EU-funded project refurbishes Gwanda veterinary lab, boosting livestock disease control

The Gwanda Provincial Veterinary Laboratory that services Matabeleland South province has been fully refurbished to improve early detection and effective control of livestock diseases, under a European Union (EU) funded project called the Livestock Production Systems in Zimbabwe (LIPS-ZIM).

The LIPS-ZIM programme is part of a 5 million euro project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with the government to increase livestock productivity through a comprehensive, long-term approach that includes disease epidemiology research and efficient control mechanisms.

The rebuilt Gwanda Provincial Veterinary Laboratory was officially opened on Tuesday and is expected to significantly address one of the greatest challenges to livestock productivity among smallholder farmers.

LIPS-ZIM  will also launch another provincial veterinary laboratory in Masvingo this Wednesday.

Speaking during the ceremony on Tuesday, EU representative Sara Piccoli praised the adoption of innovative techniques and models to transform and impact livestock production while taking indigenous and local knowledge into account.

“I understand the laboratory is already actively involved in the diagnosis and control of animal diseases throughout the Gwanda district, so a big round of applause for that great news. What we expect to see now are concrete changes for farmers using the knowledge and tools provided by the lab since the project’s inception to detect and effectively control the most common diseases affecting their livestock through access to veterinary services,” she said.

Piccoli regarded the LIPS-ZIM project as  “very ambitious” because it aimed to change perceptions about livestock and use it to incorporate locals of the rural population who work in the local economy into the larger national economy. 

Many rural households rely heavily on livestock production for food, wealth, draught power, and social well-being, with estimates indicating that smallholder farmers own 90 percent of the national cattle herd, 98 percent of the goat flock, 90 percent of the sheep flock, and 80 percent of the pig herd. 

However, the Department of Veterinary Services reported that over 500 000 cattle died from January Disease since 2016, noting that Zimbabwe has battled outbreaks of animal diseases such as January Disease, also known as theileriosis, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) since the early 2000s, with smallholder farmers bearing the greatest risks and losses from the disease outbreaks.

LIPS-ZIM is implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), University of Zimbabwe Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, and the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS).

Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister for Matabeleland South, Evelyn Ndlovu said the government was pleased that the LIPS-ZIM project is well aligned with its  key development priorities and agenda,

“ILRI and its partners are on the frontier in improving livelihoods through livestock and nutrition interventions. This Partnership will allow us to join our resources, expand our reach and life-changing interventions to our community together, and achieve results in more cost-effective and impactful ways,” she said.’

LIPS-ZIM project coordinator, Sikhalazo Dube said ILRI was excited to launch the laboratories with the support of the EU in providing resources to help the people of Matabeleland and Masvingo find prosperity in livestock production.

In Zimbabwe, Tick-Borne Diseases (TBD) are said to be the major cause of over 60 percent of ruminant livestock deaths with theileriosis, being the main cause of TBD-induced cattle deaths in the country. 

During the 2022/2023 rainy season theileriosis claimed an unusually high number of cattle, surpassing the records of preceding years, which forced the country to declare war against January Disease. 

LIPS-Zim is a four-year project implemented in six provinces in Zimbabwe and nine districts to increase agricultural productivity in semi-arid agro-ecological regions IV and V by promoting increased adoption of climate-relevant innovations in livestock-based production, improving surveillance and control of livestock diseases.

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