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The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) defines biosecurity as a set of management and physical measures designed to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of animal diseases, infections or infestations to, from and within an animal population. The growing importance of poultry in developing countries and the emergence of new zoonotic pathogens, like Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), has highlighted the importance and the need to implement biosecurity measures in backyard and rural poultry farms to minimise human health risks and economic losses.

Poor management practices and absence of disease control strategies often result in high levels of mortality due to predators or infectious diseases. Diseases such as Newcastle Disease (ND), Salmonellosis, Gumboro disease or Fowl typhoid, continue to erode the productivity of rural poultry farmers, depriving them of an important protein source.

Although there is no single biosecurity plan suitable or applicable to all farms, a plan for each farm must include measures and steps implemented in mitigation of identified risks, and broadly include isolation, traffic control and sanitation.  It should aim to minimize or prevent introduction of disease-causing agents and protect animals from predators and vermin infestation.

Potential disease sources include, but are not limited to; people, equipment, supplies, vehicles, wild animals, pets, feed, water supplies, dropping and manure. Some preventive measures are, for example, to build suitable housing and physical barriers (fences), control and restriction of people movement, or cleaning and sanitation (including disinfecting poultry houses, people and equipment and foot bath). These controls could go a long way to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of animal diseases, infections or infestations.

GALVmed has partnered with LAPROVET in Senegal in a project that amongst others, aims to promote prophylaxis practices and biosecurity measures to retailers and farmers. Participating farms and farmers are initially audited to establish a baseline and to identify potential risks. A prophylactic (vaccination) and biosecurity plan is drawn and the farm re-audited every 6 months to ensure compliance and measure improvements. In addition, field trainings to promote prophylaxis practices and biosecurity measures are conducted for veterinarians and farmers. The project has also produced an educational video on biosecurity.  

Biosecurity is often a standard practice in commercial farms, however, the sustainable implementation in rural and emerging commercial farms requires raising farmers’ awareness and knowledge regarding these measures.

Written by Thembinkosi Ramuthivheli, Senior Manager, Commercial Development in Africa