Namibia Leads the Way On FMD, and On the Export of Beef

Namibia is about to establish itself as the frontrunner to combat foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Africa and the world, with a unique project in the development of export opportunities for deboned beef from the Zambezi Region, where there is recurrence of sporadic outbreaks of the most dreaded animal disease.

Government, with various local partners, the MCA-N and the University of Pretoria made the breakthrough on the eve of the departure of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) after completing a five-year programme, hailed last week as the best programme ever by the MCC.

Details of the groundbreaking plan unfolded on Tuesday when local and international experts gave feedback on the results of the MCA-N funded project that was implemented in March 2010 until July this year.

The purpose of the project was to broaden export opportunities of beef from the Zambezi Region, through developing a science-based integrated value chain risk management system addressing animal disease and food safety risks associated with the production of beef in the region.

“The system was shown to provide an acceptable level of protection to importing countries and it means the green light will be switched on for communal farmers in Zambezi, whose livelihood depends on cattle farming. The World Organisation for Animal Health Terrestrial Animal Health Code cannot be fully implemented in Zambezi because the movement of wildlife cannot be controlled or accurately monitored, but this programme was commissioned to overcome the problem,” Dr Gavin Thompson of the University of Pretoria told New Era yesterday.

He says this is the first study of its kind in the world and it confirmed that the proposed approach renders beef from Zambezi safe.

Local and SADC regional workshops will be held to present results of the project and discuss future steps for practical implementation.

Specific objectives include laboratory-based studies to gather adequate scientific evidence proving the safety of deboned beef from Zambezi and an integrated FMD risk and food safety management plan for sanitary risk management along the beef value chain in the Zambezi.

“The programme has developed a technically sound and practical alternative for marketing deboned beef that fulfils international requirements. The programme also facilitates the integration of livestock production and wildlife conservation. Both are vitally important for communal farmers in the regions. They depend on income from tourism and cattle farming. Buffaloes, one of the big five of Africa, is the maintainer and spreader of the deadly FMD virus through shared grazing in the Zambezi,” Thompson says.

He says the way in which FMD is curtailed in other parts of the world is not applicable in southern Africa and the complex situation in Zambezi has provided the project with unique opportunities to enable Namibia now to suggest alternatives to the international industry on the outbreak management of FMD and the marketing of deboned beef from the Zambezi.

“This programme, spearheaded by the Meat Board, and brought to fruition by government and its partners, is a blueprint for the world and something Namibia should be very proud of. The practical implementation thereof will have to be fine-tuned, but Namibia is indeed a world leader with this initiative,” he concluded.

An outbreak response protocol has already been prepared and active surveillance during an outbreak will rapidly detect the disease.

Source : New Era