The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is providing technical assistance to help Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member countries unlock the full potential of their livestock resources so that they can capitalise on the increased consumption of animal source foods in the global economy, FAO's sub regional coordinator, Patrick Kormawa, has said.
Kormawa made these remarks while addressing the participatory disease search training workshop for veterinary staff from the SADC region in Harare.
The livestock sector provides meat, milk, and eggs which are sources of high quality animal protein and ensures food and nutrition security for millions of people in the region.
However, apart from a handful of countries - Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa - which enjoy access to the lucrative export markets for meat, most countries have not been able to unlock the full potential of their livestock resources.
"As the lead intergovernmental organization with the global mandate to end world hunger and ensure food security for all, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) together with its financial partners such as USAID (United States Agency for International Development) is actively engaged in providing technical assistance to countries to address these and related challenges," Kormawa said.
Livestock production is also an important source of income and a safety net for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly rural women and youth, and is a significant contributor to agricultural GDP.
In recent decades, the world food economy has seen a shift towards increased consumption of animal-source foods; and against the backdrop of increasing world population, urbanization and globalization - this provides significant opportunities for African countries.
Apart from the endemic presence of trade sensitive diseases, there are other challenges including: weak and under resourced veterinary services; lack of developed livestock value chains and related infrastructure; lack of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks; and lack of technical expertise and capacities for effective animal disease control.
Emerging and re-emerging animal diseases, if not adequately controlled, can have deleterious consequences on animal health and food security.
"As many diseases of public health concern are zoonoses and are often best detected and controlled at the source in animals, FAO and its partners place emphasis on building the capacity of veterinary and public health services by promoting the use of participatory methodologies in disease surveillance for early warning and rapid response.
As such, this workshop on 'Strengthening Surveillance Capacity of Animal Diseases in Southern Africa' sponsored under an emergency project financed by USAID is a welcome initiative," Kormawa said.