East Africa


A pastor and his dog, Yabello, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Camille Hanotte).

World Zoonoses Day is commemorated on 6 July every year to mark the day in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a deadly zoonotic disease. The day is also an occasion to raise awareness of the risk of zoonoses, infectious diseases that can be spread between animals and people.

On this year’s World Zoonoses Day, we highlight a new research study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (July 2020) that reports on the development, implementation and effectiveness of grassroots mass dog vaccination campaigns against rabies conducted in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Laikipia County, Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, rabies kills tens of thousands of people every year, mainly in Asia and Africa. Globally, rabies causes an estimated cost of US$ 8.6 billion per year. Dog bites are responsible for 99% of all cases of human rabies. Therefore, vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective way to prevent rabies in people.

The research study found that while grassroots volunteer-based dog vaccination campaigns against rabies can be useful, these efforts need to be supported at a larger scale by county and national governments for a more sustainable approach towards eradicating the disease. Below is the author summary.

“Given the importance of mass vaccinations of domestic dogs towards eliminating human rabies in Africa and the site-specific challenges facing such campaigns, additional studies on the development and implementation of such efforts are needed.

One mechanism of mass vaccination lies in grassroots efforts that often begin at a very local scale and either develop into larger campaigns, remain local, or cease to persist past several years once interest and funding is exhausted.

Here, we discuss the development of a grassroots campaign in Laikipia County, Kenya from its local inception to its development into a county-wide rabies elimination effort.

Our results highlight challenges associated with achieving the targeted 70% coverage rate, including a need for consistent and systematic demographic monitoring of dog populations, limitations of the central point method, and logistical and financial challenges facing a volunteer-based effort.

Serious political commitment from both the local and national governments are necessary to take the budget beyond what a crowdfunded campaign can raise, including availability and access to quality dog rabies vaccines.

Without such outside support and substantial time to grow, grassroots campaigns might be better relegated to raising awareness and vaccinating dogs in small communities to protect those communities directly, without contributing to the broader ecosystem-wide transmission-stopping aim often sought by government human health and veterinary organizations.”

Citation

Ferguson, A.W., Muloi, D., Ngatia, D.K., Kiongo, W., Kimuyu, D.M., Webala, P.W., Olum, M.O., Muturi, M., Thumbi, S.M., Woodroffe, R., Murugi, L., Fèvre, E.M., Murray, S. and Martins, D.J. 2020. Volunteer based approach to dog vaccination campaigns to eliminate human rabies: Lessons from Laikipia County, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 14(7): e0008260.

Alpha chickens on a farm in Isiokpo, Nigeria (photo credit: ILRI/ACGG Nigeria).

Poultry production is an important contributor to the livelihoods of rural populations, especially in low- and middle-income countries. As poultry production in these countries remains dominated by backyard systems with low inputs and low outputs, considerable yield gaps exist. 

Intensification of these backyard poultry farming systems can increase productivity, production and income. This process is relatively recent in low- and middle-income countries compared to high-income countries. The management practices and constraints that smallholder farmers face in scaling-up their production, in the early stages of intensification, are poorly understood and described. 

To shed more light on these aspects of intensification of poultry farming in low-income settings, a team of scientists investigated the features of the small-scale commercial chicken sector in a rural area distant from major production centres. Their study findings are published in the journal Animal (24 June 2020). 

The study surveyed 111 commercial chicken farms in Kenya in 2016. It targeted farms that sold most of their production, owning at least 50 chickens, partly or wholly confined and provided with feeds. 

The researchers developed a typology of semi-intensive farms. Farms were found mainly to raise dual-purpose chickens of local and improved breeds, in association with crops and were not specialized in any single product or market. 

The study identified four types of semi-intensive farms that were characterized based on two groups of variables related to intensification and accessibility: (1) remote, small-scale old farms, with small flocks, growing a lot of their own feed; (2) medium-scale, old farms with a larger flock and well located in relation to markets; (3) large-scale recently established farms, with large flocks, well located and buying chicks from third-party providers and (4) large-scale recently established farms, with large flocks, remotely located and hatching their own chicks. 

