AU-IBAR concerned over COVID-19 Impact and Risks to the Wildlife Sector and implications on Wildlife Trade from future Pandemics

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A message from Prof. Ahmed El-Sawalhy, Director, African Union – Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources.


Wildlife is an important resource in Africa, contributing to ecosystem goods and services, food security, sustainable livelihoods, ecotourism, resilience, and economic growth. The African Union, concerned by the unsustainable use of African wild fauna and flora, has developed the African Strategy on Combating Illegal Exploitation and Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora [ASCIE&ITW&F Strategy] in Africa. As clearly stated in the Strategy, the livelihoods and socio-economic development of communities in both rural and urban areas depend heavily, especially in the Rain forests, on the use of wildlife, thus the loss of African wildlife directly or indirectly affects the livelihoods of African people. Additionally, the illegal trade in Africa’s natural resources deprives the continent of revenues, hindering economic growth.

The vast and rapid changes to our landscapes, food production practices, and other large-scale environmental changes have resulted not only in impacts on wildlife biodiversity and ecological dynamics but also have demonstrated profound implications for human health. Changes in climatic conditions, shifting pathogen host ranges, altered interactions with natural environments to meet the demands of Africa’s growing population and other environmental changes are driving increased disease incidence and burden for endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases, as well as non-communicable diseases. The close relationship between biodiversity and emerging diseases has been demonstrated over the years through diseases such as pandemic influenzas, Nipah, SARS, Ebola and currently the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ongoing pandemic has been reported to have originated from wild animal trade in China, with the pathogen suspected to have originated from bats and passed to humans through pangolins. Numerous pangolins are shipped out of Africa annually, through trade. Wildlife trade means taking and selling dead or living plants and animals and the products derived from them. Some of these are legal. But much of it is not; the U.S. State Department estimates that wildlife trafficking is the third-largest type of illegal trade, after drugs and weapons. Animals such as the African grey parrots and the Rock Python may be wanted as pets. Meat from wild animals may be in demand as a delicacy. Through trade, this meat is distributed beyond the hunters and their families, which places millions of people at the risk of the diseases as meat veterinary controls are not implementable along the chain as it is in slaughterhouses for domestic animals. Many animals from protected species are killed for meat and most of the hunters are poachers and therefore are avoiding all types of control. Animal skins and hides may be sought for rugs or as leather for handbags or shoes. Animals and their products may also hold medicinal properties that can be exploited for the benefit of human beings and used as status symbols or decor. Plants, including wood from trees that are already excessively logged, are in demand for furniture or ornamental or medicinal purposes. Indeed, one of the objectives of the ASCIE&ITW&F Strategy is to promote the participatory approach with economic development and community livelihoods through sustainable use of wild fauna and flora. Wildlife trade is big business, with wild plants, animals, and products made from them sold around the globe, legally and illegally. Illegal trade can lead to excessive extraction, and therefore this kind of trade is unsustainable. The economic impacts of emerging diseases are high, running into hundreds of billions of dollars, and they are linked to underlying threats to wildlife conservation and other drivers of disease emergence such as demography and changing climatic patterns.

Achieving the African dream of an integrated and prosperous Africa necessitates adopting an integrated One Health [Public, Animal and Environmental Health] approach to the management of diseases and leveraging on the health impacts in order to mitigate the underlying threats to biodiversity and stable ecosystems. This requires effective implementation of wildlife and ecosystem health functions among the African Union Member States. It is noteworthy that in the ASCIE&ITW&F Strategy, Africa commits itself to promote compliance, by African Member States, with international treaties that are developed to promote the protection of wild fauna and flora. Currently, out of the tragic experience from the COVID-19 Pandemic, international organizations such as the WHO and Civil Society Organizations, are calling for drastic measures to prevent future pandemics, which may arise from unsuitable contact or use of wild animals. Indeed, some of these organizations are calling for an end to wildlife trade altogether, out of fearing future pandemics and catastrophic destruction of ecosystems.


