Farmer herds his three bulls in Nikhekhu Village, Dimapur, Nagaland, India (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Rapid urbanization in India has led to expansion of peri-urban fringes, where intensive, industry-style livestock rearing has led to emerging vulnerabilities at the human-animal-environment interface.

To better understand the health system and farm-level factors that influence the risk of transmission of bovine tuberculosis in animals and humans, a qualitative study was undertaken among smallholder dairy farms in peri-urban zones in three cities in India: Guwahati, Ludhiana and Bangalore. Data were collected through literature reviews, expert consultations and in-depth interviews.

The study, published in BMC Public Health (March 2019), found that farmers consulted veterinarians as a last resort after home remedies and quacks had failed. Damage control measures, especially with respect to selling or abandoning sick animals, added to the risk of disease transmission.

Although civic authorities believed in the adequacy of a functioning laboratory network, end users were aggrieved at the lack of services. Despite the presence of extension services, knowledge and awareness were limited, promoting risky behaviour.

In addition, the absence of policies on the management of bovine tuberculosis may have influenced stakeholders not to consider it to be a major animal and public health concern.

“Evidence is needed not only about the burden and risks, but also on possible options for control applied in the local Indian setting,” the authors say.

The study also recommends that the identified gaps in knowledge be addressed through collaborative research and One Health interventions involving both animal and human health sectors.

Access the article Community, system and policy level drivers of bovine tuberculosis in smallholder periurban dairy farms in India: A qualitative enquiry by A.S. Chauhan and others.

Typical milk bar in Kenya

One of Kenya’s many ‘milk bars’ (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

Training of milk vendors in Kenya’s informal dairy sector could be a pathway to progressively bring the informal sector under the food safety regulatory systems, says a new study by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute and the International Institute for Development and Environment.

The informal dairy sector in Kenya contributes to nutrition security, health and livelihoods. However, concerns over milk safety have seen the sector de-legitimized. Training and capacity-building of those operating in the sector has the potential to deliver on multiple development outcomes, over and above improved food safety.

The study, which is published in Global Food Security (September 2018), examined the incentives and challenges to operating in the informal dairy sector in two urban areas in Kenya (Eldoret and Kisumu) and the perceived benefits and socio-economics effects of training. A survey of informal dairy vendors and testing of milk was also carried out in the two regions to assess milk safety and handling practices and their relation to training.

It was noted that the informal dairy sector in Kenya is an important source of livelihood opportunities, especially for women. Training of milk vendors improved sales, reduced milk losses and helped expand the businesses of vendors; however, the long-term effects of training on milk quality are not evident. Accessibility and clear incentives to participate in training could maximize impact and sustainability.

Based on this qualitative assessment, it is recommended that rigorous scientific studies be conducted to confirm and measure the magnitude of those impacts on health, nutrition and societal outcomes derived from training and capacity building activities in the informal dairy sector.

Access the journal article, Beyond food safety: Socio-economic effects of training informal dairy vendors in Kenya

Alonso, S., Muunda, E., Ahlberg, S., Blackmore, E. and Grace, D. 2018. Beyond food safety: Socio-economic effects of training informal dairy vendors in Kenya. Global Food Security 18: 86–92.

Panel discussion at the 'Growing with dairy' meeting held at ILRI Nairobi, 9 March 2018

Erastus Kang’ethe (standing) facilitates a panel discussion at the ‘Growing with Dairy’ meeting. The panel members (left to right) are Johanna Lindahl from ILRI, Humphrey Mbugua from the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers and Margaret Aleke from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (photo credit: ILRI/Emmanuel Muunda).

Representatives from the dairy sector in Kenya met at the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in March 2018 for a one-day meeting organized to present the research findings and plans of two dairy projects that ILRI is undertaking in collaboration with other partners: Measuring and mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in maize and dairy products for poor consumers in Kenya (MyDairy) and MoreMilk: making the most of milk (MoreMilk).

The meeting, dubbed Growing with Dairy, brought together 33 participants representing different stakeholder groups in Kenya’s dairy sector including industry, government, consumers, academia and development organizations.

Presentations by the principal investigators of the MyDairy and MoreMilk projects discussed various activities and interventions aimed at improving the dairy sector in Kenya and boosting the health and economic benefits that Kenyans derive from the sector.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to disseminate research findings, receive feedback on ongoing and planned activities, and align project objectives with the needs of public and private actors in the dairy sector in Kenya.

The MyDairy project was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland and implemented between 2012 and 2018 in two phases: an initial four-year phase followed by a second phase of 1.5 years. The project aimed at mitigating the risks of aflatoxins in the dairy value chain in Kenya.

The MoreMilk project is a five-year initiative (2016–2021) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom government that works to upgrade milk hygiene and quality standards in the informal dairy value chain and maximize economic, health and nutrition benefits, especially for the poorest communities in Nairobi.

Download the Growing with Dairy meeting report

ILRI news

Kenya farm boy drinking milk

Kenyan boy drinking milk (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

A new research paper by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner organizations confirms that milk, meat and eggs are widely consumed by poor people in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi: these animal-source goods make up nearly 40% of the food budget and half of this is spent on dairy products.

Economic analysis revealed a high propensity to consume animal-source foods and elasticities showed that, if their prices could be lowered, consumption of animal-source foods would rocket, benefiting both the nutritional status of poor consumers and the livelihoods of small-scale livestock producers.

