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Promoting prudent use of antimicrobial in poultry farms

Antimicrobial Resistance experts from 5 Sub-Saharan African countries join to develop innovative behavior change strategies

19 June 2019, Livingstone, Zambia – With a variety of stakeholders involved in the antimicrobial resistance issue, different levels of interventions are crucial in effectively mitigating antimicrobial resistance risks. Especially, behavior change at the grass-root level is a key component to tackle the development of drug-resistant superbugs at its early stage of formation.

Teams from five Sub-Saharan countries gathered in Zambia, this week, to discuss key findings on the factors influencing antimicrobial use in broiler and layer poultry farming (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Kenya) and in pastoralist production (Tanzania). The findings were obtained from a series of harmonized knowledge, attitude, and practices (KAP) studies that were deployed over the past year. Additionally, further actions to promote prudent use of antimicrobials in poultry production were identified.

Based on the findings of KAP studies, funded by the UK Department of Health via the Fleming Fund, country teams designed intelligent and tailored interventions to change farmer perceptions and behaviors to minimize excessive antimicrobial use.  These interventions will be rolled out with small farmer groups over the coming year, with the ultimate goal of achieving interventions that can be scaled up to national and regional levels.

In welcoming the participants to Zambia, Geoffrey Mainda, the project coordinator from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, indicated that “It was important for governments to partner with agencies such as FAO in getting interventions aimed at antimicrobial resistance (AMR) mitigation down to primary users of antimicrobials, in order to maintain antimicrobial effectiveness.”

FAO is committed to minimizing the development and transmission of AMR through the food chain, including through addressing inappropriate use of antimicrobials in animal production systems.  Suzanne Eckford, the Antimicrobial Resistance Officer of FAO emphasized “Promoting prudent practices among farmers depends on understanding and changing their attitudes and practices.” To reach this understanding, the KAP studies utilized a mixed-methods research design to produce a comprehensive body of evidence on the diverse contexts of antimicrobial use within each farmer community.

Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices of poultry farmers in 5 Sub-Saharan African countries

Summing up the country analyses, a regional analysis identified key consistent factors throughout the region that have practical implications for intervention designs. Across the project countries, individuals that live or work on farms made decisions regarding healthcare and directly provided treatments to animals, often replying only on inputs from family and friends. Few of the respondents in the surveys relied on animal health professionals or indicated the use of a prescription when obtaining antimicrobials.  These trends emphasize that advocacy campaigns must be targeted at different levels of stakeholders to have widespread impacts, including practices at farm level.

Conversely, the role of agrovets, where famers can purchase agricultural and veterinary products, in disseminating responsible use practices was highlighted. Agrovets are the source of antimicrobials for over 80% of farmers and are often the only source of animal health knowledge that farmers consult outside networks of family and friends. 

Importantly, study results also demonstrated that interactions with agrovets can impact antimicrobial use patterns with respondents who sought more information on selection and dose regimens also reporting improved practices.  In countries where qualified veterinarians are in short supply, efforts to sensitize agrovets on AMR will play an important role in motivating prudent practices among farmers.

Teams will be submitting their findings to journals and government ministries over the coming months to ensure these important findings reach the broader community.  In the meantime, the teams are engaged in the second phase of their project, harnessing these valuable insights to design interventions that will maximize prudent use of antimicrobials by targeted farmers. 

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