A traceability system in the smallholder pig value chain in Kenya could help address challenges related to production, diseases, markets, pork safety and public health, according to a new study published by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Currently, Kenya does not have an operational livestock traceability system. Although a few systems have been piloted, these have only focused on the beef value chain and mostly in pastoralist areas. The smallholder pig value chain is suitable for the implementation of a traceability system as farmers usually keep a few pigs at a time and rely on a short marketing chain that is less complex.

The study, published in Tropical Animal Health and Production (16 Sep 2019), was based on a review of literature on pork traceability as well as on pig production in Kenya, with a focus on smallholder pig systems in western Kenya. Combined with the authors’ research experience in the region, the findings were used to inform the design of a traceability system for the smallholder pig value chain. 

Unique identification of animals is important for traceability. However, the review found that locally raised pigs were rarely identified. Farmers need to be made aware of the importance of identifying animals and recording their movements and how this can improve access to markets.

The study explains how a traceability system could support the surveillance of two important pig diseases in the region: African swine fever and porcine cysticercosis.

An effective traceability system could also enable the withdrawal of unsafe pork from the market, thereby helping to ensure the quality and safety of pork sold in local markets.

“Since meat inspection in the country has now been taken up by the county governments, we see traceability as an option that counties, in partnership with the private sector, could use to market themselves as producers of ‘safe and traceable’ pork”, the authors say. 

Starting with organized systems like commercial producer and trader groups, the concept can be piloted in the field to assess its practical application, paving the way for a national traceability system in line with the guidelines of the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

The authors of the study note, however, that implementing traceability as a tool towards improved animal health and food safety would require the participation of all stakeholders in the value chain. Therefore, appropriate incentives would need to be explored to ensure widespread adoption of the intervention.

Citation

Mutua, F., Lindahl, J. and Randolph, D. 2019. Possibilities of establishing a smallholder pig identification and traceability system in Kenya. Tropical Animal Health and Production. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-019-02077-9 

Photo credit: A plate served with fried pork and raw relishes (ILRI/Martin Heilmann)