Curbing antimicrobial resistance in the poultry value chain through the farmer field school approach in Zimbabwe

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded a three-week long training for Farmer Field Schools (FFS) Facilitators to contribute towards curbing the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the poultry value chain in Zimbabwe. The objective was to train participants on the FFS methodology; facilitation skills and strengthen their capacity in data collection for biosecurity, antimicrobial use (AMU) and economics related to poultry production. The training was concluded through a graduation ceremony held in Bulawayo on 24 February 2024 which was attended by farmers, senior government officials and extension officers, development partners and FAO representatives from the subregion.

“Through this comprehensive training workshop, the facilitators have gained experience about the intricacies of setting up and guiding farmer field schools, conducting comparative experiments, and collecting essential data to assess the impact of biosecurity interventions. Armed with a diverse array of skills ranging from sustainable poultry production to disease identification and curriculum development, the graduates will emerge as agents of transformation within their communities,” said Mark Obonyo, AMR Programme Lead on behalf of Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

The FFS methodology in the livestock sector is relatively new, having been adopted and implemented more in the crop production sector in Zimbabwe. Broiler FFS specifically serve as participatory hubs of knowledge transfer, equipping farmers with the necessary skills to navigate production while promoting the prudent use of antimicrobials to combat AMR.

Between 2020 and 2023, FAO piloted the FFS approach in broiler production across four provinces in Zimbabwe. In 2023, selected Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) officers from across Africa, including Zimbabwe, went through the standard FFS master training programme in Kenya.

Building upon the successes of the pilot broiler FFS and the need for combating AMR through multi-stakeholder engagement and strategic partnerships, FAO in partnership with the International Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (ICARS) supported the training to upscale the reach of this initiative. The process was led by the Government of Zimbabwe through the DVS and Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD).

“The FFS model is a remarkable initiative that plays a pivotal role in entrenching good agricultural practices. These practices are instrumental not only in increasing productivity in our livestock sector as a country, but also serve as a pivotal step in reducing the incidence of diseases, thereby lessening the need for medications and ultimately contributing to curbing antimicrobial resistance. This complex multisectoral challenge has ramifications across various sectors, emphasizing the need for a One Health multisectoral approach in dealing with this critical issue,” said Dr. Dumisani Kutywayo, Chief Director, Agricultural Research, Innovation and Development on behalf of Professor Obert Jiri, Permanent Secretary in MoLAFWRD.

Programmes on AMR in Zimbabwe are guided by the FAO AMR Action Plan (2021-2025) which was endorsed and approved by member states. FAO’s work in Zimbabwe is also guided by the Country Programming Framework for Zimbabwe 2022-2026, which is a key tool that maps out key priority areas aligned with the Government’s National Development Strategy 1 and FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022 – 2031 which seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.

Going forward, the broiler FFS approach will be implemented in four new provinces while upscaling this FFS approach to other livestock value chains. Enhanced efforts to collect and evaluate data from FFS will also be utilized to influence national AMR/U policy, contribute to global AMR/U data collection platforms, and build an economic case for AMR.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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