How agrovets are playing a key role on today’s farming in Kenya
The agrovet has become one of the most important outlets for farmers in modern day farming.
Found in every town and village market centres, agrovets have turned out to be the only place where agribusiness entrepreneurs can get reliable agricultural information.
They have taken up the space once occupied by agricultural extension officers, whose number has dwindled, effectively not serving farmers meaningfully.
Through agricultural extension services, farmers get knowledge on new technologies and practices. In the past, the services were predominantly carried out by the government.
However, reforms introduced by the World Bank through its Structural Adjustments Programmes of the 1980s led to the exit of thousands of public servants.
Extension service workers were among the most affected, leaving a void that was filled by agrovets and lately agrovet digital apps.
From agrovets, farmers procure crop and livestock farm inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, feeds and agrochemicals as well as get professional advice.
The advantage with agrovets, especially those handling animal inputs, is that the law demands that the front desk staff should not only be trained on animal health but also get continuous professional development.
Further, the outlets are distributed across the country with the highest concentration being in the high potential agricultural zones. Therefore, in addition to inputs, the professionals are expected to educate farmers.
Unlike government extension services that were top to bottom, with agricultural officers promoting what they thought the farmer needed, the agrovet offers demand-driven information, which is, thus, timely and specific.
For livestock farmers, below is the information you can reliably get from agrovets.
Different pests cause various clinical conditions that are similar thus one requires a professional not only to differentiate them but also to prescribe the best control regime. For example, for many external parasites, animals will display itching and falling off of hair and feathers as clinical signs of. Fleas, lice, bedbugs, manage and fungal infections are some of the causes and the agrochemicals required to control them are varied. Through detailed history, trained agrovet personnel can be able to differentiate them or recommend appropriate laboratory samples confirmation.
Various animals have a number of vaccine requirements with specific schedules. Vaccinations without thorough understanding of the routes of administration, timing and vaccine handling especially where farmers administer the drugs themselves has led to great economic losses. One such case is that of Gumboro disease, also known as Infectious Bursal Disease in poultry, which should be vaccinated against twice when the birds are less than three weeks of age. You find farmers vaccinating birds that are past that age, which is a waste. In the agrovet shops, one can consult on the vaccination schedules of all livestock and in some cases, a printed schedule is either given or sold at an affordable fee.
While many farmers are aware of breeding technologies like artificial insemination (AI), understanding of the heat timing and signs, animal preparation before, during and after heat period or service is limited leading to high infertility rate, especially in cattle. You can get such information from agrovets, including on breeds suitable for your area, breeding techniques such as embryo transfer as well as AI services.
Ideally, all drugs are supposed to be administered by trained animal health service providers (AHSPs). However, due to challenges that include Covid-19, economies of scale especially with small-scale farmers who own just a few livestock that cannot pay an AHSP; distances between AHSPs and farmers as well as the terrain, farmers are sometimes forced to administer of-the-counter drugs such as dewormers, eye ointments and in extreme case, curative drugs. Before leaving an agrovet, the farmer should clearly understand the route and amount of drug to be administered, the duration, side effects and withdrawal period for that drug.
Animal products markets, preferred packaging, links to specialised dealers of tools, equipment and machines as well as other players in the field is information available in agrovets. Therefore, in addition to acquisition of supplies, farmers should also seek professional advice from the shops.
All said, while the aim of an agricultural extension service provider in an agrovet is to help a farmer, not all people in the sector are professionals. Thus, as a farmer, know that there are issues best left to professionals such as major surgery and use of prescription only drugs. Further, it is illegal for a farmer to use the acquired knowledge to treat animals for others at a fee.
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