Our countries

To translate these beliefs into action, VSFG works together with the local populations (especially pastoral- and agro-pastoral communities), refugees and/or internally displaced people, and local authorities. As an expert in the field of veterinary medicine and food hygiene, VSFG implements projects on animal health, livestock production and marketing (including fisheries), agriculture and vegetable gardening, natural resource management, disaster risk reduction, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), as well as nutrition and health with a focus on the interface between human and animal health (‘One Health’).

Our geographic location covers the region east of Nile.


CAHWs- (para vets)  are community based animal health workers who are trained to recognize and treat the most common animal diseases of the region they live in. Their employment has helped to bridge the large gaps in veterinary extension services particularly in the East African drylands and have significantly contributed to increase livestock productivity and food security of pastoralists. Not only in Eastern Africa, also in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bolivia CAWHs were trained with success.

Community Animal Health Workers ( CAHWs) were first trained in the Horn of Africa in the 1980s.  Their trainings were  scaled up  in response to growing demand from livestock owners and an awareness of the shortcomings of post-colonial veterinary services in Africa.

Although the approach of training para veterinarians to deliver basic animal health services in underserved, remote and conflict affected areas was first met by mistrust, their substantial achievements especially in the area of disease surveillance and control led to a countrywide adaption of this training method especially in the Horn of Africa.

One main success was their contribution to the Eradication of the Rinderpest. Due to its devastating effects on cattle production around the world, attempts to eradicate the disease had been high on the development agenda for decades[1] However  Rinderpest hotspots in the Horn of Africa halted the process for many years. It was only with the introduction of CAHWs in Ethiopia and South Sudan,  that the situation improved dramatically. The disease was officially declared eradicated in 2010.

VSF Germany has been engaged in training of CAHWs in Eastern Africa since the early 1990s and has gathered a wide range of experience in developing trainings and institutional support for CAHWs. Not only in development contexts but also in livestock emergency responses CAHWs have been involved with great success, including activities such as community mobilisation, meat inspection, emergency vaccination and treatment campaigns.

[1] Rinderpest was introduced into Africa through European farmers in the 19th century. In the 1890s, a Rinderpest epidemic killed over 5 million heads of cattle disease well as domestic oxen, sheep, and goats, and wild populations of buffalo, giraffe, and wildebeest. This led to the starvation of about fan estimated third of the human population of Ethiopia and two-thirds of the Maasai people of Tanzania. Rinderpest is the second worldwide eradicated disease, after smallpox.

In some of our projects we are performing so-called “cash-for-work“ measures. This is an approach where people receive a daily wage (around 3 Euros/day) and frequently also a warm meal in return for work.

The people use their wages for food, for medical treatment, for clothing or to pay back outstanding debts. The tasks to be done are usually community projects such as the de-silting of dams or the restoration of schools or roads. Such measures are particularly useful after natural disasters or in times of acute food shortage. The people affected are involved, so that they themselves can become active instead of merely receiving food aid and thus being pushed into the role of supplicants. In addition, they do something useful from which they and their community can directly benefit. Not least, the local economy is supported by the “cash-for-work” measures, because people can use their wages to buy local groceries instead of having to refer to imported food.

We introduce people to the VICOBA concept. This abbreviation stands for “Village Community Banking“. For this, groups of 35-60 people, which meet once a week, are formed. For a fixed time span (usually one year), each participant pays a minimum amount of one Euro into the common fund. As soon as the savings have grown sufficiently, the members may take loans.

These loans serve as starting capital for income generating activities, such as livestock marketing, chicken breeding and beekeeping or the trade with salt, sugar, grain and aloe vera plants. In most cases, the loan value lies at around 50 €. On repayment, interest is charged at a rate of 10%. At the end of the year, every group member receives a payout related to the amount of his original deposit. This way and by means of joint savings, all members of the group can achieve what would be almost impossible for them as individuals.

The VICOBA groups have another very important function: the members also deposit money in a second, smaller fund, similar to joint housekeeping money. This is intended solely for financial shortages or emergencies. If someone is truly in need of this money, they do not have to repay it. They can, however, pay in a greater sum as a thank you once they are financially stable again. This creates financial security for all members. Apart from the above mentioned positive effects, the groups also enhance the community spirit. Since the launch of this project, members have become more alert to the needs of the others and share with the most disadvantaged people in their groups. This has given especially widows, orphans and elderly people a new sense of belonging. They have found new families in their groups. One widow stated that the group was now her husband and could give her support in times of need, both in economic or psychological respect. All in all, the VICOBA concept was enthusiastically received.