Geoffrey Ojok | September 28, 2023
Trained veterinary paraprofessionals are helping livestock keepers maintain livestock health and boost income in Uganda. And women are at the forefront. Rebecca Bayiga has an animal healthcare office about 120 kilometres from Kampala, where she assists farmers who request her services by phone. She says that the farmers who used to walk up to 50 kilometres to access animal care can now request her to hop on her motorcycle and visit their animals in a timely manner. Miria Loquang is a newly-trained veterinary paraprofessional who has been working with animals in the Nakapiripirit district for 31 years. Many people in the area are dependent on livestock farming for their livelihoods, and, with Ms. Loquang’s assistance, are earning a better income to sustain their families than ever because their animals’ health has improved.
It’s a cold and humid morning in Mateete village in Sembabule district, about 120 kilometres south of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Rebecca Bayiga, a private veterinary paraprofessional, is getting ready to respond to livestock farmers who called her on the phone, requesting her services.
She says, “The community is very happy with the animal mobile phone healthcare services which I provide. Among the services, I administer vaccinations to the animals.”
Mrs. Bayiga adds that livestock farmers in the district used to walk up to 50 kilometres to the district headquarters to the district veterinary office (DVO) to access animal health care services. She explains, “Now the services have been drawn nearer because of our work. I offer affordable veterinary services at any time livestock farmers call me on my mobile phone.”
She adds: “I make sure to service my small motorcycle I use to visit my clients because any time the livestock farmers call me to treat their animals, it’s a must for me to reach the farmers in good time.”
Mrs. Bayiga has become a popular veterinary paraprofessional after attending a continuing professional development training called “Growing your business” at Bukalasa Agricultural College in Uganda from November 2022 to July 2023.
Like any profession and business, Mrs. Bayiga encounters challenges. Demand for animal vaccines is high, but she must travel a long way to purchase vaccines and the cost is also high. Worse still sometimes highly demanded vaccines such as the foot and mouth disease, locally called kalusu, are out of stock or not easily accessed.
She adds, “Sometimes I help farmers who pay me later. If a farmer calls me when the animal is in bad health condition, I don’t hesitate to go and treat the animal on credit.”
Alice Naula is also a private veterinary paraprofessional operating in Kibuku district in eastern Uganda who also attended the continuing professional development training, Growing your business, training for veterinary paraprofessionals at the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre & Data Bank, Kasolwe stock farm in Kumuli district.
Ms. Naula says: “The skills I acquired through the training have added much value to my work and the community I serve. Many livestock farmers I assist are earning a better income to sustain their families than ever because the health conditions of their animals have been improved.”
Miria Loquang is another female private veterinary paraprofessional who attended the continuing professional development training for veterinary paraprofessionals at the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre & Data Bank, Kasolwe stock farm in Kumuli district. Miria operates in Nakapiripirit district in Karamoja region. The most common and or important livestock species in Karamoja that she attends to in her practice include cattle, goats and sheep. Ms. Loquang has two children and is a bread winner. She is able to provide for her family through the income she earns from her work as a veterinary paraprofessional, which she has been doing for the last 31 years.
She says that she has now become popular in the district, especially among the predominantly Karamojong people that depend on livestock farming for their income. She says: “As a Karamojong myself, I grew up seeing my parents and neighbours rear livestock and using local herbs to treat their animals. This made me to choose a career in providing think of building a career of becoming a veterinary doctor.”
Johnson Abura is a livestock farmer in Nabilatuk sub county in Nakapiripirit district who has benefited from the support from women veterinary paraprofessionals. Mr. Abura sells his animals at different markets in the district.
He used to lose animals and money because the closest veterinary workers were very far from his home. He explains: “This year, I had losses between March and May. My goats had diarrhoea and I was forced to sell my billy goat at 150,190 Ugandan shillings ($40 US) instead of selling it around 190,000 ($50) US because I couldn’t find a paravet professional to diagnose and treat it.”
Thanks to the increase in the number of women veterinary paraprofessionals, farmers have improved access to veterinary services. Mr. Abura adds, “Things have normalized because Ms. Loquang, who is our veterinary officer, is able to treat our animals with ease.”
Despite challenges in the veterinary work and business, Mrs. Bayiga says that she is determined to achieve her dream of serving the community through animal care services. She explains: “I will continue to work hard to help in improving the household income of the people in the communities by treating their animals and encouraging the farmers on the benefits of livestock farming.”
This resource is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations under the project “Sustainable Business in Animal Health Service Provision through training for Veterinary Paraprofessionals.”