Originally published on November 12, 2014.
It is rare to find qualified veterinary doctors in Malawi in private practice. Most are employed by government ministries or non-governmental organizations, and they dedicate their time to supporting government priorities or development initiatives. The few with private practices are based solely in urban areas. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for smallholder dairy farmers in rural areas to access the advice, services, and pharmaceuticals they need to raise healthy animals and build sustainable livelihoods.
Staff from GSJ Animal Health and Production inseminate a dairy cow for a smallholder farmer.
In response to this need, through Land O’Lakes International Development’s Malawi Dairy Development Alliance
, USAID invested in a Malawian private sector veterinary company. The goal was to expand their current operations to also include a mobile veterinary service for smallholder farmers in rural areas, which would provide the critical veterinary pharmaceuticals farmers needed – at their own milk bulking facilities.
In 2007, Land O'Lakes awarded the local Malawian company GSJ Animal Health and Production a support grant to expand its operations, so as to begin providing their services to smallholder farmers organized into milk bulking associations. The grant supported the costs for establishing two clinics in the central and northern regions of Malawi, and also for funding advertisements and promotional materials that would enable farmers to recognize GSJ as a viable veterinary business.
GSJ Animal Health and Production’s staff members now regularly travel to the milk bulking groups to sell their pharmaceutical products. The company also provides training in heat detection and preventative care for dairy animals, and they frequently receive calls from smallholder farmers needing artificial insemination services when their heifers are in heat. The farmers receive these services throughout the month, but the costs are deducted and paid to GSJ at the end of the month, after the farmers have sold their milk. Since GSJ began providing home services and has made fairly priced pharmaceuticals accessible, the farmers have more than halved the mortality rate of their heifers. Meanwhile, with the timely inseminations provided by GSJ, their herds are growing exponentially.