From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
Pig farmers in the South East currently live in fear following the recent outbreak of haemorrhagic viral disease called African Swine Fever (ASF) in Ebonyi State. Farmers in other states in the zone expressed worry of likely spread as many of them shared materials including getting feeds from the same locations such as the brewery at Ama, Enugu State.
Members of the state chapter of Pig Farmers Association of Nigeria (PFAN), cried out on Monday, May 24, 2021, given the level of devastation so far caused to their farms and the imminent danger. Pig rearing is one of the main occupations in the state; meaning this outbreak threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of families.
Daily Sun gathered that an outbreak of the disease in Nigeria’s largest pig farm cooperative in the South West last year, claimed some 300,000 pigs valued at over N20billion. More than 3,000 farmers got their livelihood from the most affected farm. President of Oke Aro Clusters, Lagos, managed by the Lagos State Government, Adewale Oluwalana, said it had been 12 years since the last case of ASF hit the farm.
Reports said that at least six million pigs were culled after the virus hit Asian countries in 2019. Although it is harmless to humans, the viral disease can kill pigs within a few days, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The virus can be passed on by direct contact with infected pigs and wild boars, through infected animal feed and on clothing and farm equipment.
Ebonyi State chairman of PFAN, Chief Michael Udenwe, recalled the Oke Aro, Lagos and Ubakala, Umuahia in Abia State, experiences where the disease was first reported in Nigeria. He disclosed that the spread was halted through the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):
“Surprisingly, members of staff, Green-Tech Integrated Farms Ltd in Izzi Local Government, Ebonyi State and other farms within the cluster in April this year, reported unusual deaths of their pigs to the Veterinary Department, Ministry of Agriculture.
“Following the prompt response of the officials, blood samples of the dead pigs were taken for clinical investigation at the National Veterinary Institute, Vom, Plateau State, where the problem was discovered to be Africa Swine Fever. It is important to note that the population of domestic pigs in Ebonyi State is estimated at over 50,000 with an estimated value of N8billion.
“It is also estimated that direct and indirect employment of skilled and unskilled workforce in Ebonyi State pig value-chain is about 5,000 workers, and the consumption of pork contributes about 30 per cent protein to the food security formulae of the state.”
Chief Austin Edeze of Green-Tech Integrated Farms Ltd, told Daily Sun: “Immediately I noticed unusual behaviour of my pigs, some veterinary doctors were invited to the farm. When the tests were going on, we were losing pigs between an average of 10 and 15 in a day. Within six days, we lost 120 pigs and the mortality continued until we lost over 250 pigs.”
He called for urgent intervention from the government and other sectors of the society so that the disease could be contained from spreading to other farms in the state and beyond.
Mrs Josephine Igwe is another farmer whose pigs were killed by the disease at Onuebonyi. She contacted a veterinary doctor as soon as she noticed that her pigs had become weak and could not feed. The doctor administered some medicines to the animals but there was no improvement until all her 12 pigs died:
“After I lost seven pigs within two days, I hurriedly took the remaining to other apartments which I rented from a colleague. On that particular day which I relocated the animals, surprisingly I lost four more and thereafter lost the rest.
“But before then, my colleague’s pigs comprising 20 piglets, growers, breastfeeding and pregnant pigs had already contacted the disease. As I am talking now, the man is already on my neck requesting that I should pay him for the losses.” She sought assistance from to enable her continue the business.
Experts said there should be immediate sensitisation to advice farmers on how to protect the surviving livestock, while government should provide aids to the affected farmers and send fumigate the farms.
Udenwe noted that pig farms are neither tourist centres nor relaxation gardens. He advised that farmers and others involved in piggery should be thoroughly screened before being allowed into other farms to avoid further spread of the deadly disease.
He appealed to Governor David Umahi, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the FAO and other related establishments for intervention in halting the disease and by giving succour to affected farmers.
He said farmers should be provided with motorised sprayer, chemicals for fumigation and finance to enable them go back to their respective farms. He charged farmers to always maintain cleanliness by washing their farm dresses with disinfectants and adhere to the directives given by FAO indicating that any pig that dies of ASF should be buried.