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Education and training needs of animal agriculture in developing countries

by A. Smith and A. Hunter



The availability of correctly trained and skilled manpower is one of the most critical requirements in developing a livestock sector. However, it is only one of the constraints that limit animal production in developing countries. The number of skills that are needed are many and varied. Certainly an adequate supply of skilled manpower will not of itself ensure development, especially if it is wrongly deployed or cannot be deployed at all.

In many countries there may even be a surplus of skills in certain sectors but that these skills cannot be used because there is no money to pay for the effective use of the trained personnel. A classical example of this exists in Egypt. In this country there are 5 veterinary schools producing a large number of veterinarians each year. The result is that this country has a total of 16,500 veterinarians of whom, all but 800 are in government service. These veterinarians service a comparatively small animal population of 2 million cattle and 2.5 million buffalo. This compares with the situation in the United Kingdom where there are only 8,500 veterinarians, 7,000 of whom are in the private sector. Only a small number of these would service the needs of the 12.5 million cattle found in this country. Many of the remainder would earn their living looking after the welfare of “companion animals” such as cats and dogs.

Clearly all the veterinarians found in Egypt cannot be gainfully employed and certainly the high number does not mean that animals in Egypt are better cared for than those in the UK. Also the provision of salaries of the veterinarians in the public sector will place an unnecessary burden onto the expenditure of the Egyptian Government. This one example shows us that more does not mean better and that the provision of trained personnel will not necessary solve a country's development needs. In fact, too much training may in fact be counterproductive. Only if other constraints are removed can spending on training be a useful investment.

In the above example only veterinarians are considered, but many other disciplines are needed to ensure that sustainable animal agriculture can be practised. What are the constraints to animal production in the tropics and what type of training is needed to overcome these constraints. These factors will be dealt with in the next section, whilst in the final section the training of veterinarians and para-veterinarians will be looked at in detail and the ways in which their numbers and training can be modified to meet the need of individual countries.

Factors that Limit Animal Production in the Tropics

The factors that limit animal production in the tropics include the following:

Skills that are Needed to Overcome these Constraints

The relative importance of each of the above constraints will vary from country to country but the overcoming of these constraints will need the input of a number of specialists, examples of which include animal physiologists, breeders, nutritionists, forage/range agronomist, veterinarians, sociologists and economists.

This list is not, of course, exhaustive but does give a fair idea of the many different disciplines in which training is needed. It will not be possible in this short presentation to cover all disciplines mentioned. What we will do is to use the example of veterinary medicine to investigate the problem and to see what types of training are needed, where they are available and how effective training is in ensuring development.

Training and Sustainable Development

The concept of sustainability is one of keeping a system going. This aim might not be desirable, if this system is being sustained using a large number of external inputs. For example, it may be possible in many countries to sustain intensive poultry production using imported feeds, birds and vaccines. Such an enterprise would need trained personnel to run it such as veterinarians, nutritionists, possibly geneticists in addition to skilled manual workers. However, would such trained labour be justified when the effect of such a programme would be to reduce the total of food available in a country? This type of system can rarely be justified in developing countries (Smith, 1990).

Therefore when identifying training needs it is important to identify the system into which the trained personnel are to be slotted. In most cases the system should be one that will sustain itself with the minimum of outside intervention and the training received by the personnel should reflect this concept. Nomadism in certain areas of the world, is or was, a sustainable form of animal agriculture until outside forces caused it to become unsustainable. The main factor causing unsustainability is normally population pressure but ill conceived education or training programmes have sometimes made the problem worse. For example the conventional education of children of nomads would certainly remove them from the labour pool whilst they are of school age and might alienate them completely from this system of production. Similarly training technicians to drill bore holes may lead to chronic overgrazing in the area around the boreholes. Therefore it must not be thought that training is always beneficial it can as we have seen make matters worse.

Inability of Government to use these Skills because of a Lack of Operation Funding

Another problem that faces planners in the third world is, having trained skilled manpower, how can this manpower be used in developing countries. Most of the available manpower is deployed in the public sector (Table 1) and in many cases the public sector cannot afford to pay for skilled labour.

