AGA IN ACTIONComplementary animal health approaches: Nigeria and FAO work together in participatory biosecurity project
In 2009, the Communication Unit of the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) based in Rome started to sketch out the major components of a social mobilization project aimed at reducing risks posed by animal diseases especially avian influenza in disease-infected countries. With financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and FAOs Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA), it was agreed that FAO would pilot a people-centred, multidisciplinary, participatory biosecurity project, from an animal health perspective, in three Nigerian states. This short article briefly highlights the major project concept and outcomes to date in Nigeria.
With collaboration, support and inputs from Nigerias Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (FMAWR) it was agreed that, based on national characteristics, the Nigerian states of Anambra, Katsina and Ondo were the most appropriate to implement this project. Given the nature, emphasis and competencies of the project originators, it was clear that biosecurity and communications were going to be the major themes guiding core and peripheral activities. In fact, communication specialists and biosecurity experts worked and travelled together to field locations to engage selected stakeholders in capacity-building exercises, mainly in the form of workshops, trainings and consultations. These exercises initially focused on raising awareness of the animal and human health implications and long-term benefits of community-owned, sustainable disease risk reduction measures that can be implemented with little or no cost. The project covers six communities per state, making a total of 18 sites where implementation is taking place. Rural smallholder farmers, small-scale poultry keepers, intermediaries, transporters and poultry sellers from live bird markets dynamically engaged with trainers to formulate local solutions.
So far, the positive outcomes of this project can be separated into three groups:
- for individuals Participants quickly realized the potential of analysing their needs and resources themselves, and design viable and feasible solutions to their animal health problems. Some communities have gone as far as expressing their desire to form cooperatives and action groups to better service their evolving needs, and others, who until recently had seldom seen any Government presence or assistance, are now starting to take advantage of some of the services rendered by national bodies;
- for communities With the level of empowerment achieved among participating communities, many have begun to realise that they can indeed demand services and hold the government accountable for delivery. Some communities have formally approached government officials with requests for the establishment of veterinary services which, prior to starting this project, never existed in their localities. Some communities have gone a step further and asked to partner with government by offering community-owned or privately-owned houses in nearby locations to serve as government veterinary service centres. On receiving such offers, the government, in a number of cases, has accepted to provide equipment and personnel for the effective running of such community-based veterinary centres;
- for institutions In view of the largely positive response seen among participants, the minimal budgetary demands of the project, and the importance given to building and improving local capacity, the FMAWR decided to nominate 36 veterinarians with substantial training in disease risk communication as Animal Health Communication Focal Persons at state levels. Furthermore, the accruing experiences are now being oriented towards cultural sensitivities and socioeconomic issues. This in turn has resulted in informal requests to FAO staff for comprehensive rural livelihoods training to government veterinarians and animal health officials.
From a broader perspective, the positive outcomes coming out of this people-centred project provide further evidence to the largely validated notion that empowering communities to deal locally with their challenging situations can, in most cases, result in effective, sustained and sustainable reductions of disease risks to other animals and humans. Without a doubt, this positive-sum cooperation between FAO and FMAWR could be expanded to other areas.