Addis Ababa - April 2008
It is impossible to talk about unlocking the untapped potential of livestock in the IGAD region without talking about animal diseases. Among the poor, diseases introduce a level of risk that is simply too high for many to keep livestock, although they may well see them as their best route out of poverty.
For exporters, outbreaks of disease such as Rift Valley Fever or Foot and Mouth Disease can close borders for weeks or years.
Despite the fact that the region’s ability to meet the two major policy challenges of chronic food insecurity and developing export markets, through livestock, is fundamentally undermined by animal disease, no IGAD member state has an active animal health policy in place.
Governments in the Horn of Africa are aware of this. They are also aware of the need to develop an animal health policy that meets both the demands of today’s international markets and those of the subsistence small-holder.
They are also aware that animals need to be moved across borders, to take advantage of seasonally available resources, to be exported and to access high value markets.
Animal health is therefore seen as a regional public good. Though polices derived on a national level might be expected to reflect differing national priorities, IGAD governments accept that bigger gains lie in agreement on the regional dimensions of animal health. It is for this reason that in February 2008, IGAD LPI’s steering committee mandated the project to facilitate government agreement on a regional policy framework for animal health. Doing so would, in turn, allow national polices to be developed within that regional context.
Final agreement will come as IGAD convenes the region’s ministers of agriculture to establish the regional policies. In preparation, it will work through the project, in cooperation with other Regional Economic Communities and the African Union, to support the region’s governments in developing the framework. Working though multidisciplinary, national fora, IGAD LPI will help to build consensus with stakeholders in civil society and across government.
In the context of trade, the project will not only develop means of complying with international trade rules, but also of influencing those rules.
In the context of poverty reduction, the project will help build understanding of how animal health and trade policy can be shaped in order to reach the poor and how services can be supported and regulated in order to reach those in the region’s most marginal areas. This is likely to involve regional support and recognition of community based systems.
The steering committee also mandated the project to further develop a draft concept note, with the intention of further supporting the development of harmonised, national animal health policies, in the light of a regional agreement.