Sustained efforts to improve the health of dairy goats in Afghanistan are helping to transform the lives of rural communities - against a back-drop of conflict and the worsening impacts of climate change.
Over the past three decades, Afghanistan’s agricultural land has become increasingly degraded and declining reserves of water and fodder have threatened the sustainability of livestock production. The spread of disease have also endangered this essential source of community income, with approximately 80 percent of goats aborted in some areas due to poor health and nutrition, and limited access to animal health services, including vaccinations and de-worming.
An ICARDA initiative, supported by the Afghan government’s Rural Microfinance and Livestock Support Program (RMLSP), is working with 14 villages to conduct livestock management training and provide essential health services. The results have been a decreased incidence of disease and significantly fewer abortions. Communities have further benefited from improved techniques of dairy hygiene and processing, promising higher quality products and more income.
The Project’s success has been ensured through well-trained and well-equipped vets who are attached to the area of implementation and responsible for identifying and purchasing quality vaccines and medicines. These individuals are supported through a recently-established Veterinary Field Unit (VFU). There is also a gender component: female facilitators in each village have played a key role in the provision of animal health services, informing farmers about vaccination campaigns.
Speaking recently about the positive impacts in his own community, farmer Mr. Abdul Ahmad Khan, indicated the changes that had occurred since the Project’s inception: “The outbreaks and spread of disease, and a lack of awareness among the people here, was one of the main causes, of morbidity, mortality, and abortions in our goats before the project started. We were not aware previously about the importance of animal vaccines.”
Funding for the initiative is provided by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture.