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Participatory epidemiology and household survey assesses role of gender in tackling diseases in small ruminants

ILRI veterinarian Barbara Wieland and Annet Mulema

Participatory epidemiology and gender study workshop, Addis Ababa in June 2016 (photo credit: ILRI/Camille Hanotte).

From 15 -19 June 2016, a result dissemination workshop was held in Ethiopia to share findings of studies which used participatory tools and household surveys to understand disease constraints and gender roles in small ruminant management.

Organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the three-day workshop brought together 40 veterinary stakeholders, including veterinarians and National agricultural research center directors and officers) from four regions in Ethiopia–Oromia, Tigray, Amhara and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP).

The overall scope of the workshop was to highlight the importance of small ruminant diseases in Ethiopia and why considering gender in animal health management is crucial. Using participatory epidemiology tools and a household survey combined with serum sample collection, the researchers found that farmers consider respiratory diseases the key health constraint in small ruminant production. A close second came diseases resulting in neurological clinical signs, such as coenurosis, a parasitic disease leading to circling in affected animals due to cysts in the brain.

Results showed that because men and women are responsible for different animals and animal husbandry activities (such as feeding, slaughtering and taking the sick animals to the veterinarian) they are knowledgeable about some diseases and less knowledgeable about others. The studies found that despite the differences in household roles, both men and women noticed symptoms of neurological and respiratory diseases in their live animals and were very articulate in describing the clinical signs. Also men and women reported similar observations of disease in carcasses of slaughtered animals. But overall, both men and women farmers, had very low awareness of zoonotic diseases. In some areas with recent anthrax cases, farmers were conversant about the disease, while in other areas tapeworm and rabies were mentioned.

‘It is clear that Ethiopian smallholder farmers have the knowledge to understand that the symptoms they notice in their are caused by diseases,’ said Barbara Wieland, a veterinarian at ILRI. ‘But we found that only 46% of farmers had heard about zoonotic disease beforehand.’ Wieland coordinated the Ethiopian research team that carried out the study.

According to participants, teaching farmers about zoonotic pathogens and their transmission is one way of closing the knowledge gap to help farmers understand how to prevent, better detect and treat zoonotic diseases.

On the last day of the workshop, participants discussed possible interventions to address the key challenges identified. The ultimate aim is to to reduce disease within livestock herds to increase their productivity and, consequently, improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Ethiopia.

This participatory epidemiology and gender (PEG) activity was conducted jointly by the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded SmaRT project – Improving the Performance of Pro-Poor Sheep and Goat Value Chains for Enhanced Livelihoods, Food and Nutrition Security in Ethiopia. It was implemented by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and ILRI, and by the Africa RISING project.

Download the research report

Read a related article in the Africa RISING blog.

Blog post by Camille Hanotte

The activity was funded through the Livestock and Fish CRP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded SmaRT Ethiopia Project – Improving the Performance of Pro-Poor Sheep and Goat Value Chains for Enhanced Livelihoods, Food and Nutrition Security in Ethiopia.

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