Market place in Kenya (photo credit: World Bank/Sambrian Mbaabu).

Food safety has never featured prominently on Africa’s development agenda. When it is an issue, typically the focus has been on high-value food items produced for export, while food safety in domestic markets has been largely neglected, both by governments and development partners. This must change. Recent research has shown that the health and economic consequences of foodborne diseases in Africa are significant and growing, as urbanization and income growth prompt dietary changes that increasingly expose consumers to food safety hazards.

The coming decade is critical. A ‘business as usual’ approach to food safety, involving a combination of post-outbreak firefighting and fragmented regulatory and ad hoc interventions, will do little to check the threats posed by unsafe food in many African countries. The good news is that many of these problems can be controlled and their costs reduced. A combination of incremental and systematic measures, well within the capacity of most governments, can flatten the curve of foodborne illness.

Until recently, research on foodborne diseases was mostly limited to high-income countries. Research and public health interventions in poorer countries largely focused on the so-called big three—tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria—and on maternal and child mortality. Yet, recent epidemiological research from the World Health Organization shows the costs of neglecting foodborne diseases in developing countries. Worldwide, the global health burden of foodborne diseases is on par with the big three. The young, old, malnourished and poor are disproportionately impacted and children under five years of age are especially vulnerable.

Globally, Africa south of the Sahara and emerging Asia have the highest incidence of and death rates from foodborne diseases. Yet while the incidence rates of the two regions are comparable, Africa’s estimated death rate is nearly four times higher. The reasons for that difference are not fully understood, but the prevalence of endemic ailments and poor diagnostic and treatment options probably account for much of it. Drawing on data from the World Health Organization and other recent sources, we estimate that Africa experiences around 135 million cases of foodborne diseases and 180,000 foodborne disease-related deaths per year. Microbial pathogens—especially Salmonella spp., toxigenic Escherichia coli, norovirus and Campylobacter spp.—account for about 80% of Africa’s foodborne disease burden.

The economic consequences of foodborne diseases in Africa are correspondingly severe. A recent World Bank study estimated the productivity losses alone attributed to unsafe food within Africa at $20 billion in 2016 and the cost of treating these illnesses at an additional $3.5 billion. These costs are heaviest in larger, middle-income countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, yet are also significant elsewhere. Overall, the relative economic burden of foodborne diseases is higher for African countries than for developing countries elsewhere.

Both the health and economic consequences of foodborne diseases in Africa are likely to grow as the continent develops. In low-income countries, food is typically produced close to the point of consumption and undergoes limited transformation. Starchy staples such as cassava, maize and rice predominate. Traditional processing techniques dominate and are often fairly effective at reducing risk. As they develop and urbanize, countries experience rapid shifts in diet and towards more intensified agriculture. Such transitions typically lead to increased consumption of fresh produce and animal-sourced foods and a lengthening of food supply chains. Yet much of this perishable food continues to be handled and distributed through informal channels, creating potentially multiple points for food hazards to develop. In these transitioning food systems, the official regulatory apparatus is often overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of emerging challenges.

Until very recently, domestic food safety programs in Africa have been few and poorly funded. By contrast, literally hundreds of projects supported by trade partners or development agencies have sought to address international trade-related food safety problems. These have been beneficial and have helped to push Africa’s trade in safety-sensitive foods such as fish, fresh fruit and vegetables from $3.8 billion in 2001 to $16.1 billion in 2017. But overall, the available evidence suggests that the trade-related costs associated with unsafe food in African countries are small compared to the domestic public health costs and productivity losses. In fact, we estimate the ratio between domestic and trade-related costs is likely to be on the order of 40 to 1, suggesting that the predominant attention of policymakers on the trade impacts of food safety has been deeply misguided.

African countries must implement better domestic food safety policies and support them with needed investment. But this, in itself, will not be enough to give them the upper hand against foodborne diseases. What they need is nothing less than a food safety paradigm shift. The traditional regulatory model, imported from high-income countries, centres on enforcement through regular inspection of food facilities and product testing, with set legal and financial penalties. This model is ill-suited to food systems in Africa, where smallholder farmers, micro- and small enterprises and informal food channels predominate, surveillance and inspection mechanisms can be weak and court procedures challenging and slow. It introduces an antagonistic and often unproductive relationship between government and the private sector as regulator versus regulated.

