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We must hire more public vets to bring down cost of services

Saturday September 14 2019

Kenya Veterinary Board chairman, Dr Christopher Wanga.

Kenya Veterinary Board chairman, Dr Christopher Wanga. He says in their proposal to the Building Bridges Initiative, they called for the establishment of the commission so that it can adequately address the human resource requirements of veterinarians, alongside other health professionals. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG 

ANITA CHEPKOECH
By ANITA CHEPKOECH
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Anita Chepkoech spoke to the Kenya Veterinary Board chairman, Dr Christopher Wanga, on what is ailing the livestock industry and why the institution is pushing for constitutional amendments

So many quacks roam villages misdiagnosing animals. Is the board unable to deal with the problem?

We are able to deal with the vice, but limited resources have hampered our presence countrywide. Our mandate, among other functions, is to create and operationalise an inspectorate to locate, inspect and close down premises or ambulatory clinics operated contrary to the practices allowed by the law and take legal action against the offenders.

We are working on establishing seven regional offices to facilitate inspectorate services, which will greatly support the delivery of quality veterinary services.

Your board is rooting for constitutional amendments to establish a Health Service Commission to address human resource requirements of veterinarians. Will this better the industry?

In our proposal to the Building Bridges Initiative, we called for the establishment of the commission so that it can adequately address the human resource requirements of veterinarians, alongside other health professionals.

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Once this is achieved, the country will address the four fundamental components of effective veterinary services, which include technical authority and capability to deal with current and new issues including prevention and control of biological disasters based on scientific principles.

Recently, Kenyans were shocked when they learnt that meat sold in some supermarkets and butcheries is laced with harmful chemicals. How can this problem be addressed once and for all?

We need to enforce the existing laws such as the Public Health Act and the Meat Control Act and keep politics out of the science that guarantees food safety.

We have limited the implementation of food safety to a county role since it concerns agricultural products, which should not be the case.

There is need to view food safety using the lens of consumer protection to allow the national government to intervene at all levels to safeguard human health and food safety.

What would you say is ailing the dairy sector in Kenya?

The sector has faced numerous changes as demand for diary products surges. Trends such as technological advancements in the field of animal breeding, supplements and nutrition, cow health and automation have made it a viable source of income for many farmers in Kenya.

However, most dairy farmers in Kenya still practice milk production on a small-scale, which leads to high overheads. The price at which milk is bought from farmers is still low compared to the cost of production, creating the need for policy and legislative interventions to enable farmers derive profits from their enterprises.

Veterinary services remain out of reach of many smallholder farmers. Why is this the case?

The Structural Adjustment Programmes led to stoppage of hiring of public sector veterinarians even where private veterinary practice is not viable.

Kenya needs to be mapped into viable areas for the private sector and other areas where the public sector needs to offer services.

This will mitigate the veterinarians’ cost of delivering services and redistribution of professionals. Farmers will then access services based on their predisposition.

Many farmers are complaining that their cows are not conceiving due to fake semen in the market. Can the board come to their rescue?

With a functional inspectorate by the end of the 2019/2020 financial year, this will be a thing of the past. However, many factors contribute to failed conception and they include non-viable semen due to a variety factors, poor timing of heat by the farmer or infertility on the part of the cow being served.

How has climate change affected the livestock sector and what measures should farmers take to cushion themselves?

Arbitrary increases in temperature, droughts and floods have far-reaching effects on the quality and quantity of livestock species, their products and widespread negative impacts on forage quality and ultimately, livestock productivity.

Mitigation would include changes in livestock breeds and species, improved feeding, better grazing and manure management and use of weather information.

Recent examples of adaptation include embracing camels and goats in addition to, or as a replacement for, cattle in dry lands.

Farmers need to invest in good quality stock, keep records religiously and seek professional support at all times.