Daring to dream: The rise of Sheikh Technical Veterinary School from a project to an institution
ISTVS: A synopsis
The collapse of the government of Somalia in 1991 marked the day that public and private sector institutions began their decline and eventual demise. The civil unrest that followed the collapse resulted in rapid forced migration of file and rank and especially those able and the educated and skilled technical and administrative personnel. Thus by 1998 the numbers of active professionals left in public and private service were very few and getting on in age. This observed fact sowed seeds of establishing the IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (ISTVS), initially known as Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (STVS), in 1998. There was genuine concern among trainers and funding agencies trainers and the funding agents about large numbers of ageing veterinary and animal science professionals. Unfortunately at the same time, there was an increasing need to ensure quality control of the Somali livestock exports as importing countries were insisting on adherence to the tougher international trade rules.
When Terra Nuova, the proponents/developers of the school established the STVS it was designed to function in post-war conditions providing demand-driven training and services for regions of Somalia and neighbouring countries. The school was originally structured to address three main challenges faced by Somali livestock export: (i) competing with other livestock-exporting countries internationally and in the region for existing and/or new markets and products; (ii) complying with livestock trade regulations and international codes; (iii) and improving livestock and livestock product quality.
During the period 2002 – 2004, STVS focussed on the recruitment and training of Somali tutors, developing the first two years’ curriculum as well as a 4-month foundation course. A study was conducted during this period to address the legal aspects of the school and developing scenarios for a legal framework. The school developed networks with relevant institutions and organisations through international and regional meetings, workshops and conferences. An external economic and financial (ECOFIN) analysis of the project, requested by the EC (the main donor), was carried out in 2004 and found the school to be viable and sustainable. Tera Nuova applied and Sheikh Technical Veterinary School was allocated 60 hectares of land in 2002 by the Somaliland government under a 30-year lease agreement. Following the favourable ECOFIN recommendation to EU, Terra Nuova rolled out a Diploma in Livestock Health Science and Diploma in Livestock Product Safety and Quality Control to the first 16 students.
In view of the ever-increasing regional need for skills development, STVS developed and implemented targeted continuing education and skills development courses while also initiating the reference centre. With financial support from the EU, Italian Government and Danish Government construction work on school premises was carried out between July 2005 – March 2008.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), noted with concern the low representation of one of the key economic sectors in the IGAD region, namely livestock and dryland farming and the low priority given to the pastoral areas in the region despite them covering an estimated 70% of the region’s landmass. To address these identified gaps, IGAD used a two-pronged approach. On one hand, IGAD adopted the Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (STVS), which was until then a training project in Sahil region of Somaliland, under the AU-IBAR and Terra Nuova (TN) partnership. The adoption of STVS from AU-IBAR was based on African Union (AU) – Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Protocol on principles of subsidiarity. Sector ministers signed the protocol approving the adoption of STVS in 2011 while the IGAD Council of Ministers approved the adoption of the institution. On 12th July 2012, IGAD adopted the recommendations of the ministries in charge of livestock on the adoption of the Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (STVS) as the regional specialized institution of IGAD during the 45th ordinary session of the Council of Ministers held in Addis Ababa on the 11tth July 2012. This marked the transformation of the school from Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (STVS) to the IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (ISTVS). The EU, Italian Government, Danish Government and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) continued to support and fund most school activities and functions. IGAD member states (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda) started contributing to the school budget in 2014/15 and continues to do so to date.
ISTVS has formed strategic partnerships with some of the leading institutions of international repute in the region including Makerere University, Uganda, Mekelle University, Ethiopia and University of Nairobi, Kenya which has enabled ISTVS to introduce new programs. In 2009 Makerere University accredited the Diploma in Animal Health and Production and Diploma in Livestock Product Development and Entrepreneurship (DLDE). On the other hand, the University of Nairobi accredited a BSc Course in Dry-land Economics and Agro-ecosystem Management (DEAM) in 2013. And in 2014 ISTVS launched a veterinary/animal science diploma upgrade programme with Mekelle University in Ethiopia that enables the ISTVS diploma graduates to build on and enhance their qualifications to a Degree in Veterinary Medicine. To date, a total of 258 students (57 female) have graduated from the diploma programme while 41 students (19 female) have graduated from the degree programme.
Presently ISTVS focuses on ASALs’ development in the Greater Horn of Africa with emphasis on building capacities and empowering pastoral communities engaged in pastoral and agro-pastoral production systems. Its favourable location in the midst of the ASALs, at the interface between producers and users of livestock, ensures its comparative advantage within the ASAL region. On its part, the reference Centre conducts applied research and offers outreach programmes and professional training. ISTVS Reference Centre is a repository of knowledge, the institutional arm for applied research on livelihoods in ASAL areas. It delivers valuable extramural services to different strata in the livestock and agriculture sectors by holding animal clinics, offering diagnostic and extension services, running short term courses, advising producers, smallholder farmers and decision-makers and collecting and disseminating systems relevant data. It provides a large collection of livestock and agriculture-related documents and an extensive GIS database for the IGAD region.
ISTVS strategic direction
ISTVS aims to continue and intensify all-ongoing activities especially targeting youth who would otherwise migrate illegally to the Middle East or Europe seeking education and a brighter economic future. ISTVS will extend its scope of training and research by diversifying both the courses and qualifications on offer to target those already working but are in need of academic and skills development. Furthermore, ISTVS plans to expand its catalogue of demand-driven short courses, expand student numbers and annual student throughputs. ISTVS has now grown into a fully-fledged University with its own University Management Board, Academic Board(Senate) and various academic, administration and support staff cadres. The future is bright and full of hope.
Fred Wesonga – Principal ISTVS