Achieving Reliable Animal Health Services: Piloting “Animal Service Providers” in Xieng Khouang


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Reliable animal heath services are an essential component of livestock production within Laos. They are important both for enabling smallholders to escape poverty and also to achieve national objectives for livestock export. This case study presents a new model of animal health service providers (AHSPs) applied in Paek District, Xieng Khouang. The model involves the AHSPs’: a) working for a profit; b) providing a service across a number of villages; and c) providing a range of services including vaccination, treatments and procedures. A key feature of the AHSP model is that participants pay a fee to attend the training.

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Achieving Reliable Animal Health Services: Piloting “Animal Service Providers” in Xieng Khouang

  1. 1. ACHIEVING RELIABLE ANIMAL HEALTH SERVICES Piloting ‘Animal Health Service Providers’ in XiengACCELERATING DEVELOPMENT THROUGH AGRO-ENTEPRISE APPROACHES Khouang Lessons from the Small-scale Agro-enterprise Development for the Upland Project (CIAT /NAFRI/SDC) Reliable animal heath services are an essential component of livestock production within Laos. They are important both for enabling smallholders to escape poverty, and also to achieve national objectives for livestock export. SADU piloted a new model of animal health service providers (AHSPs) in Paek District, Xieng Khouang. The model involves the AHSPs’: a) working for a profit; b) providing a service across a number of villages; and c) providing a range of services including vaccination, treatments and procedures. A key feature of the AHSP model is that participants pay a fee to attend the training. Application of this model established 13 AHSPs in 3 Kumban of Paek district. Over the past 2 year period, their operation has resulted in: - vaccination coverage for ruminants increasing to 75% - services provided across villages, with as more ‘satellite’ villages as ‘home’ villages - a drop in livestock mortality, from ‘a lot’ in 2005 (prior to the service), to 41 in 2006 and just 10 in 2007. The model has now been replicated in Khoun and Nong Het districts. In areas where farmers have begun to manage their livestock, this model promises to deliver reliable animal health services. It is currently being replicated in two other districts of Xieng Khouang.
  2. 2. BACKGROUNDA recent survey in the northern provinces of Laos has shown that the mean annualmortality rate for ruminants was 8%, and pigs 33% 1 . Over the last 2-3 decades, themain intervention to address livestock mortality in Laos has been to providevaccinations against ‘classical’ livestock diseases (i.e. HMS, FMD, Swine fever, etc).While these are important, there are other animal health issues that lead to mortalityand morbidity which have remained largely unaddressed.The main method used to provide vaccination against the classical livestock diseaseshas been to establish Village Veterinary Workers, (VVW). These were usuallyfarmers selected by local authorities, provided training, and given a basic vaccinationkit. Despite many projects adopting this approach, the VVWs rarely provided aservice beyond the life of the project that initiated them. The VVW were conceived ata time when rural villages in Laos were inaccessible to both services and markets,and so any solution for animal health had to be based on the principal of self-sufficiency. Farmers themselves saw livestock as a way to accumulate capitol, andso avoided providing any inputs, including paying for vaccination.In recent years infrastructure in Laoshas improved greatly. Beyond thisan even more fundamental changein production systems has begun tooccur, through the introduction ofplanted forages as a source of highquality feed. This enables farmers tokeep their animals confined in pensor fenced areas. The higherproductivity, combined with themanagement of their animals,means farmers can now begin to selltheir animals on a regular basis. Thisin effect changes livestock from awealth accumulation activity, to anenterprise for income generation.With this also comes a change infarmer attitudes to the need toprotect their new source of income Fig 1. forages are a key raise cattle as an enterprise .through animal health measures, Forages provide an accessible feed and so enable farmers toand a willingness to pay for these manage their animals. This combined with high weight gainmeasures. allows farmers to sell on a schedule.FORMULATING THE AHSP MODEL.Planted forages were introduced to selected villages in 3 Kumban of Paek district,Xieng Khouang from 2000 2 . As a result of this a substantial number of farmers hadbegun to actively manage, and sell, livestock on a regular basis. With this shift1 Annex 4#, Final Report, Project Preparation for the Northern Regions Sustainable Livelihoodsthrough Livestock Development (formerly Participatory Livestock Development Project), ADB, 2006.2 Forage and Livestock Systems Project, (AusAID / CIAT /NAFRI /NAFES)
