Nelly Bassily | March 10, 2008
Gidinyangu Ginyudu’s bright red robe contrasts sharply with the drab-coloured plane in Northern Tanzania where he watches over his livestock. The herdsman is surrounded by cattle and donkeys grazing on scrub. As with most Barabaig people in his district, Mr. Ginyudu’s livestock are his livelihood.
Until recently, these livestock were constantly threatened by disease. Mr. Ginyudu says he lost up to five animals each month. The only veterinary practitioner available was a government agriculture extension officer who lacked the necessary equipment and drugs. And Mr. Ginyudu couldn’t afford the officer’s fees, in any case.
But now, the British-based NGO, FARM Africa, is supporting programs to improve access to veterinary care for nomadic herdsmen. FARM Africa trains community animal health workers, or “para-vets,” to prevent and treat common diseases.
In the communities of Hanang District where FARM Africa provided training to para-vets, animal mortality rates dropped from 20 per cent per year to three per cent per year.
Dr. Jaribu Sultan is a veterinarian in charge of FARM Africa’s animal delivery program. He explains that many livestock, especially young cattle and goats, were dying from diseases that are simple to prevent or treat. Diseases carried by ticks and tsetse flies are very common, as are worms.
Para-vets learn how diseases are carried, and how to prevent as well as treat them. They are not only called to a herd when an animal is sick – they also apply pesticides that kill disease-carrying insects and carry out routine vaccinations and deworming.
Healthier animals produce more milk and meat. They even produce more manure that can be used as fertilizer in gardens. And when herdsmen sell their livestock, healthy animals fetch a much better price.
Para-vets enjoy improved livelihoods, too. In addition to learning about veterinary care and disease control, the para-vets learn to run a small business. The fees they charge for their services help them earn a living and ensure that they can replenish veterinary drug supplies.
Stephano Naaly is one of more than 100 para-vets trained though the FARM Africa program in Northern Tanzania. He says that working as a para-vet has allowed him to purchase more nutritious foods for his family and send his oldest daughter to school.
However, many of Mr. Naaly’s customers still do not have enough money to pay for animal care. To these people he offers credit – which some will be able to repay, and others will not.