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Lessening the Impact of Animal Disease on Developing Country Agriculture:
A Proposed Program Using Developed Country Technologiesby Dorothy B. Preslar
Note: This paper was first published in "Sustainable Agriculture Solutions - Action Report 1999", Novello Press, London. For a copy of the entire publication, please contact Sustainable Agriculture Initiative.
The impact of animal diseases on agriculture is typically assessed in quantitative terms - lost revenues; costs of eradication, decontamination, vaccination and restocking; and the numbers of affected farms, animals and humans. This approach can be applied universally to all outbreaks in all countries. And, because it normally reflects the hard data supplied by large commercial operations and the estimates by relevant governmental agencies of small farmer impact, it is invaluable. When used exclusively, however, it fails as a barometer, because it cannot factor in the multi-dimensional character of major disease events -- and the accompanying societal effects that often get lost when it comes to assessing the damage in developing countries. The quantitative approach must also be interpreted, and cannot be used "as is" for comparing impacts in developed and developing countries. Further, while export trade losses in a developing country may be small in terms of the dollar amount, the impact upon its pre-epidemic market share is inevitably greater and more persistent. Other impacts such as effects on human health and community stability tend to be more visible and last longer in developing countries, particularly at the village level where animals(1) are husbanded primarily for the benefit of the immediate family, and often in impoverished circumstances.
To illustrate the difference, let us take an outbreak of Newcastle disease virus(2) in a developed country. Although vaccination is an effective guard against the disease, the tendency even in developed countries is to forego vaccinating poultry that is being produced for a short life span, i.e., broilers and fryers. (While the cost per dose of vaccine is very small -- less than one US penny per bird, the labor costs are substantial in large production facilities.) Major outbreaks have occurred in the United States, Sweden, Norway, Australia, England and Ireland within the last three years. Given the scale of production in these countries and the concentration of fowl in typical commercial operations, extraordinarily large numbers can be lost in an outbreak even when quarantine and control operations are put into place swiftly. The epidemic in Northern Ireland in 1997 – the worst in twenty years – caused the slaughter of over one million birds, roughly eight percent of all domestic fowl in the province. The economic consequences were enormous – over US $ 15 million(3) in lost egg and meat revenues, costs of vaccination and decontamination, and the slaughter compensation program, in only four months of active outbreak. As substantial as that figure is, the actual loss, after slaughter compensation and tax write-offs, for the average Northern Ireland poultry producer, was probably about thirty percent of the total. For the commercial operation, this was a set-back, but not an unsurmountable barrier to future production. The more substantial economic impact was in the lost production between the time of the outbreak and the time the UK could document a "disease-free" status required for export of fresh, frozen and processed poultry products – a full eight months. The results of a similar epidemic in a developing country will be more or less(4) the same for the commercial producer. One difference is that many developing countries have a more difficult time proving their flocks are disease free. Another is that they often have a younger export industry and have not had time to build trust in the global marketplace. Still another is that the older, established markets of developed countries often have more effective lobbies with their trading partners and within organizations such as the World Trade Office and the European Union. And further still is the recent phenomenon of increased concern about infectious disease which tends to penalize developing countries(5) and consequently benefit the industries of developed countries.
The major difference in impact in both developed and developing countries lies within the small farmer population.
The major difference in impact in both developed and developing countries lies within the small farmer population. Like the Irish housewife with a backyard flock, a poor woman in the rural village in Zimbabwe who loses her ten chickens overnight to Newcastle disease will not necessarily receive any compensation. Whereas, however, the Irish woman may be able to utilize available local resources of a developed country economy for restocking her chicken coop, the Zimbabwean woman will likely have no such opportunity. One result of the nearly complete shift from rural to urban cultures in developed countries is that there will be a far larger number of African women tending ten chickens than there will be Irish housewives with a backyard flock.
The lack of vaccines, or the lack of money to afford vaccines, or the logistical problems of trying to use temperature-sensitive vaccine in remote rural African (and South American and Asian) communities also contribute to the overall impact in developing countries. In the example of Northern Ireland, the government immediately moved to a vaccination program, offering it free to poultry owners in quarantine areas and at cost to those who lived in areas not yet affected by the epidemic. In Zimbabwe, where a 1994-95 epidemic of Newcastle caused the death of as many as one million broilers in a single week and wiped out entire small farmer chicken populations, comprehensive vaccination is a fairly new concept requiring the support of international agencies and donor groups.