  3. 3. towards raising livestock as an enterprise, SADU worked with the ‘forage villages’ tocarry out a study of the livestock market-chain. The study showed: • high levels of cross-border trade to Vietnam, with 90% of these traded informally, resulting substantial revenue losses to the Province, • traders experiencing difficulty in sourcing good quality animals • delays due to paper work for trade and movement of stock lead to weight loss and a consequent loss of value • farmers suffering from weak negotiating positions, low production rates and high livestock mortality.Both farmers and traders were concernedabout livestock health and wanted to see thisaddressed. Given past experiences withVVWs it was determined that an alternativemodel was needed to provide a sustainableanimal health service. SADU developed aconcept of commercial ‘animal health serviceproviders’ (AHSP) who would: - work for a profit and thus provide incentives for services to continue - work across a number of villages (4-6 villages) to ensure there was an adequate volume of customers to make their enterprise feasible - provide a range of services including prevention (vaccination); treatment and procedures, to both address the needs of farmers and ensure work throughout the year. - eventually expand the services provided. As the AHSP services mature their may be scope to bundle other services into their work ie. providing a boar or bull for breeding.An important aspect of the AHSP conceptwas that, as AHSPs were to be effectivelyworking as a enterprise, they should pay fortheir training as an investment in theirbusiness.SADU designed a process for identifying and Fig. 2. Outreach service provided by AHSP.supporting the development of AHSPs. This One of the three AHSP (red squares) now providesdesign of this process was considered to be services to four satellite villages (black squares). The outreach services begin for ‘treatment’ and later includeas important as the definition of the AHSP vaccination. (Lat Buak Kumban, Paek, 2007).role itself. It consisted of the following steps: Step 1. Participatory assessment of animal health issues To raise awareness of farmers of the need for animal health services, and at the same time to inform extension staff of key animal health issues to be addressed.
  4. 4. Step 2. Promotion of the service as a new ‘enterprise’ To enable potential AHSPs to be aware of the opportunity and to express their interest, and at the same time to inform all villagers (i.e. potential customers) that a service would be forthcoming. Step 3. Establishment of AHSPs This included a training workshop, tailored to local needs. Farmers were charged a fee to attend the training; this was also a means of selecting farmers who were committed to providing a service. Strep 4. Back-up Back-up would be needed to support technical animal health issues, and management of their services.Those participating in the training would receive a certificate for attendance at thetraining only, with a full certificate of competence being provided after 12 month,following evaluation by PAFO and Kumban heads.PILOTING OF AHSP IN PEAK, 2006/07The AHSP model was piloted in three Kumban of Paek district in early 2006 3 wherefarmers in nearly half the villages already cultivated forages and managed theirlivestock. The practical application of the process for establishing AHSPs in Paekwas as follows.1. Identification of necessary animal health measuresDAFEO staff visited each of the ‘forage-villages’ to conduct a short questionnaire onanimal health issues. This showed that although ‘classical’ diseases accounted forthe majority of mortalities, at least 25% of the ruminant mortalities in the previous 12months were from non-‘classical’ diseases e.g. lameness, mange. While this datacollection was not overly rigorous, it did show that other types of animal healthservices, in addition to vaccination, are required.This data was presented by village representatives at a District level meeting. Thisraised awareness of the animal health problems across villages. The meeting wasthen used to introduce the idea of establishing AHSPs.2. Promotion of the service as a new ‘enterprise’The new AHSPs were promoted by providing Kumban Heads with 2 forms todistribute to the target villages: - a flyer to introduce the role of AHSPs, and to announce the training. - an expression of interest to be filled out by farmers interested to work as AHSP This required them to indicate which villages they would service, and why they thought they were suitable.The Kumban Heads returned the expression of interest forms to the PAFO, with theirown comments on the suitability of the interested farmers. There were 27expressions of interest, of which 13 farmers finally registered and paid the trainingfee of 250,000 K each. The Livestock Section of PAFO signed contracts with thefarmers to undertake the training. This contract included a provision for full return ofthe fee to the farmers if the training was not conducted within 30 days.3 Kang Vieng, Lat Buak and Nong Ped
