In an effort to develop the workforce capacity of the animal sector of Liberia for the effective control and prevention of animal diseases, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Emergency Center for Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Monday, October 26, 2020, commenced a 3-week intensive training for 30 community animal health workers (CAHWs) chosen from six counties including Grand Bassa, Bomi, Margibi, Rivercess, Sinoe and Grand Kru counties.
The training funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is held on the University of Liberia’s Fendell Campus.
According to FAO, the ongoing training brings together 58 CAHWs to be trained in animal diseases.
Speaking on behalf of the FAO Country Representative Mariatou Njie during the opening of the training workshop, the Country Team Leader of FAO ECTAD, Dr. Ibrahim Gashash Ahmed, said that FAO has always been a partner to the development and strengthening of the agricultural sector of Liberia.
He said through the ECTAD program with financial support from USAID, the situation of manpower development in the animal sector has been taken seriously.
“We’re working to develop the workforce of the animal sector with the aim of preventing animal diseases. But one of the main things we are trying to do now is to institutionalize the strategy in so many ways. We have started talks with the University here in Liberia on how we can partner to train para veterinarian professionals,” he said.
He said workforce development is one of the core challenges that they have identified under the strategy.
He added that another intervention that was implemented at the global level by the world organization for animal health is the performance of veterinarian services and gap analysis that identify the challenges that countries are facing at various aspects of animal health delivery services.
According to him, some of the key things identified for the development of the animal sector in Liberia include manpower development in terms of training, infrastructures, equipment, and to bring about legal reforms.
“What is happening in other African countries is that the CAHWs who themselves are livestock farmers are recognized as the first responder of animal diseases under critical situations,” said Ahmed.
He told the participants at the training workshop that this kind of training will enhance the capacity of CAHWs to make them carry out a timely response to the disease emergency.
“Technically, CAHWs are front liners of animal health services providers in the communities, and one main thing they need to consider is that they are behavior change communication agents,” he said.
“One of the things that we also look forward to is that you animal health workers will use your skills as behavior change communication agents because a lot of the time people know and hear about diseases, but getting those things done is another challenge,” he said.
For her part, Fatma Soud, USAID Senior Advisor for GHSA said that USAID is in partnership with over one hundred countries, comprising international organizations and government institutions, to strengthen global efforts to prevent or detect infectious disease threats.
“All of you know about the situation of COVID-19, a situation as a disease that is experienced in a particular country if not prevented will be spread in other countries. It is very important in terms of knowledge access,” he said.
She said that animal health workers are surveillance officers who should be watching the occurrence of diseases in their various communities. According to her, Africa is rich in terms of agriculture and there is no reason why the continent cannot become self-reliant in food production.
Madam Sould said that the GHSA is contributing close to 50 million dollars every year
toward health in Liberia and as such, it was important for the country to note where the finances and activities are being utilized.
She mentioned the upgrading of the Central Veterinary Laboratory as one of the biggest achievements for the animal health sector supported by the U. S government.
“There are plans to support surveillance in Ganta, Nimba County, something that we are in discussing the possibility with FAO,” she explained.
She further added that the U.S government had worked with the Liberians government through National Public Health Institution (NPHIL) to create laboratories that detect diseases.
“There is a Central laboratory that is being placed in the laboratory next to the Public health institute to carry out all of the work about COVID-19 with support from USAID,” she added.
According to her, the U.S government in collaboration with the World Bank and other partners has made the issues of health care and the prevention of infectious diseases achievable.
She used the occasion to call on FAO not to only train the animal health workers but to go as far as empowering them to become effective in the animal sector.
At the same time, she also asked the animal health workers to find a way to continue their education in animal science so as to improve the sector.
“How you work with your community is extremely important. We’re working on a plan for further workforce development; a plan that we are discussing with the Ministry of Agriculture once resources are available,” she said.
Solomon C. Hedd-Williams, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, said the issue of animal production is something that has been left behind for a very long time.
“Capacity building is crucial in the animal sector. Liberia has huge biodiversity and even the country is endowed with a lot of agriculture potential. We need to build the capacity of animal workers who can later see it as a career. He said that the country is in serious need of animal specialists in order to tackle the issue of animal diseases.