A Case In Point: Cote d'Ivoire
In addition to poultry, pork is a major food product, and a source of export revenue, in many developing countries. Foot and mouth disease and swine fevers have taken their tolls in recent years. The 1996 outbreak of African swine fever in Cote d'Ivoire is said to have cost that country some US $9.2 million.(6) Compensation payments to farmers alone (the rate of compensation fixed at about one-third the market value of a slaughtered pig) amounted to US $ 2.3 million.(7) An outbreak of the same disease in Nigeria in 1998 cost that country's farmers US $ 8.4 million in just six months in just one state (Lagos) .(8) The total cost of Taiwan's 1997 epidemic of foot and mouth disease in hogs was reported at US $ 1.3 Billion(9). In 1999, Malaysia's losses from the new Nipah virus (a paromyxovirus bearing some resemblance to the Hendra virus that first appeared in Australian horses in 1995, initially referred to as "equine morbillivirus") were reported in April 1999 at US $ 114 million for the first five months of the epidemic. These economic costs to developing countries are but the tip of the iceberg. In the wake of a single outbreak of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia in Botswana in February 1995, the eradication campaign that slaughtered 320 thousand head of cattle cost well over US $ 300 million. Ethiopia is spending US $ 1.1 million in 1998-99 to vaccinate its animals against rinderpest(10), which the Office International des Epizooties calls the most serious animal disease known. Although the cost of preventive vaccination burdens many of the agriculture budgets of developing countries(11), it is but an odd penny spent in contrast to the costs resulting from epidemics, costs that often extend long after the outbreak is controlled. For example, Japan in 1997 continued to exclude Taiwanese pork from import for months after evidence was presented that the outbreak was over. And fresh beef exports from Argentina to the United States were approved last year after an exclusion period of sixty-five years due to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. While it is fair to say that assessing the impact of infectious animal diseases only in economic terms gives less than the full and meaningful picture, it is also important to note that the prospect of economic losses is a powerful incentive to the governments of developing countries to address, rather than ignore and deny disease conditions within their borders. In addition to the costs of national prevention, control, compensation and education programs, there are lost export revenues, higher import tariffs in other countries after major disease outbreaks, increased market competition, lost export taxes, harmful fluctuations in hard currency reserves, and diminished revenue from tourism. Developing countries are also looking at the impact of animal disease on community structure and public health.
Some epizootic events have had far reaching effects on society. For example, the great rinderpest pandemic in Africa (1889-97) disrupted the pastoral communities to an extent that some tribes never fully recovered. "Farmers were forced to look elsewhere for jobs and this initiated the mass movement of migrant workers to the mines in Johannesburg and Kimberley, with consequent overpopulation of these two towns and the development of urban slums."(12) Certainly, the massive and repeated epidemics of foot and mouth disease in South America in the mid-20th century prompted much the same migration of farming family members to the cities, with the same results. Today, even a small-scale outbreak can produce changes within a community, through a cumulative impact from a sequence of events. For example, when cows and goats die in a short-term outbreak of Rift Valley fever, milk and meat must be purchased or foregone, young men travel to the city to find work, daily or even weekly commutes home are unaffordable, the young men eventually contract sexually transmitted diseases for which the treatment expense temporarily wipes out the income that is to be sent back to the families, children are taken out of school, family health suffers from lack of protein, family member steals cow from neighboring village, theft is traced to family, family is disgraced, young children are taken by relatives, remainder of family moves to city and within a decade all family members in the city have died or are dying young of AIDS. This is not by any means a far-fetched scenario in Africa today, and may, over the next ten years, be played out over and over in East Africa as a coda to the 1998 Rift Valley fever (RFV) epidemic in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. This outbreak followed on the heels of an extended and unexpected period of rain attributed to the El Nino effect, causing massive flooding and increasing mosquito populations, which helped to spread the disease. Pastoralists(13), immobilized by the floods, cut off from food, and huddled with their animals, many of which were infected. As these animals neared death, the people butchered and ate them, infecting themselves.(14) It is doubtful whether either the exact number of human fatalities or wild and domestic animal deaths from RVF will ever be known. As the floods receded, the people regrouped and counted their losses. And in many cases, young men were dispatched to Mogadishu, Nairobi, Arusha to implement decisions that seemed at the time certain to ensure the salvation of traditional family life. In the depressing hypothetical, economic loss attributable to the disease is dwarfed by the "domino" effects on health, labor resources, family status within the community, and traditional values. And, in some cases, these effects in the aggregate of many families can destabilize countries economically and politically.
