By MITCH LIES
WOODBURN, Ore. -- Top veterinary officials from East Africa are in the United States for the next few days learning how the U.S. regulates livestock movement and health.
The idea, according to Peter Ithondeka, chief veterinary officer of Kenya, is to study the U.S. animal health system and bring the best parts of it back to East Africa.
"We have something close to this," Ithondeka said. "Now we need to learn how to adapt (the U.S. program for traceability and disease control) to our program."
The 14-member African contingent arrived in the U.S. March 25 and will spend a week in Oregon and a week in Texas.
Participating in the USAID-sponsored trip are top veterinary officials from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The contingent is visiting veterinary laboratories, state offices and getting a first-hand account of how the system works from ranchers during a visit to Eastern Oregon.
"The reason for this trip is for them to see the mature program in operation," said Andrew Clark, a former Oregon state veterinarian who is helping coordinate the trip.
"They are at the birth of their program," Clark said. "They are here to see what we have learned over a long period of time so they don't have to reinvent the wheel."
Also, Clark said: "The idea is not to say, 'Hey, this is how you do it.' The idea is to let them take the best of what they see and make it theirs."
Ithondeka said he is impressed with the ability of U.S. veterinary officials to trace a cow from slaughter back to the farm where it was born.
"In Kenya, it is extremely difficult to trace," he said. "Basically, we can trace it back to a district."
Ithondeka said it is important for nations to mirror each other's standards to facilitate cross-border movement of livestock.
"We are trying to adapt standard methods and rules. We have to have a uniform method of doing it," he said.
"The economic implications of what we are doing are enormous in terms of livelihoods of people," Ithondeka said.
"The problems of one neighbor can cause problems for another," he said.