KITALE, Kenya, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Kenya launched East Coast Fever (ECF) vaccine on Friday to curb the killer disease which causes death of 1.1 million cattle annually in East, Central and Southern Africa.
Minister for Livestock Mohammed Abdi Kuti unveiled the vaccine during the launch at Katuke Agricultural Development Cooperation ADC in Trans-Nzoia County. The minister noted that the vaccine will save the affected region an estimated 186 million U.S. dollars annually.
The vaccine was developed by the collaboration efforts between the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the International Livestock Research Institute ILRI, the Food Agricultural Organization, the Global Alliance for livestock and Veterinary Medicine and the government of Kenya.
Kuti said the realization of the vaccine is an milestone in the control of livestock diseases in Africa particularly livestock keepers in Kenya. "The effective control of animal diseases including the East Coast Fever is a key to the realization of Kenya's Vision 2030 objectives that mark a broadening of the agenda in agricultural production to includes marketing, value addition and agri-business to improve the livelihood of Kenyans and create wealth," said the minister in a speech read by director of veterinary service Peter Maina Ithondeka.
He said the ECF has been cited as the single important constraint preventing farmers from keeping improved breeds in areas where it is rampant. "This is a dangerous disease if no form of control measures is taken it would kill close to 100 percent of the exotic dairy cattle. It is a major killer in herds kept by Kenya's pastoralists where it kills 20-50 percent of all calves," he said.
The official said it is difficult and often impossible for the herders to plan for the future or to improve their livestock enterprises due to loss of cattle and their products. Kuti said Kenya's Vision 2030 recognizes livestock development as a key player in national development.
The livestock sub-sector, he said, continue to be a major component of the wider agricultural sector contributing about 12 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product and 42 percent of the total agricultural GDP.
He noted that livestock production is a major economic and social activity for the communities in the high potential areas through dairy and in Arid and Semi-Arid zones through beef production.
The rural-based nature of livestock activities makes them suitable enterprise to improve household incomes and contribute to sustainable livelihood for many families in the rural areas. Session Paper of 1965 on African socialism and its application to planning in Kenya saw population of exotic dairy cattle rapidly grow particularly in the high rainfall areas.
To support this growth, the government subsidized tick-control programs by building and supplying cattle dips with acaricides. Tick control services were privatized but the government retained the regulatory role. While partial success in these services has been realized, the ECF vaccine will significantly tame the devastating diseases in cattle.
Ithondeka said ECF endangers 10 million animals in sub-Saharan region. He expressed concern that the drugs to treat the disease are very expensive. "The ECF is a very expensive disease to treat. On average a farmer requires 70 U.S. dollars to treat an adult animal," said Ithondeka.
Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers Knefap lauded institutions that carried out the trials and developed the vaccine. Trans-Nzoia Knefap secretary Tom Nyagechaga said the launch will help the farmers double production and earn more income.