Participants at a workshop on developing a livestock identification and traceability system for the IGAD region

Participants of a workshop on developing a livestock identification and traceability system for the IGAD region (photo credit: ILRI/Liya Dejene).

A livestock identification and traceability system will soon be piloted in the Intergovernmental Agency on Development (IGAD) region, following discussions at a workshop held last week (4-5 February) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to review existing national systems and identify practical options towards a harmonized system for the region.

The IGAD region is home to 336 million ruminants and the livestock sector contributes significantly to the economy of countries in the region and to the livelihoods of millions of pastoralists and smallholder livestock keepers and traders.

Regional harmonization of livestock identification and traceability systems, based on international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), would improve coordination of surveillance and control of transboundary animal diseases, thereby enhancing regional trade in livestock and livestock products.

Some 35 participants attended the workshop, drawn from both the public and private sectors. Tanzania, although not a member of IGAD, was also represented at the meeting. In addition to chief veterinary officers and national experts in livestock identification and traceability from IGAD member countries, representatives were present from the following institutions and programs:

  • African Union – Interafrican Bureau on Animal Resources (AU-IBAR),
  • Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD)
  • CNFA South Sudan Cattle Program
  • East African Community,
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
  • IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (ICPALD),
  • Kenya Livestock Marketing Council,
  • Kenya Meat Commission, and
  • Northeast Africa Livestock Council.

Presentations were made on the status of livestock production and trade in the region, an ongoing project on standard methods and procedures in animal health, and the status of livestock identification and traceability systems in the respective countries in the IGAD region.

The Standard Methods and Procedures in Animal Health (SMP-AH) project is coordinated by AU-IBAR and IGAD with financial support from the East Africa regional program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It is a four year project (2012-2016) being carried out in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania to support harmonization and coordination of disease surveillance, and the prevention and control of trade-related transboundary animal diseases.

Among the expected outputs of the SMP-AH project are:

  • the establishment of a framework for surveillance and control of trade-related animal diseases;
  • harmonization of laboratory testing procedures for the priority animal diseases in the region;
  • the establishment of standards for regional quarantine stations; and
  • enhanced technical and coordination capacity of participating countries and the IGAD region at large.

The presentations on the status of livestock identification and traceability systems in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania covered the current activities in the respective countries, the interventions that the countries would need to improve the already existing systems, the foreseen challenges in the implementation of the proposed system, and the steps that can be taken towards regional harmonization of systems in the IGAD region.

During the discussions that followed, participants were able to share their experiences and learn from other countries. In addition, a status review of animal identification and traceability systems in other countries in Africa – in particular Namibia and Botswana that have highly specialized systems – and in the United States of America helped to give a wider outlook on continental and global scale.

Based on the plenary presentations and discussions, the participants identified the livestock identification and traceability options that can be used to design a regional system. In order of priority, the options are as follows:

  • Visual tamperproof ear tags with ISO coding
  • Visual tamperproof ear tags (with ISO coding) plus hot-iron branding in insecure areas
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags
  • RFID bolus (for ruminants)
  • Microchip implants (for controlled trials) with hot-iron branding to deter theft

From the presentations, discussions and consensus reached, the workshop came up with the following general recommendations:

  1. Develop a pilot project on a livestock identification and traceability system for the IGAD region (including Tanzania) based on the criteria listed below:
    • Areas with identified target market and export facilities such as quarantine stations and abattoirs
    • Areas with confirmed security concerns
    • Areas with cross border movement
    • Areas with fairly advanced livestock identification and traceability systems
    • Areas with confirmed animal health concerns
    • Areas with major livestock trade routes
  2. Develop an IGAD umbrella body that would oversee the implementation of the livestock identification and traceability system in the region.
  3. Develop guidelines, procedures and regional coordination mechanisms by the umbrella body in conjunction with states that have current and proposed livestock identification and traceability activities.
  4. Encourage international and regional organizations such as OIE, FAO and AU-IBAR to hasten the development, finalization and dissemination of guidelines on livestock identification and traceability systems to assist the developing countries.
  5. Encourage the member states to establish and strengthen their livestock identification and traceability systems as an important tool for trade and disease control.
  6. AU-IBAR and IGAD should organize exposure visits to areas with reasonably advanced livestock identification and traceability systems.

For more information about this work, contact Florence Mutua (f.mutua@cgiar.org) or Bernard Bett (b.bett@cgiar.org) of ILRI, or James Wabacha of AU-IBAR (james.wabacha@au-ibar.org).

Access the workshop proceedings

Batch of export quality Somali goats

A batch of Somali goats destined for export markets. A harmonized livestock identification and traceability system in the IGAD region can improve efficiency of livestock marketing (photo credit: Terra Nuova).

Livestock identification and traceability systems enhance livestock production and trade by enabling improved surveillance and management of transboundary animal diseases. These systems can also be used to deter stock theft in areas that are prone to cattle rustling.

The livestock sector plays an important role in the economy of countries in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region. However, there is currently no harmonized system for livestock identification and traceability in the region, as countries are at different stages of setting up the required legal and institutional frameworks.

To address this issue, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with the African Union – Interafrican Bureau on Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development have convened a regional workshop on 4-5 February 2014 at the ILRI Addis Ababa Campus, Ethiopia.

The workshop brings together some 40 stakeholders from the public and private sectors in the IGAD region including chief veterinary officers, livestock producers, traders and transporters, meat processors, researchers and policymakers.

The objectives of the workshop are to:

  • review the current livestock identification and traceability systems in the IGAD member states and the extent to which these systems have been used in the surveillance and management of transboundary animal diseases in the region;
  • develop a consensus on the role of livestock identification and traceability systems in the region, given the existence of diverse livestock production systems, marketing channels and infrastructure; and
  • identify practical options and approaches to develop a harmonized livestock identification and traceability system in the IGAD region.

For more information about the workshop, contact Florence Mutua (f.mutua@cgiar.org) or Bernard Bett (b.bett@cgiar.org) of ILRI, or James Wabacha of AU-IBAR (james.wabacha@au-ibar.org).

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming in western Kenya

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming in western Kenya. Mixed crop-livestock farming systems currently produce most of the world’s meat, milk and staple crops (photo credit: ILRI/Pye-Smith).

The January 2013 issue of Animal Frontiers, the world’s premier review magazine in animal agriculture, features a series of articles on the contribution of animal agriculture to global food security.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has contributed to this series with a position paper that highlights the direct and indirect effects of livestock on food and nutrition security. The paper also considers the future prospects of mixed crop-livestock farming systems that produce most of the world’s milk, meat and staple crops.

The paper by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith and colleagues begins with a brief overview of the global challenge of food and nutrition security and the net impact of livestock on global food supply. This is followed by a review of the direct contributions of livestock to nutrition security and the indirect effects of livestock on food security.

Food security is said to exist when “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. In development discourse, the term ‘food security’ is often used to emphasize the aspect of food quantity while ‘nutrition security’ captures the quality dimension.

The position paper offers a balanced analysis by exploring both the beneficial impacts (e.g. improved nutrition and health, income from the sale of animals or produce, draught power and provision of manure) and the harmful ones (e.g. zoonotic diseases, health risks from over-consumption of animal-source foods and production of greenhouse gases).

“Livestock contribute to food supply by converting low-value materials, inedible or unpalatable for people, into milk, meat, and eggs; livestock also decrease food supply by competing with people for food, especially grains fed to pigs and poultry. Currently, livestock supply 13% of energy to the world’s diet but consume one-half the world’s production of grains to do so.

However, livestock directly contribute to nutrition security. Milk, meat and eggs, the “animal-source foods,” though expensive sources of energy, are one of the best sources of high quality protein and micronutrients that are essential for normal development and good health. But poor people tend to sell rather than consume the animal-source foods that they produce.

The contribution of livestock to food, distinguished from nutrition security among the poor, is mostly indirect: sales of animals or produce, demand for which is rapidly growing, can provide cash for the purchase of staple foods, and provision of manure, draft power, and income for purchase of farm inputs can boost sustainable crop production in mixed crop-livestock systems.

Livestock have the potential to be transformative: by enhancing food and nutrition security, and providing income to pay for education and other needs, livestock can enable poor children to develop into healthy, well-educated, productive adults. The challenge is how to manage complex trade-offs to enable livestock’s positive impacts to be realized while minimizing and mitigating negative ones, including threats to the health of people and the environment.”

On the future role of mixed crop-livestock farming systems, the authors note that it is important to look into issues related to production efficiency as well as market engagement in defining how these systems are to evolve in order to remain competitive, equitable and environmentally stable while continuing to contribute to human nutrition and health.

The paper concludes:

“Many poor livestock keepers report that a key motivation for keeping livestock is to earn income so their children can attend school and, perhaps, go on to benefit from further education. By providing essential nutrients, especially in the first critical 1,000 days from conception, animal-source foods can help ensure normal physical and cognitive development.

The combined impacts of meeting nutritional needs and providing income make livestock a powerful force for the poor. Well-nourished and well-educated youngsters can grow up to be healthy young adults who are able to realize their full potential and earn higher incomes, in the process enhancing the well-being of their families, communities, and society. The impact of this on food and nutrition security at household, national, and global levels cannot be overstated and demands innovative research, development, and policy approaches.”

Read the full article here

Citation: Smith J, Sones K, Grace D, MacMillan S, Tarawali S and Herrero M. 2013. Beyond milk, meat, and eggs: Role of livestock in food and nutrition security. Animal Frontiers 3(1): 6-13.