FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO helping reduce use of antimicrobials in broiler value chain in Zimbabwe

FAO, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Subregional AMR Project Coordinator Mark Obonyo (left) going through the data collected by an extension officer, in ward 8, Mutasa District. Photo ©FAO/Donald Tafadzwa Chidoori

All around the world antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is on the rise in people, plants and animals leading to deaths from infections that cannot be treated even with the best medicines available.

In 2019, 5 million human infections were associated with bacterial antimicrobial resistance worldwide, including more than 1.2 million human deaths attributable to bacterial AMR. The burden was highest in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with children below five years of age the most affected.

In Zimbabwe, the broiler value chain, basing on methods of production, pushed by high demand from the consumer for affordable poultry products, has been seen as a considerable user of antimicrobials.

To reduce antimicrobials use in the broiler value chain, FAO in Zimbabwe is working with extension officers from the Government’s Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) is collecting farm-level data on antimicrobials use (AMU) and develop an economic case for AMR within the broiler value chain while promoting good animal husbandry practices. This intervention is supporting poultry farmers in Mutare, Mutasa, Murehwa, Zvimba, Chegutu, Masvingo, Bulawayo, and Marondera.

FAO is also collecting samples from the farms to understand the microbes that are present in those farms and their levels of resistance to the available antibiotics. This will be important in correlating how antibiotic use drives resistance.

“FAO plays a key role in supporting governments, and all relevant stakeholders towards the responsible use of antimicrobials in food and agriculture sectors, thus helping reduce AMR. In the context of Zimbabwe, our interventions in the poultry value chain will help, in informing policy and practice geared towards development and promotion of antimicrobial stewardship in food producing animals, ultimately resulting into responsible use of antimicrobial for better health animal health and improved incomes for smallholder farmers” said FAO Regional AMR Project Coordinator for Southern Africa, Mark Obonyo. 

“FAO has helped Zimbabwe to make significant strides in fighting AMR. This intervention on data collection and surveillance is one of many interventions that FAO, thanks to funding from the Fleming Fund (FF) grants and the Multi Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), is supporting us to combat the challenges of AMR, in line with the national objectives,” said Pious Makaya, Director of the Division of Veterinary Technical Services.

FAO has trained 18 extension officers on Farmer Field School (FFS) approaches to promote good husbandry practices among broiler farmers, while collecting farm-level data on antibiotic usage using a mobile application, Kobo Collect.

Each extension worker is working with at least 25 farmers to collect data on the types of antibiotics used by farmers to treat the birds, frequency of use, quantities and at what stages of growth. This data collected at farm level is an important step towards establishing standards and guidelines for broiler production at farm level, which will in turn improve animal and human health. The standards and guidelines can also be adopted for related value chains.

Initial data from the application and support given to farmers on the use of antibiotics already shows a reduction and responsible use of antimicrobials.

“As an extension officer I do not only collect data on use of antimicrobials, but I also give farmers expert knowledge on how when and when not to, and what types of antibiotics to use. This has greatly helped farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics whilst increasing productivity and reduced animal deaths due to diseases,” said Philemon Matsanhura, Agritex extension officer for Mutasa District.

One of the project beneficiaries, who has been in the broiler production business since 2014, said that proper management of antibiotics had not only enabled him to reduce losses but enabled him to access some markets that he previously could not access.

“Since I have participated in the AMR project I have noticed an increase in the health of my chickens, a drop in the use of antibiotics and even referred some farmers to our local extension worker. I am proud of the part that I am playing to reduce the use of antimicrobial and improve the health and wellbeing of the general public,” said Maxwell Nyandiya, Chigomba Village, Ward 8, Mutasa district.

To help fight against AMR in his area Maxwell has been encouraging other farmers not participating in the project to collect the same data for their own use in improving productivity.

“Some of the project beneficiaries like Maxwell Nyandiya have been referring other non-project poultry farmers, so that I can also help them to collect data and train them on proper use of antibiotics. I can confirm right now that I am also working with more than 10 non project farmers referred to me by project beneficiaries,” Philemon Matsanhura said.

In addition to data collection and surveillance on antimicrobial use, FAO plans to strengthen the fight against AMR, through the FFS approach.

The FFS approach strengthens knowledge of holistic agro-ecosystem management, improves decision-making skills and facilitates collaboration and collective action. The approach also enables family poultry producers to develop more efficient and sustainable production systems, while improving their capacities to face challenges, including the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

“The immediate benefit of the FFSs will be the reduction in use of antibiotics, the reduction in residues above the maximum residue levels of antibiotics in food products, having direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the general public,” Kululeko Dube, FAO National Coordinator AMR Project in Zimbabwe.

The AMR project in Zimbabwe is supported by the UK government, through the Fleming Fund and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) through the UK, Swedish and Netherlands Governments.