On October 27, 2022, the Government of Uganda officially flagged off NARO’s anti-tick vaccine for on-farm field trials. The event was held at NARO’s Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MbaZARDI) and was officiated by the Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries (MAAIF), together with stakeholders in the sector.
The vaccine that is now being rolled out for the final trial stage passed the tests for the initial stages of prequalification. It will be undertaken at NARO Mbarara ZARDI, Isimba Prison Farm in Masindi district, Kiburara Prison Farm in Ibanda district, Maruzi Research Station in Apac district, and Nabuin ZARDI in Nabilatuk district. These locations represent the Pastoral Rangelands, Western Highlands, Lake Albert Crescent, Mid-North Savannah Grasslands, and Karomaja Drylands Agro-Ecological Zones respectively.
Upon the successful conclusion of the trial, the anti-tick vaccine will be available and ready for scaling up for use by livestock farmers, saving the country from an annual economic loss of over UGX 3.8 trillion caused by ticks and tick-borne diseases. Currently, livestock farmers are spraying their animals every week, but with the vaccine, they will spray twice every 6 months. The injectable vaccine has given promising results against brown, blue, and red ticks.
In his remarks, the Hon. Frank Tumwebaze acknowledged the hard work put in by the scientists and said he is yet to tour all the institutes, but for the few he has visited, the solutions NARO has put out like zero waste, aflatoxin, etc are commendable. “If these initiatives are boosted with budget support, linked to the Ministry of Trade, then commercialized, surely research and farmers will be linked.” He assured NARO of government’s support to produce all that is needed and to work out a framework for sustainability just like it is being done for seed.
Hon. Bright Rwamirama, the Minister of State for Animal Industry, said as a sector they are grateful for the development and implored all to support research in this country. He asked the NARO Director General and his team to brace for the rigorous work ahead and save the country from tick-borne diseases. He appreciated the president for supporting research and innovations and the scientists for a job well done.
Dr. Yona Baguma’s Remarks
Dr. Yona Baguma, the Deputy Director of General Research Coordination, gave a brief history of the anti-tick vaccine development journey that started in 2013 with several stakeholders in the sector. This initial step later led to the development of four vaccines that are being launched for on-field trials. These four injectable anti-tick vaccine candidates, namely NARO-RA, NARO-AV, NARO-RD, and NARO-CV, are for controlling the three economically important tick species, notably the Brown ear tick (engoha), Blue tick (Entujjo), and the Bont-logged tick (Embarabara) in Uganda. These vaccines are developed from ticks found within Uganda and are fully owned by Uganda. A total of 3,000 doses of the candidate vaccine are available for use in the current trial batch.
The launch was witnessed by the Permanent Secretary MAAIF, the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, area MPs, and farmers.
THE ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF THE ANTI-TICK VACCINE TO UGANDA
Upon successful completion of this field trial in the different geographical settings and approval, the product will be licensed for integration into the present tick control program in Uganda. Application of this NARO’s intervention will lead to numerous benefits including;
1. A reduction in the frequency of acaricide use by at least 90% (from spraying twice a week to twice in 6 months) in a period of 6 months, with a resulting reduction in production labor costs. This will help the farmer to break even at a low cost.
2. A reduction in chemical importation from 350 tons to less than 170 tons, equivalent to a saving of UShs 1.0 trillion over 3 years.
3. Less tick burden, leading to better quality hides and skins.
4. A reduction in the incidence of sickness and deaths attributed to ticks and tick-borne diseases by 90%, with reduced household expenditure on livestock production.
5. Faster livestock growth rate (weight gain) and milk production, leading to increased farm productivity.
6. Delayed development and eventual elimination of tick acaricide resistance.
7. Decreased environmental and animal food pollution, thereby leading to better quality or safer meat and milk products.