Africa / Animal Diseases / Animal Health / Disease Control / Pastoralism / Southern Africa

Do present ways of controlling foot-and-mouth disease in southern Africa make sense?

‘The presence of transboundary animal diseases, and the escalating costs of regulation and meeting export standards, is key to the future of livestock production in Africa . . .  and especially meeting the high hopes of the “livestock revolution” . . . . Focusing on the case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in southern Africa – and specifically Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – this paper explores the trade-offs arising from disease control strategies directed towards promoting different scenarios for beef marketing and trade. A central question is: does the current approach, premised on the ability to separate a “disease-free” commercial sector from other areas through strictly-enforced zones and movement control, make sense given new contexts and challenges?

‘Conventional policy thinking holds that FMD-free countries are rich, while countries with FMD are not; without resources to control FMD and enter lucrative markets, FMD keeps countries poor, and the benefi ts of the livestock revolution cannot be attained. This, it is argued, is a vicious circle and one which justifi es substantial public investment in disease control and eradication strategies, in order to gain area-based “disease freedom”. However, the question arises: given limited resources and growing costs of meeting export standards, does it make sense to persist with the status quo and attempt to ensure area-based disease freedom? Indeed, given the presence of FMD infection in buffalo and other wildlife populations, is disease eradication even feasible? Given these constraints are there other alternatives that benefit a wider group of producers, ensure food-safe trade, and are easier to implement, yet maintain access to important export markets and foreign exchange revenues, enabling the integration of wildlife and livestock?

‘These questions respond to a series of contemporary policy dilemmas, all high on policy makers’ agendas in southern Africa: how should animal diseases be managed in the context of expanding wildlife land-uses (and so more buffalo and other game) and redistributive land reform (and so more, smaller land units with mobile animals)? Should a country attempt to comply with very demanding and apparently ever-increasing international export standards or explore alternative markets and different interpretations of standards regimes? How should all this be implemented when veterinary services and regulatory authorities are weak and under-resourced?

‘This paper seeks to provide some preliminary answers to these questions – or at least a framework for thinking about them. . . .’

Read the whole paper in Pastoralism, Foot-and-mouth disease and market access: Challenges for the beef industry in southern Africa, July 2010.

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