Thousands of pests and diseases (hereafter called ‘pests’) affect our major livestock species, with impacts on livestock production varying in space and time. Governments, private entities and aid agencies are critically concerned with understanding the cost-effectiveness of alternative strategies and investment options to tackle livestock diseases. Key to this is prioritising pests and diseases in terms of their economic impacts and the potential for interventions to reduce these impacts. Efforts to assess the incidence and impact of these variable pest problems are plagued by inaccurate and inconsistent reporting, a lack of diagnostic infrastructure, and a lack of (experimental) impact evidence.
The process of setting economically informed priorities typically begins with a very long list of target pests and diseases. Screening the list to focus scarce analytical effort on the most likely problematic pests is confounded by lack of data and inadequate analytical frameworks. Simply asking experts to prioritise these pests and diseases - the typical past practice - has resulted in lists that are remarkably dissimilar. This suggests an urgent need for new data and new modes of thinking.
A meeting was held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi July 16-18, 2012 to come up with a sound methodology by which to prioritise the massive list of livestock pests and diseases into a manageable compilation for more detailed bio-economic analysis. The meeting created a roadmap that would help us understand the spatially-explicit economic costs of livestock pests and diseases and improve our capacity to ameliorate their impacts, with a view to prioritising pests and diseases at various scales (global, continental, regional or national).
Livestock Pest Eco Geography Activities
The first goal of the Livestock Pest Economic Geography project (LPEG), led by HarvestChoice-UMN, CSIRO and ILRI, is to identify the top 20 or so disease/vector systems of economic importance in each of four livestock categories in Africa: cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, and poultry. We will collate information from all of the expert lists that we can access, and use a citation search to determine which pest/disease systems have received the most research attention since 2000. From these ranked lists, we will produce distribution maps to indicate presence or implied absence in each country of the pest/disease systems that rank highest in each of the four livestock categories. This information will then be juxtaposed against spatially explicit measures of livestock and human geographies and disease impacts to help identify the prima facie importance of each disease within each country. This analysis will be published, and the atlas of maps will be made available online.
The 20 or so livestock pest/vector systems deemed likely to cause the largest economic losses in this first phase will be given more intensive study in a second phase of the project, where we will more formally address the bio-economic issues of relevance.
The LPEG project is presently being supported by HarvestChoice, CSIRO and ILRI. In early 2013 we plan to bring together relevant experts on livestock pests and diseases for a workshop to identify additional sources of data and technical information of prospective use for our analysis, and to critically review future research priorities and strategies.
The ultimate goal is to develop a robust, spatially explicit modeling approach rooted in technical and economic realities and combined with improved data (and data estimation methods), to enable more evidenced-based decision-making about strategic research and other intervention options designed to economically reduce the losses from livestock pests and diseases throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
LPEG attendees: Isaiah Akuku, Darren Kriticos, Pamela Ochungo, Tania Yonow, Jusper Kiplimo, and Delia Grace