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Antimicrobial resistance awareness week shines spotlight on poultry producers

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Picture: EPA-EFE / Taken May 2021 – A small-scale chicken farmer holds one of her 300 chickens in Unidale outside Harare, in May 2021. The Farmer Field Schools programme, which started in June of that year, is reaping results in improving poultry farming practices.

By Xinhua Staff

Poultry farmers in Murewa, a farming area about 100km from Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare, are killing two birds with one stone by practising sustainable farming through limited and judicious antimicrobial usage.

By substituting indiscriminate antimicrobial usage with sustainable practices to maintain the health, production and welfare of their chickens, the farmers are not only contributing to the global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) fight, but their sustainable practices have also increased farm productivity, thereby improving livelihoods.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines, and the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants are the main drivers in the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become difficult or impossible to treat, increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness, disability and even death.

As countries marked World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which ended on Friday, the farmers have proved to be proactive in addressing AMR, which WHO identified as one of the top 10 global public health threats.

With support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and their local agricultural extension officers, the farmers are educated and capacitated to practise sustainable methods that protect the health of the planet through Farmer Field Schools.

The Farmer Field Schools programme, which started in June 2021 and is continuing, consists of two groups of 25 farmers each.

Before enrolling in the Farmer Field School, Christina Muunganirwa, a poultry farmer, used to practise indiscriminate antimicrobial use.

She said some of the reasons that prompted the use of antimicrobials by some villagers were to mask sub-optimal poultry farming practices such as the use of unclean water, improper housing, poor hygiene and improper vaccination.

“We ensure that the poultry are not exposed to cold and excessive heat. If you take care of the chickens, they can reach maturity without the need for antibiotics,” Muunganirwa told Xinhua on Wednesday. “If they get sick, we don’t rush to use antibiotics, we have to consult professionals before doing so.”

Happymore Muchenje, another poultry farmer, said the initiative has been a game-changer. “They taught us that the water we give the chicken for drinking should be clean to such an extent that you can drink it,” Muchenje said.

Muchenje, who had traditionally practised subsistence farming, said best farming practices have also resulted in increased production, which in turn empowered women, thereby improving livelihoods.

Amanda Gwangwadze, an agricultural extension officer, said all poultry farmers should be educated on anti-microbial resistance.

Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Care Minister Douglas Mombeshora said the country must mitigate the AMR challenge by using antimicrobials prudently and rationally.

“We must not forget that the antimicrobial resistance response requires a whole-of-society approach, hence all of us are called upon to play our part in the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance,” said Mombeshora in an address during the official opening of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. – Xinhua