A new animal health and livestock training network for sub-Saharan Africa

Research Into Use

African Universities Veterinary E-learning Consortium: Creation of a common e-learning framework to develop, deliver and share learning resources
Validated RNRRS Output. Home List by Audience List by Topic

A new network of African universities is being developed to produce teaching materials for disseminating the results of DFID-funded research into animal health and livestock production in sub-Saharan Africa. It aims to overcome the fact that the massive amount of DFID-funded research done to improve animal health and livestock keeping has had very little impact - mainly because new knowledge simply isn't reaching the people who need it. The African Universities' Veterinary E-Learning Consortium (AUVEC) therefore aims to provide bite-sized, easy-to-revise, distance-learning materials that animal health professionals can use to regularly update their knowledge and skills. This developing network consists of veterinary departments and veterinary bodies in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Project Ref: AHP12:
Topic: 2. Better Lives for Livestock Keepers: Improved Livestock & Fodder
Lead Organisation: African Universities Veterinary e-Learning Consortium
Source: Animal Health Programme


  Current Situation
  Lessons Learned
  Impacts On Poverty
  Environmental Impact


Research Programmes:

DFID Animal Health Programme

Relevant Research Projects:

R7597, R7596, R8151, R8022, R8208, R8042, R7173, R7987, R7229, R7357, R8318

Project Partners (contact person):

  • Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, The University of Edinburgh, UK, (Dr Mark Eisler; mark.eisler@ed.ac.uk.
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. (Prof. Kabasa; kabasajd@vetmed.mak.ac.ug).
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Nairobi University, Kenya, (Prof. Paul Kanyari)
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania (Prof. Rudovic Kaswala)
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia (Prof. Merga Bekana)
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Zambia (Prof.  Andrew Nambota) 
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Harare, Zimbabwe (Prof. Thokozani Hove)
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Pretoria, South Africa (Prof. Koos Coetzer)
  • University of Science and Technology, Sudan (Dr Seif Barakat)
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Khartoum, Sudan (Prof. Khirtma Elmalik).

Research Outputs, Problems and Solutions:

The DFID Animal Health Programme facilitated a series of stakeholder workshops in 2005 and 2006 to explore opportunities afforded to the Animal Health Sector through Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). The first workshop 'Capacity building for the African animal health sector: addressing the need for new learning opportunities' identified enormous need for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Postgraduate learning opportunities. The workshop recognised that delivery channels either did not exist or were inaccessible to animal health workers, and identified the capacity afforded by ICT to enhance education especially for women and rurally based professionals.

Later workshops refined this enquiry and identified the opportunity to use a network of Veterinary education providers to deliver ICT enhanced CPD and advanced level education needed in the AH sector. This has led to the foundation of the African Universities Veterinary E-Learning Consortium AUVEC. Delegates at these AHP workshops recognised that the identification of need (accessible CPD and postgraduate education) and a network for delivery (AUVEC) required the technical and organizational structure to implement their objectives through a common e-learning framework to develop, deliver and share learning resources across the African veterinary network. Consortium members represent the veterinary faculties in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and veterinary bodies in Malawi.

Types of Research Output:




Process or Methodology






Major Commodities Involved:

Main commodity: livestock and human public health (through prevention of zoonotic diseases). Other commodities: crops, by provision of manure and draught power.

An important 'commodity' is adequately trained and educated animal healthcare professional on whom poor livestock owners are dependent. This commodity is scarce in sub-Saharan Africa.

More generally, this approach is transferable to research outputs in any discipline and would be a model for ensuring that such outputs create tangible and measurable benefits for the communities that the research was targeted at, i.e. facilitating 'research into use'.

Production Systems:
Explanation of Production Systems


High potential




Land water

Tropical moist forest




Farming Systems:

Smallholder rainfed humid


Wetland rice based

Smallholder rainfed highland

Smallholder rainfed dry/cold


Coastal artisanal fishing







Potential for Added Value:

AUVEC can serve as an efficient mechanism for disseminating research findings. It is easier, quicker and cheaper to update e-learning based courses and training modules than traditionally delivered ones: research findings can more readily and rapidly be incorporated into e-learning based materials compared than into textbooks. AUVEC can therefore facilitate the dissemination of any livestock or animal health output, including those that arose from any DFID AHP e.g. from the zoonoses cluster, transboudary disease cluster or LPP tsetse related products e.g. tsetse muse, tsetse plan.


