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Animal health: First French NGO to offer veterinary skills

AVSF’s work focuses on two complementary areas: supporting smallholder and family livestock farming, and helping countries in the South efficiently organize a system for animal health and veterinary public health.

Farming a vital activity

In developing countries, 600 million people earn their livelihoods through smallholder livestock farming, which in some countries represents up to one-third of the national economic production.

Complementary to crop farming, by providing additional income, it makes use of areas that cannot be cultivated: for example, 70 % of the means of subsistence in mountain, arid and semi-arid regions are from livestock farming. Pastoral livestock farming, which is based on seasonal mobility of animals, constitutes the livelihood of 200 million people and is practiced on roughly one-third of the planet’s surface in fragile ecosystems.

And yet, pastoralism is part of an agroecological approach: it uses fewer inputs, is less polluting than sedentary livestock farming, preserves natural resources better, fertilizes the soil, makes use of crop residues and is often highly productive.

The threats of industrial farming

But industrial livestock farming in the North still exports massive amounts of meat and cheap powdered milk to countries in the South and competes directly with local livestock farmers in those countries. Moreover, the South is not spared the development of industrial livestock-farming practices, which lead to deforestation, over-consumption of water and fossil energies and environmental degradation, contribute to climate change and make smallholder livestock farmers poorer through unfair competition.

3 lines of action

AVSF therefore seeks to promote the independence of smallholder livestock farmers, whose work addresses the challenges of food security, environmental protection and job creation. That’s the focus of AVSF’s Livestock Farming, Animal Health and Veterinary Public Health (ESAP) program, which has three main technical components.

The first component aims to improve livestock-farming techniques: food, housing, reproduction, management of livestock, etc. Those technical improvements boost productivity and income for smallholder families and help ensure their food security: they are effective and sustainable means for promoting local and national food sovereignty.

AVSF strengthens or sets up local animal-health services for livestock farmers, particularly those in isolated areas, by training and structuring local animal-health assistants. Those services improve the health of livestock and herds, which are less affected by disease.

At country level, AVSF supports centralized and decentralized veterinary services in order to have better control over animal diseases, protect public health (zoonoses, quality of meat, etc.) and strengthen the role of livestock farming in each country’s economy.

In all of these areas, AVSF is working to develop the One Health concept on the ground. That concept offers a global and systemic approach integrating public, animal and environmental health (see interview opposite).

AVSF also offers its skills to smallholder organizations and other public and private actors in order to ensure livestock well-being, to protect the biodiversity of domestic and wild animals and to save and make use of traditional ethnoveterinary knowledge.