Nearly 200 veterinary epidemiologists in Africa are undergoing training intended to help them effectively combat animal diseases at grassroots level, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation's In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology (ISAVET) training programme in Uganda.
The programme kicked off on 30 October with an initial intake of 60 participants for the first 12-month training phase; another 120 vets would participate in 2019, according to a statement.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the ISAVET programme was being presented in partnership with Texas A&M University to build the participants' capacity to handle local challenges, as well as transboundary animal diseases.
FAO's Emergency Centre or Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) was leading the development of the curriculum in collaboration with Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
Chief veterinary officer of the FAO, Juan Lubroth, said they believed the training programme was a good model that could be adopted and expanded further by local and continental veterinary institutions.
"What is important here is that it is based on practical, applied issues relevant to the country, where one 'learns by doing'," he said.
President of the SA Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (SASVEPM), Dr Krpasha Govindasamy, confirmed that no South African veterinarians were participating at present.
She said it appeared the training was being driven by a specific FAO regional centre and was currently focussed on participants from non-SADC countries.
She said there was definitely a need in the Southern African region, including South Africa, for the type of in-service training provided by programmes such as ISAVET.
Dr Govindasamy said veterinary epidemiologists played an important role in monitoring herd or flock health and identifying risk factors. She urged farmers to improve the utilisation of their services.
"At the moment, the veterinary epidemiologist is a very underutilised gift to the farmer and to the bigger livestock production system," she said.