FAO Regional Office for Africa

Improving disease intelligence of African animal trypanosomosis

FAO celebrates the success of a virtual South-South cooperation capacity building initiative

AAT course completion closing webinar @FAO

Harare, 18 June 2021 – Veterinary officials from 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa successfully completed the FAO online course on sharing knowledge and experiences regarding the development of national atlases for tsetse and African animal trypanosomosis (AAT).

Animal trypanosomosis is a wasting, often lethal parasitic disease transmitted by blood-sucking tsetse flies. The disease, also known with the Zulu word ‘nagana’, seriously affects livestock productivity. It also severely constrains integrated crop-animal farming in areas of Africa with high agro-ecological potential.

The countries which participated in this innovative training included Cameroon, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These are some of the countries in sub-Saharan African where trypanosomosis is endemic. In the spirit of the South-South and Triangular cooperation, national experts from Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe shared their country experiences in developing national atlases, and they assisted colleagues throughout the training.  

The online course included live sessions, video lectures, assignments and quizzes, all feeding into an active discussion forum where questions from participants were answered by trainers and national experts. An immediate output from these interactions is a rich online repository of material that participants and other beneficiaries will be able to access and consult long after the training.

“I would like to emphasise the fruitful collaboration among the different FAO units in organizing this course. In particular, I would like to thank the Programme Against Animal Trypanosomosis (PAAT) for using our Virtual Learning Centre for Southern Africa (SFS-VLC) as a platform for the delivery of this course at a critical moment where face-to-face trainings are a challenge in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SFS-VLC has been instrumental in filling the training gap created by movement restrictions as part of preventing and controlling the pandemic. I would further like to thank our EuFMD colleagues for their support throughout,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

Capacity building of veterinarians through online courses

The online training was conducted from 7 April to 19 May 2021, and it focused on developing national atlases on this parasitic livestock disease and on its insect vector, the tsetse fly. PAAT and the FAO Division for South-South and Triangular Cooperation (PST) partnered in developing and delivering the course, in collaboration with the European Commission for the control of foot and mouth disease (EuFMD).

Thirty six participants completed the course, demonstrating their upgraded abilities to manage datasets and produce maps of tsetse and trypanosomosis distribution from training data as well as real country data. Of note is that the approaches and skills can be applied to other trans-boundary animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and African swine fever (ASF) for which geographic coordinates are collected for routine disease reporting. Indeed, geo-referenced and harmonized databases are crucial for countries to advance along the progressive pathways for the control of these diseases.

“With the newly acquired skills and the network created through the training, a community of practice has been established, prompting knowledge and experience sharing as many countries embark on the development of their national atlases,” said Giuliano Cecchi, the lead trainer from PAAT.

There was much enthusiasm and commitment from the participants, and matching passion from the trainers and course managers.

“To the trainers and the national experts, thank you for the knowledge and skills that you have imparted unto us as trainees. There is a major difference in us compared to how we were before this course,” said Isaiah Ndaburu Kiteto, a participant from Kenya.

“The course provided a unique opportunity for national experts to impart and share acquired knowledge with trainees. Support by the South-South Cooperation is greatly appreciated as the virtual training was a follow up to expert missions previously organized to support other countries in the development of national atlases,” said Learnmore Nyakupinda, a glossinologist who was one of the national experts assisting in the course.

As a follow-up to the course, participating countries are expected to apply the new skills to their own national data on tsetse and animal trypanosomosis. Countries that have not yet started on their atlases are expected to initiate development of atlases by assembling and cleaning their datasets, while those who are already working towards an atlas are expected to use the new skills to accelerate and streamline the process. Finally, countries such as Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe, which have developed and published a first edition of their atlases, are expected to enhance and regularly update them. PAAT trainers and national south-south cooperation experts will remain available to assist and support countries along the way.