Livestock Research for Rural Development 21 (10) 2009 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

International development pitfalls and successes: Five case studies from Tanzania

G Gunther and M A Memon

Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Washington State University,
P.O. Box 647060, Pullman, Washington 99164-7060 USA


International development work is designed to alleviate poverty and to improve the quality of life in poverty stricken countries.  Development projects range from direct government-to-government loans to small grass roots organizations.  Most have a common goal of improving and stabilizing the economy, either locally or country wide, in developing nations.


Veterinarians can play a critical role in developing countries.  Developing nations are primarily agricultural and livestock plays a key role in the economy and often in the culture.  Important livestock issues include trans-boundary diseases, management, nutrition, genetics and marketing.  Veterinarians are also important for public health education concerning food safety and zoonotic diseases.


Five case studies from US Peace Corps volunteers development aid projects in the Iringa region in Tanzania were re-examined between 3 and 5 years after donor support concluded.  The lessons learned included the importance of strong project leadership, appropriate technologies and information, and careful project design.  Development projects in developing countries face many challenges such as corruption, reliance on donor funding, and unforeseeable problems such as weather.  Nevertheless, most projects have positive impacts including education about management practices and the introduction of superior phenotypes.

Key words: livestock, poverty-alleviation, small-holder farmers, veterinarian’s role


We live in a technologically advanced, global economy, and yet there are millions of people living on incomes of less than 1 US dollar a day.  Millions of people across the globe struggle with devastating poverty, malnutrition and minimal access to health care.  As the world’s population continues to grow, the food resources available to people living on less than 1 dollar a day continue to diminish.  Among areas of the world struggling to maintain a working environment for its peoples, Africa stands out.  Africa is being torn apart by civil unrest and political turmoil, environmental changes leading to droughts and starvation, and disease epidemics are ravaging the populations. African nations have enormous potential to supply the world with raw materials and manufactured goods. However, instability in African nations can be a source of global disease epidemics, as well as destabilization of a stable world economy and global politics.


The majority of people living in Africa are small-holder or subsistence farmers.  They manage small plots of land designed to generate enough crops to feed themselves with very little excess for cash profit.  It makes sense that many poverty-alleviation projects target farmers.  Production of a cash crop beyond the production of food for consumption can have a significant impact on small-holder farmers.  Livestock play a key role in African society and economy.


Veterinary care  

Veterinarians are key players in the global fight to alleviate poverty and reduce disease prevalence via livestock production.  Small-holder farmers raise livestock such as chickens, goats, sheep or cows.  This represents a huge potential for profit production.  Veterinarians can help improve livestock management to maximize production, reduce infectious diseases, and provide public health education. Veterinarians also have a key role in collaboration with health workers to prevent zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis, Rift Valley Fever and rabies which continue to be a concern in SubSaharan Africa.


Trans-boundary diseases such as Foot and Mouth disease, Newcastle disease, and rinderpest have huge economic impacts on countries.  Many trans-boundary diseases are endemic in Tanzania and the threat of spread of trans-boundary diseases such as FMD or Newcastle disease to countries that are naÔve, such as Europe, has a detrimental effect on Tanzanian livestock export.  Veterinarians are vital in identifying outbreaks and preventing the spread of these diseases.


The need for veterinary assistance and the benefit of livestock programs will be explored in five examples of projects from the Iringa Region in Tanzania.


Animal-agriculture in Tanzania

Tanzania is located on the coast of eastern Sub-Saharan Africa and has a population of 40.4 million people.  It is one of the world’s poorest countries.
The 2004 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index ranked Tanzania 162 out of 175 countries. The World Bank estimates Tanzania's 2004 per capita income at $280 per year (less than $1 per day) (USAID 2004).   In many ways Tanzania is typical of socioeconomic and agricultural problems Africa faces.  Most Tanzanians are subsistence farmers, meaning that they basically grow their own food supplies, despite the fact that only 4.2% of Tanzania is considered to be arable.  The average life expectancy in Tanzania is about 51 years (World Fact Book 2008).


Agriculture is the most important economy in Tanzania and represents 40% of its gross domestic product and employs 80% of its workforce.  Live animals and hides made-up most of the livestock related international exports.  Most of the Tanzanian livestock is held by small holder farmers, with only 1% of livestock production occurring on commercial ranches.  Livestock are not only responsible for food production, but are also used as draft power for cultivation, and as an alternate form of earnings savings (US Dept of State 2009).


Trans-boundary and zoonotic diseases


Trans-boundary diseases, the epidemic diseases which cause high morbidity and mortality in susceptible animal populations, are a global threat.  They affect food security both due to loss of the animals themselves and the draft animal power used for cultivating land.   These diseases severely impact the regional economy and make it very difficult to import genetics to improve production.  Finally, some of these diseases are zoonotic and may cause morbidity and mortality among farmers (FAO 2008a).  Tanzania is particularly susceptible to diseases such as Rift Valley fever, Newcastle disease, and Trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness).  Rift Valley fever is a mosquito vectored disease which causes hemorrhage and fever in both people and cattle.   In 2007, Rift Valley fever resulted in a 14% decrease in livestock population and in at least 126 human deaths (Economic survey 2007)


Newcastle disease is another globally important trans-boundary disease that also causes significant economic losses in endemic countries.  The Newcastle virus may cause up to 100% mortality in naÔve flocks.  The virus is endemic in Tanzania and commonly destroys up to 90% of chicken flocks in rural areas.  Other important trans-boundary diseases include Trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness) and Foot and Mouth disease. 


