Using digital pen technology to monitor livestock diseases in Kenya - CASE STUDY
The management of livestock diseases is of critical importance if Kenya is going to combat rising levels of poverty in its arid lands and capitalize on its huge livestock resource. However, in a system where it takes an average of two months for disease reports to reach decision makers, response to disease outbreaks is almost impossible. However, with the advent of the digital pen and mobile phone technology all this is changing.
A recent EU funded project (implemented by FAO) introduced 49 digital pens into 29 districts. As a result, disease reports are incorporated into the national database in a matter of seconds, enabling timely and immediate response. The system has also incorporated a method of applying for and receiving livestock movement permits.
This will significantly reduce the cost of livestock trading and will enable the government to map numbers of livestock moving for trade in different areas of the country. If this information is coupled with real time disease reporting, the government will be able to map potential disease hot spots and react prior to outbreaks. This will have a significant effect on the management of livestock diseases in the country, saving both the livestock keepers and the national government significant amounts of money.
This activity is part of a global food facility project called "Enhancing livestock production to support vulnerable populations in Kenya affected by volatile food prices" funded by the European Union in response to the soaring food prices of 2008-09. The ELP project was designed to support livestock derived food production in both the dry lands (which constitute 80% of the country) and the higher rainfall areas of the Rift Valley. The dry lands are predominantly inhabited by pastoralists and represent the most food insecure region of the country.
Key among the major factors limiting pastoral production systems are a) the management of diseases and b) access to and management of markets. The project addressed these challenges though support to market management capacity and through the introduction of the digital pen. The digital pen not only improved the disease reporting system, it contributed to reduced transaction costs for livestock traders enabling pastoralists to sell healthy animals at better prices.