Systemic Capacity Building Continental Workshop of Regional Livestock Value Chains

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© 2020 AU-IBAR. Systemic Capacity Building Continental Workshop of Regional Livestock Value Chains. Work Session. © 2020 AU-IBAR. Systemic Capacity Building Continental Workshop of Regional Livestock Value Chains. Work Session. The Livestock sector in Africa exhibits lack of integrated information management processes. This limits the provision of real-time livestock information and knowledge to facilitate decision making among livestock actors at regional and continental level. These observations led over 240 delegates from 43 African countries to publish a communique on Thursday 8th August 2019, in Cairo, Egypt, that among other common interventions identified the need for efficient Information Systems Management as a catalyst to the sustainable intensification of Regional Livestock Value Chains in Africa. The various stakeholders identified the need for more integrated information sharing across the RLVCs through the development of information modules specifically on: Poultry (meat and eggs) for Central Africa; Dairy for East Africa; Meat and live animals for IGAD; Dairy for North Africa; Meat and live animals for Southern Africa; and Poultry for West Africa.

Proceeding the Cairo meeting, AU-IBAR once again convened 160 stakeholders from 50 African countries at a Systemic Capacity Building Continental Workshop: Information Systems, Knowledge Management, and Technology. The consultative workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya held from 3-7 February, 2020. The workshop built upon agreed intervention areas identified during the Stakeholder’s Stocktaking Workshop, to improve the information need capacity of member countries across RLVCs. The workshop attendees comprised livestock value chain actors such as extension agents, Departments of Livestock, and policy makers who were in a position to affect the resources, market orientation and competitive advantage of smallholders, consequently impacting financial performance of the value chain.

Speaking during the official opening of the workshop, AU-IBAR’s Executive Director, Prof. Ahmed El-Sawalhy highlighted existing gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of current data on livestock. He noted that as a result, most livestock value chain actors lacked adequate quality information to support decision making at regional level. Consequently, a key intervention of the work attendees involved identifying critical data content for the selected priority Regional Livestock Value Chains.

The Systemic Capacity Building Continental Consultative Workshop was framed within the broader continental frameworks such as the Livestock Development Strategy for Africa (LiDeSA) that takes a two-pronged approach providing a comprehensive agenda to drive livestock sector economic contribution (including intra and inter-regional trade and promotion of sustainable livelihoods). Additionally, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the 2014 Malabo Declaration, and the AU Agenda provided the justification for the consultative workshop. The Malabo Declaration precisely renewed the commitments to the CAADP made in 2003, broadened the themes of the workshop and provided targets to be achieved by 2025: Some of the targets that were relevant to the Systemic Capacity Building Continental Consultative Workshop include: The exploitation of regional complementarities and cooperation to boost growth; The use of partnerships and alliances including farmers, agribusiness and civil society; Supply of appropriate knowledge, information, and skills to users; and to promote and strengthen platforms for multi-actor interactions.


SADC Regional Stakeholder Consultation Workshop to Refine Implementation Modalities of Catalytic Actions for Prioritized Regional Livestock Value Chains

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© 2020 AU-IBAR. SADC Regional Stakeholder Consultation Workshop to Refine Implementation Modalities of Catalytic Actions for Prioritized Regional Livestock Value Chains. Group Photo.© 2020 AU-IBAR. SADC Regional Stakeholder Consultation Workshop to Refine Implementation Modalities of Catalytic Actions for Prioritized Regional Livestock Value Chains. Group Photo.The African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) is implementing a 5-year project on “Sustainable Development of Livestock for Livelihoods in Africa - Live2Africa”, The project pioneers a coherent continental programme approach to build systemic capacity in seven livestock components, that include: Investment in Value Chains, Animal Health; Animal Production, Productivity and Ecosystem Management; Resilience Building; Technology adoption in the Value Chains to inputs, services and markets; and strengthening institutional capacities.

AU-IBAR in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) conducted a consultative stakeholder meeting at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort in Victoria, Seychelles from 9th to 11th of March 2020 to refine the implementation modalities of catalytic actions for the prioritised Red meat and live animals Regional Livestock Value Chain (RLVC).

The meeting was attended by 31 participants from 14 SADC Member States- Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe; tertiary institutions (Stellenbosch University, University of Zambia, University of Zimbabwe); the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), representatives of the red meat and live animals industry – the Lesotho Abattoir and the National Emergent Red Meat Producers' Organisation (NERPO) and staff from AU-IBAR.

The overall objective of the workshop was to build consensus on modalities including, prioritised intervention and action areas, develop work plans and time-frames, budget and targets for implementation of defined catalytic actions under the SADC Priority Regional Livestock Value Chain of the red meat and live animals.


COVID-19 : How should the Animal Resources Sector in Africa Respond to its Impact ?

