By: Keith Bohannon, Member Development Officer at Scotland Malawi Partnership
Having grown up in rural Ireland, I am very aware of the importance of agriculture to local communities, particularly in terms of providing livelihoods and stimulating economic activity. In many developing countries this reliance on agriculture is much more pronounced. For example in Malawi, as is the case for most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, almost 80% of the population live in rural areas and survive with very limited resources as subsistence small-holder farmers.
In such an environment where many households keep livestock such as cattle, goats and chickens, maintaining healthy animals can have a huge impact on the sustainability of the people’s livelihoods. This in turn has a huge impact on the opportunities available to members of the household in term of both health and education, particularly women and children.
At the Centre for Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases (CTTBD) launch today I learned that East Coast Fever (ECF) is the single biggest killer of cattle in Africa, killing more than 1 million cattle in the continent every year at an estimate cost of $260m in the east central region alone. Luckily there is a vaccine, in the form of the Muguga Cocktail vaccine. The challenge however is getting this vaccine to the people who need to access it most, where significant barriers exist in terms of access, cost and administrating the vaccine.
Based in Lilongwe the CTTBD is a centre for excellence for veterinary medicine and the only place in Africa that produces the ECF vaccine. The centre not only makes the vaccine but also provides training and support for its distribution and the development of new disease control techniques. Under the auspices of the African Union, in partnership with Scottish-based organisation GALVmed, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government, the CTTBD is truly an example of a global partnership enabling a Malawian-based centre to meet Africa’s needs.
At the launch we were joined by a host of VIPs and delegates, all gathering to give a strong endorsement to the important work of the centre. While it was great to be present to witness such an event I can’t help but reflect that the true impact of the centre will only start after all the formalities are over. After the speeches and presentations, what we are left with is a real example of mutually beneficial partnerships, which have resulted in an African-owned, and African-run centre, delivering tangible solutions towards sustainable livelihoods and economic empowerment to the region. This truly is something to celebrate.