African swine fever in Uganda : epidemiology and socio-economic impact in the smallholder setting

Abstract: In the last decade millions of people have been able to leave poverty, increasing the regional demand for meat and livestock products. In combination with reforms in market and agricultural policy, this has led to an increase in pig production in sub-Saharan Africa, most notably in Uganda. The growing pig sector could be an important contributor to poverty reduction among smallholder pig keepers. However, the growing pig population has been followed by an increase in African swine fever (ASF) incidence. ASF is a contagious, typically very lethal, haemorrhagic, viral disease of domestic pigs. The overall goal of this doctoral project was to develop the understanding of ASF epidemiology in the smallholder setting in Uganda. Four studies were conducted in two districts in northern Uganda among smallholder farmers, other pig production value-chain actors, and a medium-sized farm. The studies included group- and individual interviews as well as biological and environmental sampling and testing for the virus. Data were analysed using semi-qualitative and quantitative methods. The thesis concluded that ASF was endemic in the study area, and that outbreaks could be detected using retrospective and real-time farmer reports. ASF outbreaks were associated with activities of humans, such as trade in pigs and pig products and free-range management systems. ASF outbreaks had long-term negative social and economic impact for pig production value-chain actors on all investigated levels in the value chain. For smallholder farmers, the impact was aggravated with increasing herd size. Trade and consumption of sick and dead pigs were commonly used as coping strategies. Farm-level biosecurity was insufficient for ASF protection and awareness of control methods did not guarantee their implementation. The continuous ASF transmission in the study area was not driven by lack of knowledge, but rather by cultural circumstances, taboos and poverty. Therefore, in order for control methods to be successfully and sustainably implemented, they need to be developed in participation with the communities, adapted to the local context, socially acceptable, flexible, and cost-effective.

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