Sawa Pius | June 7, 2010
Alfred Lukuma Kapoo is a happy man these days. All his 70 cows are doing well since he immunized them against East Coast Fever.
Before he vaccinated his calves, Mr. Kapoo, from Longido district in Tanzania, faced many problems. He struggled to keep his cattle healthy. He needed to sell them to pay his children’s school fees, especially when the crops didn’t do well.
“Most of my calves would die just months after birth,” he says. There was not enough milk to sell. He sold chickens or goats to raise income for school fees, but it was not enough. He would need to sell one big cow to pay the fees for one term for his three children.
Last year’s long drought made the situation worse. Many animals died from lack of water and good pasture.
Mr. Kapoo says “When I heard that there was a vaccine for East Coast Fever, I quickly brought all my animals to the expert to be immunized.” He explains that ear tags are attached to the animals to show that they are free from East Coast Fever.
East Coast Fever is a common but deadly disease. It is found in 11 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa, where up to 25 million cattle are at risk. It is transmitted by the brown ear tick, and kills one million cattle every year.
In late May, East Coast Fever vaccine was registered in Tanzania. Kenya and Malawi have already registered the vaccine and Uganda will follow in a few weeks.
When a vaccine is registered, farmers can be sure it is safe, effective and available. Registration ensures that international standards are met. Bright Rwamirama, Uganda’s minister for livestock and fisheries, says their government is developing a policy to make the vaccine free to Ugandan farmers.
The vaccine is now being manufactured in Kenya. This makes it more affordable than if it were manufactured outside Africa. Farmers can raise the money to afford the vaccination fee by selling a goat or small cow, depending on the size of the herd.
In northern Tanzania, the vaccine is available through an organization called VETgro. Mr. Kapoo has been trained as a Community Animal Health Worker. He and other Community Animal Health Workers now help to vaccinate other people’s cows.
The drugs are transported in special containers under liquid nitrogen. Organizations like VETgro inform farmers when veterinarians will visit their area. All animals are vaccinated on the same day to reduce costs.
Pastoralists and livestock keepers in Tanzania have already hailed the vaccine as a success. This success is due to the way government, distributors, veterinarians and livestock keepers are working together.
Mr. Kapoo is content because his calves were vaccinated after birth and now he can simply watch them grow. He says “If there is a drought, you can sell your animals and make good money. Then you can send your children to school and buy food for the family.”