Livestock are an important asset for smallholder farm families in Malawi providing a source of income, nutrition and manure to enrich soils. In times of climate variability like these, livestock such as local chickens and goats provide a safety net for many families when crop production fail. Despite the importance of these assets, the sector is hugely underdeveloped and animal health services are not functioning effectively. Government led veterinary services have rapidly declined and private service providers are mostly concentrated in cities far from where the farmers live. Smallholder farmers in rural areas therefore face challenges accessing quality and affordable animal health products and services resulting in loss of their animals to preventable infections such as Newcastle Disease in local chickens which can wipe up to 80% of stock. Unscrupulous providers are exacerbating the toxic cycle of drug misuse and wastage of farmers’ money. Poor quality products distributed mostly by unqualified individuals, poor handling, inaccurate diagnosis and incorrect dosage administration all result in poor productivity outcomes for farmers and drug resistance in animals that pose public health concerns.
Ziweto Enterprise is revolutionizing access to animal health and livestock extension services by establishing a network of franchised agrovet shops (animal health centres) closer to where the farmers live. These branded shops are currently operating in Karonga, Rumphi and Chitipa. A larger central store will launch soon at Kanengo, alongside shops to be established at Ekwendeni, Mponela, Balaka and Phalombe among other locations. The plan for Ziweto Agrovet Shops is to cover the rest of the country to ensure that livestock farmers have access to reliable and affordable vaccines, drugs, equipment and information required in raising livestock. The enterprise believes that livestock will continue to play a role in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and contribute to national development. If farmers are raising healthy animals, they will increase productivity and contribute towards replacement of expensive imports of livestock products.
All Ziweto Agrovet Shops are owned and run by qualified young people under a micro-franchising arrangement which ensures that the youth participate in agriculture and are economically empowered. Farmers visiting Ziweto Agrovet Shops are served by these qualified and experienced animal health professionals who assist the farmers to purchase the right solution for their animals and also explain how such products are used. Ziweto Enteprirse has established relationships with international recognized manufacturers of animal health products hence farmers should be confident in the products they will find in these shops. Ziweto Enterprise works closely with government livestock experts identifies lead farmers that work directly with the enterprise in raising animal health awareness and providing vaccinations and treatments. Livestock farmers should be on the lookout for a Ziweto Agrovet Shop in their areas to make sure they are raising healthy and productive farm animals for prosperity.