Upscaling farmer-led targeted intervention for livestock health and poverty alleviation in Africa

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences

Abstract

Parasites are a major cause of disease and production loss in grazing ruminants worldwide, and their control is increasingly challenged by climate change and drug resistance. In resource-poor marginal farming systems, where reliance on livestock for food and income is high, tools for effective parasite control are rarely available to farmers. Chemical inputs are often in limited supply and not optimally applied, and parasites slow growth, reduce milk yield and cause mortality.

This project builds on previous research conducted on targeting treatment within goat herds in Botswana, which showed that simple indices of parasite impact can be used effectively by farmers to target treatments and improve livestock health. Farmers using the system achieved similar improvements as for whole-herd treatment, while using less than a quarter of the treatments. At the same time, research has advanced the capability of computer models to predict infection risk as a function of climate and weather. Application of risk models could enable monitoring and targeted treatment to focus on the most dangerous times, potentially saving labour and reducing unexpected losses. These prediction models have helped farmers in the UK, but have not yet been delivered to farmers in Botswana. Very high mobile phone use in the region provides a potential route to deliver such tools, and to support farmers who are in remote locations and out of the reach of over-stretched animal health extension personnel.

This project will combine targeted treatment and risk prediction to produce an integrated parasite control system that works in the hands of remote marginal farmers in Botswana. Risk predictions will be generated from climate data using existing models, and communicated to farmers by mobile phone. Alerts will prompt trained farmers to check their animals and intervene as needed, feeding back information on animal health status and treatments applied, again by mobile phone. This information will, in turn, help to update risk profiles for a given area. Resources to support application of targeted treatment protocols will be produced and disseminated on a new mobile phone friendly website and in hard copy, including aide memoires and infographics to ensure access regardless of literacy or level of education. Running the system in the field will show that it works, and provide a blueprint and materials to upscale it across a wider area, with the potential for automation in a later translation phase.

The integrated system will be delivered with key partners in Botswana, who have helped to identify the need for this work, and will provide support to the field trials and then to embed the integrated system into existing support structures and training. Project outcomes will be summarised in a policy report and discussed with partners and potential users, to promote wider uptake. Application of improved parasite control in goats and sheep on smallholder farms has the potential to drive step changes in household nutrition and livelihoods across large areas of Africa. Outcomes will be communicated beyond Botswana through existing networks to fully realise these benefits.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This is a translation award and training materials have been produced and disseminated, including in college training curricula. This process is ongoing during the rest of this grant duration.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description MoA Botswana 
Organisation Government in Botswana
PI Contribution Support for management of endemic disease through farmer-led systems and training.
Collaborator Contribution Channelling project outputs into staff training and facilitating recruitment of farmers and trainers into the translation activities.
Impact Contributions to training materials and recruitment of study participants.
Start Year 2016
 
Description RRes 
Organisation Rothamsted Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Explained system for parasite management and potential for inclusion in existing nutrition and genetic research / translation projects in Africa.
Collaborator Contribution Adding thoughts on economic, social and nutritional evaluation of system impacts.
Impact Drafting of 2x funding bids for integrative research across the areas above.
Start Year 2018
 
Description University of Pretoria 
Organisation University of Pretoria
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Refined and applied methods devised by partner in resource-poor farm settings.
Collaborator Contribution Undertook trialling of methods and conversion to training materials used in the translation award.
Impact Engagement events under this project. Training of staff now working with farmers. Input into website design and training materials.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Gaborone animal disease workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop held for farmers, advisors and government policymakers on animal disease, including elicitation of stakeholder priorities, and explanation of progress of our research on parasite epidemiology and management and the tools planned under the translation award, to facilitate co-design.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Lilongwe startup meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meeting / workshop held with researchers and NGO practitioners to describe our approaches to improved goat health through translation of the system developed in this project, and receive feedback on needs and applicability in Malawi alongside existing programmes, hence potential to expand beyond Botswana as specified I the proposal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019