The semi-intensive farms surveyed were highly heterogeneous in terms of size, age, accessibility, management, opportunities and challenges. Farm location affects market access and influences the opportunities available to farmers, resulting in further diversity in farm profiles. 

The future of these semi-intensive farms could be compromised by several factors, including competition with large-scale intensive farmers and with importations. 

The study findings suggest that intensification trajectories in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries are potentially complex, diverse and non-linear. 

“A better understanding of intensification trajectories should, however, be based on longitudinal data,” the authors conclude, adding that such an approach could be useful to design interventions to support small-scale poultry farmers.

Citation

Chaiban, C., Robinson, T.P., Fèvre, E.M., Ogola, J., Akoko, J., Gilbert, M. and Vanwambeke, S.O. 2020. Early intensification of backyard poultry systems in the tropics: A case study. Animal. https://doi.org/10.1017/S175173112000110X

Pastoralism

A gender-inclusive approach to community livestock vaccination can help address the different barriers faced by men and women farmers and may increase the uptake of livestock vaccines

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently published a study on the uptake of the Rift Valley fever vaccine in Kenya and Uganda, incorporating gender in their analysis to better understand the different barriers that men and women farmers face in adopting and using livestock vaccines.

The barriers include the cost of vaccines, long distances to vaccination points, lack of information on vaccination campaigns and decision-making processes at the household level. Understanding these barriers can help veterinary workers design more effective community livestock vaccination programs of benefit to both men and women farmers.

‘Conducting gender analysis on livestock vaccine interventions can enable implementers to identify generic and gender-specific needs of their target beneficiaries’, says Edna Mutua, the lead author of the study and gender consultant at ILRI.

‘This will allow the use of the findings to inform the design and delivery of vaccination interventions to increase efficiency and uptake’, she adds.

Rift Valley fever is a viral, mosquito-borne zoonotic disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and camels. It causes abortions in livestock and flu-like illness in humans. People can get infected through contact with secretions or tissue of infected animals.

Rift Valley fever is endemic in East Africa and its impacts are significant. An outbreak of the disease in Kenya in 2006–07 caused 150 human deaths and led to losses of USD 32 million from livestock deaths, reduced animal productivity and trade bans on livestock and livestock products.

Vaccination of livestock is currently the most effective measure to control the disease. Previous research on Rift Valley fever vaccines have tended to focus on the production, safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Very few studies have been carried out on the uptake and adoption of livestock vaccines and most of these did not include gender in the study design and analysis but treated male and female livestock farmers as a homogeneous group.

This new ILRI-led study, published in the journal Vaccines (August 2019), provides useful insights into how prevailing gender dynamics in communities such as the division of roles and responsibilities in farmers’ households can influence the uptake and adoption of livestock vaccines.

Uptake was defined as the process the farmers take from when they receive livestock vaccination information to consenting to have their animals vaccinated and presenting the animals for vaccination. Adoption was defined as the continuous use of the vaccine when needed, even without the intervention of veterinary departments.

The study was carried out in Kwale and Murang’a counties in Kenya and Arua and Ibanda districts in Uganda. Data were collected through 58 focus group discussions (30 in Kenya and 28 in Uganda), with 8–12 discussants per group, selected based on whether or not livestock were vaccinated during recent outbreaks of Rift Valley fever.

To incorporate gender into the study design, in each country, half of the focus groups comprised men only and the other half women only. This gender disaggregation enabled the research team to collect data from the different gender groups across all four study locations.

The researchers found that men and women farmers faced different barriers in accessing and using livestock vaccines and that these constraints were influenced by socio-cultural and economic contexts and location.

For all focus groups across the four locations, the farmers ranked the top three barriers to the uptake of livestock vaccines as the cost of vaccines, limited access to information on vaccination and the side effects of the vaccines. However, including the gender and locational differences in the analysis brought forth a clearer picture of which group was most affected by which constraint.

Women in one region, for example, cited the cost of vaccines as the key challenge while women in another cited the limited information available on vaccination campaigns. In one region, the cultural dynamics around livestock ownership were paramount; in another, the long distances the women had to walk their animals to access the vaccination points was key.

