Food safety and quality

Reducing the need for antimicrobials in farming


FAO Farmer Field Schools (FFS) have demonstrated that making changes in livestock production practices can lead to prudent antimicrobial use (AMU), and safe food as well as increased profit margins. Results from pilots in Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe show that farmers who participated in FAO’s poultry FFS decreased their use of antimicrobials on the farm and increased their efforts in infection prevention and control. The increased use of biosecurity measures, such as footbaths and personal protective equipment, were a result of improved knowledge, more prudent attitudes and practises on AMU. Increased motivation and interaction with animal health professionals were also observed among participating farmers in the four countries. Farmers also reported increases in profit margins as less money was spent during production, when compared to farmers not participating in the FFS within the same geographical area.

FAO is committed to reducing the need for antimicrobials in food production and agriculture. In collaboration with other stakeholders, FAO is currently implementing the Farmer Field Schools (FFS) with a focus on prudent AMU across the entire production cycle. Poultry farmers (layers and broilers) enrol in FFS, learn best poultry production practices throughout the production cycle and co-create solutions suitable for their local contexts. The trainings target a variety of on-farm and off-farm factors that drive antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including misuse of antimicrobials and poor prevention and control measures.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global public health concern and a food safety issue. It is estimated that 5 million deaths were associated with antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections in 2019.  Food can be contaminated with antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Because the likelihood of resistance development increases with antimicrobial use, prudent use of antimicrobials in food production minimizes the emergence and spread of foodborne AMR.       

The promising results over the past five years are driving efforts to scale up the FFS approach. For FFS to be sustainable, FFS participants can become facilitators to lead future FFS, allowing them to expand the approach within their communities. The ministries of livestock and agriculture in various countries may consider integrating the approach within their development strategies and policies from the national to sub-national levels.

It is important to ensure that a bottom-up approach is constantly embedded in the processes of solving the AMR challenge, especially during designing and programing of interventions, to assure sustainability, said Emmanuel Kabali, FAO AMR Project Coordination and Technical Support Consultant.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

Today is the first day of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), which, this year, is about cross-sectoral collaboration to preserve the effectiveness of these important medicines. Find out how you can participate here.

Read more about FAO's work on antimicrobial resistance

See a related article in JAC-Antimicrobial Resistance


Photo: © FAO/Luis Tato

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