Livestock Health in AfricaThe most vital aspect of creating a sustainable environment for the future of African people is supporting and maintaining one of its most powerful industries: agriculture. The agriculture industry comprises fisheries, wildlife, livestock and farm production, accounting for 35 percent of the continent’s entire GDP. Livestock alone makes up 30 percent of the agricultural GDP, making it a crucial component of Africa’s economy.

Ensuring good livestock health in Africa is not easy. Herds often face extreme weather conditions, zoonotic diseases and malnourishment making it difficult to maintain successful farms. Some of these diseases, such as the African swine fever, Brucellosis, Fowl Pox and Rift Valley fever can wipe out entire herds and livestock if left untreated. Many of these zoonotic diseases can be linked to human epidemics as well, contributing to millions of human deaths. A decrease in livestock production due to disease, weather and malnourishment means food shortages and increasing poverty and disease across Africa.

5 Ways Veterinary Care Improves Livestock Health in Africa

With the African economy relying so heavily on livestock and agricultural production, the need for access to veterinary care has become a top priority. The number of trained veterinarians increased in African countries over the past few years for several reasons. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a number of nonprofits and government organizations are working together to provide African countries with veterinary assistance. Together, they hope to improve livestock health for a sustainable agriculture industry. Here are just a few initiatives to promote veterinary services:

  1. USAID provides fundings for veterinary training
    Through the USAID supported program Feed the Future Livestock for Growth (L4G) farmers in rural Mali can receive free training to become auxiliary veterinarians. This program provides farmers the opportunity to acquire medical training, professional development, superior animal care techniques, vaccines and medical equipment. The veterinarians can then provide quality livestock care to their entire community. Since 2015, L4G has successfully trained 79 auxiliary veterinarians in Mali, improving conditions in 76,000 households in over 800 communities. L4G has also increased vaccine security from 10 percent to 22 percent, saving half a million animals from disease. The Feed the Future initiative alone estimates that over 5 million people are no longer living in hunger and $10 billion has been generated by the agricultural industry since 2011.
  2. FAO and the European Union strengthen veterinary support
    The Strengthening of Livestock Services in Angola (SANGA) project is an FAO and EU initiative. It accelerates medical services for livestock and increases veterinary training for animal health auxiliaries in Angola. This project combines efforts of both public veterinary services and private animal auxiliary programs. SANGA develops a sustainable practice throughout the country to improve livestock health and eliminate food insecurity. SANGA hopes to use its resources to train 120 animal health auxiliaries and 20 veterinary technicians.
  3. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports livestock production
    In 2017, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a 14.4 million dollar grant to the animal health company Zoetis. Over three years, these funds will support animal health technology and veterinary services through the African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (ALPHA) initiative in Eastern Africa. This initiative will provide access to quality animal care and veterinary assistance to improve livestock health in Africa in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda. Funds will go directly to technical training and disease prevention as well as the development of animal infrastructure.
  4. World Vets International Aid for Animal
    This program brings universal veterinary care training to rural communities in Tanzania. World Vets deploys trained professionals to respond to the most critical needs of the agricultural industry throughout the country by providing locals with quality training and equipment. This program also donates $1 million a year to local veterinary assistance establishments to purchase medical supplies and prepare for emergency animal health needs.
  5. GALVmed distributes vaccines to millions of farmers throughout Africa
    This organization partners with the FAO, EU, World Organization for Animal Health and local governments to provide livestock vaccines and medicines that are easily accessible to the poorest and most isolated farmers in Africa. By developing sustainable agricultural practices to promote animal health, treatment for livestock diseases is better managed. Containing livestock diseases and eliminating malpractice in treatment will increase livestock production rate and improve livestock health in Africa.

Healthier Animals Can Reduce Poverty

Without the help of nonprofit and government programs, these initiatives to provide veterinary assistance to improve livestock health in Africa would have little to no success. Vet training gives local farmers the opportunity to utilize their own experience and technical training to give livestock the best care possible. Healthier animals mean more food, production revenue and booming agricultural industry for the entire continent, reducing the number of people living in poverty.

Becca Cetta
Photo: Creative Commons