Several factors contribute to the high risk of disease in Tanzania.  These include the humid and tropical climate, the agro-pastoralist method of raising, methods of livestock transport which often involve driving cattle over long, a lack of veterinary resources to diagnose, isolate, and to treat livestock diseases, a lack of wide-spread prevention programs including vaccination and testing, and a reluctance of farmers to report illnesses.  While there are mandatory vaccination programs, participation is often minimal. 


What is aid? 

There are many different sorts of ‘aid’ ranging from large scale loans government to government, to grass-roots projects run by fundraising, to projects run by religious institutions.  Tanzania has a number of large scale aid organizations, such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which funds large scale projects that target infrastructure and other issues, and which also has grants available for smaller non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  There are also official volunteer programs such as the United States (US) Peace Corps in which volunteers act as both cultural ambassadors and development workers.  In addition, Tanzania has numerous NGOs, most of which are run by non-Tanzanians and which tend to have a more grass-roots approach than governmental organizations.  Finally, the Tanzanian government has many extension programs and is deeply committed to developing different sectors.  Projects vary in duration from a few months to more than 20 years.  Similarly, project scale varies from five farmers to country wide implementation.


Development work is often collaborative with the Tanzanian extension and education programs.  Nevertheless, Tanzania is a patchwork quilt of development projects, most operating in limited areas teaching diverse technologies and methods.  In some ways, this may be viewed as a natural testing ground for these different technologies; however, it is difficult to effect country-wide change if there is no consistency between projects. 


Negative aspects of aid


The biggest criticisms of aid programs is that they are designed to be temporary, sort of a ‘hand-up’ and are supposed to be self-limiting.  Instead, aid and development work has become a thriving industry.  Most countries that have received aid continue to have weak economies and have a majority of people living in poverty.  Development work has been criticized for creating a culture of dependence on donor funding.  Critics claim that poor nations do not invest in the infrastructure for health and public sector development because they rely heavily on development projects to fulfill these needs.  Sustainability is a key issue in development work and a dependence on donor funding is detrimental to sustainability.  The negative impact on donations of money and goods is a recurring theme that will be explored in the five case studies from the Iringa region of Tanzania.


Positive aspects of aid work


Tanzania is one of the countries that has received the most monetary aid since gaining independence compared to other developing countries.  It has been held up as an obvious example of a failure of international assistance since it is now poorer in terms of the global economy than it was in 1960.  However, it has also become “…a relatively successful social development in terms of health, education, and equality” (Catterson and Lindahl 1999)


Case studies: specific examples 

The US Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania implement a wide variety of projects, including projects that target livestock development.  During 2002 to 2004 many projects were implemented in the Imalinyi village, which is located in the Iringa region of the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.  These programs ranged from livestock improvement programs to HIV/AIDS education and women’s small business development.  These projects were briefly reassessed in the summer of 2007.  The successes and challenges of five projects will serve as an example of how some development projects are designed, implemented and finally sustained (or not) by the villagers.


These projects were chosen because they spanned most of the 2002-2004 time period, all phases of the project were completed by 2004, there was a minimum involvement of 35 villagers, and because these projects were available for follow up in 2007.  Projects not chosen include livestock projects which were not completed by 2004 (including milk goat and honey bee projects) or were begun prior to 2002 (dairy cow project), non-veterinary related projects (including biogas digesters, HIV/AIDs education, health care education, Adobe ovens, fuel efficient stoves, school construction), or projects involving fewer than 35 villagers (womens small business development, small animal deworming program).


The five highlighted projects pertain to livestock development: livestock health and illness seminars, hybrid vigor chickens, Newcastle disease vaccinations, pig farming, and tilapia ponds.  A number of experts were involved during the project development and implementation, including the local Imalinyi area Livestock Officer, the Peace Corps Environment project director, Heifer Project International (HPI), the village chairman and executive officer.


Livestock health and illness seminars 


A series of monthly seminars were presented by the Peace Corps volunteer and the Livestock Officer of the Imalinyi region.  The volunteer researched the disease topics, wrote the pamphlets, and translated them into Kiswahili, and then printed and assembled the pamphlets.  The seminars were open to the whole village and were announced the night before the seminar via village wide drumming.  An average turnout was 25 to 35 villagers.  Pamphlets were available both at the seminar, at the village office, and were placed in the village library.  The seminars included detailed descriptions of diseases capable of causing epidemics including Rift Valley fever and Foot and Mouth disease. More information about HOW the topics were presented would be useful.


Most livestock in Tanzania is grazed communally during the day on community land, in the pastoralist method of management.  The job of herding livestock falls to young boys usually between the ages of 6 to 14years.  This allows a division of labor within the family and frees older family members who are physically stronger to tend their crops, including cash crops which are used to purchase more cattle.  Unfortunately, while these children are herding cattle they are not in school and this contributes to the national literacy problem.  These children are usually barefoot leading to further complications including parasitic infections such as cutaneous and visceral larval migrans.


More intensive livestock production is being introduced by a variety of NGOs, including HPI which provides villagers with dairy cows.  However, since there is no hay production nor is there any other production of fodder, owners of these animals need to plant appropriate grasses, such as elephant grass, and need to harvest this grass daily.  While these cows produce significantly more milk, a larger initial investment in a cow pen, including a water tank (usually made from cement) and grass seeds, are needed.  Furthermore, these cows are susceptible to infectious diseases and malnutrition, including dehydration.  In one study, the average number of mature cows per farm was two cows with an average age of four years.  The mean body condition score was 2.2 out of five (indicating malnutrition).  These factors most likely contributed to the longer than normal average calving interval (420-680 days).  The longer calving interval as an important measure of productivity indicates that productivity is sub-optimal on the average Tanzanian small-holder dairy farm (Swai et al 2005a). 