A better approach is to think of food safety as a shared responsibility between food business operators, consumers and the government. In this model, governments set forth a vision, convene stakeholders and offer a diverse set of policy instruments to involve, incentivize and leverage the actions of key value chain actors. Instead of being the ‘official food control’ authority, governments should act as facilitators encouraging investments and behaviour change. Experimentation and flexibility will be critical.

There are no quick fixes to Africa’s food safety challenges. They require a comprehensive approach that focuses on improving food safety awareness, practices and governance. Foundational investments will be needed in people, infrastructure and institutions. Addressing these issues will require sustained attention from technical agencies and government ministries as well as donors. It will require broader interventions to improve access to quality public health services, clean water and sanitation and improved agricultural productivity. It will require, in short, a commitment commensurate to the scale of the problem. It is also likely, as in other parts of the world, that improvements will ultimately be driven by better-aware consumers demanding food safety and eliciting responses from public sector and food suppliers. Recognizing that is a good place to start.

This article by Steven Jaffee and Delia Grace was originally posted on the International Food Policy Research Institute website. It is based on a chapter they and others co-authored in the 2020 Annual Trends and Outlook Report: ‘Why Food Safety Matters to Africa: Making the Case for Policy Action’ by Steven Jaffee, Spencer Henson, Delia Grace, Mateo Ambrosio and Franck Berthe.

Steven Jaffee is a lecturer at the University of Maryland. Delia Grace is a professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich and a contributing scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute.

Photo credit: Market place in Kenya (World Bank/Sambrian Mbaabu).

Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought into sharp focus the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment and how this can contribute to the spread of disease.

One Health is a concept that recognizes that the health and well-being of people is intricately linked to the health of animals and the environment. For this reason, disease outbreaks are best tackled through a One Health approach that harnesses the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines and sectors. This is especially so for zoonotic diseases that are spread between animals and people. One Health is also useful for addressing other public health issues such as antimicrobial resistance and food safety. 

One Health is not a new concept, but it has become more important in recent years. This is because many factors have changed interactions between people, animals and the environment. These changes have led to the emergence and re-emergence of zoonotic diseases.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has an established record of collaborative One Health research in Africa and Southeast Asia. To mark One Health Day coming up next week on 3 November, we bring you highlights of some One Health research initiatives by ILRI and partners.

Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia

This project worked directly with over 100 actors involved in managing zoonotic emerging infectious diseases across eight multi-disciplinary teams in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The project increased the capacity of researchers and policy implementers to use One Health approaches for better control of zoonotic diseases. The project also produced various research outputs and increased understanding of the teams’ knowledge, attitudes and practice in relation to One Health and how this approach could lead to better health outcomes for people, animals and the environment.

One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa

This project aims to improve the health and wealth of the people of the Horn of Africa by developing a regional network of individuals and organizations that can undertake high quality research into the link between people’s health and that of livestock and the environment. The project builds capacity to undertake basic and applied research in One Health through training programs and research placements for both research and non-research staff from participating institutions.

One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa

The One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa was launched barely a week ago (on 22 October 2020) and is hosted at ILRI’s Nairobi campus. Its goal is to improve the health of humans, animals and ecosystems through capacity building, strengthening of local, regional and global networks and provision of evidence-based policy advice on One Health in sub-Saharan Africa. It has four research themes: control of neglected tropical zoonotic diseases; emerging infectious diseases; food safety and informal markets; and prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance. The centre is currently supporting the Government of Kenya’s national response to the COVID-19 pandemic through COVID-19 testing in ILRI’s bioscience laboratories.

One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

This project applies a One Health approach to enhance the well-being and resilience of vulnerable communities in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The project brings together professionals in human and animal health and the environment to achieve better access to human and veterinary health services and sustainable natural resource management.

Photo credit: Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (ILRI/Stevie Mann)

A pastoralist milks her goat, Borana, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

Milk and milk products are essential in the diets of the Borana pastoral community in Ethiopia. However, traditional handling and processing of dairy products using basic equipment and infrastructure coupled with a preference for raw milk consumption pose potential health risks to consumers.

A new research study published in the Journal of Dairy Science (Nov 2020) reports on the testing of a community-based training intervention to improve the knowledge, attitudes and practices of women in the Borana pastoral area of Ethiopia regarding hygienic handling and safe consumption of milk.

