The PRISCO19 training provided farmers with basic management skills to identifying best practices that ensure food and nutrition security.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the livestock industry globally, disrupting animal production and welfare, access to markets and resources. In the Pacific, livestock has cultural significance for many communities as the main feature of customary events and plays an important role in sustaining livelihoods and the economy.

To alleviate the strain on food security caused by COVID-19, the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture, in partnership with SPC, organised trainings in June for pig and goat owners in the Rarotonga area.

The trainings were part of the Pacific Regional Integrated Food and Security Initiative to COVID-19 (PRISCO19) project funded by the European Union. PRISCO19 is a pandemic response that aims to improve food and nutrition security in the Pacific.

Photo: SPC

“The training covered animal welfare concerns, particularly during the pandemic, as lockdowns and restricted movement meant lack of human resources to maintain animal care, shortage of feed and other essential supplies. Farmers and livestock workers are wary of transmitting or carrying the virus, and potentially putting others at risk. The training offered strategies that could alleviate these risks and improve overall food safety and hygiene,” said Director of SPC’s Land Resources Division Karen Mapusua.

Approximately 45 farmers participated in the training that also included over 500 pigs and goats. The training provided farmers with basic management skills for pig and goat farming, in addition to identifying best practices. The spectrum of topics from farm management thematic areas included breeds, rearing, weaning, and breeding. The training also raised awareness of the Ministry of Agriculture’s role in supporting farmers.

In addition to the trainings, a series of field technical sessions was provided to farmers. The sessions covered hoof trimming, dehorning, tethering practices, identification of signs and symptoms for pig and goat deworming, guidance on shelter and housing for goats and pigs and prevention of diseases caused by parasites.

The Ministry of Agriculture carried out a deworming programme for goats and pigs that farmers can access for free.        

Although there are ongoing efforts to improve and grow the livestock industry in the Cook Islands, farmers still face challenges. These include lack of technology, infrastructure and equipment for veterinary care, limited technical capacity, poor laboratory access, lack of knowledge and capacity for animal welfare and biosecurity planning.

These challenges are recurring issues across the Pacific due to the geographical and socio-economic context of the region. Recommendations highlighted during the event include conducting a livestock disease surveillance and animal census for the Cook Islands and further practical training on disease signs and symptoms and prevention methods. This also includes improving and strengthening protocol requirements to access laboratories for testing, quarantine, and further training on best tethering practices to reduce the risk of animal harm and injury, as well as a follow-up management training on best farming practices for goats and pigs. Further consultation on minimum welfare standards is needed to ensure farmers are aware of these practices.

As the Pacific continues to struggle with COVID-19, efforts such as PRISCO19 have been crucial in helping farmers and communities ensure food and nutrition security. PRISCO19 has promoted and improved collaboration between key stakeholders such as the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture and SPC, in turn contributing to better livestock care and management.

PRISCO19 as a rapid response project to COVID-19 is part of the larger Pacific Regional Integration Support (PRISE) Programme aimed to assist greater economic integration among the small and scattered countries of the region and between the Pacific Region and the global economy. Its overall objective is to contribute to improving economic and social benefits for Pacific states arising from stronger regional economic integration.

This story was published at SPC on 6 August 2021 by Naheed Hussein, reposted via PACNEWS.

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