What is a VFU?
A VFU is a location at community level, staffed by one or more paravets or veterinarians. VFUs are established in the house of a staff member or in a rented premise. Each VFU is equipped with veterinary kits, vaccines and medicines, a solar powered cold chain system, a motorbike, furniture, cattle crush, and signboard. VFU staff provide fixed and mobile animal health services to livestock owners. Services offered are vaccination, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, basic surgery, and extension. In addition, the VFU staff offer the farmers a range of related services, like artificial insemination, nutritional advice, and supply of nutritional products. All services are fee-paid to ensure a sustainable income for the VFU staff.
Selection of VFU location
The location of a new VFU is determined by the local livestock population and the presence of other VFUs. The distance between neighbouring VFUs should be at least 15 kilometres, and the livestock population served by a VFU be on average 25,000 head. Ideally a VFU is located in a district centre or in the centre of a cluster of villages. If possible, the location is close to a livestock market. Several VFUs are located along Kuchi migration routes and near their summer and winter locations, to serve the Afghan pastoralists.
Selection and training of VFU staff
Selection of appropriate candidates for staffing a VFU is key for a successful veterinary service delivery. Candidates should be motivated, be from the community, and preferable have a grade 10 schooling. It is important that the community leaders, the Shura, support their candidacy. The local Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock should also approve the candidate. Once selected, the candidate receives a paravet training course of 24 weeks. After five months of paravet training (theory and practice) the graduate is ready to run his own VFU.
VFU staff require technical backup for 1 to 2 years to become established within their community. In the first year following graduation they receive medicines and vaccines as in-kind support. Each month, a DCA facilitator visits the VFU to provide guidance and coaching. This facilitator also gathers the monthly vaccination and medication data for the records, and visits the farmers the VFU serves. In addition, he discusses the need for refresher courses to extend the knowledge and skills of the VFU staff, and to expand the range of services if needed. DCA offers a diverse array of 1- to 2-week refreshers courses to VFU staff.
Extension by VFU staff
Each VFU establishes an extension group of at least ten livestock owners in two villages. Extension activities by VFUs have dual benefits. First they promote the activities of the VFUs and increase the number of clients. In addition, extension improves the awareness of the farmers and thus enhances family food security and income.
VFUs in 2018
In 2018, DCA supports 600 VFUs all over Afghanistan. In addition, VFUs are supported by other NGOs, e.g. Relief International, Madera, Agha Khan Foundation, and the Afghanistan Veterinary Association.
One logo for all VFUs
For a better recognition of all VFUs in Afghanistan and for marketing purposes, in 2008 a universal VFU logo was developed. This logo replaced the regional NGO logos that were formerly in use.