Due to the difficulty in obtaining and maintaining high milk producing dairy cows, most farmers continue to rely on the native zebu cattle and continue to maintain them on communally grazed land.  This leads to several problems including overgrazing, grazing in wilderness or protected areas, and top soil erosion.  Furthermore, most cattle are not treated for ectoparasites and each cow commonly carries a heavy tick load.  Common tick borne diseases include East Coast fever, anaplasmosis and cowdriosis.  In one study in Northern Tanzania, 85% of cattle were infested with significant numbers of ticks including Rhipicephalus, Amblyomma and Boophilus (Swai et al 2005b).  Of the farms studied, most claimed to use tick control once or twice a month.  However, most also dilute the antiparasitc acaricides 3 to 4 fold, with a questionable benefit.  Clearly, tick-borne diseases cause significant production loss for farmers.  Current tick control methods are either not being used or used incorrectly, and there is a high risk of developing tick resistance to acaricides by frequent dilution of the compounds.  The most commonly used acaracides are chlorfenvinphos and amitraz based (Swai et al 2005b).


Seminar topics


There are several important topics that basic livestock seminars need to teach.  These include recognition and treatment of infectious and non-infectious diseases, livestock nutrition and management, and parasite control.


The recognition of infectious diseases is important because disease epidemics can be prevented by early recognition.  The Imalinyi seminars could have placed more stress on the importance of reporting these diseases.  Many farmers are reluctant to report diseases, particularly FMD which does not usually lead to significant mortality on a village level, because they are worried about destruction of their animals without compensation.  Stressing the importance of seeking veterinary care and advice for all ill animals is important because it is difficult for farmers to correctly diagnose and treat most diseases.  However, educating the farmer about the diseases including sign recognition and general treatment is important because farmers are more willing to seek appropriate veterinary care if they understand the risks to both the livestock and to people.


The seminars did stress the importance for the livestock officer to examine all seriously ill animals because diseases may resemble each other.   It was also stressed that though it is possible to buy most veterinary medications at farm implement stores it is better to have a trained professional prescribe the treatment.  However, there are several limitations.  Most concerning is the understaffing of the livestock sector.  The Imalinyi livestock officer was responsible for the livestock of approximately 15,000 households.  He lived in Njombe, an hour drive from the Imalinyi district, and made farm calls on a motorcycle.  It is impossible for one individual to make farm calls to all the necessary areas.  Secondly, corruption is a country-wide problem and often the cost is transferred to small holder pastoralists making it impossible for them to afford veterinary care.  Teaching farmers how to recognize serious illnesses and the basics of general treatment may help them to decide when to call for veterinary assistance.


Non-infectious diseases and diseases that are not spread from animal to animal often cause major production losses.  One major barrier to improved production is subclinical mastitis.  Villagers treat mastitis when the cow is obviously ill or the milk is grossly abnormal.  Otherwise the cow is assumed to be healthy and variations in milk production are attributed to luck and weather.  One study in the Iringa and Tanga regions (which includes the Imalinyi district) estimated a 75.9% subclinical mastitis level when assessed via the California mastitis test (CMT).  The most common pathogen was Staphylococcus aureus (Karimuribo et al 2006).  One study (Karimuribo et al 2008) showed that the main problem was illiteracy and lack of knowledge about different types and treatment of mastitis.  The study findings indicated that farmers were unaware of subclinical mastitis and that only 81% of acknowledged cases of mastitis cases were treated.  The study also assessed different methods of disseminating knowledge and the best results were achieved with the ‘handout’ method.  In fact combining the ‘handout’ with videos and village meetings did not increase the benefit over the ‘handout’ method alone.  This study also indicated that although dairying is seen as a profitable venture, and is indeed usually carried out by middle income villagers, the benefit-cost analysis indicated that there was actually a poorer return on investment when compared to pastoralist method of keeping livestock and crop production (Karimuribo et al 2008).  One conclusion was that although return on investment was poor, the potential for increased revenue was high.  Educating farmers on methods of preventing mastitis, including suckling calves and treatment of clinical mastitis with intramammary antibiotics, is critical for economically viable dairy industry.


Mastitis is particularly important in Tanzania where there are almost no milk quality safe-guards.  Milk is not pasteurized and no somatic cell count is performed, most milk is delivered daily and no particular sanitary considerations are used for cleaning the milk delivery containers.  The recipient often but not always boils the milk.  However, the recommended 10 minutes of rolling boil are never achieved and milk is considered by many to be cooked and safe to drink if it boils briefly.  Milk-borne zoonoses are particularly important in a country whose HIV/AIDS infection rate reaches 25% in some areas and in which children are often immunosuppressed due to malnutrition or other diseases.  Sadly, many consumers prefer raw milk for drinking and for yogurt production and raw milk is often one of the ‘home remedies’ used by HIV/AIDS victims.  One study, by Mdegela et al (2004) assessed the risks of milk-borne zoonosis in Tanzania as significant.  In the area studied, the incidence of bovine tuberculosis was 1.7% and brucellosis was 1.9%.  Atypical mycobacterium was also present.  Again, this study indicated that public awareness of the zoonotic potential of milk was very low indicating another opportunity for education (Mdegela et al 2004).


