THE Food and Agriculture Organization says livestock diseases are depriving communities of substantial income in the Southern Africa region and curtailing entry into lucrative international markets such as Europe and America.
Zimbabwe through the Cold Storage Company (CSC) used to export beef to the European Union before outbreaks of the Foot and Mouth Disease led the bloc to impose strict measures to regulate animal diseases. The country’s 9000 beef quota to the EU market was reportedly worth hundred million of dollars.
Speaking yesterday at the official opening in Harare of the FAO Regional Training Workshop on Strengthening Animal Disease Surveillance Capacity s in Southern Africa, sub –regional coordinator Patrick Kormawa said emerging and re-emerging animal diseases, if not adequately controlled, can have deleterious consequences on animal health and food security.
“The livestock sector is extremely important to the region because, meat, milk, and eggs provide sources of high quality animal protein and ensures food and nutrition security of millions of people in the region.
Livestock production is also an important source of income and a safety net for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly rural women and youth, and is a significant contributor to agricultural GDP.As a continent, Africa is endowed with vast livestock resources.
In recent decades, the world food economy has seen a shift towards increased consumption of animal-source foods; and against the backdrop of increasing world population, urbanization and globalization – this provides significant opportunities for African countries.However, apart from a handful of countries in Southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa), which enjoy access to the lucrative export markets for meat, most countries have not been able to unlock the full potential of their livestock resources.
Apart from the endemic presence of trade sensitive diseases,the challenges are many and varied, including: weak and under resourced veterinary services; lack of developed livestock value chains and related infrastructure; lack of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks; and lack of technical expertise and capacities for effective animal disease control”.
Kormawa added that as many diseases of public health concern are zoonosesand they are often best detected and controlled at the source in animals, hence FAO and its partners placed emphasis on building the capacity of veterinary and public health services by promoting the use of participatory methodologies in disease surveillance for early warning and rapid response.
He said the veterinarians and animal health technicians were invited to the workshop to be familiarised with participatory epidemiology and surveillance methodologies currently in use in the management of animal diseases.
“The training is meant to be interactive and highly participatory, and will include field practical exercises to stimulate discussion and reinforce key principles taught, in order to strengthen early warning and contingency planning.
Accordingly, at the end of this training, we expect that as trainees, you will not only be familiar with the tools and techniques of Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs), but will also have an appreciation of the importance of animal diseases on public health and the livelihoods of livestock communities in your respective countries”.