She stood calm and collected at a distant, watching her calves getting vaccinated against the Eastern Coast Fever (ECF).
Knowing too well how deadly the disease is, Constance Hamuchemba displays a wide smile on her face, while immunisation takes place in a nearby kraal, convinced that her animals will now be protected from ECF.
It is was a hive of activity at Kaumba Livestock Service Centre in Sikabenga Camp of Monze District in Southern Province as mother cows roared while gripped with anxiety, and uncertainty seeing their calves caged in a kraal with man conducting an activity, which they do not seem to understand.
“I am a single mother supporting my children in school using the a few animals that I have,” Ms Hamuchemba of Sikabenga camp in Monze said.
“I am very happy that with this immunisation programme because it has helped me to increase the number of animals from 10 to 38.”
She recalls how ECF ravaged cattle in Sikabenga camp and other areas of Monze before the immunisation programme started.
“Our animals were dying in numbers here from Corridor Disease before the vaccination programme,” she narrated.
“They used to be attacked by tick in the ears, and after few days we could just see the animal getting week and paralysed, then they just collapsed and died.”
Ms Hamuchemba described the dying of animals as a calamity as it brought misery to the populace in an area where cattle are highly treasured as a source of livelihood.
Apart from beef for home consumption, cattle provide animal drought power in crop farming as well as manure for soil fertility.
It is a source of food in terms of meat and milk, and also provides income from the sales of animal products.
“So u can imagine how catastrophic it was to lose cattle from Denkete here because our livelihoods are mainly centred on these animals,” Ms said Hamuchembe.
She commended the government subsidized ECF Immunisation Programme targeting calves that has helped to revitalise cattle farming in the area.
Boyd Halwiindi of the same area recounts how he gave on keeping cattle after ECF wiped out the ones he had.
“I lost about 10 animals from the disease and I got so depressed that I told myself never to keep cattle again,” explained Mr Halwiindi.
“But when this programme was introduced, my friends encouraged me to start some animals and start afresh.”
He is now proud of his cattle herd that has grown 58 from 10 in 2008.
Situated about 25 Kilometres east of Monze town, Sikabenga Veterinary Camp is used as a model as it has the best farmers participation out of the 12 veterinary camps of the district in ECF control programme under the International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD funded Smallholder Livestock Investment Programme (SLIP).
In Monze District, more than 103 thousand calves have to date been vaccinated against ECF under the SLIP ECF immunisation programme since 2007.
“The demand has continued to be high here for this ECF immunisation programme,” Monze District Fisheries and Livestock Coordinator Thabita Shamaila explained.
“We even have a challenge of people bringing bring older animals and insist that they we vaccinate them, but the vaccine is meant for calves.”
Ms Shamaila explained that vaccinating big animals was a problem because the stabilate would not work as it was meant for calves.
She added that; “sometimes farmers lie that the animal is young but looks big because it an improved breed, but we still try to educate them that the vaccine is only effective in calves.
Cattle are highly valued in some parts of Zambia, mainly in the Southern, Western, Eastern and Central regions where they play diverse roles in the livelihoods and economies of people.
When a highly fatal disease of cattle such as ECF breaks out, it certainly interferes with the exploitation of this diverse livestock resource.
It is named East Coast Fever because it is mainly found in East and Central Africa.
In Zambia, ECF commonly known as corridor disease, or Denkete in local Tonga language of Southern Province, and Chigodola in Chewa in the Eastern region, is traced way back in the early 1920s, when it was first isolated in the northern region of the country.
It has however been endemic mainly in Southern and Eastern Provinces hence the concentration of the immunisation programme in the two regions.
Infected ticks that usually attach to the ear, often called the "brown ear ticks," cause the tick-borne infection and transmit the disease to cattle.
Over the years, the disease has spread and is today reportedly found in 8 out of the 10 provinces of the country.
Only Western and Luapula provinces are purportedly free from ECF.
Though Manageable, ECF remains a major killer of cattle in Zambia, with high mortality rates of up to 90 percent in naive cattle, in affected herds.
It is for this reason that Government implemented immunisation of calves in Eastern and Southern Provinces using the Infection and Treatment Method under the USD$15 Million Dollar IFAD funded SLIP project which ended in 2014.
Cattle losses have reportedly reduced in the two regions due to the ITM method, which has also led to the growth in animal population.
Government has now decided to continue with the ECF immunisation programme under the successor project dubbed Enhanced Smallholder Livestock Investment Programme (E-SLIP).
The new USD$45.3 Million IFAD funded E-SLIP that will for 7 years from 2015 to 2021 expanded the immunisation programme, taking on board Coppebelt, Lusaka and Central Provinces.
Under the E-SLIP project, K31 million goes towards the expansion of ECF immunisation activity using the Infection and Treatment Method
“In Eastern and Southern Provinces where ITM is being used, it has been observed that cattle losses due to ECF have drastically reduced by over 60 per cent,” Fisheries and Livestock Minister Michael Katambo explained when he recently launched the immunisation trials in Shibuyunji, Mumbwa and Iteshiteshi.
Mr Katamabo added that the number of cattle has more than doubled in the two regions due to the introduction of the Infection and Treatment Method and other disease control interventions.
A unique vaccine is used for each area, namely Chitongo stabilate for Southern Province and Katete stabilate that is synonymous with Eastern province.
“In this regard, my ministry is launching the immunisation trials to for east Coast Fever using the Infection and Treatment Method in order to establish whether we can expand the programme to Central, Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces,” explained Mr Katambo.
If the Trials are successful, it will be an important milestone in in Zambia with regards to East Coast Fever that is responsible for most cattle losses in the region.”
He said government is subsidizing the ECF immunisation to ensure that it benefits as many farmers as possible.
While the cost of delivery of ECF immunisation is currently at K105 per calf, Mr Katambo explained that farmers would only contribute K25 to immunise one calf, with government covering K80.
The Chitongo stabilate will be used in all the three provinces from which, six districts have already been selected for trials.
“We have done trials in the laboratory at the Central Veterinary Research Institute and found that the Chitongo stabilate works in Lusaka, Central and Copperbelt Provinces, Principal Livestock Research Officer Alikadio Maseko explained.
“We have now started the trials in preparation for the full time immunisation in these provinces.”
Mr Maseko revealed that the trials are conducted in six districts namely Itezhitezhi and Mumbwa in Central Province, Shibuyunji and Chongwe in Lusaka Province as well as Masaiti and Mpongwe on the Copperbelt Province.
In the selected districts, Mr Maseko said 450 calves would be immunised with the Chitongo vaccine and that no ill effects have been detected on the vaccinated so far, adding that calves have been lost resulting from the use of the strain.
Mr Maseko said the programme was targeting to immunise 120 thousand calves annually in Eastern and Southern Provinces.
“But with the expansion in Lusaka, Central and Copperbelt Provinces, the programme hopes to be immunising 180 thousand calves per year,” Explained Mr Maseko.
“But it will be gradual and will be a process that farmers have to buy in will need to be managed very well.”
With the serious subside of about 80 percent, it is certainly important that farmers in the new project operating regions buy in and emulate their colleagues Eastern and Southern provinces to contribute the K25 for immunising their cattle and expand their herd-NAIS