A woman vet prepares vaccine for delivery

How public-private partnerships will revolutionize women farmer empowerment in rural Ghana

In Ghana’s remote Bawku West Region, veterinary care is hard to come by. For Dorcas Ayere, this veterinary care is critical for keeping her household secure. She relies on goats, sheep and chickens for income. 

‘In the rainy season, I sell animals to pay for my children’s schooling, for health services and for inputs for our farming’, says Dorcas. But she can’t access vaccines for her animals. 

For Dorcas, livestock, especially chicken and goats, are crucial for food and nutrition security in Ghana. Serving as valuable assets for women farmers, chickens and goats are more easily managed and owned than land resources. 

However, preventable diseases, such as Newcastle disease in chickens and peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in sheep and goats, have led to significant animal deaths, adversely affecting women’s livelihoods and that of their households. 

Despite the availability of vaccines, cultural and traditional practices, limited awareness and lack of financial capacity have hindered women’s access to animal health services that could save their livestock. 

Male livestock keepers mostly access such services because women are discouraged from liaising with male veterinarians; men are the ones to decide whether to invest in animal vaccines, have few mobility constraints, and access information and inputs more easily than women. 

To address these challenges, the Women Rear project, in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), CARE International in Ghana and Cowtribe Technology Limited, has focused on developing a model to improve access to vaccines for women livestock keepers through a gender transformative approach and promotion of public-private partnerships. 

The project, which ends in July 2023, is promoting the use of its approaches by the government and private sector.  

Women line up to receive vaccinations for their chickens

Women line up to receive vaccinations for their chickens (photo credit: ILRI).

Filling the gap

Approximately 50% of households in Ghana depend on livestock for food and income. Poultry and goats, many of which are owned by women, are essential to address the scarcity of animal protein in diets.

While evidence suggests that livestock vaccine systems do not adequately reach women, there has been limited research on interventions that can enhance gender responsiveness within these systems. 

The Women Rear project was designed to address the identified constraints faced by women goat and chicken keepers in remote areas. 

The project tested the effectiveness of new approaches, such as engaging women veterinarians and lead farmers, adopting digital technologies and using radio as a communication medium. 

It also focused on addressing gender norms and improving the cold chain infrastructure in a package that combines technological and social innovations. 

Vaccines are delivered via drone

Vaccines are delivered via drone (photo credit: ILRI).

‘Transforming food systems in Africa through the livestock sector depends on a vaccine delivery system that works for both male and female farmers,’ –Agnes Loriba, CARE International.  

Insights and outcomes

The Women Rear project provides valuable insights into what works for livestock vaccine systems to be accessible to women farmers. 

It found that women animal health service providers could reach women livestock keepers more effectively than male veterinarians. 

It showed that developing digital tools that are accessible by women farmers, training 170 female lead farmers to coordinate and bulk vaccines requests in the village, and recruiting two women veterinarians increased access to livestock vaccines for 4000 women farmers. 

Encouraging the involvement of women animal health service providers in the public and private systems through targeted training enhanced their acceptance by communities (who usually associate veterinarians with men) and their effectiveness. 

Additionally, identifying women lead farmers as community leaders and facilitators of vaccine access and information dissemination proved to be a sustainable approach. 

Another successful strategy was adapting digital technologies to reach rural women and improve cost-effectiveness. 

CARE International led community conversations to engage community members in reflective dialogues that challenged gender-based discrimination and supported women and men to improve their livelihoods. 

Creating cold-chain infrastructure, supported by solar-powered refrigeration and the use of drones, improved the timely delivery and quality of vaccines, reducing wastage by 30%. 

The economics of this project also add up. 

Peter Awin, founder and chief executive officer of Cowtribe, the implementation partner in the Women Rear project, reports that the price of vaccines has been reduced by 68%, mostly due to reduced delivery fees. 

This has been achieved by partnering with a drone delivery company, Zipline, bringing vaccines directly to customers and bypassing expensive and time-consuming ground transportation. 

While CARE and Cowtribe worked on the implementation of activities, the ILRI gender team assessed systematically what approaches worked best to support the empowerment of women, their access to vaccines and their livelihoods.

Dorcas Ayere is a livestock keeper in Ghana's Bawku West

Dorcas Ayere is a livestock keeper in Ghana's Bawku West Region (photo credit: ILRI). 

‘Most vaccine delivery systems in low- and middle-Income countries overlook the majority of livestock keepers: women. How can farmers who lack access to animal health services, information and technologies leverage livestock to support their households? Gender-responsive animal health systems are necessary to improve the nutrition and livelihoods of rural communities through livestock’, -Alessandra Galiè, gender team leader at ILRI.

Moving forward

Not only are livestock farmers, especially women, benefitting from the project, but the Government of Ghana is also taking notice.

It recently launched a PPR eradication campaign and is collaborating with the project partners to implement the project’s approach for vaccine delivery. 

In 2023, the government-led PPR vaccination program has delivered 1.2 million doses in five regions, covering about 130,000 farmers.

This success is further punctuated by the success of the Women Rear project in delivering 432,000 vaccines and reaching 4000 women farmers between September 2022 and March 2023.

But there is still room to expand. 

Analysis has shown that this number only meets 7-10% of total demand;  many are missing out, especially women.

To better bridge the gap, an engagement workshop will be held in July 2023 to collaborate with Ghanaian policymakers.

Based on the insights gained from the project, several policy recommendations will be explored for a gender-responsive livestock system, including: 

  • strengthening livestock and veterinary extension services by investing in training and employing women veterinarians and animal health service providers at the district level; 
  • empowering and supporting women farmers at community level through capacity building and access to input services; 
  • building capacity of both women and men animal health service providers to deliberately target women farmers by equipping them with skills to understand and work with communities to address discriminative cultures and traditions that affect service delivery to livestock keepers; 
  • engaging with formal and informal institutions to promote policies and practices that increase women’s ability to effectively raise livestock; these include policies that enhance women asset ownership and community practices that support women’s input in decisions about livestock production and better knowledge of animal health and vaccines; and 
  • improving the supply of good quality drugs and vaccines in rural areas through better cold-chain and vaccine delivery infrastructure and engagement of the private sector. 

The July 2023 workshop will provide an essential space for policymakers to understand and contribute to the project’s findings and strengthen the capacity of the PPR eradication campaign. 

Translating these findings into policy recommendations will strengthen extension services, empower women farmers, challenge discriminatory practices and improve vaccine supply. 

This essential partnership will ensure that no one is left behind, revolutionizing the role of women farmers in Ghana’s livestock sector. 

This project is supported by the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund though the International Development Research Centre, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Global Affairs Canada.  

A woman vet prepares a vaccine for delivery (photo credit: ILRI).