Veterinary in ethiopia

Establishment of veterinary laboratory service in Ethiopia

The establishment of the first veterinary laboratory in Ethiopia dates back to the year 1905 when a veterinary institute came in to being at Asmara, Eritrea, with the main objectives of producing vaccines and investigation of livestock disease. A second laboratory was set up in the year 1939 (1932 E.C) near Kechene, Medhane Alem cathedral which was shifted to Gulele, Addis Ababa ten years later in 1949 under the aegis of Ministry of Agriculture. This was subsequently transferred to its present site at Debre-Zeit in 1963, where it developed into a full-fledged National Veterinary Institute with the collaboration and financial assistance of French government.A decade later in 1973 another laboratory, Sholla Regional Veterinary Laboratory, was established at Sholla, which was jointly managed and run by the government of Ethiopia and the British Over-seas Development Programme until 1977 when it was entirely taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture, upon termination of British Over-seas Development Programme.

About the same time another regional veterinary laboratory was started at Bahir Dar with the technical and financial assistance of the government of the People’s Republic of China and where the Chinese experts carried on the work until 1979.  Establishment of Bedelle Regional Veterinary Laboratory was followed with the technical and financial assistance of UNDP/FAO.


Regional laboratories have mainly carried on investigational work on parasitic and bacterial disease, except Asmera, where several biological have also been produced including anti-snake venom sera (Source: The structural organization and the strategy for the veterinary laboratory development in Ethiopia, 1979). Until 1983, the regional veterinary laboratories were at Asmara, Bahir Dar, Sholla and Bedele. Moreover, the National Veterinary Institute (NVI) was the only reference laboratory for the animal health sector and mainly focused on vaccine production, diagnostic and research works and coordinates the regional laboratories. After that in the coming years regional and national veterinary laboratories were established in different parts of the country.

history of nahdic

Ethiopia is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of its livestock wealth. Livestock is reared in Ethiopia to support the fundamental livelihood of its over 100 million population. The Ethiopian people are today more or less self-reliant in terms of feeding themselves. This reality is the result of some 16 million oxen representing 1.3 million tractors who are engaged in farm work. It is crucial to provide good animal health services to this high number of cattle population and the other domestic animals in our country. The Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture through the Department of the National Veterinary Services is responsible for providing animal health services in the country. During the last 50 years a remarkable improvement have been made in this sector which included the development of large-scale animal health infrastructures, veterinary education, diagnostics, and research facilities, etc.

Today Ethiopia has two modern and well-equipped National Veterinary Laboratories (NVI, NAHDIC), 14 regional veterinary laboratory and 100s of veterinary clinics and stations in the country. Over 2,000 Ethiopian veterinary doctors are trained in 11 veterinary faculties in the country that are actively engaged in the fight against different types of livestock diseases.

I am so proud to witness so much development in this sector during the last 50 years. At  this historic time I am also very happy to make my personal reflection and share my small contribution during the past decade which are as follows:

I served Ethiopia as the head of the Ethiopian National Veterinary Services Department from 1976 -1984 with some interruption in 1980/81.  During those years there were approximately 2,000 veterinary personnel and administrative staff, but only about 100 veterinary doctors in active duty. We were mostly engaged in mass vaccination and treatment against limited numbers of livestock disease all over the country. The facilities for disease investigation were limited. There was only one national laboratory (NVI) during those days in Bishoftu. NVI which  was by and large supported by the French cooperation was mostly focusing on vaccine production and research on vaccine development. They were also mandated as referral centre for viral disease investigation and research.

During my time we established a small group of experts to follow up the disease investigation aspect at the Sholla Veterinary Laboratory. The head of the team was Dr. Fissha Gebreab and later the late Dr Kinfe Getaneh, the team worked diligently to respond for all disease investigation calls in the country and therefore it was necessary to establish a new disease investigation laboratory. In this regard, I developed a brief concept note to justify the need of such laboratory in the country.

During that year the document for the preparation of the 4th Livestock Development Project (FLDP) has just started. The main technical consultant for the project was Dr. Eric Wells from UK. I elaborated my vision of the new laboratory to include the following units: Bacteriology, Parasitology, Toxicology, Pathology, Immunology, Drug and Pharmaceutical unit, Food Safety and Hygiene, etc. I wanted the new laboratory to be established on an international standard level. I also made sure that it would have a residential housing component for staff. At least 15 houses were planned in phase one. I felt very happy when all my suggestions were finally accepted in the 4th Livestock Development Project Financial proposal. The second important step was to look for an appropriate site around Addis Ababa and apply for acquiring the land.

In this regard I assigned the late Dr. Girma Bekele, who was the provincial veterinary officer for Showa region, to follow up this matter. We also wrote an official letter signed by the then Minister of Agriculture, the late Dr. Geremew Debele, to the Showa regional administrative governor the late Major Debela Dinsa.

 I fully acknowledge the support of the two high officials for acquiring the land around Sebeta during those days.

Once the World Bank fund and the land were made available then the tender for the construction of the laboratory was initiated. A Chinese company won the tender for the construction of the Laboratory supervised by Dr. Peter Roeder and Dr. Eric W. Both played a very crucial role in following up the construction and operationalization of the Laboratory.

It is important also to give credit to the late Dr. Kinfe Getaneh who later become the manager of  FLDP who gave full support for the construction of the Sebeta  laboratory.

Today I am so proud to see not only a fully-developed and operational laboratory, but also a center of excellence and referral center for disease investigation in Sebeta. I salute all the present officials and staff of NAHDIC for having brought the laboratory to this level. I wish you all the best in future.

By Solomon Haile Mariam (Dr.) Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Science, (EAS)