Capacitating veterinarians in African swine fever prevention and control in resource-limited settings

Capacitating veterinarians in African swine fever prevention and control in resource-limited settings

Capacitating veterinarians in African swine fever prevention and control in resource-limited settings

Capacitating veterinarians in African swine fever prevention and control in resource-limited settings

The Southern Africa region is endowed with large numbers of pigs, with Angola, Malawi and Mozambique each recording over two million heads. This pig population in the region is growing at over 6 percent per year, the highest growth rate compared to other species of livestock. Unfortunately, the presence of African swine fever (ASF), the most feared pig disease, constitutes a major challenge to production and market access for the smallholder producers in resource-limited settings. 

Traditional prevention and control approaches would employ humane culling and disposal of affected and in-contact pigs, with resource limitations often making it challenging for governments to provide adequate compensation. This situation often results in pig owners fearing not only the disease but also the measures applied in controlling it, such that they do not report disease outbreaks.

FAO has given particular consideration to the challenges of controlling ASF in resource limited settings, such as some of the small-scale farming systems found in the Southern Africa region. In 2023, FAO published new guidelines entitled: “African swine fever prevention, detection and control in resource-limited settings”, written by a global pool of experts.

These guidelines articulate the vulnerability of smallholder pig keepers and producers in rural settings, characterized by poverty and inability to meet the cost of compliance with national policies and legislation.

A unique new online course has been developed, based closely on the FAO guidelines. The course focuses on a collaborative and discussion-based approach to learning, in which participants co-create solutions in a series of live online workshops, backed by self-paced online learning modules. It emphasizes early warning, biosecurity, and the key features of the ASF virus that can be exploited in developing appropriate prevention and control programmes. The course was delivered from 10 May to 21 June 2024, with 81 participants from Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe completing the course and obtaining certificates.

“Resource-limited settings have unique barriers to the prevention and control of ASF. Methods for prevention, detection, and control recommended for higher resource settings may be inappropriate or impossible to implement. It is crucial to consider the context when designing control measures. 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 based in Rome, coordinating global efforts in the prevention and control of African swine fever.

The online course also included discussions on how to limit culling of infected and in-contact animals to control outbreaks, disposal of carcasses during outbreaks, and aligning national ASF control policies and legislation. Key to all this is the engagement of local communities for buy-in and sustainability.

“Community members have valuable knowledge, hence participatory problem analysis, design of solutions and decision-making, can boost commitment. We have to learn and understand community priorities and realities to identify together the roles and responsibilities of all players, when designing prevention and control measures at community level,” said Extraordinary Professor Mary-Louise Penrith, lead trainer and international expert on ASF.

Awareness raising at national and community levels is necessary to bring on board everyone in the smallholder pig value chain for adoption. Given that traditional approaches have been around in many countries for a long time and are now anchored in policies and legislation, lobbying for the new approaches is a necessity, including the alignment of legislation.

“Under conditions of limited resources, animal disease management approaches that do not place huge financial inputs upfront, but take into consideration the willing participation of communities, offer better chances of success. The approaches employed in this training course, which are backed by science, will alleviate the socio-economic catastrophe that is associated with the disease in this vulnerable group, while also reducing the national disease control burden,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

Through the Virtual Learning Centres, FAO is committed to support implementation of blended approaches of online and in-person training as they play a pivotal role in capacity development for animal health delivery in the region and globally. The VLCs offer a wide range of courses that aim to build skills related to One Health. Courses are available in a range of formats, including online tutored courses, blended learning, technical webinars and mobile learning.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.