Livestock farming is a great option for furthering the Albanian economy. The hilly areas of Albania are ideal for sheep and goats and the lower elevations are good for cattle. Livestock already accounts for most of the country’s agricultural production, although productivity is low. Moreover, Albania entered into a trade deal with the EU in 2006, an excellent opportunity for livestock farmers to enter a very lucrative market and improve their livelihoods through export. However, Albania’s livestock has been plagued by diseases such as rabies, brucellosis, tuberculosis, and anthrax. The prevalence of such diseases in Albanian farm animals means that most of the country’s agricultural products are barred from entering the EU market due to EU consumer safety regulations.
Ambitious assistance from 2009 to 2017
In 2009, the EU launched Protection Against Zoonotic Diseases, Albania, (PAZA) with the aim of to helping Albania with ensuring consumer protection against zoonotic diseases and rendering its livestock and their products safe for trade in EU markets. PAZA Phase I ran until 2013. Phase II took over from 2013 to 2017 and solidified the results of the Phase I while further supporting the veterinary sector in Albania and the livestock sector in general. NIRAS provided technical assistance, managed the project’s funds, and monitored the project’s progress.
More veterinary clinics in rural districts
An outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease in Eastern Europe threatened PAZA II’s long-term efforts, but, together with Albanian authorities, PAZA employees successfully combatted the outbreak.
Despite this disease consuming much of the project’s focus, PAZA delivered a variety of results, including the training of more veterinarians and the establishment of veterinarian clinics in almost all districts – including many rural districts that previously had no access to a vet.
The PAZA team also trained relevant state institutions to help the Albanian government implement risk-based national strategies for the eradication of target diseases. As a result, the risk to humans from rabies-infected foxes has been eradicated by way of a nationwide vaccination and monitoring programme.
PAZA also introduced a more efficient way to deal with anthrax cases and assisted in the implementation of a bovine brucellosis control programme.
Last but not least, a national surveillance system and multi-annual strategic programmes for the control of animal diseases are in the process of being established in Albania.