Science - November 3, 2005

Wageningen improves Afghan animal husbandry

Although the situation is still not peaceful in Afghanistan, a big project is about to start to improve livestock farming there. Wageningen UR will work together with three partners over the next four years to improve government services, which should lead to health improvements in the country’s fifteen million sheep and goats. EuropeAid, the EU aid organisation, has reserved 4.6 million euros for the project.

Sheep and goats are the main forms of livestock in Afghanistan. There are already small posts in rural areas where farmers can get their animals vaccinated against tuberculosis, anthrax or foot-and-mouth disease. The project is intended to increase the number of clinics and improve their service. In addition, laboratories also need to be improved, as do the frontier posts, where checks are carried out to ensure that animals being imported are free of disease. A large part of the project will consist of training and education.

Dr Remco Schrijver of the Animals Sciences Group was responsible for acquiring the Wageningen UR component of the project. He commented on working in an area where armed conflict continues: ‘You can’t restore peace to a country by military means alone. People need to be able to make a living and have future prospects. For many Afghans these revolve round animal husbandry. Making improvements in this sector is likely to increase the stability of the country.’

According to Schrijver it is safe enough to work in Kabul and the northwest part of the country. ‘If it becomes to unsettled we will not be able to send people there. But the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan, that is also helping us with this project, has been active in the area for many years, proving that it is possible to work there.’

Experts from ASG and from the International Agricultural Centre (IAC) will be working on the project. Activities include capacity building in the Afghan ministries involved in animal health, and providing technical laboratory training. Schrijver cites the example of the Afghan vaccine institute, where the quality of vaccines needs to be improved. Experts will investigate whether the vaccines made locally are good enough, or whether it would be better to import vaccines from other countries. / JT

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