Wildlife and Livestock Coexistence Vital for International Trade and Environmental Protection

Addressing disease issues that are a result of the coexistence of wildlife and livestock is important to the international trade of beef. Given the importance of both the livestock and wildlife sectors to many countries across the region, Southern Africa has been reevaluating how best to manage risks from diseases like foot and mouth disease (FMD), as well as the costs and environmental impacts of various disease management options, including veterinary fences. The primary goal is to help Africa’s pastoralists and farmers and at the same time protect free-ranging wildlife.

Animal health and wildlife conservation experts from the five-nation Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) have just concluded a meeting to discuss additional, environmentally-friendly ways to manage trade-sensitive animal diseases like FMD, with an aim towards easing tensions at the livestock-wildlife interface. This meeting held in Victoria Fall was organised by FAO, the KAZA Secretariat, and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The meeting theme was: “Towards Implementation of Commodity-Based Trade of Beef in the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area: Opportunities for Integrating Livestock Agriculture & Wildlife Conservation.”

Southern African and international experts attending the meeting agreed to pilot new approaches to the safe trade of beef and beef products based on the meat production process itself (also referred to as “commodity-based trade”), rather than solely on livestock’s geographic origin as delineated by fencing. “With colleagues from KAZA countries adopting commodity-based trade as an additional regional standard as per new 2015 guidelines from the OIE (Office International des Epizooties – the World Organization for Animal Health), the door is open to a truly win-win opportunity both for livestock farmers and for tourism and related industries involved with transfrontier conservation areas or ‘peace parks,’” said Steve Osofsky of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Animal & Human Health for the Environment And Development (AHEAD) Program.

“If livestock agriculture is no longer solely dependent on veterinary fencing to deal with foot and mouth disease, then KAZA’s vision for the restoration of major movement corridors for the region’s spectacular wildlife, including the world’s largest remaining population of elephants, indeed has a chance of being realized. In addition, with commodity-based beef trade and the local value-added processing it encourages, livestock farmers previously excluded from accessing markets may for the first time be able to find traction in the wider regional economy, and beyond,” Osofsky added.

Patrick Otto, the FAO Head of Livestock Development for Southern Africa said a lot of groundwork was yet to be laid to optimize regional land-uses so that transfrontier conservation and livestock agriculture could find common ground in the interest of regional economic development underpinned by earnest environmental stewardship.

“Over time, as the region gets more experience with commodity-based trade, we hope southern Africa will be able to seize upon the socioeconomic as well as conservation opportunities offered by SADC’s collective vision for transfrontier conservation areas as enabled by strategic realignment of selected veterinary cordon fences. At the same time, commodity-based trade should facilitate expansion of livestock farmers’ access to regional and global markets based on additional, practical disease control policy options,” said Otto.

Morris Mtsambiwa, Executive Director of the KAZA TFCA Secretariat, said: “We are so pleased to have the FAO, Cornell University, and the AHEAD Program join the KAZA Secretariat to support this week’s milestone planning meeting, as we all share in the belief that sustainable development and environmental conservation are in fact inextricably linked, especially when it comes to improving the lives and livelihoods of communities across KAZA.”

The more than 500 000 square kilometer KAZA landscape, which is on the verge of becoming the largest land mass dedicated to wildlife conservation in Africa and possibly the world, is located in the Okavango and Zambezi river basins and includes, the Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta and the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. KAZA is home to spectacular wildlife, including approximately 250,000 elephants, likely more than half of all of the elephants left in Africa.

The importance of the KAZA transfrontier conservation area to the region was reaffirmed in August 2011 when the Presidents of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a binding Implementation Treaty legally establishing the transboundary area focused on economic opportunity and peace among nations, all as grounded in the conservation of the region’s extraordinary biodiversity.

More about the Partners

Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO’s efforts to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Animal & Human Health for the Environment And Development (AHEAD) Program of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is a convening, facilitative mechanism, working to create enabling environments that allow different and often competing sectors to literally come to the same table and find collaborative ways forward to address challenges at the interface of wildlife health, livestock health, and human health and livelihoods. AHEAD convenes stakeholders; helps delineate conceptual frameworks to underpin planning, management and research; and provides technical support and resources for projects stakeholders identify as priorities. AHEAD, launched in 2003 as one of the world’s first applied One Health programs, recognizes the need to look at health and disease not in isolation but within a given region’s socioeconomic and environmental context.

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA TFCA, is potentially the world’s largest conservation area, spanning five southern African countries; Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, centered around the Caprivi-Chobe-Victoria Falls area. The goal of the KAZA TFCA is “To sustainably manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem, its heritage and cultural resources based on best conservation and tourism models for the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities and other stakeholders in and around the eco-region through harmonization of policies, strategies and practices.”

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