Veterinary services in Africa - the EDF approach
by Jan MULDER
Since the start of the European Development Fund in the early
1960s, considerable importance has been attached to the financing of rural
development projects in Africa. The main emphasis has been on increased
agricultural production, of which animal production is an integral part.
At the beginning of the 1980s, a division was created within the
EC Commission with the job of evaluating in a systematic way, the various
projects which had been the subject of EDF financing.
As regards animal production projects, the conclusions of the
evaluation which was undertaken were set out in a document produced in 1984
entitled: 'Basic Principles of Livestock Development'. This contained numerous
recommendations, amongst which were:
-Sectoral policy concerning the development of livestock
resources should be focused on the livestock producer and his family with
particular attention being paid to the role of women.
-The scale of financial
resources to be allocated to such efforts must be in reasonable proportion to
the livestock sector's potential and its current contribution to national
-Every possible effort should be made to promote and encourage
private initiatives of all kinds in the provision of the goods and services -
such as drugs, animal feed, credit and marketing of livestock products which are
needed by the livestock producer.
-It is essential to formulate and implement
a pricing policy for inputs and livestock products alike.
It was around the same time that the EDF was confronted with
numerous demands to finance a vaccination campaign against rinderpest. In fact,
one of the earliest EDF interventions in the development of African animal
resources had been in this area, when the Community participated in the
financing of 'Joint Programme 15'. Together with other donors, a vaccination
campaign had been financed in several African countries over a period of about
15 years. Indeed, the programme envisaged the eradication of rinderpest in
Africa and it almost succeeded. It was thought, when donor financing stopped
towards the end of the 1970s, that rinderpest was under control, if not
eradicated, but in the event, it was too early to claim victory.
During the early 1980s, it was clear that rinderpest outbreaks
were occurring on a large scale in various African countries. What was the
reason for the recurrence of this disease, despite the massive financial
investments which had been made in the earlier campaign?
Several explanations were advanced although it was clear that
these were not all applicable in the same way to each of the countries
concerned. These included:
-The fact that the allocation of government budgets to
agriculture and, in particular, to livestock development, had not reflected the
importance of this sector's contribution to the national economy.
practice whereby all veterinary graduates were automatically recruited to the
state veterinary service, the major part of whose budget was utilised for salary
payments rather than operations in the field.
-The policy of almost all
governments of carrying out vaccination campaigns free of charge and of
subsidising to a large extent, other forms of veterinary intervention.
It was, therefore, concluded that the essential point was not to
provide funds for a specific campaign against a specific animal disease, but
rather to establish a policy directed at finding additional or alternative
financing for the veterinary services. And it was not just these services that
needed attention. There was also the question of better financing for livestock
services, bearing in mind the object of increasing animal production in Africa
to meet the needs of an expanding population. The problems of adequate nutrition
and the overgrazing associated with it required no less attention than those
arising from the outbreak of contagious animal diseases.
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and, in particular, its
Inter-African Bureau of Animal Production proved to be an interested partner in
the development of new policies which envisaged the establishment of better
livestock services for farmers.
In 1986, a Financing Agreement was concluded between the OAU and
the Commission of the EC. The agreement set out two approaches:
-Those countries which were confronted at that time with
outbreaks of rinderpest would be assisted immediately in stemming the spread of
-For all other countries, financing agreements for the purpose
of rendering livestock services more effective would only be concluded after the
successful conclusion of a policy dialogue aimed at making more adequate finance
available for those working in such services.
The Financing Agreement set out five options for achieving the
latter. These options, and subsequent experience with them may be summarised as
Direct payment for services rendered This policy aims at a
situation whereby farmers contribute to all services provided by the government.
The degree of government subsidy can vary but should, in the course of a project
period, be adapted.
This approach is now almost universally accepted in Africa, as
far as the provision of drugs and non-compulsory vaccinations is concerned,
although the degree of subsidy varies from country to country.
Proceeds from the sale of drugs and vaccines are put into a
revolving fund. Sometimes, however, the operation of these funds is problematic.
In certain countries, inflation is high and prices are not adapted accordingly,
while the time which elapses between purchase and sale of new drugs can
sometimes be too long.
