Livestock production is an important industry in South Africa. The contribution of the livestock sector to the total agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) is the largest of all the agricultural sectors, contributing more than 40% of the gross value of the total agricultural sector. Although livestock production plays an important role in the economies of most nations, livestock remains vulnerable to diseases. Recently, South Africa experienced varying episodes of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) outbreaks. RVF is viral zoonotic disease spread by infected mosquitoes and characterised by high rates of abortion and neonatal mortality, primarily in sheep, goats and cattle, but also in exotic and wild animals.
To justify efficient and effective policies of prevention and control of RVF, it is paramount to understand the true impact of this disease. The amount of additional research that should be budgeted to develop newer and more effective vaccines for the control of RVF can be more adequately judged with a more accurate accounting of the overall costs of an RVF outbreak. Using a combination of evaluation methods, this study therefore sought to estimate the economic losses incurred by livestock farmers in South Africa due to the 2008–2010 RVF outbreaks. A questionnaire was administered to 150 livestock farmers in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State provinces, believed to have been the most severely affected provinces in the recent RVF outbreaks. Based on secondary data and expert opinions, two municipalities that were severely affected by the 2008–2010 RVF outbreaks were selected in each of the three provinces: Cacadu and Chris Hani municipal districts in the Eastern Cape; Pixley Ka Seme and Frances Baard municipal districts in the Northern Cape; and Fezile Dabi and Lejweleputswa in the Free State. The study focused on both black and white livestock farmers who keep cattle, goats, or sheep.
This study hypothesised that farmers with sound animal production systems and animal health-care programmes that included vaccination against RVF were least affected by the outbreak when it occurred, and that farmers and their representative organisations overestimated the income losses from the RVF outbreaks. The findings of the study revealed the importance of vaccination in that, regardless of the application of biosecurity measures and general vaccination programs, farmers who did not vaccinate all their animals against RVF were the most affected (59%) compared to 37% of farmers who vaccinated all their animals.
The findings from the survey reveal that more than 30% of farmers reported losses in the form of mortalities, abortions and reduction in animal products such as milk. Farmers incurred extra expenditure in the form of prevention, control and treatment costs. Although most of the 150 livestock farmers indicated that they vaccinated against RVF, less than half used their own funds to purchase the vaccine. Black communal and emerging farmers were provided vaccines by the state. Due to lack of substantial data, expenditure costs were only up-scaled to district level. Thus an estimated total expenditure of R50.3 million was spent by farmers on prevention, control and treatment.
The survey revealed a high rate of animal mortalities and abortions, much higher than indicated by official notifications of the disease. For example, Pienaar and Thompson (2013) indicated that in 2010, “484 outbreaks were reported, with 13 342 animal cases and 8 877 animal deaths.” The 150 livestock farmers in the survey reported 4 783 animal deaths, more than half of all mortalities officially reported for the whole country. In addition, 6 460 abortions were reported in the survey of 150 farmers. Although other diseases can also cause abortions, follow-up discussions with farmers and animal health officers resulted in a fairly high level of confidence that the abortions reported in the survey were due to RVF.
Dissertation (MScAgric)--University of Pretoria, 2015.