Farming in the highlands of Ethiopia

Farming scene in the highlands of Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).


Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are diseases that can be passed from animals to people. Nearly two-thirds of emerging infectious diseases affecting people are zoonotic and about 60% of all human pathogens are zoonotic.

Zoonoses such as brucellosis, anthrax and rabies are endemic in eastern Africa and yet formally published research studies on zoonoses in the region are hard to come by; useful research findings remain tucked away in the libraries of universities and other research institutions in form of working papers and students’ theses: the so-called ‘grey literature’.

In order to bring to the fore the wealth of unpublished research on zoonoses from studies carried out in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, the first-ever regional conference on zoonotic diseases in eastern Africa was held in Naivasha, Kenya on 9-12 March 2015.

The conference brought together academicians, researchers and graduate students from across Africa who presented on topics such as the One Health approach to disease prevention and control, the global health security agenda, the recent Ebola outbreak and its control, and control of rabies in East Africa.

Some 80 oral and poster presentations covered a wide range of aspects of research on zoonotic diseases including epidemiology, antimicrobial resistance, diagnosis, surveillance, outbreak investigations, disease modelling and foodborne zoonoses.

Bernard Bett, a veterinary epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a keynote presentation on behalf of the institute’s director general Jimmy Smith detailing how research by ILRI is contributing towards healthy people, animals and ecosystems.

Food insecurity remains a challenge for millions of people in the region. Animal-source foods can play a role in improving food and nutritional security, particularly in developing countries where demand for meat, milk and eggs is on the rise. Thus, food security is linked to the health of the livestock that produce these food products.

However, because of the threat of endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases, human health is influenced by animal health. Furthermore, changing patterns of land use, such as irrigation and intensified farming, can have an impact on the life cycles of vectors that spread diseases that affect both animals and people. Therefore, the impact of agriculture on ecosystem health also needs to be considered when tackling animal and human health challenges.

View the presentation “Healthy people, animals and ecosystems: The role of CGIAR research