GOAT-SAT: Earth observation for weather-smart worm control

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

Abstract

Goats are crucial to livelihoods across rural Africa. They are widely used as a source of food, income, and provide a safety net in the face of crop failure. Climate change is increasing variation in growing conditions, and goats especially have a key role to play in building resilience in rural communities, while enhancing soil fertility and enabling sustainable use of sensitive environments. Ability to realise these benefits is strongly constrained by disease. Endemic parasite infections that debilitate animals and undermine survival and productivity are ubiquitous, but symptoms can be predicted and mitigated. The availability of tools to predict outbreaks of parasitic disease is currently limited and regular whole-herd antiparasitic drug treatments are logistically and financially out of reach for most small farmers. Similarly, drug interventions are prone to failure through drug resistance, and chemistries used have known off-target ecological impact.

The current application aims to combine state-of-the-art remotely sensed rainfall data with climate-driven models of parasite biology to generate disease risk forecasts, and to transform them into effective decision support tools for farmers and supporting organisations. This will enable proactive assessment of regional livestock disease and nutritional risks to support livelihoods and resilience to climate change.

The main outcome will be a disease forecasting tool to help alert farmers to period of high risk and stimulate timely application of targeted treatment approaches and nutritional intervention. Projections of epidemiological risks and benefits across Africa and how they are changing will inform policy makers of areas at risk and help them to focus efforts appropriately and provide good advice. As a result of this project, tools will be created for rapid evaluation of and adaptation to disease and nutrition threats throughout Africa, to support sustainable production and food security in the poorest areas.

Planned Impact

The project directly addresses the UKRI Global Challenge Area "Equitable access to sustainable development", specifically by targeting its first sub-priority: secure and resilient food systems. Parasite infection, especially by gastrointestinal nematodes, is the dominant production-limiting disease of grazing livestock worldwide. Infections are endemic, difficult to control effectively, and disproportionately affect small farmers who have limited access to advice and drugs. Excessive reliance on chemical treatment has led to widespread drug resistance, while climate change makes infection increasingly hard to predict. We showed in previous work that targeted selective treatment of parasites can be applied by resource-poor smallholder farmers; predicting risk would help them further by focusing monitoring and treatment, and to refine and apply local solutions that simultaneously improve nutrition, leading to better integration of plant and animal production on smallholder farms. Outcomes will be improved animal health and production, impacting directly on rural livelihoods; the project seeks also to map those positive livelihood impacts.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Parasite transmission models have been applied to predict infection potential across Africa, and its spatio-temporal variation. In the next step this will be applied on a finer spatial scale and at more immediate time scales to permit 'nowcasting; of parasite infection pressure.
Exploitation Route The maps will be used to determine where and when to prioritise monitoring and targeted treatment of goats against worms. This approach is just starting to be trialled using existing tools. Outcomes will reduce the burden of disease in goats and confer resilience of goats and farmer livelihoods to increasingly variable parasite infections under climate change.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Findings have been used to map parasite transmission risk for goats across Africa and consequently to co-design locally appropriate monitoring and control strategies, for trialling in the next phase of the project through farmer field schools. As a result of findings so far, plant phenology and crop performance will be included in these schools, as well as seasonal cropping calendars, to explicitly explore how connecting climatic and disease pressures on goats and plants might be considered together to further optimise interventions and improve livelihood outcomes.
 
Description BIUST 
Organisation The Botswana International University of Science & Technology
Country Botswana 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Support and mentoring within delivery of project outcomes.
Collaborator Contribution Core to delivery of outcomes and included in project application.
Impact Fundamentally involved in all project deliverables.
Start Year 2019
 
Description HAU 
Organisation Harper Adams University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Inclusion in Cluster stage 2 bid.
Collaborator Contribution Adding agronomy and other expertise to Cluster stage 2 bid.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2020
 
Description LUANAR 
Organisation Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Country Malawi 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supporting delivery of project outcomes and training and mentoring of LUANAR scientists.
Collaborator Contribution Involved in delivering project outcomes as co-investigating institution: included in project application.
Impact LUANAR are fundamentally involved in all aspect of the research project and its outcomes so far.
Start Year 2020
 
Description MoA Botswana 
Organisation Government in Botswana
Country Botswana 
Sector Public 
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 SHA 
Organisation Gorta Self Help Africa
Country Ireland 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Development of training resources in goat health for SHA farmer field schools in Malawi.
Collaborator Contribution Inclusion of goat health monitoring and data collection in farmer field schools in support of cluster development.
Impact Integrated farmer field school design and supporting training and data capture resources, launched March 2021.
Start Year 2020
 
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 Recurring farm visits in Malawi for farmer and extension personnel training and support 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Participating farmers are visited every 2 weeks for data collection and reinforcement of training in animal health checks and targeted treatment. Teams involve postgraduate students. Includes workshops and additional training of animal health extension personnel, NGO farmer support networks, and on occasion visits with policy makers (government departments of agriculture, veterinary and extension services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Recurring farmer training visits Botswana 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Repeated visits to farmers in Botswana every month to support ongoing data collection ad reinforce training. Teams include postgraduate students. Extends to demonstration and training of wider groups, through public meetings and farmer collectives, outside the core research areas in N and W Botswana. Accompanied on occasion by veterinary extension personnel, NGO staff involved in farmer extension, and policy makers from department of veterinary services. Includes training in parasitology and evaluation of anthelmintic drug efficacy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020