Transforming last-mile animal health services to build resilience in Ethiopia

A livestock producer in Erer town in Somali Region of Ethiopia
Hindeya, a livestock producer in Erer town in Somali Region of Ethiopia, is happy that the veterinary pharmacy and animal health clinic opened in her village is improving the health of her cattle and bringing her more income.
September 26, 2023

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Poor animal health is a key driver of low livestock productivity, food insecurity and poverty in the arid lowlands of Ethiopia. Underlying this problem is the failure of public or private sector veterinary services to reach geographically dispersed pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities. 

This learning brief describes how the Mercy Corps-led RIPA-North program learnt from past failures and used a market systems development (MSD) approach to successfully catalyze sustainable animal health services reaching last-mile lowland communities. The brief highlights how private sector models can be applied even in thin markets and fragile contexts to build the resilience of vulnerable communities.

Key achievements include: 

  • Average increase in sales per partner PVP of 1,493% compared with before the RIPA partnership. 
  • Highly successful new approach to creating market-driven last-mile agents, with 81% of agents operational after nearly two years.
  • Strong evidence of replication and ‘crowding-in’ 
  • More than 21,000 households have access to quality animal health services, compared with 6,000 households before the intervention. 
  • Population-based surveys show that 39% of households in RIPA areas purchased veterinary services during the recent severe drought, compared with 3% in control group areas. 

Lessons learning and recommendations: 

  1. Market systems development approaches can be an effective way of rapidly and sustainably increasing access to animal health services, even in thin and fragile market contexts. 
  2. Last-mile networks should be developed by private businesses themselves, as the selection and capacity-building process builds trust, and businesses are more effective than NGOs at cultivating a business mindset in agents.  
  3. Access to animal health services is a high-priority resilience capacity in the lowlands of Ethiopia, and livestock producers are quick to recognize the value and use newly available services. 
  4. The last-mile network has particularly benefited women, as it helped overcome their mobility restrictions and enables them to get support with administration of drugs. 

Access to finance remains a major constraint for PVPs, in particular as PVPs aim to expand their last-mile network and provide credit to agents. This should be a focus area for RIPA-North in the coming months.