Review of the Ethiopian Tsetse Eradication Project STEP

In tropical and subtropical rural areas of Africa several tsetse fly species, while sucking blood on humans and livestock, transmit unicellular blood parasites that eventually affect the central nervous system, causing sleeping sickness among humans and a similar disease among livestock, called nagana. The diseases particularly affect poor rural communities and their livestock, which is why the tsetse fly vector is often referred to as the 'poverty insect'.

Review of the Ethiopian Tsetse Eradication Project STEP An IAEA delegation, headed by Former Deputy Director General Werner Burkart, discussed with our Ethiopian partners in Addis Ababa, 20 - 23 July 2010, the status of the IAEA- and FAO-supported Southern rift valley Tsetse Eradication Project (STEP).

Since its inception in 1997, STEP managed to train and involve more than 220 000 farmers in methods for suppressing tsetse fly populations and the disease they transmit, African animal trypanosomosis (AAT). The project applies pour-on formulations of insecticides onto livestock and, in addition, positions into the fly habitats insecticide-impregnated blue / black fabric targets, which attract tsetse flies and kill them.

A recent (Nairobi, July 2010) workshop of the EU-funded and FAO-executed Livestock Policy Initiative under the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD-LPI) in the horn of Africa concluded that rural livestock development areas like the southern rift valley will benefit substantially from a complete elimination of the T&T problem: Investments between US$ 1 500 and US$ 3 000 per km² are likely to result over a 20-year period in benefits of US$ 12 500 to 15 000 per km².

So far about 10 000 km² of land with good opportunities for sustainable agricultural and rural development have been covered by the STEP tsetse suppression activities. The experienced substantial reduction of the tsetse and trypanosomosis (T&T) problem already permitted an increase of productive livestock in the area. For the first time the rural communities can make use of horses and donkeys in the southern rift valley, where previously they were unable to be used, because they are very susceptible to tsetse-transmitted trypanosomosis.

The project intends to expand the tsetse suppression operations to some 25 000 km² in the next 1-2 years. It is anticipated that, once developed for large scale application in Ethiopia, the sterile insect technique (SIT) will complement the area-wide and integrated pest management efforts, aiming at a complete elimination of the T&T problem. There are, however, some critical issues to be addressed with a sense of urgency, before the SIT component will be available to STEP.

Excluding urban areas in the southern rift valley, some 700 000 rural households will eventually benefit from the efforts coordinated by STEP.