Building Capacity for One Health in Eastern and Southern Africa

Today on 3 November 2022 the world commemorates One Health Day. At ILRI there are significant activities on One Health, but one that stands out is the project Capacitating One Health in Eastern and Southern Africa (COHESA)

Working across 11 countries in eastern and southern Africa regions, COHESA aims to increase the relevance of One Health research and policies, enhance national and sub-regional cross-sectoral collaborations between government entities with One Health mandates and stakeholders, and equip educational and research institutes to train the next generation of the One Health workforce. 

The project has been funded by the European Union Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) Research and Innovations Programme: African, Caribbean, and Pacific- European Union (ACP-EU)-initiative. It has three joint partners, namely the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the French Agriculture Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and the International Services for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA-AfriCenter), who aim to deliver on the various objectives by working closely with each of the country coordinators and country multipliers. 

One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystem – a definition developed by the One Health High Level Expert Panel whose members represent a broad range of disciplines in science and policy-related sectors from around the world.

Theo Knight-Jones, ILRI scientist and lead of COHESA, says, ‘We aim to build capacity in One Health governance, education and delivery in eastern and southern Africa, working for healthy humans, animals and the environment.’ Knight-Jones notes that One Health governance is a critical challenge, with few governments being well structured for tackling the related issues that the world is facing today.

Building on existing work by others, COHESA will help further establish and grow One Health government platforms. By connecting countries in eastern and southern Africa, the aim is to bridge knowledge gaps such that countries can learn from each other and become more resilient to One Health threats. 

A significant milestone achievement from the first year of the COHESA project is that it has made progress in mapping One Health educational courses available in eastern and southern Africa, by bringing together key players in higher education to develop courses for the future and current workforce. 

Margaret Karembu, director of ISAAA-AfriCenter shares, ‘So far, the center has conducted stakeholder net-mapping workshops in four COHESA focus countries, once the findings have been validated, we plan to work with in-county teams led by respective country multipliers to develop advocacy strategies towards achieving the goals identified’. 

Net-mapping is a reflective and participatory tool used for advanced problem solving which helps organizations to understand relationships and identify linkages amongst One Health actors, thereby informing stakeholder engagement strategies which are used to identify how and where resources are best invested to achieve impact based on the desired goal. 

Karembu adds that there is a need to strengthen negotiation skills and team dynamics among actors in government entities with One Health mandates. 

Alexandre Caron, researcher at CIRAD, says, ‘The COHESA consortium and national and regional partners have already created momentum to foster One Health. Thanks to ILRI’s network in eastern Africa, CIRAD’s partnership in southern Africa, and ISAAA’s training and participatory skills, national academic partners have engaged with other One Health national stakeholders to strengthen national One Health governance and education.’ 

Caron shares examples from Zambia, where COHESA has supported and contributed to a workshop to draft the government’s One Health National Strategic Plan and contributed to the One Health National Bridging Workshop organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Animal Health Organisation (WOAH), and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). To promote transnational and inter-regional synergies, the COHESA team is also organizing regional gatherings for curriculum benchmarking on One Health and to train COHESA partners in policy briefing and communication around One Health topics.

For more information on COHESA contact Theo Knight-Jones 

Sintayehu Bashahyider feeds his sheep in front of his home (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)