Wegotmail: Combating African Swine Fever through community engagement and strategic communication

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African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to ravage wild and farmed pig populations across Asia and the Pacific. In the ongoing battle against this disease, the focus has increasingly turned towards innovative strategies like risk communication and community engagement, or RCCE. This approach, spotlighted during the ninth meeting of the Standing Group of Experts on ASF in Asia and the Pacific recently organized in Manila by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry, marks a significant shift from traditional technical strategies towards integrating social and behavioral factors in disease management.

ASF presents major challenges: it is a highly contagious viral disease, with a fatality rate close to 100%. There is no cure as of today, so that traditional control measures, such as culling infected and susceptible animals, enforcing stringent biosecurity protocols, and restricting the movement of pigs and pork products, have been the main control method used so far. Vaccines are promising, but they are not a panacea. Yet, the economic repercussions of ASF are severe, with livelihoods, trade, and food supply chains deeply disrupted. The persistent nature of the virus in the environment and processed products also complicates eradication efforts.

Thus, addressing ASF needs more than just technical solutions: it demands an integrated and holistic approach.

The emphasis on RCCE underscores how human behavior is key to controlling ASF spread. Indeed, the disease transmission among domestic and wild pigs is significantly influenced by human activities such as farm visits, animal movements and trade. This highlights a critical gap in our current response strategies, which effective RCCE strategies can help bridging. In the Philippines, the Community ASF Biosecurity Intervention pilot demonstrated how involving farmers in co-developing biosecurity measures can significantly enhance on-ground implementation and disease spread prevention. It highlighted how multilateral knowledge sharing, and enhanced coordination among various stakeholders are key for developing comprehensive disease response frameworks that are both effective and adaptable to local contexts.

As we move forward, the call to action is clear: we must invest and strengthen evidence-based ASF management and RCCE policies. This involves developing robust communication frameworks that are informed by best practices and tailored to meet specific local needs. Furthermore, fostering global and regional cooperation remains crucial for improving disease surveillance and management strategies. Empowering communities must be at the core of these efforts. By providing them with the necessary resources, knowledge, and support, we enable them to implement effective biosecurity measures, that lead to sustainable control and prevention of ASF.

The progress highlighted during the Ninth SGE-ASF meeting lays a solid foundation for future efforts. The battle against ASF is far from over and we need to remain committed to a multidisciplinary approach that integrates scientific innovation with strategic communication and genuine community involvement. Together, we can combat ASF more effectively, ensuring better production, a better environment, better nutrition, and a better life for all affected communities.

Signed

Lionel Dabbadie – FAO Representative in the Philippines.

Constante Palabrica – Chief Veterinary Officer of the Philippines.

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