Making partnerships, markets to fight Newcastle disease in Uganda

Scientists in a lab. Partnerships are a good vehicle to deliver the results of their efforts to the intended recipients in the most convenient way possible. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE

Chickens are an important source of income and food for rural families across Africa. But Newcastle disease, a highly infectious viral disease that affects poultry, can be fatal and wipe out entire flocks.

While there is no cure for the disease, vaccination is enough to control the disease and protect valuable chickens and other poultry.

Removing barriers
A new I-2 vaccine, which can last longer than a conventional vaccine, is making a huge difference to Ugandan poultry keepers’ livelihoods, especially in rural areas.

One of the biggest obstacles faced by small-scale farmers and poultry keepers is that vaccines quickly lose effectiveness if not kept refrigerated, usually within two hours.

The benefit of the vaccine is that it is thermotolerant, which means it can be stored for longer without refrigeration in temperatures up to 37 degrees Celsius without any temperature variations.

This makes it more user-friendly: even in remote rural areas, poultry keepers can administer the liquid vaccine themselves directly into birds’ eyes or nostrils.

To help bring this vaccine to where it is needed most, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) has partnered with private vaccine manufacturer, Brentec, based in Kampala, Uganda.

GALVmed is a non-profit organisation working towards available and accessible livestock vaccines for smallholder farmers, and this partnership is enabling Brentec to produce the vaccine (Brentec’s branded vaccine is called Kukustar) and distribute it to rural areas.

Sarah Nanzala, a farmer who has been rearing chicken for more than five years has noticed a huge difference since using the vaccine.

“I used to rear 50 chickens and around 20 would die as a result of Newcastle Disease. But since I started using [the vaccine] none of my chickens have died.”
Stephen Muchiri is another farmer who has realised the importance of vaccinating chickens.

“We are lucky that whenever we need to, we can vaccinate our birds. The fact that we can reduce the mortality rate of the birds is making farmers love keeping the birds.”

Private sector for public good
Together, Brentec and GALVmed are using a private sector model to effectively distribute the vaccine to farmers through agrovets.
Under this model, farmers pay a small fee to purchase the vaccine from agrovet businesses that, in turn, order the vaccine in bulk from the company.

By paying a small fee, farmers appreciate the economic value of the vaccine in comparison to free-distribution models, which often only last as long as a project or campaign is funded.

As Brian Bigirwa, the quality assurance manager at Brentec, explains: “Most initiatives fail because people give out the vaccine for free. So, farmers do not understand the value of the vaccine. But if a farmer spends as little as Shs100 on the vaccine and they manage to sell the healthy chicken for Shs12,000, they can see the value. I encourage organisations trying to [combat livestock diseases] to make vaccines affordable but never free. Farmers need to understand the value for a sustainable market.”

The private sector model works well, according to poultry keepers, farmers, agrovets, and extension workers because, “We get these vaccines when we need them, in the quantity we need, and well before the expiry date,” says vaccinator, Stephen Ikona.
Another positive is that farmers are able to contribute what they can towards the vaccine quantity required for their flocks: as little as Shs100 ($0.03) for a small vial.

Using formal distribution channels helps reduce animosity caused by access difficulties and uneven distribution efforts. For example, Godfrey Anyoti, a farmer now also helps to vaccinate his neighbours’ birds.

“It makes sense and it helps to carry out the [vaccination] programme without any loopholes because the neighbours can afford the same as you in this system,” he says

Paying attention to poultry
Creating a long-term, viable vaccination market for poultry makes sense for all those involved.

Samson Ojakol, an extension worker for Buyengo sub-county in Jinja District, thinks the public-private partnership is a wonderful approach, “the poultry industry in Uganda was neglected before,” he says. “Now we are saving the life of birds and improving the lives of people.”

This article is contributed by Susanna Cartmell-Thorp <[email protected]>. For more about poultry farming, register for Daily Monitor/Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic on May 7.