The purchase of new drugs and vaccines may also pose
difficulties as not all African currencies are easily convertible into those
currencies that are required for buying new inputs. In addition, there is
sometimes the problem that drug importing is the exclusive responsibility of a
state company which is saddled with old debts, although a solution to this could
be found in encouraging the establishment of private companies. EDF financing
can be used for both purposes.
There are, however, countries that prefer to continue with the
provision of services which are subsidised or free of charge. The latter is
sometimes the case with compulsory vaccination campaigns. If the budgetary
resources of the government are insufficient, it cannot simply be left to the
donor to fund these subsidies on a permanent basis. Instead, a system could be
developed in line with the other 'dialogue points' from the OAU-EC Financing
Direct or indirect taxation for services rendered. In several
countries, taxes levied on the livestock sector already exist. For various
reasons, however, the sums collected are not put back into the sector itself.
There are good reasons for adhering to the principle of a consolidated fund
(unified finance) for government budgets. However. in some countries and under
certain conditions. it should be possible to introduce specific taxes and levies
to be used to finance specific actions. For example, it might be possible to
form a livestock development fund. If such a fund were set up at national level,
it could suffer from the same problems as those which characterise existing
revolving funds (for example. complex administrative procedures). A better
approach might be to establish these funds at regional or even district level,
in order to simplify procedures. It is important, after all, to ensure that
where a farmer is paying special taxes, he can see the benefit in the form of
better services. And when special funds are developed at a local level, the next
step, as outlined in the 'dialogue point' of the Financing Agreement which
follows, is a small one.
Development of farmers' associations, pastoral associations or
cooperatives. Instead of the Government being responsible for the provision of
veterinary or other services, farmers themselves could be encouraged to organise
the provision of these services. An obvious precondition is that the law must
permit the formation of such associations and cooperatives. The law must also
regulate the conditions under which these organisations can be formed and should
protect their members.
has only limited experience of encouraging the organisation of
livestock services in this way. Elsewhere, the picture is somewhat different. By
way of example, the responsibility for maintenance of watering points
constructed in dry areas has increasingly been laid on the shoulders of the
EDF funds can be used to provide better veterinary
infrastructure for the benefit of members of societies who, in turn, are obliged
to recruit qualified personnel for veterinary and extension services.
This is one step in the direction of privatisation. The
´dialogue point' which follows suggests moving towards this goal in a more
Privatisation of the veterinary profession. Of all the 'dialogue
points', this is the one that has attracted the most attention. There is
considerable enthusiasm for it. The establishment of the system in practice,
however. has proved to be a long and cumbersome process, although the prospects
in some regions are still thought to be good. There is, after all. no reason to
believe that in Africa, contrary to the situation elsewhere in the world, it is
impossible for private veterinarians to earn a living in rural areas.
Experience has shown that a number of conditions are helpful in
starting a privatisation programme. In the first place, it is necessary to have
a national professional organisation with powers to decide who should be allowed
to set themselves up in veterinary practice and to regulate their activity. It
is the profession itself that must control the quality of the services it
provides. Secondly, the legislative framework must exist to allow private
veterinarians to operate. There must also be an assurance from the government
that there is not unfair competition from their own services which are often
The role of the donor is in the provision of credit. It can form
a fund which guarantees the loans that banks provide to selected veterinarians
and could also consider giving premiums to encourage veterinarians to leave
government service and establish themselves. The donor might also give loans for
associated activities in recognition of the fact that, at the outset, it might
not be possible to generate sufficient income solely from the practice or from
Of course, it is also essential for the development of private
practice that the market generates an income for farmers which is sufficient to
allow them to pay for the services they receive. The OAU-EC Financing Agreement
recognises this in the last 'dialogue point'.
Imposing a special levy on imports of animal products which
distort the local market. This points addresses the problems which arise from
the dumping of animal products on African markets. A levy should prevent this
from happening. Ideally, the proceeds of such a levy should be used to finance
services provided by the government but the principle of 'unified finance'
prevents this in most countries.
In the preparation of EDF interventions in the livestock sector,
all of the above 'dialogue points' need to be considered, but it should be
recognised that there is no solution which is universally applicable. Solutions
will always have to be adapted to the specific conditions of the country or
region or perhaps even the individual location concerned. The European
Commission has an open approach on this which is aimed at finding the best
system in each case.