Date of this Version
Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice (2015) 5:1
East African pastoralists and their livestock are vulnerable to alterations in resource availability and disease transmission and frequently face poor access to livestock health services. Government veterinarians tasked with guiding health services must prioritize livestock health risks and allocate limited resources across disparate ecosystems with different disease threats. To identify livestock diseases of concern and strategies for improving herd health and resilience, we conducted community focus groups with pastoralists and interviewed pastoralist household leaders, village extension officers, and government veterinary officials in south-central Tanzania, an area experiencing rapid population growth and environmental change. All participants discussed pastoralist access to livestock health services, livestock disease priorities, and means to improve livestock health. Perceptions of diseases of importance differed among pastoralists, extension officers, and government veterinarians. Spatial differences in diseases of concern among study area pastoralists emphasized the need for locally adaptable livestock health service delivery. Although pastoralist strategies to improve livestock health differed by ethnic group, many pastoralists as well as extension officers and government veterinarians identified livestock health education and training for pastoralists and extension officers as a critical need. Policies designed at the regional, rather than the local, level may not reflect the disease concerns of the entire area. To effectively address veterinary health problems and make livestock herds more resilient to environmental change, conditions at the local level must be considered. Education targeted to pastoralist households and extension officers could achieve greater flexibility in the livestock health system and provide more reliable information about local conditions for governmental policymakers.