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Studying the effect of Newcastle Disease Vaccine adoption on the livelihoods of poultry farmers in Tanzania

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Madhav Vaidyanathan

Livestock plays a significant role in smallholder agriculture in low- and middle-income countries. The ownership of livestock is an important financial asset, a form of social capital, and a source of nutrition.

Animal health is a crucial prerequisite for smallholder livestock production. Livestock disease has far-reaching implications for smallholder livestock production and for the knock-on economic effects on smallholder incomes and livelihoods.

There is a general paucity of experimental evidence on the post-adoption benefits of animal health inputs for smallholders. Although some studies have explored the effect of controlling livestock disease on livestock output and asset values, the gap in knowledge is a problem for investments in the livestock sector and more specifically in animal health service delivery for smallholders in developing contexts.

To bridge this evidence gap, we are undertaking a randomised controlled trial (RCT) study of the post-adoption benefits of a Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV) by smallholder poultry farmers in Tanzania. We are implementing this project for our client, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), through funding from FCDO and BMGF.

The challenge

Smallholder livestock production is relevant across rural Tanzania, but with variations in the types of species owned and types of husbandry. Across Tanzania, however, poultry ownership among smallholder farmers is very high. Even the poorest smallholders, and in particular female-headed households, aim to keep a few chickens.

Newcastle Disease (ND) is one of the biggest causes of poultry mortality, associated with very high mortality and morbidity rates. In Tanzania, ND has been cited as a major problem in the development of village chicken and can kill 80-100% of affected flocks. Although NDV is readily available in Tanzania, low use in rural areas lets ND cause losses and pose a threat to the rural, smallholder poultry-keepers.

Together with GALVmed, we decided to focus on the adoption of NDV by smallholder poultry farmers in Tanzania for the proposed animal health intervention and experimental impact study.

To deliver the NDV impact study, we are responsible for:

  1. The design and implementation of an NDV intervention in selected smallholder farming areas of Tanzania.
  2. The design and implementation of an experimental study on the causal effects of the NDV intervention on animal production, productivity, and livelihoods of the smallholder poultry-keeping farmers.

Our approach

The NDV impact study is designed as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) where the study sample is randomly split into one treatment group and one control group. In partnership with agriculture NGO Farm Africa, we are delivering an NDV intervention to 60 treatment villages equally split across two districts (Chemba and Mbozi) in Tanzania. The control group of 90 villages, also split equally by the districts, will receive the intervention after the completion of the study surveys.

The intervention administers and promotes NDV and improved poultry-rearing practices – related to ND management – to smallholder poultry-keeping households. In total, we will deliver six rounds of the NDV intervention between January 2022 and July 2023 to treatment villages. The intervention is delivered by community vaccinators who were trained by Farm Africa and us at the end of 2021. All poultry-keeping households within treatment villages can enrol into the programme at 50 Tanzanian Shillings per chicken per round to vaccinate their chicken.

To assess the effects of the NDV intervention on the lives of smallholder poultry-keeping farmers, household and village survey data will be collected at both baseline and endline stages. For the baseline, our team collected data from 2,250 households across the 150 study villages in 2021. We will conduct a similar survey at the endline stage after the intervention ends in 2023. The randomisation of study groups as per the RCT design will deliver a reliable estimate of treatment effects by comparing outcomes among households in treatment villages with outcomes in control villages, controlling for baseline characteristics where needed.

Outcomes and wider impacts

Underlying the study and intervention design is an assumption that offering NDV at an affordable price to poultry-keeping households in treatment villages, together with the promotion of improved poultry-rearing practices, will lead to a decrease in the burden of ND and an improvement in poultry health. This, in turn, will have positive knock-on effects with respect to poultry productivity and – in a second step – income from poultry, household welfare, food consumption, and possibly decisions on income-generating activities. We also hypothesise that there might be changes in intra-household gender dynamics and household resilience to shocks.

While the focus of this study is on poultry health and poultry-keepers, the broader intention is to demonstrate the kind of effects that can take place when agricultural inputs (emerging through research and development investments) are made available to smallholders and the effects of their use on smallholder productivity, profitability, livelihoods, and welfare.

The study bridges an existing gap in rigorous evidence around the post-adoption benefits of animal health inputs, thereby representing a valuable opportunity for subsequently informing both strategy and investment decisions for multiple players in the animal health industry and international development community.