Ghana needs concerted efforts to fight Bird Flu-Dr Bissiw

Hannah BissiwThe Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Livestock, Dr Hannah Bissiw, has called for concerted efforts to combat the spread of the H5N1bird flu being recorded in some parts of the country.

She said it was important to collectively fight the flu, because the strain of the avian influenza occurring in the country was the aggressive type which could be transmitted from animals to humans.

Dr Bissiw who made the call during the opening of the 19th Biennial Conference of the Ghana Society of Animal Production in Cape Coast, regretted that not much attention was given to the outbreak which remained a risk to all.

The three-day conference organized by the Ghana Society of Animal Production (GSAP), in collaboration with the Ghana Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Platform, is under the Theme: “Climate Change and Livestock Development.”

It is being attended by representatives from the Departments of Animal Science from four public universities, the Nigerian Institute of Animal Sciences (NISA), and the Animal Science Association of Nigeria (ASAN), as well as livestock farmers in the Central Region.

The Minister said the disease came at a time everything was being done to revive the poultry industry in the country, which she stated was saddled with a number of problems, including the lack of hatcheries and the high importation of poultry and poultry products.

She reiterated that the ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products was still in force, and that a lot was being done to enhance livestock production, so as to meet the nation’s protein needs .

Touching on climate change and livestock production, she said climate change had some repercussion for human and livestock, adding that the situation would bring about an increase in disease and disease-carrying pets.

She said secondary stresses triggered by climate change were likely to include the spread of pets and alien species, loss of biodiversity , new and re-emerging diseases, as well as increases in several human and animal diseases, adding, “ at least a billion people could be forced from their homes between now and 2050 as Climate refuges.”

Dr Bissiw, therefore, stressed the need for the adoption of strategies that would help curb the effects of climate change in the sub-region.

She suggested the use of improved local breeds of animals that were better adapted to climate variations than imported /exotic breeds.

Dr Bissiw tasked the participants to come up with policy documents that would revive the livestock industry in Ghana, increase livestock production and reduce the effects of climate change in the sub-region.

Mr Aquinas Tawiah Quansah, Central Regional Minister, said the government was committed to improving livestock production, adding that a number of interventions, including that small ruminants and cockerel project, had gone a long way to increase the income of farmers, and also created jobs.

He said the Central Regional Coordinating Council in collaboration with the Central Region Development Commission (CEDECOM) with assistance from EDIF, were training more than 500 pig farmers, and hinted that a Pork Processing Factory would soon be established in the region.

He disclosed that 60 farmers in 10 districts in the region had also received 300 improved breeds of goats and sheep.

Professor Paul Nelson Buah, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, said attaining self-sufficiency in food production had been the dream of every government in Ghana, but that the long years of neglect of the livestock -sub-sector had been and continued to be the orphan in the agriculture family.

He said the demand for meat and meat products continued to far outstrip local capacity to supply, resulting in huge import bills for the country.

Prof Buah described the theme as comforting and most appropriate, considering the worldwide scare brought on by the threatening effects of climate change on sustainable food production, as well as new emerging and re-emerging diseases, such as H5N1 avian influenza, swine influenza, Ebola and mad cow diseases.

The participants would deliberate on topics such as, Climate change policy in Ghana, Ghana climate smart agriculture, Climate Smart Mechanization and Modernization of Agriculture in Ghana.

The occasion was also used to confer fellowship honours on five members of the GSAP. GNA

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