Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | For the recent decades, Africa’s indigenous animals such as the East Africa’s sinewy Ankole cattle; a product of the centuries of selection for traits adapted to harsh conditions, have been threatened with the imported bred animals triggering panic in the livestock keeping communities that the indigenous materials may at one point become unavailable for utilization for the future generation.
But the good news is that the genes of these indigenous animals will now be kept in various gene banks across the continent.
Uganda through the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank (NAGRIC & DB) Entebbe, will conserve and store animal genetic resources on behalf of 12 countries in the East African region.
These include; Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan.
Dr. Charles Lagu, the executive director at NAGRIC & DB who also doubles as the focal person for the regional facility, said the gene bank will help rescue animal genetic resources that are currently threatened or facing extinction.
“We want to have these gene banks such that in case something happens, we can recreate these animals, develop new ones or carryout further research. This is to ensure that these good indigenous breeds are not lost,” he said.
This comes more than a decade since the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other research groups released a report titled “The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources” showing that nearly 70 per cent of the entire world’s remaining unique livestock breeds are found in developing countries, and that there was need to establish gene banks in Africa to store her semen and embryo due to their rich genetic diversity.
This prompted the African Union through its technical office, African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) with the support of European Union, to set up the regional gene banks to act as seed haven for various genetic material drawn from of indigenous breeds that continue to contribute to the social fabric of the African people and tell the historical origin and background of the local population.
Currently, only a few developed countries including the US, China, India, some in Europe and South America have well–established gene banks for their animal diversity.
Dr Mary Mbole-Kariuki, the Genetics Project’s Data Management expert at AU-IBAR, said the new development comes at the time the Ankole cattle that is raised across East and Central Africa was being replaced by black and white Friesian cows and that they will disappear in the next few years.
“Definitely, (it will be) a very big disaster for the East African region,” she said. “Yet, it is evident that drought and disease tolerant attributes are very important to the livestock keepers in the future given the eminent climate change.”
She said the regional gene banks will also serve as centres of excellence with regards to training on use of modern cryopreservation technologies by member states.
“Member states will have full access to their materials and exchange between them is encouraged to diversify their diversity,” she said.
Josefa Sacko, the commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union, said they are optimistic that the regional members will take advantage of the facility and utilise it as a back-up gene bank or more pyrogenic storage for their genetic materials.
“As AU, we have proposed mechanisms in the management and administration of regional these regional gene banks across the continent,” she said.
“These mechanism include; the standard operating procedures for collection, processing, storage and transmission of genetic materials as well as accompanying material transfer agreements.”
She said the onus is now on the stakeholders in the Eastern Africa to put in place measures they consider appropriate for the management and operation of the regional banks whose sustainability will also depend on your commitment both financial and technical.
She said Uganda also need to carry out a cost estimate on how to run the facility so that it is shared among the member states for sustainability.
In addition, a separate animal gene bank that will serve the needs of a backup to provide security against accidental loss will be under the Mandate of the African Union Commission and will be established at the African Union Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC).
AUPANVAC will serve as the Laboratory for the African Union Commission and will hold samples of each region, thus providing for an African ownership and security against accidental loss.
Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, said the government greatly supports the initiative and that it will ensure that it succeeds for the betterment of the regional community.
Other regional gene banks have been established in Burkina Faso to serve the West African region; Botswana to serve the Southern region, Tunisia to serve the North African region and Cameroun to serve the central African region.
Kigezi In Famine Scare After Drought Hits The Region
Farmers in Rubanda district are living in fear that they may be hit by famine due to the prolonged drought that has greatly affected the area. This comes after the area was hit by heavy rains in the month of May 2023, which left most of the gardens washed away, and since then the dry season has started up to date.
This is the first of its kind for Rubanda district and Kigezi at large to undergo such a prolonged drought.
According to farmers, this is the first of its kind for Rubanda to go through a long drought, adding that they are in fear that they may be hit by famine since they were used to receiving rains at the beginning of August, which is not the case this year. They add that even the seedlings that they had planted excepting that the rains would come have all dried up by the long spell.
Farmers also say that they don’t know what could be the cause that has stopped the rains,adding that the government should come up with a program that provides them with seedlings.
Akampurira Prossy Mbabazi, a woman Member of Parliament for Rubanda District, says that the issue of drought is not only in Rubanda District; however, this is the first of its kind. She adds that the drought comes after the area was hit by heavy rains, which caused a lot of challenges, adding that now it is the drought that may affect the farmers.
Akampurira further says that, as a leader,she will continue to educate farmers on better methods of farming depending on climate change.
Kikafunda Evelyne, founder of Green Environment Promotion (GEP), says it’s sad that farmers in Rubanda district and Kigezi at large are experiencing a long drought. She attributes it to problems of environmental degradation that include swamps being reclaimed, deforestation, and plastic pollution, adding that this is an indication that people don’t mind about the environment.
Kikafunda calls upon all people to take part in protecting the environment, adding that environmentalists should devise means on how to protect the environment.
It’s now been four months since it last rained in the districts of greater Kabale, that is, Rubanda, Kabale, and Rukiga districts, as well as other parts of the Kigezi Subregion.
Ban GMOs in Africa, farmers urge govts
A cross section of residents from the oil-rich Albertine Region have petitioned African heads of state to ban genetically modified organism (GMOs) and crops across the continent to save Africa’s indigenous crops and animal species from extinction.
