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FAO and partners support training workshop in Rwanda

05 October 2011 - The Wildlife Health and Ecology Unit within FAO’s EMPRES Animal Health, with the support of the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) RESPOND program, and the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London (RVC) have rolled out a comprehensive, interactive training workshop integrating wildlife and environmental health within the context of agriculture, food security, and public health.

These events support the ‘One Health’ approach. The workshop is titled Wildlife Investigation in Livestock Disease and Public Health (WILD). It consists of cross-sectoral lectures, problem-solving group exercises, and field-based studies that require different disciplines to work together to address and find solutions to ecology and development issues involving wildlife, livestock, and people.

As part of the broader Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (FETPV), initial workshops have been successfully held in Bangkok, Thailand and Beijing, China. Also, as a follow up to SPINAP Wildlife Capture and Surveillance training implemented by AU-IBAR and FAO, a workshop was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The most recent workshop was held in Rwanda in July 2011. It was attended by twenty-four professionals from eleven Eastern and Southern African countries including veterinarians, public health practitioners, and wildlife experts. The participants were high-level Ministry employees responsible for developing national programs and policy, and positioned to integrate a ‘One Health’ approach into national decision making.

This workshop was conducted in Akegera National Park (ANP). The ANP had two-thirds of its land de-gazetted in 1997 to create land available for settlement by returning refugees. ANP contains a thriving population of large African plains mammals, but is under increasing pressure from the growing agricultural communities along its borders. Human-wildlife conflict, particularly with elephant and hippo, is a major issue in this region.

The Rwanda workshop consisted of an intense eleven days of interactive classroom instruction and field activities. At the start of the training workshop, all participants were given a test to assess their knowledge on wildlife disease and on One Health issues for evaluation purposes. Topics covered in the workshop included lectures on environmental ecology, drivers of emerging disease, zoonoses, integrated surveillance and response, risk analysis, and communication. Morning lectures in the classroom were followed by problem-based learning activities where participants worked in multidisciplinary groups addressing hypothetical scenarios. Significant time was spent conducting field work in and around the park including biodiversity surveys, environmental assessments, and interviews with villagers as well as visits to local markets and health facilities.

On the final day of the training workshop, participants developed recommendations for the managers of ANP (see PDF table to your right-hand side). The final product was an excellent demonstration of park management through a ‘One Health’ approach. A post-workshop knowledge test demonstrated that participants greatly improved their pre-test scores, particularly those in public health.

Evaluations almost unanimously gave this workshop an excellent rating saying that it was a unique and effective approach to learning about the connectivity and importance of the relationship between wildlife, the park habitat, and the local communities. The applied field exercises and visits to villages were reported to be the most valuable learning experiences. Due to the positive reception of this workshop, two more regional WILD workshops will take place in Central and West Africa with further development of workshops for East and South Asia.


© FAO/Tracy McCracken
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