MoFA receives approval to spend & recruit in fight against HPAI

MoFA receives approval to spend & recruit in fight against HPAI

Ghana’s Cabinet has given approval for the release of 43,984,017.70 Ghana Cedis to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in its efforts geared at combating the current outbreaks of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza [HPAI] in the country.

The Minister for Food and Agriculture Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, who announced this at a press briefing held this Monday at the ministry, added that the approval came on the back of a proposal his ministry submitted to Cabinet on the subject matter. He said the approval also empowered the ministry to recruit 1,100 veterinary professionals to augment the staff numbers of the Veterinary Services Directorate [VSD] across the country so as to ensure the effective containment of the influenza.

According to Dr. Akoto, Cabinet additionally directed that 50 percent of the 1,100 professionals representing 550 of them, should be recruited immediately whilst the remaining 50 percent is to be recruited over a two-year period spanning 2023 to 2024. Giving a breakdown of how the total approved budget will be spent in taming the HPAI canker, he revealed that some 33 cross-country 4X4 vehicles and 275 motorbikes will be procured to aid mobility and other critical rounds of officers and field staff.

The minister added that, spending will also cover an elaborate public awareness campaign on the HPAI, nationwide engagements with key stakeholders, an active disease surveillance of domestic and wild birds as well as a compensation package for poultry farmers affected. There will also be training and capacity building for new and existing staff while a stamping out and decontamination exercise will be also undertaken.

The Agric Minister observed that Ghana spends over 300 million US Dollars annually on poultry products and that it was a policy and the resolve of government to wean the country off this importation in the next three or so years and thereby, boosting the local poultry industry. He recalled that the influenza started first in the Greater Accra Region in July 2021 and has unfortunately, spread to some six other regions in the country. Within four months of the outbreak for instance, a total of 261, 137 birds have been destroyed through curling and natural deaths. The number of birds killed and destroyed as a precaution in the Upper West region stood at 1,438, that for Western North – 21,149 whilst the Ashanti region had a record of 127,025. In the Central region, the number stood at 15,707 birds.

He said experts project that the current spread rates, could escalate to about 300,000 birds being affected with the disease by December 2021 if Government failed to take urgent steps. In this regard therefore, Dr. Akoto explained that a nine-member ministerial committee comprising members of other allied institutions will be established immediately to oversee the effective implementation of a developed action plan for the containment of the HPAI. This committee will be supported by three-member committees at the regional and district levels for coordination, monitoring and evaluation purposes.

National Director for the Veterinary Services Directorate of the Ministry, Dr. Patrick Abaka who also addressed the press briefing, noted that prior to the current outbreaks, Ghana had experienced other HPAI outbreaks in 2007, 2015 and in 2018. He however assured all affected poultry farmers that, the emergency funding as approved by Cabinet, was a comprehensive one and includes due compensation packages for those caught up in the web of the influenza outbreak. He thus advised farmers against selling out contaminated birds to unsuspecting members of the public.

Meanwhile in a related development, the Chief Director at the Agric Ministry, Mr. Patrick Robert Ankobia, was at the Kotoka International Airport earlier this morning to see off a group of Ghanaian interns under a model of the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme known as the Greenhouse Villages – an intervention being implemented in collaboration with an Israeli company called Agritop.

Dr. Akoto, in his closing remarks, said the interns will spend some 11 months with Israeli Agricultural companies and shall earn between 1,200 and 1,500 Dollars. He revealed that so far, about 520 of such trainees have already benefited from the trip. At present, there are three of the Greenhouse Villages in the country located at Dawenya, Akumadan and Bawjiase with each covering an area of five hectares.



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