African governments urged to train farmers good biosecurity in a bid to fight Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). 

– According to Dr. Mwapu Ndahi of Nigeria, the idea behind biosecurity is not just to have a bowl in front of the pen for someone to dip his leg.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Animal manure is the main transporter of drug-resistant bacteria that cause antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans and animals, hence African governments have been asked to train farmers and animal health experts on appropriate biosecurity measures.

Biosecurity is “a set of physical measures designed to reduce the risk of introduction or spread of animal diseases or infections to, from, and within an animal or environment,” according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

 In the absence of farm disinfectants, it is thought that infections can spread not just within a single bacterial species but also from one farm to another.

The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials (antibiotics) in humans, animals and plants are the main cause of drug-resistant pathogens. 

AMR affects countries in all regions and at all income levels. Its drivers and consequences are exacerbated by poverty and inequality, and low- and middle-income countries are most affected.

The use of microbials in agriculture, can also contaminate crops. When these crops are consumed by humans and develop multidrug resistant diseases, this could pose a threat to public health.

“Due to the complexity of AMR, farmers need to understand what kind of disinfectant should they use. How often do they need to change this disinfectant? The issue of traffic control, issue of waste disposal, to minimize the introduction of infectious agents onto the farms.

It’s not only enough for us to have biosecurity guidelines, but to train the farmers on how to go about it. The rationale behind biosecurity is not just to have a bowl in front of the pen for someone to dip his leg,” said Dr Mwapu Ndahi, an animal health expert from Nigeria, during the World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week Campaign for Africa, held in Harare recently. 

Then there’s the residual problem, as antibiotic residues may be present in the animal waste.

Animal waste can have an adverse effect on aquatic species by exposing them to inadequate levels of antimicrobials when they are washed into rivers or ponds.

The Southern African region has just entered the rainy season, and some farmers in Zimbabwe have stated that they are unaware of AMRs and biosecurity at a time when that knowledge will come handy.

Reality on the farms

Ninety kilometers south of the capital, in the Beatrice farming area, resides Bernard Phiri.

He is involved in crop and animal production, according to a recent visit to his property, but there is no biosecurity system in place there.

Limiting non-essential traffic on the farm, permitting only clean, disinfected vehicles on the property, maintaining a log of all farm visitors, having a single entrance and exit, offering disposable shoes, and keeping strangers and other animals off the land are all required by biosecurity protocols.

Bernard doesn’t follow most of the aforementioned advice and instead depends on veterinary specialists to give a guess as to what medications and pesticides are best for his sick animals and infected crops.

By using some of the animal faeces as organic fertiliser, all he is doing is boosting filed output.

It’s likely that the animal faeces in Bernard’s farm contains microorganisms resistant to drugs, which he could be spreading to both his clients and his crops.

Bernard said he can’t afford laboratory tests to ascertain infections in his animals.

“I’ve heard that I need to take samples of waste from my animals for laboratory tests to determine the nature of infection when they get sick, Look here, that’s an expense that most farmers cannot meet,” Bernard remarked.  

National Action Plan for Zimbabwe

The creation of National Action Plans by member nations is supported by the adoption of the Global Action Plan in 2015.

Zimbabwe is one such country that came up with its own plan. The five goal areas of Zimbabwe’s 2017 AMR National Action Plan include awareness, surveillance, biosecurity, prudent antibiotic use, and search for novel alternatives.

Since then, the Zimbabwean government has organised several workshops and trainings for the media because it thinks that a strong alliance with the media will aid in increasing public awareness.

“We had activities aimed at raising awareness among farmers aimed at strengthening their food production systems in a safe way, the focus was in the poultry value chain where farmers learn by doing, good animal husbandry practices, biosecurity and hygienic measures so that we reduce the disease pressures in animal production system,” Tinashe Hodobo, an AMR expert in the Zimbabwean government explained.

Impact of AMRs

During the WAAW in Harare, Dr Walter Fuller, a member of the WAAW Secretariat said the impact of AMR on global GDP alone would be between 1.1% to 3.8%. 

He continued, citing the World Bank, and said that Sub-Saharan Africa would experience a greater impact of 5% by 2050.

“It said the global real export would shrink by 1 to 3.8, based on the gravity of AMR. The impact on health care costs would be 300 billion to 1 trillion US dollars by 2050. And the impact on livestock output by 2050 would be a decline that would be in the range of 2.6 to 7.5%. These figures are not just figures. We should understand that there are individuals behind those figures,” Dr Fuller warned.

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