22 September 2021, Uganda: A CABI-led pilot project to apply a ‘One Health’ approach to advisory services to help 1,200 smallholder farmers in Uganda tackle major crop and livestock health and production problems, is already reaping benefits despite challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project has so far established four joint crop-livestock clinics in four villages in Luwero, Buikwe, Kayunga and Mukono districts, where men and women farmers receive advice on a range of crop and livestock topics including ‘One Health issues’ such as mycotoxins, zoonoses and the safe use and handling of chemicals such as acaricides. District crop and livestock advisors work side-by-side to address the issues and support each other.
Funded by the Biovision Foundation and carried out in collaboration with VSF Suisse in Kenya, Makerere University, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) as well as the District Local Governments, the project builds upon a previous study to assess demand for livestock advice during plant clinic sessions in selected countries including Kenya and Uganda. CABI’s 16 years’ experience of working with plant clinics, notably through the Plantwise programme, had revealed potential for making more of the plant clinics. In several countries, for instance in Peru, plant doctors began, informally, to give advice on animals too, because farmers asked for it and had nowhere else to go.
This pilot project provides an opportunity to explore how such joint services can be formalised, building on existing extension structures and capacities. It is envisaged that the integrated crop-livestock clinic approach will enhance cost efficiency in service delivery and lead to enhanced knowledge and awareness of farmers on the inter-dependence of crops and livestock for productivity, health and food safety. The project will strengthen the crop-livestock health advisory system among plant and livestock outreach services and explore the possibilities of expanding the model to farmers in Kenya following on from lessons learnt as part of the pilot study in Uganda.
Information obtained from a sample of farmers from the four pilot districts shows that attendees have knowledge of some ‘One Health’ aspects but that this appears somewhat scattered and incomplete – particularly on the issue of antimicrobial resistance. This information will help focus the training of clinic staff and the selection and development of appropriate extension materials. Farmers have also realised more access to veterinary services with a case in this is follow up by Veterinary staff. Dr Didas Kintu from Mukono district reported reaching out to more farmers based on the cases that were brought to the joint clinic and realising the urgent need to deworm and vaccinate poultry. He arranged a follow up visit with farmers and dewormed their animals, reaching about 50 households in a day.
Christine Alokit, CABI Communication and Extension Scientist based in Uganda, said, “The project was launched in January when the country was experiencing less COVID-19 pandemic cases. However, following a resurgence of the virus in June 2021 and a 42-day nationwide lockdown, clinic operations were interrupted due to restricted movements across districts.
“Nevertheless, we are determined that more smallholder farmers will benefit from the ‘One Health’ approach as lockdown restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, we have also been busy establishing links with VSF-Suisse (Vétérinaires Sans Frontières) in Kenya and Welttierschutzstiftung (WTS) to increase collaboration.
“Indeed, following our discussions with VSF Suisse it is hoped that we can pilot three sites for crop-livestock clinics in Kenya from 2022: Isiolo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Trans Nzoia counties, depending on the availability of trained plant doctors and VSF’s engagements.”
A number of agreed operational strategies and priorities have already successfully been adopted at the joint crop-livestock clinics. These include development of data capture and management systems that can enable easy capture of interrelated crops and animal health issues. The project team is closely studying how the interface with crop and livestock farmer queries can be handled to enable efficient cross learning among farmers and extension and how to best quickly follow up for animal health queries that are currently restricted to the joint clinic.