Anne Mireille Nzouankeu | July 30, 2012
Dieunedort Mouaffo is a hog farmer in Bafoussam, the capital of the Western Region of Cameroon. On July 23, all 38 of his pigs were culled in efforts to halt the African swine fever epidemic that has spread through the country since April. Sitting on a stool near his barn, he mumbled the same phrase over and over: “The credit, I am dead, credit, I’m dead.” Then Mr. Mouaffo fainted and was taken to a health centre.
On awakening, he confided that to start his pig-rearing business, he had mortgaged the land title for his house to get a bank loan. He had devoted all his energy and resources to the operation. He laments, “And at the moment when I had to cover all my expenses, I lost everything. How will I pay off my debts? My house, my children, the new school year approaching … I’m dead.”
Dr. Rene Saleu is a representative of the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries in the Western Region. He says that 15,000 pigs have been destroyed in the last four months to prevent African swine fever from spreading to other parts of the country.
An African swine fever alert was announced in April, but some farmers refused to report their sick animals. This increased the spread of the epidemic, causing many casualties. Dr. Saleu established a team of veterinarians who travel through the region, checking each farm and slaughtering sick animals. They visit farmers with small numbers of pigs, as these are the operations without easy access to veterinary services. Thus, their pigs have not been vaccinated. The slaughtered carcasses are trucked outside the city and buried in mass graves.
Roadblocks have been installed on the main routes out of the city to prevent farmers from selling their animals outside the region. On July 22, a truck carrying 80 pigs was stopped trying to leave the city.
Livestock keepers afraid of losing everything are selling off their animals. Etienne Fosso Fokou explains: “Usually, I sell a pig for between 150,000 and 450,000 FCFA (US $275-925), depending on the size. Today, the few customers who are interested offer between 20,000 and 25.000 FCFA, (US $25-35). I am obliged to accept this price; otherwise, I will lose everything.”
Butchers are also affected. One lamented, “In December 2011, a kilogram of pork cost 2500 FCFA (about US $2.50). Today, it is 400 FCFA ($0.75 US).”
The state has trained farmers on hygiene measures and offered them disinfection equipment. But most farmers are hoping for more assistance. Dieunedort Mouaffo says, “It is not enough. As a breeder, I hope for financial aid from the State; otherwise, I’ll have to stop raising animals. ”
Dr. Saleu says he can do nothing about this. He explains, “The question of compensation for farmers is not within my authority. For now, I have been ordered to contain the spread of the epidemic, [and] record and photograph all animals that must be slaughtered.”
For information about African swine fever, visit: http://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Media_Center/docs/pdf/Disease_cards/ASF-EN.pdf