How does information about a suspected outbreak of avian influenza on the farm level reach the respective authorities? How and through which actors is the response to a confirmed outbreak implemented on the ground? These were the guiding questions for representatives of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, poultry producers and traders and the research sector, to map out the information and response networks concerning Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Ghana. This report shows the resulting network maps drawn, indicating the actors involved, their different kinds of linkages and the influence that these actors have on making sure that the information about suspected outbreaks on the farm or market level reaches the national authorities and that appropriate and timely response is implemented. While the participants agreed that in the past experience (outbreaks of HPAI on three commercial farms), government agencies and their partners showed an impressive ability to do the right thing at the right time, they also pointed out some bottlenecks that would need further attention – either because there is still a knowledge need that calls for more research or because structures and procedures need to be improved:
- Lack of incentives for traders to report suspicious bird deaths, because there is no compensation scheme for traders. Thus traders are likely to sell sick birds off and contribute to the spreading of the disease.
- Reluctance of farmers to disclose their sources of birds, which makes it difficult to track down where the infection originated / entered the country.
- Double edged role of the media, being both the motor of the bird flu scare (and resulting collapse of poultry market) and the distributor of valuable information. Government representatives agreed on the need to deal more proactively and in partnership with the media.
- Crucial role but low coverage (1 per 5000 farms) of animal health technicians linking rural farms to the rest of the agricultural system, when if comes to disease reporting. Can the coverage be increased or can other district level actors be empowered and trained to support them?
- Compensation procedures and rules were not clear to everyone. Especially informing farmers who are not members of associations remains a challenge.
- Knowledge gap: What is the impact of different length of re-stocking ban and different timing for compensation payment? Early payment lifts immediate stress but might be used for consumption or alternative livelihood activities, if the re-stocking ban is still in place. Compensation payment after the end of re-stocking ban might make it easier for farmers to use money on poultry farming, but how do they meet their immediate survival needs in the meantime?
- So far, experience only with outbreaks on big commercial farms in the South of Ghana. The future may show how the system can react to outbreaks in more remote areas and less commercialised settings.