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FAO seeks to boost regional livestock trade opportunities in Eastern Africa

Empowering countries to control transboundary animal diseases

FAO trains animal health experts to enable them prevent, detect and respond to sensitive animal diseases. Photo: ©FAO

8 October 2018, Addis Ababa – As part of a global strategy to reduce the burden of animal diseases on trade and livelihoods, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) trained animal health experts to enable them to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to the most trade–sensitive animal diseases in the Eastern Africa Subregion.

The Training of Trainers Workshop: “Improving Animal Health Delivery in Public and Private Sectors in East Africa,” held from October 2 to 4 2018, focused on improving veterinary service delivery to combat three common diseases, namely the Rift Valley Fever (RVF), Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) and Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) in all production systems using community approach methods and tools.

Recalling the fact that Eastern Africa is home to almost half of the animal population in sub-Saharan Africa, David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa, noted that the burden of these diseases erodes efficiencies and contributes to the cycle of poverty, hunger and poor nutrition; as well as limiting inter and intra-regional trade in the Subregion.

“In an environment of population growth and urbanization, rapid travel and trade, as well as harsh climatic conditions, the risk of animal disease emergence and spread in the Eastern Africa Region is very high and, hence our Member States are always at risk,” he said.

To address this challenge, David Phiri reiterated, FAO’s commitment to assist Member States and the most vulnerable communities in the Eastern Africa region to become more resilient to threats and disasters, prevent the loss of livelihoods, enhance food security and nutrition, reduce poverty and promote economic growth.

Livestock is crucial to secure livelihoods in Eastern Africa

Much emphasis of FAO work in Eastern Africa has been placed on interventions in the livestock sectors because of its strategic importance to the livelihoods of rural communities. An estimated 45 percent of cattle and 34 percent of small ruminants (sheep and goats) on the African continent are found in the Eastern Africa (including Sudan) Subregion. In addition, 70 percent of all camels in Africa are found in the Subregion.

The Subregion also has significant pastoral and agro-pastoral populations with around 17 percent of the population in pasture-based production systems. Djibouti and Somalia have the highest proportion of their populations in pasture-based production systems (both above 70 percent), while Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia have the largest pastoral and agro-pastoral populations.

Furthermore, livestock is an important part of the economies of the Eastern Africa countries, contributing to approximately 15 percent of their GDP. Livestock products feature strongly on the league table of exports in a number of these countries. It is estimated that the countries in Eastern Africa alone are already exporting about 40 percent of the total meat requirements of the Middle East and the Gulf States. This is in addition to the millions of head of live small ruminants exported to the regions. There is ample evidence that these countries can increase further their share of export.

Livestock diseases pose notable challenges

This potential is however confronted by severe challenges, where transboundary animal diseases such as RVF, FMD and PPR are the major ones. The diseases are expected to increase in both frequency and severity due to climate change and other factors. They can cause considerable losses in animal production activities and have severe consequences on communities’ livelihoods. When animals are lost or debilitated by diseases, there is a serious impact on households, communities, and trading partners.

In these situations, appropriate strategies and targeted interventions that address the needs of both people and their animals are necessary to protect livelihoods, build resilience and guarantee food security, nutrition and safe trade. Recognizing this, FAO has been responding to diseases and other livestock emergencies in the Eastern Africa Subregion.

It draws on its worldwide network and broad multidisciplinary knowledge and experience to provide support to countries to implement control measures such as strategic vaccination campaigns and targeted surveillance. Through its surveillance Global Early Warning System, FAO also assists in monitoring disease trends for early warning and forecasting animal disease threats that could potentially become of regional or even a global concern.

Participants at the three-day workshop drawn from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan attended the Workshop.

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