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Providing services to breeders: experience and activities of the OIE in Afrca (by A.S. Sidibé)

B.P. 2954, Bamako, Mali
Tel: +223 24 60 53; Fax: +223 24 15 83;

The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) has had considerable experience in providing service to breeders. The OIE has been actively involved in Africa for over twenty years, bringing methodological support both to breeders and to public and private veterinary services.

One of the principal missions of the OIE (international organisation for animal health) is co-operation with national veterinary authorities. The OIE was created in 1924 to prevent the spread of epizootic diseases and to improve animal health in all countries, for the benefit of livestock production and public health.

This objective requires an exchange of scientific knowledge and epidemiological information, the effectiveness of which will depend on the quality, timeliness and relevance of the information exchanged.

For such conditions to be met, each country must have a good animal health defence system for its livestock, involving qualified and motivated personnel – public livestock services, veterinarians, breeders and technicians.

Although the OIE does not carry out field work, the Organisation has solid experience in providing service to breeders, stemming in part from its activities inAfrica

The activities of the OIE in Africa

Since 1980, the OIE has conducted specific activities in Africa . This development began with the decision, taken in November 1980, to implement an emergency campaign to control rinderpest in West Africa .

East Africa was, in turn, affected by rinderpest, the International Committee of the OIE gave a mandate to the Director General in 1982 to seek the necessary funding from the European Community in particular, to organise a rinderpest eradication campaign in Africa .

Once the campaign, initiated with the help of the Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU/IBAR) was underway, the OIE decided that the management of the campaign, known as the PARC (Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign) should naturally rest with the OAU/IBAR. It nonetheless continued to work closely with the latter to help define the PARC strategy. The PARC engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the countries concerned, in order to encourage them to improve the efficiency and sustainability of their veterinary activities, emphasising the following points:

  • the creation of a livestock development fund, to make up for the inadequacy of official budget allotments to this sector
  • restructuring veterinary personnel through privatisation
  • organising breeders in associations and cooperatives
  • training village and pastoral auxiliaries
  • support to vaccine-producing and diagnosis laboratories.

Prior to the creation of PARC, the activities of veterinary services were directed essentially at the most devastating epizootics: rinderpest and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, and the most deadly zoonoses for man: anthrax and rabies.

The Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign has served to reveal the need for new services, and to underscore the importance of meeting existing obligations.

The African breeder: a long-neglected player in animal health

The development of intensive breeding systems near major urban agglomerations was accompanied by the occurrence of pathologies which hitherto had attracted less attention. The spectacular results obtained with well-administered treatments, using high-quality products, made breeders aware of the importance of prevention.

Farmers clearly expressed their expectations at the Bamako symposium of 1994: they sought greater security for their activities, based on secure access to quality veterinary inputs.

It is important that this request is taken into account by refusing the marketing of products that are ineffective or that may leave residues harmful to man.

That is why the OIE has organised several seminars devoted to veterinary drug regulation. Even when such regulations are adequate, they must be enforced, and the necessary verifications must be made, which means that official veterinary services must be efficient. Indeed, the OIE feels that privatisation has its limits, and that its success depends on the existence of an effective public administration. Several OIE conferences and workshops have thus been held on the subject of the organisation of veterinary services, to demonstrate that they can be efficient without being over-staffed.

The farsightedness of the Delegates and their vision of the future of breeding, were expressed at the conference of the OIE Regional Commission for Africa , held in Arusha ( Tanzania ) in 1988. Noting that breeders must be informed and consulted if they are to participate effectively in the formulation of official policies, they recommended that development policies should include the training of breeders and their consultation through representative organisations.

The OIE considers that organisations of breeders, formed to protect the health of their herds, should be made aware of the importance of preventive action aimed at the major epizootics. The success of such organisations depends on the support, or technical assistance, that other animal health stakeholders (private veterinarians and breeding auxiliaries) can provide.

Private veterinarians

Although they do not belong to official veterinary authorities, private veterinarians cannot be ignored, since they collaborate, or may collaborate in the future, with official services on a occasional basis.

Regardless of the theoretical evaluation of the number of private veterinarians required, several practical obstacles to their establishment remain, owing to:

  • the privatisation process, which has placed on the labour market young and inexperienced graduates, trained to meet needs not felt by the breeders themselves
  • difficulties in recovering expenses from breeders accustomed to receiving vaccinations and veterinary care free of charge from the official veterinarians
  • ‘unfair competition’ from public veterinarians or from NGOs and charity organisations.

Indeed, it seems that, in most cases, a private veterinarian can only have a viable practice if he has a sanitary mandate to perform acts prescribed by the State, and thus partially or totally subsidised by it. Results obtained in Chad have shown how effective private veterinarians have been in carrying out vaccination campaigns, at a lower cost to public budgets, as mandating such activities leads to a decrease in State expenditure.

The OIE contribution to the establishment of private veterinarians has consisted, in particular, in the organisation of conferences and workshops on the regulation of the veterinary profession and the sanitary mandate.

Breeding auxiliaries

In certain conditions, for example arid, remote, sparsely or seasonably populated zones, or areas facing insecure conditions, breeding auxiliaries may prove useful.

However, many questions need to be answered before recommendations can be made with regard to the type of tasks that can be given to these auxiliaries, the veterinary products they are authorised to use, and the kind of information they should collect. The relationship between the auxiliaries and veterinarians, particularly regarding the implementation of certain tasks delegated to the latter by virtue of a sanitary mandate, must also be clearly defined. Once these conditions are met, procedures for the official recognition of the role of breeding auxiliaries, and for their ‘certification’, may be established.

Two innovative experiments, one carried out in the framework of vaccination campaigns in southern Sudan , and the other in the Salamat region of Chad , demonstrated the excellent results that can be obtained when pastoral communities and private veterinarians work together.


The following lessons can be drawn:

  • close cooperation between the three players in animal health – official veterinary services, private veterinarians and breeders – can condition the development of livestock farming
  • the contribution of breeders in the design and implementation of animal health programmes requires their participation in associations, which are relatively easy to set up, based on the distribution of veterinary inputs
  • breeders require technical support, provided it is given by qualified veterinarians, well informed of the specific breeding environment, and in particular the human environment
  • the establishment of private veterinary practices constitutes the most challenging problem, given the competition they must face in distributing veterinary inputs in particular
  • for breeder participation, and privatisation, to be successful, there must be strong public veterinary services, with the requisite authority and resources in the fields of organisation, regulation and inspection.

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