The intervention consisted of 16 hours of training on good milk production practices and prevention of milk-borne diseases using locally-tailored content. A total of 120 women who produce and sell milk products were trained and their knowledge, attitudes and practices assessed at three stages: before, immediately after and six months after training.

Overall, training increased the knowledge score of the participants from 75.6% before training to 91.4% immediately after training and 90% six months after training. The attitude score significantly improved from 58.8% before training to 64.7% immediately after training. Likewise, there was an observed increase in the trainees’ understanding of correct milk handling practices from 49.5% before training to 64.7% six months after training.

“Future training interventions should be complemented by locally adaptable technologies, provision of incentives and creation of an enabling environment including improved access to clean water and sanitation facilities,” the study authors recommend, adding that this could include practical sessions at the homesteads or herding places of the pastoralists.

Citation

Amenu, K., Agga, G.E., Kumbe, A., Shibiru, A., Desta, H., Tiki, W., Dego, O.K., Wieland, B., Grace, D. and Alonso, S. 2020. MILK Symposium review: Community-tailored training to improve the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women regarding hygienic milk production and handling in Borana pastoral area of southern Ethiopia. Journal of Dairy Science 103(11): 9748–9757. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18292

Photo credit: A pastoralist milks her goat, Borana, Ethiopia (ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

Open Access Week 2020 banner. Open with purpose: Taking action to build structural equity and inclusion. October 19-25.

International Open Access Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about open access publishing of research outputs to enable their universal online accessibility. Research outputs are wide-ranging and include articles in peer-reviewed journals, books, book chapters, conference proceedings, infographics, presentations, posters, reports, theses and videos.

The theme of this year’s Open Access Week (19–25 October) is ‘Open with purpose: taking action to build structural equity and inclusion’.

The Animal and Human Health program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to effectively manage or eliminate livestock, zoonotic and foodborne diseases that matter to the poor through the generation and use of knowledge, technologies and products, leading to higher farmer incomes and better health and nutrition for consumers and livestock.

To celebrate Open Access Week 2020, we bring you a curated selection of recently published open access outputs authored and co-authored by scientists from ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program from across our research portfolio on antimicrobial resistance, food safety, One Health and zoonotic diseases.

Book chapters

  • Bett, B., Randolph, D. and McDermott, J. 2020. Africa’s growing risk of diseases that spread from animals to people. In: Swinnen, J. and McDermott, J. (eds), COVID-19 and global food security. Washington, D.C.: IFPRI. pp. 124–128. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108990
  • Kang’ethe, E., Grace, D., Alonso, S., Lindahl, J., Mutua, F. and Haggblade, S. 2020. Food safety and public health implications of growing urban food markets. In: AGRA, Africa Agriculture Status Report. Feeding Africa’s cities: Opportunities, challenges, and policies for linking African farmers with growing urban food markets. Issue 8. Nairobi, Kenya: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA): 101–119. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/109386

