Reducing aflatoxins in Kenya’s food chains: Filmed highlights from an ILRI media briefing

Last month (14 Nov 2013), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held a roundtable briefing/discussion for science journalists in Nairobi to highlight on-going multi-institutional efforts to combat aflatoxins in the food chains of Kenya.

Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic by-product of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts. Researchers from across East Africa are joining up efforts to address the significant human and animal health challenges posed by these food toxins in the region.

Watch this 6-minute film, which highlights some of the interventions being used to tackle aflatoxins in Kenya. The film features interviews with the five panelists at the media briefing, who came from the University of Nairobi, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Kenya, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, and ILRI.

‘Even though the presence of aflatoxins in Kenya dates back to the 1960s, the first recorded outbreak of aflatoxins that affected humans was recorded in the early 1980s,’ says Erastus Kang’ethe, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Nairobi.

‘The biggest risk of aflatoxins comes from long-term exposure to these toxins, which leads to chronic aflatoxicosis,’ says Abigael Obura, of CDC. ‘The CDC in Kenya is working closely with the Ministry of Health to improve aflatoxin surveillance measures in Kenya’s districts through better sample collection and analysis.’

At the same time, Johanna Lindahl and other scientists at ILRI are assessing the risks posed by aflatoxins in Kenya’s dairy value chain; cows that consume aflatoxin-contaminated feeds produce milk that is also contaminated with the toxins.

According to Charity Mutegi, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, one of the key strategies in managing aflatoxins in Kenya is by using a ‘biological control technology that targets the fungus that produces the aflatoxins while the crop is still in the field.’ Known more popularly as ‘aflasafe,’ this technology, which is expected to be available in the country soon, is in use in other parts of Africa where ‘farm trials have yielded aflatoxin reduction of over 70 percent,’ says Mutegi.

Jagger Harvey, a scientist with the BecA-ILRI Hub, says the hub has established a capacity building platform for aflatoxin research that is being used by maize breeders from Kenya and Tanzania to, among other control efforts, come up with maize varieties that are more resistance to the aflatoxin-causing fungus.

Read a related ILRI news article about a filmed interview of two scientists leading work of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Delia Grace, of ILRI, and John McDermott, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who describe some of the risks aflatoxins pose, new options for their better control and why research to combat these toxins matters so much.

View an ILRI infographic of the impact of aflatoxins in the food chain.

Read more on biological control to reduce aflatoxins.

Read more on strengthening regional research capacity to deal with aflatoxins.

Fighting aflatoxins: CGIAR scientists Delia Grace and John McDermott describe the disease threats and options for better control

In this 6-minute film, two leading scientists combatting aflatoxins in the food chains of developing countries describe some of the risks these toxins pose and new options for their better control. Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic byproduct of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts, as well as in the milk and meat of livestock that have consumed feeds contaminated with aflatoxins. These toxins threaten public health in many poor countries.

In this short film, Delia Grace and John McDermott discuss on-going research to control aflatoxins in developing countries and why this research matters so much.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist who leads research on both ‘food safety and zoonoses’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, a flagship project of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). John McDermott, another veterinary epidemiologist by training, who formerly served as ILRI’s deputy director general for research and now works for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is director of A4NH (Agriculture for Nutrition and Health), a multi-centre program led by IFPRI.

Earlier this week (4 Nov 2013), IFPRI and its 2020 Vision initiative jointly with the CGIAR Research Program on A4NH released a series of 19 briefs on the state of efforts to combat aflatoxins. ILRI’s Grace co-edited the series with IFPRI’s Laurian Unnevehr: ‘Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety’. Grace and Unnevehr themselves developed 2 of the 19 briefs: ‘Tackling aflatoxins: An overview of challenges and solutions’  and The role of risk assessment in guiding aflatoxin policy’. In another of the briefs, Grace zeroes in on the dangers of aflatoxins in animal-source foods: ‘Animals and aflatoxins’. Jagger Harvey and Benoit Gnonlonfin, two scientists with ILRI’s Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, along with colleagues in Australia and Cornell University, wrote the last brief in the series: ‘Improving diagnostics for aflatoxin detection‘.

Aflatoxins grow naturally on many farms, infesting grains and groundnuts, particularly after drought or insect damage and are a particularly common problem in developing countries, where aflatoxins not only pose a significant public health risk but also create a barrier to trade in agricultural commodities.

‘These toxins have a range of effects on human and animal health,’ says Grace. ‘High doses are lethal to both humans and animals and chronic consumption of lower levels of aflatoxins is associated with liver cancer and immunosuppression in children.’

Researchers have known about the problem of aflatoxins in developing countries for several decades but because these countries have largely informal markets and minimal trade, people have tended to minimize or ignore the problem.

‘But this is changing’, says McDermott. ‘Recent cases of aflatoxin-related deaths in Africa widened appreciation that this problem is important; there’s been a recent increase in investment in different control methods’, he says.

The series of briefs released this week brings together the experiences of researchers both within and outside CGIAR and contributes to efforts to help smallholder farmers better manage aflatoxins on their farms.

The briefs describe health risks from aflatoxins and the state of research on aflatoxins, including new methods of detection, crop breeding and food storage and handling, as well as ways to overcome the market constraints imposed by aflatoxins.

‘We’ve assembled for policy- and other decision-makers the current state of knowledge on what we need to do about aflatoxins in tropical countries,’ says McDermott.

Read more about the briefs released this week:

http://www.ifpri.org/publication/aflatoxins-finding-solutions-improved-food-safety

Read the whole publication: Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety, edited by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

Download

Table of Contents and Introduction

1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions
by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

2. Aflatoxicosis: Evidence from Kenya
by Abigael Obura

3. Aflatoxin Exposure and Chronic Human Diseases: Estimates of Burden of Disease
by Felicia Wu

4. Child Stunting and Aflatoxins
by Jef L Leroy

5. Animals and Aflatoxins
by Delia Grace

6. Managing Mycotoxin Risks in the Food Industry: The Global Food Security Link
by David Crean

7. Farmer Perceptions of Aflatoxins: Implications for Intervention in Kenya
by Sophie Walker and Bryn Davies

8. Market-led Aflatoxin Interventions: Smallholder Groundnut Value Chains in Malawi
by Andrew Emmott

9. Aflatoxin Management in the World Food Programme through P4P Local Procurement
by Stéphane Méaux, Eleni Pantiora and Sheryl Schneider

10. Reducing Aflatoxins in Africa’s Crops: Experiences from the Aflacontrol Project
by Clare Narrod

11. Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Reduce Aflatoxin Risk
by Felicia Wu

