Maiduguri, Nigeria – In a bid to safeguard livestock production among vulnerable pastoralists in northeast Nigeria, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has supported the establishment of Community-based Animal Health Workers (CBAHWs) in Borno State. The initiative aims to build capacity of 150 youths who will provide veterinary support to pastoralists in their respective communities. The youths will also be equipped with the necessary veterinary tool kits.
Borno State is the epicentre of a long-drawn-out regional armed conflict that has constrained access to social services such as health and education, as well as markets. Prior to the crisis, millions of smallholder pastoralists owned sizeable herds of livestock and poultry flocks which served as their productive asset base. The ongoing conflict has caused a substantial depletion of the livestock population and has disrupted critical veterinary infrastructure leading to increased risks of endemic animal diseases.
CBAHWs play a critical role in the community-level prevention, early detection and curtailment of animal diseases, particularly in remote areas. They provide efficient, cost-effective and demand-driven technical veterinary services to rural pastoralists. The CBAHW system by FAO will address the challenges currently faced by pastoralists in accessing veterinary services in the state.
The first batch of 40 trainees graduated on 19 October 2020 and will now be registered with and licensed by the Veterinary Council of Nigeria. The initiative is structured as a two-pronged approach to create jobs for youths and simultaneously revive the rural animal healthcare system in the State. To promote sustainability of the activity, FAO is conducting the trainings in close partnership with the University of Maiduguri Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Borno State Department of Veterinary Services, which will continue to supervise and mentor the CBAHWs.
“The availability and accessibility of an effective animal healthcare system is fundamental to building resilient livelihoods in rural regions like Borno, where many residents rely on livestock and poultry for income generation and food security,” Al Hassan Cisse, Head of FAO’s Northeast Sub-Office, stated. He pointed out that in the context of Borno, which has been impacted by a protracted humanitarian crisis, a community-based approach can lay the foundations for the gradual revival of disrupted social services including animal healthcare.
Setting a new trend for women in animal healthcare
Although they play critical roles in enhancing agricultural development, rural women are often constrained in their ability to acquire agricultural skills. In Borno, the field of veterinary medicine is dominated by men. Of the 39 veterinarians currently employed by the State Government, only three (about 8 percent) of them are females.
Of the 40 graduating CBAHWs trained by FAO, 20 percent are women. “The training has enlightened me on common zoonotic diseases and how to prevent their spread. I also learned that animal health and human health are sometimes connected,” Eunice Wakirwa, a female CBAHW said. She further revealed that she is very enthusiastic about her new career because she can now provide support to women pastoralists in her community who may not be in a position to interact freely with male veterinarians.
The establishment of the CBAHW system in the State is part of a comprehensive development initiative funded by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa, jointly implemented by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). The initiative aims to restore agriculture-based livelihoods, promote gender equality and enhance the resilience of around 100 000 conflict-affected households in Borno.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations