The Indonesian Government approached ACIAR requesting assistance in strengthening veterinary services in Indonesia, a request triggered by the problems encountered in the national program to control avian influenza. A recognised constraint was the recent increased decentralisation of government services, a process which involved the granting of greater political, fiscal and budgetary authority, not to the 33 provincial governments, but to the 444 district governments. This had the destabilising effect of leaving the 444 district livestock services with no effective umbrella organisation to coordinate government veterinary activities regionally or nationally. This R&D activity investigated possible future direction for animal health services, both systemically and with specific disease entities, in order to develop a program of activity suited to the new decentralised environment.
NSW Department of Primary Industries led the investigation, involving officers with past experience in delivering animal health projects in Indonesia and current experience in delivering animal health services in their own decentralised state system. They noted that in Indonesia animal health is a lesser priority in an environment where tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever and other diseases, sicken and kill many people every day - certainly more than do zoonoses like avian influenza, rabies and brucellosis. However, the Indonesian Government recognised the important role that government veterinary services played in providing their people with food and prosperity, and safeguarding their health, by controlling certain animal diseases.
The Directorate General Livestock Services had identified five diseases of primary concern. These were the zoonoses: avian influenza, anthrax, brucellosis and rabies, and the transboundary disease of pigs, classical swine fever - all of which are now endemic to Indonesia. It was the Indonesian wish that some or all of these diseases be the subject of any pilot studies developed to test models of government veterinary service delivery.
The investigators noted that the challenges for the Indonesian government veterinary system were not only to do with decentralisation - there were inefficiencies related to duplication of services and the current Law for Animal Health was inadequate (although under review). The team advised that integration of activities and resources of stakeholders was probably the key to strengthening government veterinary services, but it must be done within the existing political framework. Strategies to be developed and tested as the means of integration were: pilot projects on priority diseases using integrating task force structures; activities to enhance the coordination role of provinces, strengthen capability at district and sub-district level, and more clearly define roles for stakeholders.
If successful, the pilot projects could provide models of integrated government veterinary service delivery suitable for adaptation to multiple locations across Indonesia, thereby strengthening the animal health services nationally. The team noted that there were recognised benefits to Australia from participation in this project. These included reduced risks of exotic disease entering Australia from Indonesia, the opportunity for training of Australian veterinarians and animal health officers in exotic disease recognition and government veterinary project management, and establishment of long-lasting professional relations with Indonesian project counterparts.