Livestock production is a key livelihood source for many people in developing countries. Poor control of livestock diseases hamper livestock productivity, threatening farmers’ wellbeing and food security. This study estimates the effect of livestock mortalities attributable to disease on the wellbeing of livestock farmers.
Overall, 350 ruminant livestock farmers were randomly selected from three districts located in the north, middle and southern belts of Ghana. Mixed-effect linear regression models were used to estimate the relationship between animal health and farmer wellbeing. Farmer wellbeing was assessed using the WHOQOL-BREF tool, as the mean quality-of-life in four domains (physical, psychological, social, and environmental). Animal health was assessed as annual livestock mortalities to diseases adjusted for herd size, and standardized in tropical livestock units to account for different ruminant livestock species. We adjusted for the potential confounding effect of farmers’ age, sex, educational attainment, farmland size, socio-economic status, perception of disease risk to herd, satisfaction with health, previous experience of disease outbreaks in herds, and social support availability by including these as fixed effects, and community as random effects, in a pre-specified model.
Our results showed that farmers had a median score of 65.5 out of 100 (IQR: 56.6 to 73.2) on the wellbeing scale. The farmers’ reported on average (median) 10% (IQR: 0 to 23) annual herd mortalities to diseases. There was a significantly negative relationship between increasing level of animal disease-induced mortality in herds and farmers’ wellbeing. Specifically, our model predicted an expected difference in farmers’ wellbeing score of 7.9 (95%CI 1.50 to 14.39) between a farmer without any herd mortalities to diseases compared to a (hypothetical) farmer with 100% of herd mortalities caused by diseases in a farming year. Thus, there is a reduction of approximately 0.8 wellbeing points of farmers, for the average of 10% disease-induced herd mortalities experienced.
Disease-induced livestock mortalities have a significant negative effect on farmers’ wellbeing, particularly in the physical and psychological domains. This suggests that veterinary service policies addressing disease risks in livestock, could contribute to improving the wellbeing of livestock dependent populations, and public food security.