MAL step up efforts against African Swine Fever
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) has launched its National African Swine Fever Action Plan 2022 (the Plan) in a bid to scale up its preparedness efforts against any possible outbreak of the disease, with support from the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (known as PHAMA Plus).
PHAMA Plus is jointly funded by Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. It provides practical and targeted assistance to Solomon Islands to improve market access for key export industries such as cocoa, timber, and coconut, and to strengthen biosecurity capacity to protect these industries.
While there are no confirmed ASF cases in the Solomon Islands, the disease poses a high biosecurity risk with the confirmed presence of ASF in Papua New Guinea and the recent reopening of Solomon Islands borders.
ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that affects and kills wild and domesticated pigs. While it poses no harm to public health, the disease is transmitted through direct contact with infected pigs, and indirect contact through contaminated feed and fomites (clothes, vehicles and farming equipment).
“With no vaccine or known cure, ASF is one of Solomon Islands’ top animal health priorities due to its potential to severely impact on national pig production, as well as our social and cultural environments,” Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Lottie Vaisekavea said during the official handover of the plan.
“As part of the Ministry’s preparedness/awareness strategy, we are making all efforts and taking all necessary measures to ensure the country is protected. This is a concern to us and we must be vigilant given the increased travel into the Solomon Islands. I acknowledge PHAMA Plus and the respective donors and people who contributed to make these Action Plan possible. MAL takes ownership to produce the necessary sweat equity to put it into practice.”
The Plan provides a national integrated approach to enhance the Solomon Island’s capacity to prevent any possible outbreak of ASF, detect it early and prepare for, respond to and recover from ASF should it be detected.
“Aotearoa New Zealand, along with Australia, are proud to support Solomon Islands to strengthen biosecurity capacity and prepare for possible ASF outbreaks. Being able to manage biosecurity risks helps to increase agricultural trade and secure the livelihoods of Solomon Islanders,” said New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Jonathan Schwass.
The Plan is part of a suite of documents that draw on input and feedback from a diverse group of experts and stakeholders gained through a national workshop in 2020 and a number of advisory sessions. The other documents include: ASF Response Strategy for Solomon Islands; Biosecurity Code of Practice for Solomon Islands; and ASF Surveillance Strategy for Solomon Islands.
“Through these documents, PHAMA Plus is pleased to support MAL’s efforts for a strategic and risk-based approach to enhance the Solomon Islands’ ability to prevent any outbreak of ASF, detect it early if it is introduced and to prepare for a swift response,” said PHAMA Plus Country Manager Peter Ramohia.
“PHAMA Plus also supported the production and distribution of ASF awareness materials through MAL (such as signboards, posters and videos) at ports of entry and at community level in several provinces”
In addition to working in Solomon Islands, PHAMA Plus continues to support the Government of PNG to manage the ASF outbreak and with the Pacific Community (SPC) to strengthen animal health capacity in the region. This includes having technical specialists available, awareness raising and distribution of diagnostic kits to test pig health in the field. MAL and BSI, as the relevant national agencies for animal biosecurity in the Solomon Islands, have endorsed the Plan and will oversee its implementation on behalf of the Solomon Islands Government. Relevant industry and civil society bodies will also be engaged on implementation of the Plan.