sohana Devi feeding her goats

“I hope to earn a good income from milk. The income will help us give the children better education.” – Krishna Devi

Livestock plays a very important economic and socio-cultural role in the rural villages of developing countries. Rearing of goats and sheep is a common practice in many states of India, and small ruminant diseases such as Sheep and Goat Pox (SGP) or Pest des Petites Ruminants (PPR) can be devastating.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that PPR virus can infect up to 90 percent of an animal herd, and the disease kills anywhere up to 70 percent of infected animals. On the other hand, SGP’s mortality rate is up to 50%, and it is estimated that the total yearly cost of the disease is USD 48 million. Both diseases present significant losses for small-scale producers and have a deep negative impact on the worldwide economy.

When it comes to animal health products, lack of sustainable distribution systems, accessibility gaps, and ineffective and costly medicines are some of the biggest constraints that small-scale livestock producers face in LMIC. Animal health and economics are closely linked, and we cannot understand one without the other. The socio-economic impact and burden of animal diseases not only affect people directly involved in the livestock business but echoes into the whole world. Therefore, it is an absolute priority to ensure that the small-scale producers in LMIC can access high-quality vaccines and medicines to prevent animal diseases and their consequences.

This blog was written by Patricia Valdeón Noya as part of the camping ”Who are our small-scale livestock producers?” aimed to recognise their importance and value