The fruitful future of artificial insemination in Tanzania

Changa moto. It’s Yvonne Robben who brings up this Swahili expression. For Farming Africa she wrote this story about the challenges in the Tanzanian livestock sector. And how she is working to overcome those changa moto. With a full training on artificial insemination.

A special report by Yvonne Robben

Yvonne Robben during a training for Artificial Insemination in TanzaniaWith two containers of liquid nitrogen in my car, I crossed the border from Uganda into Tanzania. The infrastructure of artificial insemination (AI) is built on the availability of liquid nitrogen. But there is almost no regular supply of liquid nitrogen in the whole Eastern part of Africa. The scarce amounts of liquid nitrogen are restricted for human use.

I think my traveling with liquid nitrogen in the car might be illegal. As is sending liquid nitrogen in containers by public transport. Most bus companies refuse to transport liquid nitrogen. In fact, I only know one bus company who is willing to take an empty can to Mwanza, Arusha, Dodoma or Sao Hill, the only places where nitrogen is available in Tanzania. Every time I need to send a container to get a refill, I have to negotiate with the matatu driver about whether he wants to take it and about the price. I am never sure when the filled container will be back.

Changa moto

So the transport from Kampala was just one of the many ad-hock solutions. In the world of East African artificial insemination, a sustainable liquid nitrogen infrastructure is just one challenge. Or: changa moto, as we say in Kiswahili.

The use of AI, however, is crucial in the development of breeding dairy and beef cattle in Tanzania. A distribution system to transport both liquid nitrogen and semen in an appropriate way throughout the country is only one challenge. Besides that, we cope with the irregular availability of liquid nitrogen and a lack of good quality semen.

Breeding with bulls is not always an option since there is a lack of good quality breeding bulls in the country. The lack of options for proper breeding restricts the progress of the livestock sector.

Training

Containers filled with nitrogen for the use of Artificial Insemination © Marc van der SterrenAI was widely practised in Kagera in the past. Kagera is a region in North West Tanzania, bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. In the past, the Dutch government funded a livestock development program in this region which made use of AI. Since the end of this program, AI services and other livestock activities in this region have more or less collapsed.

At the beginning of 2015, I agreed with representatives of Kadadet (the Kagera Dairy Development Trust) who were, just like me, based in Bukoba, to revive livestock activities.

Although the whole dairy and beef value chains need attention, it was decided to start at the start of the chain, with a training on AI and the introduction of AI services. This initiative was backed up by KI Samen, an AI organisation from the Netherlands.

Frans Gerritsma agreed to come to Kagera to do the training. He is a retiree and former employee of CRV Delta and fertility expert. The course took place in August 2015 in Bukoba, the capital of Kagera region.

New approach

The interest for the AI course was tremendous: 24 people showed their interest of which 20 eventually participated. Three of them were women. They were farmers/ranchers and their employees, employees of NGO’s, a teacher of a livestock college, a school graduate and government livestock officers.

The participants were divided into two groups who both received a five days’ training. The course focused mainly on bringing together practical training with corroborating theory and interaction with the trainer and other participants. This turned out to be a new concept to most participants which was visible on the first day of the training. They had to get used to this, for them, new approach.

Abattoir

The main philosophy behind the training was that AI will not work if no attention is being paid to other conditions such as feed, housing, health, management and recording.

Each training day consisted of theory classes in the morning and practical sessions in the afternoon. Theory classes were about anatomy and physiology of the reproductive system, AI techniques (how to insert the gun, how to handle the cervix) and procedures (handling liquid nitrogen, handling semen), feed, health, management and recording.

Practical training consisted of training on uteruses obtained after slaughter. During these sessions, participants were taught about anatomy and physiological aspects and AI techniques. These sessions took place both outside the classroom and at the abattoir.

Further practical training on live animals took place at the local abattoir in Bukoba and ranches in adjacent districts. For most participants it was the first time to train on live animals. During these trainings, they were instructed how to handle the animal, how to enter the animal properly, how to feel the cervix and how to inseminate.

All participants were awarded a certificate of attendance at the end of their training.

Fruitful future

Although there are still a lot of change moto to be dealt with, a first big step towards starting up and maintaining AI services in Kagera has been taken. A big achievement resulting from this training is the cooperation amongst stakeholders in order to move forward with breeding activities using AI. I’m pretty sure the livestock sector in Tanzania, beginning in Kagera, will have a fruitful future.

©  Yvonne Robben

 

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