Politicians tend to give very good speeches with brilliant policy pronouncements. However, very little is done to actualise the policy pronouncements in their speeches, with nothing to show at the end of their five-year term of office. This could be due to a lack of strategies to implement these policy pronouncements successfully. We write to unpack President Hakainde Hichilema’s speech during the opening of parliament and explain how we think the UPND government can successfully implement the policy pronouncements made in the speech during the opening of parliament. Allow us to start by quoting what the president said in his speech:

“…Madam Speaker, to promote and increase livestock production, the government will focus on stocking and restocking, artificial insemination as well as enhanced disease surveillance and control. The government will also facilitate research in animal breeding, disease prevention and nutrition. Further, livestock market promotion and value addition will be prioritised. We will also support the construction and rehabilitation of livestock infrastructure such as laboratories, service centres and breeding centres across the country….”

We will unpack each item in a separate article. Let us start by suggesting how the “enhanced disease surveillance and control” can be achieved to effectively and sustainably control animal diseases, develop the livestock sector and develop livestock exports. You may wish to know that the whole country is currently RED with regards to livestock disease, among them Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), East Coast Fever (ECF), African Swine Fever (ASF) and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP). This has severely hampered the growth of the livestock sector. To unlock this, we need to approach disease surveillance and control in a decentralised manner. How can this be done?

We suggest that the UPND government MUST classify every one of the 114 districts in our country as GREEN, AMBER or RED. The GREEN districts need little regulation or control of movement and thus need less help to control animal diseases. The AMBER districts are those which needs minor levels of control and a medium level of resources. The RED districts are those where animal diseases are rife and uncontrolled; thus, they will need to allocate maximum resources.

The criteria to classify the districts should be objective and based on things like presence or absence of a private veterinary service, and presence or absence of Diseases of National Economic Importance, the presence or absence of laboratory data, the presence or absence of a co-ordinated farmer group capable of implementing necessary measures, amongst others. The Central Veterinary Research Institute and other stakeholders will be key in classifying districts, as they have data collected for many years on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) statuses of each.

This type of immediate classification will allow the UPND government to make unprecedented changes to the country overnight.

In the first place, in the spirit of decentralisation in line with the UPND manifesto, the administrators can meet with the GREEN districts and task them to make their plans amongst themselves to keep themselves green. They can be tasked to form a District Animal Health Committee (DAHC) and be allowed to freely move their animals with permits anywhere in the country. They can also be tasked to implement their measures to retain their green status, and your government can then apply to the OIE to have them recognised (as soon as possible) as OIE disease-free territories (opening them up for further investment and exports). This, we believe, will be incentivising disease surveillance and control.

In the second place, AMBER districts can be encouraged to do the same and be given a medium level of support as they work towards making the changes they need to make to be allowed to upgrade to the GREEN group. They would be the districts where animals still need to be tested before movement to ensure that diseases do not spread elsewhere and in order to ensure that outbreaks are detected. They can be tasked to work together through a committee and with government support to ensure that viable veterinary services are established.

Finally, the RED districts are then the areas where the UPND government should focus maximum support. Veterinarians and animal health scientists can be allocated to these districts in large numbers. Trainings and vaccination programs can be conducted, and everyone in that area can work towards a completion point that would allow the district over time to be upgraded to AMBER and GREEN.

This idea still needs a lot more work to develop a complete written action plan, but we are confident that the technocrats in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock could easily take it up and run with it if all stakeholders were to agree that it is a workable concept. We, the authors, stand ready to assist the process in any way possible. In the next article, we will unpack stocking and restocking. The future is livestock! Think livestock! Invest in livestock!

Chisoni Mumba, PhD and Amy Cantlay-Kingdom,

Chisoni Mumba (PhD) is Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: cmumba@unza.zm, Mobile: +260977717258
Amy Cantlay-Kingdom (BVSc) is a Private Veterinary Practitioner and Commercial Farmer in Mkushi, Email: amykingdom76@gmail.com, Mobile: +260966898910