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Improving livestock assets in Kenya and Uganda

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When appropriately supported the pastoral production systems in the dryland areas of Karamoja (Uganda) and Pokot (Kenya) can be resilient to disasters, such as drought, and can contribute to livelihoods in the region. This article introduces a set of initiatives that have focused on animal health as a key determinant of resilience.

It is estimated that 80% of households own livestock in the Karamoja sub-region of Uganda, and that this represents approximately 20% of the national cattle herd, 16% of the goats, 50% of the sheep, 90% of the donkeys and almost all of the camels. It has been calculated that Karamoja, and the 2.4% of Uganda’s population that lives there, produces close to 20% of Uganda’s livestock output by value.

The Karamoja region also acts as a conduit for cattle movements from Kenya and Sudan into the rest of Uganda. However these movements can also bring disease and therefore the region needs to be targeted for disease control interventions to prevent their spread into other parts of Uganda and beyond.

With livestock from Karamoja playing such a central role in the livelihoods of the region and the national economy, improved animal health is a necessity for the region to develop, and for households to become more resilient and prepared for the onset of disasters. Access to animal health services, skilled veterinary staff, and timely and effective livestock disease surveillance are important components for improved animal health.

Three initiatives to highlight the importance of animal health

A DanChurchAid (DCA) led Consortium has undertaken three initiatives that underscore the vital role that animal health plays in the Karamoja region. These initiatives are the Quarterly Information Sharing and Advocacy Meetings on Animal Health, the creation of a Cross-Border Animal Health Committee, and advocacy with the Ministry for Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) for mainstreaming budgets for these activities.

The Institute for International Co-operation and Development (C&D) implements the first activity, the second activity is implemented by ACTED in conjunction with FAO, while the third activity is implemented by C&D and DCA.

The first two initiatives are similar in that they both focus on improving communication and information sharing/dissemination between and within governments (national and local), research institutions, academic institutions and veterinary professionals. Through this increase in knowledge exchange and coordination, the activities are contributing to a wider body of knowledge that is providing evidence for, and raising awareness about, the importance of increasing government spending on animal health in Karamoja.

Quarterly Information Sharing and Advocacy Meetings

One of C&D’s main activities surrounding animal health in Karamoja has been to build the capacity of the District Veterinary Officers (DVOs) to undertake livestock disease surveillance (LDS) in the region. With the support of the Karamoja Veterinary Laboratory (also run by C&D and supported with ECHO funds), C&D and DVOs were able to collect, test and analyse 5,065 samples from animals in 2011.

The information generated from such exercises is crucial for ensuring early detection and control of animal diseases, thereby facilitating the planning of appropriate interventions and minimising potential negative impacts on national pastoral economies, food security and trade.

To ensure that the data collected could be discussed and disseminated to all relevant stakeholders, C&D began carrying out Quarterly Information Sharing and Advocacy Meetings. These meetings brought together District Veterinary Officers, District (human) Health Officers, district Chief Administrative Officers and political leaders from the districts, as well as representatives from MAAIF, the Uganda Veterinary Association (UVA), the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), Makerere University School of Veterinary Medicine, FAO, the Karamoja Livelihoods Programme (KALIP), the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and other actors concerned with animal health.

In addition to the dissemination of livestock disease surveillance information to stakeholders, these events provided excellent forums for the exchange of ideas and the promotion of awareness about livestock in Karamoja.

The meetings enabled a wide range of actors to recognise the significance of veterinary services and disease surveillance in the livelihoods of the Karimojong people. Substantial time was devoted to debating and lobbying with political leaders on issues related to regional animal health and livestock development.

Many participants praised these events as innovative and successful, for their ability to bring together different players in the animal health and production sectors, for sharing information with political leaders, and for properly informing development and contingency planning. Through these meetings the many stakeholders in animal health in Uganda are now better informed about the situation in Karamoja, and are able to plan, act and respond in more effective ways.

Cross-Border Animal Health Committee

The Cross-Border Animal Health Committee grew out of an initial meeting that was held in Amudat District (which borders Kenya) in August 2011. The meeting was organized by ACTED with support from FAO, and brought together DVOs from both sides of the Uganda-Kenya border to discuss how to improve animal health through cross-border activities and a shared strategy. This first meeting confirmed interest from both sides of the border in increasing cross-border activities, planning and action.

Further meetings were held in Nairobi and Kampala, in September and November 2011 respectively, with ACTED and FAO support. These meeting evolved into a broader and more inclusive group of participants: Not only were DVOs from Karamoja, West Pokot and Turkana districts involved, but national government actors were also present - represented through MAAIF in Uganda and the Ministry of Livestock Development in Kenya.

The meetings reconfirmed at the national level the importance of cross-border animal health cooperation, and led to the commitment to create a Cross-Border Animal Health Committee to focus, and strategically direct, communication and action on cross-border animal health issues at the Uganda-Kenya border.

The creation of this committee is the first step in dramatically improving the communication between livestock authorities, and it is hoped it will lead to improved coordination and response to trans-boundary animal diseases.

The most recent meeting was held in Kampala in August 2012, and focused on finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ugandan and Kenyan Governments to officially create a Cross-Border Animal Health Committee. The creation of this committee is the first step in dramatically improving the communication between livestock authorities, and it is hoped it will lead to improved coordination and response to trans-boundary animal diseases. The MoU recognizes that both national policies and regional strategies and frameworks (including those supported by AU-IBAR, IGAD, EAC) mandate communication and coordination on cross-border livestock issues.

There is great potential for this Committee to improve the animal health conditions at the border and between countries, as well as positively impact security and livestock trade in the region. The MoU is slated to be signed in the first half of 2013 and will mark a major achievement, committing to the animal health needs of the populations in Karamoja, Pokot and Turkana.

Animal Health Budgeting Advocacy

The final initiative concerns increasing financial support to animal health interventions in Karamoja. Currently the majority of the Livestock Disease Surveillance and laboratory activities in the region are reliant on donor funds. As livestock is central to the livelihoods of the Karamoja population, and has the power to be a substantial contributor to Uganda’s GDP, having healthy livestock populations is critical to national economic growth. In response, DCA and C&D are working with the MAAIF to ensure that the financial and human resources for animal health, specifically for the Karamoja region, are increased within the Ministry. If sustained advocacy initiatives are successful, it is hoped that the Government of Uganda will take on funding and effectively managing the animal health needs in Karamoja.

In summary, these three initiatives are all building upon the technical disease surveillance and laboratory work to go further, and to increase and improve the communication, coordination and action on animal health issues both within Uganda and between Uganda and Kenya. Healthy livestock populations are part and parcel of productive, well developed communities, and these initiatives are contributing to just that.