Malawi: Farmers overcome Newcastle disease by vaccinating chickens (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

    | November 22, 2010

    Download this story

     Jeke Adamu is a farmer who does not give up easily. But when his efforts to raise chickens proved futile for three consecutive years, he completely lost hope. He vowed never to rear chickens again. Mr. Adamu and his wife Alena are small-scale farmers in Nyama village, 15 kilometres south of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

    Chickens are a major source of income, meat and eggs in Malawi. Newcastle is a contagious and fatal viral disease in birds. It is one of the most important poultry diseases in Malawi and worldwide. And it frustrated Mr. Adamu. He explains, “Whenever I bought chickens, I could not rear them for more than six months. Once the number of chickens started to increase, Newcastle disease could wipe out all my chickens within three weeks.”

    Mr. Adamu did not realize that there was a simple and cheap solution to his problem. Then, in May 2007, he met a community chicken vaccinator from an NGO operating in the area. Mr. Adamu explains that he “ … advised me that vaccination was the solution for Newcastle disease. I agreed and vaccinated my chickens at an affordable price of seven cents per chicken.”

    Group village headman Nkhwiripe Nsomera from Chiradzulu district in southern Malawi says the vaccine is affordable. He encourages farmers in his area to vaccinate their chickens: “At first we thought it was expensive to vaccinate each chicken at a cost of seven cents. Through the extension worker, we realized later that by just selling one egg we can use the money to vaccinate two chickens.”

    In Malawi, La Sota and I2 are the vaccines commonly used to combat Newcastle disease. I2 costs seven cents per chicken. La Sota costs nearly seven American dollars, but is enough to vaccinate about 900 chickens.

    Mr. Ng’amba Banda works in the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development as a Quality Assurance Officer. He says the government is doing all it can to ensure that small-scale farmers have access to Newcastle disease vaccines at an affordable price. “We are producing I2 vaccine and providing it to small-scale farmers at an affordable price to supplement the La Sota vaccine which is available on the commercial market.”

    Mr. Masautso Thawale is the Coordinator for Inter-Aid, a non-governmental organization which encourages small-scale farmers to vaccinate chickens. He has found that some farmers do not vaccinate chickens against Newcastle because of bad experiences. He explains, “There are pockets of farmers whose chickens died because they used untrained vaccinators.”

    Some farmers in Malawi believe that the La Sota vaccine kills chickens. Mr. Thawale stresses that La Sota needs to be stored in a fridge. But there are few fridges in rural areas. Some farmers end up buying expired La Sota, which ultimately kills their chickens. He says, “For small-scale farmers, our organization recommends I2 vaccine, which can be easily stored.”

    Mr. Thawale says that with the help of extension messages, the number of small-scale farmers who are using I2 vaccine is on the rise. “Farmers take the price of I2 vaccine as very cheap because they compare the cost of losing a chicken, the selling price of a chicken, and the cost of saving it using the vaccine.”

    Mary Zuwe is a farmer from Mitundu in Lilongwe. She describes Newcastle as a disease of economic importance. She explains how she has managed to increase the number of chickens she raises to 81: “I started with one chicken. But because I always vaccinate my chickens using I2, I have never lost any. I love my chickens because they are a source of income for me.”

    Mrs. Zuwe urged other farmers who believe that vaccinating against Newcastle disease is expensive to change their minds. She says, “You save a lot of money when you vaccinate your chickens. I am the living witness. People in my village have seen how my chickens have survived from Newcastle, and they have now started vaccinating their chickens too.”