Reprieve to pastoralists as new vaccine for animal fever unveiled

Minister Kuti says the development would save affected regions up to Sh168m annually in treatment costs

By Osinde Obare

A vaccine to curb East Coast Fever has been launched.

The vaccine, developed in Kenya by the Government and development partners, is a big relief to livestock farmers in East, Central and Southern Africa where about 1.1 million cattle are lost to the disease every year.

Livestock Development Minister Mohammed Kuti launched the vaccine at Katuke Agricultural Development Co-operation farm in Trans-Nzoia County.

The minister said the vaccine will save the affected region Sh168 million annually.

The vaccine was developed jointly by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute, Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Global Alliance for Livestock and Veterinary Medicine.

Dr Kuti said the realisation of the vaccine is a milestone in the control of livestock diseases in Africa particularly livestock keepers in Kenya.

Value addition

“The effective control of animal diseases, including the East Coast Fever, is key to the realisation of Vision 2030 objectives,” he added.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Peter Maina Ithondeka, Kuti said the disease was a major constraint preventing farmers from keeping improved breeds in areas where it is rampant.

He said the disease would kill close to 100 per cent of the exotic dairy cattle. It is also a major killer of other varieties kept by local pastoralists.

Expensive venture

According to the minister it had become impossible for herders to plan their future or improve their livestock enterprises due to loss of cattle and their products.

“The vaccine is now a boost on agricultural production through marketing, value-addition and agri-business will improve the livelihoods of Kenyans and create wealth,” he said.

Ithondeka said the disease endangered 10 million animals in sub-Saharan Africa and that drugs used to treat the disease are very expensive — above the reach or ordinary farmers.

Major contribution

“ECF is a very expensive disease to treat. On average a farmer requires Sh6,000 to treat an adult animal,” said Ithondeka.

Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (Kenfap) lauded institutions that carried out tests and developed the vaccine.

Trans-Nzoia Kenfap Secretary Tom Nyagechaga said the launch will help farmers double production and earn more income.

Kuti said Vision 2030 recognises livestock development as a key player in national development and a major component of the wider agricultural sector.