A plan to empower African livestock farmers by facilitating the development of the tools they need to control African animal trypanosomosis (Nagana), transmitted by tsetse flies, was unveiled by the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) yesterday.
The disease considered to be one of Africa’s greatest constraints to socio-economic development and it causes annual losses estimated at US$ 5 billion.
GALVmed was awarded £8 million (US$ 12.8m) by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) to start to a five-year partnership programme.
The first step will be to review current control options and scan the horizon to identify promising on-going research that could lead to better tools.
Dr. Théogène Rutagwenda, the Director General of Animal Resources in the ministry of agriculture, told The New Times that in Rwanda, tsetse flies are mainly associated with forest areas and the ‘Akagera Triangle’ that include Gatsibo, Kayonza, Nyagatare and parts of Uganda and Tanzania.
“That would be the area of concern. However, we don’t really see it as a risk – there are no cases of sleeping sickness in humans, or Nagana in livestock,” said Dr. Rutagwenda.
“Perhaps, by default, the types of chemicals or drugs we use in spraying against ticks also kill the tsetse flies. So, perhaps, it keeps the incidence very low.”
“We would of course love to have that GALVmed initiative,” he added, noting that a tripartite [Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda] project initiated in 2006 is yet to bear fruit.
“We had written a tripartite project proposal to be funded by the AfDB but it never really materialised. It is still in the pipeline and we would very much appreciate if it started.”
The GALVmed project will focus on tools that can be used at the level of the individual livestock keeper, including better drugs, diagnostics and perhaps even a vaccine.
Research groups working on the most promising leads will be invited to join forces with GALVmed.
In developing the current initiative, GALVmed’s board and management has been inspired by recent successes in the control of closely related human diseases like sleeping sickness, also transmitted by tsetse flies.