The general lesson, however, was the same: ‘Provision of livestock vaccines by veterinary departments does not always guarantee uptake by men and women farmers’, lead author Edna Mutua notes.

Mutua is optimistic that veterinary authorities in Kenya and Uganda will use the research findings to design more effective community vaccination campaigns to prevent and control Rift Valley fever.

‘My hope is that this study serves as an eye-opener to veterinary departments in Kenya and Uganda on the need to integrate gender analysis into their livestock vaccine programs’, she says. ‘Optimizing vaccine uptake requires us to have a better understanding of the local contexts and constraints within which male and female farmers operate’.

This article by Tezira Lore was first published in the ILRI 2019 Annual Report.

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

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has focused global attention on the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment and how this links to the spread of zoonotic diseases, two postdoctoral scientists affiliated with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are among five recipients of this year’s Soulsby Fellowships, awarded to support early career researchers in human or veterinary medicine working on One Health projects. 

One Health can be defined as the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

The two postdoctoral scientists, Lisa Cavalerie from the University of Liverpool and Mark Nanyingi from the University of Liverpool and the University of Nairobi, are collaborators in the One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa project, a multidisciplinary international partnership that is working to improve the health and wealth of people in the Horn of Africa through One Health research.

Lisa Cavalerie, a veterinary epidemiologist, will study the benefits and risks of livestock ownership to maternal health in women in Ethiopia. She says: ‘The aim of the study will be to develop sustainable livestock health management to improve both maternal and child health.’

Mark Nanyingi, an infectious disease epidemiologist, will investigate the presence of Rift Valley fever virus in people, livestock and mosquitoes in Kenya. He aims to develop a human-animal integrated surveillance system which will inform national policy- and decision-making in the event of outbreaks. ‘This study will enhance our understanding of the geographical risk, distribution and genetic diversity of the virus,’ says Nanyingi.

We congratulate them on their awards and wish them all the best as they undertake their research projects.

Read more about the Soulsby Foundation and the other 2020 Soulsby Fellows.

Fruit and vegetables on sale alongside other food items in a local market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg).

African food systems are dominated by informal markets, typically open-air markets found at designated sites and street corners, which often have poor hygiene and are subject to limited or poor regulation. Occasionally there are calls for these informal markets to be banned, but most consumers depend on them as they are more accessible and affordable than formal markets.

As we celebrate World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2020, it is crucial that governments recognize the importance of better food safety in informal markets. One way to encourage them to take food safety seriously is by harnessing the power of consumer demand.

Foodborne diseases cause a massive health burden and remain a persistent impediment to socio-economic development. The World Health Organization estimates that close to 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from foodborne diseases worldwide. Children under five years of age make up 125,000 of those deaths.

Africa bears the largest per capita burden of foodborne diseases. Every year, more than 91 million people fall ill and 137,000 lose their lives, a toll comparable to the continent’s losses from major infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

In Ethiopia, as in other developing countries, most consumers buy their food from informal markets, attracted by their low prices, freshness, availability of local products and credit services. However, consumers are concerned about the safety of the food they buy from these markets, and they show this in their purchasing behaviour. Research has found that consumers would pay 5–15% more for safety-assured products.

Furthermore, demand for food safety increases with economic development, rising income, urbanization, increased media coverage and education level. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers more conscious of the safety of the food they buy and eat.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to increase the use of appropriate food safety assurance systems to ensure food quality and safety, but challenges include limited infrastructure and human capacity, such as laboratory facilities and trained personnel. A further challenge is that consumers often cannot detect unsafe food.

In contrast, food products developed for export markets receive considerable attention and are subject to higher standards of food safety. Decision-makers understand that meeting international food quality and safety regulatory requirements is a must for building trust among foreign trading partners.

This success has led to attempts to directly adopt some export food safety approaches for food products marketed in the informal market. However, since the settings are so different these approaches rarely work.

An alternative approach that is showing considerable promise is to harness consumers’ concerns about food safety to create greater demand for safe food. This simple approach requires educating consumers and increasing the awareness and capacity of food retailers and producers.