  5. 5. 3. Establishment of AHSPs:Whilst the identification of prospective AHSPs was ongoing, the SADU team alongwith the PAFO and DLF prepared a curriculum for the training. The curriculum wasdeveloped to respond to the needs for animal health interventions shown by thevillage surveys. It also aimed to equip the AHSPs with skills that would be neededthroughout different times of the year, to ensure the AHSPs would have an incomeflow through the year. The curriculum included disease prevention (e.g. vaccinationagainst HMS etc), treatment (e.g. xxxxx) and procedures (e.g. castration).Training included a range of elements: classroom work, hands-on practice(vaccination, castration), panel discussion (AHSP from Thangorn dist., and veterinarymedicine shops), business management training and basic field kit provision withwritten handouts. The workshop of 6 days was held in April 2006 so that the AHSPwould be able to work immediately providing vaccinations prior to the wet season.Trainers for the workshop were drawn from PAFO and DAFEO staff of the province.4. Back-up:A one day meeting was arranged in May YEAR? to allow the AHSP to exchangeexperiences. Both technical and coordination issues were raised. This providedguidelines for the two day top-up training held in June, YEAR?.INCREASING SERVICES AND REDUCING MORTALITYThe AHSPs have been operating now for almost 2 full years in Paek, and havebegun to provide a basic animal health service on a reliable basis. They haveprovided vaccination and treatment to cattle, buffalo, pigs and poultry. This casestudy provides numbers for cattle and buffalo. There are a number of impacts of theAHSP’s work:Sustained operation and reach of service delivery: • All 13 AHPS were active through 2006. Four stopped working in 2007, leaving 9 AHSP providing a service to farmers. • In 2007, 5 of the 9 AHSP provided services outside of their own village. 11 of these ‘satellite’ villages are being serviced.While the number of AHSP reduced in the second year, this had been expected, andindeed thought to be part of the process. The remaining 9 AHSPs actively continue toprovide a service, expanding their services to 11 satellite villages in the second year.As the AHSPs consolidate their reputation, it is likely the confidence of farmers inthem will increase, and the demand for their serves will increase further. Activity 2006 2007Number of AHSP trained 13Number of AHSPs active 13 9Number of AHSP providing service to ‘satellite’ 1 5villagesNumber of ‘satellite ’ villages receiving service 1 11Total number of village receiving service 14 20(‘home’ + ‘satellite’ villages)Table 1 . Activity of AHSP in Paek district
  6. 6. Coverage and range of services.The AHSP initially provided vaccination 4 services just in their own villages, oftenstarting with family members. They were requested to provide treatment 5 to animalsin neighboring villages. This contact with neighboring villages often led to them beingasked to also provide vaccination. By 2007 the range of service provision was: • vaccination coverage for cattle and buffalo in the ‘home’ villages of the AHSPs averaged 75% of animals, • the 9 active AHSP were providing services to 11 satellite villages. They carried out vaccinations in 5 of these villages. • treatments were provided to 89 large animals in 2006, and 62 in 2007. • across the home villages of the 9 active AHSP, there appears to have been a significant reduction in livestock mortality. Activity in villages of 9 active AHSPs 2005 2006 2007Coverage of cattle and buffalo 20-25% 62 75vaccinatedTreatments provided - 89 62Treatments un-successful - 9 5Total Deaths (cattle + buffalo) ‘a lot’ 41 10Table 2. Vaccination coverage and reduction of ruminant mortalityWhile this reduction in mortalitymay be affected by naturalfluctuations in disease outbreak,it does appear to have been aresult, at least in part, to theactivity of the AHSPs. Thereduction in requests fortreatment is consistent with this,as most treatments are for HMSand ‘black leg’. The high rate ofsuccess from treatments wouldalso have contributed to reducedmortality. The Heads of theKumban and the DAFEO Headstrongly confirm the benefit ofthe AHSP work.Economics of AHSPsThe fees that the AHSPs chargewere discussed in early Kumban Fig. 2 Preparation of livestock a key to profitabilitymeetings, with rates set as: The AHSP typically vaccinate just 40 head per day. Holding yardsvaccination for large animals and crushes should increase their output, as well as improve(HMS) at 3,000 kip/head, and for profitability.pigs (Swine fever) at 2,000kip/head.4 Vaccination for large animals was typically for HMS, and for pigs, was for swine fever.5 Treatments for large animals was typically for HMS and Khaki Buam. For pigs the treatments weremainly for intestinal parasites.
