Tanzania has been reported to have the third largest livestock population on the African continent comprising 25 million cattle. However, cattle keepers in the country face several challenges that impede their productivity, most notably diseases. As such, access to effective methods of preventing, controlling and/or treating cattle diseases is key. East Coast Fever (ECF) is the most important infectious disease facing cattle keepers in Tanzania and the region, leading not only to decreased productivity but also to cattle deaths. The disease further brings with it immense economic losses and devastating effects on smallholders whose livelihoods are highly dependent on cattle production. Losses in the traditional cattle sector (pastoral systems & smallholders keeping local breeds) are more pronounced in Tanzania – estimated at US$129.5 million and accounting for 68% of economic loses from tick-borne diseases.
Limited access to the ECF vaccine has been a major challenge to uptake of the technology. Increasing farmers’ reach to the vaccine will go a long way in reducing ECF-induced losses among cattle keepers
Even though Tanzanian authorities have since 2003 adopted use of ECF vaccine to address the challenge posed by the disease, only less than 5% of the total cattle population in the country has been vaccinated. Expansion of the vaccine delivery has so far been restricted by limited capacity of existing distribution channels. For more than two decades since introduction of the ECF vaccine in Tanzania, its distribution channel was composed of only two private distributors at the national level who import the vaccine from the manufacturer. These two distributors were not able to sufficiently cover the vast country and provide reliable access to the vaccine as and when needed. Consequently, even cattle keepers with a desire and ability to adopt the ECF vaccine were not able to access it.
Working with the Tanzanian government, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) and the existing distributors, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been leading a two-year USAID-funded project which aims at increasing the availability of ECF vaccine by among other ways, building the capacity of additional distributors to elevate them to certified levels with official mandate to distribute the vaccine. The project, ITM2SCALE, works to scale up the delivery of Infection and Treatment Method (ITM) in Tanznaia through facilitation of the ITM value chain to promote increased use of the ECF vaccine.
Since 2015, the project has successfully introduced additional three accredited distributors into the country, bringing the total number of distributors to five. With the entry of additional distributors, the vaccine distribution channel in Tanzania has received a momentous boost, expected to significantly increase the vaccine reach.
Each of the additional distributors is already building a network of vaccinators some of whom act as agents for downstream distribution of the vaccine.