The Environmental Biology, Chemistry and Toxicology AuthorAID journal club coordinated by Dr. Funmilayo Doherty had its monthly review session on May 1st, 2021. Dr. Kojo Ahiakpa organized and led the session for the Environmental biology group, which is a sub group within the Journal club. The review session was based on a recent article “COVID 19 and poultry production: Emerging issues in African countries”. This review seeks to call attention to the impacts of COVID-19 on poultry production in African countries, and strategies that should be adopted to assist in sustaining farm productivity, protect farm personnel, and strengthen biosafety for enhanced food security amid this global pandemic.
The Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 summit identified that, with the projected increase in income and population of African countries, the demand for animals and livestock food sources will be greatly increased, which would lead to heightened interactions between livestock/wildlife/human environments, facilitating spillover of zoonotic diseases. Previous health crises such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola epidemic in Africa have taught us that a holistic, rapid, and cohesive response at all levels of government, civil societies, and local communities is critical for pandemic containment. As such, this requires the concerted efforts of all sectors, including the poultry industry to act in a rapid response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In our recent paper (https://doi.org/10.1080/00439339.2021.1874848), we identified the emerging issues facing poultry producers during the COVID-19 outbreak and proffered strategies that should serve as established protocols in ensuring sustainable operations during this pandemic, with a focus on African countries.
Key findings from the Study
- Current information regarding health and safety measures is currently lacking and/or insufficient on some farms, followed by non-compliance of some workstations to COVID-19 preventive measures. In the production setting, navigating the structural and operational layouts of the facility, management of break time, entry and exit of the facility, and the socio-cultural and economic difficulties of some workers, poses significant constraints towards adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures.
- The origin of the COVID-19 had raised concerns regarding the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infected animals or animal products to humans. Earlier misconceptions regarding the zoonotic origin of the COVID-19 outbreak had resulted in huge disproportionate declines in meat consumption and the fear of infection also created aversion towards visits to markets and retail centers for purchases
- Inconsistencies in routine farm management pose problems for animal welfare and production, such as reduction in growth and laying performance, vulnerability to infections, and increased mortality. The inability of farms to operate at full capacity due to the limitations in the workforce exposes enterprises to the risk of termination.
- Most African countries are import-dependent in the supply of feed ingredients and breeding materials, including parent stock and grand-parent stocks. Hence, supply disruption significantly diminishes the steady production of poultry meat and eggs by domestic poultry enterprises.
- Labor constraints and logistic challenges limit access to farm supplies and finished poultry products including meat and eggs, thus restricting the production capacities of farms. Blockades to transportation hinders the timely supply of meat and eggs, especially for the fresh food supply chains, resulting in increased deterioration, wastages of products, and loss of income for farmers.
- Recent laboratory studies suggest that vermin such as ferrets are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, whereas farm animals including pigs, ducks, and chickens are not susceptible. This underscores the importance of devising measures to detect infection among farm animals raised for human consumption and to ascertain the susceptibility of distinct livestock species to the virus, especially under commercial conditions. Intensification of animal disease surveillance and monitoring, vaccination, and attention to human–animals concerns is imminent- a call for “One Health Approach".
- Administrative controls and containment measures targeted at interrupting person-to-person transmission should be deployed to limit infections in the production line and within the farm environment. Increased awareness and sensitization on food safety, health regulations, and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of workers is necessary.
- Adoption of digital innovations to promote access to extension services. Designing mobile applications that would enable farmers to access rapid updates, feedback to queries, and product marketing via service vendors.
- Restructuring of the existing poultry value chains, with the focus of integrating smallholder farmers and commercial producers into the vertical coordination of production. Integration of research institutions and Africa’s tertiary institutions into value-chain research, technology development, and market-driven agricultural development. NGOs can assist poultry development via rural chicken improvement schemes and provision of support systems for rural small-scale enterprises.
- Governmental intervention to counteract the debt crisis via subsidies for input supplies, access to low-cost loans with favorable interest rates and concessions on taxation to farmers. The swift response of African governments to establish non-tariff barriers to trade, particularly for the domestic regulation of farm inputs such as feed ingredients, day-old chicks, vaccines, and agro-chemicals is vital.
With the gradual containment of COVID-19 pandemic, there are bound to be enormous changes in various sectors including poultry production. Of necessity is the emergence of a resilient food system and a stronger livestock value chain. The adoption of ‘One Health’ approach, which focuses on the inextricable linkages between animal health, human health, and their shared ecosystems, would provide universal solutions for protecting both human and animal health. Careful attention to the close interaction between farmers, animals, and the environment may be the next key to prepare and battle-ready for the emergence of zoonotic pandemics. Thus, a joint engagement and effective collaboration between governmental and private sectors would prove formidable in rebuilding post-COVID-19 poultry sector for improved food security.
- How best to formulate and implement COVID-19 related policies and responses to suit national frameworks in distinct African regions?
- What is the role of researchers in envisaging and preparing towards the next pandemic? How can these research findings be effectively communicated to policy makers for adoption and implementation?
- Where/Why/When/How can the adoption of a transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach (i.e. One Health) be practiced to foster collaboration on case studies arising from the human-animal-environment interface
For more information, see link to full article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00439339.2021.1874848
Victoria A. Uyanga is a doctoral researcher at Shandong Agricultural University, China, and a One Health Ambassador. Her research is primarily concerned with Sustainable poultry production, Nutrition and Feed sciences, Nutritional physiology, and One Health Issues. She conducts researches in Africa, in collaboration with the Organization of African Academic Doctors (OAAD).