12. Trade Impacts of Aflatoxin Standards
by Devesh Roy

13. Codex Standards: A Global Tool for Aflatoxin Management
by Renata Clarke and Vittorio Fattori

14. The Role of Risk Assessment in Guiding Aflatoxin Policy
by Delia Grace and Laurian Unnevehr

15. Mobilizing Political Support: Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
by Amare Ayalew, Wezi Chunga and Winta Sintayehu

16. Biological Controls for Aflatoxin Reduction
by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay and Peter J Cotty

17. Managing Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize: Developing Host Resistance
by George Mahuku, Marilyn L Warburton, Dan Makumbi and Felix San Vicente

18. Reducing Aflatoxins in Groundnuts through Integrated Management and Biocontrol
by Farid Waliyar, Moses Osiru, Hari Kishan Sudini and Samuel Njoroge

19. Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection
by Jagger Harvey, Benoit Gnonlonfin, Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell

References

 

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith on global health and food security: Why developing-country livestock matter so much

Global food security

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) gave a keynote presentation this morning (17 Oct 2013) at the opening of the Global Animal Health Conference, ‘Developing global animal health products to support food security and sustainability’, in Arlington, Virginia.

Smith began his presentation, ‘Global health and sustainable food security: Why the livestock sectors of developing countries matter’, by setting out the state of global food security and questioning how the world will manage to feed itself as the human population grows before stabilizing at about mid-century. Some 60% more food than is produced now will be needed by then, he said. And, somehow, some 75% of that increase will have to come from increases in productivity rather than from increases in land under cultivation. This higher production, he said, must be achieved while at the same time reducing poverty and hunger and addressing environmental, social and health concerns. In addition, the greater food production will have to be achieved in the face of temperatures 2−4 degrees C warmer than today’s.

He pointed out the great nutritional divides in today’s world, and warned of malnutrition’s huge financial as well as public health costs.

Nutritional divides among 7 billion people today

He noted that gains in consumption of meat in poor and emerging economies are greatly outpacing those of the industrialized countries.

Gains in meat consunmption in developing countries outpace those of developed countries

Smith then pointed out how much of the world’s food comes not from large-scale farmers but rather from hundreds of millions of very small-scale farmers in developing countries.

Global food production: From where?

These small-scale food producers, he said, are more competitive than most people think. He cited two examples. In East Africa, one million smallholders keep Africa’s largest dairy herd, Ugandans produce milk at the lowest cost in the world, and Kenya’s small- and large-scale poultry and diary producers have the same levels of efficiency and profits. In Vietnam, 50% of the country’s pig production is done by farmers with less than 100 pigs, and producers keeping just 1 or 2 sows have lower unit costs than those with more than 4 sows. Scientists estimate that Vietnam’s industrial pig production could grow to meet no more than 12% of the national pig supply in the next 10 years, so small-scale farmers will continue to supply most of the country’s pork for the foreseeable future.

Global livestock markets

In a series of graphs, ILRI’s director general presented figures for livestock commodities being global leaders, for the huge global trade in livestock products and for the fast-rising demand for meat, milk and eggs in developing countries.

4 out of 5 of the highest value global commodities are livestock

Percentage increase in demand for livestock products

Global trade of livestock products (milk excluded)

Global trade in livestock products (milk included)

Global animal health

Smith said that the developing world’s smallholder livestock producers can continue to produce most of the world’s milk, meat and eggs only if we can find ways to improve livestock health, especially by reducing food safety problems that reduce market participation by smallholders, by reducing the endemic livestock diseases that greatly lower livestock productivity in developing countries, and by lowering zoonotic disease transmissions that threaten small-scale livestock production in poor countries—as well as human health in all countries.

Food safety in developing countries, where most milk, meat and eggs are sold in informal or ‘wet’ markets, is a bigger problem than most people recognize, the ILRI director general said. He said we need to manage the risks of illness while retaining the benefits—to livelihoods and food and nutritional security—of informally sold livestock foods. And, he said, we have to educate people about the various risks of these informal markets, where common perceptions can be misleading; eating vegetables sold in these markets, for example, can be as risky to health as handling cattle or drinking raw milk.

Gender is an important determinant of food safety in developing countries, Smith said, with evidence indicating that Africa’s women butchers sell safer meat than their male counterparts. Women and children and farm workers are also at greater risking in contracting food-borne diseases.

Regarding health advice, Smith argued that it is most useful when it is tailored for specific circumstances, when it is based on evidence, and when it is developed in and with local communities. It’s also been found that what works best for increasing food safety are social incentives (e.g., ‘good parents do X rather than Y with their milk cows’), and risk- rather than rule-based approaches. Finally, he said, relatively simple and cheap interventions can lead to substantial improvements in food safety.

The big livestock productivity gaps between rich and poor countries, Smith explained, are due largely to poor animal health in these countries.

Big productivity gaps, largely due to poor animal health, persist between rich and poor countries

Livestock diseases take a huge toll . . .

Annual losses from selected diseases--Africa and South Asia

. . . especially in Africa.

Animal disease is a key constraint in Africa

And the toll from ‘zoonotic’ diseases, which are transmitted from animals to people, is especially devastating.

A deadly dozen zoonotic diseases each year kill 2.2 million people and sicken 2.4 billion

These zoonotic infections harm poor people the most.

Greatest burden of zoonoses falls on one billion poor livestock keepers

Incidences of zoonotic events are worringly on the increase . . .

Emerging zoonotic disease events, 1940-2012

. . . and can have enormous costs . . .

Costs of emerging zoonotic disease outbreaks

. . . as they spread, just as African swine fever is now spreading.

Africa swine fever threatens US$150-billion global pig industry

Global animal health markets

The animal health markets in developing countries are already significant and are growing rapidly. The global animal health market is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The global human health market amounts to US$1000 million and the global animal health market, including livestock, pets and other animals, some $20 billion. The global livestock health market is worth about $13 billion, with the livestock health market in Africa now experiencing a 15.7% year-on-year growth (the second fastest growth after Latin America).

Just 15 countries make up more than 85% of the global animal health market today; demand for animal health markets in developing and emerging economies is increasingly important.

Take India, for example.

Animal health markets: India

To take advantage of the increasing opportunities in developing countries will require an understanding of smallholder livestock systems and customers, who will need tailored packaging and marketing (e.g., drugs in small packets), delivery systems appropriate for widely dispersed farms, surveillance systems for development of drug resistance, and ‘One Health’ approaches and ‘Rational Drug Use’ used for both people and their animals. Among the ‘game-changing’ livestock health products urgently needed in poor countries and communities are appropriate vaccines for Newcastle disease in poultry and East Coast fever in cattle and quality assurance for all veterinary medicines.

