Economics of ethnoveterinary medicine

Evelyn Mathias, October 2001

Up to now, the literature offers little data on the economic impact of promoting ethnoveterinary medicine. There are some indications that the use of ethnoveterinary medicine can have economic advantages.

bullet Plant preparations that livestock keepers can prepare themselves from crude materials will cost them less than buying the same mixture ready-to-use, but the latter may be much cheaper than equivalent allopathic alternatives. In Sri Lanka a locally processed herbal wound-powder was found to be as effective as Negasunt®, but cost 80-90% less (Anjaria 1996). 
bullet Commercial herbal products may not be in all cases the cheaper alternative. Karanji oil, an Indian treatment for mange that could be used instead of Butox®, is difficult to get in some parts of Rajasthan, and when it is available, is more expensive than Butox® (Köhler-Rollefson 2001, pers. com.). 
bullet If commercial herbal drugs are exported to other countries, they may there become nearly as expensive as other imported allopathic drugs (RDP 1994, pers. com.). 
bullet Scientific research and farmer experiments in Trinidad and Tobago found that adding preparations from plants such as aloe and Momordica charantia to the drinking water can improve the productivity and profitability of flocks of broilers. Other sources also state that effective local plant medicines can reduce both household and project expenditures on commercial drugs (Lans 2001). 

Conclusions: ethnoveterinary medicine can make an economic difference, but its cost-effectiveness varies, and depends on many different factors. In-depth studies are needed to determine how the economic potential of ethnoveterinary medicine can be best utilised. The example from Trinidad and Tobago highlights that the usefulness is not restricted to smallholders and resource-poor farmers, but also applies to intensive production units.

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