Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa including 53 million cattle. A rapidly growing human population (85 million people) and high rate of urbanization give increased challenges on farmers and government to meet the demand for food.

Meat is supplied to urban centres through trading of zebu cattle. In contrast, milk production of zebus is poor compared to exotic breeds such as Holstein or their crosses with zebus; zebus alone cannot meet the increased demand for milk and dairy products. An emerging dairy sector in Ethiopia aiming to increase milk supply is however more vulnerable to diseases thriving in intensive husbandry systems.

Epidemiological surveys on bovine TB in Ethiopian livestock have mapped out relatively low prevalence (0-9%) in the domestic zebu cattle in rural Ethiopia, reared under extensive conditions, while studies of exotic or cross bred cattle in the peri-urban intensive dairy farms in central Ethiopia recorded over 30% tuberculosis prevalence. The impact of such high bovine TB prevalence could be significant on both animal productivity and public health, especially on high-risk populations exposed to cattle.

The primary aim of the ETHICOBOTS programme is to tackle the high burden of bovine TB in the Ethiopian dairy farm sector.

Expansion of the dairy farm sector and the current centrifugal trade of high value cattle from an area of high bovine TB prevalence can result in new hotspots of bovine TB in emerging dairy farm regions around peripheral urban centres. Such trading may also highly affect agro-pastoralists of the Ethiopian highlands, increasing the risk of zoonosis and transmission to their zebu herds.

Farmers use oxen to release Teff, an Ethiopian staple, from piles of dry grass.

The project’s ultimate aim is to minimise the potential impact of disease on poor high risk groups, including dairy farm workers and their families and those at risk as the emergent dairy livestock system continues to expand. This interdisciplinary programme addresses poverty and livelihood issues in relation to bovine TB in a unique manner and builds on previous studies, considering new breeds of cattle. It will directly assess the efficiency of BCG vaccination of cattle.

Four regions in Ethiopia with high density of dairy farms will be the operational research sites and will be located in the proximity of large urban centres including Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, and Hawassa.

The Partners:

  • Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology (ALIPB), Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • National Animal Health Diagnostic and Investigation Centre (NAHDIC), Sebeta, Ethiopia
  • Department of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), UK
  • Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Switzerland
  • Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London (UCL), UK