Jimmy Smith ended his presentation with four key messages:

Global health and sustainable food security: Key messages

And he closed his presentation the following thoughts.

The risks of ignoring pressing animal health issues in the developing world are huge:

  • Lost livelihoods in poor countries
  • Greater global food insecurity
  • Increased risk of human illness in all countries

The opportunities for improving animal health in developing countries are just as big. With appropriate approaches, this significant animal health market should grow rapidly, for the good of all.

View the presentation.

See other recent presentations by Jimmy Smith:

Improving the environmental sustainability of livestock systems in the developing world–ILRI’s Jimmy Smith, 30 Sep 2013

Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1, 16 Sep 2013

Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 2, 16 Sep 2013

More presentations by Jimmy Smith.

‘The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor’: A little film for a big World Food Day and World Food Prize

The prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases from FILM for SCIENCE in AGRICULTURE on Vimeo.

To honour World Food Day today, celebrated every year on 16 Oct in honour of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on this date in 1945, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) invites you to watch a 3-minute film about a new research to reduce agriculture-associated diseases.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI, one of 15 CGIAR centres working for a food-secure world. Grace leads the ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ component of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The latter, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute, was started in 2012 to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations.

Here is Grace on just what ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ are, and why they matter.

The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor.
In hungry countries, most people cannot get enough nourishing and safe food. A third of humankind still grows their own food or buys local food in local markets. But the foods poor people grow, buy and eat often make them sick, and can even kill them.

Food-borne disease is the most common illness in the world.
Milk, eggs, meat and vegetables are especially dangerous. Yet these superior foods provide the world’s poorest two billion people with essential nutrients they need to grow, develop and be healthy and productive.

In addition, more than half of all human diseases are transmitted to people from farm and other animals.
These diseases include those like TB and AIDs, which are catastrophic in the developing world. And every six months, another new disease jumps from animals to people.

In 2012, the A4NH research program was started to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations. A4NH scientists aim  to find ways to lower people’s risk of disease from food farming, food markets and foods, while increasing agriculture’s benefits.

Health problems rooted in agriculture need solutions that start on the farm.And end with safe food in every household.

About World Food Day and the World Food Prize
The annual celebrations for World Food Day help to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. In the US, the associated events include bestowal of the World Food Prize on individuals who have contributed the most to the world’s food supply. Along with former British prime minister Tony Blair and others, ILRI’s director general, Jimmy Smith, is in Des Moines, Iowa, today to participate in the World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony  and Borlaug Dialogue.

The World Food Prize was founded by Norman Borlaug, a CGIAR scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in Mexico, whose work on high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties led to the Green Revolution and his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The winners of this year’s World Food Prize—Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T Fraley—made independent breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology that have made it possible for farmers to grow crops that give greater yields, resist insects and disease, and tolerate extreme climates.

ILRI takes pleasure today in celebrating their achievements, as well as in honouring the following thirteen CGIAR scientists who have received the World Food Prize since the CGIAR’s Borlaug established the award in 1986:

  • 1987: MS Swaminathan, improved wheat and rice varieties in India, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1988: Robert Chandler, improved tropical rice varieties, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1990: John Niederhauser, control of potato late blight, International Potato Center (CIP)
  • 1995: Hans Herren, pest control for the cassava mealybug, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 1996: Henry Beachall and Gurdev Khush, rice breeders, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 2000: Evangelina Villegas and Surinder Vasal, development of Quality Protein Maize, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
  • 2001: Per-Pinstrup Andersen, food-for-education programs, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • 2002: Pedro Sanchez, restoring fertility to soils, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • 2004: Monty Jones, developer of New Rice for Africa (NERICA), International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 2005: Modadugu Gupta, promoter of acquaculture and architect of the ‘blue revolution’, WorldFish Center (WorldFish)
  • 2009: Gebisa Ejeta, sorghum breeder, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Agricultural interventions for food safety and nutrition: Livestock reports at this week’s CGIAR Science Forum

Tea Room in Chinseu

The interior of a tea room in Chinseu Trading Centre, in Zomba West, Malawi (photo on Flickr by John Appiah-Duffell); the menu on the wall, written in Chichewa, lists the following: PRICES FOR TEA: Tea without milk, Tea with milk; EXTRAS: Buns, Nsima with chicken, Nsima with meat, Nsima with beans, Rice.

The following is a report on livestock-related presentations at the on-going three-day CGIAR Science Forum, 23–25 Sep 2013, in Bonn, Germany.

From yesterday’s session on food safety is this brief from veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on the case for agricultural interventions for food safety.

Agriculture has allowed massive expansion of people and their animals.

Yet in a world of more than 7 billion people, more than one billion are hungry and more than 2 billion are sickened each year from the food they ate.

Agriculture is exacting a heavy biological cost, but health policy and programs often stop at the clinic door.

A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming.

‘The new CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Enhanced Nutrition and Health is attempting to bridge this disconnect and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) leads the component focusing on diseases related to agriculture. This session uses the case of fungal toxins to explore how research can contribute to game-changing innovations, powerful incentives and enabling institutions that improve at the same time food safety, food accessibility for poor consumers and access to markets for smallholder farmers.

Towards new ways of managing food safety in developing countries
* Incentives for risk management: In poor countries, where public and private standards are weak and where consumers’ choices are limited by income and information, incentives to safe production are lacking. Novel incentives need to be found to encourage farmers and other value chain actors in poor settings to produce quality and safe products.
* Innovations for risk management: Informal markets and food produced and consumed by smallholders typically have high levels of hazards. Innovations, whether technology, social or market-based, can change the game.
* Institutions for risk assessment: Food safety regulations in developing countries are characterized by complexity, inappropriateness for informal and smallholder production, lack of translation of policy into practice, and frequent negative impacts of policy. Both evidence and effective influence are needed to improve food safety institutions.

Mandela Corks 3

If not stored and dried properly groundnut can get mouldy (photo credit: ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

Controlling aflatoxins as an example of agriculture based interventions for human health
‘Among staple crops (maize, groundnuts, sorghum), the most serious food safety problem is toxins produced by fungi. These cause around 90,000 cases of liver cancer each year and there are strong associations between aflatoxin exposure and stunting and immune suppression in children. There have also major impacts on trade and the livestock sector.

‘Using the example of fungal toxins, especially aflatoxins, we make the case for research investors to support research into agricultural approaches for enhancing food safety in value chains.’

From today’s session on economic implications
‘The objective of the session is to understand better the economic impacts of shifting investments towards more nutrition dense foods for healthier diets. Agricultural interventions in low income countries have often either focused on raising incomes for the poor assuming that nutrition and health benefits follow automatically or focused on improving diets through promotion of specific highly nutritious foods but do not often consider the economic sustainability of the programmes once intervention monies are removed. Furthermore, they may overlook other complex cultural and environmental issues which may be key to their success. For investment to effectively increase nutritional levels and incomes, a multi-dimensional approach including nutrition education, technical assistance, environmental awareness and community organization support may be needed to address the complex economic and social linkages between nutrition and agriculture

‘The session will present results from field research projects aimed at improving nutritional and income outcomes. Among the research questions to be addressed are:

  • How do initiatives to improve dietary and income outcomes need to be structured to reap benefits of both at present and over time?
  • How can the multi-dimensional nature of the nutrition-income linkage be integrated into investment projects in this area?
  • What are the knowledge gaps in developing and implementing these strategies?
  • Are new research approaches needed in developing interventions aimed at double objective outcomes?’

Faith Kivuti and Mom Milking a Cow

An East African smallholder dairy farmer and her cow and child (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).

Tom Randolph, ILRI agricultural economist and director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, will make a presentation on Supporting the pro-poor transformation of smallholder-based animal-source food systems.

‘The presentation focuses on how food systems could be designed to contribute more directly to the nutritional security of poor rural and urban communities. In particular, how might investments to professionalize smallholder livestock and aquaculture production and informal market systems improve incomes and nutritional food security? The presentation explores the implications of such an objective, and provides an example from a dairy development project.’

Find the program and abstracts of presentations for the CGIAR Science Forum 2013, ‘Nutrition and health outcomes: targets for agricultural research’, 23‒25 Sep 2013, Bonn, Germany. Follow the ongoing discussions on Twitter by searching for the hashtag ‘ScienceForum2013’

Study finds Vietnam has low awareness of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease commonly transmitted between animals and people

A smallholders pig in Chưng Mỹ, Vietnam

A three-year study by ILRI and partners shows that farmers in Vietnam have low awareness of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that infects animals (including pigs) and humans (photo credit: ILRI/Andrew Nguyen).

A joint research team consisting of staff from the Vietnamese Department of Animal Health, the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, Nong Lam University and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently completed a three-year study of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease passed from animals to humans. The aim of the study was to identify behaviours and conditions in Vietnam that increase the risk of humans and animals contracting this disease.

Results from Tien Giang and Binh Phuoc provinces, where the study was conducted, indicate farmers and small-scale slaughterhouse workers have low awareness of leptospirosis, even though researchers found that the disease was common in the pigs and humans tested.

The study, the findings of which were presented at a workshop in August 2013, was part of a larger project called ‘Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia’, or EcoZD for short, which is coordinated by ILRI and funded by the International Development Research Centre, of Canada.

The EcoZD project used an ‘ecohealth’ approach, which requires bringing scientists from different disciplines and partner organizations to work together on complex health problems. Applying an ‘ecohealth’ framework improves understanding of the web of social, economic and ecological dimensions of infectious diseases and the importance of engaging local actors in preventing and controlling them.

‘Leptospirosis is a disease that has been around for a long time, but it often gets ignored as attention and resources are focused on emerging diseases like avian influenza’, said Mai Van Hiep, the deputy director general of the Department of Animal Health in Vietnam.

Leptospirosis affects animals and humans worldwide. The most common way humans get the disease is through direct exposure to urine from infected animals or from contact with water contaminated with such urine. People living in areas with open sewers, or that regularly flood, or that have poor hygiene are at particular risk. People who work or live with animals are at even greater risk. Animals that commonly acquire and spread leptospirosis include rodents, dogs and livestock.

Leptospirosis stunts the growth of pigs and causes them to abort, leading to economic losses for pig owners and the pork industry as a whole. People who develop the disease also suffer economic losses due to decreased productivity or missed work and the costs of seeking medical treatment.

‘We started by looking at public health records dating back to 2008 but there were no records telling us how common leptospirosis has been in Vietnam, in animals or humans’, said Hiep. ‘We knew that if animal and human health researchers worked side by side to better understand this disease, we would collect relevant data.’

The research team tested more than 360 people and 880 pigs in Tien Giang and Binh Phuoc. In Tien Giang, 29% of pigs and 10% of humans in the sample tested positive for leptospirosis. In Binh Phuoc, 22% of pigs and 20% of humans in the sample tested positive. (A positive test indicated the person or animal had past contact with the causative pathogen.)

Discussions with community members in both provinces revealed that people were unfamiliar with the symptoms of leptospirosis, how it could harm them and their animals and ways they could prevent it.

As yet, no mechanism in Vietnam links disease reporting between animal and human health. This missing link makes it hard for researchers in both sectors to understand how changes in the environment or behaviour may affect leptospirosis and other zoonotic diseases, which are passed between animals and humans.

‘Identification of serovars and serogroups provides us with clues as to which types of animals are transmitting leptospirosis. This information can help authorities to design strategies to control the spread of the disease to humans’, said Cao Thi Bao Van, deputy director of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

‘Some simple things reduce the risk of exposure’, said Van. ‘People working with animals should wear protective clothing, like gloves and boots, when cleaning animals and their pens; this reduces the chance of bacteria entering the body through cuts or scratches. The risk of leptospirosis spreading among animals can be reduced by separating them in several pens rather than keeping them altogether in large groups.’

Lucy Lapar, an ILRI agricultural economist based in Hanoi, said research should now be conducted on the economic burden of leptospirosis in Vietnam, which remains largely unknown. ‘We need estimates of the economic burden in terms of harm both to human health and to livestock production so that decision-makers can better prioritize their resources for disease control’, said Lapar. ‘As long as the true burden of leptospirosis remains unknown in Vietnam, we will not know if the country should direct more resources to controlling it.’

For more information about EcoZD, visit www.ilri.org/ecozd

More information about the project is available on the EzoZD wiki.

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at the city abattoir in Kampala.

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at Kampala City Abattoir (photo credit: ILRI/Albert Mwangi).

Note: This post was developed by Bio-Innovate communications officer Albert Mwangi.

A clamor to improve Africa’s agricultural value chains by greater industrialization of many of Africa’s agricultural processes was heard often at the just-completed sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW6), held in Accra 15–20 Jul 2013 and organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. Most African nations are already pushing to add value to their primary agricultural commodities by supporting the establishment of relevant production and manufacturing processes and industries. Their aim is to transform their role as producers of primary agricultural commodities, such as whole raw coffee beans, into exporters of near-finished agricultural products, such as finely graded and ground coffees, thus earning more from their agriculture sectors.