Table 1: Deployment of Veterinarians in Certain Selected Countries

CountryEmployment by governmentIn gov't laboratoriesPrivate sectorTotal

In a survey carried out by Denis Fielding and one of the authors (AJS) in 21 countries in East and Southern Africa in 1986 we found that in few, if any, of the research stations and Universities devoted to animal production made any real impact on the output from this sector. One of the main reasons for this lack of impact is that practically all the money (between 85 and 95%) of the expenditure goes to pay the salaries of the personnel, whereas in a well balanced organisation only about 65% should be used for this purpose. The situation has become worse over the years due to the worsening financial situation of third world countries and even relatively well off countries, such as Zimbabwe, are now spending over 70% of their relevant budget on salaries. At that time (1986), one of the major fears of the then Director of Zimbabwe Department of Research and Specialist Services was that the Government would make him take an increased quota of students graduating from the local University. If this was to happen he feared that there would be no money for actual research because all the available funds would have been used up on salaries. Such a situation has been reached in Tanzania where the Government practice is to employ all graduates in the public sector.

Where such a policy is pursed salaries are low, often well below a living wage, and not only do the staff not have money for work but they have to take on additional jobs in order to survive. Under such conditions it must be asked what value these qualified people are to their country and would their country's needs be better served by fewer graduates.


We have chosen to focus on veterinary training because it is the type of training which is most clearly defined and it is the one on which there is the most factual information.

Veterinary training requirements to fall into three categories as follows:

All these areas shall be briefly considered, but in the view of the authors, the last category has the greatest need.

Graduate Training

The need for veterinarians in different countries and regions depends on the type of livestock industry. Botswana has one of the most effective government veterinary services in Africa and can be used as an example of optional staffing levels.

Botswana has 30 veterinarians, mostly employed in government veterinary services (FAO, 1988) and a total of 2.4 million livestock units (LU) of which cattle represent 2.3 million LUs. Several factors combine to simplify the provision of effective veterinary services which are:

Thus veterinary services are effectively provided by a small professional cadre supervising field staff who carry out most of procedures (vaccinations, castrations, dosing, quarantine, inspections, etc.).

Using Botswana as a model, it can be argued that its ratio of 80,866 LU's per veterinarian is the optimum for effective veterinary services. In other situations (e.g. a more intensive livestock industry, more difficult terrain, greater diversity of animal husbandry practices) the optimum ratio for effective veterinary services would be lower.

Schöner and Meyer (1971) analyzed the number of veterinarians in relation to domestic animal population throughout the world. Using the Botswana model, an arbitrary ratio of 100,000 LU per veterinarian has been used as the minimum requirement to deliver effective essential veterinary services and countries with ratios greater than this (i.e. more than > 100,00 LU per veterinarian) are shown in Table 2.

From this crude, arbitrary analysis it can be seen that in 1971 the greatest shortage of veterinarians was in Africa, particularly, francophone West Africa, with most of South America and Asia being reasonably provided with veterinarians.

Currently there are two veterinary faculties in francophone sub-saharan Africa, namely at the “Université Nationale de Zaire” in Lumbumbashi and the “Ecole Inter Etats des Sciences et Médicine Vétérinaire de Dakar” in Senegal which encompasses 13 African countries (Brandt and Geerts, 1987).

By contrast, countries in anglophone sub-saharan Africa have strived to develop their own national veterinary schools. Hence, since 1971, the numbers have trebled from five to 15 (Table 3). Thus the question arises which is the best approach, francophone or anglophone? The authors have only a limited experience of the francophone regional approach to veterinary training but have had some experience of the anglophone system. Veterinary schools are very expensive to establish and run; for example, it is well documented in the UK that veterinarians are the most expensive graduates to produce. Hence once a country has invested in a national veterinary school, it runs the risk of producing graduates in excess of its needs to justify the investment. The problems associated with excess training and over production of graduates has been mentioned above.

Table 2: Countries with more than 100,000 Livestock Units (LU) per Veterinarian

 CountryRatio of L.U.: Veterinarians
Upper Volta"
South & Central AmericaHaiti>1,550,000
Asia & OceaniaAfghanistan300,001–700,000
South Yemen200,001–300,000

Source: Schöner and Meyer (1971).

Table 3: Veterinary Schools in Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa12

* From WHO (1973).

Table 2 has listed countries that are possibly suffering from a shortage of veterinarians. If new veterinary schools are under consideration to supply veterinarians for these countries, it is strongly recommended that the regional approach to training, as prevails in francophone sub-saharan Africa, should be investigated.

