Ethiopia: Farmers hire village vaccinators to protect chickens from Newcastle disease

| June 9, 2019

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Nususe Gonetse steps into a basin of water to disinfect his feet as he exits his wire mesh chicken house. In the house, chickens perch on wooden ladders, while others search for places to lay eggs. Mr. Gonetse’s daughter is busy feeding the chickens and refilling their drinkers.

Mr. Gonetse is a poultry farmer in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. He hires a local vaccinator to protect his chickens from Newcastle disease. The Newcastle virus spreads quickly among chickens in many parts of Africa. A bad outbreak can kill an entire flock.

Since he started vaccinating his chickens, Mr. Gonetse has had fewer losses and more income from selling eggs. He collects 270 eggs each day from his 286 chickens, and earns about 945 birr (US$32) a day.

He explains: “I sell each egg [for] between 2.5 and 3.0 birr [US$0.08 to $0.10]. This has enabled me to pay back part of the bank loan I got to start the project, and I use the remaining [money] for my family’s daily needs.”

Jemal Gidey is the deputy director of livestock at the Tigray government office. After seeing that Newcastle disease was making poultry farmers lose money, the Ethiopian government worked with an NGO called Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines to introduce a vaccination project.

Mr. Gidey says 541 female villagers trained as vaccinators. Each vaccinator administers 3,000 to 4,000 vaccines per month. The project aims to reach 150,000 households.

Wayni Kalashat says she “had a dream of becoming an animal health expert,” and now works as a vaccinator on the outskirts of Mek’ele, the capital of Tigray. Every morning, she visits a couple of farmers to advise them how to keep their poultry healthy and productive.

Most of the women vaccinators have little education and no land. Chicken farmers pay them five birr (US$0.17) for each dose of the Newcastle vaccine they administer.

Tirhas Tikue is another village vaccinator. She used her earnings from vaccinating chickens to start her own poultry project. She now has 150 chickens which are about to start laying eggs.

Ms. Tikue says: “Before the training, I was not interested in keeping poultry and the whole business of animal health. But after the training, I got interested and now I am happy to see my own business in place.”

Yosefu Afewarki raises 400 egg-laying chickens in Tigray. He says that none of his chickens have died since he started vaccinating them.

He adds, “These chickens are just like human beings. They need to be vaccinated; otherwise, they will die. I have vaccinated them four times against Newcastle disease and fowl pox.”

Mr. Gonetse plans to continue vaccinating his chickens and to increase his flock. He adds: “I want to build a bigger [chicken] house to accommodate around 500 chickens. I want to also have some chickens for meat, and some for eggs. The vaccination has been very helpful, since I have not seen any of my chickens dying from Newcastle disease.”

This story was originally published in October 2017. Photo: Wayni Kalashat, one of the female vaccinators, advising a farmer in Tigray Region. Credit: Pius Sawa