Several of Africa’s livestock-based economies are working to add value to their production of leather. Rather than drying the skins and hides of slaughtered domestic animals and selling these as is, the skins and hides in addition are softened, graded and cut for various products, and in some cases used to produce finished leather products for export. While economically desirable, the production and manufacturing processes employed in this kind of industrialization can pose significant environmental risks, in this case, for example, by contaminating and/or polluting riverine eco-systems, water bodies and groundwater sources with heavy metals and other toxic substances.

Last week, Nigerian blogger Bunmi Ajilore, an advocate of sustainable agriculture and environmental justice, gave a succinct description of the public health hazards as well as benefits of using wastewater in agricultural activities (The use of wastewater in agriculture: The nagging dilemma, posted on his EcoAgriculturist Blog and reposted on the FARA–AASW Blog).

A research-for-development program based in eastern Africa known as ‘Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development’, or Bio-Innovate for short, is working to deliver innovations in the recycling of agro-wastewater from industrial processes. A pilot project being implemented in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, is working to develop safe and sustainable agro-processes for waste treatment and these will soon be scaled out to other agro-industries in the eastern Africa region.

The city abattoir in Kampala, Uganda, a partner in this Bio-Innovate project, illustrates ways in which the project is helping to make recycling processes both safe and sustainable. These processes are being integrated in ways to, simultaneously, reduce pollution, generate energy and recover nutrients from agro-process wastewaters.

Wastewater recycling at the city abattoir in Kampala
A 2005 publication by Joseph Kyambadde (Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment and Climate Change Mitigation in Eastern Africa) showed that a good number of industrial activities in this region release inadequately treated wastewaters into the environment. The study further indicated that effluent from Kampala City Abattoir significantly harms the ecology and water quality of Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay, source of Kampala’s drinking water.

The abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 500–600 cattle and 200–300 goats/sheep per day, with an estimated wastewater production of 200-400 m3 per day. This wastewater effluent generated by the abattoir is a major factor in nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion in Lake Victoria.

Researchers at Uganda’s Makerere University, who are implementing this project, are working with staff of Kampala City Abattoir to create a ‘value-addition chain’ that involves bioconversion of slaughter wastes to produce biogas and production of nutrient-rich slurry for use in hydroponic systems, where plants are grown without soil, and as bio-fertilizer. In a pilot plant that has been set up, effluent from the abattoir is first treated in anaerobic and aerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBRs) digesters; the resulting digestate is separated into two components: a nutrient-rich sludge that will be converted to bio-fertilizer and treated effluent that has a reduced organic load. This effluent can then be used to cultivate vegetables, flowers and animal fodder in a hydroponic system constructed in an artificial wetland. The treated wastewaters have great potential also for industrial use in cleaning the slaughtering areas, animal storage facilities and public toilets. This system combines bio-digestion of waste to reduce the organic load and generate biogas and electricity; utilization of nutrient-rich effluent for hydroponics; and artificial wetlands to further clean the effluent before release into the environment. This integrated system not only is an innovative way to manage and recycle wastewater sustainably but also provides people with sufficient incentives for such recycling.

The biogas and electricity generated by this integrated wastewater management / recycling system can be used as an alternative energy source, and so help reduce deforestation, which generates the greenhouse gases causing climate change. As noted, other products generated by the system can be used as affordable bio-fertilizer. And of course a further benefit is better protection of freshwater resources.

By treating agro-process waste in such an integrated way, this project is helping Kampala City Abbattoir to protect Uganda’s environment and livestock livelihoods alike. It is the aim of Bio-Innovate and its Ugandan colleagues to replicate this pilot system in suitable places elsewhere on the continent to help Africa’s expanding agro-industries make safer and better use of their wastewater.

About Bio-Innovate
Bio-Innovate makes use of advanced biosciences both to increase efficiencies in agro-processing and to make more sustainable use of local bio-resources. The program is based at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI website). For further information, contact Albert Mwangi, Bio-Innovate communications officer, at a.mwangi [at] cigar.org

About AASW6
FARA website’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were followed on Twitter (search for #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA-AASW6 blog.

Agriculture-associated diseases: Can we control them? Stop them? Prevent them? It’s back to the farm (and market)

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health within CGIAR

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health: This program focuses on one of five strategic objectives of CGIAR (Slide 3 of ‘A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners’, Jun 2013; credit: CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health).

Veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace is in Montpellier, France, this week, along with a lot of other distinguished folk in the business of doing agricultural research for development in poor countries. Research leaders at 15 CGIAR centres, representatives of CGIAR funding organizations and key CGIAR partners are getting together in this town, the capital of ‘southern France’ and the location of the CGIAR Consortium, to update each other on where they are in a new(ish) series of multi-centre, multi-partner, multi-country and multi-disciplinary CGIAR research programs tackling big issues such as climate change, water scarcity and empowerment of women.

Grace oversees one of four components of one of these 16 big new CGIAR Research Programs—Agriculture for Nutrition and Health—which works to adapt agricultural practices and policies to improve human health. The whole program is led by John McDermott, another epidemiologist, who is based at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC. Grace’s component, which she leads from her base at ILRI’s Nairobi campus (where Mcdermott served for many years, first as scientist and then as deputy director general for research), is investigating ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, with specific focus on improving food safety, controlling zoonotic diseases and diseases emerging from animals, and reducing other health risks in agro-ecosystems in the developing world.

Partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health: Slide 33 of ‘A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners’, Jun 2013 (credit: CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health).

Last week, McDermott and Grace and other leaders in the ‘CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’ gave their CGIAR scientific colleagues, partners and donors an overall presentation of their  program. Highlighted below are slides concerning Grace’s component on ‘Prevention and Control of Agriculture-Associated Diseases’.

CGIAR research at the interface of human, animal and ecosystem health

Measuring and mapping the multiple burdens of food-borne disease

One-health approaches to managing zoonoses and emerging infections

Below, view the whole presentation: A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners, June 2013:

For more information, visit the landing page on the CGIAR website for the project ILRI’s Delia Grace leads on Agriculture-Associated Diseases or the project’s website and blog: AgHealth.

 

Dialing back on the drivers of global disease outbreaks: A look inside the ‘black box’

Pathogen flow at the wildlife–livestock–human interface

 

As published in PNAS 2013: 1208059110v1-201208059. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Delia Grace and others, May 2013.

By Michelle Geis

A new report on the ‘causes of causes’ of H7N9 and other diseases that are emerging in animals and jumping species—into people

The deadly H7N9 bird flu virus in China and the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus in the Middle East continue to make headlines. H7N9 has killed 35 people  in China and 20 have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus—which has spread from Saudi Arabia to the UK, France and Germany.