Irrespective of the location of a veterinary school, the curriculum has to cover a similar range of disciplines (physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology and medicine, etc.), although emphasis in the clinical areas varies from country to country and region to region depending on needs. It is impossible to give an optimum staffing level for a veterinary school, but in order for a school to be effective, it must have a minimum critical mass. The academic staffing levels in British and Irish Veterinary Schools range from 55 to 78 (average 63) and these are complemented by research staff and honourary fellows (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, 1990). It would be difficult to see how a veterinary school could be effective with less than a critical mass of about 60 professional staff carrying out both teaching and research. In order for veterinary schools to be cost effective, the ratio of students to staff need about 300 students which for a 5 year course means about 60 graduates per year. This is probably over ambitious for most developing countries and a more realistic figure is probably about 20–30.

Assuming 20–30 graduates a year is a reasonable target, how many veterinarians are required to justify this level of production? In the UK, exhaustive analyses of this type of question in relation to British Veterinary Schools have been carried out in recent years. In 1988, 8,489 veterinarians were employed in the UK (FAO, 1988). The production of approximately 300 graduates per year is adequate to sustain this. Consequently by simple arithmetic; 20–30 graduates a year would sustain a cadre of 565 to 850 veterinarians. Thus if the number of veterinarians required for a country is significant less than this, it must be questionable if a national veterinary school is justified. The number of veterinarians needed to maintain a government Veterinary Service is estimated by us to be one veterinarian per 100,000 Livestock Unit.

Post Graduate Training

In the authors' view the requirements for post graduate training are adequately supplied. This view is not necessarily shared by others, including potential candidates for post graduate training. To anyone who has travelled and worked in developing countries, the perceived clamour for further training and post graduate degrees is frequently at odds with the low level of application of basic graduate training and education: the “I need to do a PhD” syndrome is well known to us all. Post graduate veterinary training has been reviewed by several authors and some programmes available are summarised in Table 6.

To the aspiring MSc or PhD post graduate veterinary student, the world is his oyster if he can secure the necessary funds. The greatest problems arise in ensuring that such a student embarks on relevant and appropriate training. There is always the risk that the candidate with sponsorship will register in “a course” to utilize the funding, even if the course is not strictly what is required. Ideally, those responsible for organising and administering post graduate education should respond to needs dictated by livestock and veterinary departments, donor agencies, etc. In reality, the needs are rarely defined and the educationalist have to assess these needs themselves. At the CTVM, we do this by maintaining a wide range of links with overseas organisations an individuals and couple our “intelligence” with the more stereo-typed-up-dating of information from the scientific literature. There are clear advantages of training MSc students out of their own country. This type of training enables them to mix with students from other countries that often have similar problems to their own. It also enables them to see their own country's problems from outside and therefore to understand them better.

Table 5: Estimated Numbers of Veterinarians, Cattle Stock and Cattle/Veterinarians Ratios in Countries in Central and South America *

CountryNumber of VeterinariansCattle Stock
Cattle/Veterinarian Ratio
Central America   
Costa Rica4302.555,937
Rep. Dominicana400**2.426,050
El Salvador2180.924,261
South America   

* FAO (1985, 1985b).
** Estimated figures from the faculties consulted.
*** de Diego (1985).After Campero (1987).

Information on available training programmes can be difficult to locate. Thus one of the authors (AGH) on a recent training mission to South America experienced great difficulty in identifying suitable training programmes for Spanish or Portuguese speakers employed in veterinary laboratories. An up to date register or directory of post graduate training programmes would ease many of the problems encountered in organizing relevant training and it is strongly recommended that if such a document is not available, it should be published by an appropriate agency, e.g. FAO.

Table 6: Post Graduate Programmes for Veterinarians in Developed and Developing Countries.

RegionCountryType of Programme and Number of Schools/Institutes Available
Short CourseMScPhd
N. America *Canada 122
USA 1414
C. & S. America (*)Argentina11 
Brazil 206
Chile 22
Colombia 2-
Venezuela 2-
Mexico 71
Africa *Ethiopia1  
Nigeria 33
Sudan  1
Asia *India287
Thailand 22
Malaysia 11
Indonesia 22
Australasia *Australia255
N. Zealand111
Europe +U.K.255
belgium 1 

* From Campbell (1984)
(*) From Campbell (1984) and Campero (1987)
+ From Edelsten (1984).