Reducing the Consequences
The question, of course, comes begging: What, if anything, could ameliorate such a scenario? The answer is: In a short time frame, nothing; in a sustained, long-term approach, much. First, the reservoir of the virus (RVF) used in the scenario is as yet unknown. [Although some claim that the reservoir is known to be rodents, according to Robert Swanepoel and J. Coetzer, in no country " has definite field or laboratory evidence been obtained to implicate rodents in cryptic cycling of the virus."] Second, even though the disease is now showing up with fair regularity, there has been no systematic survey to ascertain or dispute the prevalence of antibodies in livestock and small stock which means that not many developing countries have a clear idea of the non-epidemic extent of the disease. Third, of the countries in which RVF has been recorded, not a single one yet has a fully comprehensive education program in the small farmer community. Only a comprehensive and sustained program of demand-based research, active surveillance, vaccine trials, vector control and grassroots education could have reduced the losses and lessened the impact of the recent East African epidemic. The same could be said for any infectious disease not yet controlled. These are the tools that are used primarily by developed countries. These are the tools needed by developing countries. And that is precisely the idea in an action plan now being prepared for implementation in South Africa.
AHEAD and ILIAD
The Federation of American Scientists' Animal Health/Emerging Animal Diseases (AHEAD) project has proposed a major program in sub-Saharan Africa to detect and document the extent of infectious diseases shared by farm and wild animals, and to supply treatment, prevention and control services to remote communities that have previously been neglected by other programs, both national and international. This program, International Lookout for Infectious Animal Disease (ILIAD), is scheduled to be implemented in a test mode in South Africa later this year (1999). At the core of ILIAD is the need for a permanent and sustainable regional program of in situ surveillance designed to detect, monitor, treat, prevent and control infectious diseases with the goals of increasing livestock production in remote farming communities, protecting the health of wild species, building indigenous physical and professional resources, and introducing communications and epidemiology information technologies. Transmission of infectious diseases is rampant in remote communities in the sub-Saharan region, just as they once were in the United States and as they always are wherever poverty and farming co-exist. Diseases shared by wild, farmed and captive/bred animals, and by animals and humans, suppress food production, frustrate species preservation efforts and greatly affect public health. Detection, prevention and control of these diseases is an essential element in expanding trade, improving nutrition, exploiting ecotourism and ensuring food security. To accomplish these goals ILIAD will operate an electronically linked network of outpost lab/clinic units located in communities on the perimeters of game reserves and national wildlife parks and national borders not served consistently by governmental veterinary programs. Full coverage of communities lying between outpost locations will be accomplished by a kind of "extension service", whereby specially trained veterinary technicians will travel weekly by motorbike to the villages lying within a 30-50 kilometer radius of their assigned posts. These technicians will utilize the global positioning system to register exact locations of disease and mortality, record data in an epidemiology software program designed specifically for use in developing countries(15), provide immunization and treatment services on a cost-recovery basis, and take blood and fecal samples from animals owned by the community residents and from wild animals outside game reserves. Each country program will be managed by a country program officer who, with the technicians, will work with village councils, women's groups(16) and schools to train small farmers and secondary school students in disease recognition and the benefits of reporting what they observe. In accordance with the "Africans Working for Africa" motif of the initiative, all personnel employed by the program will be native borne residents of the country involved. All activities will be conducted as a response to local needs and disease priorities, in coordination with the national agriculture department's small farmer program and with provincial veterinary services. In addition, program personnel will help further the introduction of electronic communications and the resources of the Internet to local school children. ILIAD is structured in the investor mode - an international consortium of donor groups providing short-term developmental assistance with program direction and oversight provided by veterinary diagnostic, public policy and epidemiology experts representing the Sub-Saharan Africa Partnership members - the renowned Onderstepoort Veterinary and Exotic Disease Institutes (OVI) and Tuskegee University (TU), and FAS-AHEAD. Given positive assessments of the benefits of the program after three years, national or provincial institutions will integrate some or all of the activities into their official veterinary and agricultural activities. The initial test program will be established in the Republic of South Africa's Mpumalanga province, which borders the Kruger National Park, Mozambique and Swaziland, with anticipated expansion over three years within South Africa and into other countries in the region over the next decade. This program will place "developed country" technologies where they are most needed in the fight to prevent the occurrence and spread of:
- Fatal diseases that persistently transmit across farm/park boundaries (e.g., anthrax, bovine tuberculosis, rabies, Newcastle disease, bluetongue, corridor disease, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever);
- Non-fatal diseases that significantly weaken animals and leave them vulnerable to more serious infections (e.g., intestinal worms, liver flukes, blood flukes, helminths);
- Central nervous system diseases caused by parasites (e.g., cystericercosis, enchinococcosis and schistosomiasis);
- Diseases that cause abortion in livestock (e.g., brucellosis, Rift Valley fever, chlamydiosis, Wesselsbron); and
- Unusual syndromic presentations that may indicate a new disease or a known disease emerging or persisting at a significantly higher incidence in a new geographic area. Such syndromes would include unexplained ataxia (impaired muscle coordination) and lesions; unexpected clusters of deaths accompanied by severe respiratory or central nervous system signs; and sudden death in seemingly healthy animals.
