Africa needs US$526 million to eradicate a sheep and goats plague that is fast spreading across the continent threatening livelihoods especially among smallholder farmers in rural areas. This amount could go up to US$1 billion if current efforts to wipe out the disease from the continent goes beyond 2026.
The funding will go towards the implementation of the second phase of the Pan-African Programme for Control of PPR launched during a high level dialogue on Africa’s development of animal resources in Nairobi, Kenya.
Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) is a highly contagious disease primarily affecting goats and sheep; however, camels and wild small ruminants can also be affected. It is currently present majorly in North, Central, West and East Africa where it is causing untold suffering to farmers who are losing as much as 90per cent of their stocks.
The ministers called from global financial to eradicate the disease which is endemic in several countries. The disease was first discovered in Cote D’ivoire in West Africa in1942 but has since spread to several countries in other regions. It is Southern Africa which is still not affected.
The programme spearheaded by the Africa Union Inter-Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) focuses on strengthening disease surveillance and diagnostic systems, management of natural resources and access to markets, and cross-border co-ordination.
Agriculture ministers who attended the launch noted that the disease is causing loss of livelihoods, employment and income as it affects assets of the most vulnerable in the community – women and youth who are the keepers of the small ruminants.
Cote D’ivoire’s Agriculture and Rural Development minister said the disease has had significant impact on food and nutrition security, livelihoods and national economies and appealed to African states to work together to mobilise enough resources for its eradication.
His sentiments were echoed by Uganda’s agriculture and fisheries resources minister, Frank Tumwebaze, and Kenyan counterpart Peter Munya.
Munya regretted that the disease was a major constraint to trade in animal resources. “The socio-economic cost of the outbreaks is particularly high not just for the farmers and village economies but also regional and the global economies. To combat PPR we must employ and approach centred on mass vaccinations to achieve hard immunity.”
Last year, Kenya vaccinated 3 million sheep and goats in an exercise targeting 23 counties in the arid and semi-arid areas at a cost of US$16.7 million. The exercise also involved intensive surveillance along the borders with neighbouring countries.
Kenya has a population of 62 million sheep and goats found mainly in the arid and semi-arid areas which forms 30 percent of its landmass.
Prof. James K. Wachaba, an animal expert with the AU-IBAR, says African states must prioritise PPR as a development issue and allocate budgets to fight the disease.
“We need political goodwill from our leaders as we must demonstrate that we are investing in efforts to eradicate the disease for us to be able to mobilise resources from global partners,” he says.
Africa is betting on drawing from lessons learnt from rinderpest which also threatened livelihoods across the country but was successfully eradicated. Rinderpest was declared eradicated by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on 25 May 2011 being eradicated. In Africa the last case was reported in Kenya in a buffalo in 2007.
Prof. Wachaba says there is no need to reinvent the wheel in the case of PPR as already there is a vaccine, a diagnostic tool and epidemiological networks that were used to eradicate rinderpest. PPR will now entail mass vaccination of the small ruminants and effective surveillance systems to detect cases in areas where it has not been reported.
The continent’s strategy for PPR which is aligned to the global one is aimed at eradicating the disease from countries already affected, protecting areas it is yet to spread to and addressing other issues within the small ruminants’ value chain like natural resource management, access to markets and cross-border co-ordination.
“We are going beyond vaccination, diagnostic and surveillance to focus on the whole environment that has issues to deal with policy and legal frameworks, research to generate socio-economic data and creating linkages with all stakeholders especially smallholders who are most affected. We can only succeed in the fight to eradicate PPR if we address these other issues that are unique to the continent,” says Prof. Wachaba.
During the first phase of the programme, AU-IBAR supported countries to align national and regional strategies to the Pan-Africa strategy which is also in tune with the global one aimed at eradicating the disease by 2030.
Countries like Burundi and Sierra Leone which were already severely affected were supported with vaccines for emergency response, while surveillance systems were strengthened in the Island states.
Under the second phase to be implemented from 2022 to 2026, focus will be more on research by creating network with institutions to promote knowledge on PPR. There is already an ongoing research to establish if wildlife are able to sustain the disease.