The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations, has announced that the growing farming sector around African cities poses public health threat if not properly regulated. It appealed to African governments to immediately regulate the urban livestock sector.

The FAO said in the next three decades, society and the agricultural sector in many Africa countries will transform due to population growth, urbanisation, technology and climate change.

Its Future of Livestock reports, prepared with national Governments and the United States Agency for International Development, present a range of possible scenarios with policy recommendations for the sustainable future of the cattle and poultry sectors in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.

Growing demand in cities

The demand for livestock products including beef, milk and poultry, will double to triple in the African continent by 2050. About 70 percent of the demand for livestock products will be in urban areas, where the majority of Africans will reside.

“To meet the growing need for meat and dairy products, we expect to see an increase in mid-size farms emerging around cities in many countries in Africa. But if this happens quickly without regulation, it could present a public health concern,” Ugo Pica-Ciamarra, Livestock Economist at FAO said.

Current policies and regulations are often focused on smallholders or large farms and miss out the growing mid-size sector in urban and peri-urban areas.

“The danger is that these areas around cities, where medium-sized farms are popping up, are densely populated. This leads to increased health threats, including from livestock diseases which can jump to humans, like avian influenza,” Pica-Ciamarra said.

A greater number of unregulated farms in highly populated areas could also lead to increased use of antimicrobials which contribute to antimicrobial resistance in humans, and bad waste management which results not only in unpleasant odours but also contributes to environmental degradation and can contaminate soil and local water resources.

“Regulation and enforcement are essential for protecting people, natural resources and the environment in and around cities. It is important to raise awareness on safe farming practices including good biosecurity and responsible use of antimicrobials, among farmers, producers and other value chain actors,” Scott Newman, senior animal health and production officer at FAO regional office for Africa said.

Newman said the recent operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will further increase trade among African nations and require proper regulation of production systems to facilitate safe inter-African trade and sustainable development.

The Future of Livestock reports advise Governments and local institutions to put in place and ensure compliance with regulations, for example on proper handling of livestock products along the peri-urban value chain, and on biosecurity measures in urban livestock markets. Supporting this growing sector will help to provide affordable and safe food to the population while protecting against serious public health and environmental threats.

Global relevance

The report authors engaged national stakeholders in order to model the future of livestock, building around known quantitative elements, for example FAO long-term agricultural projections, and uncertain qualitative dimensions, such as consumer preference. Assessing scenarios based on the future state of economic and governance systems is a methodology which should be applied in any country with a growing livestock sector.

FAO is also using this approach at the request of countries in Asia as well, in order to advise on livestock policies for long-term sustainability.

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