How the outputs were validated:

A group of around 30 stakeholders, drawn primarily from the African animal health sector, met in Kenya in 2005 to consider the demand for new learning opportunities, compare this to the current supply to identify unmet needs, review opportunities and constraints associated with new learning approaches, and to start to map-out the way forward. Their conclusion was that the current supply did not meet the demand. There was considerable demand for both formal Masters-level courses and less formal, shorter learning opportunities that meet the emerging need for CPD, but these needed delivering in a flexible format which enabled students to remain in their home environment and continue working whilst studying. Having witnessed the power of e-learning approaches in a medical and veterinary context - through demonstration of sophisticated 'virtual patients' and other tools and approaches by e-learning experts from the University of Edinburgh, a recognised centre of excellence in the field - the stakeholders concluded that it was desirable to pursue an agenda based on collaboration between African veterinary schools to develop and deliver new learning opportunities, including Masters-level courses and CPD modules, using a blended approach within which e-learning was an important component. The deans of 8 eastern and southern African veterinary schools formalised this approach through the creation, in 2006, of AUVEC as the coordinating body responsible for achieving these objectives. The founding group of deans of African veterinary schools has recently been expanded: the deans of Sudanese veterinary schools have now joined the group and Nigerian veterinary schools have also expressed interest in becoming members of AUVEC.

Because AUVEC is still at an early stage of its development it has yet to achieve impact on either its intermediary beneficiaries, animal health professionals, or the ultimate beneficiaries, poor livestock keepers, but none-the-less important and useful ground work has been done which can now be built upon and exploited to achieve impact.

Where the Outputs were Validated:

The original stakeholders' workshop was held in Kenya in October 2005. Insert book reference here. Following this workshop, the deans of the vet schools returned to their home universities to share the workshop conclusions with their colleagues and the university hierarchy. The deans then reconvened twice during 2006, once in Entebbe and once in Addis Ababa, and as a result formalized the ideas that emerged during the Kenyan workshop through the formation of AUVEC. A formal Memorandum of Understanding is currently awaiting ratification.

Immediate beneficiaries are the teaching staff of African vet schools, who under the AUVEC umbrella are receiving training from the University of Edinburgh in development and delivery of e-learning approaches and materials. Ultimate beneficiaries will be poor African livestock keepers, traders, consumers of livestock products and the wider community.

Current Situation

Who are the Users?

The founder members of AUVEC were: the deans of the veterinary schools in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and staff at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, the University of Edinburgh. Malawi, which has no vet school, was a member through the Department of Animal Health and Livestock and the African Virtual University were associate members. In July 2006, the veterinary schools in Sudan also joined and interest has been expressed by the Nigerian veterinary schools.

To the best of our knowledge the research outputs are not widely used beyond the academic communities engaged in the research. They have not been well-disseminated in forms that are useful except to the scientific specialist.  Research outputs have not been transformed into engaging CPD which meets the needs of the animal healthcare educators or the animal healthcare sector.  Nor are they targeted at individuals, groups and communities who could put that research into use. This is in fact the problem that this proposal seeks to address i.e. current research outputs are not meeting user demands and are therefore not making as wide an impact as had been envisaged on poor communities. The only professional development available in most sub-Saharan African countries is via formal taught Masters programmes. Many of  are experiencing poor recruitment simply because they do not meet the needs of the animal healthcare sector for learning opportunities which are flexible both in time, place and pace of learning.

This proposal will address these needs and add considerable value to existing research funded through the DFID Animal Health Programme.

Where the outputs have been used:

With the groundwork undertaken to demonstrate demand for new learning opportunities and AUVEC formed as the coordinating body to facilitate their joint development and delivery, support is now required to capitalize on this situation to enable the output to be put into productive use. Outputs are being adopted by the founder members of AUVEC, the veterinary schools in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Department of Animal Health and Livestock, Malawi and staff at University of Edinburgh.  In July 2006, the veterinary schools in Sudan also joined the consortium and interest has recently been expressed by the Nigerian veterinary schools.

Scale of Current Use:

AUVEC members are: the deans of the veterinary schools in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sudan and South Africa. Malawi, which has no vet school, is a member through the Department of Animal Health and Livestock and the University of Edinburgh and the African Virtual University are associate members. AUVEC was formed within 6 months of the first stakeholders workshop.  In July 2006, the veterinary schools in Sudan also joined the consortium and expressions of interest have recently been received by the Nigerian veterinary schools, Royal Veterinary College, University of London, Imperial College and Bristol University Vet School and The University of the West Indies.

Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:

E-learning covers many education approaches and means of engaging with learners. In supporting African veterinarians it encompasses the following key elements:

  • Outreach to rural communities - the role of veterinarians in these areas is critical to rural livelihoods and they stand in greatest need of training, continuing professional development and connection to their colleagues and professional resources. Requiring them to leave their duties to attend courses at distance reduces service capability and acts as a barrier to engagement.
  • Adaptive and personalised learning patterns - family commitments or service duties create barriers for learners to engage with traditional delivery patterns, e-Learning provides flexibility for learners to learn at times that suit them, at their own pace and in ways that suit individual circumstances.
  • Multi-modal delivery - although e-learning often equates to online activity, materials can be made available via CD-ROM, via mobile phones or even on paper.
  • Scalable and sustainable - materials and activities can be maintained in alignment with changes in the clinical and scientific knowledgebase and kept up to date with the various opportunities for delivering materials to remote learners.
  • Adaptable and customisable - materials and activities can be translated or localised to particular circumstances and cultures.

The e-learning methodology advocated here builds on the large quantity of research data and documented African veterinary cases generated as part of RNRSS activities. For example these can be translated into education 'virtual patients', interactive computer simulations of real-life clinical scenarios for the purpose of medical or veterinary training, education, or assessment; users may be learners, teachers, or examiners. Virtual patients are a powerful and engaging way to 'thinslice' complex knowledge domains by immersing learners within real-world activities e.g. diagnosing and treating a sick animal or group of animals. Typically the student is required to make a series of clinical decisions, each of which has consequences for what they may be able to do next. Although they use rich media such as video and audio these virtual patients can also be entirely text-based allowing them to be delivered via mobile phones and other similar devices, thereby reducing the dependence on networked computers.

Lessons Learned and Uptake Pathways

Promotion of Outputs:

AUVEC members have agreed to work together, to share resources and build capacity. Individuals from member-country universities are receiving targeted training opportunities in on-line tutoring at University of Edinburgh.  Face to face meetings in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia have expedited progress.

Promotion of AUVEC is being actively pursued in sub-Saharan Africa by key representatives from faculties of Veterinary Medicine: Makerere University, Uganda, (Prof. John David Kabasa); Nairobi University, Kenya, (Prof. Paul Kanyari); Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania (Prof. Rudovic Kaswala); Addis Ababa University, Prof. Merga Bekana); University of Zambia (Prof.  Andrew Nambota);  University of Harare, (Prof. Thokozani Hove); University of Pretoria (Prof. Koos Coetzer); University of Science and Technology, Dr Seif Barakat and University of Khartoum, Sudan (Prof. Khirtma Elmalik).

And through linkages with government veterinary departments and national veterinary associations: Department of Animal Health and Livestock, Malawi, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana; Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries & Fisheries, Kenya Veterinary Board, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kenya Institute of Tropical Medicine, Jomo Kenyatta University, Ministry of Water & Livestock Development, Tanzania. Sudan Veterinary Council.

Action plans developed by the consortium need to be fully realized and this requires a well-funded systematic approach to build on this foundation.

Potential Barriers Preventing Adoption of Outputs:

Lack of funding to make real progress is the key barrier. There are likely to be technological barriers but the situation is changing and improving almost daily. It is important that the potential of the technology is realised early and in the educational context this means that high quality content needs to be developed. Without content there will be no learning. At the moment DFID has funded the discovery of knowledge and information. It is teachers who transform knowledge and information into learning and it is important that they use well-tried and proven methodologies to do this. To optimize return on investment development of learning resources needs to be done in a way which is sustainable (development of in-country capacity in e-learning skills), which reduces duplication of effort (using appropriate methods of learning object creation and management) and which provides as much flexibility of access to learning opportunities as possible.

How to Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Outputs:

The key changes needed are:

  • Enhanced human capital through (1) training of veterinary trainers in developing and delivering e-learning and advanced pedagogies for clinical education (2) training of ICT support staff in enabling the development and delivery of e-learning (3) training of leaders in strategic management of ICT in education
  • Protocols for Intellectual Property Rights and Quality Assurance management across the AUVEC partnership that respecting the IP rights of individuals while maintaining a cooperative focus to build trust and social capital among partners
  • Dynamic curriculum development embedding ICT into broader practice to enhance teaching, learning and research in member institutions and stakeholders
  • Development / procurement of hardware and software applications such as virtual learning environments at an institutional level and creation of an information architecture that enables sharing of resources at a technical interoperability, organisational and educational level across the AUVEC network.
  • Systems to share innovation, global knowledge and best practice across the network
  • Empowerment of extension systems and change agents, thereby enhancing animal health and production for resource constrained communities.
  • Improvement of animal health and veterinary public health for all communities will lead to human health improvement and poverty reduction, and increased national and international trade in animals and animal products.

Lessons Learned:

It is too early to assess.

Impacts on Poverty

Poverty Impact Studies:

It is too early to assess.

How the Poor have Benefited (including gender and other poverty groups):

It is too early to assess.

Potential Poverty Impact

Where Poverty Impacts may be Achieved:

In developing countries, livestock form important components of the livelihoods and coping strategies of poor people, including vulnerable groups such as the landless, women, pastoralists and people living in remote areas.

Livestock offer pathways out of poverty, through building up of herds and flocks over time, upgrading to more productive breeds or species, and sale of surplus livestock products and animals. Livestock can also underpin sustainable crop production through provision of manure, which can help maintain soil fertility, and provision of draught power, which frees people, especially women, from some of the drudgery associated with preparing and cultivating land and enables more land to be cropped more efficiently and effectively.

Recent poverty and livestock mapping studies have shown that particularly high densities of poor livestock-keepers are found in mixed irrigated systems in parts of South Asia, the mixed rain-fed systems of India and most of sub-Saharan Africa: an estimated total of 678 million poor people - at least 70% of the world's rural poor - are livestock keepers.

But the potential benefits enjoyed by poor livestock keepers are drastically reduced by the impact and attrition of animal disease: even in good years without major disease epidemics around one third of livestock die, the majority from endemic diseases, and the productivity of those animals that survive are reduced by the burden of chronic parasitic diseases, such as worms. The presence of certain infectious diseases, known as transboundary diseases, can limit or even preclude access of nations, especially poor nations, to more profitable regional and international markets. In addition, epidemic diseases can wipe out entire herds and flocks, destroying scarce productive assets and pushing already poor people towards destitution. And zoonotic diseases, such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and sleeping sickness, can represent a direct threat to the health and even the lives of poor livestock keepers, the communities in which they live and, in some cases, consumers of livestock products.

AUVEC will enable poor livestock keepers in sub-Saharan Africa to benefit from access to better animal health advice and services provided by better trained animal health workers: extension workers, district level animal health professionals, private professional (qualified veterinarians) and para-professional veterinary practitioners.

Developing CPD courses and learning resources such as virtual patients from existing cases or abstracting them from a number of cases is a relatively straightforward process and indeed constitutes a learning activity in its own right. Pilot work at the University of Edinburgh, which has involved final year students creating their own virtual patients (over a couple of days) and presenting them to qualified vets in a clinical case conference, has proved to be simple to run and highly effective and engaging for all concerned. Key approaches to poverty alleviation through improved AHP education include:

         Develop a core set of CPD courses and virtual patients based on DFID outputs and provide these in a variety of media formats. These will cover all of the main presentations, techniques and issues associated with rural veterinary medicine in sub-Saharan Africa as identified by the DFID AHP stakeholder meetings.

         Develop learner skills in creating and validating their own virtual patients (acting both individually and in groups) - once validated these virtual patients will be added to the project's bank of VPs

         Develop other learning activities and experiences around these virtual patients including discussion, evidence-based practice and professional and personal development including as communication skills, study skills, team working and ethics.

The benefits of increasing AHP impact on poverty will include:

         Allowing up rural vets and other professional cadres providing veterinary services to engage directly with education and training opportunities without having to compromise service or other commitments. Learning could be individual or collaborative and will include both knowledge and skill acquisition by using VPs and higher cognitive aspects of reflective knowledge in practice by authoring and validating VPs.

         Allowing all African veterinary staff to share and develop a common easily-accessible and engaging knowledgebase of common presentations and issues and the practical steps that can be taken to treat or otherwise deal with these situations. Because this would include a substantial component of member-authored cases the knowledgebase would be both sustainable and clearly 'owned' by the communities that use it.

         Personalised learning experiences that can be adaptable to different cognitive styles, socio-cultural issues and personal preferences. Choice would include frequency of learning, medium and style used and the depth and detail in to which the learner would go. Alignment with cultural and cognitive traditions would also be accommodated by the narrative nature of VPs being well-aligned with cultures with strong storytelling traditions.

         Low-cost and high effectiveness in terms of learning outcomes both in terms of learners engaged in structured courses or patterns of study and those needing a quick refresher or reference for their everyday practice. 'Just in time' (JIT) access to information and encoded practice is an increasingly important aspect of clinical practice where the total knowledgebase continues to grow exponentially.

         Adaptable and sustainable over time to changes in technology, the clinical and scientific knowledgebase, and differing cultural and social contexts.

Access to better advice and services will enable poor livestock keepers to prevent and control animal diseases more effectively, reducing morbidity and mortality and increasing productivity. This will reduce vulnerability through reducing the risk of devastating losses of entire herds and flocks, enabling maintenance and accumulation of productive assets, enhancing household nutritional security through consumption of high quality foodstuffs such as milk, meat and eggs, increasing income from sale of surplus livestock products and animals, and reducing the risk of contracting potentially fatal zoonotic diseases. More effective control of animal diseases will reduce barriers to greater market access, including to regional and international markets, for livestock and livestock products.

Replication of the AUVEC approach in other regions, such as South Asia, will enable similar benefits to be enjoyed by poor livestock keepers in this region.

All of these benefits will contribute towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially Goal 1, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

Environmental Impact

Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:

Establishment of AUVEC as a strong institution, capable of supporting its members to develop and deliver appropriate learning opportunities to animal health professionals would have few direct environmental impacts. By providing attractive, local alternatives to more distant learning opportunities, including those abroad, air travel could be avoided, with associated environmental benefits in terms of carbon emissions avoided.

Adverse Environmental Impacts:

It is possible that by providing better animal health services, number of livestock would increase which could have a detrimental impact on the environment, such as through over grazing. However, it is predicted that for the foreseeable future, demand for livestock products in developing countries will grow strongly. Availability of increased supplies of livestock should therefore be met by increasing demand, absorbing additional livestock numbers and thus minimizing adverse environmental impacts.

Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:

Climate change is likely to cause many parts of Africa to become drier, threatening reliable crop production in some parts. The people who live in these increasingly marginal areas will become more dependent on livestock production for their livelihoods. Provision of improved animal health services will therefore contribute to reducing their vulnerability and increase their resilience in the face of change. Livestock are also mobile, in contrast to crops, and can therefore be moved in response to natural or manmade disasters - for example during droughts, which appear to becoming more frequent in parts of Africa, flocks and herds of grazing and browsing livestock can be trekked to better water areas where graze and browse resources are more abundant.



S. Seufert, D. Euler (2004). Sustainability of eLearning innovations-findings of expert interviews, SCIL Report

D. Bloom, D. Canning, K. Chan (2003). Higher Education and Economic Development in Africa, Harvard University / World Bank,

R. Ellaway, (2004). Modeling Virtual Patients and Virtual Cases. MELD.

A. Ahmed, W.E. Nwagwu (2006). Challenges and Opportunities of E-learning Networks in Africa. Development (2006) 49, 86-92. doi:10.1057/palgrave.development.1100250

DFID (2006). DEEP IMPACT: an investigation of the use of information and communication technologies for teacher education in the global south - Education Paper 58.

Relevant Research Projects, with links to the
Research for Development (R4D) web site
and Technical Reports:

R4D Project Title Technical Report
R7173 Cattle management practices in tsetse-affected areas
R7229 Mycobacterium bovis infection of cattle and man in Tanzania  
R7357 Quantifying costs and risk factors of Bovine Tuberculosis in Tanzania  
R7596 Decision support system for the control of trypanosomosis in South-East Uganda; improving public health and livestock productivity through the cost-effective control of trypanosomosis in livestock  
R7597 A low-cost haemoglobinometer as a decision support tool for bovine disease diagnosis in sub-Saharan Africa
R7987 Message in a Bottle: Disseminating Tsetse Control Technologies
R8022 Research on the incidence, economic importance and causal agent(s) of bovine cerebral theileriosis in semi-arid pastoral livestock systems in Ngorongoro, Monduli and Simanjiro District in Northern Tanzania
R8042 Integrated control of East Coast Fever constraining livelihoods of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa  
R8151 Improving the livelihood of resource-poor goat farmers in Southern Africa through strategic drug and nutritional interventions against gastro-intestinal nematode infections
  • Goatkeepers Manual
  • Goatkeepers Manual, 2nd edition
  • Relative economic benefits of strategic anthelmintic treatment and urea-molasses block supplementation of Boer goats raised under extensive grazing conditions at Onderstepoort, Pretoria, South Africa
R8208 Decision support for risk management strategies of tick-borne diseases within sustainable pastoral systems
R8318 Decision support for endemic disease control in sub-Saharan Africa - private sector drivers for technology adoption by resource-poor farmers  


For relevant research projects, with links to further information Go to the list

Geographical regions included:

Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi,
South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, UK, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

View all Audiences or BeneficiariesTarget Audiences for this content:

Livestock farmers,