Enabling smallholder livestock services in PNG

Stakeholders of a collaborative project on livestock services in PNG deliberated on enhancing capacity building and networking among key players in a bid to address common challenges faced by the subsector and improve livestock production in the country.

A project meeting was held in Lae at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) on March 14 to identify key issues and finetune project activities. livestock_services

Livestock makes a significant contribution to the livelihoods and health of more than 600,000 smallholder farmers in PNG mainly through subsistence and small scale commercial production of pigs and poultry. Small ruminants, cattle and inland aquaculture play an increasing role in this sector.

The food security and economic benefits from these livestock enterprises are constrained by a lack of livestock health services and poor management practices. Inadequate housing and nutrition, poor reproduction, high mortality of young stock and poor access to rapidly emerging urban markets are consistent issues restricting productivity. Compounding the situation are the effects of HIV/AIDS on the labour market and an increased susceptibility to common zoonotic conditions, thus adding to the disease burden of tuberculosis and malaria within smallholder farming communities.

The project, titled ‘Enabling smallholder livestock services in PNG’, aims to build capacity and coordination within existing networks and human resources to meet the PNG government’s goal of a livestock production increase of 5% per annum.

It also aims to show that by decreasing disease burden in livestock, improving coordination between the human health and animal health sectors and increasing available protein and livelihood income within farming communities, an impact can be made on disease burden within village communities.

The specific objectives to be addressed by this project are:
1. Functional smallholder livestock health and production services with the purpose of producing an acceptable service delivery system that meets the needs of smallholders.
2. Better health and productivity of smallholder communities with the purpose of improving smallholder livelihood and wellbeing.
3. Human capacity building with the purpose of increasing knowledge and skills of selected personnel with particular emphasis on research scientists, para-veterinarians and veterinary laboratory technicians.

The study design involves a series of surveys followed by the implementation of a combination of smallholder production methods that have been developed in isolation to improve smallholder production efficiency and health. This holistic one health approach will be implemented at four district level focal sites representative of the major smallholder production systems in the country. Imbedded into this methodology is a stepwise process of education and capacity building.

The surveys are designed to obtain baseline data on farmer perceptions and needs both nationally and at the specific focus sites. Within the surveys information will be obtained on existing market chains, current service delivery and traditional remedies.

To verify the impact of the holistic intervention approach, a case-control study design will be implemented using case intervention villages and control non-intervention villages where health and production parameters will be monitored and compared. The definition of “health”, in this context, is inclusive of human health and zoonotic diseases carried by animals and provide a one health approach.

Each collaborator has a specific role in carrying out the methodology and meeting the objectives.

NARI will lead the project to capture the experience in working with livestock owner groups. The Institute will be supported in health surveillance and related activities by veterinarians and animal health officers from the National Agricultural and Quarantine Inspection Authority (NAQIA) as well as livestock officers from the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) and Livestock Development Corporation (LDC) at national, regional, provincial and district levels.

The PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) will assist in the monitoring of human disease burden and primary health and nutritional parameters within the focus project sites.

The University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE) will be supported in the development of para-veterinary training. Laboratory support capacity will be provided and developed through NAQIA, PNGIMR, Sotuh Australia Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and James Cook University (JCU).

Research and development capacity in animal nutrition, animal health and other aspects of husbandry and public health will be provided from JCU, PNGIMR, SARDI and NARI in collaboration with UNRE and the PNG University of Technology.

The project will deliver measurable production increases (estimated at 5%/annum) in the smallholder sector by the end of the projected five to seven year lifespan, in line with the PNG Development Strategic Plan 2010 – 2030. The increased production will have direct economic benefits for the livestock owners and indirect benefits for human health as well as for allied industries, including the commercialisation and utilisation of plant by-products and waste, and development of the slaughter, packaging and transport industries.

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