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Sleeping sickness transmitted by Africa’s tsetse flies is arguably the major livestock disease and one of the major constraints to crop production across the fertile lowlands of Ethiopia. This wasting disease maims and kills dairy cows that provide households with regular income, food for children and draft oxen that allow farmers to open up and work the land. The nearest animal health facilities are far from the Ghibe Valley, in southwestern Ethiopia, where the disease has been endemic, and cannot provide the communities that live there with veterinary services when their animals get sick. This vast and fertile land, once held hostage to this disease, has ‘come back’, with crop production and animal husbandry intensified by control of animal sleeping sickness.
Twenty years of work by ILRI in the region, which started as a research project, has recently been transformed into community-led livestock disease control. A three-year ILRI project funded by COMART, a private Canadian foundation, in the Ghibe Valley has resulted in the formation of animal health ‘cooperatives’. Four communities have developed their own animal health services. Members contribute money to a revolving fund used to buy veterinary drugs to control animal sleeping sickness. ILRI and the Wereda Bureau of Agriculture have been helping the new cooperatives prepare work plans as well as to buy and apply the drugs. The scheme is highly successful. Hundreds of farmers line up every month to pay for the treatments, the drugs demonstrably improve the health of their livestock, and neighbouring communities are asking for support to set up similar services in their areas. A network that formed early among the participating communities and cooperatives allows stakeholders in the project to learn from each other quickly. This farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer is now speeding the scaling out of these community-based schemes to control livestock disease.
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