ICIPE's develops tsetse fly repellent collar for livestock farmers

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-7-11 10:41:54

Since time immemorial livestock farmers in most parts of Kenya have been forced to lighting fires to smoke away tsetse flies every day.

The well to do farmers have been using drugs (trypanocides) to help repel the flies away from the grazing fields and within the homesteads.

Because of this circumstance, the farmers have been forced to graze their livestock late in the morning hence completely avoiding early and late evening grazing everyday when tsetse flies, a routine that is hard to keep given that livestock especially cattle feed a lot.

But in a bid to help farmers solved this menace, the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) has developed a repellent collar that is tied around the animal's neck and in the process repels tsetse flies.

"The repellents have been identified from odors of animals avoided by tsetse, like the waterbuck, a big antelope species that is common in tsetse-infested areas of eastern Africa but which is rarely fed on by the flies," the Principal Investigator of the project Dr. Rajinder Saini said.

He noted that these repellent collars slowly dispense the chemicals in them, thereby protecting the animals and their herders from the flies.

Saini observed that the disease levels in protected cattle had been reduced by more than 90 percent and that repellent collars performed better than traditional traps that had been used by the institution in areas such as Lambwe Valley in Homa bay County.

"We are currently overwhelmed with the demand for the collars forcing us to mass produce these prototype collars into commercial products which are nonmetalic, cheap, affordable and easy to use by livestock keepers," he added.

ICIPE scientists have also been able to produce repellents through molecular optimization of natural repellents found in the urine of cattle. These repellents have been used to develop repellent collars for protection of cattle.

ICIPE's tsetse repellent technology has been developed with funding from the European Commission (EC) to over 20 different National and International stakeholders at Shimba Hills, at the Kenyan Coast.

According to a livestock farmer, John Tsuma, with the introduction of the repellent collars, weight of animals had significantly increased making them fetch more money as well as enabling those that use bulls ploughing utilize their land effectively.

He said milk yields had doubled up, a sign that the repellent collars were very effective and their cattle were now more settled when grazing and they were grazing much closer to the park fence than before without being disturbed by the flies.

ICIPE has been conducting the research in the outskirts of Shimba Hills where the Center has protected nearly 2,000 animals with repellent collars to see how the technology was positively affecting the livelihood of farmers.

"We hope that new technologies like the repellent technology will lead to new development agenda for the control of tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis which contribute to poverty in the continent," Bernard Rey, Head of Operations EU Delegation Kenya said on Monday.

He said that the EU has been an African partner in tsetse fly controlling for over 25 years and will continue offering their expertise. The Minister of Environment and Mineral Resources Chirau Ali Mwakwere lauded scientists for the success of the project.

Mwakwere told the EU and other donors to continue supporting such projects that improve livelihood in rural areas of the country.

"Livestock keepers around Shimba Hills had given up keeping high grade cattle a long time ago due to the tsetse menace and such developments would take the rural people out of the poverty trap," he added.

The Program Manager at the EUSeve Wathome revealed that the EU supported such research and development projects that had an impact on food security.

He added that the tsetse repellent project was one of the best projects of the Delegation and he urged government support to get the technology out to the beneficiaries.

Trysomanomisis that is the major killer of livestock occur only in tropical regions of Africa affecting 37 countries including 25 of the world's poorest countries.

These flies carry the trypanosome parasites that cause human African trypanosomosis, commonly called sleeping sickness, and the livestock disease nagana.

The problem of tsetse and trypanosomosis thus lies at the heart of Africa's struggle against poverty.

About 60 million people are at risk of getting sleeping sickness in Africa and more than 300,000 are infected yearly, of whom 95 percent do not receive any treatment because of the remoteness of the affected areas.

Trypanosomosis currently causes annual losses of some 1.5 billion US dollars and over the long run has had the effect of limiting Africa's agricultural income to some 4.5 billion dollars a year below its potential level.

About 3 million cattle die annually due to the disease. The flies are one of the main reasons why 80 percent of the continent's land is still tilled by hand due to the absence of draught-power.

Few livestock also implies less availability of manure that could be used as organic fertilizer, consequently leading to lower yields of crop and fodder plants.

Almost more than any other disease affecting people and livestock, trypanosomosis thus straddles the ground between human health, livestock health and agricultural production, and thus rural development.

According to Dr. Saini, repellent collars and traps could be used together in a "push?Cpull" system.

"The repellent collars'push'away the flies from the cattle, while the black and blue traps or screens, with the added aid of the odor baits,'pull'them into the killing containers, and thus suppress fly populations," he noted.

This combined "push?Cpull" strategy can significantly reduce fly numbers and disease prevalence levels and is particularly popular among the Maasai and coastal communities in Kenya.

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