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Enhancing Collaboration for Sustainable Livestock and Animal Health: AU-IBAR and FAO Pave the Way for Progress

The African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) has maintained a valuable partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) over the years. A significant meeting took place on the 1st of March 2023, when a delegation from FAO paid a courtesy visit to AU-IBAR.

Led by Dr. Thanawat Tiensin, Director of Animal Production and Health and Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) at FAO HQ, the delegation held discussions with AU-IBAR’s team, led by the Director, Dr. Huyam Salih, to deliberate on strategies for enhanced partnerships. The two institutions explored avenues for better collaboration and coordination on key issues related to the livestock sector, animal health, agriculture, and sustainable development.

The discussions focused on key priority areas and strategies for enhancing Animal Health, Sustainable Livestock Production, and Disease control. At the forefront of the discussion was the imperative to implement a One Health approach across various sectors, recognizing the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. FAO noted internal reforms had been implemented in their organization to align with this approach, particularly in animal health, production, and climate resilience. The collaboration seeks to enhance synergies and avoid duplication of work.

The continued collaboration aims to strengthen disease control efforts, with a specific focus on Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) such as Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) and zoonotic diseases like Rabies. There is a strategy for the elimination of rabies by 2030, and enhanced strategies are needed to ensure this goal is met. Other areas of collaboration discussed included the Pandemic Fund and Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR).

Sustainable Livestock Practices: FAO is currently implementing a project on animal feed production in the Horn of Africa, covering 7 countries. There will be partnership with AU-IBAR’s Resilient African Feed and Fodder Systems (RAFFS) and Africa Pastoral Market Development Platform (APMD) project. This partnership will enhance synergies in the sector and avoid duplication of efforts.

In November 2024, the teams will participate in the Global Forum for Animal Feed and Feed Regulators to emphasize the critical link between quality feed and sustainable livestock production. A core sub-committee for livestock issues has been established, serving as a governing body to address concerns such as animal production and the environmental impact of livestock on climate. Last year saw the establishment of the Global Livestock Transformation Initiative, which will be critical in the sustainable livestock discourse.

Animal Genetic Resources: The conservation of indigenous breeds and genetic diversity is crucial for sustainable agriculture. Member states are calling for improvements in genetic resources and advocating for livestock databases across the continent. Attention has been focused on preserving animal genetic resources through initiatives like gene banks, in which FAO collaborated with AU-IBAR. 22 national strategic plans for genetic resources were developed for the AU-Gene banks. Strategic collaborations will strengthen efforts to preserve genetic resources.

Vaccines: The teams noted the need to improve animal health services, establish emergency response centres, build laboratory capacity for countries, implement innovative approaches to enhance animal health services for member states, and enhance vaccine procurement and management for disease prevention. FAO is working on reference centres and capacity building for member states and has procured 100 million doses of vaccines for Africa. Collaboration will enhance quality control and to enhance member states’ engagement. Emergency centres will be crucial for preparedness and rapid response.

One Health Intelligence Hub and Livestock Transformation: Plans are underway to establish the One Health Intelligence Hub and Sustainable Livestock Transformational Hubs. These hubs will support the implementation of sustainable livestock practices and integrated One Health approaches. The teams emphasized the importance of providing clear guidance on the tools to be used by member states for these initiatives.

Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) AU-IBAR has initiated regional training on surveillance and laboratory testing for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and has been admitted as a Member of the FAO AMR Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Platform. AU-IBAR will hence participate in FAO RENOFARM activities following its program launch on 22-24 April 2024 in China. Preparation for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 26th, 2024, includes a Quadripartite effort to influence a resolution, with key clear messages.

Strategic Communications was highlighted as a crucial area of focus for the work carried out by both institutions. It was acknowledged that despite the significant work, innovations, and achievements in the livestock sector, without strategic communications, this work would go unnoticed and its impact would not be fully appreciated. To address this, the two organizations emphasized the importance of sharing success stories, new innovations, and best practices. They also stressed the need to highlight areas that require attention and investment. FAO and AU-IBAR further emphasized the significance of enhancing communication and advocacy efforts to raise awareness about critical issues and generate support for collaborative initiatives.

The two entities are set to collaborate on global initiatives, starting with the Global Conference on Animal Health Transformation in China this September. Additionally, they will work towards highlighting sustainable beekeeping practices, especially showcasing Slovenia’s case. Moreover, they aim to address transboundary disease challenges through the Global Framework on Transboundary Disease, targeting diseases crossing international borders. These collaborations signify a concerted effort to address pressing global issues such as animal health, sustainable agriculture, and disease control on an international scale.

Looking ahead, both organizations are committed to developing strategic plans that align with the priorities of member states to address emerging challenges in the livestock sector. Through collaborative efforts, they aim to drive transformative change, promote sustainable practices, and ensure the resilience of livestock agricultural systems in Africa and beyond. The meeting served as a platform for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and strategic planning towards sustainable agricultural development in Africa. The teams reiterated the importance of focusing on tangible results, building international partnerships, and engaging with local communities. They also laid the groundwork for transformative initiatives in the region to enhance the animal resources sector in Africa.

The delegation met with AU-IBAR on the sidelines of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 6), held from February 26 to March 1, 2024, at the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi. The theme for UNEA 6 was “Effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.”

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