16 November 2021, Uganda: Data on a ‘One Health’ approach to integrated crop-livestock advisory services for smallholder farmers in Uganda has been digitized to enable better capture, analysis and use with a view to helping them better protect their crops and livestock from pests/vectors and diseases.
A review of the project ‘Joint crop and livestock services for smallholder farmers in Uganda’ – funded by the Biovision Foundation – has revealed that farmer baseline information on One Health practices and knowledge gaps is now hosted on the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) National Food and Agricultural Statistics System (NFASS). It is also available as an app available on the Google Play Store called NFASS RMT.
The project – which has been delivered in partnership with MAAIF, Makerere University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and BioSecurity (COVAB), District Local Governments of the four districts in Uganda (Mukono, Luwero, Buikwe and Kayung) and VSF International in Kenya – suggests that a joint service approach offers opportunities for cost-saving, cost-efficiency and improved service delivery. This includes the benefits of shared staff transport, staff planning and training together.
CABI and partners developed integrated crop-livestock health advisory services for both male and female smallholder farmers – building upon CABI’s 15-years’ experience of providing plant health information through Plantwise plant clinics.
The joint clinics and consultations sought to broaden the scope of existing plant clinics to help better meet the farmers’ needs for agricultural advice and contributed to the overall goal of improving the health and livelihoods of smallholder farming families in East Africa.
The project built upon a previous study to assess demand for livestock services during plant clinic sessions in selected countries including Kenya and Uganda.
Joint crop-livestock clinics/consultation centres are now operational in the project’s four districts and, since their launch, over 441 farmers (181 female and 260 males), inclusive of repeat visits, have visited between April and mid-September 2021.
The main crops and plants taken to the clinics include bananas, coffee, cocoa, tomato, other cereals and fruits and vegetables as well as some diseased tree samples. For livestock advice, farmers have taken cattle, chickens, pigs and goats. Other animals such as rabbits, turkeys and pets (cats and dogs) were also taken to the joint clinics for advice on vectors, feeding or shelter.
Christine Alokit, CABI Communication and Extension Scientist based in Uganda, said, “Lessons learned so far from the joint clinics include increased awareness among staff and farmers on the interrelated health issues between plant, animal health and the environment. But also, the joint services promote cross-learning among agriculture and veterinary staff and among farmers in aspects of crop and animal vectors and diseases. They discuss management practices and interrelated health issues, nutrition and welfare, share experiences and learn from each other.
“At the clinics, farmers freely share their problems with the plant and veterinary doctors and get real-time advice tailored to their specific needs and prevention. The data captured during sessions is useful for tracing farmers and following up on queries while farmers and extension staff can access more information through materials provided – for example, factsheets relevant to farmers’ specific problems.
“Farmers’ demand for crop and livestock advice is broad and diverse and advisors get backstop support from senior officials who visit the clinic session – an important part of the service model.”
The village-based, mobile clinic approach (used in the pilot districts) increased farmer reach, allowing proximity to farmers who would not know how to access advisors but also enables easier follow-ups because the farmer’s home would be within reach.
It is now hoped that three more sites for crop-livestock clinics in Kenya can be piloted from next year. These include Isiolo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Trans Nzoia counties, depending on the availability of trained plant doctors and VSF’s engagements.