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • 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. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108692
  • Hu Suk Lee, Vuong Nghia Bui, Huyen Xuan Nguyen, Anh Ngoc Bui, Trung Duc Hoang, Hung Nguyen-Viet, Randolph, D.G. and Wieland, B. 2020. Seroprevalences of multi-pathogen and description of farm movement in pigs in two provinces in Vietnam. BMC Veterinary Research 16: 15. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/106618 
  • Kemboi, D.C., Antonissen, G., Ochieng, P.E., Croubels, S., Okoth, S., Kang’ethe, E.K., Faas, J., Lindahl, J.F. and Gathumbi, J.K. 2020. A review of the impact of mycotoxins on dairy cattle health: Challenges for food safety and dairy production in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxins 12(4): 222. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108030
  • Kivali, V., Kiyong’a, A.N., Fyfe, J., Toye, P., Fèvre, E.M. and Cook, E.A.J. 2020. Spatial distribution of trypanosomes in cattle from western Kenya. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 7: 554. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/109133
  • Kiyong’a, A.N., Cook, E.A.J., Okba, N.M.A., Kivali, V., Reuksen, C., Haagmans, B.L. and Fèvre, E.M. 2020. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) seropositive camel handlers in Kenya. Viruses 12(4): 396. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/107946
  • Long Pham-Thanh, Magnusson, U., Minh Can-Xuan, Hung Nguyen-Viet, Lundkvist, Å. and Lindahl, J. 2020. Livestock development in Hanoi city, Vietnam—Challenges and policies. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 7: 566. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/109404
  • Mitchell, M.E.V., Alders, R., Unger, F., Hung Nguyen-Viet, Trang Thi Huyen Le and Toribio, J.-A. 2020. The challenges of investigating antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam – what benefits does a One Health approach offer the animal and human health sectors? BMC Public Health 20: 213. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/107087 
  • Mutua, F., Sharma, G., Grace, D., Bandyopadhyay, S., Shome, B. and Lindahl, J. 2020. A review of animal health and drug use practices in India, and their possible link to antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control 9: 103. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108734
  • Njenga, M.K., Ogolla, E., Thumbi, S.M., Ngere, I., Omulo, S., Muturi, M., Marwanga, D., Bitek, A., Bett, B., Widdowson, M.-A., Munyua, P. and Osoro, E.M. 2020. Comparison of knowledge, attitude, and practices of animal and human brucellosis between nomadic pastoralists and non-pastoralists in Kenya. BMC Public Health 20: 269. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/107419
  • Wernli, D., Jørgensen, P.S., Parmley, E.J., Troell, M., Majowicz, S., Harbarth, S., Léger, A., Lambraki, I., Graells, T., Henriksson, P.J.G., Carson, C., Cousins, M., Ståhlgren, G.S., Mohan, C.V., Simpson, A.J.H., Wieland, B., Pedersen, K., Schneider, A., Chandy, S.J., Wijayathilaka, T.P., Delamare-Deboutteville, J., Vila, J., Lundborg, C.S. and Pittet, D. 2020. Evidence for action: A One Health learning platform on interventions to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Lancet Infectious Diseases. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/109151

Infographic

  • Grace, D., Alonso, S., Mutua, F., Hoffmann, V., Lore, T. and Karugia, J. 2020. Food safety in Kenya: Focus on dairy. Infographic. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/109143

Presentations and posters

  • Diarra, S., Dione, M., Konkobo-Yameogo, C., Ilboudo, G., Roesel, K., Lallogo, V.R., Ouattara, L. and Knight-Jones, T. 2020. Value chain assessment of animal source foods and vegetables in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: Food safety, quality and hygiene perceptions and practices. Presentation at a project webinar, 20 May 2020. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108633
  • Hung Nguyen-Viet, Unger, F., Hu Suk Lee, Lindahl, J., Thang Nguyen, Bett, B., Fèvre, E., Tum, S., Sinh Dang Xuan, Moodley, A. and Grace, D. 2020. One Health research at the International Livestock Research Institute to address neglected tropical diseases, zoonoses and emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia. Presentation at a webinar by the One Health Collaborating Center Universitas Gadjah Mada, ‘World Zoonoses Day 2020: Lessons learned and future directions’, 7 July 2020. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108791
  • Lindahl, J., Mutua, F. and Grace, D. 2020. Livestock interventions in low-income countries: A theory of change for improved nutrition. Poster presentation at the virtual 2020 Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (ANH) Academy Week research conference, 30 June–2 July 2020. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108715
  • Wieland, B., Moodley, A., Mbatidde, I., Ndoboli, D., Tenhagen, B.-A., Roesler, U., Erechu, R., Litta-Mulondo, A., Kakooza, S., Waiswa, J. and Kankya, C. 2020. Mitigating agriculture-associated antimicrobial resistance in poultry value chains in Uganda. Poster presented at the virtual annual planning meeting of the Boosting Uganda’s Investment in Livestock Development (BUILD) project, 10–12 June 2020. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108689

Project report

  • Blackmore, E., Guarín, A., Alonso, S., Grace, D. and Vorley, B. 2020. Informal milk markets in Kenya, Tanzania and Assam (India): An overview of their status, policy context, and opportunities for policy innovation to improve health and safety. ILRI Research Report. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/109797

Research briefs

  • Lam, S., Huyen Thi Thu Nguyen, Hung Nguyen-Viet and Unger, F. 2020. Mapping pathways toward safer pork in Vietnam. ILRI Research Brief 95. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108768
  • Nguyen Thi Thinh, Grace, D., Pham Van Hung, Le Thi Thanh Huyen, Hung Nguyen Viet, Sinh Dang-Xuan, Nguyen Thi Duong Nga, Nguyen Thanh Luong, Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen, Tran Thi Bich Ngoc, Pham Duc Phuc and Unger, F. 2020. Food safety performance in key pork value chains in Vietnam. ILRI Research Brief 94. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108320
  • Pham Duc Phuc, Toribio, J.-A., Ngo Hoang Tuan Hai, Sinh Dang-Xuan, Nguyen Thanh Luong, Langley, S.J., Dunham, J.G., Dinh Thanh Thuy, Dang Vu Hoa, Hung Nguyen-Viet, Grace, D. and Unger, F. 2020. Food safety risk communication and training need of stakeholders and consumers regarding pork value chain in Vietnam. ILRI Research Brief 96. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/108769

