November 29, 2020

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African Swine fever and the need for biosecurity measures

8 min read

An outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in Nigeria left many pig farmers devastated early this year. Many of them now struggle to survive with income earned from their investments. JULIANA AGBO writes on the need for biosecurity measures.

 

THE African Swine Fever (ASF) every year kills millions of pigs. There is no vaccine for the disease, which is highly contagious in pigs. To stem the tide, pig farmers are being advised to take biosecurity measures.

However, research has shown that the animals that die of any disease are not fit for human consumption. And the carcasses of pigs with the fever should be buried to prevent further spread of the virus from its body fluids.

In many cases where the entire herd was wiped out, a 100 per cent mortality rate has been reported.

In Nigeria, where swine farming is becoming increasingly important to the economy and the prosperity of individual households, the effects of this can be devastating.

According to official reports from the Federal Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services (FDVPCS), about 70 000 pigs died within three months following an outbreak of the African swine fever in February 2020, in Nigeria’s largest pig farm co-operative, Oke-Aro on the borders of Lagos and Ogun states.

In monetary terms, it was estimated that the owners lost more than N20 billion.

While many operators became apprehensive, as the disease continued to spread to other states in the country, threatening livelihoods supported in the value chain, they advocated for the need to for urgent intervention from government and partners.

What is African swine fever?

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious haemorrhagic viral disease of domestic and wild pigs, which is responsible for serious economic and production losses. It is caused by a large DNA virus of the Asfarviridae family, which also infects ticks of the genus Ornithodoros.

The disease can be spread via ticks or among pigs by oral and nasal transmission. Pigs can also get infected through contamination of wounds or food.

There is a wide range of symptoms, including loss of appetite, fever, skin haemorrhages, vomiting and abortion.

 Prevention and control

Following the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria earlier this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, through the USAID funded ‘Strengthening Global Coordination of Animal Health Emergencies of International Concerns’ Project, as part of efforts to control and prevent further spread of the disease recently empowered epidemiological officers with competencies for management and containment of the disease.

The training was conducted in two batches at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Jos, Plateau State, were field studies were carried out.

However, pig farmers/breeders, marketers, butchers, processors, transporters, feed millers in the pig value chain, private veterinarians/animal health workers, State officials and Federal epidemiology officers were also trained on biosecurity measures.

Through the training, epidemiological officers and operators in the pig value chain from 20 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were empowered on how to manage the epizootic that was reported earlier this year. Also, field study visits and hands-on practical sessions were carried out.

Speaking on the negative effect of the disease, FAO Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero, while noting that ASF has no known vaccine or cure, said its continued spread in Nigeria has socio-economic and food security consequences if uncontrolled.

Kafeero, however, urged value chain operators, especially the most vulnerable actors to embrace good biosecurity measures.

“Similarly, the capacities of epidemiological officers from at-risk states because of their large pig population, need to be enhanced to ensure the disease is contained and effectively managed to prevent the continued loss of livelihoods”, Kafeero said.

What is Biosecurity?

Biosecurity refers to measures that are taken to stop the spread or introduction of harmful organisms to human, animal and plant life.

Analysing biosecurity measures to be taken by traders and processors, Dr Lushaikyaa Allam of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria said, for biosecurity to be successful, the people involved must adopt a set of attitudes and behaviours to reduce risk of disease introduction and spread.

Dr Allam explained that biosecurity measures are taken to reduce the introduction and spread of disease by killing the causative agents or vectors and intermediate hosts of such diseases.

Lamenting that the markets where pigs are sold in Nigeria are poorly designed and are sometimes situated in bad locations, he noted that such makes the institution of biosecurity measures very difficult.

He said vehicles bringing in pigs by the traders should have a particular car park which should not be used by anyone else.

According to him, “The section earmarked for pig market should be fenced and have one way in and out.

While noting that the quarantine facilities is a requirement that may be difficult to implement and enforced in some places, he said there should be a regular and market free days during which the pig market is thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and left vacant.

Speaking on the processing which he explained that processors are actors in the value-added chain that are at the major risk of contracting zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis, anthrax among others, he advised that the processing plant should be isolated from other buildings and should be fly proof and scavengers should not have access to wastes.

Furthermore, he said processors of pork should wear protective gear at all times to reduce exposure to zoonotic diseases which can result from contact with animal fluids and tissues.

