- From Ebola in Africa to malaria in Brazil to tick-borne illnesses in the U.S., there is a common thread linking outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases: fluctuating forest cover, according to a recent study.
- Deforestation and even increases in green cover can fuel the rise of diseases, the research shows, citing the link between oil palm plantations and outbreaks of malaria and dengue as a case in point.
- The study examined linkages between forest cover changes with vector-borne and zoonotic diseases between 1990 and 2016 and found that outbreaks of both types of infections have increased.
- The evidence that human health can suffer even as a result of misguided afforestation or plantation shows that more research is needed on the role of forests in modulating diseases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised plenty of questions about whether the planet’s declining health is what ails humans. The answer is yes, and it’s not a metaphorical response.
Distorting the blue planet’s green cover, hollowing out dense forests and tacking tree plantations at will fuels the rise of diseases, a growing body of research shows. From Ebola in Africa to malaria outbreaks in Brazil to tick-borne illnesses in the U.S., there is a common thread: fluctuating forest cover, a recent study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science has found.
The study authors spotlight an overlooked hazard: oil palm plantations, which they call a “threat to global health.”
COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, one where the pathogen emerges in animals and spills over into humans. How the SARS-CoV-2 virus made this jump is still under investigation, but one theory posits that a bat coronavirus entered human populations via an intermediary host. This scenario has raised concerns about the health risks related to wildlife trade and human incursions into natural habitats.
The new study examined linkages between deforestation and reforestation with vector-borne and zoonotic diseases between 1990 and 2016. Vector-borne diseases including malaria, dengue and Lyme disease are transmitted by insects like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. Both vector-borne and zoonotic diseases occurred more frequently in this period, with the former seeing a marked surge.
Greener tropical countries like Brazil and Indonesia that report high deforestation rates suffer more frequent vector-borne disease outbreaks, the analysis found. Data from other nations like Peru and Bolivia in South America; the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon in Africa; and Myanmar and Malaysia in Southeast Asia, support this conclusion.
A quarter of all forest lost between 2001 and 2015 was cleared for the production of commodities like beef, soy, palm oil, and wood fiber, according to a 2018 study. Plantations of these crops have metastasized in some of the most forest-rich countries in the world. Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer, and Brazil churns out most of the global supply of soybeans, and a large chunk of its beef.
In Southeast Asia, replacing forests with oil palm plantations was found to boost the abundance of Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria. In Malaysian Borneo, agricultural land replacing forests led to shrinking populations of Aedes niveus but the swelling of A. albopictus, both dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Though changes in forest cover create conditions favorable for maladies, the relationship is not straightforward. Malaria experts found that outbreaks are linked to forest clearing, especially at deforestation frontiers. But in some cases, the rise in malaria cases also leads to a dip in deforestation as those who log forests lose labor days owing to illness, creating a convoluted feedback loop.
Mapping of Ebola outbreaks in western and central Africa revealed that index cases were more likely to occur in forest fragmentation hotspots. When closed forests are pried open, amplifying people’s exposure to wild animals and pathogens, it raises the risk of zoonotic infection spillover.
The harmful impacts don’t just arise from deforestation, the research found; disease spread is also associated with unsuitable afforestation. Though such efforts can promote biodiversity and benefit carbon sequestration, they might have unintended consequences. In the U.S., for example, planting trees and growing green cover supported the resurrection of deer populations but also led to an increase in tick populations.
This was true of temperate-zone countries, which had lower forest cover. But the researchers also saw this pattern in places like China and Vietnam, which have embarked on vigorous reforestation drives. However, the authors caution that their data on the increase in green cover don’t differentiate between commodity plantations, afforestation, or abandoned agricultural lands.
The limitations of satellite imagery are only part of the problem. There is no consensus about what makes a forest.
There is no global treaty dedicated to forests. The International Tropical Timber Agreement is the only global pact that deals directly with forests, but it focuses on the sustainable timber trade. The Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares (865 million acres) by 2030, and the New York Declaration for stopping deforestation are both voluntary commitments that encompass restoration of degraded land.
Adherence to these goals has encouraged countries to launch massive tree-planting drives and led to the conversion of grasslands, important ecosystems in their own right, into forests. The authors are calling for an update to the FAO’s definition of a forest so that it does not promote the expansion of forests in areas that were historically not forested.
The evidence that human health can suffer even as a result of misguided afforestation or plantation shows that more research is needed about the role of forests in modulating diseases.
Morand, S., & Lajaunie, C. (2021). Outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases are associated with changes in forest cover and oil palm expansion at global scale. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 8. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.661063
Curtis, P. G., Slay, C. M., Harris, N. L., Tyukavina, A., & Hansen, M. C. (2018). Classifying drivers of global forest loss. Science, 361(6407), 1108-1111. doi:10.1126/science.aau3445
MacDonald, A. J., & Mordecai, E. A. (2019). Amazon deforestation drives malaria transmission, and malaria burden reduces forest clearing: A retrospective study. The Lancet Planetary Health, 3. doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(19)30156-1
Original Source: MONGABAY
Farmers in Bunyoro counting losses as dry spell continues to bite
Cattle farmers in Bunyoro are counting losses as their animals continue to die due to a lack of pasture and water as a result of the prolonged dry spell in the region.
The farmers from the districts of Buliisa, Hoima, Kiryandongo, Masindi and Kikuube are struggling to find pasture and water for their animals following the dry spell that has hit the area for the past four months.
Currently, most of the pasture has dried out and all the available valley dams have dried up leaving cattle keepers stuck.
In some districts, most cattle farmers have started selling off their animals fearing that they could be killed by the persistent dry spell.
Jacob Kanyindo and Godfrey Kahiigwa, cattle farmers from Kikuube, said if the current dry spell continues, they are likely to lose all of their animals. They noted that they have decided to sell off some of the older cows fearing that they might not survive the harsh conditions.
Kahiigwa said he has lost 10 cows since May due to a lack of pasture and water, adding that the situation could become worse if the dry spell persists.
Benson Rugyira, a farmer in Buliisa said since April, he has lost 15 cows as a result of a lack of pasture resulting from the prolonged drought.
He says that because of the lack of water and pastures, the cows are no longer giving them milk which they have been also dependent on to sell and buy food for their families.
Rugyira noted that he has nowhere to relocate the animals because the dry spell has hit the inter Albertine region and neighbouring regions.
He noted that if there is no intervention in this crisis, they are likely to lose all their animals and sources of income.
Sam Ntambara, a livestock farmer with hundreds of cows at Kiryamboga landing site in Hoima, expressed worry that their animals could all die due to the dry spell. He adds that all the available dams that used to provide their animals with water dried up.
He noted that as cattle farmers, they’ve never experienced such a dry spell in the last decade, adding that the situation is giving them sleepless nights.
“Our animals are suffering. The situation is beyond our understanding, were just waiting on God to intervene otherwise we are going to lose all our animals,” he said.
Lam Karubanga, another farmer in Hoima district, said that the situation is compelling them to sell off their cows cheaply. He says a bull that would cost sh1.5m is currently being sold at between sh700,000 and sh800,000.
He noted that they would opt to buy feeds for their animals but the challenge is that the feeds are scarce and expensive.
“Previously, whenever we would face such a dry spell, some would buy the rice and maize brand but because of the dry spell, the rice did not do well this season,” he said.
Emeriki Kakura, the chairperson of Kasenyi village, expressed concern over the lack of pastures for the animals which he says has resulted in conflict between the livestock farmers and crops farmers.
He noted that some cattle farmers have decided to graze their animals in people’s gardens in the hunt for pasture, something he said is fuelling conflicts.
He noted that if the dry spell persists, they may see bloodshed because they have tried to engage the cattle farmers to stop this habit but they failed to adhere.
Barnabas Ntume, the Kikuube district production officer, said that they have no solution to the situation, adding that the current dry spell is going to affect the population of livestock in the region.
He advised them to relocate the animals to areas with water and some pastures, adding that those who cannot manage to relocate their animals to sell off the cows, adding that they should restock after the situation normalises.
Ntume however asked the farmers to use this situation as a learning lesson so that they can always prepare for such climate changes by producing and stocking feeds and building valley dams.
Original Source: New Vision
How dry spells have affected milk supply
A milk dealer attends to a customer at Kabula Farmers’ Cooperative Society centre in Lyantonde District on July 25.
During the rainy season, Mr Asiimwe produces up to 1,120 litres of milk every week, but the prolonged dry spells have affected milk production at his farm and currently produces only 400 litres.
“I am spending a lot of money on looking after these dairy cows, buying both water and pasture and if we fail to get rain in the coming weeks, I will lose some animals,” he predicts.
Some of the farmers in various cattle corridor districts say milk production has drastically gone down in the past months when dry spells set in, which has affected water sources and pasture. The dry spells have led to a spike in milk prices, but farmers say they still make little profits due to high expenses incurred.
Currently, the farm gate price per litre of milk in many districts is trading at between Shs1,000 and Shs2,000 up from Shs600 two months ago. A litre of processed milk is going for either Shs3,800 or Shs4,000, depending on the brand.
According to Mr Robert Kanyete, the chairperson of Rakai District Livestock Farmers Association, their members have lost many animals during the long spells and dealers are buying them cheaply.
“We sell some of the cattle that are starving at a very cheap price as low as Shs100,000,” he says.
Mr Naboth Mabega, a butcher at Kabungo Trading Centre in Ddyango Town Council, Rakai District, reveals that increased cases of starving animals has affected the prices of beef.
“In some villages where starving cattle are dying, a kilo of beef goes for Shs3,000, some animals are slaughtered when they have already died,” he says.
Mr Perezi Karamuzi, a resident of Maddu Sub-county in the Gomba District, says he has since lost 11 dairy cows due to prolonged dry spells, and this recently prompted him to start hiring a water bowser truck at a cost of Shs700,000 to fetch water from River Katonga every week.
“Milk production has drastically reduced to the extent that some farmers no longer sell milk and the little they get is consumed by their families,” he says.
Despite the reduction in milk production and supply, the demand had remained high, according to Mr Fred Kuhabwa of Ever Fresh Dairy /Bwera Farmers’ Cooperative Society, which has since dominated the milk market in Masaka.
“The farm gate price of a litre of milk was Shs800 in May, but it has increased to Shs1,600. So, considering the high fuel prices and other expenses involved, we have been prompted to sell a litre at Shs2,300 in most of the urban centres around,” Mr Kuhabwa says.
Mr Enock Gumisiriza, the chairperson of Lugusulu Livestock Farmers Association in Sembabule District, says he took a painful decision to relocate his livestock to the neighbouring Lyantonde District where there is still some pasture and water for animals.
“When we took the decision to relocate [to Lyantonde] in the first week of July, most of our livestock suffered tick-borne related diseases and some have since died, we can hardly observe routine spraying to prevent ticks and measures for our livestock,” he says.
A similar measure has been adopted by Mr Tom Superman Opwonya, a livestock farmer in Nambieso Sub-county in Kwania District, who relocated his cattle near the shores of Lake Kwania.
“Here [near Lake Kwania] water is in abundance, but we buy hay for our cattle. We used to get more than 20 litres of milk per day, but currently it has reduced to less than five litres,” he says.
Mr David Agweno, a cattle keeper at Obalia Village, Ibuje Sub-county in Apac District, says his cattle have started dying due to inadequate water and pasture.
“I have more than 200 head of cattle in my kraal, but I lost more than 10 calves and I believe it happened due to poor feeding,” he adds.
In Arua City, the prices of milk have gone up from Shs1,000 a cup to Shs1,200.
Ms Salma Abiko, a resident of Nsambya North Cell, Arua Central Division, says: “This is going to affect the breast feeding mothers who need milk supplement because we mainly depend on milk coming from Mbarara.”
“If children are not fed well on milk, it will cause malnutrition which is bad for their health,” she adds.
In Moyo District, Mr Adam Mamawi, the secretary for Production at Lefori Town Council, says water sources in the area have all dried up.
“Our animals are starving, we don’t know what we can do and what kind of help we can get from the government over this matter,” he says.
The cattle farmers, who are few in the West Nile Sub-region, have for a long time urged the government to construct valley dams in cattle rearing areas. This, the farmers say, would help in storage of water for animals.
Mr Charles Adrawa Young, the assistant agriculture officer Lefori Sub-county, says animals are now surviving on leaves and others are destroying gardens in order to get food.
“We advise cattle owners to control their animals from straying in people’s gardens in order to avoid conflicts,” he says.
Although the dry season has not led to the death of domestic animals in Kigezi, the quantity of milk production has reduced leading to the increase in prices.
The vice chairperson for Kigezi Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society, Mr Francis Kateiguta, says while they used to get about 4,000 litres of milk every day during the rainy season, they currently receive only 2,500 litres.
“The price of a litre of milk has increased from Shs800 to Shs1,400 because of milk scarcity resulting from the dry season as the cows are not getting enough pastures, but we expect the situation to get better now that the rain has started in some areas,” Mr Kateiguta says.
The Uganda National Metrological Authority ( UNMA ) has since indicated that this month is likely to be characterised by enhanced rainfall in most parts of the country.
“The rainfall outlook for August indicates that areas of northern, eastern and parts of mid-western are likely to receive enhanced rainfall while the rest of the country is likely to receive occasional rainfall,” a weather outlook focus released at the weekend reads in part.
