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Improving Livelihoods through the control of animal diseases

EU and FAO launch initiative to assist 300 000 Zimbabwean smallholder livestock farmers

Livestock being vaccinated in Zimbabwe's Matebeleland (Photo: © FAO/ Believe Nyakudjara)

19 April 2016, Harare – The European Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have signed a new agreement aimed at improving food and livelihoods security and resilience of smallholder livestock farmers in Zimbabwe.

This agreement comes at a time when crop and animal production prospects in Zimbabwe have been dampened by the El Niño weather phenomenon that has been characterized by low and poorly distributed rainfall and increased temperatures. The expected reduced agricultural output in 2016 follows on last year's disappointing season, which has already contributed to higher food prices and left almost a third of the population food insecure.

The EUR 650 000 project directly responds to the drought situation in most parts of Zimbabwe and is set to benefit 300 000 individuals in the country’s southern districts of Masvingo and Mwenezi - known for their dependence on livestock production.

“With the ongoing El Niño phenomenon gravely affecting tens of thousands of people in Southern Africa, and projections for 2016 showing that the worst is not over yet, the EU is committed to responding to the emergency needs of the people in affected countries. We are pleased to partner with FAO in this project which will directly benefit thousands of people and help them to deal with the effects of the harsh weather conditions, and protect their livestock," said Jean-Louis de Brouwer, Director of Operations at the European Commission's Humanitarian and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Representative in Zimbabwe, David Phiri lauded the partnership. “Globally, the EU is FAO's largest resource partner. In Zimbabwe, we are already partnering on various other initiatives, and this new timely action, in direct support to the FAO’s Drought Mitigation Programme, itself a response to the Government’s call for emergency support, further demonstrates a commitment to expand this collaboration for the benefit of Zimbabwe's smallholder farmers”.

In particular, the project aims to control the spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD) and Anthrax through vaccinations and treatment.

This EU – FAO partnership is part of a larger initiative for the greater Southern Africa region, in which the EU allocated about €12 million (including €4.1 million for Zimbabwe alone) to respond to El Niño.

Timely intervention crucial

Anthrax is an ancient animal disease that is particularly dangerous because of its ability to pass from livestock to humans. It spreads rapidly, and it kills the widest possible range of animal species. Death comes quickly once animals are infected: sometimes within just hours, animals die of internal swelling, bleeding and tissue death.

Although FMD is not a direct threat to humans, it is an economically important disease because of the sheer volume of losses it inflicts on milk and meat production of the farmers. Animals are also severely weakened and are unable to be utilized for draught power in farms. The disease is also quite notably a major constraint to international trade in livestock products.

Zimbabwe is current experiencing an incessant FMD outbreak with the disease now having spread into six of the country’s eight provinces. This has affected the movement of livestock for relief grazing, as movement of cattle poses an increased risk of disease spread. The shortage of grazing due to the drought results in animals grazing too close to the ground thereby picking up disease spores leading to outbreaks.

The project complements a number of food security programmes FAO is currently implementing in the southern districts of the country. FAO is also currently providing support to the Government of Zimbabwe in the formulation of a Livestock Policy and FMD control strategy. The project will hence be implemented in close coordination with other on-going projects.


Sithembile Siziba | FAO Zimbabwe Communications |Sithembile.Siziba@fao.org

Edward Ogolla | FAO Southern Africa Communications| Edward.Ogolla@fao.org

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