In conclusion, the livestock management seminars were conducted appropriately in small groups and with handouts.  However, while major catastrophic diseases were described, little time was dedicated to basic management aspects such as mastitis, intensive production systems, and ecto- and endoparasite management.  A regular program with handouts would be most beneficial where more topics could be covered.  Some of the problems conducting seminars include producing of pamphlets (using a non-native speaking Peace Corps volunteer with no formal veterinary education is not ideal), funding for pamphlet production and funding for the Livestock Officer to come and speak.  Copies of the pamphlets were placed in the village library; however, the library was rarely open (about once a month) and not frequently used by villagers.


Developing the content of the pamphlets should occur with input by local Livestock Officers as well as empirical evidence presented by papers with Tanzanian data.  The data presented by scientific papers assists in identifying common problems and specific areas that need focus (e.g. subclinical and clinical mastitis, correct application of acaracides).


Finally, care must be taken to present information is a clear and simple manner.  Clearly written and illustrated pamphlets serve as a method to reinforce and disseminate the knowledge.

Hybrid chickens


One of the first projects requested by the Imalinyi village was a broiler chicken and layer chicken project.  Broiler chickens are raised specifically for rapid growth and are designed for meat production.  Chickens are very popular in Tanzania, and there are 30 million chickens for both meat and eggs (The Economic Survey 2007).  Chickens are a small investment, as they live a free range existence by scavenging all over the village and returning to sleep in the hut at night (often under the bed of the owner).  These native Tanzanian chickens are tough and scrappy, able to fight off village dogs and cats, able to fly quite long distances and to roost in trees.  They are also quite disease resistant (compared to imported breeds).  Despite these survival characteristics they lay approximately 11 eggs per laying cycle and have about 3 cycles per year (Mwalusanya et al 2002) (much fewer than layers) and are quite adept at hiding these eggs in the bushes until they hatch.  Furthermore, on average these chickens weigh 1.3 – 1.9 kg (Mwalusanya et al 2002), much smaller than broilers which can reach twice that weight.  An ability to produce an increased number of eggs or larger amounts of meat per chicken would considerably increase the profitability of owning chickens.


However, having assessed the village chicken production (entirely free-range), production of broilers and layers was deemed inappropriate and a cross-breeding program was attempted instead to increase productivity while maintaining hybrid vigor in respect to endemic diseases.  This program was funded via a grant from USAID.   Forty-nine participants were chosen (seven per sub-village) by the sub-village chairmen using criteria of middle income families who already had significant chicken populations.  These participants attended a series of seminars concerning chicken production and health.  In order to qualify to receive a broiler rooster, participants built a chicken enclosure according to project guidelines to prevent the broiler chickens from being free-range.  Participants then each received a broiler rooster chick imported from an Iringa convent which specialized in pigs and chickens with improved genetics.


Approximately 25% of the roosters were lost prior to onset of puberty due to a variety of undiagnosed illnesses.  This was not unusual since native chickens have a 40% mortality rate prior to reaching the age of 10 weeks (Mwalusanya et al 2002).  However, the rest produced a large number of offspring which were 75% heavier than the traditional village chicken and were very popular in local cafes due to the increased size of the drumsticks.


Four years later the characteristic large white offspring could be seen in three of the seven sub-villages; however the enclosed chicken hutches had been abandoned because farmers did not want to incur the cost of feeding the chickens.  The Lugalo sub-village reported that the white offspring had become quite popular and brought good prices, but that they were all stolen one day.  The larger size limits the ability to fly or maneuver quickly and this made them easy targets for organized groups of thieves.  Lugalo no longer raises hybrid chickens.


In conclusion, this project showed some sustainability.  Theoretically, once villagers realized the benefit and profit available in larger chickens they could invest in new genetics themselves and continue a semi-intensive production system.  The remaining genetics are becoming quickly diluted as there is no real effort (with a few exceptions) to maintain the phenotype.  The successful sub-village, Lugalo, which had carefully maintained the phenotype did not invest the money, time or energy to replace the lost chickens.  When the first author visited Lugalo in 2007, the villagers submitted a petition to have the chickens replaced.  They stated that they believed the project to be beneficial; however, they did not show the initiative of replacing them at their own cost. 


Despite the fact that the project itself was not sustainable (defined as a continuation of importing broiler or layer genetics to modify local village chickens), there were several positive results.  Three farmers maintained enclosed spaces for the chickens and fed them kitchen and garden scraps.  The reasons given for continuing the enclosures included better ease of collecting eggs, decreased loss of chickens to predators and thieves, ease of catching chickens for sale or consumption, and to privately maintain some of the broiler phenotype.  Furthermore, the participants in this program have continued to vaccinate their chickens for Newcastle disease and to administer periodic anthelmentics.  This indicates that while Imalinyi farmers were not prepared for a semi-intensive poultry production system, increased education and healthier practices were nevertheless adopted by some individuals.


Similar projects should stress that the continuation of the project beyond the implementation period is the responsibility of the participants.  Participants should be involved in the selection and purchase of the desired phenotype.  Participants should be required to fund some portion of the actual purchase cost of the broiler roosters.  This may encourage better sustainability.  Other beneficial aspects could include development of a specialty market to encourage maintenance of the phenotype and continued importation of new genetics.


