Pastoralists in Ethiopia find a cure for hard-to-reach veterinary services

In remote and infrastructure deficient parts of Ethiopia, “Community Animal Health Workers” capacitated by ILO and its implementing partner are providing doorstep veterinarian services lowering hardships of the pastoralist community.

News | 29 August 2022
Howo Abdi, a pastoralist and Shikuri Aidid, a CAHW at Gerbi Kebele. ©ILO
With five of her goats falling sick in one day Ms Howo Abdi, a dairy producer from Gerbi Kebele, located in Ethiopia’s most remote Kebribeyah District of the Somali Region, was panic-stricken. Apart from the health of her livestock, what worried her the most was the expense of travelling to the nearby towns of Kebribeyah or Jijiga to get veterinarian services, which did not just mean additional costs, but also losing out on her day’s work.

While looking for a solution to her dilemma, she found out about a newly-trained Community Animal Health Worker (CAHW), Ms Shikuri Aidid, who had recently started veterinary visits in Kebele. “I took my goats to Aidid and she was able to provide screening and diagnostic services, just like they have in the towns, and her fees were minimal,” said Abdi. Enthused by eased access to one of the most essential services for her business, she also took advantage of vaccination services for nine of her cows.

“I am praying that the services of Aidid continue and grow for our community. It is unimaginable for us to have professional animal care support available on our doorstep all the time and at low prices,” added Abdi with a contented smile on her face.

Placement of Aidid in Gerbi Kebele is a result of an initiative between the ILO and Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Suisse (VSF Suisse) called “Engaging Host Community and Refugees in Dairy Development” (EHRDD) developed under the PROSPECTS Partnership. The initiative aims to strengthen the capacities of actors across the dairy value chain, including small-scale milk producers, dairy cooperatives, milk processors and traders, in both host and refugee communities in the Fafan zone of the Somali Region.

Mr Jean-Yves Barba, Chief Technical Advisor for ILO PROSPECTS in Ethiopia, explained: “ILO’s baseline study identified the lack of basic animal health services as a major impeding factor restricting growth of the dairy value chain in the region. Existing animal health services are mostly scattered, urban-based and have limited reach to milk producers and cooperatives. In pastoral communities like Kebribeyah district, 80 per cent households live in the proximity of domestic animals, making them vulnerable to zoonotic diseases.”

The first cohort of CAHWs graduated in June 2022. ©ILO
The Ministry of Agriculture had identified the training of CAHWs as an ideal solution to extend existing animal health services to these more remote areas. Thus, in June 2022, in support of the Ministry, the EHRDD initiative stepped up to support the development of a network of CAHWs in Kebribeyah district. Through a rigorous selection process, 15 potential candidates, including 3 women, were selected to support five remote kebeles in the region. They were given training on the “National Minimum Standards and Guidelines to Design and Establish a Sustainable Community-Based Animal Health Service” and on CAHW training manuals produced to cater to the unique characteristics and needs of the region.

The 21-day training programme used a participatory approach, based on a mix of practical and theoretical sessions. It covered topics related to diagnosis and control of livestock disease, including veterinary medicine administration and carrying out minor surgical procedures. On 1 June 2022, the first cohort of selected CAHWs graduated in Kebribeyah in the presence of the District Administrator, the Head of Livestock Development Bureau and other key local officials.

“To ensure that the graduates could initiate their services with immediate effect, they were provided with a start-up kit, including necessary medicines and equipment. The response was overwhelming, as within the first month of operations, the CAHWs treated over 14,800 animals in five kebeles. We have also linked them up with Private Veterinary Pharmacies (PVP) to ensure a sustainable supply of vet drugs and therefore continuation of uninterrupted services,” explained Mr Eirmyas Kaase, National Programme Officer, ILO PROSPECTS, Ethiopia.

The CAHWs learning to operate diagnostic tools. ©ILO
Realizing the vital importance and ever-increasing demand of CAHW services, the Gerbi Kebele administration provided a consulting room for Aidid, so that she would have space to stock medicines, mobilize the community and provide support and advice as needed. Within two months, Aidid has already treated over 500 animals in her kebele and even linked the owners directly to PVPs to obtain additional medicines. “I am glad that my skills and knowledge are giving me an opportunity to serve my community. This training has not just changed my life, but also eased the many concerns that affect my community and their livestock,” said Aidid with a feeling of pride in her voice.

EHRDD technical staff (livestock specialists) and the district pastoralist development offices are providing regular and periodic technical support and supervision to the CAHWs. “Efforts will be made to integrate these services within the dairy value chain administration. We are planning to hold discussions with the Dairy Development Dialogue forums. By sustaining these networks of CAHWs and scaling up training and support, Kebribeyah region can become a model for increased high quality dairy production, providing better livelihoods for host communities and refugees in the region,” added Barba.