Urban food markets in Africa: Incentivizing food safety using a pull-push approach is a research project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. It develops and tests a novel but simple and practical approach to improving food safety: building consumer demand for safe food, traders’ ability to deliver it and regulator capacity to support it. It is, in short, a pull-push approach.

For the success of this approach, consumers need to be better informed on safe food including choice, purchase, storage and preparation. In addition, traders and producers need to be supported to develop their capacity to provide safe food and regulators need advice to create an enabling environment.

While regional estimates of the incidence of foodborne diseases are available, less is known at the country level. This project will also provide estimates of the incidence of key foodborne diseases in Ethiopia and provide a better understanding of the cost of foodborne diseases, how these diseases manifest and how they can be controlled.

Food safety is one of the key elements of ILRI’s research portfolio. Our approach to food safety is risk-based, identifying foodborne hazards, generating evidence, developing solutions and building the capacity of policymakers to use risk-based approaches to improve food safety in informal markets.

This feature article for World Food Safety Day was written by Beamlak Tesfaye, a communications officer at ILRI, and Theo Knight-Jones, a senior scientist at ILRI. It was originally published by The Reporter.

Visit the ILRI World Food Safety Day 2020 landing page for more information on our research on food safety in informal markets.

Customers at a milk bar in Ndumbuini in Kabete, Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

A new study published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine has investigated the governance structure of the Nairobi dairy value chain and the challenges faced by stakeholders and how these impact on food safety.

The dairy value chain of Nairobi consists mostly of small-scale independent enterprises that operate within a complex interlinked system. In this complexity, the coordination and power structures of the system may have major influences on the management of dairy food safety.

The study was carried out by a team of scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute, the Kenya Directorate of Veterinary Services, Royal College London, the University of Liverpool and the University of Nairobi as part of a research project on the epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in Nairobi.

The researchers collected qualitative data through focus group discussions and key informant interviews based on a dairy value chain mapping framework previously developed. Thematic analysis enabled identification of governance themes, key challenges and analysis of their implications on food safety. Themes were organized depending on their association with farmers (informal settlement or peri-urban), dairy cooperatives, dairy traders, processing companies, retailers or government officers.

The identified governance themes included (i) weak linkage between government and farmers, (ii) inadequate compliance with government regulations by traders and retailers, (iii) emphasis on business licenses and permits for revenue rather than for food safety, (iv) multiple licensing resulting in high business cost and lack of compliance, (v) fragmented regulation, (vi) unfair competition and (vii) sanctions that do not always result in compliance.

The key challenges identified included (i) inadequate farmer support, (ii) harassment of traders and retailers and (iii) high business costs for traders, retailers, dairy cooperatives and large processors.

The implication of governance and challenges of food safety were, among others, (i) inadequate extension services, (ii) insufficient cold chain, (iii) delivery of adulterated and low milk quality to bulking centres, (iv) inadequate food safety training and (v) lack of policies for management of waste milk.

The range of issues highlighted is based on stakeholders’ perceptions and reflects the complexity of the relationships between them. Many of the governance themes demonstrate the linkages that are both beneficial or confrontational between the formal and informal sectors, and between industry and regulatory authorities, with possible direct food safety consequences.

The findings of the study give indications to decision-makers of potential governance areas that could help improve efficiency and food safety along the dairy value chain.

Citation
Kiambi, S., Onono, J.O., Kang’ethe, E., Aboge, G.O., Murungi, M.K., Muinde, P., Akoko, J., Momanyi, K., Rushton, J., Fèvre, E.M. and Alarcon, P. 2020. Investigation of the governance structure of the Nairobi dairy value chain and its influence on food safety. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 179: 105009.

Borana women with sheep and goats at a traditional deep well water source, Garba Tulla, Isiolo, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Fiona Flintan).

Brucellosis is an important zoonotic disease that affects wildlife and livestock. People may get exposed to the disease through direct contact with an infected animal or consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. In humans, the disease is characterized by prolonged fever, body aches, joint pains and weakness, while in livestock, it mainly causes abortions and infertility. 

