27 July 2023

Bridging the gap: Empowering agrovets through mentorship

Agrovets can successfully bridge the gap between livestock owners, farmers, and the pharmaceutical industry, but their expertise is often overlooked. Brooke East Africa Senior Animal Welfare Officer James Kithuka discusses Brooke's Agrovet Mentoring Framework, which aims to empower agrovets and transform animal health.

A vet mentors a trainee agrovet at a store in Kenya. 

In the world of animal health, there is a group of unsung heroes known as agrovets, or veterinary pharmacies. These dedicated professionals play a crucial role in serving animals, much like pharmacies and chemists serve humans. Despite their often-overlooked expertise, agrovets have successfully bridged the gap between livestock owners, farmers, and the pharmaceutical industry. With their commitment to providing essential services and expert guidance on animal health, agrovets hold a crucial place in the delivery of animal health services.

Research in East Africa has shown that farmers primarily seek assistance from agrovets rather than veterinarians. In fact, some farmers even refer to agrovets as "veterinarians." This preference for agrovets stems from their widespread availability, ease of accessibility, and affordability compared to qualified animal health practitioners. However, the agrovet industry faces challenges, such as inadequate training, weak regulation, and non-evidence-based practices, which contribute to One Health issues like the spread of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

In Kenya, there are approximately 10,000 agrovets, but only 4,000 of them are registered. Many of these agrovets lack the necessary technical knowledge to properly provide veterinary medicines, even though 70% of farmers rely on them when their animals are sick. The regulation of agrovets is weak, leading to harmful practices that undermine the animal health system.

A survey was conducted with 50 agrovets to understand their perception and understanding of antimicrobial resistance, pain management, and disease surveillance. The majority of the operators interviewed were men (67%), aged between 26 and 45 (80%), and only 18% had a degree in animal health. While 51% of agrovets dispensed antimicrobials on prescription, none of them kept any records or produced prescriptions. The main motivation for not selling antimicrobials on prescription was profit (80%). However, all agrovets were aware of notifiable diseases and reported suspected cases to the County veterinary authorities. Although 89% of agrovet operators considered pain to be important for animal health and welfare, only 2% had pain relief medications in stock.

To address these challenges head-on, Brooke developed the Agrovet Mentoring Framework (AMF). This comprehensive framework focuses on building skills, addressing gaps, and strengthening inter-professional relationships within the agrovet industry. By assessing the skills and competencies of agrovet practitioners through mentoring and constructive feedback, the AMF aims to improve performance and enhance frontline animal health services. Aligned with the code of ethics for the veterinary profession, the AMF covers five key competencies: Legal Compliance, Communication, Pharmacological Expertise, Agrovet Shop Content, and Agrovet Governance.

Exploring the Competencies Covered by the Agrovet Mentoring Framework

Legal compliance

Agrovets in Kenya and Tanzania are regulated and licensed, but in politically unstable regions like South Sudan and Somaliland, veterinary practice regulation is limited. The AMF addresses unqualified personnel in agrovets and emphasizes adherence to legal requirements, including proper business location and clear signage.


Effective communication skills are vital for agrovets to interact with both animals and their owners. The mentorship program helps agrovets improve engagement with farmers, gathering relevant information, developing personalized treatment plans, and effectively communicating dosages and administration routes. It also encourages referral systems with local animal health providers for specialized cases.

Pharmacological expertise

Pharmacological expertise is crucial in agrovets mentoring, enabling informed decisions on veterinary drug use, educating farmers about responsible medication administration, combating antimicrobial resistance, and staying updated with veterinary medicine advancements. Mentors with strong pharmacological knowledge guide aspiring agrovets and impart essential skills related to drug use, safety precautions, and responsible practices.

Agrovet shop content

The program emphasizes stocking essential veterinary drugs, including antibiotics, dewormers, antiseptics, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Agrovets are encouraged to have other necessary animal-related products such as vaccines, needles, syringes, nutrition blocks, and ropes. The goal is to become a convenient one-stop-shop for farmers' needs.

Agrovet governance

The AMF highlights proper waste management, high hygiene standards, and comprehensive clinical record-keeping. Agrovets should have designated waste disposal systems for safe disposal of contaminated waste. Maintaining cleanliness prevents contamination, and proper record-keeping enables financial accountability and informed decision-making.

Using AMF, trained mentors provide support based on real cases, helping agrovets demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the workplace. The results of the AMF assessment showed significant improvements in competency levels, with 73% rated as outstanding, 24% as good, and only 3% as unsatisfactory in 2023. The percentage of agrovets stocking pain relief drugs in 2018 was 5%, through mentorship it increased to 31% in 2023, while number of mentored agrovets increased from 22 in 2018 to 125 in 2023. This mentorship program has positively impacted agrovets' ability to dispense drugs for treatments, provide advice to livestock owners, and identify infrastructure challenges in animal health.

The AMF offers numerous benefits for both mentors and mentees. Mentees gain practical knowledge, industry insights, expanded networks, and new opportunities. Mentors, on the other hand, have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the next generation of agrovet professionals while experiencing personal and professional growth.

The AMF aims to address various identified gaps within the agrovet industry, including weak regulation, non-compliance due to excessive licensing requirements, lack of coordination between regulators and county governments, inadequate training initiatives for agro-pharmacists in public health areas, and inconsistency in data reporting. The framework strives to tackle these challenges head-on, ensuring the quality and effectiveness of agrovets' services.

Brooke East Africa acknowledges the crucial role of agrovets and veterinary paraprofessionals in animal health services. Their training and regulation are essential for proper antimicrobial use and the One Health approach. The Agrovet Mentoring Framework (AMF) aims to develop skilled and compassionate professionals, benefiting animals, people, and the environment. Implementing this framework offers growth, knowledge transfer, and career advancement for agrovets, positively impacting livestock owners, responsible drug use, and the rural economy.

Agrovet mentorship creates an ecosystem of growth, excellence, and responsible animal health management. Embracing this mentorship framework can shape a brighter future for agrovets, elevate the livestock industry, and improve farmers' and communities' well-being. It is encouraged to explore and implement the AMF to empower agrovets and transform animal health services for the better.