Veterinary Research

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreak: Conservation International and Peace Parks Foundation call for a non-geographic, science based approach

Conservation International and Peace Parks Foundation are urging policy makers in South Africa to use a non-geographic based trade approach following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle in the Vhembe District of Limpopo, South Africa. Foot-and-mouth disease, which affects cloven hoofed livestock and wildlife, has the potential to devastate southern Africa’s agriculture, but also poses a huge threat to conservation and rural development. While the virus is highly contagious, it does not affect people or pose a public health risk like listeria or mad cow disease.

The management of the outbreak has the potential to have a significant economic impact due to bans on movement and exports of livestock. Farmers in the infected zones cannot move their animals and associated products outside of the area, effectively eliminating their ability to sell and earn income. The export ban also affects  the entire livestock industry due to the crash in domestic prices.

Geographic-based bans also have negative environmental impacts. In southern Africa and across the region, foot-and-mouth disease naturally occurs in free roaming African buffalo that occur in large conservation areas. These areas and surrounding landscapes, are therefore deemed infected zones. As a result, communities living adjacent to wildlife areas have no way to derive a livelihood from their livestock, resulting in reduced animal off-take during dry periods. Guided by outdated international trade standards, governments spend fortunes to build or try to maintain game-proof fences that separate infected zones from others. In many instances, such fences severely affect biodiversity conservation and tourism development efforts.

Sarah Frazee, Chief Executive Officer, Conservation International South Africa, joins others in making the following policy recommendations:

  • Policy-makers must adopt and implement an already available “commodity-based trade” (CBT) standard that focuses on the risk associated with the product to be traded as opposed to the risk associated with the area of origin. This non-geographic based trade approach does not require disease free status for exports or local trade, but rather relies on risk mitigation measures implemented along the value chain of a product. This approach radically reduces the impact of an outbreak by ensuring non-infected animals are still able to be used to generate revenue and livelihoods if products derived from it can be proved to pose negligible risk.
  • Legislatures must respond to this latest threat by integrating and creating an enabling policy framework for commodity-based trade that is science based. The testing and development of non-geographic trade standards for both domestic and international trade must become a national priority in line with the vision  of the Southern African Development Community who resolved to support CBT since the Phakalane Declaration in 2012.

Establishing “no trade zones” and placing blanket export bans hurt livestock farmers and conservation alike

Sarah Frazee, CEO Conservation International

A non-geographic, science based trade approach is much more effective in mitigating socio-economic losses for farmers and for conservation and development, while still maintaining the appropriate health and biosafety measures.”

Since 2017, through the Herding for Health Programme Conservation International, Peace Parks Foundation and South African National Parks have supported a new social enterprise, Meat Naturally, to pioneer the use of commodity-based trade protocols to facilitate market access for communal farmers living adjacent to Kruger National Park in exchange for improved rangeland management and wildlife protection in the buffer zone.  Gerbrand Nel, general manager of Meat Naturally, states, “the outbreak has already caused a 50% decrease in prices paid to farmers in our operating areas.”



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