Two opinion editorials in the New York Times last week, The next contagion: Closer than you think and The next pandemic: Not if, but when, correctly warn us about the potential global spread of these killer diseases. They call for more awareness of the dangers of zoonotic (animal-to-people) diseases, faster identification of animal sources of the pathogens and better vaccines to protect us against them. All of those are indeed needed.

But like much of the mainstream press, neither article mentions the root cause of these emerging infectious diseases, that is, the conditions that make zoonoses likely to arise in the first place and then help turn them into lethal pandemics.

These ‘causes of causes‘ of zoonotic disease outbreaks and their spread are pinpointed in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and other scientists argue in this paper that we’ll only become capable of preventing or stopping the next pandemic when we better understand the drivers of disease emergence.

Some of these disease triggers are well-documented, if not well publicized. We know that rising demand for more meat and dairy products in rapidly growing developing countries, where cities and slums are densely crowded with livestock as well as people, can be a culprit. We know that animals kept in stressful as well as crowded conditions can be culprits. And we know that our expanding agriculture is fragmenting habitats, stressing wildlife and bringing people into contact with animals carrying pathogens, and reducing biodiversity, all of which encourage wildlife diseases to jump species.

A table published in the peer-reviewed article (see below) shows what conditions led to Ebola, HIV, SARS, Nipah, avian flu, Japanese encephalitis and more. Acknowledging and investigating these factors can provide governments and global health officials with important clues as to the next probable outbreak.

13PNAS_Grace_Figure1 copy

Table published in PNAS 2013: 1208059110v1-201208059. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change.

So, what is it that’s preventing us from anticipating and stopping the next global pandemic since we know the conditions likely to produce one? For one thing, as the paper discusses, the conditions that trigger diseases are changing more rapidly than the research that examines them.

Another challenge is that though an emerging disease event is reported somewhere in the world on average every four months, the likelihood of emergence in any given farm or farming system is low.

As Grace explains, ‘Taking action to slow the drivers of disease is good for humanity but not likely to have any observable benefits to the individual farmer. Hence, the society that benefits from less disease emergence must provide the incentives to dial back on the drivers.’

Finally, the world is increasingly farming on the margins, with most of the last few remaining near-pristine ecosystems now being invaded and destabilized. Just as inexorable is the move to rapidly growing cities of poor rural people, who are bringing their livestock with them. The resulting losses of biodiversity, and the rise of genetically improved, and thus similar, animal populations, also increases the risk of a pandemic emerging. Climate and environmental changes are generally making matters worse.

Grace says research must better examine the complex, context-specific, and interrelated nature of zoonotic pathogen emergence.

‘First’, she said, ‘we need to look inside the black box of the big trends driving disease emergence: urbanization, intensification, globalization, loss of habitat and biodiversity.

‘We also need to understand what causes matter most in different situations and which are amenable to mitigation.

‘And we need to develop ways of doing agriculture differently, ways that not only reduce disease emergence but also can be adopted at large scale.

‘Given that disease emergence is predictably unpredictable, much can be achieved by understanding, monitoring and managing pathogen dynamics before infectious agents emerge.’

Read the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Bryony A Jones, Delia Grace, Richard Kock, Silvia Alonso, Jonathan Rushton, Mohammed Y Said, Declan McKeever, Florence Mutua, Jarrah Young, John McDermott and Dirk Udo Pfeiffer, PNAS 2013 : 1208059110v1-201208059.

Michelle Geis is a Washington DC-based science communications expert who works for Burness Communications.

The spatial ecology of pigs: Where free-range doesn’t come free

IMG_0080

A report on the economic as well as health risks of keeping free-range pigs in western Kenya has been published by scientists in the animal health laboratories at ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, campus; here, two of the authors, lead author Lian Thomas (left) and principal investigator Eric Fèvre (right), inspect a household pig in their project site, in Busia, in western Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

Like your livestock products to come from free-range systems? Consider that a healthy alternative to the factory farming of livestock? Consider the lowly pig, and what serious pathogens it can pick up, and transmit to other animals and people, in the course of its daily outdoor scavenging for food. Consider also the scavenging pig’s coprophagic habits (consumption of faeces) and you may change your mind.

A recent study has brought those habits to light. The study was conducted in an area surrounding Busia town, in western Kenya (Busia lies near Kenya’s western border with Uganda; Lake Victoria lies to the south). The study was conducted by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Edinburgh to better understand the transmission of several pathogenic organisms. This is the first study to investigate the ecology of domestic pigs kept under a free-range system, utilizing GPS technology.

Most people in Busia farm for a living, raising livestock and growing maize and other staple food crops on small plots of land (the average farm size here is 0.5 ha). More than 66,000 pigs are estimated to be kept within a 45-km radius of Busia town.

ILRI's Lian Thomas with pig in western Kenya

ILRI’s Lian Thomas with a household pig in western Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

A GPS collar was put on 10 pigs, each nearly 7 months old, that were recruited for this study. A handheld GPS unit was used to obtain the coordinates of the homesteads to which the selected pigs belonged; the perimeters of the homesteads and their main features, including human dwellings, cooking points, rubbish disposal areas and latrines, were all mapped. The pig collars recorded the coordinates of the pigs every 3 minutes during the course of one week.

All the 10 pigs were kept under free-range conditions, but also regularly fed supplementary crop and (mostly raw) household waste. All the pigs recruited were found to be infected with at least one parasite, with most in addition also having gastrointestinal parasites, and all carried ticks and head lice.

The pigs, which scavenge both day and night, were found to spend almost half their time outside the homestead, travelling an average of more than 4 km in a 12-hour period (both day and night), with a mean home range of 10,343 square meters. One implication of this is that a community approach to better controlling infectious diseases in pigs will be better suited to this farming area than an approach that targets individual household families.

Three of the ten pigs were found to be infected with Taenia solium, a pig tapeworm whose larva when ingested by humans in undercooked pork causes the human disease known as cysticercosis, which can cause seizures, epilepsy and other disorders, and can be fatal if not treated. T solium infection in pigs is acquired by their ingestion of infective eggs in human faecal material, which is commonly found in the pigs environments in rural parts of Africa as well as Mexico, South America and other developing regions.

This study found no correlation between the time a pig spent interacting with a latrine at its homestead and the T solium status of the pig. The paper’s authors conclude that ‘the presence or absence of a latrine in an individual homestead is of less relevance to parasite transmission than overall provision of sanitation for the wider community in which the pig roams’. With a quarter of the homesteads in the study area having no access to a latrine, forcing people to engage in open defecation, and with less than a third of the latrines properly enclosed, there are plenty of opportunties for scavenging pigs to find human faeces.

