Animal Husbandry, Prescribing Practices and the Control of Veterinary Medicines and AMR in Colombia's 'Livestock Revolution'

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


In common with many low- and middle-income countries, Colombia has seen sharp rises in livestock production in response to rapidly growing domestic demand for food of animal origins. While this 'livestock revolution' promises to enhance food security, reduce poverty, and improve rural livelihoods, there are also questions about its sustainability and wider implications for human and environmental health. Expanding livestock production is associated with a host of negative impacts on biodiversity, carbon emissions, water availability and quality. As livestock numbers have risen globally, so too has the use of antibiotics and other veterinary medicines (VM) in animal husbandry. VM has been instrumental in reducing the global burden of livestock disease and delivering the productivity increases necessary to meet the rising demand for food globally, but the World Health Organization (2012) warns that the scale and nature of antibiotic usage in livestock production poses major risks to both human and animal health. As well as undermining food safety and environmental quality through residue contamination, the pervasive use of antibiotics in agriculture creates strong selective pressures favouring the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic drugs used for treating disease. Such anti-microbial resistance (AMR) threatens to cast us back into the dark ages of medicine without effective antibiotic treatments.

The aim of this proposal is to support international efforts to address the AMR crisis and support poverty alleviation in low- and middle-income countries like Colombia by improving understanding of the behavioural factors influencing the control and use of VM, which is a major contributing factor in the emergence of AMR. To that end it will combine interview, observational, survey, and documentary analysis methods to achieve these more specific research objectives (ROs):

RO1. Explore animal husbandry practices and their implications for animal health, farm incomes, use of VM, and AMR risk across two different milk production systems (extensive, dual-purpose, i.e. meat and milk, and intensive & specialised, i.e. milk only)

RO2. Analyse prescribing practices and the formal and informal networks through which VMs are sourced, circulate, administered and then accounted by veterinary professionals and by food and pharmaceutical markets

RO3. Evaluate the regulatory systems in Colombia for ensuring animal health, food safety, and appropriate prescription and use of VM

RO4. Build a wider network to support behavioural change interventions in Colombia and across Latin America for improving the control and use of VM

Planned Impact

This project will provide vital evidence about the behavioural factors shaping the control and appropriate use of veterinary medicines, which is important for the emergence of AMR as well as for ensuring food safety and environmental quality more generally.

As detailed in our Pathways to Impact plan, research is designed to make a tangible impact on 3 major groups of beneficiaries that we will engage with in different ways:

1) We will support regulators in Columbia and Latin America in discharging their duties to manage animal health, ensure food safety, and prevent AMR. The project will also support wider networking activities across Latin America to share best practice and build capacity for improving the control and use of VM. A kick-off event in Bogotá (WP4.1) will build local awareness of the project and the problems it is addressing among regulatory agencies in Colombia, with whom we will then engage further through the interviews and fieldwork conducted with them as part of WP1.2. International networking with the Pan-American Dairy Federation will help learn and share lessons from across Latin America and facilitate international participation in the closing expert workshop (WP4.3), which will seek to develop a road-map for improving usage of VM and develop a series of Spanish-language policy briefs (WP4.4) outlining key recommendations for improving regulatory effectiveness.

2) We will support dairy farmers and producer associations in Colombia by identifying the behaviour factors shaping (non)compliance with regulatory requirements and best practice recommendations. As well as reducing AMR, animal health, and food safety risks, this also promises to increase farmer incomes by improving the efficacy of often expensive veterinary treatments. The kick-off event in Bogotá (WP4.1) will help build awareness of the project among key producer associations with whom we will work to disseminate key project findings to farmers. As well as Spanish language materls, our project website will also include several short informational videos, to be produced by the new media experts at Corporacion Alotropia, distilling key project findings. Their experience shows that videos provide a more engaging and locally appropriate vehicle for reaching farmers whose literacy and appetite for wading through technical documents is often limited.

3) The veterinary profession in Colombia also stands to benefit from an improved understanding of the behavioural factors shaping whether and how farmers seek their advice and follow protocols for obtaining and using veterinary medicines. To deepen our relationships with the relevant veterinary professional associations, we will solicit their participation in our project kick-off event and then engage them further through interviews and fieldwork conducted with them as part of WP3.1 and through participation in our closing expert workshop (WP4.3).

4) Although the primary beneficiaries of our ODA-eligible project are in Colombia, our project has taken on new importance for the UK government with the recent Brexit vote. In this context our findings about the efficacy of regulatory systems in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America for controlling veterinary medicine usage and ensuring food safety and preventing AMR will be of particular importance for Defra and the Food Standards Agency, as the lead government agencies involved in food import controls and in negotiating new free trade deals with Latin America.


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