FRANCE - Among the plenary papers presented at the World Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA) Congress today, 21 August, Dr Robyn Alders outlined a success story from Africa.
As part of her presentation to the WVPA, Dr Alders [pictured] presented a film showing the success of a scheme to vaccinate small poultry flocks in Africa against Newcastle disease and how the whole community has benefited as a result of controlling the disease in poultry.
Dr Alders is a Director of the KYEEMA Foundation at Brisbane University in Australia and has worked extensively in developing countries, particularly in Africa and most recently in Mozambique.
As she explained, family poultry have an important role in food security in poor countries, helping to overcome poverty, empower women and for conservation - all of which helps to slow the migration of the rural poor to already overcrowded cities.
And one must not forget the contribution eggs from these small flocks can make, she stressed. They are "incredibly important", especially where HIV/AIDS is common - as a source of nutritious food that is relatively sterile and quick to cook.
Among the challenges to poultry production in these poor rural areas are the high mortality among birds - although this is nothing new - sometimes inappropriate biosecurity measures, inadequate disease surveillance and consequent under-reporting and finally, a lack of diagnostic techniques and field tests for some of the more common problems, such as Newcastle disease and mycotoxins in feed.
Dr Alders cited one excellent story - also illustrated in her video - of the development and distribution of a thermo-tolerant Newcastle disease vaccine in Africa. The experience illustrates how cooperation between many stakeholders can both improve food security and improve living standards.
A network of trained vaccinators was set up in a region where Newcastle disease was causing heavy losses in poultry.
Firstly, appropriate methods of surveillance, prevention and control need to be developed, paying particular attention to encouraging the active participation of women, who tend to care for the poultry and to the establishment of trust in both the vaccine and the system.
Then, after training, some members of the community take the vaccine from a cool-store out to nearby villages. There, they administer it - by eye-drop - to all the birds in the particular village. For each bird they vaccinate, they receive a small payment, which can help to pay school fees or improve the family home, as well as improving the diet. One farmer had set up a small business, collecting eggs from his neighbours and selling them in a nearby town.
Dr Alders concluded that there has been progress in meeting the challenges of small-scale poultry production and that family poultry can contribute to food security in a carbon-neutral and susutainable way, while offering multiple benfits to the local community.
Her presentation received particularly warm applause from the WVPA audience in Nantes.