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State allocates Sh37bn for foot, mouth disease vaccination

In the next five years, the government will spend Sh37 billion to vaccinate the country’s cattle population against the highly contagious foot and mouth disease (FMD).

To ensure the success of the programme, the government is working with partners who are offering budgetary and technical support.

State Department of Livestock Principal Secretary Jonathan Mueke said that foot and mouth disease has been a long-standing concern for farmers, veterinarians, and policymakers around the world, and outbreaks of this disease have the potential to cause significant economic losses, disrupt trade, and devastate livelihoods.

Mueke explained that these losses arise from the closure of livestock markets, the deaths of animals, treatment costs incurred during the treatment of sick animals, and the loss of production from the sick animals.

Foot-and-mouth disease is an acute, highly contagious viral infection of cloven-footed domestic animals (cattle, sheep, camels, pigs) and wildlife (buffalo, deer).

In a speech read on his behalf by the Director of Veterinary Services, Obadiah Njagi, during the opening of the FMD symposium at the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organisation (KARLO) on Monday, Mueke said that the livestock sub-sector in Kenya contributes about 12 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for about 40 per cent of the Agricultural Gross Domestic product.

“It also contributes over 40 per cent of farm gate value of agricultural commodities, whereas within the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), which constitute 80 per cent of Kenya’s land mass, it accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the employment opportunities and nearly 95 per cent of family incomes,” the PS said.

He explained that Kenya has a population of 18 million heads of cattle, 26.7 million goats, 18.9 million sheep, 3.2 million camels, 44.6 million poultry, 1.9 million donkeys, and 0.5 million pigs. The majority of these are found in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).

“In 2021, cattle production generated Sh103.5 billion. Overall, the value of livestock production, including livestock products, was measured at Sh161.6 billion (around 1.3 billion U.S. dollars),” said the PS.

Mueke said that the sector is faced with a myriad of challenges, which include severe drought, high prevalence of pests and diseases, inferior local breeds, poor rural access roads, poor farmer-processor linkages, and a lack of affordable credit facilities. The key among the diseases is foot and mouth disease.

“The County governments, in collaboration with the National government, have continued to apply control measures for FMD as outlined in the Animal Diseases Act Cap 364 of the Kenyan laws. However, two major challenges impede FMD control efforts: uncontrolled animal movements due to many factors such as drought, cattle rustling, and roadside grazing, and failure to respect quarantine requirements,” said Mueke.

The PS added that other challenges in the fight against the disease are very low percentage of vaccination coverage, leaving a majority of the animals susceptible to the disease, poor timing of vaccination, and the habit of vaccinating animals during rather than before outbreaks are reported.

“The government, through the directorate of veterinary services, has taken measures to control the disease and established a national laboratory for the diagnosis of foot and mouth disease at Embakasi and a vaccine production institute (KEVEVAPI) to avail affordable and efficacious vaccines,” said the PS.

While speaking to the press on the sidelines of the symposium, Director Njagi said that the government has prioritised the dairy, beef, and leather sectors, which all depend on livestock, and that the biggest threat to the agenda is FMD, which is why they are working hard to tackle the disease.

Njagi said that data from the recent census of livestock indicated about 18 million cattle, and the target is to vaccinate 80 per cent of the cattle population, which will address foot and mouth disease.

He explained that the most risky regions were the pastoral counties because of the animal movement as they searched for water and pasture.

“We have had some reported cases of the disease in the country where one farm lost around Sh14.5 million, which tells you that foot and mouth is quite an expensive disease to cure,” said Njagi.

He said that they are working with the private sector and other players to ensure that the vaccine is affordable and available to farmers.

Njagi said that the current cost of the vaccine is Sh500 per animal, which is highly subsidised by the government through the provision of cold chains, transport, and veterinary personnel to administer the vaccines.

Veterinary Inputs Suppliers of Kenya Chairman Wachira Mureithi said that the private sector plays a critical role in the fight against foot and mouth disease, and they needed to work together with the government to ensure the success of the vaccination programme.

“We believe that with good coordination between the government and the private sector, we can play a critical role in availing and delivering the vaccines to the farmers and doing the reporting and management of the disease,” said Mureithi.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a 

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