Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, have formed a partnership develop innovative tools, resources and training that support the One Health Initiative – a worldwide strategy linking animal wellbeing to public health and food security through healthy and sustainable animal production.
A Global Impact
While the research efforts conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife and FAO have been focused in Africa, the various training programs and understanding of various zoonotic and transboundary animal diseases, including FMD, can be applied internationally to help scientists and producers better understand the correlations between animal wellbeing and public health and food security. Texas A&M AgriLife will also contribute its expertise to the World Organization for Animal Health-FAO-INTERPOL Phoenix project, building resilience against agro-terrorism and agro-crime, which aims to increase regional and interagency cooperation and strengthen global capacity to respond to animal health emergencies resulting from the intentional release of animal pathogenic biological agents.
Key results and findings from their collaborative research efforts
Developing capacities for health and safe animal feed
Since 2013, FAO and Texas A&M AgriLife’s Office of the Texas State Chemist have collaborated on the development and delivery of the online course “Laboratory Quality Control Systems for Feed Analysis.”
This course has provided more than 185 scientists and agriculture professionals across 70 countries with the knowledge and resources to validate analytical procedures, conduct statistical analysis of laboratory data, develop appropriate standard operating protocol documentation and prepare laboratories for international standard accreditation.
Responding to infectious zoonotic and transboundary animal diseases in Africa with advanced training opportunities
In collaboration with FAO’s In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) program, researchers have developed advanced training opportunities to respond to infectious zoonotic and transboundary animal diseases in Africa. The training aims to protect human life, animals and the livelihoods of farmers; improve food security by controlling diseases; and reduce the impacts of disease, including the amount of time spent treating sick animals and people.
The ISAVET collaboration has resulted in country-adapted curricula and manuals for hands-on training as a contribution to the animal-health workforce on surveillance and outbreak response.
Creating early warning-system tools to aid smallholders in livestock management
Since 2016, Texas A&M AgriLife and FAO have with the Kenya National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) to develop and deploy the Predictive Livestock Early Warning System (PLEWS) throughout several regions in Kenya.
The system uses near real-time simulations and statistical forecasting methodology to provide information on current and near-term (1-6 month) forecasts of forage conditions on rangelands across Kenya. It simulates livestock species grazing preferences and uses a Forage Condition Index (FCI) to identify grazing trends and intensities of drought, while also monitoring conditions and trends of water availability for livestock. The PLEWS system allows stakeholders to examine risk and identify potential trade-offs and responses associated with drought and changing climate.
FAO has included the early warning system platform as a key component of their East Africa Animal Feed Action Plan, where PLEWS is being systematically scaled up to other countries in East Africa beginning with South Sudan’s cross-border areas in 2020.
Building capacities for diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and promotion of its early detection
Texas A&M AgriLife and FAO are providing a unique opportunity to gain ﬁrst-hand experience in the diagnosis and investigation of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks though collaborations on real-time training courses in Uganda. The training helps veterinarians understand all aspects of FMD, from ageing lesions in the ﬁeld, to lab diagnosis and putting personal biosecurity into practice.
The training is preceded by a pre-online virtual induction course to prepare animal health trainees to undertake hands-on ﬁeld work. Trainees spend ﬁve days in Uganda, alternating classroom work with ﬁeld work visits to suspect farms, applying protocols for biosecurity, risk assessment, epidemiology, sample collection and timeline development, among others, to expand their knowledge of FMD diagnosis and outbreak investigations.
At the end of the course, they are given a virtual toolbox to enable them to expand and share their knowledge upon return to their home countries. The impact of this training is building a global capacity to further detect and mitigate the spread of FMD.
Shaping the future: Developing the next generation of food security and agriculture experts
FAO and Texas A&M AgriLife Research are helping students translate classroom lessons into practical experience as interns and volunteers. Since 2013, 21 students have joined FAO to work alongside professionals on projects related to food security, climate change, international trade, land and water management, emerging pandemic threats and more. Through this partnership, they are developing the next generation of food and agricultural leaders who will positively impact our world for generations.
In 2019, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and FAO produced a video that reflects upon the students’ experiences and provides insights into their contributions to FAO’s program of work, which represent a win-win for all parties.
Click here to read FAO’s published briefing outlining collaborative efforts with Texas A&M AgriLife in the areas of food security and sustainable livestock development.
Click here to read more about Texas A&M AgriLife’s efforts to link public health and food security.