BUILD project’s Joseph Nkamwesiga wins inaugural FAO award for research on goat plague

Joseph Nkamwesiga, a researcher with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)-led Boosting Uganda’s Investment in Livestock Development (BUILD) project, is one of 12 recipients of the first-ever Transformative Research Challenge (TRC) peste des petits ruminants (PPR) Special Prize. 

The winners were announced at the 2022 World Food Forum held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy, on 18 October 2022. 

Nkamwesiga and his co-winners were picked from 83 entries drawn from all over the world based on their exceptional approaches to conducting research on prevention and elimination of PPR. The award includes funding to actualize their research findings and participation in a mentorship program with renowned scientists working on global control and eradication of PPR. 

Organized by the FAO’s Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) Secretariat and the World Food Forum (WFF) Innovation Lab, the award aims to inspire innovative and sustainable approaches to combat and eliminate animal diseases, particularly PPR, which is also known as sheep and goat plague. PPR is a highly contagious disease that can kill up to 100% of infected animals. 

Nkamwesiga’s research on the risk analysis of PPR in Uganda contributes to the PPR epidemiology component of the BUILD project, which, among other goals, is helping to better understand the infection dynamics of PPR, the effect of small ruminant diseases and the biological impact of certain interventions, especially vaccination under selected livestock production systems.

His research has identified factors that predispose areas to PPR outbreaks. These include extended road networks that facilitate significant animal movement, keeping large numbers of small ruminants, as well as having many cattle, because cattle keepers in Uganda often keep small ruminants as well. Low levels of annual rainfall and congregation of small ruminants at watering points during dry seasons are also predisposing factors for PPR transmission.

‘It will be a great honour to be mentored by scientists whose work I have admired in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This exposure, in addition to working with Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), will enable us to develop PPR control options tailored for Uganda,’ he said of his prize.

Uganda is home to more than 18 million small ruminants. Goats and sheep have great potential to contribute to food security, income generation and wealth creation, especially for women, youth and other vulnerable groups but production and productivity is hampered by diseases such as PPR. As part of efforts to mitigate this threat, the country is a signatory to the Global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of PPR, which seeks to eradicate the disease by 2030. 

‘Joseph’s work and output are well aligned to addressing some of the gaps identified in the national PPR control and eradication strategy. We are happy that this work is being used to guide the government’s PPR vaccination approach,’ said Paul Lumu, a senior veterinary officer at MAAIF and co-lead of the BUILD PPR component.

This research on PPR in Uganda, especially spatial risk analysis, network modelling and molecular characterization of circulating viruses, has contributed to the generation of information requisite to implementing a national PPR control and eradication strategy. The research team has written a policy brief giving recommendations on the adoption of their findings. 

More about Nkamwesiga research is available here.

Inaugurated in 2019, BUILD is a five-year project funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by ILRI in partnership with the MAAIF, the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) together with the Friedrich-Loeffler Institut (FLI), Island of Riems, Germany, Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VSF) Germany and Free University of Berlin (FU Berlin), Germany. The project works in four areas that are high on the Uganda Government livestock development agenda: control of PPR, control of emerging infectious diseases, especially Rift Valley fever (RVF), control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in poultry value chains and improved meat safety, and occupational health and disease surveillance from point of slaughter to consumption. 


Photo: Joseph Nkamwesiga at the BUILD project annual stakeholder meeting held in Kampala, September 2022. (Photo credit: Timothy Ouma/ILRI)