African farmers fighting for biosecurity

Smallholder farmers in Africa and other developing nations have been battling disease control for animal and plant safety with approximately $575 million lost in annual export revenue due to diseases like foot and mouth, which also pose threats as bioweapons.

According to the Edinburgh-based Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines, East Coast Fever costs countries approximately $186 million annually while Rift Valley Fever has resulted in 350 deaths and has cost $50.3 million to treat. Other diseases affect chickens and swine, such as porcine cysticercosis, Business Report reports.

Bill Gates, the co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pledged $200 million in grants to fund agricultural development projects at the International Fund for Agricultural Development's 35th Governing Council last week. The grants will support multiple projects, including the vaccination of tens of millions of livestock.

One major problem with diseased livestock for farmers in these developing areas is that it has been more expensive to treat livestock than to slaughter them. There have been situations where farmers did not report outbreaks for fear of having their only income source slaughtered.

"We need very clear programs and good control systems to deal with treatment of livestock," Philip Kiriro, the president of the East Africa Farmers Federation, said, according to Business Report. "When animals are stressed it comes at a great expense for smallholder farmers. We need to be able to approach disease control in a manner where we will be free from foot and mouth, tick-born diseases, swine and East Coast fever."