IMG_0131

A typical household scavenging pig and pit latrine in the project site in Busia, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

Improved husbandry practices, including the use of effective anthelmintics at correct dosages, would enhance pig health and production in this study area.

One of the interesting findings of the study is that all this pig roaming is likely to be helping to reduce the weight of the pigs at slaughter. Mean live weights at the abattoir in the Busia area are 30 kg, giving a dressed weight of only 22.5 kg and earning the farmer only KShs.2000–2500 (USD24–29) per animal.

Encouraging the confinement of pigs is likely to improve feed conversion and weight gain, by both reducing un-necessary energy expenditure as well as limiting parasite burden through environmental exposure.

‘Confinement of pigs would also reduce the risk of contact with other domestic or wild pigs: pig to pig contact is a driver of African swine fever (ASF) virus transmission. ASF regularly causes outbreaks in this region . . . . Confining pigs within correctly constructed pig stys would also reduce the chances of contact between pigs and tsetse flies.’ That matters because this western part of Kenya is a trypanosomiasis-endemic area and pigs are known to be important hosts and reservoirs of protozoan parasites that cause both human sleeping sickness, which eventually is fatal for all those who don’t get treatment, and African animal trypanosomiasis, a wasting disease of cattle and other livestock that is arguably Africa’s most devastating livestock disease.

In addition, both trichinellosis (caused by eating undercooked pork infected by the larva of a roundworm) and toxoplasmosis (caused by a protozoan pathogen through ingestion of cat faeces or undercooked meat) are ‘very real threats to these free-ranging pigs, with access to kitchen waste, in particular meat products, being a risk factor for infection. Such swill is also implicated in ASF transmission’.

While confining pigs would clearly be advantageous for all of these reasons, the practice of free range will likely be hard to displace, not least because this low-input system is within the scarce means of this region’s severely resource-poor farmers. Local extension services, therefore, will be wise to use carrots as well as sticks to persuade farmers to start ‘zero-scavenging’ pig husbandry, Fortunately, as this study indicates, they can do this by demonstrating to farmers the economic as well as health benefits they will accrue by penning, and pen-feeding, their free-ranging pigs.

Scavenging pigs in Busia, western Kenay

Scavenging pigs in Busia, western Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

Project funders
This research was supported by the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and MRC (Medical Research Council), all of Great Britain. It is also an output of a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health investigating Agriculture-Associated Diseases.

Read the whole paper
The spatial ecology of free-ranging domestic pigs (Sus scrofa) in western Kenya, by Lian Thomas, William de Glanville, Elizabeth Cook and Eric Fèvre, BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:46. doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-9-46

Article URL
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/9/47  The publication date of this article is 7 Mar 2013; you will find here a provisional PDF; fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) versions of the paper will be available soon.

About the project
Begun in 2009 and funded by the Wellcome Trust, with other support from ILRI, this project has studied neglected zoonotic diseases and their epidemiology to raise levels of health in poor rural communities. The project, People, Animals and their Zoonoses (PAZ), is based in western Kenya’s Busia District and is led by Eric Fèvre, who is on joint appointment at ILRI and the University of Edinburgh. More information can be found at the University of Edinburgh’s Zoonotic and Emerging Diseases webpage or on ILRI’s PAZ project blog site.

The May 2010 issue of the Veterinary Record gives an excellent account of this ambitious human-animal health project: One medicine: Focusing on neglected zoonoses.

Related stories on ILRI’s AgHealth, Clippings and News blogs
Tracking of free range domestic pigs in western Kenya provides new insights into dynamics of disease transmission, 22 Mar 2013.
Aliens in human brains: Pig tapeworm is an alarming, and important, human disease worldwide, 23 May 2012.
Forestalling the next plague: Building a first picture of all diseases afflicting people and animals in Africa, 11 Apr 2011. This blog describes an episode about this project broadcast by the Australian science television program ‘Catalyst’; you can download the episode here: ABC website (click open the year ‘2011’ and scroll down to click on the link to ‘Episode 4’; the story starts at 00.18.25).
Edinburgh-Wellcome-ILRI project addresses neglected zoonotic diseases in western Kenya, 28 Jul 2010.

‘Health is not the absence of disease (and too important to be left to doctors)’–Keynote address

Minoan Bronze Bull Leaper

Minoan bronze bull and bull leaper, from Crete, around 1500 BC (image on Flickr by Ann Wuyts).

Increasing livestock production to meet rapidly growing demands in a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable manner is becoming a major challenge for the Asia-Pacific region. To discuss the challenges and a practical response, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA) organized a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

The Asia and Pacific region has experienced the strongest growth in milk and meat over the last two to three decades. In three decades (1980 to 2010), total consumption of meat in the region grew from 50 to 120 million tonnes, and milk consumption grew from 54 to 190 million tonnes. By 2050, consumption of meat and milk in the region is projected to exceed 220 and 440 million tonnes, respectively. While this growth is creating new opportunities and better diets for many poor people, managing it will be a tall order and involve: stimulating income and employment opportunities in rural areas, protecting the livelihoods of small farmers, improving resource use efficiency at all levels of the livestock value chain, minimizing any negative environmental and health consequences of the growth, and ensuring adequate access by the poor to the food they need to live healthy lives.

The Aug 2012 Regional Livestock Policy Forum was held to find solutions. The 80 stakeholders in livestock development who attended represented governments, research agencies, civil society and multilateral organizations, think tanks, private-sector industries and regional and global networks.

Three keynote addresses highlighted environmental, social and health aspects of uncontrolled livestock sector growth. The director general of ILRI, Jimmy Smith, delivered the keynote on ‘health at the livestock-policy interface’. He described three kinds of health—human, animal and ecosystem—and the close interactions among them. Excerpts of his presentation follow.

Health at the livestock-policy interface: Interdependence

Slide from a presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

Livestock and nutrition
‘Livestock provide about a third of human protein. Even small amounts of animal protein greatly enhance the poor-quality diets of very poor people, many of whom subsist largely, for example, on sorghum and millet. But while 1 billion people are hungry, some 2 billiion are over-nourished, which is often attributed particularly to over-consumption of meat.

HEALTH ONE: Livestock and human health
‘Remarkably, 60% of human diseases, and 75% of emerging diseases (such as bird flu), are ‘zoonotic’, or come from animals, and 25% of all human infectious diseases in least-developed countries is zoonotic. A 2012 study led by ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace estimates that the ‘top 13’ zoonoses each year kill 2.2 million people and make 2.4 billion people ill. The same study found that emerging zoonotic diseases are associated with intensive livestock production systems, with hotspots of these being in western Europe and USA, but that the high burden of neglected zoonotic diseases is associated with poor livestock keepers, with hotspots identified in Ethiopia, Nigeria and India.

