Annual Scientific Conference
Kenya Veterinary Association
University of Nairobi
Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Services

VET ON CALL: Lessons from Botswana on reviving livestock industry

Last week was the time of the year that every veterinary doctor in Kenya looks forward to. This is because veterinary surgeons congregate in one of the eight regions of the country.

The vets, as we are called, meet under the auspices of the Kenya Veterinary Association (KVA) to hold the Annual Scientific Conference, the Annual General Meeting and celebrate the World Veterinary Day (WVD) on the last Saturday of April. On this day, we give free animal health services and advice farmers.

The Director of Veterinary Services of Botswana, Dr Lethokhile Modisa, was in attendance and he addressed the participants in the closing ceremony.

“I want to confirm to you that Kenya is the reason that Botswana is free of livestock diseases that affect trade in livestock and livestock products internationally,” he said to the shock of the 400 participants.

He explained that Botswana is free of foot and mouth disease in areas where livestock for the European market are raised, the country eradicated diseases like Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and the devastating tsetse fly that causes sleeping sickness in humans and trypanosomosis in livestock.

Rinderpest has also been eradicated. Other diseases like anthrax, lumpy skin disease and black quarter are kept under strict control through diligent and fail-safe vaccination programmes.

He is a graduate of the University of Nairobi at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. In fact, Modisa was my classmate and has remained a good friend. He was speaking in the country he called home for four years between 1984 and 1988 during his undergraduate studies.

He explained to the congregation that all past Directors of Veterinary Services in Botswana, except the ones of the colonial times, were trained at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nairobi. “If we have been able to use the Kenyan training to eradicate trade critical diseases in our country, then you in Kenya should do the same and we are willing to work with you,” he concluded.

Some members of the Class of 88 veterinary medicine graduates, Modisa’s classmates, had a re-union dinner after his address. Guess what?

In that class was the current Director of Veterinary Services in Kenya, Dr Obadiah Njagi. The running commentary during the dinner was that Kenya’s veterinary training is great, but we must make Kenya’s veterinary practice great like Boswana has done.

With the two Directors of Veterinary Services having graduated from the same class, no benchmarking tours will be needed. Telephone calls and emails will suffice, with possible visits from Botswana to Kenya rather than from Kenya to Botswana.

Kenya lost its European meat export quarter many years back and should repurpose to regain global meat export status to take advantage of the favourable environment for livestock production that the country naturally enjoys. That way, the livestock industry would greatly contribute to improvement of the livelihoods of Kenyans and achievement of food security in line with the government’s Big Four Agenda and Vision 20130.

What has happened in the Botswana livestock industry can be replicated in Kenya and in the human health sector. These are well documented interventions for disease eradication and control. What is often overlooked in the Kenyan situation is the non-technical component of disease control and eradication.

This comprises dedication by the technical actors mainly the doctors, public awareness to the farmers and the public, political goodwill and the provision of resources. Research has, for instance, shown that vaccinating 70 per cent of the dog population consistently for three years would eradicate rabies. Kenya’s rabies vaccination is erratic and sporadic, usually in response to outbreaks especially in humans. The disease is estimated to kill 2,000 Kenyans each year.

Trends of the disease between 2002 and 2012 showed an increase of reported cases in dogs, humans and livestock.

I advise owners of dogs, donkeys, cats and horses to ensure they vaccinate all their animals against rabies once per year without fail. As for people, anyone bitten or scratched by an animal should report to a health facility for treatment including post exposure rabies treatment, medically called prost exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Farmers should also ensure they vaccinate their cattle, sheep and goats against the common diseases of foot and mouth disease every six months and lumpy skin, black quarter and anthrax every year. In my area of practice in Nairobi North, we have been able to put these diseases under very strict control since 1992. We also do not have any outbreaks in all the farms that we service because of the strict, diligent and timely vaccination that we carry out.

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