Discussion on a Selection of Key Scientific Articles


Foot-and-Mouth Disease Impact on Smallholders - What Do We Know, What Don't We Know and How Can We Find Out More?

Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, Knight-Jones, T.J.D., Mclaws, M., Rushton, J., 2016.

Key Thoughts: While a lot is known about FMD at a macroscopic level, the impact at the smallholder level is less clear. However, the disease has a high incidence in those areas of the world where poverty is at its worst. Control measures are costly and can lead to increased problems for livestock owners, making FMD an increased burden. Low input-low output systems are often adopted, as they are more resilient to FMD, but this is self-perpetuating. Disease prevents farmers from adopting systems that will be more profitable. It is important to develop a full understanding of the many factors involved, and this paper helps highlight evidence gaps.

Article Review: Although the impact of FMD is likely to be greatest in endemic countries, with a high distribution of poor livestock keepers, most of the studies on impact have looked at countries where the disease has been eradicated. The individual impact on smallholders has been particularly neglected. The population-level burden is not well understood, and the complexities of the disease make it difficult to estimate.

This means that policy decisions may be made without full consideration of the economic impact of the disease and its control. Better understanding of the impact is required in order to properly shape future policy. This paper presents a review of FMD impact with a focus on the smallholder.

There is no comprehensive analysis of the value created or destroyed by FMD and control. There are a number of studies that look at the impact in different countries, and these do suggest that impact varies depending on a number of factors. These studies often fail to incorporate the variable effectiveness of FMD-control programmes, resulting from variable vaccine quality and limited application of biosecurity, and this leads to an over-simplification of the findings.

Annual losses for dairy smallholders range from $25 per head of cattle to $294, depending on the country studied. In Cambodia, low income families lose around 12% of their annual income. Despite the evidence that vaccination would be beneficial, many smallholders do not vaccinate owing to poor knowledge and understanding, both of the disease and the vaccines.

Gaps in knowledge are identified as the following:

  1. Geographical – certain regions have limited information
  2. Production systems – pastoral and meat production systems are poorly covered
  3. Species – more work focuses on cows, with small ruminants and pigs often ignored despite their importance for smallholders

A global average impact has little meaning, as there are such wide variations in geography and husbandry systems. In certain situations there is a high impact, such as dairy farming, but the impact is less for other farming practices. In endemic regions low input-low output approaches are often adopted as these are more resilient to FMD. Benefits of control are also often situation-specific, affected by biosecurity, animal movements, and wildlife. Overall, the situation is complex and requires further investigation.


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