Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
This is not the best of times for pig farmers in Ogun State. Their pens have been seriously devastated by the deadly African swine fever (ASF).
The viral animal disease, which affects mainly pigs, broke out in Ijebu North East Local Government, particularly, Atan, its headquarters, in June. It spread like wildfire to the adjoining towns of Ijebu-Ode, Odogbolu, Ago-Iwoye and some towns in Remo.
Being a highly contagious disease, pig farmers in Ogun Central and parts of Ogun West have had their own share of the wanton death of their animals. The largest cluster of piggery farms in the state, Matogun, in Ifo Local Government, was almost shut down due to the ASF.
In Matogun alone, more than 50,000 pigs died, leaving the farmers to wallow in loss and pains. Several millions of naira in investment also went down the drain. Farmers, under the aegis of Ijebu North East Pig Farmers Association, who spoke to Daily Sun, lamented that, since the epidemic started, farmers have totally lost their means of livelihood. Its president, Samuel Ogunsanwo, said 20 farmers incurred huge debts, with some of them hospitalised as a result of the losses: “We have been hit by the devastating disease. Swine fever has swept through Atan, the headquarters of Ijebu North East LG, one of the largest local governments with piggery farmers.
“Some of us have been left devastated. We have lost about several millions of naira to the Africa swine fever, between June and July. The virus is highly deadly and, as there is no cure for it now, there is nothing we can do to curtail it.
“This is the first time we are witnessing it in our area; it has been in Ijebu North, in Lagos State, and some other adjourning locations to our area.”
He described ASF as a major threat to the pig industry in Nigeria and Africa at large, bemoaning the heavy losses incurred by pig farmers whenever it strikes.
One of the affected farmers, Mustapha Oluwaseun Temitope, likened the swine fever to the COVID-19 pandemic: “There is nothing you can do about it. Just do not allow any animal that has the disease come near your animals or else they will have it. When they have it, the virus will attack organs and when their organs collapse they die.
“What we do is that once it happens, we isolate the affected ones. When they die we bury them in the pit provided for that purpose. We do not allow humans to eat them. We have more than 11 pits we have dug where we dispose of the dead animals to avoid any environmental or health hazard.”
The pig farmers appealed to government to come to their aid to mitigate their financial losses. Joseph Kasumu, chairman, Pig Farmers Association, Remo North LG, said government should support them with monetary compensation, chemicals and sprayers to curtail the spread of the disease.
He urged his fellow pig farmers to always fumigate their farms and keep their environment clean. He advised that strangers to their farms should also be made to sanitize their hands before entry: “Any new pig brought from outside the farm should be isolated and given treatment for at least one month, before allowing it to mix with other pigs.”
A farmer in Matogun piggery cluster, Mrs. Christiana Felix, said her pen lost 250 pigs to the ASF. She lamented that the disease has dealt a big blow to her business and others in the cluster. She said some farmers, who could not withstand the huge loss, had died due to shock and depression: “I have decided to take a break from the business. State and federal government should assist affected farmers to get back on our feet.”
AFAN seeks compensation
The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) has appealed to government to compensate pig farmers who lost their livestock due to the ASF outbreak. Its secretary, Ogunjimi Abiodun, said: “Some farmers have become ill, and some have been hospitalised due to worries over their losses.
“Compensating these affected farmers will assist them in regaining their livelihood. Many of them have lost their means of livelihood since the beginning of the swine fever outbreak.”
He said, apart from government assisting in mitigating the spread of the swine disease, compensation should also be considered for the farmers:
“When the swine fever outbreak started, the pig farmers notified AFAN, while we called the attention of the state Ministry of Agriculture to it. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Veterinary Department had collaborated in organising workshops for farmers to sensitise them on how to control the spread of the disease.”
Commissioner for Agriculture, Samson Odedina, said though ASF is not transmittable to man, it can cause incalculable economic losses to pig farmers because of the scale of devastation. He disclosed that the viral disease, which was also causing havoc in Europe, China and America, had no cure.
He said the outbreak was reported to the Federal Government through the National Animal Disease Information System (NADIS). He, however, added that veterinary officers have been visiting affected farms, while his ministry stepped up advocacy to enlighten farmers on steps to take to prevent further spread of the disease.
“The Federal Government has given Ogun 400 litres of CID 20, a strong disinfectant, to complement the ones in stock, to control the disease,” he said.