Pacem Kotchofa’s PPR research wins second place at World Food Forum’s Transformative Research Challenge
Pacem Kotchofa, a Beninese-born agricultural economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who leads the socio-economic thematic group of the Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) Global Research and Expertise Network (PPR GREN), was awarded second place at the World Food Forum’s Transformative Research Challenge (TRC) competition in early October for her research on a widespread, debilitating small ruminants disease known as peste des petits ruminants (PPR) that affects mainly sheep and goats. Kotchofa presented research that found that PPR is not only robbing millions of smallholder farmers their livelihoods but affecting country-wide economies as well.
The youth-led World Food Forum (WFF) program is an international network of partners created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to address a variety of the world’s agri-food systems challenges. In response to the challenges, they have set themselves the goal of feeding the world’s growing population—and doing so sustainably. Through a ‘Four Betters’ framework—better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life—WFF encourages young scientists to devise innovative solutions that can lead to more sustainable agri-food systems and ultimately help feed the nearly 10 billion people that will inhabit Earth by 2050.
On 2 Oct 2021, Kotchofa competed in the final round of WFF’s Transformative Research Challenge, consisting of an initial research proposition to help end hunger and transform agri-food systems. Pacem presented her work at the TRC Final titled Call for Action: Eradicate peste des petits ruminants and improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers in developing countries with evidence from Senegal. Her project, which draws on nearly two years of her research, is a call to action—and specifically, funding—to support her ongoing work on PPR eradication in the Sahel.
The PPR virus, which has a 90% mortality rate and affects millions of sheep and goats worldwide, inhibits the productivity of surviving animals, and negatively impacts smallholder farmers’ access to food and income. However, according to Kotchofa, the consequences of PPR do not end there; the economic implications of the immediate household impact are much broader.
The impact, which begins with animals, ‘can be translated to significant losses for households,’ she says. When large sums of animals die as a result of PPR, ‘the main asset that generates income for the households is lost, but it also carries downstream impacts in the rest of the economy through job losses or the reduction of GDP for example'.
Kotchofa’s research found that although vaccination is a viable pathway to eradicating the virus, shortages in the Sahel and Senegal impede this goal. Through participatory disease modelling sessions; the collection of data on herd size, vaccine availability, animal mobility; and the mapping of data along key natural resources, her team was able to develop a spatial risk-based criteria to prioritize vaccinations that will later be compared to the standard practice of blind mass vaccination campaigns. According to Kotchofa, a targeted approach to vaccinating animals against PPR can lead to greater eradication success for the same cost of blindly vaccinating ruminants.
Kotchofa’s next stage in her PPR research is completing a scientific paper that will be published soon, but in the meantime, she says, she hopes to see greater supportive action—such as the allocation of funds—towards PPR eradication in the Sahel, where it is an immediate concern, along with several countries in Asia.
Since starting her PPR eradication research at ILRI, Kotchofa says that she has developed a strong passion for animal health and animal health economics. Moving forward, she would like to continue supporting research and government projects focused on the reduction of animal disease burdens on households.
‘Globally, there are millions of households that depend on livestock and animal diseases present a huge threat to those households.’ Because of this, Kotchofa hopes to continue her work on improving livelihoods through the reduction of livestock diseases.
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