A study carried out in Garissa and Tana River counties of Kenya set out to identify the factors that affect the spread of brucellosis in people and livestock. Livestock and people from randomly selected households were recruited and serum samples were obtained and screened for Brucella antibodies to determine the level of exposure to Brucella spp. 

The study found that the chances of exposure to brucellosis in humans were at least three times higher in households that had at least one Brucella-seropositive animal compared to those that had none. 

This finding can be used to design risk-based surveillance systems for brucellosis, based on the locations of the primary cases of the disease, where each case of Brucella infection identified in livestock could signal potential locations of additional brucellosis cases in humans, and vice versa.

Citation

Kairu-Wanyoike, S., Nyamwaya, D., Wainaina, M., Lindahl, J., Ontiri, E., Bukachi, S., Njeru, I., Karanja, J., Sang, R., Grace, D. and Bett, B. 2019. Positive association between Brucella spp. seroprevalences in livestock and humans from a cross-sectional study in Garissa and Tana River Counties, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 13(10): e0007506.

A traceability system in the smallholder pig value chain in Kenya could help address challenges related to production, diseases, markets, pork safety and public health, according to a new study published by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Currently, Kenya does not have an operational livestock traceability system. Although a few systems have been piloted, these have only focused on the beef value chain and mostly in pastoralist areas. The smallholder pig value chain is suitable for the implementation of a traceability system as farmers usually keep a few pigs at a time and rely on a short marketing chain that is less complex.

The study, published in Tropical Animal Health and Production (16 Sep 2019), was based on a review of literature on pork traceability as well as on pig production in Kenya, with a focus on smallholder pig systems in western Kenya. Combined with the authors’ research experience in the region, the findings were used to inform the design of a traceability system for the smallholder pig value chain. 

Unique identification of animals is important for traceability. However, the review found that locally raised pigs were rarely identified. Farmers need to be made aware of the importance of identifying animals and recording their movements and how this can improve access to markets.

The study explains how a traceability system could support the surveillance of two important pig diseases in the region: African swine fever and porcine cysticercosis.

An effective traceability system could also enable the withdrawal of unsafe pork from the market, thereby helping to ensure the quality and safety of pork sold in local markets.

“Since meat inspection in the country has now been taken up by the county governments, we see traceability as an option that counties, in partnership with the private sector, could use to market themselves as producers of ‘safe and traceable’ pork”, the authors say. 

Starting with organized systems like commercial producer and trader groups, the concept can be piloted in the field to assess its practical application, paving the way for a national traceability system in line with the guidelines of the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

The authors of the study note, however, that implementing traceability as a tool towards improved animal health and food safety would require the participation of all stakeholders in the value chain. Therefore, appropriate incentives would need to be explored to ensure widespread adoption of the intervention.

Citation

Mutua, F., Lindahl, J. and Randolph, D. 2019. Possibilities of establishing a smallholder pig identification and traceability system in Kenya. Tropical Animal Health and Production. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-019-02077-9 

To the grazing field, Afar, Ethiopia

Cattle going to the grazing field in Afar region, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Climate change influences the occurrence and transmission of a wide range of livestock diseases through multiple pathways. Diseases caused by pathogens that spent part of their life cycle outside the host (for instance, in vectors or the environment) are more sensitive in this regard, compared to those caused by obligate pathogens.

A newly published book, The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers, brings together some of the latest research by agricultural scientists on climate-smart agriculture in eastern and southern Africa. The 25 chapters of the book highlight ongoing efforts to better characterize climate risks, develop and disseminate climate-smart varieties and farm management practices, and integrate these technologies into well-functioning value chains.

In a chapter on climate change and livestock diseases, scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) use two well-studied vector-borne diseases—Rift Valley fever and tick-borne diseases—as case studies to describe direct pathways through which climate change influences infectious disease-risk in East and southern Africa.

Access the chapter, Climate change and infectious livestock diseases: The case of Rift Valley fever and tick-borne diseases by Bernard Bett, Johanna Lindahl and Delia Grace.

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

Citation
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.

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