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Animal diseases catch up with humans

About 90 percent of new human infectious diseases have their origins in animal diseases, Laurent Thomas, Director of the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said.
Consequently, there is the need to address food chain emergencies by the timely prevention and control of animal and poultry diseases so as to prevent their spread into the human population.
Mr Thomas was speaking to a group of journalists from Media21 Geneva, a network of international journalists, in Rome at a panel discussion on “Feeding the World in 2050, Challenges and Possibilities” where he addressed the issue of “FAO’s Emergency Operations.
He said the FAO was currently paying attention to the incidence of avian
Influenza in poultry as part of measures to prevent disease pandemics that originate from the consumption of diseased poultry and animals.
He said steps were also being put in place to control locust infestation and new diseases such as UG 99, a wheat rust disease that originated in Uganda in 1999 and has now spread to Iran,
Mr Thomas expressed fears that if adequate steps were not taken to contain the spread of UG 99, which is now spreading in the direction of India, it could affect wheat production worldwide, reducing the availability of wheat which would in turn increase its price.
Outlining the activities of the FAO in disaster areas, he said 50 percent of its resources are related to emergency response hence the organisations decision to promote disaster risk management by inserting a notion of prevention and disaster impact mitigation in its activities. Other activities aimed at helping farmers and fishermen to recover from the impact of natural disasters have also been put in place.
Mr Thomas said this is of utmost importance to the FA0 since rural farmers and fishermen form the bulk of the victims of natural disasters which often occur in rural areas and impact heavily on rural agriculture, fishery and agro-forestry.
In addition, international aid agencies tend to focus solely on humanitarian activities hence the need for interventions by FAO to enable farmers and fishermen to rescue their agricultural activities.
Mr Josef Schidhuber, Senior Economist of the Global Perspectives Study Unit of the FAO, who addressed a topic on “Whether the world would be able to feed itself in the next 50 years” said problems confronting food security in the world are multi- dimensional and not confined to only food production but include issues such as access to land and incomes generated by farmers.
He said the world today has enough resources to feed itself since only a small percentage of its 4.2 billion hectares of land are under cultivation which is augmented by adequate global water resources in addition to a vast genetic potential that can be tapped.
However, energy prices and climate change pose a big challenge to future increases in agricultural production and ultimately food security over the next 50 years, with sub-Saharan Africa bearing the brunt of the effects of global warming.
Mr Schidhuber said Africa was set to double its population to two billion in the next forty years and this poses a challenge to food security on the continent while countries like Nigeria and Niger would face peculiar food security problems in the future.
This is because; Nigeria would have 75 percent of its population living in urban areas in the next fifty years which is bound to lead to a drastic change in population structure. The entire population would assume an urban character and become trade- oriented with a radical change in nutrition behaviour and consumption patterns.
Niger, on the other hand, has very little prospects for development since 10 million hectares out of its 11 million hectares of arable land are already under cultivation while its current 11 million population is set to reach 50 million over the next 50 years.
Niger’s economic prospects are thus gloomy since it has no other sources of income like tourism while, uranium, its only natural resource is being controlled by foreign hands.
Mr Schidhuber said the only way out for Niger would be a drastic reduction in fertility rate coupled with migration.

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