Newcastle vaccine program


Newcastle disease is the most economically important poultry disease in Tanzania.  Outbreaks can cause up to 100% mortality in chicken flocks.  Newcastle disease can also become endemic in areas and result in trading restrictions with virus free regions of the world.  Newcastle disease is caused by a paramyxo virus and there are several effective vaccines.  In Tanzania in 2002 to 2004 the most popular vaccine was a thermostable stable eye-drop vaccine.


Chickens are easily carried and are a common sight strapped to the back of a bicycle and stuffed under a bus seat.  Thus, chickens commonly travel between villages and this is the main source of Newcastle disease spread.   The virus spreads mostly via respiratory secretions; however, fecal, oral and fomite routes are also significant.


A goal of vaccinating all of the village chickens (about 30,000) every four months was established in Imalinyi.  Thermo-stable Newcastle vaccine was purchased and a vaccination fee of 10 Tanzanian Shilling (TSh) per chicken was established to cover the cost of the vaccine (which is equivalent to about 1/10 of a US penny per chicken).  Approximately 75-80% of Imalinyi chickens were vaccinated in a house-to-house vaccination program.  Vaccination dates were posted on the village and sub-village office doors and the evening before vaccination, drummers announced the upcoming event.  Challenges included failure of farmers to keep their chickens locked up until arrival of the vaccinators, inability to catch chickens running free, difficulty in administering vaccine, and willingness of farmers to pay the TSh 10 per chicken price.  An unforeseen challenge was that with regular vaccination clinical cases of Newcastle disease became rare and farmers believed that there was no longer a threat and declined to vaccinate.  This led to a later resurgence of the disease.


In retrospect, more farmer education prior to initiating the vaccination program would have been beneficial.  Farmers need to understand the disease cycle, how the virus can be transmitted, and that vaccination does not provide lifelong protection.  Also, it would have been beneficial to document the number of Newcastle disease cases before and after initiation of the regular vaccinations to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the vaccine.  Furthermore, a higher per chicken price might have been more sustainable as it would have been a bigger incentive for individuals to treat vaccinating for Newcastle disease as a business scheme.  Nevertheless, although large village scale vaccination projects in Imalinyi no longer occur, several farmer groups do purchase the vaccine and distribute it amongst themselves.  Several of these farmers were involved in the Hybrid Chicken project.  The farmers involved in that project received more education concerning chicken management and they were more invested in chicken production.


Get a pig, pay two piglets 


Pork consumption in Tanzania has increased dramatically in the last few decades, particularly in urban areas.  Swine do not have the same cultural importance as cattle and are therefore viewed as purely production animals.  Whereas cattle are often slaughtered at an advanced age because owning cattle implies wealth and status, pigs are usually slaughtered when they reach slaughter weight.  The Iringa region of Tanzania is predominately Christian and pork is culturally acceptable. 


Village pigs are raised in a traditional style.  Most village pigs reach maximum size of about 150 to 200 lbs in about 12 months.  This is due to a combination of poor genetics and poor management.  Pigs are usually raised in pig sties that are raised several feet off the ground and have floors consisting of uneven slats which lead to a high incidence of broken limbs.  The pig sties are usually 4x4 feet in size.  Traditional management often results in malnutrition, dehydration and over-heating.


The “Get a pig, Pay two piglets” project was designed to introduce improved swine genetics and improved production management.  Thirty-five villagers were chosen by the village chairman, distributed equally over all seven sub-villages.  Criteria for participants included income range, having no prior experience with swine production, and having no prior participation in other livestock projects (such as HPI Dairy project, Tilapia fish pond project, or the Broiler chicken project).  Participants needed to be in the middle income group because swine production includes a substantial investment in swine housing and foods.  Poorer households would be unable to spare the feed for the swine.  Households in the high income range were excluded because the project was designed to act as poverty alleviation.  The group elected a president and a secretary.  All participants agreed, in writing, to the project requirements which included building an appropriate housing, purchasing mineral and vitamin supplements, supplying appropriate neonatal veterinary care, and the responsibility to give two female piglets from the first litter to a new participant chosen by the group according to the participation criteria.  The boars were owned communally by the sub-village groups.


Pig stalls were built according to project specifications which included a concrete floor, space of 10 by 15 feet, concrete food and water troughs, and either metal or thatch roofing.  The floors were built with a slight decline to assist cleaning.


Thirty-five sows and seven boars were purchased at a convent specializing in swine and were distributed to the participants.  All sows produced litters of eight to fourteen piglets.  All piglets received appropriate veterinary care including iron dextran injections and clipping of needle teeth.  After six months, slaughter weight pigs were sold at a huge profit.


All project participants were very enthusiastic about the profit margin and 60% of participants significantly extended their production to five or six sows.  However, there were several long-term problems.  The first was a growing discontent among the people not chosen to participate in any project.  Accusations of nepotism were leveled at the village governments, and closer inspection revealed that the same families were involved in the aforementioned projects and that these families were often related to the village government and not (as specified by the project) of the middle income group.  A second problem emerged as project participants refused to give piglets to people chosen by the village government to expand the current project.  The project manager was unable to enforce project rules.  The appeal was submitted to members of the village government, but no action resulted.  A final problem emerged as the local (Imalinyi) market became saturated with pork (having increased slaughter from one animal a week to two to three per week) and transportation to larger markets proved to be prohibitively expensive on an individual basis.