The August 26, petition addressed to President William Ruto of Kenya, the Chairperson of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, asks African heads of states who are meeting this week for Africa Climate Dialogue to pass strong resolutions to ban GMOs.
Africa Climate Dialogue kicks off today in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme “Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the World.”
Co-hosted by the Kenya and the African Union Commission, it brings together heads of state and Government, policymakers, civil society organisations, the private sector, multilateral institutions and the youth to design and catalyse actions and solutions for climate change in Africa.
The petitioners under the Uganda Oil Refinery Residents, have made a raft of recommendations including passing a strong resolution to immediately ban the use and promotion of GMO products in African countries, a resolution for promotion of indigenous species of plant seeds and animals in all African states and another resolution to increase budget allocation for agriculture with focus on research in preservation and conservation of indigenous species of plants and animals in Africa.
“This will contribute to knowledge sharing and awareness creation on the relevance of indigenous species as a response to climate change,” the petition recommends, adding: “Lastly, pass resolution to integrate indigenous agriculture practices in education curriculum in some relevant subjects like agriculture and biology in all African countries. This will enable preservation and increased knowledge among the young people on the need to preserve and promote indigenous species.”
The petitioners, drawn from Kabaale and Busheruka sub-counties in Hoima District Uganda where there are planned oil refineries and other infrastructure, say GMOs present a number of risks and their introduction onto the continent could have a huge negative impact on food security, indigenous crops and organisms, health risks and associated problems.
The petitioners say while different African states have made a number of policies, laws and commitments regarding climate change, including integrating the aspect of climate justice into their different state legislations, as a grass root community whose livelihood entirely depends on agriculture, they still believe that leaders have not done enough to respond to these calamities.
“The major concern is about the use and promotion of genetically modified organisms [for both plants and animals] in Africa.
Uganda, whose backbone is agriculture, once known for its indigenous plants and animals now faces many difficulties in dealing with these invasive species. Maintenance and management strategies of these species require a lot of capital in terms of purchasing inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, among others,” the petition reads in part.
The petitioners say with the worsening climate change, the introduction of one season fast maturing plants has made it difficult for farmers to plan. They argue that GMOs, which they claim are invasive species onto the continent, cannot withstand climate change and weather vagaries and therefore increase food insecurity on the continent.
“As earlier stated, these species require many inputs in terms of chemicals like fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, processed feeds, and vaccines, among others that are all expensive for the ordinary African farmers,” they add in the petition.
The petitioners also contend that in Africa, more than 85 percent of grass root communities heavily rely on rain-fed agriculture and that the ‘invasive species’ are not resistant and not compatible with the local environmental conditions.
“As such, they require effective irrigation as an alternative, which is extremely expensive for grass root communities. Whereas these GMOs were initially introduced as a solution to enhance agricultural productivity and food security, there has been a concerning trend of a financial strain on communities due to the high costs associated with these invasive species,” the petition states.
“Buying seasonal seeds for planting and agricultural inputs to manage these species among others is not sustainable and oftentimes leads to significant drain of limited financial resources within the communities. The local farmers are often compelled to divert funds from other essential needs such as education, healthcare and basic infrastructure development,” the petition adds.
They also say there is an increased outbreak of pests and disease, which is attributed to the increase in temperatures caused by the changing climate. Unfortunately, they say, GMOs are prone to attack by these pests and diseases.
They also say the GMOs present huge health risks to the local communities, who are illiterate and do not understand the precautions to follow while using these pesticides and herbicides.
This, according to the petition, exposes the users to high risks of contracting diseases through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact that can lead to acute and chronic health related issues.
“These include respiratory diseases, skin irritations, neurological disorders, and even certain types of cancers in the end. Most grass root women are also worried about the consumption of these genetically modified organisms since they are mainly treated with chemicals; others are injected with hormones to increase their shelf-life spans,” the petition states.
Source: Daily Monitor
NEBBI: Livestock disease kills 14,000 goats
Nebbi, Uganda. The Nebbi district veterinary department is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a disease which is highly fatal in cattle and other hoofed animals.
At least 14,650 goats have died and 53,397 goats have been infected following the outbreak of the disease which was first reported in 2022.
According to the local authorities, the disease has since spread to a cross all the sub counties like Erussi, Nebbi ,Alala Jupangira Atego ,Ndhew and Kucwiny as well as Nebbi Municipality.
Moreen Awekonimungu, a livestock farmer in Nebbi Municipality says that she has so far lost three goats since the outbreak was reported a year ago. She further notes that an infected animal dies within two weeks after presenting with signs and symptoms of the disease.
The Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) is an infectious disease caused by mycoplasmas and it mostly affects ruminants.
The diseases are transmitted through direct contact and inhalation of droplets from infected animals. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, coughing, difficult respiration, edema, and lung tissue abnormalities.
Emmauel Ongeitho, the Nebbi Municipality assistant veterinary officer blames the persistence of the diseases on the poor attitude of farmers against vaccination of their livestock. According to Ongeitho several farmers shunned the mass vaccination exercise which resulted in a spike in livestock deaths.
According to Dr. William Abedkane, the principal veterinary Officer for Nebbi district, the outbreak which started last year has been killing goats silently since farmers are hesitant to report the cases to the veterinary officers in their respective sub counties.
Abedkane further appealed to farmers to pay attention to animal health just like they do with their own health.
According to information from the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the outbreak of Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP disease was first confirmed in Uganda in 1995 in Karamoja region.
Original Source: URA Via The Independent.
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