MANILA, PHILIPPINES – A new $2 million grant will support South Asia’s push to slow the spread of livestock diseases like foot and mouth and avian flu which have caused billions of dollars of losses to farmers and economies in recent years.
“Farm animals are an essential source of food and income, and are farmers’ only insurance against things like crop failure and medical expenses,” said Rezaul Khan, Senior Natural Resources and Agriculture Economist in ADB’s South Asia Department. “Stronger regional measures to monitor, prevent, and control disease outbreaks will help lift rural earnings, boost food security, and make it safer to trade livestock and livestock products across borders.”
The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction is providing the grant that will be administered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Livestock accounts for almost a third of South Asia’s agricultural gross domestic product and a growing and wealthier population means the region will need an additional 4 million tons of meat and 65 million tons of milk annually by 2020. However, animal diseases have been spreading quickly in recent years within and between South Asian countries due to a large informal trade in livestock and livestock products.
In India, livestock losses from foot and mouth disease alone are estimated at around $4.5 billion a year, and in Bangladesh poultry losses from avian flu have totaled over $500 million since 2007.
Concerns are also rising about the spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans.
The funds will be used to set up a formal regional cooperation framework among the member countries of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for cross-border disease control. A regional epidemiology center will be set up in Kathmandu, Nepal to issue regular information on regional and national animal health issues, while a coordination unit in Nepal – supported by laboratories in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan – will manage regional animal health programs. A web-based regional information system will be set up to issue regular animal health reports and public and private sector agencies will get support to expand their expertise in disease diagnosis, surveillance, reporting and investigation of disease outbreaks.
The goal is to help cut disease rates in the heavily affected areas to about 30% by 2018 from about 50% from 2012 and help bring sanitary and phytosanitary standards closer to international levels. This builds on existing activities on livestock disease control by SAARC and follows similar successful efforts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region.