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The COVID-19 pandemic whose causative agent is SARS-COV-2, with its origin in animals is causing social and economic disruption of unprecedented proportions. Currently, the disease has been reported in 52 out of 54 African Union Members States (MSs) with over 11, 400 cases and 574 fatalities. From imposing travel bans to prohibiting mass gatherings and lockdowns, governments across Africa, like elsewhere are increasingly adopting sweeping measures in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Animal resources provide economic values for Africa’s population, often serving as a major contributor to food and economic security. Livestock can serve as insurance against risks and as an economic buffer (of income and/or food supply) in African economies (e.g., during droughts). However, their use as a buffer may be impacted by COVID 19. The economic consequences of the pandemic in Africa may well be as significant as its epidemiological impact. This write up identifies some of the impacts of COVID-19 on animal production and animal health and proposes some priority/strategic actions that the African Union Commission (AUC), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and AU Member States (MSs) need to take into account in the short and medium terms to mitigate the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic in the animal resources sector.

The likely impacts of COVID-19 on animal production and animal health

Effects on animal feed availability, veterinary and veterinary public health services, other production inputs and market access

  • Restricted movement will affect the management of animal enterprises that need daily access to basic inputs such as grazing, feed, water, veterinary and other production supplies. Pastoralists, transhumant livestock keepers and fisher-folk dependent on natural resources are particularly vulnerable to movement restrictions. This will result in negative impacts on production and productivity, increased spoilage, wastage, and post-harvest losses along the animal resources value chains;
  • Movement restrictions due to COVID-19 will affect access to and the availability of animal health and welfare, and production services, regulatory/enforcement and surveillance services with concomitant negative impacts on the control of diseases and vermin;
  • Policy responses of social distancing, movement restrictions and in some cases total lock down will affect the youth who are key in fishing activities (marine or farmed) and could drastically reduce fishing activities. This would have concomitant effects on fish production and hence regular fish supplies or availability in the markets;
  • The covid-19 pandemic comes amidst the impact of other environmental threats such as recurrent climate disasters, diseases epidemics and Desert locust invasions which will further compound vulnerabilities and lead to food insecurity and erosion of animal sector livelihoods;

Effects on animal based livelihoods and employment

  • Disruptions of economic activities in the animal resources value chains from production, marketing and consumptions will lead to layoffs affecting livelihoods for many who depend on animal value chains for a living;
  • In the fisheries sector the policy responses to COVID-19 will lead to reduced fishing activity as boat owners (the employers) would inevitably lay off the workers (the fishermen, mainly youth, who go out fishing);
  • Fish farm owners would also unavoidably be obliged to lay off workers on the fish farms resulting in massive unemployment and loss of much needed revenue;

Launch of the Africa Blue Economy Strategy

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© 2020 AU-IBAR. Launch of the Africa Blue Economy Strategy - Group Photo.© 2020 AU-IBAR. Launch of the Africa Blue Economy Strategy - Group Photo.Africa's Blue Economy can be a major contributor to the continental transformation, sustainable economic progress, and social development. During this year’s 33rd African Union Summit in Ababa Ababa, Ethiopia, the Africa Blue Economy Strategy was launched at a High -level Side Event at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa on 8th February, 2020.

Launched under the theme "Developing a sustainable blue economy; increasing momentum for Africa’s Blue Growth", the Africa Blue Economy Strategy’s vision is an inclusive and sustainable blue economy that significantly contributes to Africa’s transformation and growth.

The objective of the Africa Blue Economy Strategy is to guide the development of an inclusive and sustainable blue economy that becomes a significant contributor to continental transformation and growth, through advancing knowledge on marine and aquatic biotechnology, environmental sustainability, the growth of an Africa-wide shipping industry, the development of sea, river and lake transport, the management of fishing activities on these aquatic spaces, and the exploitation and beneficiation of deep sea minerals and other resources.

The Africa Blue Economy Strategy is consolidated the following five detailed thematic technical reports that are annexed to the Strategy:

  1. Fisheries, aquaculture, conservation and sustainable aquatic ecosystems
  2. Shipping/transportation, trade, ports, maritime security, safety and enforcement
  3. Coastal and maritime tourism, climate change, resilience, environment, infrastructure
  4. Sustainable energy and mineral resources and innovative industries
  5. Policies, institutional and governance, employment, job creation and poverty eradication, innovative financing