Livestock trade

Feinstein researchers work to improve livelihoods in Africa

In many parts of Africa, livestock are not only a source of food, but an underutilized trading commodity. Working with international and regional agencies, Africa-based researchers from the Feinstein International Center at Tufts are examining policies and practices to improve animal health and trade in local communities, including constraints around the export of livestock and livestock products.

A Himba boy herds cattle in Namibia. © NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Andrew Catley, research director at the Feinstein Center, contributed to a “Viewpoint” article in The Veterinary Record that highlights the need for a trustworthy process to certify the status of livestock commodities as a means to encourage safe export trade. An earlier paper by Catley and his colleagues addresses the underlying issue of improving health-care services for livestock, a challenge in parts of Africa where there is a dearth of veterinary services.

“Increasing international trade of livestock is a potentially useful poverty reduction strategy for developing regions, particularly Africa, but there are many obstacles that hinder that trade,” Catley said. The Veterinary Record article emphasizes the need for an independent source of certification based on improved international standards to benefit African livestock farmers.

“Under the current World Trade Organization standards that govern international trade of animals and animal products, trade from developing regions to countries like the United States and European nations is hindered because of concerns about government veterinary services in developing countries. These services are often weak, and in some countries, are affected by high levels of corruption,” Catley said. Importing countries “need verification that there is minimal risk of infectious disease agents that threaten human health or the welfare of livestock populations,” he said.

The authors propose that independent certification bodies be used to create verifiable documentation and assure importing countries that traded livestock commodities meet acceptable levels of risk with regards to disease transmission.