Vetenary Paraprofessionals in Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda are benefiting from a training programme organized by the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the World Veterinary Association (WVA) and HealthforAnimals to improve animal health.
FAO in a statement by it’s Communications Specialist Nigeria, David Tsokar said that preventive health care has been identified as one of the major gaps in the animal health sector ecosystem as the the immediate strategy to ameliorate the situation is to improve smallholder farmer’s access to animal healthcare services through capacity building of private veterinary paraprofessionals.
The statement said the collaborative initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Veterinary Association (WVA) and HealthforAnimals to address this challenge under the project “Sustainable business in animal health service was important and urgent.
“In Nigeria, the project conducted in conjunction with the College of Agriculture and Animal Science, and the Institute of Agricultural Research and trainings (IAR&T), is piloted in Kaduna and Oyo states where a seven-month training was organised for the veterinary paraprofessionals (VPPs).
“The objective is to equip them to attend to the basic animal health needs, with a focus on disease prevention especially that of the smallholder farmers and rural dwellers livestock keepers who rarely have access to the services of qualified veterinarians,” FAO noted.
According to the statement, the trainees were also exposed to business management skills aiming at enabling them to run sustainable basic animal health care delivery enterprises.
While calling on all stakeholders to ensure that the VPPs are gainfully engaged, the Director of IAR&T Professor Veronica Obatolu said at the first graduation of the 25 trainees in the institute that, “it is a known fact that the population of veterinarians in the country today cannot serve efficiently the livestock producing population”, the VPPs have received the training to fill this gap.
At the graduation of the other 25 veterinary paraprofessionals in Kaduna, the Director of the College of Agriculture and Animal Science, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Dr. Hassam Adamu Hamidu said that upgrading the technical and business skills of the VPPs is “focused on mindset change towards entrepreneurialism and preventive health care approaches, which would prepare them to not only impact the farmers, but also enhance their income”.
The courses which are platforms for continuous professional development, are accredited by the Veterinary Council of Nigeria. It is conducted through a blended learning programme, which involves 90 hours of online training and 12 days face to face workshops from April to October 2023.
The FAO representative ad interim (a.i) in Nigerian and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Dominique Koffy Kouacou said that the project is hinged on three major pillars: continuous professional development, competency recognition and development of a supportive business environment.
“Besides upgrading their skills, they have successfully registered with the Veterinary Council of Nigeria. Therefore, they can take advantage of the established public-private multistakeholder platform for last mile animal healthcare, which has led to a number of linkages and collaborations with private sector companies in order to address key gaps within the animal health sector ecosystem”, Mr. Kouacou said.
At the end of the training, certificates award ceremonies were held at the two centers, where a total of 49, from the 50 who enrolled at the beginning of the training satisfied the requirements set and were graduated.
Abdulkadir Dabai who graduates at the Kaduna center said that the training has broadened his understanding of how best to reach out to the farmers interest, while protecting his own as well. “It is a business, we all have to approach service provision to the client with that mindset” he said.
Each of the VPPs is linked to a qualified Veterinarian to mentor them for a period of at least one year to professionalise the business.
To further raise awareness at farmers level on the need to uptake preventive health care practices through VPPs as service providers, the project is currently working with Farm Radio International and local radio stations to design and air relevant contents in selected states of Nigeria.