The world’s largest publicly-funded agricultural research partnership, CGIAR, is currently developing a series of initiatives to implement its 2030 research and innovation strategy that was launched in early 2021.
The research initiatives are designed to create lasting impact in five key areas:
- nutrition, health and food security;
- poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs;
- gender equality, youth and social inclusion;
- climate adaptation and mitigation; and
- environmental health and biodiversity.
One of these research initiatives, Protecting human health through a One Health approach, aims to improve the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses in seven target countries: Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Uganda and Vietnam.
The development of the One Health initiative is being led by a team of scientists from four CGIAR research centres — the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and WorldFish — in collaboration with external research partners from Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire, EcoHealth Alliance and the University of Liverpool.
To ensure alignment of the proposed initiative with national priorities, the team convened a series of online consultative meetings with research collaborators to gain insights on the main One Health priorities, challenges, interventions and partner organizations in the respective countries.
The Ethiopia meeting, hosted by ILRI, took place on Wednesday 11 August 2021, bringing together some 40 participants from government ministries, universities as well as national and international research organizations.
Dieter Schillinger, ILRI’s deputy director general for biosciences research and development, opened the meeting with a word of welcome and an overview of CGIAR’s 2030 research and innovation strategy that will guide the implementation of the 33 new research initiatives, including that on One Health—the focus of the online consultation.
He mentioned that the development of the One Health research initiative is a collaborative process and ILRI is working closely with other CGIAR research centres as well as external partners from research and academia, including those represented at the meeting. He therefore welcomed feedback and suggestions from the participants to ensure the research of the One Health initiative is relevant and impactful.
Hung Nguyen, co-leader of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program, followed with an overview of the rationale of the One Health initiative, citing the need for a One Health approach to tackle the complexity of the global public health challenges posed by the rising incidence of antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses.
He then outlined the three main objectives of the One Health initiative, namely, to generate evidence for decision-making; evaluate impacts of One Health approaches; and scale up innovations into national policies and programs.
He further highlighted the initiative’s Theory of Change, explaining how the research outputs are expected to lead to specific development outcomes and impact by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The team estimates that between 4 million and 41 million cases of disease will be averted annually through the initiative’s efforts.
The initiative’s research activities will take place through five work packages:
- food safety;
- antimicrobial resistance;
- environment (water and wildlife interfaces); and
- economics, governance and behaviour.
The work package leaders presented briefly on the goals of their respective work packages, giving examples of planned innovations under each.
Bernard Bett, ILRI senior scientist and head of the ILRI-hosted One Health Centre in Africa, outlined the two main objectives of the zoonoses work package: pre-empting the spread of zoonoses at the wildlife–livestock interface and reducing the incidence of zoonotic pathogens associated with poverty. Among other innovations, the work package plans to map the risk of key endemic zoonoses and develop diagnostic kits for surveillance of zoonoses.
Hung Nguyen explained that the food safety work package aims to reduce the burden of foodborne disease in traditional (informal) food value chains, with a focus on animal-source foods and other perishables such as fruits and vegetables. Planned innovations include training and certification of food handlers and traders, promotion of consumer demand for safe food, and behavioural nudges to encourage safe food handling practices.
Arshnee Moodley, who heads the ILRI-hosted CGIAR Antimicrobial Resistance Hub, noted that antimicrobial resistance is a silent pandemic and many low- and middle-income countries do not have effective surveillance programs, resulting in lack of data on the burden of antimicrobial resistance. She however noted that Ethiopia has a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance. The work package on antimicrobial resistance will focus on reducing antimicrobial use in crop, fish and livestock production systems and reducing antimicrobial transmission from animals to people through food. Planned innovations include the generation of evidence on the economic impact of interventions to reduce antimicrobial use and the development of tools to help farmers use antimicrobials more prudently.
In his overview of the environment work package, Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at IWMI, noted that water is a key connector between people, livestock and ecosystems and so the focus will be on improving land use and water management to reduce health risks such as antimicrobial residues and zoonotic pathogens. Approaches will include recovery and reuse of animal waste to prevent water pollution and promotion of good practices to ensure the safe use of marginal quality water.
Vivian Hoffmann, senior research fellow at IFPRI, explained that the goal of the economics, governance and behaviour work package is to understand the drivers of people’s behaviour within food systems and the impact of policies and governance approaches on this behaviour. An example of an innovation under this work package is a performance management system for government officials responsible for implementing surveillance and enforcing regulations on antimicrobial use or food safety. Another innovation is a system to ensure inclusion of small-scale farmers, traders, food vendors and vulnerable groups so that they benefit from One Health outcomes.
During parallel group discussions on the zoonoses, food safety and antimicrobial resistance work packages, the participants gave feedback on the main One Health challenges, priority interventions, actions to ensure inclusion and partner institutions in Ethiopia.
With regard to control of zoonoses, some of the key challenges identified were weak surveillance systems, shortages of drugs and vaccines, budgetary constraints and lack of laboratory infrastructure. Priority interventions include generation of data on the burden of zoonoses, strengthening of institutions involved in One Health, and capacity building to improve the prevention and control of zoonoses within the framework of One Health.
Among the main food safety challenges identified were food adulteration, low laboratory capacity, poor law enforcement and weak food safety systems. Priority interventions include strengthening of food safety surveillance systems, development of a national food safety strategy and strengthening of legal frameworks.
Regarding antimicrobial resistance, some of the key challenges identified were inadequate surveillance in livestock production systems, high burden of infectious diseases and irrational use of antimicrobial drugs. To address these challenges, there is a need to develop antimicrobial resistance surveillance plans for human health, animal health and food safety. In addition, public awareness on antimicrobial resistance is needed to ensure prudent use of antimicrobials.
Among the suggested actions to ensure inclusion were stakeholder mapping, group-based community approaches, addressing gender in community conversations, and increased advocacy to engage policymakers.
The identified partner groups to work with included government ministries, national and international research organizations, universities, bureau of standards, farmer groups, women’s groups, consumer associations and the media.
As the meeting ended, Feyesa Regassa, lead researcher at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and chair of Ethiopia’s National One Health Committee, expressed his appreciation to the initiative design team for their support on One Health, specifically food safety, zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance. He also expressed gratitude to all the participants.
‘This is a valuable opportunity for Ethiopia to collaborate,’ he noted.
In her closing remarks, Siboniso Moyo, the ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia, thanked everyone for their participation towards achieving the objective of helping the One Health initiative design team as it formulates key interventions and work packages. She expressed her appreciation to the organizing team, facilitators and all who worked behind the scenes to plan for the meeting. She looked forward to working together in this and other initiatives with partners in Ethiopia towards improved human, animal and environment health.
Once approved, the CGIAR One Health initiative will start in January 2022 and run for an initial three years.
ILRI, IFPRI, IWMI and WorldFish. 2021. Ethiopia stakeholder consultation on a proposed CGIAR One Health initiative. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI. https://hdl.handle.net/10568/114649