HEALTH TWO: Livestock health
‘In developing countries, largely in contrast to developed nations, we still struggle to control what are known as ‘transboundary’ livestock diseases, which include, for example, Newcastle disease in chickens and foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. As important, however, are the common endemic diseases of low-income countries, such as parasitic infections, viral diarrhoea, respiratory and reproductive diseases. While we pay considerable attention to transboundary diseases, and emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential, we are neglecting endemic diseases that hurt the world’s poor the most, and which some estimate are even more costly than transboundary diseases.

Health at the livestock-policy interface: Annual losses

Slide from a presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

HEALTH THREE: Agro-ecosystem health
‘The downside: As many people are now aware, livestock are a significant source of the greenhouse gases warming our planet; they compete for water with staple grains and biofuels, and their diseases can spill over into wildlife populations. On the upside, livestock manure is an important source of organic matter needed for soil fertility (about 50% of the nitrogen used in agriculture in India comes from manure), permanent pastures are potentially an important store of carbon, and the current carbon ‘hoofprint’ can be greatly reduced through more efficient livestock production.’

Jimmy Smith then laid out some ‘prescriptions’.

Prescriptions for human health

  • Manage disease at its (early animal) source, not when it shows up (later) in humans
  • Invest in ‘one-health’ systems for preventing and controlling zoonotic diseases
  • Promote risk- and incentive-based (not regulatory- and compliance-based) food safety systems

Prescriptions for animal health

  • Support smallholder systems to improve livestock production and productivity
  • Use technology and innovations (e.g., vaccines) to improve animal health services
  • Take a whole value-chain-development (not piecemeal) approach

Prescriptions for ecosystem health

  • Manage externalities
  • Close large gaps in ruminant production
  • Reduce livestock-induced deforestation
  • Manage manure
  • Implement payment schemes for livestock-based environmental services

Advice for policymakers
And Smith had some advice for policymakers.

  • Invest in surveillance (re-incentivize disease reporting)
  • Better allocate resources between emerging and endemic diseases
  • Support innovations at all levels in the health sectors
The livestock director concluded his talk by saying:
It is our belief that we can feed the world, we can do so in environmentally sustainable ways, we can do so while reducing absolute poverty, and we can do so while improving the health of people, animals and the planet.
Health is not the absence of disease’, Smith said, quoting his scientist Delia Grace. ‘And it’s too important to be left to doctors.’

See Jimmy Smith’s whole slide presentation, Health at the livestock-policy interface, 16–17 Aug 2012, and/or watch this 25-minute filmed presentation of his presentation.

See a slide presentation made at the Bangkok Forum, Poverty, food security, livestock and smallholders, by ILRI’s Steve Staal and FAO’s Vinod Ahuja.

Presentations made at the meeting, a detailed program and a list of participants are available here.

Get the proceedings of the whole conference: Asian Livestock Sector: Challenges, Opportunities and the Response — Proceedings of an international policy forum held in Bangkok, Thailand, 16–17 August 2012. Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific, International Livestock Research Institute and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013.

For more information, please contact:
Vinod Ahuja, FAO livestock policy officer, based in Bangkok: Vinod.Ahuja [at] fao.org
or
Purvi Mehta, Head of ILRI Asia, based in New Delhi: p.mehta [at] cgiar.org

 

Animal-to-human diseases: From panic to planning–new recommendations for policymakers

Greatest Burden of Zoonoses Falls on One Billion Poor Livestock Keepers

Map by ILRI, published in an ILRI report to the UK Department for International Development (DFID): Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, 2012.

The UK’s Institute for Development Studies (IDS) has published a 4-page Rapid Response Briefing titled ’Zoonoses: From panic to planning’.

Veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace, who is based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), along with other members of a Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium, based at the STEPS Centre at IDS, c0-authored the document.

The briefing recommends that policymakers take a ‘One-Health’ approach to managing zoonotic diseases.

‘Over two thirds of all human infectious diseases have their origins in animals. The rate at which these zoonotic diseases have appeared in people has increased over the past 40 years, with at least 43 newly identified outbreaks since 2004. In 2012, outbreaks included Ebola in Uganda . . . , yellow fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rift Valley fever (RVF) in Mauritania.

‘Zoonotic diseases have a huge impact – and a disproportionate one on the poorest people in the poorest countries. In low-income countries, 20% of human sickness and death is due to zoonoses. Poor people suffer further when development implications are not factored into disease planning and response strategies.

‘A new, integrated “One Health” approach to zoonoses that moves away from top-down disease-focused intervention is urgently needed. With this, we can put people first by factoring development implications into disease preparation and response strategies – and so move from panic to planning.

Read the Rapid Response Briefing: Zoonoses: From panic to planning, published Jan 2013 by the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium and funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

About the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa
The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa is a consortium of 30 researchers from 19 institutions in Africa, Europe and America. It conducts a major program to advance understanding of the connections between disease and environment in Africa. Its focus is animal-to-human disease transmission and its objective is to help move people out of poverty and promote social justice.

Over the past few decades, more than 60 per cent of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans have had their origin in wildlife or livestock. As well as presenting a threat of global disease outbreak, these zoonotic diseases are quietly devastating lives and livelihoods. At present, zoonoses are poorly understood and under-measured — and therefore under-prioritized in national and international health systems. There is great need for evidence and knowledge to inform effective, integrated One Health approaches to disease control. This Consortium is working to provide this evidence and knowledge.

Natural and social scientists in the Consortium are working to provide this evidence and knowledge for four zoonotic diseases, each affected in different ways by ecosystem changes and having different impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and livelihoods:

  • Henipavirus infection in Ghana
  • Rift Valley fever in Kenya
  • Lassa fever in Sierra Leone
  • Trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe

Of the 30 scientists working in the consortium, 4 are from ILRI: In addition to Delia Grace, these include Bernard Bett, a Kenyan veterinary epidemiologist with research interests in the transmission patterns of infectious diseases as well as the technical effectiveness of disease control measures; Steve Kemp, a British molecular geneticist particularly interested in the mechanisms of innate resistance to disease in livestock and mouse models, and Tom Randolph, an American agricultural economist whose research interests have included animal and human health issues and assessments of the impacts of disease control programs.

Delia Grace leads a program on Prevention and Control of Agriculture-associated Diseases, which is one of four components of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Tom Randolph directs the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish. Steve Kemp is acting director of ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme.