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Empowering rural communities to minimize wildlife related diseases

April 27, 2016

In southwestern Uganda, population growth, climate change, and agricultural policies have reduced access to grazing and water points, forcing pastoralists to adopt sedentary lifestyles in and around wildlife conservation areas. This has led to more frequent interaction between humans and wildlife, magnified health risks, and negative impacts on community development. 

Little scientific data exists on the extent of these problems. But with support from IDRC, researchers from Makerere University studied the impact of social and environmental changes on the health of pastoralist communities around Lake Mburo National Park. They assessed the impact of zoonotic diseases (those of animal origin) on animal and human health, and their effects on livestock value chains with a view to developing strategies to reduce risks and vulnerability. 

Health and socio-economic challenges posed by the park

Researchers found that pastoralist communities, though particularly affected by brucellosis, have very little knowledge about the disease. It is a highly contagious zoonotic disease and is transmitted byconsuming unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat from infected animals or through close contact with their secretions. The research also found that proximity to the park and population density of large wild animals within the park increased the risk factor for brucellosis for cattle which could result in a negative impact on the price of milk.   

The research team collaborated with local policymakers in the public health, veterinary, and wildlife sectors to create education and prevention campaigns to encourage better management of the disease and contribute to the communities’ sustainable development.

The project trained community representatives, who in turn trained other community members about disease management. Community representatives spoke at school gatherings, community meetings, and appeared on local radio talk shows and recorded several radio messages.

Watch an audio slideshow about the project