FAO in Uganda

FAO working to prevent disastrous impact of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Uganda


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Uganda supports a meeting to understand the impact of ASF in the public and private sectors in Uganda and identify the needs of and common grounds of interest of all stakeholders for the effective control of ASF. This meeting with FAO’s various stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), local governments and the private sector will serve as advocacy for improved biosecurity and animal husbandry best practices in support of prevention and control of African swine fever.

The meeting was facilitated by the ASF Focal Person at the Commissioner Animal Health of the MAAIF and the national coordinator of the “Global Framework for the progressive control of Transboundary Animal Diseases GF-TADs” project. ASF subject matter specialists from various development, research and academic institutions, commercial and small-scale pig production farms delivered virtual presentations, which were complemented by four breakout sessions to share experiences on biosecurity gaps in the various production systems and suggest recommendations on practical ways to improve adoption of good biosecurity practices in the respective production systems.

African Swine Fever (ASF) - Worrisome dynamics 

ASF is considered endemic in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, ASF dynamics remain variable. Certainly, the upsurge of ASF in many areas is driven by the tremendous growth of the pig sector seen in Africa, with some countries more than doubling their pig populations in less than a decade and the increased movement of people and products. Since most of this increase is taking place in smallholder or backyard husbandry systems with low levels of biosecurity, the sector growth comes along with disease prevention and control challenges. 

Eradication of ASF in Africa is very difficult with the currently available tools, i.e. there is no vaccine available, so

prevention and control efforts should focus on the reduction of disease burden in domestic swine (through improved husbandry practices), and protection of areas not affected by the disease (through controlled trade and swine sector development programmes that stress awareness and prevention measures).  

ASF Uganda situation 

Controlling ASF in endemic areas of Uganda is difficult by several factors, including lack of basic biosecurity measures, traditional free-ranging husbandry system and movements of pigs (Costard et al., 2009). Historically, biosecurity measures have primarily been focused at farm level, ignoring the important function pig traders, transporters and “pork joint” operators play within the pig value chain. In most rural areas, local slaughter places are small and poorly equipped, and waste is directly accessible to other animals such as dogs or roaming pigs. Quarantine and movement restrictions are set up officially when ASF is confirmed in an area, but the implementation is very poor. Unfortunately, despite many attempts, there is so far no effective and safe vaccine available against ASF, and it is likely that, in the near future, the sub-region will continue to rely on the implementation of preventive measures, based on the epidemiology of the disease, to avoid both the devastating losses that outbreaks can cause and the risk the sub-region poses to other parts of Africa and the world.

The frequent outbreaks and numerous pig deaths can be depressing and dramatic and have negative social and economic status with loss of revenue and reversal into more severe poverty. They also have a big impact on pig production value-chain actors, regardless of their different roles they play in the pig production value chain. They can reduce smallholders’ positive attitudes towards pig farming, the belief in the potential of biosecurity for preventing outbreaks, and the will to invest in biosecurity (Chenais, E, Et al 2017).

Recommendations for ASF Prevention and Control  

No vaccines or drugs are available to prevent or treat ASF infection. Therefore, it is particularly important that ASF-free areas are maintained free through strict prevention and control measures. Strengthening intraregional networks on disease management and diagnostic protocols and understanding pig and pork value chains within the country and with neighboring countries is also essential for improved risk management. 

Infected and suspected infected farms must be placed in quarantine, no movement of pigs or any products of pig origin should be allowed. In addition, all infected and in-contact pigs must be slaughtered, and carcasses must be burnt or buried deeply on site. Vehicles should be disinfected on entering and leaving farms; personnel should ensure that shoes, clothes and equipment are disinfected between farms. 

It is recommended that a specialist diagnostic team (or teams) that can immediately be mobilized, be nominated within the country. Team members should be available and equipped to travel at short notice. Deployment should include all the equipment needed for outbreak investigation, for collection and transport of diagnostic specimens, and for rapid communications.