Africa / Animal Diseases / Animal Products / Kenya / Mozambique / Southern Africa / Trade / Wildlife

Getting wildlife and livestock value-added benefits: Part 2 of interview of veterinarian Steve Osofsky

. . . If we don’t recognize the importance of both livestock and wildlife, southern Africa is going to lose out.

The following excerpts are taken from the second part of a two-part interview with Steve Osofsky, Director of Wildlife Health Policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

‘In Botswana, if you want to export beef right now you have to have this physical separation of cattle and wildlife. But in order to produce beef that is free of foot and mouth disease, there are other ways through which it appears that that can be done safely. And this involves what we call commodity based trade—which exists in other parts of the world. And what we are really talking about is managing the risk of foot and mouth disease in a different way. Instead of necessarily requiring all of this separation of wildlife and livestock—you process the beef, you debone it, you take out the lymph nodes— which is usually done to produce high quality steaks, anyway— and you age the beef (which changes the pH and kills the foot and mouth disease virus if it were there)–which is also done to produce high quality beef. And those processes alone, the removing of bone and lymph nodes, the aging of beef which changes the ph of the meat, make the chances of foot and mouth being present, even if an animal actually had it, virtually nil. And cattle are still quarantined for sufficient time so as to ensure they are free from foot and mouth and otherwise healthy before slaughter. So what we need to do is to continue to evaluate and document this approach with good science and to partner with agro-industry, so that we can produce beef in this value-added way so that the world market will view it as a safe product. We do this all the time in other parts of the world, but the southern Africans have really been held to a higher standard in a lot of ways.

‘But another benefit to this processing is that the producer country is actually exporting a higher-value product. So that per unit of production, per animal, the amount of revenue that stays in the country and then goes back to the farmer is significantly higher than if you are exporting a relatively unprocessed product to Europe and having the Europeans get all the value-added benefit. So this has got important implications for developing countries—many of the market countries for foreign beef from Africa are providing a tremendous amount of aid to African countries in terms of development assistance. But if we really want these countries to stand up on their own two feet without an ongoing cycle of aid dependence, this is the type of “out of the box” (or “out of the fence”) thinking we need to be looking at. If these countries can increase their incomes by producing a product that brings in more revenue per unit of production- fantastic. That’s why we are interested in some of these more modern approaches to risk management and why the international community is gradually coming along. It’s really going to take good science and robust pilot work and countries willing to explore this both on the exporter side, as well as on the importer side, so that these trade restrictions that are currently in place can be gradually lifted- and enable these new opportunities. Finally, keep in mind that the rural poor who currently live closest to wildlife currently have no access to wider markets- so the market-based ideas we’ve been discussing have the potential to help the very stakeholders who are in fact the primary targets of most development assistance.

‘It seems clear this has got to be driven by economics, and by public-private partnerships. We are going to need the private sector, in all likelihood, running many of the laboratories and meat processing facilities, but it has to be a partnership with government because ultimately government is accountable. So the enabling legislation has to be in place and the policies have to be right, and again, not just on the producer side, but we also have to see a willingness on the importer side—largely developed nations, particularly the Europeans but potentially, eventually, the United States, in terms of recognizing the validity of this approach as it can be demonstrated over time. The other thing is that by producing higher value products, there is also a very important set of regional markets. This doesn’t all relate to markets overseas. In many of these countries there is a growing middle class and there is an opportunity to produce value-added products for regional consumption. And there is also the Asian market. So there are a lot of opportunities, and accessing them will depend on the types of solid partnerships between industry and government that drive many such transitions.’

Read the whole interview at Worldwatch: Making room for wildlife to improve livelihoods, September 2010.

In the first part of the interview, Osofsky explains how small-scale farmers can benefit from the conservation of wildlife. To read the first part of this interview see: Finding common ground to improve livelihoods and conserve wildlife.’

Read the whole article and interview by Laurel Neme at Mongabay: The role of wildlife conservation in human health, 7 September 2010.

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