FAO in Myanmar

Reviewing the “Evidence-based Risk Management along the Livestock Production and Market Chain”

Dr May Win Shwe, acting LBVD Yangon Regional Director addressing a question on GAHP (Good animal Health Practices)

The government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) are cooperating to implement the project “Evidence-based Risk Management along the Livestock Production and Market Chain.” This project is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in cooperation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project is implemented in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

The project aims to reduce the risk of zoonotic avian influenza and other emerging infectious diseases in Myanmar. Project activities included: the review of avian influenza prevention and control policy; research on the distribution of a low pathogenic H9 avian influenza virus in Myanmar; and direct field work with poultry farmers to improve farm biosecurity and good animal husbandry practices. The Myanmar Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) closely collaborated in the project.

One-and-a-half years after project field activities started, FAO invited key project stakeholders to a project review workshop on 24 April 2019. The workshop sought to assess project achievements and consider future needs and potential upscaling for successful activities. Over 50 participants attended, including representatives from FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, LBVD, the Myanmar Livestock Federation, the Myanmar Veterinary Organisation, members of the Yangon Poultry Production Zone Committee and poultry farmers.

FAO ECTAD team members presented the various project outputs and engaged in vibrant discussions with the stakeholders over main achievements. For example, how may the avian influenza subtype H9 survey results influence national vaccination policy? The survey was the first of its kind ever conducted in the country and indicated wide distribution of H9 antibody-positive chickens. Viruses of the H9 subtype can seriously affect poultry farm viability due to long-lasting production losses and are additionally a zoonotic threat.

Nurturing engagement of the private sector in its project activities was one of the project goals, which a group of engaged farmers successfully translated into action. The Healthy Egg Production Group is a newly created poultry farmer led initiative. Members of the group aim at producing eggs according to agreed quality standards, closely related to the ASEAN Good Animal Health Practices. They also agreed to produce eggs without the use of antibiotics, which will be marketed at one of Yangon’s leading supermarket chains.

More importantly and as pioneers in their country, they are also engaging in third party certification of their eggs with the Myanmar Organic Agriculture Organisation (MOAG). Product certification increases consumer trust and is a viable way to enhance food quality and improve animal husbandry standards on participating farms.

In the past, animal disease outbreaks have led to market shocks due to irrational consumer behaviour fuelled by false information and rumour spreading. Consumers then avoided certain livestock products out of fear of consuming infectious goods. In response to this, FAO ECTAD supported the development of the LBVD risk communication strategy which will be an integral part of future emergency responses to disease outbreaks. “With the current situation regarding African swine fever, a highly contagious animal disease, we are confident that LBVD now has the adequate tools to manage its risk communication to the general public more effectively” says Dr Wah Wah Han, who accompanied the strategy development process from its beginning.

The FAO ECTAD in Myanmar Country Team Leader, Dr David Hadrill, says that “FAO in Myanmar, with continued donor support, will further enhance the Myanmar livestock sector’s resilience to zoonotic diseases and, thus, protect the human population from the threat of infectious diseases from animals.”