Friday Funnies: Lessons in Resistance & Resilience of Plants, Animals & People

Many plants are able to protect themselves from attack (being eaten) in different ways.  However, through domestication and/or use of pesticides and other protectors, plants may loose their natural defenses – their resistance and resilience – as these protective traits are no longer needed.  Here is an example with maize:

In a similarly way, the most important livestock breeds in central Africa – Central African Goats and Ankole cattle – exhibit unique resistance and resilience to a variety of tropical diseases and harsh climatic conditions. However, when these animals are crossbred with northern hemisphere breeds, which lack these protective traits, the resulting offspring exhibit higher rates of morbidity and mortality.

English: Bahima culture has at least 30 names ...

English: Bahima culture has at least 30 names to distinguish the different hide colours of Ankole cattle and many more to describe the different horn shapes. You can buy an entire book on the subject. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good specimines of Central African Goats, in eastern Burundi.  Waiting to be made into dinner.

Good specimens of Central African Goats, in eastern Burundi. Waiting to be made into dinner.

One major difficulty in training and applied research in Africa is the generally dismal state of available literature regarding these elements.  It is, as the following video shows, often a question of Closed Access to most recent findings and resources – and this is why Open Access is so important in Africa and other developing areas:

During my years in Kenya, among other activities I participated in the SR-CRSP in western Kenya – the Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program.  While the results of our applied research were readily available locally, means of ongoing dissemination through private or public channels were quite weak.  Consequently,  results in cross-breeding, husbandry, and health remained primarily in the reports, although regular workshops that included a variety of east African scientists disseminated results further.

Another major issue during the decade of its work (1980’s) involved the difficulty of incorporating social scientific data and environmental context with that of biological science, the unexamined attitude being that the former two were secondary to the latter.    That was 20+ years ago, and these problems are no longer as difficult.  But as Mike Nolan, Principal Investigator, exclaimed in 1989:

… We have helped raise the consciousness of colleagues outside the social sciences, demonstrating that the social sciences can and should make contributions beyond the roles traditionally assigned to them. Social science research can assist in implementing policies, programs or innovations, and at its best it can provide original data to help define and refine programmatic research objectives.

Further, we have played a major role in insisting that development efforts be contextualized in terms of the people they are meant to serve. We act as reminders to ourselves and to our colleagues that our aim is not to do research for the sake of research, but rather it is to help farm families live better lives…

Source: Nolan et al.-Sociology in the SR-CRSP: research highlights and dilemmas of participation

As mentioned, these issues are no longer so difficult, with researchers becoming more resilient and less resistant to dimensions of research not their own.  Hence, here in Burundi we’ve developed multidisciplinary approaches to identify smallholder livestock and cropping issues and related assessments, and some of the results from the SR-CRSP program have been quite useful.  One of the training courses that I held recently is briefly discussed below, with pictures.

However, the issue of ‘Closed Access’ to so many scientific findings available on the NET continues to haunt work not just here but in most of the countries in which I’ve worked in Africa and the Middle East.   But efforts to make data and related interchange more accessible are in progress.   Here is the way one global program that is working in genetic research with goats is currently addressing the issue of breed-environment interface in ways that may achieve global Open Access:

…participants … share data with goat researchers worldwide through a new project called ADAPTmap, a collaborative effort by universities and research laboratories to create a central database for trait and genetic information on goats. This “open data” resource will make it easier for scientific institutions in developing countries and around the world to use the most up to date information for research on the goat genome, in order to accelerate progress on breeding goats for increased climate resilience. Source: Genetic Research Aims to Build Climate Resilience in African Goats 

Another recently developed technology that is ‘Open Access’ is the FAMACHA system of managing haemonchosis [a type of internal parasite] in sheep and goats.  The system is easily understood by most smallholders and requires very little by way of technical input other than a brief training.  Dr. Bath and other colleagues at University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa, are the developers and have been most helpful in addressing some of our own difficulties working with small ruminants here in Burundi over the years.

A FAMACHA card being used to assess the level of anemia of a goat.  This indicates the level of anemia and therefore whether the animal is in need of treatment.  Source: University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa

A FAMACHA card being used to assess the level of anemia of a goat by visual examination of the inside of the lower eyelid. The color indicates the level of anemia, and therefore whether the animal is in need of treatment.  The color third from the left would need treatment, and fourth and fifth indicate extreme anemia.  This goat’s anemia (color) is in the ‘must treat’ zone.  Source: University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa

An Open Access article by Dr. Bath et al. explaining the system is available here: The FAMACHA system for managing haemonchosis in sheep and goats by clinically identifying individual animals for treatment.  As the authors state:

FAMACHA Charts

FAMACHA Charts (Photo credit: QueenieVonSugarpants)

The main benefits of the system are the reduction in treatments, its use for discriminating between animals of varying ability to cope with infection (thus allowing genetic selection), and its lowering of selection pressure on H. contortus for anthelmintic resistance … With sufficient training, clinical evaluation of anaemia was found reliable for practical use. The overwhelming majority of trainees (some poorly literate) were able to implement the FAMACHA© system successfully.

One of the interdisciplinary teams discussing a FAMACHA card.  A training course with techniciens, vets, vet. tecks, extension workers and lead farmers in improved goad husbandry supported by Lutheran     World Services, eastern Burundi.

One of the interdisciplinary teams discussing a FAMACHA card. A training course with vets, vet. technicians, extension workers and lead farmers in improved goad husbandry methods,  supported by Lutheran World Services, eastern Burundi.

The same training session - one of the teams aging a goat by means of its teeth, following use of a FAMACHA card to determine degree of anemia.

The same training session – one of the teams aging a goat by means of its teeth, following use of a FAMACHA card to determine degree of anemia.

So in bits and starts, and with a little humor, inroads to better crop and livestock practices are being made in ways that not only rely on sound research that is more easily accessed – but that also incorporates all key actors – including the smallholder – into the venture.

Advertisements

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-General, FAMACHA, Indigenous crops & medicinal plants, Livestock, Living here, Plant Genetic resources, Research and Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Friday Funnies: Lessons in Resistance & Resilience of Plants, Animals & People

  1. It’s very effortless to find out any topic on net as compared to books,
    as I found this article at this site.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Friday Funnies: Nature vs. Science vs. Open Access – Explained | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, the Middle East, Agriculture, History & Culture

  3. Pingback: Notes on Dairy Goats and Artisan Cheese Production in Central Africa | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, the Middle East, Agriculture, History & Culture

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s