The major problems of this project were not technical and are illustrative of problems plaguing development projects world-wide.  The problems of nepotism and corruption are famous and are blamed for many of the problems of developing countries.  In one study on Tanzanian corruption, polls revealed the perceived level of corruption by the public of various public offices: health workers were ranked among the most corrupt with 58% perceived corruption.  Local government was assessed as 44% corrupt (Research on Poverty Alleviation 2006).  Teachers were viewed as least corrupt, but as will be seen in the Tilapia pond project, there are still issues of inappropriate use of power.  Corruption was widespread in Tanzanian society and had a devastating impact on the population below the poverty level who did not have the cash to bribe hospitals to get any health care, or to bribe teachers to let the students pass.  This also affected veterinary services.  Although rural Livestock and Agriculture Officials were paid by the government and received a fuel allotment, they routinely charged farm call fees and marked-up veterinary drugs.  This resulted in most veterinary care out of the reach of the small holder farmer.  Similarly, any NGO or other volunteer organization, such as the US Peace Corps, was often forced to incur unexpected costs. 


There are many causes of corruption including inadequate salaries of government officials, social acceptance of the practice, and lack of deterrents.  Unfortunately this is a slow and painful process and corruption must be taken into account when designing any project in Tanzania.


Ultimately, although the Get a pig, Pay two piglets program was designed to be self-perpetuating and growing, it foundered due to corruption and lack of oversight.  This demonstrates one of the difficulties in sustainability.  Although the overall program disintegrated when the Peace Corps volunteer left, many of the original participants have continued swine production.  The living conditions of project swine deteriorated as farmers simply subdivided the current areas or build new, small, wooden pig huts that were once again raised off the ground.


Tilapia ponds


A small group of farmers requested a fish pond project modeled after the HPI Tilapia project.  Tilapia is an ideal cash crop for small holder farmers in areas with sufficient water because the initial investment involves significant labor (digging the pond) but only enough financial investment to purchase fingerlings.  Thereafter, if managed correctly the tilapia are self-renewing and can be used to seed further ponds.  Fish is an excellent source of protein when eaten fresh or dried.  Protein is particularly important for Tanzanian children who often suffer from protein malnutrition.  Furthermore, while fish is a popular food item, it is usually caught either off the coast of Tanzania or in one of the major lakes.  The FAO indicates that there are only about 14,000 fish ponds in Tanzania and that fish farming accounts for an insignificant percent of agriculture (FAO 2008b).


The tilapia project, funded in part by HPI, began by the digging of 25 ponds.  Each pond was 10m by 10m and 1m deep.  These ponds were dug in natural watershed areas and in clay based soil that can hold water.  The ponds were dug as a group effort and one pond could be finished in an afternoon.  One of the members of the group was a teacher.  When her pond was to be dug, she brought the entire fifth grade class to act as labor.  This raised the issue of child labor and exploitation of school children.  It is common for rural teachers in Tanzania to utilize their class as labor to raise crops on their personal land.


Animal manure was used to encourage plankton growth which acts as tilapia fodder.  Farmers also supplemented this with table and kitchen scraps.  Fingerlings were purchased in a nearby village and transported by individual farmers via bicycle.  Each farmer who received 100 fingerlings pledged, in writing, to help another interested farmer to dig an appropriate pond and to give him or her 100 fingerlings.


Challenges included obtaining nets for harvesting.  The Imalinyi farmers were unable to purchase nets and resorted to draining ponds to capture adults and fingerlings.  Other challenges included occasional droughts which dried up the local water supply.  Nevertheless, enough ponds remained viable to restock the defunct ponds once water returned. 


In four years, the number of fish ponds grew from 25 to 76 under the care of the fish farmers group despite only receiving funding for the initial batch of fingerlings. The initial participants helped new members dig ponds and gave each new member 100 tilapia fingerlings. This project has shown to be the most sustainable and the farmers involved have indicated that in their households child nutrition has improved dramatically.  Four farmers have multiple, terraced fish ponds and have reported a significant income from the ponds, enough to replace thatch roofing with metal roofing on their homes.  The tilapia pond project had strong leadership and close group ties.  All the members were of the low to middle income class and most had no other livestock (necessitating the purchase of manure to seed the ponds).  The sustainability of this project can be directly related to the strong leadership and accountability of the group, which makes monthly visits to all the ponds to critique and laud techniques and to the definite ownership of the project by the group


Project retrospective 

Clearly, although profit is the main objective of poverty alleviating projects, it is not the critical factor that determines the sustainability of a project.  Although there is definite potential for profit production with tilapia farming, the return on investment was greater and more immediate with the Get a pig, Pay two piglet project.  Nevertheless, the tilapia pond project was, overall, much more successful.


There are several challenges facing poverty alleviating livestock projects


First, corruption and nepotism make projects more expensive and inefficient.  They also prevent projects from reaching and helping those who need it most, and instead route more wealth towards the upper-middle class villagers.  Carefully designed projects that clearly specify participant requirements may diminish this problem, but will not eliminate it since the donors are usually not native to the area.  Furthermore, bribes are needed to ensure the smooth implementation of projects which is often vital to ensure the initial success of the project and to prevent ill-will from those government officials needed to help sustain these projects (e. g., participation by Livestock Officials is needed for any intensified livestock production).  Careful education of small-holder farmers concerning their rights is critical to the eventual diminishment of corruption.  Educating farmers about alternative routes of education and livestock veterinary services help farmers to feel more independent.  Any project that involves the distribution of valuable items, such as dairy cows, must have methods of accountability built-in to assure the sustainability and growth of the project.  Project involvement by a broad range of community members, designation of project officers voted on by the community members, and transparent accountability throughout all stages of the project are vital to prevent corruption.  Methods to ensure community involvement include wide spread advertising prior to choosing recipients and a randomized, or otherwise fair, method of designating recipients.


