Ag Ministers, OIE Support Data Systems for Fighting Animal Disease

Dr Jean-Philippe Dop, OIE Deputy Director General, at the Berlin Agriculture Ministers´ Conference 2019
(2nd person from the right). ( OIE )

Last Saturday, the 74 Ministers’ delegations participating in the 11th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), to debate digitalisation and smart solutions for future farming, expressed their support to the on-going renovation of the World Animal Health Information System, OIE-WAHIS, acknowledging its key contribution to a more sustainable, responsible and efficient livestock production. They also entrusted the OIE to pursue the implementation of global digital structures promoting an enhanced exchange of information, thereby contributing to strengthen the cross-border fight against animal diseases.

As we enter 2019, the spread of the epizootics of African swine fever (ASF) is an example of the various sanitary concerns with which Veterinary Services and animal health experts have to deal. When confronted with a disease that has such a serious socio-economic impact on countries, especially on the livelihood of pig farmers, the ability to quickly assess the evolution of the situation is key to stem its spread. In this regard, efficient management and control of the disease requires that countries share transparent information about their animal health situation so that it can be made available to the international community in a timely manner.

In view of facilitating the collection and reporting of data, the OIE is currently upgrading the internet-based World Animal Health Information System, OIE-WAHIS, with advanced technologies.

The benefits brought by such a tool were highlighted at the Ministers’ conference convened on Saturday 19 January 2019 in the framework of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin, Germany, on the theme "Agriculture Goes Digital – Smart Solutions for Future Farming”. The latter adressed how digitalisation can be leveraged to make agriculture more efficient and more sustainable, and therefore contribute to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Today, hundreds of millions of people still depend on their livestock for income and access to food, directly linking animal production sustainability to their livelihood. Yet, experts estimate that around 20% of production losses worldwide can be attributed to animal diseases. As highlighted in last year’s conference, the existence of resilient animal health systems that allow prevention and control of animal diseases, is consequently more essential than ever to protect food safety and security, as well as human health, the economy and social well-being of populations. In this regard, transparency of epidemiological information on the emergence, re-emergence and evolution of animal diseases is crucial. It also allows to build trust between partners and facilitates the safe trade of animals and animal products.

As stated in the Ministers communiqué, “Digitalization in agriculture will play an important role in achieving these goals.” The 74 Ministers attending the conference called for the development of digital systems which improve data use and accessibility, through interoperability, harmonisation and improved geo-localisation.

In the interest of livestock farming, the Ministers strongly recognised OIE-WAHIS as “an important component for exchanging information and for supporting Veterinary Services in designing their animal-disease control programmes”.The above-mentioned features will be included in the renovated OIE-WAHIS interface, which will also allow for data to be viewed, analysed and extracted more rapidly and information on animal diseases to be displayed on dynamic maps.