Mosquito nets protect cows
A simple but innovative use of insecticide-impregnated nets to protect livestock is doubling and in some cases tripling milk outputs on smallholder dairy farms while also reducing mosquito-borne illnesses in humans in Kisii, Kenya.
The Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) project is part of a wider strategy to vastly improve animal health in areas most affected by tropical diseases.
In a statement signed by Nancy McNally of the FAO Media Relations in Rome, copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday said the nets are environmentally safe and had drastically cut the number of flies, mosquitoes and other disease transmitting insect vectors by close to 90 percent.
It said cases of mastitis, a bacterial disease that could be spread by flies as well as poor hygiene during milking, had been halved on smallholder dairy farms; while farmers also learned basic hygiene measures to reduce illnesses in their cows.
It said the mosquito nets were having a significant knock-on benefit for families: in Kisii, preliminary results show that farmers were reporting 40 percent fewer cases of malaria in their homes.
It noted that while Kenyans often attribute illness to malaria without knowing the true cause, a direct human health benefit should not come as a surprise.
“I used to milk around 2 litres of milk, but since the nets were brought and the flies disappeared, I now milk around 4 or 5 litres a day so I make profit.
“What’s more, we’ve had no more malaria,” the statement cited Mary Munyega Nyandeo a farmer in the Kisii area.
“Before this, I thought milk was only for the home. I never knew that selling milk could help me pay my children’s school fees,” it quoted another farmer, Mary Owendo.
It said the human health benefit, everyone agrees, would be the natural added benefit of reducing the numbers of the same vectors that transmit illnesses to humans, sometimes from their own livestock animals.
It said in countries like Kenya, where smallholders owning just one or a few cows care for 80 percent of the dairy animals and produce more than three-quarters of the country’s milk, the loss of an animal could devastate a family economically.
The statement said smallholder pig farmers were also using the livestock protective net fencing in Ghana; the biting of nuisance flies has been reduced nearly to zero and pig production and health has improved.
It said the work in Ghana was done in coordination with the country’s national coordination office of the Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC); adding that a third pilot was getting underway in Burkina Faso, where the livestock systems were predominantly pastoralist.
It said in recent project meetings, government and private sector trainees interested in emulating the model had also learned about use of the insecticide nets.
The statement noted that the trainees were from Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda in Eastern Africa and from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo in Western Africa.
It said the pilot projects were supported by $1.6 million in funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).