Contributing to health, welfare and sustainable farming in Kenya
Having graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2015, I initially joined a mixed practice in Cornwall where I developed an interest in farm animal medicine. I joined Westpoint’s Horsham practice as an intern nearly three years ago.
Westpoint has links with Sidai, a Kenyan company that aims to improve livestock and agricultural productivity as well as health, welfare and sustainability of farming and farming families. Recently, I was lucky enough to visit Africa to experience the daily work of vets and vet technicians.
An exchange programme between Westpoint and Sidai was developed to allow transfer of knowledge and skills to further improve health and welfare in dairy and poultry farming. Last year, two members of Sidai visited Westpoint and had the chance to tour some of our farms; I visited Kenya shortly afterwards.
In Kenya, vets either work alone as private practitioners or within veterinary product distribution shops/livestock service centres, like Sidai. The country has few qualified practising vets, especially in the north of the country where traditional pastoralist farmers may have to walk two to three hours to reach a vet. Private practice is poorly regulated and as vets’ income is based on disease/animal health issues, improving farms and farmer knowledge has an impact on what vets earn.
"Developing client education and training will help the dairy industry to grow and improve"
I spent five weeks at two of Sidai’s sites in central Kenya. We visited local smallholder dairy farmers to assess how they produced milk and how we could help them improve production, animal health and welfare. It was a humbling experience.
As well as advising individual farmers, I participated in farmer training. I also helped to train some of Sidai’s staff and produced training materials for them.
Currently, veterinary medicines are sold by franchises at agrovet shops and pharmacies that supply both human and animal products. They can also be sold at market stalls by people with no formal qualifications and minimal training.
Such issues lead to a huge variation in the quality of livestock care in a country where two-thirds of the population rely on livestock for their income.
Anna with the Sidai team at the franchise branch in Thika
Sidai operates veterinary product distribution shops all over the country and uses trained vets and vet technicians to provide advice, technical support and education. It also produces its own range of feed products and some veterinary medicines.
Developing client education and training will help the dairy industry to grow and improve.
It wasn’t all hard work – I had the opportunity to see some of the local wildlife on a day trip to Meru National Park, and visit the Nairobi elephant orphanage and a giraffe conservation centre.