Vets without frontiers: Doing it better

VSF-Belgium and ILRI have teamed up in an innovative partnership arrangement that could serve as a super highway between livestock research and development activities in the field. Here the 'implementers' and the 'research & developers' have joined forces to "do it better together" to better serve the poor livestock keeper. VSF-Belgium and ILRI have teamed up in an innovative partnership arrangement that will facilitate communications between livestock farmers, veterinary scientists and vets in the field, and ultimately increase the impact of research. Dr Bruno Minjauw, Operational Project Leader of Innovative Partnerships at ILRI, has been appointed as VSF-Belgium's Regional Director – East Africa. Dr Minjauw will hold a joint position with ILRI and VSFB sharing his time between both organisations. Dr Minjauw said: "I am delighted with this appointment – this is new and exciting territory for all involved. ILRI and VSFB have similar and complementary missions – so this partnership makes sense. We are both trying to do the same thing – and I believe we can do it better together. Ultimately this partnership provides ILRI with a unique asset – a direct door to the voice of the poor." Els Bedert, Programme support for East Africa, of VSFB said: "What really excites us about this partnership with ILRI is that we now have a direct link to the livestock research component. Our (VSF) vets are on the ground working with poor farmers. Having access to scientists with the latest knowledge and resources is going to add considerable value to our role. Essentially, we can act as a link between the farmers and scientists and the scientists and the farmers." The new ILRI-VSF partnership has the potential to identify VSF activities that could benefit from existing information, methodologies and scientific expertise at ILRI, as well as identifying existing ILRI activities where VSF could play a role to increase the impact of research. So what does this mean in practice? Amongst other activities, VSFB is actively involved in a programme which aims to train farmers in basic veterinary skills and provide communities with treatments and vaccinations for their animals through an established decentralised animal health service, whilst also training community animal health workers on how to administer those drugs. VSFB have clear exit strategies built into their programs, so livestock keepers do not become dependent on them. Rather than offering drugs as 'handouts', VSF are making veterinary drugs more readily available for farmers to purchase. One example of the benefits of this new partnership is that VSF vets might identify that a particular technology, which could have a major impact if used by the farmers, is too expensive or in some way inappropriate, therefore farmers will not adopt it. VSFB could then inform ILRI and its partners of the situation and they could then look into ways of improving the technology, either by making it more appropriate or available at a lower cost, or even looking into alternatives, in order to encourage greater uptake by farmers. Similarly, scientists might find that adoption rates of a new technology is low and/or having little impact. VSF vets would be well placed to help establish why this is the case and could then feed back this information to scientists. These are just a couple of opportunities that could be seized to increase the impact on the ground. Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Europa (VSF Europa) is a non-profit international association comprising 8 European VSFs, including VSF-Belgium. Field activities are part of the VSF global programme and their mission is to improve the well-being of vulnerable populations in developing countries, by improving animal health and production. VSFB activities are mainly in three geographical areas in Africa – the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and sub-Saharan countries in West Africa.

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