Would Night Delivery of Vaccines solve the issue of accessibility?: Lessons Learned
Iddrisu has missed all his vaccination schedule until today and he is not alone. About 1,209 farmers miss vaccine delivery every year.
Delivering this service to our farmers comes with many challenges, particularly when it comes to providing vaccines to livestock. Ensuring that animals get the vaccinations needed requires the active participation of farmers and the availability of the livestock at a certain period. But the daily profile of our smallholder farmers in terms of their engagement in other farming activities poses a considerable challenge to animal vaccination procedures. This is because farmers in most rural areas do not only rear livestock but also have crop farms as well, which are usually far from their homes where the livestock are kept. As such, most of these farmers would be on their farmlands during the day and would usually return to their homes at night. Besides, they also release their animals for grazing in nearby bushes and only return them to their pens at night. As a result of these, our field technicians do not meet the maximum number of farmers when they go to deliver vaccines. And in the absence of the farmer, our field technicians face challenges restraining the animals and this hindered the successful delivery of vaccines in the past.
Our Approach – Night Vaccine Delivery
In order to make vaccine delivery more accessible and convenient for both the farmers and our field technicians, we embarked on a night delivery of one of our preventive health services on a pilot basis at Central Gonja and in the Kumbungu district respectively. We provided night delivery services in these districts for two weeks from the hours of 5 pm to 8 pm each day. In the Central Gonja district, we conducted a night cattle (large ruminant) deworming experiment in two of our communities. And in the Kumbungu district, we carried out another exercise to deliver PPR vaccination during the night to small ruminants in April 2020.
From these experiments, we learned considerable lessons that are relevant for future vaccine deliveries to farmers to maximize our technical efficiency and increase vaccine access to farmers. Firstly, at the end of the experiment, we realized that vaccinating large ruminants at night came with new challenges for us to tackle ranging from distance to infrastructure and cultural beliefs.
For instance, the roads that lead to the kraals were usually situated 20 -50kms away from the community and are very poor to commute. Another infrastructural limitation had to do with visibility. The spent more time with each farmer due to poor or no lighting in kraals. The cattle become aggressive at night, making it so difficult to restrain them. Aside from these, we also experienced cultural reasons from some farmers and cattle caretakers where they were reluctant to allow us into their kraals at night.
It was however more effective to run night vaccinations for small ruminants like goats and sheep. It is much more comfortable to restrain small animals and as such, reducing the amount of time needed to complete each delivery.
With these experiences from the night vaccine delivery, we are optimistic about our approach to making sure that our farmers get access to the vaccine at the right time and place. Since this was a pilot stage of our innovative approach, we will soon be sharing success stories from our scaling of this innovation to other farmers to make sure all farmers have healthy animals and are happy.