A group of local and international players have launched a cost-effective and low-tech early warning system to mitigate the devastating impact of livestock diseases in Zambia.
The system, anchored on improving overall early warning and response capacity, is pioneered by the University of Africa, Musika, Afrivet and Veterinary Network.
“The linchpin of the system is the user-friendly step-by-step diagnosis manual which equips livestock farmers with the invaluable skill of early cattle disease detection using their eyes,” said project leader Dr Danie Odendaal.
“Regardless of literacy levels, livestock farmers can detect diseases like Foot-and-Mouth disease as well as other tick and fly-borne animal diseases using this system,” Odendaal said.
The Zambian livestock sector is worth more than US$1.5bn, accounting for nearly 35% of agriculture’s share of the national gross domestic product (GDP). The sector experienced steady growth around 7% and 10% annually.
Despite the positive trend, the sector continues to face many challenges, including rampant livestock disease outbreaks and poor disease control mechanisms.
This has a devastating impact on livestock productivity, human health and overall economic development.
Odendaal said the early warning system mitigated the risk of increased cattle diseases in the context of stretched resources available to most smallholder livestock farmers.
To achieve low breakout and transmission rates, smallholder livestock farmers are being trained in conducting accurate daily observations of cattle for diseases using the manual. The system details normal and abnormal body systems of cattle.