  7. 7. The fees for treatment are not set but are agreed on between the AHSP and farmer.The above figures were developed solely as guides as the AHSP can vary the fees,according to the amount of time or difficulty in providing their service. Managementand preparation of the animals for vaccination and treatment are the responsibility ofthe owners; some villages do not do this preparatory work, and as such the AHSPprefer to avoid the village, as they waste too much time.There is some risk for the AHSPs when they are called only when the animals arealready very sick. To protect themselves, especially when the sickness is welladvanced, they may refuse to treat the animal, or warn the owner that they cannotguarantee success. If the farmer insists on service they then proceed.On average, over the 2 year period of their operation, the 9 active AHSPs invested900,000 kip,in their enterprise and received a profit of 1,100,000 kip. This representsa return of over 100% on their original investment. The 2 most active AHSPs madeprofits of over 2,000,000 kip during this period.These incomes levels are not high, and do not represent a sole enterprise for any ofthe AHSPs. At present it is one of a number of livelihood activities they areundertaking. This is evident in that just 2 of the 9 active AHSP are keen to expandtheir service to additional villages. There is some risk that they could be diverted toother activities and this would mean farmers again lacked a service. It appearsunlikely that costs for veterinary inputs can be reduced, or the fees charge to farmersraised. A good possibility for improving the AHSPs work is to look at efficiencyissues. Currently the AHSPs vaccinate just 40 head per day, at this rate it takes themfive days to vaccinate a village herd of 200 animals. The introduction of village‘herding yards’ and ‘crushes’ could greatly increase the efficiency of this work.REPLICATION OF THE AHSP IN KHOUN AND NONG HETFollowing the success of the AHSP in Paek, the Livestock and Fisheries Section ofthe PAFO repeated the model in 2 other districts where forages had been introduced.Nong Het – Forages were introduced in 2002. Now over 600 households in 50villages have established forage plots and begun fattening their cattle.Khoun – Forages were introduced in 127 households in 6 villages in 2006.Fatteninghas begun in 2 villages 6 .A similar process of identifying and supporting the establishment of AHSPs wasprovided. The training fee was increased to 300,000 kip and the materials providedreduced, to gradually move towards higher cost recovery for the training. Activity 2007/08 Khoun Nong HetNumber of AHSP trained 18 9Number of AHSPs active 14 5Number of AHSP providing service to ‘satellite’ 7 3villagesNumber of ‘satellite’ villages receiving service 8 8Total number of villages receiving service 22 13(‘home’ + ‘satellite’ villages)Table 3. Replication of the AHSP in Khoun and Nong Het (2007)6 Final Report, Capacity Building for Small Holder livestock Development Project, CIAT 2008.
  8. 8. In both Khoun and Nong Het, a core group of AHSP have been active in providing aservice to other farmers. It is too early to collect data on reduction of livestockmortality, but service delivery to these villages has significantly increased. In bothdistricts there are villages with > 80% vaccination of large animals. In both districtsthe most active AHSPs have already begun to provide services outside their ownvillage to satellite villages. (see Table 3). Fig. 4. Women AHSP s (2007/08) Two of the five active AHSPs in Nong Het are women. They also provide services to cattle and buffalo which are big income earners in the district. Dealing with the large animals is not a problem for them, as management of the animal is the responsibility of the owner. They expect to expand their services to additional villages in the coming year.ASSESSMENT OF THE AHSP MODELThe AHSP in Paek have been operational for 2 years and those in Khoun and NongHet for one year. Their performance in all areas will continue to be monitored.However at this point some preliminary observations can be made:1. Farmers are willing to pay for animal health services.A number of farmers are willing to pay for both vaccination and treatment services.There are a number of repeat of farmer ‘clients’ in the second year and services haveexpanded to additional villages. It is important to note that acceptance of the servicehas not been universal. There are villages where the AHSPs could not work due tofarmers lack of interest. Examination of the factors that contribute to use of theservice has shown: - Villages should already be managing their livestock and raising them for regular sale before establishing AHSPs. Farmers then are keen to protect their income, and find it easy to arrange their animals for vaccination. A key step for achieving this is the cultivation of forages as an accessible feed which allows better management of livestock. Many villages in Khoun had not yet begun to do this - Village and Kumban heads play an important role in announcing and supporting the use of the service. While the AHSPs have technical skills, they are not able to organize farmers to prepare for vaccination. Village Heads can play a key role in planning for vaccination within a village. The Kumban heads are particularly important in mobilizing the cross-village service delivery. Both village and Kumban heads need to be involved in establishing this service.
