8 min.

CGIAR scientists and research collaborators from Uganda discuss new One Health initiative

The world’s largest publicly-funded agricultural research partnership, CGIAR, is currently developing a series of initiatives to implement its 2030 research and innovation strategy that was launched in early 2021.

The research initiatives are designed to create lasting impact in five key areas:

  • nutrition, health and food security;
  • poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs;
  • gender equality, youth and social inclusion;
  • climate adaptation and mitigation; and
  • environmental health and biodiversity.

One of these research initiatives, Protecting human health through a One Health approach, aims to improve the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses in seven target countries: Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Uganda and Vietnam.

The development of the One Health initiative is being led by a team of scientists from four CGIAR research centres — the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and WorldFish — in collaboration with external research partners from Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire, EcoHealth Alliance and the University of Liverpool.

To ensure alignment of the proposed initiative with national priorities, the team convened a series of online consultative meetings with research collaborators to gain insights on the main One Health priorities, challenges, interventions and partner organizations in the respective countries.

The Uganda meeting, hosted by ILRI, took place on Wednesday 4 August 2021, bringing together some 20 participants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries as well as research organizations.

Dieter Schillinger, ILRI’s deputy director general for biosciences research and development, opened the meeting with a word of welcome and an overview of CGIAR’s 2030 research and innovation strategy that will guide the implementation of the 33 new research initiatives, including that on One Health—the focus of the online consultation.

He mentioned that the development of the One Health research initiative is a collaborative process and ILRI is working closely with other CGIAR research centres as well as external partners from research and academia, including those represented at the meeting. He highlighted the ongoing Boosting Uganda’s Investment in Livestock Development (BUILD) project as an example of ILRI’s research collaboration with partners in Uganda. He therefore welcomed feedback and suggestions from the participants to ensure the research of the One Health initiative is relevant and impactful.

Hung Nguyen, co-leader of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program, followed with an overview of the rationale of the One Health initiative, citing the need for a One Health approach to tackle the complexity of the global public health challenges posed by the rising incidence of antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses.

He then outlined the three main objectives of the One Health initiative, namely, to generate evidence for decision-making; evaluate impacts of One Health approaches; and scale up innovations into national policies and programs.

He further highlighted the initiative’s Theory of Change, explaining how the research outputs are expected to lead to specific development outcomes and impact by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The team estimates that between 4 million and 41 million cases of disease will be averted annually through the initiative’s efforts.

The initiative’s research activities will take place through five work packages:

  • zoonoses;
  • food safety;
  • antimicrobial resistance;
  • environment (water and wildlife interfaces); and
  • economics, governance and behaviour.

The work package leaders presented briefly on the goals of their respective work packages, giving examples of planned innovations under each.

Bernard Bett, ILRI senior scientist and head of the ILRI-hosted One Health Centre in Africa, outlined the two main objectives of the zoonoses work package: pre-empting the spread of zoonoses at the wildlife–livestock interface and reducing the incidence of zoonotic pathogens associated with poverty. Among other innovations, the work package plans to map the risk of key endemic zoonoses and develop diagnostic kits for surveillance of zoonoses.

Hung Nguyen explained that the food safety work package aims to reduce the burden of foodborne disease in traditional (informal) food value chains, with a focus on animal-source foods and other perishables such as fruits and vegetables. Planned innovations include training and certification of food handlers and traders, promotion of consumer demand for safe food, and behavioural nudges to encourage safe food handling practices.

He further gave an overview of the antimicrobial resistance work package which will focus on reducing the burden of antimicrobial resistance by promoting the prudent use of antimicrobials in crop, fish and livestock production systems. In this regard, surveillance of antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance in animals and animal-source foods is important. Additionally, there is a need to generate and communicate evidence on the costs and benefits of rational use of antimicrobials to support uptake of interventions by farmers and policymakers.

In his overview of the environment work package, Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at IWMI, noted that water is a key connector between people, livestock and ecosystems and so the focus will be on improving land use and water management to reduce health risks such as antimicrobial residues and zoonotic pathogens. Approaches will include recovery and reuse of animal waste to prevent water pollution and promotion of good practices to ensure the safe use of marginal quality water.

Vivian Hoffmann, senior research fellow at IFPRI, explained that the goal of the economics, governance and behaviour work package is to understand the drivers of people’s behaviour within food systems and the impact of policies and governance approaches on this behaviour. An example of an innovation under this work package is a performance management system for government officials responsible for implementing surveillance and enforcing regulations on antimicrobial use or food safety. Another innovation is a system to ensure inclusion of small-scale farmers, traders, food vendors and vulnerable groups so that they benefit from One Health outcomes.

During parallel group discussions on the zoonoses, food safety and antimicrobial resistance work packages, the participants gave feedback on the main One Health challenges, priority interventions, actions to ensure inclusion and partner institutions in Uganda.

With regard to control of zoonoses, the implementation of policies and regulations was identified as a key challenge. Outdated legislation and lack of adequate funding were also mentioned as important constraints. Community sensitization and increased awareness of zoonotic diseases are among the priority interventions that were identified.

The lack of adequate capacity for sampling, surveillance and laboratory testing was identified as a key challenge to effective management of food safety in the country. There is also low enforcement of existing food safety policies and regulations. There is a need for evidence on the burden of foodborne disease in the country. In addition, the food safety regulatory framework should be reviewed.

The lack of data on the risks of antimicrobial resistance in the country was identified as a major gap. In addition, there is weak enforcement of regulations to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Gender value chain analysis and policy support for disadvantaged groups were suggested as some of the ways of ensuring inclusion of farmers, traders, women and youth. In addition, training modules should be gender-sensitive and appropriately packaged according to the literacy levels of the target audiences.

The identified partner groups to work with included government ministries of agriculture, health, water and environment; national and international research organizations; bureau of standards; government and private food safety laboratories; farmer groups; women’s groups and veterinary pharmaceutical companies.

As the meeting ended, Juliet Sentumbwe, director of animal resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, thanked the participants for their active contributions. She observed that the focal areas of the One Health initiative are very pertinent for Uganda and well aligned with the country’s national action plan for health security through which various One Health activities are being implemented.

She also noted the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches to ensure inclusion of all groups. A One Health coordinating office will be useful in this regard.

‘We need to put in place structures that will bring all the stakeholders together,’ she advised.

She welcomed the opportunity to partner with CGIAR in the development and implementation of the One Health initiative and assured the team of the continued support of partners in Uganda.

In his closing remarks, Ben Lukuyu, ILRI’s country representative in Uganda, thanked everyone for attending and participating actively in the discussions. He particularly acknowledged the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and looked forward to further collaboration with One Health partners in Uganda towards improved human, animal and environment health.

Once approved, the CGIAR One Health initiative will start in January 2022 and run for an initial three years.

For more information, please contact Hung Nguyen (h.nguyen@cgiar.org) or Vivian Hoffmann (v.hoffmann@cgiar.org).

Access the meeting notes and presentation slides

Citation

ILRI, IFPRI, IWMI and WorldFish. 2021. Uganda stakeholder consultation on a proposed CGIAR One Health initiative. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/114651

Photo credit: Feeding fish at Shalom Fish Farm, Kampala, Uganda (WorldFish/Jens Peter Tang Dalsgaard)

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