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FAO launches a Mobile Application to support animal diseases surveillance and reporting in Ghana

Mr. Benjamin Adjei Assistant FAOR handing over the mobile application equipment to the Deputy Director of the Veterinary Service Directorate (VSD) Mrs. Joyce Dontwi

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched an Event Mobile Application to support surveillance and reporting mechanisms in Ghana for priority animal diseases.

 The mobile application initiative known as the Event Mobile Application or “EMA-i”, is an epidemiological tool aimed at enhancing early disease reporting from field level using android smartphones.

At the opening ceremony of a training workshop for selected veterinary officers across the country on the EMA-i, Mr. Benjamin Adjei, who spoke on behalf of the FAO Representative to Ghana, said the use of IT technology is gaining grounds in all sectors of agriculture today.

He said the introduction of EMA-i is timely for the animal health sector as Ghana seeks to enhance agricultural extension delivery through an e-extension system for farmers. The EMA-i system will go a long way to complement and synergise with existing and upcoming e- platforms in contributing to food and nutrition security.

He therefore urged the Veterinary Service Directorate (VSD) to embrace and own the EMA-i system with all seriousness and make all efforts technically and financially to ensure that it works, and ultimately to cover the whole country within a short period after the initial pilot phase of six months.

Ghana’s request to hold a training workshop on Event Mobile Application (EMA-i) to improve animal disease reporting, early warning and surveillance dated back to 2016. Following from the different phases of EMA-i implementation in Uganda and other countries, Ghana is starting its implementation in 2018 with a workshop aimed at Improving reliable  real-time reporting and data mapping of animal disease information, reducing delays in the response to disease outbreaks, including zoonotic diseases, thereby helping to protect at-risk populations and  support risk management through early warning, disease management and response

The EMA-i

EMA-i allows veterinarians or other animal health experts to enter geo-referenced epidemiological data into an app and transmit these data to a database directly from the field using their smartphones in real-time for further validation.

EMA-i has also been implemented in Tanzania in 2016 and 2017. In West Africa, Mali was the first country to implement EMA-i in 2016. In Ghana the App will be implemented for an initial period of six months in 20 pilot districts in the Brong Ahafo, Volta and Upper East Regions.

By using the EMA-I tool, the Veterinary Services Directorate of Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in the country will change from paper-based reporting to electronic format, starting from the pilot areas and over time cover the whole country.

According to the Deputy Director of the Veterinary Service Directorate (VSD) Mrs. Joyce Dontwi, “The directorate can achieve its mandate of efficient animal health service delivery for the subsector, and play an important role in achieving government’s “Rearing for Food and Jobs” policyif it has an organized disease surveillance system that can provide an early detection, prevention, response and recovery of any outbreaks of fatal animal diseases in the country”.

Mrs. Dontwi while addressing the participants at the training on behalf of the Minister of State in Charge of Agriculture observed that the Veterinary Service Directorate still uses “hard copy paper reporting formats” for submission of monthly reports in this modern ICT age and expressed the need to upgrade.

The Deputy Director however commended the service staff for their dedication in containing the outbreaks of avian influenza which occurred in 2018.

Evident from the workshop, Ghana is using a multi-sectoral One Health (OH) approach in the application of the EMA-I tool by involving participants from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) of the Ministry of Health, Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) of the Ministry of Finance and the Norwegian Public Health Institute in order to ensure wider application and for sustainability and ownership by government post-pilot phase.

FAO supported VSD with 30 smartphones and four desktop computers including internet connectivity for six months to implement the pilot phase of the EMA-i. In all, 30 participants drawn from the Veterinary Service Directorate head office, regional and district level staff and other stakeholders were trained.

Baba Soumare, FAO-ECTAD Regional Manager for West and Central Africa said It is very encouraging that the participants have passion for the use of the EMA-i tool to collect animal disease data, “The tool is very much practical and will help you do much better than before in whatever you are already doing in the field with animal disease data collection”. He thanked USAID for funding ECTAD project and the VSD for taking the training very seriously and re-iterated FAO’s continued technical support to build the capacity of the VSD.

 A roadmap for the EMA-i implementation was developed at the end of the training workshop which detailed timelines for upcoming activities including final customization of the tool for Ghana animal health surveillance and reporting.