ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe has concluded a three-week intensive training program for Farmer Field Schools (FFS) facilitators in Bulawayo to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the poultry industry.

This initiative, which ended with a graduation ceremony is part of a broader effort to mitigate the risks and spread of AMR within the country’s agricultural sectors.

The program was orchestrated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the International Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (ICARS) and the Government of Zimbabwe, highlighting a pivotal move towards sustainable poultry farming practices.

The FFS facilitators underwent comprehensive training aimed at equipping them with the knowledge and tools necessary for successful implementation of the FFS methodology in the poultry value chain. This methodology, while well-established in crop production, represents a novel application in Zimbabwe’s livestock sector, particularly in broiler production.

Through participatory learning and knowledge exchange, the program intends to foster prudent use of antimicrobials among farmers, thus addressing the growing concern of AMR.

AMR poses a significant threat to public health and food security, with implications that ripple through the environment, economy, and society. The training emphasized the importance of biosecurity, antimicrobial use (AMU), and economic aspects of poultry production, aiming to create a cadre of informed facilitators capable of leading by example.

These facilitators are now tasked with setting up FFS in their communities, conducting experiments, and collecting data to evaluate biosecurity interventions and their impact on AMR.

Mark Obonyo, speaking on behalf of FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Patrice Talla, expressed confidence in the graduates’ potential to effect change within their communities. Their newly acquired skills span sustainable poultry production, disease identification, and curriculum development, preparing them to serve as agents of transformation.

Expanding the horizon

Building on the success of pilot broiler FFS initiatives across four provinces from 2020 to 2023, this training marks a significant scale-up in efforts to address AMR through the FFS approach.

The program, led by the Zimbabwe Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) and Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD), reflects a comprehensive strategy involving multiple stakeholders.

Dr. Dumisani Kutywayo, on behalf of Professor Obert Jiri, Permanent Secretary in MoLAFWRD, stressed the importance of the FFS model in promoting good agricultural practices that not only enhance productivity but also mitigate disease risks and reduce dependency on medications.

A vision for the future

The initiative aligns with the FAO AMR Action Plan (2021-2025) and the Country Programming Framework for Zimbabwe (2022-2026), integrating into the Government’s National Development Strategy 1 and FAO’s Strategic Framework (2022 – 2031).

The program aims to extend the broiler FFS approach to four new provinces and broaden its application to other livestock value chains. Additionally, a focus on data collection and evaluation from FFS will support national AMR/U policy development, contribute to global AMR/U data platforms, and help build an economic case for addressing AMR.

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