Six dedicated livestock and biosecurity officers from the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) are a step closer to completing Para-Veterinarian (para-vet) training as they begin final assessments this week.
The Pacific Community (SPC), in collaboration with the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and Biosecurity New Zealand (the biosecurity arm of the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries), is facilitating the para-vet summer school, which is the culmination of a 16-week training programme launched in April. The aspiring para-vets are attending practical and theory revision sessions this week in preparation for sitting for final exams.
Mrs Temarama Anguna-Kamana, the Secretary of the Cook Islands MOA, said that the Ministry had faced a situation where it had not had a veterinarian on its staff for a considerable amount of time. While they have been fortunate to use a veterinarian associated with the Te Are Manu Veterinary Clinic, this arrangement is not a sustainable long-term solution.
“Having our staff complete this para-vet training allows us to maintain these skills in-country on how to treat animals with health problems and diagnose animal diseases. Whilst this is not a full Veterinary qualification, this is a first step in this field and assures our livestock owners that we at the Ministry of Agriculture can provide the services and advice needed to care for their livestock,” she said.
"It also reinforces our position when we communicate to livestock owners and the community about the significance of proper livestock management, maintaining meat hygiene standards, and responsible waste disposal. We explain why quarantine measures are essential to prevent the introduction of exotic animal diseases into our country."
“We are grateful for the opportunity provided to the Cook Islands by our partners on this project and look forward to the certification of my staff as qualified para-veterinarians.”
The training is facilitated by SPC and Biosecurity New Zealand in the field, supported by Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and funded by the European Union through the Safe Agricultural Trade Facilitation through Economic Integration in the Pacific (SAFE Pacific) project.
Biosecurity New Zealand’s Programme Manager of Animal Health and Biosecurity Pacific Partnership, Dr Andrew McFadden said the New Zealand team was honoured to be part of the journey.
“Walking alongside this great group of people and seeing them develop skills, knowledge, and confidence has been awesome for myself and the New Zealand programme team, and we are so proud of the Cook Island Ministry of Agriculture team”. Participants learn ways to improve animal management, how to treat animals with health problems, the importance of meat hygiene and waste disposal, how to diagnose animal diseases, the importance of quarantine and the prevention of exotic diseases from entering the country.
A graduation ceremony will be organised at the end of the year, where the successful participants will receive certification from SPC and the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We are proud to witness the Cook Islands' commitment to this vital training programme and the unwavering dedication of its students to successfully complete their training,” said SPC Pacific Head of Veterinary and Animal Production Services (PHOVAPS) Coordinator Elenoa Salele.
“This effort is important for the Cook Islands and our region in meeting the growing demand for additional para-veterinarians in the field. The training responds to one of the key priorities identified in the recently endorsed Pacific Animal Health and Production Capacity Building Plan (PCBP) on the lack of access to veterinarians in the region.”
The para-vet training is a flagship programme developed by SPC. Since its inception in 2013, it has been implemented in 15 Pacific countries. The full training course was designed as a distance-learning programme and focused on animal health and production issues for livestock found in the region, including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, horses, and poultry.
In addition to the Cook Islands, the para-vet training was launched in Fiji and Nauru; hence, more Pacific para-vets are expected to graduate after their respective Summer School and final exams later in the year.