Their shop at Serem market in Vihiga County is one of the busiest if the number of people flocking it is anything to go by.
Dr Isaac Livumbazi and his wife Ruth are busy serving farmers at the agrovet when I arrive on a Sunday morning.
The veterinary surgeon and his wife, an animal health assistant, have several bookings, the reason they are working on a Sunday.
“Our busiest days are Wednesdays and Saturdays because they are market days. The shop is usually busy the reason why some farmers choose Sunday when traffic is low,” says Dr Livumbazi as he sits down to answer a call from a distraught dairy farmer.
The veterinary surgeon tells his wife later after ending the call:
“The farmer was telling me his Friesian cow is now doing well. The diarrhoea has stopped but she still has no appetite.”
Dr Livumbazi is perhaps the most-sought after veterinary surgeon in the region. Before we start our interview, another client walks into the shop looking distraught.
“Daktari, I just realised all the 200 fingerlings that I stocked two weeks ago have died,” says the fish farmer.
Dr Livumbazi offers him a seat. But before he starts attending to him, a man arrives at the shop with his two dogs due for vaccination.
He leaves his wife to attend to the fish farmer as he engages the client with the dogs.
“Where is their card?” Dr Livumbazi asks the man who has forgotten it at home. Ten minutes later, the dogs are given a jab that lasts two seconds.
“The card is important because it helps the farmer monitor the health of the animals and he knows how much he spends on them. Most farmers now know the value of treating animals,” he tells me as we sit down for the interview.
As a veterinary surgeon, Dr Livumbazi’s work is to offer clinical services.
“I charge farmers depending on the disease affecting the animal and the distance his farm is from my agrovet. Consultation and treatment fee ranges between Sh500 and Sh6,000 exclusive of the transport, which costs from Sh500 to Sh4,000.”
In the agrovet, the couple stock various products ranging from poultry and livestock feeds, mineral supplements, plant seeds, de-wormers, fungicides and pesticides and prescription only medicine, among others.
He keeps the prescription only medicine under lock and key.
“I sell the drugs to only trained animal personnel because they are highly poisonous and can cause harm to both human and animals,” says the veterinary surgeon, adding that livestock feeds costs between Sh150 and Sh400 a kilo.
In a day, the couple earns an average of Sh40,000 from selling the products over the counter.
So how did he become a professional whose services are among the most-sought after in the region?
“It all has to do with a surgery I performed to an in-calf cow in 2011. The cow had a small birth canal. I operated on it and it delivered her calf safely. The two have survived to date,” says Dr Livumbazi of the medical operation that made him win the overall veterinary award in 2012 in a competition organised by the Kenya Veterinary Board and pharmaceutical companies.
He was recognised for controlling animal diseases and empowering farmers with skills and knowledge on livestock farming.
“Every month I have to write a report and submit to the Ministry of Livestock on what I have found out from farmers. The government uses the report to know what is happening on the ground,” says the veterinary surgeon, who warns farmers that there are many quacks masquerading as veterinary doctors.
For someone to practice as an animal health professional, he must be registered by the Kenya Veterinary Board and be a member of professional bodies such as the Kenya Veterinary Association.
And to be allowed to sell drugs over the counter, a person must be at least a para-professional also known as animal health assistant.
“When you have the relevant certificates, you will be allowed to hold field days and train farmers. I work with several animal products’ companies to hold the training. Some of them give me their products to sell on credit because of the trust I have built,” says Dr Livumbazi.
Last year, he was honoured by Elgon Kenya and Ministry of Agriculture for compliance with the government regulation of veterinary services, professionalism, and the profile of his business, which entails good recordkeeping.
He went into private business in 1999 after graduating two years earlier from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
“Getting a job then was a challenge because the government froze employment and retrenched workers following the Structural Adjustment Programmes. A good number of veterinary medicine graduates were affected since the government was giving the services free of charge.”
GOOD IN SCIENCES
“When I started, I did not even have enough capital. I would use a bicycle to go round villages to offer veterinary services to farmers and train them,” he recounts.
Over the years, his business has grown from one agrovet to six spread in the region. He has 20 employees.
Dr Livumbazi notes that there are still numerous opportunities in the profession as there are approximately only 6,500 registered professionals in four categories namely veterinary surgeon (degree holders) and veterinary technicians with a degree, diploma or certificate.
“You must have passed well in mathematics, biology, chemistry and agriculture to study the course. We are very few, we need more people to join us,” says Dr Livumbazi while concluding the interview before he picked a call and later left to attend to a dairy farmer.