Corroborating this, a pig farmer in Jos, Plateau State Mrs Thabita Jahotha whose farm was visited by participants, said biosecurity for her is the ultimate and that was probably why she did not experience the outbreak of the ASF.

“When I heard about the outbreak in other parts of the country, the first thing we did was to prioritise biosecurity in our farm, we make sure before anyone enters the farm, from the gate, he or she must disinfect himself with the water by dipping both shoes in it.

” Apart from using disinfectants, We are also using nets all over to ensure that rodents and flies that harbour viruses do not have access to the pigs,” she said.

Impact on beneficiaries

However, the participants who were trained on how to ensure good emergency, practices, good agricultural practices, proper biosecurity practices among others, said the training has helped them on how to contain ASF.

Speaking on the impact of the training, a beneficiary, Engineer Michael Okotie who noted that biosecurity is the future of every farm, emphasized the need to prioritise it in farms.

“When we are looking at the agric Industry and the livestock business and the extent we have gone so far by the help of the FAO. We should be able to expand very well in our capacity of protecting our farms and achieving more as well”.

Another beneficiary, Zaria-Suleiman Yemisi a farmer at the Lagos State pig estate, Oke-Aro said her experience with ASF and the training would make her do the business in the right direction after restocking.

As a farmer in Oke-Aro, this experience should not come again, but this is my first time of experiencing ASF but I understand it has occurred twice for old farmers that are there.

“I had over 350 pigs which I lost to ASF, 2020 was a target year of investment for most of us, we went as far as taking a loan from the bank to do fattening. I was midway to get to my final stage of production because they were big advanced pig fattener but I lost everything.

“We want a lasting solution to biosecurity issues because we now know ASF is an epidemic that can clear everything off, it does not have a drug or vaccine”, she added.

Furthermore, a pig farmer and processor from Osun State, Prince Richard Adedokun

said, “we had one incident of ASF, right from home, our capacity has been greatly increased, by the time we get back, we can take it from there.

“If we can practice all that we were taught, we have a very formidable pig farmers association in Osun State, by the time we get home, we will organise a series of lectures”.

 Government intervention

Speaking on government intervention, the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of the Federation Dr Olaniran Alabi said measures were taken by the government through the FDVPCS to mitigate the spread, but the poor perception of the disease, low awareness and compliance to biosecurity measures by operators in the value chain has continued to prevent the spread.

“The most effective measure for its prevention and control remains proper and strict adherence to hygienic practices, commonly known as biosecurity measures along with the pig production, transportation, marketing and processing value chain”, Alabi emphasized.

Furthermore, a Chief Veterinary Officer with the Federal Department of Livestock and Pest Control Services, Dr Peter Umana said the Federal Government swung into action and activated its disease investigation and containment team that are in various states to carry out investigation and report.

While noting that disinfectants and other types of equipment such as boots and overalls were distributed to pig farmers, he said FAO was also approached to assist, which brought about the capacity building of the value chain actors.

“This outbreak occurred essentially because there is a huge knowledge gap within the value chain actors”, he said.”

Recommendations

Stakeholders while recommending that existing relevant laws on livestock movement permit should be strictly enforced by the government in collaboration with state pig farmers associations especially during disease outbreaks, said the government should intensify and expand animal health and production extension service delivery at all levels.

The stakeholders while calling on the government to institute monetary and non-monetary interventions, said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should come up with a deliberate policy directing the commercial and development banks to assist pig farmers with loans at a single-digit interest rate and a moratorium period of 12 months to prevent a total collapse of the pig industry.

“Federal, States governments and development partners should organise periodic training workshops for all pig value chain operators across the country. The government should provide a special stimulus package for pig farmers who were badly affected by the ASF scourge to enable them to return to business.

“In order to facilitate proper waste/carcass disposal, government and development partners should, as a matter of urgency, provide incinerators for major pig farm estates/clusters.

“Pig value chain operators should organise themselves into cooperatives, groups and associations and establish a contributory alternative compensation scheme for the welfare of members and growth of the pig industry,” the stakeholders added.

The stakeholders called for a national pig farmers congress to hold in Abuja within the First Quarter of 2020 to streamline the way forward for the Pig Industry in Nigeria.