Beyond Fences: A One-Health Approach to Livestock Production and Wildlife Conservation
Southern African countries are increasingly putting resources towards conserving wildlife areas to ensure that the region’s unique wildlife assemblages persist for generations to come. At the same time, pastoralists and other farmers are trying to grow more cattle for beef to augment their incomes. The question is, then, how do we ensure both a healthy ecosystem and a healthy livestock production system? Steve Osofsky, DVM, of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) addressed this topic in his presentation at the June Ag Sector Council seminar, “Beyond Fences: Policy Options for Biodiversity, Livelihoods & Transboundary Animal Disease Management in Southern Africa.” Watch the short video below for an overview of Osofsky's key points. You can also view the seminar screencast and browse additional resources on the event page.
As a primer for the presentation, online and in-person participants were invited to join early for a screening of Beauty and the Beef, a short film that WCS and partners created to explain the issues facing cattle farmers and conservationists in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. To start off the seminar, Andrew Tobiason of USAID’s Office of Forestry and Biodiversity and Mike Colby of the USAID Bureau for Food Security provided brief comments and background to USAID's work with WCS. Tobiason explained that WCS receives funding through the Sustainable Conservation Approaches and Priority Ecosystems (SCAPES) program. SCAPES promotes economic development through programs that support ecosystem conservation and biodiversity. Colby related the seminar back to his work on the Nature, Wealth, & Power 2.0 Report.
After the opening comments, Dr. Osofsky began his presentation with a brief history of the wildlife / livestock interface in southern Africa, and a recognition that cattle are economically and culturally integral to the region. Historically, many Southern African nations have emphasized extensive fencing as a primary animal disease control measure—keeping cattle separate from wildlife. However, this system has led to significant environmental impacts (deaths of many wildlife animals related to disruption of key migration patterns), and today the fences are not succeeding in preventing the spread of diseases like foot and mouth disease.
In studying how best to balance these competing land-use priorities, the WCS looked for “win/win policy solutions.” Dr. Osofsky and his team have proposed new ways to manage meat production, with an emphasis on quality control along value chains to mitigate the risks of foot and mouth disease while at the same time allowing for a reconsideration of historical fencing policies. If value chain-based approaches to beef production are adopted, wildlife migration patterns currently disrupted by fences can be restored before it is too late. Southern Africa’s new vision for vast transfrontier conservation areas depends on such habitat corridor restoration, and so there is a new urgency to the challenge of producing beef in ways that do not contribute the spread of foot and mouth disease.
A robust question and answer session followed Osofsky's presentation. Topics addressed during this session included community-based veterinary systems, conflict analysis, and private sector engagement. To learn more, check out the screencast available on the event page.