Zim seeks to protect ruminants

ZIMBABWE has stepped up efforts to protect small ruminants, such as sheep and goats, from diseases as a way of ensuring food security in the drought-ravaged country.

Agriculture deputy minister Paddy Zhanda said small livestock have a direct impact on the economy and well-being of the population.

However, the presence of infectious diseases such as Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), threaten the viability of small ruminant production.

“Trade enquiries indicate that small ruminant production can still satisfy an export niche, for demand which is also not yet met in other parts of the world. Vast exports, therefore, exist in small ruminant production which complements rather than competes with other livestock lines especially cattle,” he said.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (Fao) Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa David Phiri said poverty alleviation through promoting sustainable livestock production and improving livelihoods of poor farmers, implies important improvement of sheep and goat health.

“To that effect, it is necessary to improve production management, in particular, animal feeding, care and the control of major infectious diseases,” he said.

Sheep and goats provide their owners with a vast range of products and services. They provide milk, meat, skins, and wool throughout the year.

They are cheaper to buy compared to larger animals, they reproduce rapidly, are easily sold for cash or exchanged for other staples and are often kept by women and youth.

In addition to this, they are hardy animals and much better suited for challenging climatic conditions with limited grazing availability such as those that have been experienced in southern Africa following the recent El Nino-induced drought.
The livestock development officer at the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Secretariat, Gaolathe Thobokwe, noted that controlling diseases such as PPR was imperative because small stock were increasingly becoming a major player in improving food security.

Peter Sinyangwe, representative of AU-IBAR to Sadc Secretariat under the Vet-Gov programme further buttressed the importance of collaboration within the region saying it was important that countries shared information.

It was thus important, Sinyangwe said, that country representatives attended important regional meetings starting with the one scheduled for Pretoria, South Africa in November.

OIE regional representative for Southern Africa, Moetapele Letshwenyo, said the situation in the four countries in Sadc that were affected was worrisome and it was vital to put efforts together to arrest any further spread of PPR southwards and instead to eventually eradicate it in the subregion.

Sadc countries represent just over four percent of the global 2,1 billion small ruminant population. The distribution of PPR differs significantly in the subregion.

While some countries have never reported PPR, the disease is endemic in others and a few countries have been officially recognised as free of the disease by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

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