Mr Wilberforce Tigawalana, a livestock farmer in Namasagali Sub-county, Kamuli District, says the milk production on his farm has dropped from three to two jerrycans per day.
“We have to maintain our customers who trust us with pure milk. What we have done is to increase the price per cup from Shs500 to Shs700,” he says.
To avoid more losses in future, Mr Obed Nayijuka, a cattle Keeper in Nyarubanga Ward, Mbarara City North, says they are planning to start planting pasture such as Napier grass (elephant grass), brachiaria mulato (Congo siginal grass or locally known as kifuta) that can sustain them during dry spells.
“It is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain livestock farming without enough pasture. We have been looking for banana peelings to ensure our cattle survive, but now we are planning to plant our own grass,” he says.
Mr Steven Mugisha, a cattle farmer in Rwebishuri Ward, Mbarara City, says he has been buying water since June to feed his animals and the area only received some rain on August 1.
Source: Daily Monitor
Uganda’s coffee industry eyes new markets, value addition
But the country still has a lot of coffee that is still being dried on the ground
Kampala, Uganda Uganda’s coffee industry will seek new international market for their products to reduce over concentration on traditional buyers to boost farmer’s income.
Coffee is the country’s second biggest source of foreign exchange after tourism and provides a living for around 8 million people or about 19% of the population.
“In 2017, stakeholders in the coffee industry discussed the coffee road map on how to accelerate production but also increase income to the farmers,” said Emmanuel Niyibigira, managing director of the regulator, Uganda Coffee Development Authority.
“They were concerned that we need to have value addition for our coffee but also have the demand. We are looking at some markets such as China which has 1.4billion people and it is an emerging market. We are also looking at Middle East, Maghreb region, Eastern Europe though now we have this conflict (between Russia and Urkaine) and also the Balkan states.”
Uganda exports most of its coffee to Italy, Germany, Algeria, India and Sudan.
Niyibigira, who was speaking during the Agribusiness Mkutano 2022 at Mestil Hotel in Kampala on April.28, said the regulator is looking forward to supporting local coffee businesses for value addition including soluble coffee processing plants.
He said the government aims to ensure that the country has at least two soluble coffee plants in the next five years. He said UCDA and the Uganda Development Corporation, a government investment arm, are carrying out a feasibility study to ascertain its viability.
The country has 38 registered coffee roasters although the government’s plan to have a soluble coffee plant has been on the table since 1994.
“We are also looking at branding our coffee. Most of our coffee is being exported and blended with other coffees due to its good aroma. We need to be recognized as an origin of Ugandan coffee,” Niyibigira said, adding that it is unacceptable that countries including India, Vietnam and others in Latin America, which also produce huge volumes of coffee, import Ugandan coffee beans especially Robusta only to blend with their coffees to boost aroma and fetch premium prices on the international market.
Niyibigira, however, noted that the industry still faces some challenges.
“We still have a lot of coffee that is still being dried on the ground,” he said, adding that low bean sizes, low productivity as well as pests and diseases are being addressed with new coffee varieties.
Tony Mugoya, the executive director at the Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance said as the country pursues value addition in the coffee industry, farmers should be able to sale their products to the highest bidder.
“Uganda is a free market economy and us as farmers, we shall give our coffee to anyone who offers the highest price. That is all we want,” he said. “So the more the people or companies in the market, the more competition and the better for us.”
The government has in past weeks faced opposition over its move to exclusively grant Enrica Pinetti-owned Uganda Vinci Coffee Company to purchase and export the country’s coffee.
Mugoya said as the country embrace value addition, they should be aware of the existing tariff and non-tariff barriers in the international market.
Joseph Nkandu, the executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) said value addition in coffee need to be in the entire value chain.
“Farmers need to own the value addition component beyond the farm level as it enhances their income,” he said.
Nkandu said countries such as Uganda striving to embrace value addition need to enter into partnerships in targeted markets so that the product is easily accepted.
Martha Wandera, managing director at Kimco Coffee Ltd said the government should probably consider setting up a production plant for production of packaging materials for processed coffee to lower coffee prices stimulate local demand.
She said also suggests that the costs of accessing quality mark be reduced to encourage coffee producers to access the services.
Uganda’s coffee export volumes and earnings has consistently grown over the past 20 years and accounts for 7% of the world’s production.
Last year, farmers exported 6.49million 60 kg bags of coffee worth US$629.8million compared to 5.36million 60kg bags in the 2019/2020 season worth US$512.22million in the previous year.
Source: The Independent
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