Peter Greste, a journalist with Al Jazeera, recently accompanied veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace to the slums of Nairobi, to take a first-hand look at ‘urban farming’, livestock farming in particular.
Grace works for the International Livestock Research Institute and leads a health component of a new multi-institutional CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. She points out in this 2-minute Al Jazeera news film that in urban environments in developing countries, poverty, animals and degraded environments are a mix that can lead to the emergence of new diseases.
As journalist Grete reports, ‘ The biggest concern are diseases that cross the so-called “species barrier” from animals to humans. These have caused illnesses such as bird flu and SARS that have potential to infect all of us.
‘The researchers aren’t suggesting that we ban urban agriculture. It’s the way people survive, after all. What they are suggesting is that we find better ways of managing the relationship between animals and humans to try to prevent the evolution of new diseases.’
Meet Rose Ndungu, an urban farmer in Nairobi’s Dagoretti District. She couldn’t manage without her animals, says Grete.
Apart from three milking cows, her family lives with chickens, ducks and rabbits. These provide her with both food and income.
Rose’s farm is a model of the way urban farming should be. She carefully manages animal waste, cleans the animal pens regularly and watches for illness in them. She’s not likely to trigger a new epidemic. But it only needs to happen once. And that keeps the researchers awake.’