The program is designed, and will be modified as necessary, to:
- produce better over-all animal health and productivity in small farming operations
- facilitate early detection of diseases over game reserve borders
- compile hard data on the interplay between animal disease and public health
- create new knowledge on the epidemiology of certain diseases
- develop base-line data on diseases of small stock in remote areas
- establish a reference library of diagnostic samples
- generate applied, problem-oriented research
- build an indigenous core of surveillance expertise
- For the purposes of this paper, "animals" means livestock such as cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep and swine, and poultry such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and ostriches.
- Newcastle disease virus (NDV), also known as avian penumonencephalitis, is an acute, rapidly spreading viral disease of domestic poultry and other birds. NDV belongs to the paramyxovirus family . Onset of the disease is rapid and high mortality rates are typical in large, enclosed poultry production facilities. The Merck Veterinary Manual, 7th Edition, 1991, pp 1591-92.
- This total has been extrapolated from figures given by the provincial agriculture department for total poultry population, sector worth, vaccination costs per .5 million birds and the number of birds that died as a result of the disease or mandatory slaughter.
- Some countries are able to offer much less than the UK allowance of one-third the market value of a bird required to be slaughtered.
- An example is the EU ban against fish imported from East Africa as a result of an outbreak of cholera in the region. This ban lasted from late December 1997 until June 1998, even though opinions of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization rejected the restriction based on human health concerns. FAO Press release PR98-21E, "IMPORT BAN ON FISH PRODUCTS FROM AFRICA NOT THE MOST APPROPRIATE ANSWER", March 25, 1998, Brussels.
- "Emerging Diseases Threatening Livestock Production in Southern Africa," 1998, Agricultural Research Council, South Africa
- US Department of Agriculture Report, Apr 1, 1998
- Lagos State Relief Committee letter to military authorities, December 1998, as reported by the PanAfrican News Agency on Feb 10, 1999
- Report, Council of Agriculture, March 1998
- Announcement, Ministry of Agriculture, Addis Ababa, Aug 19, 1998, reported by Xinhua News Agency, Aug 20 1998
- For statistical purposes the Food and Agriculture Organization categorizes countries as "developed" or "developing": "Annex Tables, The State of Food and Agriculture 1998". Generally speaking, the FAO categorization does not necessarily reflect the actual state of economies or societal perceptions in a number of countries. In the FAO category of "developed" are South Africa and the former Soviet states of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (FAO category - developed). On the other hand, the FAO "developing" category includes Taiwan and Malaysia.
- "Emerging Diseases Threatening Livestock Productions in Southern Africa," op. cit.
- Pastoralists, as soon as word of a disease outbreak reaches them, will move their animals as far away from the outbreak site as possible for protection.
- Although RVF is usually transmitted to humans through the handling of raw meat in butchering or cooking infected animals (or by necropsy of a dead animal), it may be possible that some of these 1997-98 infections resulted from aerosol transmission. According to a virologist at Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa, a fresh serology sample taken from Kenya during the outbreak was "so hot I had to slap it back into the freezer" (personal conversation). RVF in humans is usually a mild disease. In March 1999, South African veterinarians were infected while performing a necropsy on a Cape buffalo; they were back at their jobs within four days.
- "Active Surveillance for Livestock Diseases - Practical Techniques for Developing Countries", copyright 1998 Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Angus Cameron, principal developer.
- In most developing countries, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, women are in charge of feeding, tending, harvesting the production of and selling excess production from small stock and poultry. And with the exception of the herding of cattle and buffalo which is traditionally left to men in many communities, women also tend and milk cattle.