Ashley Railey (fourth from left) with members of the Serengeti survey team (back, l-r) Loserian
Ole Maoi, Emmanuel Sindoya, Isaya Ole Seki, and (front) Victor Sianga.
“Notes from the Field,” a biannual column in The Global Health Perspective, features personal accounts by Allen School scientists and gives a first-hand glimpse of the work they are doing to help the lives of people and their animals.
by Ashley Railey, doctoral student in the Allen School
Habari za asubuhi dada (good morning sister)! It is a little before 7:00 in the morning and the survey team slowly starts appearing at my residence ready to start another day in the field. The driver helps me load the charged computers, extra batteries, backup paper surveys, the paper visual aids, GPS devices, and peanut butter and jelly bag lunches into the car. Today we have a two-hour drive to the border of Tanzania and Kenya where we will ask 25 households to complete surveys.
Our research, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Program for Enhancing the Health and Productivity of Livestock, addresses the socioeconomic conditions, such as a household’s livestock keeping practices and education level, that contribute to infectious disease. We are performing surveys on smallholder farmer willingness to pay for emerging control options for foot and mouth disease in cattle. It is one of numerous diseases prevalent in Tanzanian livestock, and one of the most economically damaging and contagious. Hooved animals like cattle, sheep, and goats become infected with lesions on the mouth, feet, or mammary glands resulting in production losses, miscarriages caused by the disease, and even death in young animals. Because cattle provide income for many Tanzanian households from milk and animal sales, in addition to draught power for farming, foot and mouth disease can have severe economic effects on the smallholder farmer.
Which is what brings us to the border of Tanzania and Kenya today. Njoroy is one of ten randomly selected villages in Northern Tanzania where we are collecting household survey data. Each day team members will complete approximately 5–6 surveys, taking anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the household. Today, I go along with Loserian, a Masaai enumerator who will help me understand the exchange by translating from Maa into Swahili or English.
As I walk with Loserian and one of the community members commissioned to introduce us to households, we discuss the challenges facing Tanzanian cattle owners. Both men own cattle and have had to adjust their pastoralist practices to address an evolving world. Once they owned many cattle that could roam the land freely, but lands are disappearing and efficient productivity is more important. The men discuss the importance of keeping livestock healthy because a family can no longer rely on having hundreds more cattle to fill the spot of one dying. They tell me that foot and mouth disease is particularly challenging because the available treatments do not work, and their livestock continue to become infected. Hearing this without even using a survey to probe for answers, it becomes apparent that while they live with the disease, that does not mean they would not jump at a chance to cure it if possible.
This is what qualitative data and surveys provide us with, an insight into the everyday lives of the people and decision-making process. It is one thing to create a vaccine knowing it provides accurate results, but an entirely different thing for people to use the vaccine. The surveys help identify the factors influencing willingness to pay for vaccinations and diagnostic testing, but the conversations in between the surveys help us understand the people behind those decisions.
Ashley Railey, a doctoral student in the Allen School, spent three months in Tanzania collecting data to assess whether farmers are willing to pay for vaccinations and diagnostic testing for foot and mouth disease in cattle. Railey spent six months taking classes at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania before conducting surveys for basic household demographics, livestock movements, and household willingness to pay for disease control methods. She also taught survey participants about the complexity of the disease through visual aids and discussions.
Educating the “next generation” of leaders across the full spectrum of global health—from basic research that discovers new solutions to translating these discoveries into practice and policy—is central to the Allen School mission. The opportunities created by our faculty have attracted an incredibly international graduate student body: 65 percent of our students come to the program from outside the United States, representing over 20 different countries. Last year we initiated a new program with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that provides doctoral training for an integrated cohort of students from the United States, United Kingdom, and several African countries. By training side by side, students will develop a professional network that will extend long past their graduate education as they emerge as global health leaders. Importantly, the research takes place in east Africa, allowing the full cohort to develop the skills required to discover, develop, and implement solutions in the regional context. As you read in this issue’s “Notes from the Field,” Ashley Railey describes a day conducting eld research on foot and mouth disease in northern Tanzania. Her story illustrates the highly interdisciplinary research and the opportunities to study in a unique and challenging environment. That these challenges and opportunities are shared among all the students in the cohort provides a common understanding and a framework that will increasingly pay dividends as these individuals emerge as the next generation of leaders.
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health
M. Kariuki Njenga, research professor in the Allen School, has been awarded $3.4 million from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for infectious disease surveillance in human and animal populations, antimicrobial resistance studies, and efforts to determine the presence of the Zika virus in Kenya. The money will fund the first year of a five-year cooperative agreement with the CDC titled “Conducting Communicable Disease Research in Kenya.” Allen School co-investigators are Douglas Call, Eric Lofgren, Tom Marsh, Terry McElwain, and Jon Yoder.