Australian Aid supports home grown innovation through Kyeema Foundation and takes it to the world.

Australian scientists have delivered innovative research of great public health significance and have received much attention and accolade on the world stage for their efforts. One little-known impactful innovation in virological research was the development of the I-2 thermotolerant vaccine for the control of Newcastle disease (ND) in village chickens by Emeritus Professor Peter Spradbrow AM, and his colleagues at the University of Queensland. Australian Aid funded this innovation and has been the catalyst for a small, dedicated team of animal health professionals to improve village poultry and subsequently the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable in rural communities across the developing world. This is the story of how the Kyeema Foundation was born.

Most people cannot fathom how important a small flock of chickens can be to a household in a resource poor community. Livestock are integral to the health and incomes of the poor worldwide. Chickens, mostly owned and managed by the most vulnerable – women and children, are particularly important family assets that provide meat and eggs important for the nutrition of the whole family, can be bartered or sold to provide additional income particularly in hard times and are often used to fulfil social obligations. In addition, they provide soil enriching manure, are active in pest control and are used in many traditional ceremonies and treatments.

Newcastle disease (ND) is one of the major constraints to the health of these flocks and subsequently impacts food security across Africa and Asia. Outbreaks of the disease occur frequently and often kill 50 to 100 percent of the standing flock in an area. Australian Aid money made available through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) since 1984 has meant that this situation can be prevented through practical vaccination implementation and improved poultry husbandry knowledge and practice.

The culture and environment of village chicken production is often not conducive to or supportive of vaccination. Women owners are more often than not overworked with several household activities, undereducated and neglected by government agencies that focus their animal health extension activities on large livestock that are usually the domain of men and wealthier community members. Another issue is the lack of a reliable cold chain to keep vaccines viable and the fact that commercially imported and packaged vaccines are often too expensive and in too large amounts to make their dissemination and uptake in these areas realistic.

Initial successful laboratory and field trials of the I-2 vaccine in Mozambique supported by ACIAR were followed by funding for a larger program in Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi by Australian Aid (1998-2005). In order to keep the Australian expertise together, the Kyeema Foundation was formed in 2003. Since then DFAT and ACIAR, together with a variety of international donors, have supported KYEEMA to research, deliver and consult on a multitude of poultry and other innovative agricultural development projects across Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Today KYEEMA work continues to be driven by a diverse group of Australian and African women and men who are leaders in their fields.

The I-2 Master seed is made available to governments worldwide at no cost in order to produce vaccines locally at well managed laboratories and disseminated through community driven programs. The efficacy and affordability of this vaccine has made achieving an acceptable level of protection possible. Furthermore, its preservation in circumstances where there is poor refrigeration means that it easy to transport and administer effectively in rural village settings. If vaccination campaigns are well delivered and maintained in the community, the result is improved income generation, empowered women and additional livelihood security for farmers and community vaccinators alike.

The outcomes of Kyeema Foundation’s activities in improving small holder poultry production are central to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Without Australian Aid, the reach and further development of this and similar agricultural development work will be impacted.

KYEEMA for Australian Aid