Livestock and Animal Health Officers and their facilitators

By Len Garae

The importance of animal health in Vanuatu has prompted the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to agree to fund the weeklong Vanuatu Animal Diseases Surveillance Training Workshop, which is facilitated by the Noumea-based South Pacific Community, at the Department of Forests opposite the Department of Livestock and Biosecurity this week.

The workshop was opened by the Director of Biosecurity Vanuatu, Timothy Tumukon, on behalf of the Director General of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity Howard Aru yesterday.

He begins by reminding the participants of the Prioritised Action Agenda which states that the people of Vanuatu have to be well educated, healthy and wealthy. “Let me remind you today at this workshop that the wealthy part of it is what you are here for; to make sure that the people of Vanuatu are well equipped with knowledge that they need to have, to make sure that they are properly educated and to make sure that out of their education, they are provided with enough wealth to live a good life”, he reiterates.

He reminds the participants of the present policy of the Ministry which emphasises the presence of strength in the systems. “These systems include the system to monitor not only diseases within the animal sector but also in the blood sector to make sure that when our partners ask questions, we have answers to give them,” he says.

But the original systems which maintained animal health had gradually failed due mainly to negligence towards funding from the Central Government.

“For this reason we are very grateful to FAO for funding the programme and to SPC for implementing it,” he says.

He is confident that the workshop become the springboard towards further relevant trainings that the Department has been looking forward to all along.

“It is timely we have this training because we have been questioned on many fronts by our development partners,” he says.

Despite the challenges left by Cyclone Pam, the Director calls on everyone to focus on the objective of the workshop to pull through with good results.

Acting Director of Livestock Lonny Bong says the request for funding for the training was made to FAO in 2002, by the former Director of Livestock, Benuel Tarilongi and himself, through the Country Programme Framework.

“The Livestock Department is developing fast on many fronts and we the Officers of this Department need to equip ourselves to keep in step with the new developments and challenges that are ahead of us,” the Acting Director says.

“Testing (for animal diseases) will be mandatory and not optional and as we are working in close cooperation with the Director Biosecurity, we are striving to establish a system with Biosecurity at some level, and I am confident that this training will equip all Livestock Officers and Animal Health Officers, to be able able to carry out your task successfully in your Provinces in your respective areas”.

The Acting Director of Livestock says at the end of the training workshop, Livestock and Biosecurity will reactivate the Testing Programme throughout the country saying it is vital to maintain the country’s disease free status as recognised by relevant organisations and institutions.

In addition, he says it is important that the testing programme is available to be activated at any time to maintain the country’s present (disease free) animal health status as well as to check on any outbreak of new diseases.

He calls on all the participants to be “proactive and innovative to seek donor support” toward supporting the very important task ahead. “Lastly but not least I also wish to thank the FAO for funding the project and SPC for implementing it,” he concludes.

Dr. Sina Moala of Biosecurity welcomes the workshop as long overdue and encourages the participants to learn all they can from it.

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