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Zambian livestock trader perceptions of animal disease

Last changed: 23 November 2020
Zambian goats

Trade in animals and animal products is a key factor in the transmission of infectious diseases. Livestock traders play an important role in this process, yet there is little knowledge of traders’ perceptions of animal disease or their associated actions. The aim of this study was to investigate perceptions and practices of Zambian small ruminant traders with regard to sheep and goat health and disease. It also analysed how existing perceptions and practices might affect risks of disease transmission through trade.

A case study was performed at the two largest small livestock markets in Zambia: the Lusaka market in the capital and the Kasumbalesa market near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Semi-structured interviews with 47 traders performed in April-May and September 2018 represent the core material.

Zambian small ruminant traders frequently trade animals that have clinical signs of disease, either because they appear unaware or indifferent to the associated risks, experience financial constraints or assign responsibility for disease prevention to other value chain actors. In their decision about whether or not to sell a visibly sick small ruminant, traders appear to consider whether the clinical sign is perceived as ‘natural’ or the result of an illness, whether the buyer is aware of the animal’s health condition, and whether the animal is sold for consumption or breeding purposes. Traders appear to regard the veterinary certificate required to transport small ruminants in Zambia as proof of health, placing the responsibility for potential disease in traded animals on the veterinary authorities. In their description of a model trader, taking good care of and being sensitive to customer needs was emphasized, indicating that an efficient way to encourage traders to change their behaviour is to influence customer demands.

In contrast to the focus in previous studies on identifying and filling knowledge gaps, the present study show that lack of knowledge is not central to why traders engage in disease-transmitting behaviour. Greater awareness of other reasons for certain perceptions and practices could lead to the formulation of risk communication strategies and mitigation measures that are relevant for the local context, as well as alternative strategies for changing trader behaviour.

Link to the publication


Lysholm S, Johansson Wensman J, Munyeme M, Fischer K (2020) Perceptions and practices among Zambian sheep and goat traders concerning small ruminant health and disease. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233611. 


Sara Lysholm
Doctoral Student at the Department of Clinical Sciences; Ruminant Medicine Unit

Telephone: +4618671134