  9. 9. - Where the process for identifying potential AHSPs is not followed, as in Nong Het and another project in Xieng Khouang (which was trialling the AHSP model), those trained have not been as active in providing services to other farmers. The process to identify the potential AHSPs, and ensure that they are committed to this enterprise, is considered a key to its success.2. AHSP model can provide a sustainable and wide spread serviceIn each of the districts, there were a few trainees that chose not to work as AHSPs;this is considered to be normal in the establishment of a new ‘industry’. Thoseremaining continued to provide their service without any support by staff. Thisongoing commitment is particularly evident in the expansion of their services toadditional villages over time.While the income the AHSPs obtain is high relative to their investment, it is still smallin absolute terms. They still regard the work as a sideline activity, and thus there is arisk they could be attracted to other activities. Ways to make the activity moreefficient and productive need to be considered for the service to be sustainable. Thiscan include more efficient arrangements for vaccination, or bundling of other servicessuch as breeding, etc.3. Reduction on livestock mortality is achievedThe collected data, and anecdotal evidence, strongly suggest there has been asignificant reduction in livestock mortality. The reduction may still be a naturalfluctuation in disease outbreaks, and will need to be monitored further. Howeverthere is a strong local perception that the AHSP have been effective in reducinglivestock mortality.There are further areas that the piloting of AHSP should examine. These include:1. An evolution of services provided by the AHSPs can be expected.Once endemic diseases are reduced, and/or farmers begin to apply the treatmentsthemselves, then the AHSP may need to focus on providing a new set of services.These may includes treatments and procedures, such as; difficult calving, castrationetc. Additional training support may be required.2. The national strategy for animal health refers specifically to the VVW.The AHSP will need to be assessed by Department of Livestock and Fisheries to seehow it fits with the national strategy. Such an assessment would include: their role,the process and curriculum for their training, and their final certification.3. Refinement and streamlining of support provided to the AHSPs to enablegreater cost recovery by the PAFO trainers. This could include: higher training fees(once it is clear to potential AHSPs that working as a AHSP will be profitable) andcollection of payment for the books and equipment now supplied.
  10. 10. IMPLICATIONS for LAOSAt this stage the AHSP model appears to be a viable approach to animal healthservice delivery in Laos. If the model is going to continue working, there are anumber of implications.1. Application in LaosThis model could be applied in areas where farmers have already begun to managetheir livestock. The establishment should include the process of identifying andsupporting the new AHSPs. Its application promises to significantly reduce livestockmortality. This would both reduce a burden on smallholders, and increase the stockfor breeding.2# Development StrategiesThis model represents a shift from providing direct training and technical advice tofarmers, to focusing on the development of service providers. Service providers havethe advantage that they are motivated to spread their service and thus have thepotential to have widespread impact. In some cases they are also likely to providetechnical advice to farmer clients. Other areas of extension, where this model couldbe applied include; fruit tree propagation, fish production, etc. Small-scale Agro-enterprise Development for the Uplands Project (SADU) SADU has been funded by SDC and implemented by NAFRI and CIAT to pilot new approaches that will enable stallholder farmers to engage in market systems. The initial activities have been conducted in Xieng Khouang (Paek, Khoun and Phou Khouth district) and in Louang Prabang (Xieng Ngeun and Phak Xaeng districts). Further information about the project, can be obtained directly from the CIAT office in NAFRI compound Dorn Dok; the NAFRI web site; or the CIAT Asia web site.