Exploring fine-scale human and livestock movement in western Kenya

Human and livestock mobility are key factors in the transmission of several high-burden zoonoses such as rift valley fever and trypanosomiasis, yet our knowledge of this mobility is relatively poor due to difficulty in quantifying population-level movement patterns. Significant variation in the movement patterns of individual hosts means it is necessary to capture their fine-scale mobility in order to gain useful knowledge that can be extrapolated to a population level. Here we explore how the movements of people and their ruminants, and their exposure to various types of land cover, correlate with ruminant ownership and other demographic factors which could affect individual exposure to zoonoses. The study was conducted in Busia County, western Kenya, where the population are mostly subsistence farmers operating a mixed crop/livestock farming system. We used GPS trackers to collect movement data from 26 people and their ruminants for 1 week per individual in July/August 2016, and the study was repeated at the end of the same year to compare movement patterns between the short rainy and dry seasons respectively. We found that during the dry season, people and their ruminants travelled further on trips outside of the household, and that people spent less time on swampland compared to the short rainy season. Our findings also showed that ruminant owners spent longer and travelled further on trips outside the household than non-ruminant owners, and that people and ruminants from poorer households travelled further than people from relatively wealthier households. These results indicate that some individual-level mobility may be predicted by season and by household characteristics such as ruminant ownership and household wealth, which could have practical uses for assessing individual risk of exposure to some zoonoses and for future modelling studies of zoonosis transmission in similar rural areas.