The economic impact of malignant catarrhal fever on pastoralist livelihoods

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Public Library of Science


This study is the first to partially quantify the potential economic benefits that a vaccine, effective at protecting cattle against malignant catarrhal fever (MCF), could accrue to pastoralists living in East Africa. The benefits would result from the removal of household resource and management costs that are traditionally incurred avoiding the disease. MCF, a fatal disease of cattle caused by a virus transmitted from wildebeest calves, has plagued Maasai communities in East Africa for generations. The threat of the disease forces the Maasai to move cattle to less productive grazing areas to avoid wildebeest during calving season when forage quality is critical. To assess the management and resource costs associated with moving, we used household survey data. To estimate the costs associated with changes in livestock body condition that result from being herded away from wildebeest calving grounds, we exploited an ongoing MCF vaccine field trial and we used a hedonic price regression, a statistical model that allows estimation of the marginal contribution of a good’s attributes to its market price. We found that 90 percent of households move, on average, 82 percent of all cattle away from home to avoid MCF. In doing so, a herd’s productive contributions to the household was reduced, with 64 percent of milk being unavailable for sale or consumption by the family members remaining at the boma (the children, women, and the elderly). In contrast cattle that remained on the wildebeest calving grounds during the calving season (and survived MCF) remained fully productive to the family and gained body condition compared to cattle that moved away. This gain was, however, short-lived. We estimated the market value of these condition gains and losses using hedonic regression. The value of a vaccine for MCF is the removal of the costs incurred in avoiding the disease.


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Pastoralist livelihoods, Malignant Catarrhal Fever, Economic impacts, East Africa, Disease