Following the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country early this year, the Foods and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), recently organised series of training workshops for pig farmers on the adoption of biosecurity measures to preventing further occurrence. JOSEPH CHIBUEZE reports
Nearly 100,000 pigs were said to have been lost to the African Swine Fever (ASF) by pig farmers in Nigeria this year. The outbreak which affected mostly farmers in Lagos and Ogun, could be described as the worst in recent history.
African swine fever (ASF) is a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs. It can be spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild, and pork products. Transmission can also occur through contaminated feed and fomites (non-living objects) such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives, equipment etc., due to the high environmental resistance of ASF virus.
There is no approved vaccine against ASF, unlike classical swine fever (‘Hog Cholera’) which is caused by a different virus.
Between 2016 and 2019, more than 60 outbreaks were reported across the continent.
But the recent wave of infections is the worst by far. It is estimated that the pig industry in the country lost up to N20 billion, with more than 20,000 jobs at risk.
Mrs Zaria-Suleiman Yemisi, a pig farmer and processor at the Lagos State Pig Estate, Oke-Aro, the epicenter of the outbreak, told LEADERSHIP in an interview that she lost close to 300 pigs, adding that some other farmers lost as many as 600.
According to her, “As I am talking to you now I have just two pigs remaining. This is an experience I would not pray to have again in my life. In fact, about six farmers died from the shock.”
Preventing future Occurrence
To prevent the infectious disease which has no known vaccine, the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) took up the challenge of empowering epidemiological officers with competencies for management and containment of the disease.
The training workshop which its main trust is the adoption of biosecurity, was organised by FAO in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) through the USAID funded ‘Strengthening Global Coordination of Animal Health Emergencies of International Concerns’ project. The trainings and field studies were conducted in two batches at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Jos, Plateau State.
The participants were drawn from 20 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). According to FAO, the training is to empower them on how to manage the spread of the disease by adopting preventive measures, particularly, Biosecurity.
Biosecurity are measures aimed at preventing the introduction and/or spread of harmful organisms such as viruses, bacteria, etc. to animals and plants in order to minimise the risk of transmission of infectious disease.
Effective biosecurity requires several components including isolation, traffic control, and sanitation that aim to reduce exposure to bacteria, viruses and other organisms that may infect animals with disease.
FAO Representative in Nigeria and to ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero, in his speech at the opening of the training said, value chain operators, especially the most vulnerable actors must embrace good biosecurity measures.
According to him, “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.”
Dr Peter Umana, a chief veterinary officer with federal department of livestock and pest control services of the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development, said the outbreak was a big blow to the pig industry in Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP on the sidelines of the workshop, Umana said, “When we received report of the outbreak of ASF in different states in the country, with the greatest impact being at the Oke-Aro farm in Lagos, we swung into action, we activated our disease investigation and containment team that are in the various states to carry out investigation and report.
“We have also supplied disinfectants and other commodities including personal protective equipment such as boots and overalls to pig farmers within the period of the outbreak. We also approached the FAO to assist, which is what brought about this training, because we considered building the capacity of the value chain actors very important. This outbreak occurred essentially because there is a huge knowledge gap within the value chain actors.”
What the experts said
Speaking on specific biosecurity measures for traders and processors, Dr Allam of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said for biosecurity measures to be successful, the people involved must adopt a set of attitudes and behaviours to reduce risk of disease introduction and spread.
He said, “The markets where pigs are sold in Nigeria are poorly designed and are sometimes situated in bad locations. This makes the institution of biosecurity measures very difficult. The section earmarked to be the pig market should be fenced and have one way in and one way out. Vehicles bringing in pigs by the traders should have a particular car park which should not be used by anyone else.”
Speaking on animal disease reporting: role of pig value chain operators in the prevention and control of ASF
Olasoju Taiwo, of the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development, said the best preventive measure remains biosecurity. He however said that most of the pig farmers lack the requisite knowledge on what to do.
The chief veterinary officer (CVO) of the Federation Dr Olaniran Alabi said measures were taken by the government through the federal department of veterinary and pest control services (FDVPCS) to mitigate the spread, but poor perception of the disease, low awareness and compliance to biosecurity measures by operators in the value chain has continued to be a challenge.
“The most effective measure for its prevention and control remains proper and strict adherence to hygienic practices, commonly known as biosecurity measures along the pig production, transportation, marketing and processing value chain”, Alabi emphasised.
Zaria-Suleiman while expressing gratitude to the organisers for availing her the opportunity to participate in the training said, the training has been an eye opener for her as a farmer. “I have been able to understand how to do my business right,” she said, adding, “With my experience with ASF, I’ve learnt how to secure my investment. Like I said before, I lost everything, we didn’t know it is possible to lose so much within a short time.
“With this training that I came for, I’ve been able to understand biosecurity as a fundamental in securing my animals and I am going to invest in it.”
Prince Richard Adedokun Agunlejika, a farmer and processor from Osun State also commended the organisers for their thoughtfulness. He said the training has been very fantastic. “I have learnt many new things I never thought were necessary especially in containing ASF,” he said.
“We are now better equipped to practice better biosecurity measures in our farms. I believe that if we apply all we have been taught here, we can easily contain ASF in our farms.
“As a leader of other pig farmers in my state, I am not going to keep this to myself. We have a very good association, definitely by the time we get home, we would begin to organise seminars, we also have a whatsapp group that we can be sharing information with our members.”
For Engr Michael Okotie JP from Delta State, biosecurity is the future of the livestock business.
According to him, “This training is really eye opening, I believe that if we take it further, we would be able to secure our farms. We need the federal government to come to our aid because we have suffered huge loses. I want government to assist us to restock so that we can continue our business.”
Mrs Thabita Jahota, founder of Graceland Farms in Akwata area of Jos whose farm was visited by the participants, said biosecurity for her is the ultimate and that was probably why she did not experience the outbreak of the ASF. “Because of what I hear happening in other farms, we make sure before anyone enters the farm, he or she must right from the gate, disinfect himself. The disinfectant in the water destroys virus as well as bacteria.
“African swine fever is a viral infection, so we make sure we use disinfectants that not only kills bacteria but also kills viruses. We are also using nets all over to ensure that rodents and flies that harbour viruses do not have access to the pigs.”
The participants were trained on how to ensure good emergency practices, good agricultural practices, proper biosecurity practices, collaboration with other value chain operators, participatory disease reporting, risk communication, cost benefits of proper implementation of biosecurity measures, alternative compensation scheme and ownership of implementation of biosecurity measures.