Projects often founder shortly after the donor has departed because participants do not feel a strong sense of ownership of the project and there is no real sense of community amongst participants.  One clear example is the hybrid chicken project.  The Lugallo sub-village group had clearly enjoyed the profits and benefits of this project for several years.  However, when a major setback occurred (i.e. theft of all hybrid chickens), the group simply asked the donor for a new grant.  This indicates that in the minds of the participants, the project still ‘belongs’ to the donor and that responsibility for the continued success of the program also belongs to the donor (even though the donor had departed years earlier).   On the other hand, the tilapia pond project demonstrated clear ownership by group leaders who maintained the initiative and maintained constant feedback to the group members.  One determinant of ownership is how the project is initiated.  Many NGOs and volunteers simply arrive and announce that project “x” or “y” will be happening and random people are chosen.  A clear leadership and transparent accountability system are necessary for project success.   Clear expectations for member contributions are also vital.  Projects in which members fund the necessary start-up costs may be more likely to feel responsible for ongoing costs, such as replacement livestock and veterinary care.  This prevents discrepancies between what an outsider considers an essential or vital project and what villagers are willing to invest in.


Another option that results in a clear sense of ownership by individuals is microfinancing in which farmers are loaned the capital to purchase the livestock and to cover all initial investments.  NGOs, such as Total Landcare, which is based in Malawi and has expanded to other countries including Tanzania, use this to help farmers or farmer groups purchase pedal-pumps in order to begin intensive agriculture of cash crops.  Once the loan is repaid, the money is used to buy more pumps which are then distributed to more farmers.  Other microfinance organizations, including national institutions and NGOs, offer more general microfinance for most business ventures.  Some microfinance organizations are specifically targeting rural women.  The beneficiaries of these organizations are small-holders without the capital to invest in improvements in agriculture or to start small businesses.  Furthermore, they do not have bank accounts and getting traditional loans is impossible. Microfinance loans are usually only a few hundred dollars.  In Tanzania, only five to six percent of the population has access to bank accounts (Basu et al 2008).  Another microfinance option is the formation of a farmer group in which every member pays dues and then has the option of borrowing money from the group savings.    This is a common solution to financing challenges; however, it may lead to discord between members and difficulty in enforcing repayment.


Technical challenges


There are often unforeseen problems and in the livestock sector often include infectious diseases.  These may require further outlay of money that sometimes proves significant.  One example is the presence of mastitis – both clinical and subclinical – in small-holder dairies.  Many donor groups, including HPI, provide dairy cows to villagers.  However, after the initial year of the project, villagers are ‘on their own’.  These small-holder dairymen and women often do not recognize mastitis and even if it is recognized usually do not know how to treat it.  Similarly, many livestock management issues such as ectoparasite control and proper nutrition offer areas with potential for significant improvement.  Education concerning basic management principles – such as how to identify, treat and prevent subclinical and clinical mastitis - is necessary to ensure that dairy farmers generate profit.  Similarly, education is needed on the benefits of ecto- and endoparasite control.  Farmers also need to be taught the correct methods of diluting and applying topical anthelmentics.  Pamphlets, in the local language and containing clear pictures, are an effective method of disseminating knowledge.  Also important is continual feedback from experts.  This may occur as monthly or bimonthly veterinary visits.  Alternatively, individual farmers, such as project leaders may be trained in management skills and then provide feedback to project members.  In the tilapia fish pond project, this method was used and resulted in a cohesive group of farmers dedicated to improving fish management.


Most Tanzanian small holder farmers are literate, but have received no education beyond the seventh grade.  This means that there is no cost-benefit analysis of most business ventures.  While vaccination for Newcastle disease is truly cost-effective: for less than a penny per chicken, the mortality rate can be significantly reduced, many farmers prefer not to spend the Tanzanian shillings to vaccinate their flocks.  One reason is that some years Newcastle disease incidence is much lower than during other years and farmers do not understand the cost benefit of maintaining a regular, prophylactic vaccination schedule.  Similarly, studies show that dairy farms are not as profitable as other cash crops; most likely due to undiagnosed subclinical or clinical mastitis, prolonged calving intervals, and poor nutrition.  One method of addressing this challenge is to teach farmers how to keep accurate records recording production, input costs, and profits.  They can then use these records to assess issues such as calving intervals, sudden decreases in milk production, or cost benefits associated with swine nutrition.  Cost-benefit analyses allow farmers to make better choices concerning future investments, such as buying fodder or free-grazing their cattle, and will influence decisions about marketing.  Record keeping will also help farmers monitor their livestock.  Many farmers do not know exactly how many chickens they own, although they are able to recognize individual chickens.  Farmers are often unsure as to the age and medical history of livestock they own.  Recording these data will help assist in the veterinary care and management of livestock.


