Having a common animal disease handling strategy will keep Africa on the right track–Experts 

By Elias Hakizimana.     

African experts in animal health and biodiversity handling revealed a sustainable solution of controlling animal diseases whereby a common strategy of all countries of the continent was agreed on the way to secure animal health and enhance the profitability of the market.

Animal health players from more than 30 countries across the continent met on November 5 to 7, 2018 in Kigali during the African Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources Conference (AU-IBAR) to discuss issues that are hindering the growth of animal health and agreed on looking for synergies between organizations and seek partnerships from global experts to be able to handle animal diseases.

The strategy will help member countries to access to inputs markets and trade for animal resources as well as Knowledge sourcing and management according AU-IBAR Officials.

Speaking to The Inspirer, Dr Theogene Rutagwenda, Director of Animal Resources in Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said that it was a milestone to have African partner states to assemble in Rwanda to discuss the contents and outcomes and agree on a common strategy in Rwanda.

“We are here discussing the animal health strategy for Africa and that is something that is very big. If, all African countries can have a common strategy for animal health handling, that would be a very good benefit for Africa and Rwanda hosting this meeting is a superb,” Dr Rutagwenda noted.

He highlighted that the meeting has a big rationale as a mass of population on the continent depend on the livestock for their nutrition, health, economy and income by trading the livestock products.

Animal diseases as a major challenge

“However, one of the major constraints to livestock production market is animal diseases, therefore, poor health. And as a cause of that, we may not reach a good market for our livestock products from Africa because we always ask where is this product coming from.

So, it is important to have a common strategy to address some of these issues that stop the African livestock from being marketed outside the African continent; if we can meet and have the common understanding and common strategy for animal disease handling, then Africa is on the right track,” Rutagwenda reiterated.

Dr. Theogene Rutagwenda, Director of Animal Resources in Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB)./Net Photo.

He said for example that Rwanda cannot access the European Union market because of poor health.

Rwanda produces a significant quantity of milk, meat and eggs. Rutagwenda said that if animal health was not questioned on poverty Rwandan farmers would be reach after selling all these products to the European Union markets.

He noted that African member states need to have a common strategy to control the outbreaks among the livestock and be able to trade among themselves and outside African continent.

State of Rwanda’s animal resources

Rutagwenda mentioned that Rwanda has cattle accounting to about 1.45 million including sheep, goats, poultry and piggery but still challenges of having a good production still persist.

“We still lack animal proteins, our rate of malnutrition is high in some districts and we keep right in Rwanda for addressing those issues. Why should our children suffer from malnutrition? Why can’t they consume the animal proteins that are coming from milk, from the meat, from eggs so that we enjoy wellbeing as citizens of Africa?” He questioned.

Rwandan farmers also welcome the initiative as it comes into force. Fortunately, they say that currently there are no cross-cutting outbreaks in their livestock, except usual diseases that can result from lack of hygiene in animal farming.

Focus Harelimana, a farmer from Nyabihu District told The Inspirer that such diseases are temporally and are cured because they access to treatment services close their farming locations.

Harelimana grows two cows and has a poultry farming of around 200 hens. Unfortunately, this farmer has recently lost over 20 hens due to current poultry farming diseases. 

Africa has 350 million people and a third of them depend on livestock, contributing to their welfare and economy. Addressing poor animal health is an important decision African countries took unless it comes late according to Dr Rutagwenda.

The common strategy will help countries to vaccinate the livestock and be alert for preventing animal outbreaks by controlling animal movements, monitoring and modernizing laboratories to detect diseases.

“If we put our resources together, in case an imaginable outbreak comes, we would able to handle that as African countries and we would be in a good trade business,” He added.

Scott NEWMAN, Senior Animal Health and Production Officer at Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Africa told The Inspirer that FAO supports animal health and production programmes in Africa; and has a strong interest to support the African Union International Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) to develop the animal health strategy for Africa.

“We provided feed back to the organizing committee and we tried to revisit the technical areas to identify possible funding options.  Within FAO, and among international organizations, we are trying to look at modalities to support this strategy,” He said.   

He added that FAO also referred to established global or regional animal disease programming that complements the strategies aiming to reduce the impact of diseases on food security and livelihoods, or lead to eradication of animal diseases in Africa including diseases such as Peste Petit Ruminant (PPR), African Swine Fever (ASF) and Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD).

He noted that there are many programmes that FAO is working on that can provide additional support and contribute to the success of the strategy.

“Since human health, animal health and ecosystem health are interdependent on one another, we want to ensure that collaboration, linkages and synergies with complimentary sectors are part of the implementation approach. This will help ensure success and harmonize disease prevention and control programs in Africa with parallel programming in other parts of the world,” NEWMAN noted.

He also said that FAO is working with AU-IBAR and other AU bodies to address antimicrobial resistance, another One Health challenge that requires multidisciplinary collaboration amongst; that involves the public health, animal health, aquaculture, crop, forestry and environment sectors.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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