In many instances, and for many individuals, the most appropriate training at post graduate level is the short course designed as a refresher or up-dating course. These can range from a few days to a few weeks and involve one individual on attachment, or a more general structured arrangement with delegates and invited tutors. These tend to be organised in the developed world and thus tend to be limited to the fortunate few who can find the necessary sponsorship. Greater consideration should be given to running short courses “in situ” as these would reach a wider audience and be available to many more delegates.

Technical Level Training

This very important area is the most difficult to define. Most countries have some arrangement for training field and laboratory technicians but the quality of the training can range from the abysmal to the excellent.

It is usually possible to assess the quality of the various graduate and post graduate programmes and act accordingly, but this is not the case with technician training. There is also the question of how many technicians are required. Once again, using Botswana as a model, some indicators can be deduced.

Botswana has 1,418 veterinary auxiliary staff (FAO, 1988). The majority work in the field, but others work in laboratory services, quarantine camps, abattoirs and livestock advisory centres. They are supervised by 30 veterinarians, i.e. approximately 47 auxiliary staff to each veterinarian.

Clearly this ratio might be inappropriate in veterinary services where greater direct professional intervention is required, but it could be argued that an arbitrary ratio of 40 to 50 auxiliary staff to one veterinarian is a good baseline for planning staff numbers. Thus in Botswana, the ratio of veterinarians: technicians: L.U.'s is 1:47:1710. In other circumstances, farmers may be expected to attend to certain veterinary procedures themselves (e.g. dosing against helminths and castrations, etc.) and thus the ratio of technicians per L.U.'s may be greater than 1:1710 - say 1:5000. Likewise, in certain circumstances, veterinary procedures and the arbitrary ratio of veterinarians: L.U.'s of 1:100,000 may have to be reduced to a lower figure, say 1:25,000, in which case a more realistic ratio of veterinarians: technicians would be approximately 1:10.

The important point is to ensure that these ratios are estimated as correctly as possible, so that realistic staffing levels and training programmes can be drawn-up.

It is probably unrealistic to analyze the various training arrangements for technicians in different countries. What would be more practical is to give consideration to running training programmes in recognised reputable centres where the quality of the training could be controlled and standardised.

In order to alleviate limitations in languages of technicians, these programmes should be conducted in the major languages of the world (English, French, Spanish and Arabic) and be conducted in suitably located centres.

The need for such training is particularly great for laboratory technicians. In too many countries, because of the low level of training and skills of laboratory technicians staff, professional staff have to resort to carrying out routine technical chores, so preventing them from utilising their professional training and education to full advantage.

Conclusions on Veterinary Education

Graduate Training:

Post Graduate Training:

Technician Level Training:

Points for Discussion

1 More veterinarians may be required in certain regions where they undertake additions duties which in other regions are undertaken by other professional staff.


Brandt, J. and Gearts, S. 1987. Training in tropical animal health in West and Central Africa. In: Training for the Tropics, edited by P.W.Ladds, Published by James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, Australia, page 13.

Campbell, R.S.F. 1984. Post graduate training programmes available for veterinarians non-European locations. In: Impact of Diseases on Livestock Production in the Tropics, editors Riemann and Burridge. Published by Elsevier. pp. 615–620.

Campero, C.M. 1987. Post graduate studies in veterinary science in Central and South America. In: Training for the Tropics, edited by P.W. Ladds. Published by James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia, pp. 115–124.

Edelsten, R.M. 1984. Post graduate training in tropical animal production and health in Western Europe. In: Impact of Diseases on Livestock Production in the Tropics, edited by Riemann and Burridge. Published by Elsevier. pp. 621–629.

FAO 1988. Animal Health Yearbook.

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Rieman, H.P. and Burridge, M.J. 1984. Impact of diseases on livestock production in the tropics. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons 1990. Register and Directory, London, England.

Smith, A.J. 1990. Poultry The Tropical Agriculturalist. MacMillan Publishers. pp. 8–11.

WHO 1973. World Directory of Veterinary Surgeons - 1971. Published under the auspices of FAO and WHO.

Zyambo, G.C.N. 1987. Tropical Veterinary Graduate Training for South African Countries. In: Impact of Diseases on Livestock Production in the Tropics, edited by Rieman and Burridge, Published by Elsevier, pp. 228–239.

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