AFRICA - The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), Africa's largest trading bloc has come up with a livestock development policy for its 19 members, writes Ian Nkala.
It would be implemented in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), would be involved too as it is mandated with coordinating the project and implementation of most activities.
A report from November 2012 estimated that Comesa held over 135 million cattle, over 200 million sheep and goats and over 7 million camels. Official statistics at the time showed that member states generated an estimated US$580 million from the export of animal and their products.
Zimbabwean farmers, whose government does not have a livestock policy, are looking forward to the implementation of the regional framework.
Paul Zakariya, executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union said: “There is a need for us as a country and industry to interact more with other countries for greater regional integration and opening up of opportunities for livestock producers, particularly cattle owners in Masvingo, Matabeleland region and Midlands.
"Generally our farmers are not drawing as much value from their livestock as they should, but with interventions like the Comesa one, the situation can change for the better.”
According to a report presented at a Comesa summit in Addis Ababa last year, the policy would address issues of the marketing procedures, marketing infrastructure for livestock and issues on marketing of both outputs and inputs including food safety and traceability.
“The majority of livestock trade goes largely uncontrolled and unmoved as it moves through informal markets and across porous borders,” reads the report.
“Such movement makes control of trans-boundary animal diseases a challenging task, and service delivery and sectoral planning difficult. The collaboration is in the four strategic programmes of; animal health, disease prevention and control; animal resource production systems and eco-system management; and access to inputs, services and markets for animal and animal growth.”
Nineteen countries from across the African continent make up Comesa, which has its headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia.
Two of these countries are Seychelles and Zambia, which like Zimbabwe also do not have national livestock development policies and are drafting them.
Mr Zakariya said the regional policy has potential to open new markets for Zimbabwean farmers as well as helping them enhance production systems, among them, livestock diseases surveillance and control, improvement in animal genetics and infrastructure development.
“Botswana and Namibia are doing well in livestock trade but we must not forget that Zimbabwe, at some point, was at the top, supplying Europe and the Arab world with beef and goat meat, ostrich and crocodile," he said.
"We have lost traction over the past 15 years so we need to look at where the critical mass is. As farmers we are happy that this regional framework will open up opportunities not only for trade but also breed improvement, exchange of ideas, health and hygiene.”
Comesa Veterinary Governance (VETGOV) Programme coordinator, Yoseph Shiferaw Mamo said:
“The policy is expected to attract public and private investments along the different livestock value chains, enhancing livestock production and animal health so as to increase productivity and resilience of livestock production systems and to enhance innovation, generation and utilisation of technologies, capacities and entrepreneurship skills of livestock value chain actors.”
Mr Mamo said Comesa members have potential to produce enough livestock products for local consumption and for export, singling out Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya which export livestock products to the Middle East and Egypt. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya are some of the countries that are already benefiting from livestock trade.
However, the 2012 Comesa report said document said the livestock value chain in the trading bloc is a multi-billion dollar business which needs more investment, modernisation and has not benefited farmers enough.
Mr Zakariya added the cattle-dominated Zimbabwean livestock sector is not as developed as crop farming.
“There has not been much investment into livestock. We lack a whole national thrust to build the national cattle herd for example. With the Comesa thrust, we are hopeful.”
TheCattleSite News Desk