Isiolo farmers halve livestock deaths with tank

Livestock farmers in Isiolo district have joined together to rehabilitate a neglected dip tank, following mounting flock losses to tick-borne diseases, in a cost-sharing, local initiative they say has already halved their livestock mortality.

The more than 200 livestock farmers were losing herds of flock to common livestock diseases such as East Coast Fever and African trypanosomiasis, locally referred as sleeping sickness, as the cost of drugs escalated and veterinary officers, based in towns, become increasingly inaccessible. Without government support, the farmers therefore joined hands in 2010 to look for a lasting solution.
“We had to come up with a quick solution.

We live in an area that is under constant livestock disease outbreaks, some of which are easily preventable. On average, a farmer would spend over Sh3000 in medication monthly in drugs or cure for the livestock. At times we would self diagnose, which would be lethal, but it’s the only thing we could do since the veterinary officers were a handful and were charging us beyond our means,” said Osman, one of the livestock keepers who was actively involved in the rehabilitation of the livestock dip tank after losing cows, including three calves, within a span of 6 months. Three died as a result of wrong dosing.

By pooling funds from their sale of milk, each farmer contributed Sh50-Sh200 a day for three months. The proceeds then bought building materials and were used to clear space where animals would rest as they waited to be dipped. After eight months of consultation and saving, the livestock farmers managed to put up the dipping tank on their own. They then hired the only private veterinarian in the area for vaccination and general assessment of the animals that come for

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are now the dipping days, since weekends are market days and the animals need to look clean and healthy to attract traders who come all the way from Ethiopia and Nairobi to one of the largest livestock markets in the country.

The livestock keepers pay Sh200 per livestock head for the dipping, which goes into maintaining the dipping tank and paying the veterinary officer. Once the livestock owner gets the receipt, their livestock are ushered into an open field where they are queued for dipping.
After passing through the dipping tank the veterinary awaits the livestock on the other end. He performs a thorough scrutiny of the animals which includes deworming and artificial insemination services
if needed.

“The idea is such a novel one, because, for example, so many of the livestock brought here, I would say 40 per cent, have tick borne tendencies, so you can imagine how much the dipping tank is saving them. I have seen many, many animals recover through this project,” said Athman Seif, the only veterinarian at the dipping tank. The popularity of this dipping tank has now moved the project to even pets
like dogs.

Moreover, farmers only need to take their livestock twice a month. As the gap created by inadequate public extension services increases, community initiatives such as the Isiolo dipping tank are emerging as solution that are saving thousands of livestock from preventable diseases.

Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter