By Leah Gitau
“African veterinarians needed to be recognized like other veterinarians in other continents, hence the establishment of Kenya Veterinary Association(KVA) to ensure that veterinarians got reasonable working standards and proper training before practically venturing into the profession. “This is according to Dr. Samuel Kahariri, the association’s outgoing National chairperson. He shares his journey with us and what he has been able to achieve as a Kenya Veterinary Association National Chairman.
The KVA chair reminds us that KVA’s mandate is to promote the economic development and welfare of its members as well as to safeguard the health and welfare of animals. The Association is also as a resource Centre for the veterinary profession, providing leadership, advocating for proper management and high level of professionalism in the delivery of veterinary services to move the Animal Resource Industry to greater heights of development.
He pointed out that since inception in 1966 and registration in 1967, KVA had experienced growth in terms of membership as well as diversity, ranging from basic animal welfare to quality assurance of veterinary professional services and overall leadership in the Animal Resource Industry where members are responsible for certification and technical competence.
Dr. Kahariri reminded us that serving in the KVA executive committee or being a Chairman called for a lot of dedication and sacrifice since the responsibility comes with a good number of challenging situations. Successive office bearers have volunteered their time and resources to ensure the achievement of the Association’s goals and objectives in areas including research and disease management in spite of funding and human resource capacity challenges.
Dr Kahariri joined the leadership of the KVA in 2010 as a National Executive Committee Member for one year where he learnt a number of things regarding the leadership in the professional body since earlier on he had only interacted with KVA when he was the Chairman of the Veterinary Students Association in the year 2008 to 2009. Thereafter, Dr Kahariri, contested for the position of Honorary Secretary where he served for 2 one year terms from 2011. Members of the association elevated Dr Kahariri to the position of Vice Chairman from the year 2013 where he contested for a second term, which ran upto May 2016. During his tenure as the Hon Secretary and Vice Chairman, he led in re-branding of the association and commenced automation of a number of services within the secretariat to improve the efficiency and members experiences. He was also leading the Legal and Policy committee, which successfully advocated for a number of emerging issues affecting the veterinary profession. During this time, the positioning of the association greatly benefitted from his initiatives. In 2016 Dr Kahariri rose to become the youngest Chairman in the history of KVA at an age of 34years in what many termed as a generational change in the KVA leadership. He defended his seat in year 2018 for a second 2-year term upto April 2020.
Under his leadership, the association has been working hard to improve Kenyan livelihoods and stepped-up advocacy efforts to bring out the role of livestock sector in contributing to the food security and immense growth of the Kenyan economy. In his remarks he said, “for a long time even some policy makers in very high offices had poor understanding of food security in this country because they thought it is all about grain reserves in the silos forgetting that 75% of Kenyan mass is ASAL where the main economic activity is livestock farming”.
Key areas of Focus in his leadership
Commonwealth Veterinary Association – During his tenure (2017), Dr Kahariri led KVA to Host the Commonwealth Veterinary Association diring the Joint KVA/CVA Golden Jubilee. This auspicious event brought in delegates from more than 20 Countries.
International Companion Animals Management (ICAM) coalition – In September 2019, KVA under the leadership of Dr Kahariri hosted the first Humane Dog Population Management Conference in Africa, which hosted more than 200 international delegates drawn from over 30 different Countries across the globe.
The International events lifted the profile of the association and profession in Kenya as well as bringing the fore the key role-played by Veterinarians in Food security, public health and growth of the economy.
Advocacy and policy
Dr Kahariri has been keen to prioritize advocacy for the strengthening, review or support enforcement of legislation which negatively affect the profession or any issue that poses a difficulty in the ease of doing business in the sector.
Enactment of Veterinary Medicines Directorate regulations – After creation of the Directorate, a lot of effort went into the process of installing the VMD council to execute the mandate of the VMD. The process involved even court processes since beneficiaries of the mess intended to be corrected by VMD were trying to fight back by filing a petition, which KVA under Dr Kahariri’s leadership managed to work with other stakeholders to overcome. The Directorate will continue regulating the manufacture, distribution, importation, exportation and dispensing of the veterinary medicines in Kenya. This will enable Kenya to meet her international obligations and minimize the misuse of veterinary products. Consequently, the antimicrobial residues in the foods of animal origin will be curbed thus increasing access of the animal and products to the lucrative International markets.
Animal Health amendment Bill and Kenya Foods and Drugs Authority (KFDA) bill – KVA also successfully advocated against sections of Health amendment Bill and KFDA bill that were detrimental to the existence of the veterinary Medicines Directorate and threatened to negate the gains acquired by separating the regulation of veterinary drugs with the human medicines
Veterinary Policy – the Kenya Veterinary Association has been pushing for the development of a national Veterinary Policy. The Policy has advanced to the cabinet level and awaiting to become a sessional paper soon.
Veterinary Education and dissemination
Following the complexity of the profession’s training, Dr. Kahariri as the KVA’s chair has been in support of the Continuous professional development (CPD) of KVA members which involves any educational activity relevant to the scope of the Veterinary profession. This ensures that the veterinarians maintain or increase knowledge and problem solving or technical skills. It also ensures that the vet professionals are up to date on the modern technologies and innovations in the sector
Journal of Veterinary Medicine and One Health – Under the leadership of Dr Kahariri, the KVA transformed the Kenya veterinarian to a fully online Journal (JVMOH) and broadened the focus from Kenya to international. The journal provides a key platform to disseminate veterinary knowledge
Animal Focus Magazine – The publication and distribution of the animal magazine has grown too be self-sustainable state under the leadership of Dr Kahariri
Community outreach, Animal Health and welfare
“Animal sector is an integral part and major contributor to sustainable livelihoods, food security and economic development. They are the back bone of our economy” .This is according to Dr. Kahariri. As part of community outreach and development, Dr. Kahariri has been working with other stakeholders in the animal resource industry to organize major events targeting hundreds of thousands of communities with an aim of awareness creation and extension for improved productivity.
KVA in partnership with other organizations such as Brooke East Africa, World Animal Protection, ANAW and IFAW has been working hard to see to it that animals live a comfortable, a healthy and a happy life.
Welfare of the KVA members
Dr Kahariri’s leadership has been in the forefront to fight for the rights of the members in all spheres. In order to strengthen the voice in this aspect, Dr Kahariri among other professionals initiated the formation of a union for the veterinary professionals in 2012, an initiative that succeeded 5 years later to a successful registration of the Union of Veterinary Practitioners. The purpose of the union is to work in collaboration with KVA to agitate for the welfare of the professionals and consequently better veterinary service delivery to the community.
The association has also packages attractive products accessible to members including, Motor vehicle insurance, Medical, last respect insurance, access to the online journal of KVA (Journal of Veterinary Medicine and One Health) among other products
Dr Kahariri has also nurtured a KVA SACCO intended to provide financial solutions to the KVA members
Growth of KVA Financial base and project portfolio
For the last 10 years, KVA recorded the highest financial turnover in 2017 under the leadership of Dr Kahariri. This was associated with the strengthened financial systems and partnerships. HR audit and re-alignment if correctly done is a game changer in management of organizations of KVA nature, said the Chairman.
The recent past KVA has created new partnerships with KCB foundation, Kenya Markets Trust, World Vision Kenya, State Department for Livestock, Pastoral Parliamentary Group (PPG). KVA has also deliberately focused on strengthening all other existing partnerships to ensure continued collaborations and synergies in the industry.
Strengthening Livestock Marketing infrastructure
KVA under leadership of Dr Kahariri, has discovered that that as long as the livestock producers remains poor, the professionals are more likely to remain poor. Therefore, to address the welfare of KVA members in a sustainable manner, KVA undertook initiatives to encourage commercialization of the Livestock enterprises by offering extension services and awareness creation with focus on the market dynamics.
As a key requirement to international trade, KVA prioritized working with the State Department for Livestock to establish an Identification and a traceability system for animals to enable trace back of animals and products and contribute to increased access of Livestock and livestock products to the local and International markets. Together State Department for Livestock, KCB foundation and world Vision International, Kenya Markets Trusts and other stakeholders, KVA has managed to develop the draft legal framework and subjected the same to stakeholders for the process and due for enactment soon.
This system, coupled with other initiatives like development of feedlot system is envisaged to revolutionize the livestock sector
Challenges he faces as the National chairperson of the association
The leadership opportunity offers a fair share of challenges and calls for a lot of dedication and personal sacrifice since emerging issues keeps on confronting the association and regardless of the circumstances, the expectations from the membership is quite high. Having volunteered to lead the organization I always have to raise to the occasion and confront the issues some of which are delicate, others dangerous in nature.
Just like any other leadership positions, I have had to deal with lots of divergent opinions among the members and sometimes my fellow leaders. Some of these scenarios calls for a tactical approach in some few occasions may end up with some very dissatisfied members because decisions have to be made.
The leadership position also quite demanding and therefore calls for a lot of discipline and balance as far as time is concerned.
Like other membership organizations, the main source of income is membership subscription. Members’ expectations always remains high and determines the rate of members subscribing and consequently the amount of fund to run the affairs of the association. We have been able to partially overcome this by remaining vigilant and alive to the members’ welfare issues