‘Malnutrition, including undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, is a chronic problem in most developing countries. Animal-source foods (ASFs) provide essential sources of proteins and micronutrients, yet little is known about ASF consumption patterns or household preferences towards animal-source products among low-income populations. This is particularly critical for malnourished children…

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Aflatoxin-contaminated groundnut kernels

Aflatoxin-contaminated groundnut kernels from Mozambique (photo credit: IITA).

A special issue of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) published in July 2016 and sponsored by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) features 12 peer-reviewed scientific articles on aflatoxins in eastern Africa.

The three broad objectives of the special issue are to understand the health consequences of aflatoxins, characterize the extent of the problem and identify key elements to underpin the way forward to mitigation.

The papers, listed below, are all open access and the PDFs are freely available for download at the AJFAND website.

Aflatoxins in East Africa: The importance of getting the full picture (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76526)

Understanding the health impacts

Extent and location of the problem

  • Aflatoxin B1 occurrence in millet, sorghum and maize from four agro-ecological zones in Kenya (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76499)
  • Prevalence of aflatoxin in feeds and cow milk from five counties in Kenya (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76501)
  • Survey of informal milk retailers in Nairobi, Kenya and prevalence of aflatoxin M1 in marketed milk (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76502)
  • Assessment of pre-harvest aflatoxin and fumonisin contamination of maize in Babati District, Tanzania
  • Aflatoxin and fumonisin contamination of marketed maize and maize bran and maize used as animal feed in northern Tanzania
  • Mapping aflatoxin risk from milk consumption using biophysical and socio-economic data: A case study of Kenya (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76503)
  • Examining environmental drivers of spatial variability in aflatoxin accumulation in Kenyan maize: Potential utility in risk prediction models

Finding the way forward to mitigation

  • Farmer perception of moulds and mycotoxins within the Kenya dairy value chain: A gendered analysis (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76495)
  • A review of agricultural aflatoxin management strategies and emerging innovations in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Potential of lactic acid fermentation in reducing aflatoxin B1 in Tanzania maize-based gruel

Testing milk in Kenya's informal market

Testing the quality of raw milk in Kenya’s informal market. A new study has identified options that could help improve milk quality in Zambia’s Western Province (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

Solar pasteurisation and quality-based pricing of milk are among interventions whose feasibility should be explored towards improving the safety of milk produced by smallholders in Western Province of Zambia, a new study says.

The study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (July 2016) was carried out to assess the microbiological quality of fresh cow’s milk along smallholder dairy value chains in Western Province of Zambia. The focus was on milk sold through dairy co-operatives near Mongu, the main town in the province.

Milk samples were collected at the farm level from 86 cows from nine herds and from the container of pooled milk from the herd. Samples were also collected upon arrival at the two dairy co-operatives (Limulunga and Mongu) to which the pooled milk was delivered. Additional serial samples were collected at the co-operatives and refrigerated to simulate the recommended storage conditions after purchase or at the co-operatives.

Microbiological analysis of the milk samples assessed the counts of total bacteria and coliforms and tested for the presence of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus species and Streptococcus species.

The milk at the farm level initially had low levels of bacteria but the microbial counts increased along the value chain as the milk was transported to the co-operative. This is in part due to the absence of a cold chain between milking and the point of sale.

Although coliform counts were low, a high proportion of samples were contaminated with S. aureus and E. coli, suggesting poor handling and faecal contamination, respectively. However, the most critical observation with regard to milk safety was the lack of pasteurisation or boiling, which would eliminate almost all microbial pathogens present.

The study therefore proposes that more work should be done to look into the feasibility of various interventions that could improve the quality of milk produced and sold in the region.

“Sustainable methods of milk pasteurisation should be investigated, as a microbial-kill step is needed to mitigate upstream contamination,” the authors observe.

Solar pasteurisation has been suggested as a possible option to be explored, in light of unreliable electricity supply, low levels of technical support and low volumes of milk handled at the dairy co-operatives.

“Paying producers more for safer, higher quality milk would create an incentive for producer investment in milk quality,” they add. Currently, all farmers receive the same price for their milk, regardless of the quality.

Selling milk to large dairies is not feasible at the moment because the quantities of milk produced are low and inconsistent. Also, most consumers prefer to buy milk from the informal sector.

Therefore, raising awareness of the need to boil milk before consumption is another important intervention that would improve milk safety at the consumer stage of the value chain by eliminating the pathogen risk. In addition, it may increase consumers’ willingness to pay for pasteurised milk.

Theodore J.D. Knight-Jones and others. Microbial contamination and hygiene of fresh cow’s milk produced by smallholders in western Zambia (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 21 July 2016).

Safe Food, Fair Food

Man sells raw milk along railway tracks in Côte d'Ivoire Man selling raw milk along the railway tracks in Abobo, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: CSRS/ILRI/Sylvie Mireille Kouamé-Sina).

Interventions to improve food safety and nutrition may be some of the best investments for improved health of populations. Ideally, these investments should target multiple disciplines to link health and education to agricultural systems.

Fermentation of dairy products is one such intervention that helps to extend their shelf life and improve microbial safety and nutritive quality. Sylvain Traoré, a postdoctoral scientist at Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques in Côte d’Ivoire, has been continuing with research he started through the Safe Food, Fair Food project on the use of participatory methods to improve the safety of dairy products in informal markets.

Traoré recently carried out a cross-sectional study in Korhogo, northern Côte d’Ivoire to assess local dairy fermentation technologies and map the local dairy supply chain to identify areas where interventions can be…

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