Categories: Articles, Livestock and gamePublished On: 11th July 2024

UN agency assists SADC farmers address swine fever

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Pig 1

As more people take up farming in the Southern African region, experts are concerned about a dearth of skills. Despite the promise of economic viability, agriculture is seeing new entrants with little hands-on knowledge, effectively compromising growth. SADC countries continue to face a litany of economic and social challenges, and with land and agriculture becoming pivotal in how ordinary people contribute to the economy and their own livelihoods, skills have emerged as critical to those ambitions.

From specialised sectors that range from horticulture to livestock rearing, experts are increasingly noticing a trend of poor implementation of projects despite resources being allocated to aspiring farmers. Countries such as Zimbabwe have vigorously promoted agriculture among the general population, and provided inputs to drive farm production. But this has not driven desired economic outcomes, raising concerns about the competence of new farmers. One of the sectors that have attracted the attention of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is piggery, where the agency says an increasing number of people have taken up projects, but have struggled to realise sustainable returns. Deaths of livestock expected to push the growth of the sector due to poor management of piggery projects is reversing regional aspirations toward sustainable growth.

Realising that deficit, FAO recently organised an internet-based training session for more than 80 pig farmers from Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa’ Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. According to the organisers, the session was part of the African Swine Fever Prevention, Detection and Control in Resource-limited Settings. The 2023 FAO guidelines seek to address challenges faced by breeders and the urgency stemming from African Swine Fever which remains a threat to the sector’s growth. Experts say African Swine Fever is a highly contagious viral disease and the cause of high mortality rates among pigs. This is happening in a region where livestock diseases such as foot and mouth remain a cause of concern with governments seeking ways to protect livestock and cushion farmers from losses.

“The Southern Africa region is endowed with large numbers of pigs, with Angola, Malawi, and Mozambique each recording over two million heads,” FAO said in a June statement ahead of the training session. The agency estimates that the pig population in Southern Africa is growing by 6 percent annually, higher than other livestock. Many farmers reveal that they have turned to piggery because of their fast breeding, but this is being hampered by a lack of adequate skills in rearing the animals.

From diseases to stockfeed, the challenges have driven some breeders out of business, according to FAO. “The Southern Africa region is endowed with large numbers of pigs, with Angola, Malawi, and Mozambique each recording over two million heads,” FAO said.

“Unfortunately, the presence of African swine fever, the most feared pig disease, constitutes a major challenge to production and market access for the smallholder producers in resourcelimited settings,” FAO added.

With piggery moving from industrialised mass commercial production to small-scale farmers, this has sometimes led to shortcuts and lack of professionalised management, officials say. Other concerns raised include poor quality meat not fit for export, despite the huge numbers of pigs the Southern African region is producing.

“The training course builds on experiences from Africa and elsewhere to provide participants with information and methods that could improve prevention and control of ASF in resource limited settings,” said Andriy Rozstalnyy, FAO Animal Health Officer who is leading global efforts in the prevention and control of African Swine Fever.

Other concerns raised by FAO regarding pig production in Southern Africa include what the agency says are “resource-limited settings.”

These “present unique barriers to the prevention and control of African Swine Fever, with methods for prevention, detection and control recommended for higher resource settings being inappropriate or impossible to implement.”

During the 2021 FAO Virtual Learning Centre for Southern Africa training course, the agency noted the need for continuous professional development towards addressing African Swine Fever. The programme was intended towards capacity building among veterinarians, with the latest training aimed at ordinary regional pig farmers. According to FAO, “risk factors for the disease tend to differ from place to place according to the husbandry systems in place”. For the UN agency, piggery offers a gateway for smallholders towards economic self-sufficiency, and proper skills capacity will help realise those goals.

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