Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cell phones revolutionizing Kenya’s livestock sector

A goat herd in Somaliland by NatGeo
A new mobile technology has revolutionised live stock farming by pastrolist communities in Kenya.

The technology, which sends alerts for livestock diseases between farmers and veterinarians, will also issues alerts quickly about possible animal disease outbreaks and track wide-scale vaccination campaigns.

Using Global Positioning System (GPS) the technology helps to pinpoint with accuracy and speed early warning signs for animal disease outbreaks in a matter of seconds instead of weeks.

The application, EpiCollect, will help detect animal diseases quickly and these early warning can prevent death of tens of thousands of animals, thus safeguarding livelihoods and food security, and preventing diseases that can sometimes be passed to humans.

 “The mobile phone technology aid in reporting animal disease outbreaks, tracking vaccination campaigns and delivery of veterinary treatments, such as de-worming animals,” said Robert Allport, FAO Kenya’s Assistant Representative for Programme Implementation.

“Cellular phones eliminate delays in receiving field data, since all the information is relayed via the mobile network, after the information is assigned a geographic location to be extremely accurate and available in real-time,” Allport said.

The mobile application is funded by FAO, the Royal Veterinary College and local NGO Vetaid to also track animals’ medical history via the mobile Web

In a press statement FAO says the project has been successful in Kenya where three out of four people now have a mobile phone and more Kenyans are upgrading to Internet-enabled phones and prices for the technology inevitably come down.

Although only a third of Kenyans have access to the Internet at present, 99 percent of those Internet subscriptions are for access from a mobile phone which made the project viable.

EpiCollect is set to do away with what has been happening some five years ago when veterinarians would have to travel to remote locations, record data, and then travel back to district-level offices to process the paperwork.

“Now data is transmitted real time and includes total number of livestock in a herd, number of animals vaccinated and herd movement during search of pasture and water which is regularly update and stored online,” FAO said.

The EpiCollect database is not searchable in online search engines which keeps sensitive information safe and can only be accessed by national vertinary officers and field vets who are assigned unique location code for each project.

“Presently EpiCollect is only being used by field veterinarians with phones provided by Google Kenya for the testing phase but it will be available to village elders and well-established networks of community animal health workers,” it said.

FAO is also set to use the same technology for better link to livestock producers with markets and livestock traders.

“Traders and sellers can relay information to central point about how many animals they have to make markets function efficiently with transparent pricing and collective bargains,” FAO Kenya’s Allport said.

The same technology has been used by FAO’s, Oxfam and Nokia using Nokia Data Gathering (NDG) to monitor water points in pastoralist areas as an early warning indicator for drought in Kenya and Ethiopia where communities monitor water levels regularly via Internet-enabled phones.

In the Karamoja area of neighbouring Uganda, the same NDG system is being used by local chiefs to monitor drought indicators to allow for early response.

Manuel Odeny © 2013

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