The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is strengthening the need to maintain healthy livestock to secure high quality livestock production and break into the international meat market through high quality animal-source foods across the region.
Speaking at the Participatory Disease Research Training workshop for Veterinary Staff in the SADC region in Harare this week, principal director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement, Felistas Ndlovu, said there is a need for the public and veterinarians to work together in creating animal disease control awareness to ensure success in animal farming.
“There is a need for increasing the understanding of animal disease and disease control in the region. Public participation in research is very important as it ensures that homes, the region and Africa fully benefit from Africa’s abundant livestock,” Ndlovu said.
The regional director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Patrick Kormawa, said the global shift towards increased consumption of animal source foods is making the region struggle to meet increased food demand.
Kormawa said the presence of trade sensitive diseases such as anthrax, foot and mouth, African swine fever, and Newcastle was compounding efforts to meet food demand.
“The increased consumption of animal-source foods, against the backdrop of increasing world population, urbanisation and globalisation, provides significant opportunities for African countries. However, a handful countries in SADC namely Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, enjoy access to the lucrative export markets for meats,” he said.
Kormawa said countries in SADC were failing to fully exploit their livestock resources due to trade sensitive diseases as well as lack of technical expertise and capacities for effective disease control.
“The challenges are varied. They include endemic presence of trade sensitive diseases, weak and under resourced veterinary services, lack of development livestock value chains and related infrastructure; lack of appropriate policy and regulatory framework, and lack of technical expertise and capacities for effective animal disease control,” Kormawa said.
The livestock sector was extremely important to the region because meat, milk and eggs provided sources of high quality animal protein and ensured food and nutrition security of millions of people across the region.
According to FAO and its development partner, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), livestock production was an important source of income and a safety net for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly rural women and youths, and was a significant contributor to agricultural GDP.
In line with the global mandate to end world hunger and ensure food security for all, the FAO is actively providing technical assistance to countries to address other related challenges.
The 10-day workshop was attended by Zimbabwe government officials, representatives from USAID, members of Mercy Corps from Mongolia, FAO officers, veterinary and animal health technicians from countries in the SADC region, as well as representatives from Kenya and Uganda.