Videos

Photo credit: International Open Access Week website

Milk cans at Ol Kalou Dairy Plant, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

A new research report (Oct 2020) by scientists from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) reviews the status and policy contexts of informal milk markets in Kenya, Tanzania and Assam (India) to better understand the opportunities for a policy innovation based on training and certification to overcome market access barriers for sellers of informal milk by improving the health and safety practices of informal milk traders, thereby addressing policymakers’ concerns. It is based on an extensive review of available literature and a small number of expert interviews and contributions.

Citation

Blackmore, E., Guarín, A., Alonso, S., Grace, D. and Vorley, B. 2020. Informal milk markets in Kenya, Tanzania and Assam (India): An overview of their status, policy context, and opportunities for policy innovation to improve health and safety. ILRI Project Report. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Photo credit: Milk cans at the Ol Kalou Dairy Plant, Kenya (ILRI/Paul Karaimu)

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

The effects of COVID-19 have gone undocumented in nomadic pastoralist communities across Africa, which are largely invisible to health surveillance systems despite their significance in the setting of emerging infectious disease.

A new research paper in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (online first 10 Sept 2020) exposes these landscapes as a ‘blind spot’ in global health surveillance, elaborates on the ways in which current health surveillance infrastructure is ill-equipped to capture pastoralist populations and the animals with which they coexist, and highlights the consequential risks of inadequate surveillance among pastoralists and their livestock to global health.

As a platform for further dialogue, the authors of the paper also present solutions to address this gap. These include the development of an integrated One Health surveillance system that links pastoralists, their livestock and overlapping wildlife populations with centralized disease reporting. Community-based syndromic surveillance and participatory epidemiology would also improve early detection and reporting of disease outbreaks for more timely control interventions.

Citation
Hassell, J.M., Zimmerman, D., Fèvre, E.M., Zinsstag, J., Bukachi, S., Barry, M., Muturi, M., Bett, B., Jensen, N., Ali, S., Maples, S., Rushton, J., Tschopp, R., Madaine, Y.O., Abtidon, R.A. and Wild, H. 2020. Africa’s nomadic pastoralists and their animals are an invisible frontier in pandemic surveillance. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-1004

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

Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa launched its 2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report during the African Green Revolution Forum virtual summit hosted in Kigali, Rwanda on 8-11 September 2020.

This year’s report focuses on the challenges of feeding Africa’s cities and the opportunities available to smallholder farmers and agribusinesses to meet the needs of the continent’s fast growing urban food markets.

The report features a chapter on food safety and public health in urban food markets in Africa. Currently, Africa suffers from the highest per capita rate of foodborne illnesses in the world. The riskiest foods from a health perspective are animal-source foods, fruits and fresh vegetables. Consumption of these food products is rising rapidly in African cities.

Improving food safety in Africa’s urban food markets — both the dominant informal markets and the growing formal markets — will go a long way to safeguard the health of consumers and reduce the economic and health burden of foodborne illnesses.

Interventions include improving domestic market infrastructure, training of food handlers and increasing awareness of the shared responsibility of regulators and value chain actors to provide safe food.

Unsafe food directly undermines human health and jeopardises the attainment of national, continental and global development goals. For this reason, African governments urgently need to prioritize food safety and adopt policies and strategies that will ensure the delivery of adequate and safe food to urban markets.

Citation
Kang’ethe, E., Grace, D., Alonso, S., Lindahl, J., Mutua, F. and Haggblade, S. 2020. Food safety and public health implications of growing urban food markets. IN: AGRA, Africa Agriculture Status Report. Feeding Africa’s cities: Opportunities, challenges, and policies for linking African farmers with growing urban food markets. Issue 8. Nairobi, Kenya: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). pp. 101–119.

Photo credit: Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné)

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.

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

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

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

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.

Photo credit: A herder with his livestock in Isiolo County, Kenya (ILRI/Dorine Odongo)