Marketing challenges 


Earning a profit involves not only production of the crop, livestock, or craft work but also finding and transporting the product to markets.  Most small-holders sell their livestock in the local village market.  Similarly, milk is sold locally and hand-delivered daily due to inability to store or consolidate milk.  Chickens and eggs are sold locally but are also sold to regional markets because they are more easily transported via bicycle or on a bus.  Demand for livestock is growing faster in developing countries than the demand for staple crops (FAO 2008b).  Obviously this represents an opportunity for economic growth.  Despite this increase in demand, it is easy to saturate local markets. One of the challenges of the Get a pig, Pay two piglets project was saturation of the local pork market.  The Imalinyi village butcher could slaughter no more than two pigs per week due to space and market restraints.  The next step in the project would be to develop a marketing co-operative which could share transportation costs to larger regional markets.  Even the most successful small-holder farmer raised a maximum of eight pigs at a time.  Renting a truck for the transportation of eight pigs is not cost effective and the larger pigs are impossible to transport via bicycle or motorcycle.  However, developing a stable relationship with butchers in Njombe (the nearby regional market), would make it possible to export pigs to larger markets.  One challenge with this next step is the fact a steady supply of swine would be needed to make this a viable business venture for all parties involved.


Marketing is a step that is often not addressed by poverty alleviation projects and is vital to the long-term sustainability of these projects as well as the economic growth of rural areas.  Encouraging farmers’ groups to negotiate prices as a group may give them more leverage, as would the promise of a steady supply of livestock to the regional market.


Critical retrospective assessments of project impact are difficult on many levels.  There is a definite power imbalance in the relationship between the donor and the recipients.  This is critical in many ways but particularly affects critical assessments.  Recipients are well aware that projects are only funded as long as they are ‘successful’ and therefore data and results are often exaggerated.  Many projects employ internal and external evaluations to eliminate any bias from the donor side.  Recipient bias is more difficult to assess and requires actual inspection of randomly chosen recipients (not just questionnaires which are notoriously inaccurate).  Beyond the direct measurements (e.g., how many chickens, how many liters of milk), it is important to perform long term evaluations of factors that indicate economic gain.  Examples of these factors include decreased child malnutrition rates and lower child mortality rates, larger numbers of children reaching secondary education levels, better housing with metal roofs, and increased buying power to purchase transportation.


Unforeseeable factors affecting development projects


When designing, implementing, or assessing a project it is necessary to take other unforeseeable factors into account.  For example, natural disasters such as drought or flooding may have a detrimental effect on livestock.  Some regions may be prone to these natural disasters and may not be ideal for many livestock programs.  Civil unrest is a huge problem in Sub-Saharan Africa and while livestock can be moved, it may not be possible to maintain livestock in cases of civil war or in refugee camps.  Another unforeseen factor can be sudden increases in fuel prices which can negatively affect regional and national economies.  Transportation to regional markets is an important factor in producing stable, economically stimulating projects.  An increase in transportation prices may cause the failure of a project and alternative markets and marketing venues should be considered. Finally, national and international politics affect grass-roots projects as well as larger projects.  Discrepancies in funding and access to assistance may change suddenly, therefore, project plans, while detailed and complex, need to involve the flexibility to respond to unforeseeable factors.


Final assessment of Imalinyi projects 

No formal critical assessment was performed of the projects undertaken in Imalinyi.  However, some indicators of an improved economy included new shops, more houses with tin roofs, and increased transportation availability.  Individuals involved in the projects reported an increase in disposable income and better child nutrition.  Individuals involved in several of the livestock projects have been able to fund other businesses such as local shops or the purchase of motorcycles.  The tilapia fish ponds were a clear success story.  The number of ponds more than doubled since the official project was ended.  Fish farmers reported cash earnings from transportation of fish to the regional market and from sale of fingerlings to other farmers.  Families of fish farmers reported an increase in protein intake, both due to the availability of fish and increased purchasing power. 


Challenges included expectations by participants of continued funding and assistance, despite termination of the donor funding.  Other problems included corruption and difficulty accessing appropriate markets.  Improvements to future projects would include a larger education component including production of more pamphlets, emphasis on management issues such as parasitism and mastitis, and ongoing educational opportunities for farmers and project leaders.


The projects were a positive experience for most of the participants, as well as for the Peace Corps volunteer who designed and implemented the projects.  Despite the setbacks and the challenges, individual participants benefited from both the knowledge and the financial assistance.  Although it was not possible to assess the impact on the overall Imalinyi economy, the lessons that were learned from these projects can be used to design future projects.


Critical assessments, of both short term and long term goals, should be an integral part of any development project small or large.  Recording results of specific parameters including actual livestock numbers and production numbers will demonstrate project growth, expansion and sustainability.  This data can be used to modify the program over time or can be used to design other, more effective projects.  Farmers can learn to track their own projects and to make adjustments to maximize outcomes. 


Long-term goals are more difficult to evaluate and should include parameters that measure the local economy.  Parameters may include child mortality rates, primary school attendance, secondary school attendance, disposable income, and construction.  Measuring these parameters will give an indication of the development of the local economy.  Long-term assessment is vital to assess the sustainable impact of poverty alleviating projects.  This data can be used to demonstrate that development work has a sustainable positive impact on poor economies.


It is possible to make a difference.  The Imalinyi projects demonstrated that.  Lessons have been learned from the successes and challenges of those projects.  Veterinarians are trained to practice evidence based medicine.  This training can be applied to development projects as well and the lessons learned from Imalinyi can be used to help alleviate poverty in future projects.  The role of the veterinarian is critical in poverty alleviation because livestock is an important aspect of agricultural economies and has a direct impact on public health.



The manuscript is adapted from first author’s senior DVM student requirement of Scientific Writing and Presentation course.  The projects mentioned were conducted during 1st author’s Peace Core volunteer assignment during 2002-2004 and a follow-up visit to Tanzania in 2007.



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Received 4 May 2009; Accepted 20 July 2009; Published 1 October 2009

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