Project Lead(s): David Hall
Agriculture and water are key elements associated with emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) and are linked to 50% of recent EIDs.
In low-income countries, small-scale farmers have limited health knowledge, leading to decisions that can greatly increase the risk of EIDs.
Accidental or deliberate entry of manure runoff into aquaculture systems often contributes to EID outbreaks but water testing is complicated, time consuming, expensive and the results difficult to translate to action.
A project was initiated to address on-farm water public health issues in Vietnam, by developing awareness of on-farm water health and management through the introduction of on-farm use of low-cost water test kits.
The goal of the project was to contribute to reducing the risk of diseases of animal origin by improving farmers’ understanding of water public health.
The project also sought to show that farmers engaged in small-scale mixed agriculture in Vietnam could gain an understanding of basic concepts of public health, by learning to use simple on-site water tests combined with basic training in farm management and water public health.
Key project activities completed included:
· A survey of agricultural and household demographics, perceptions and management practices with respect to livestock production and water use among 600 participating farmers in Thai Binh and An Giang provinces in Vietnam
· An objective assessment of the public health qualities of sources of water (e.g., level of bacteria in the water) on these farms
· Training and technical support for the 600 participating farmers with respect to use of the water test kits
· Two training courses for 60 farmers in the target provinces regarding water public health management
· A post-water test and training questionnaire to assess changes in attitudes to water public health management.
Results showed that, at the start of the study, targeted farmers had limited awareness of water public health issues and had a poor understanding of how to prevent water-related zoonotic disease transmission.
At baseline, the quality of on-farm sources of water used for drinking and domestic purposes did not meet Government of Vietnam national water quality standards with respect to levels of E. coli and turbidity.
After implementation of the project, farmers showed a high level of understanding and properly used the water test kits.
Commune public health workers were able to help the farmers understand and interpret possible positive (or negative) water tests.
Discussions have been started with potential partners for a Phase II grant application. This includes several members of the Vietnam team, but also potential academic, government and industry partners in the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR and possibly PRC China.
Discussions are also underway with partners to leverage other project funds (e.g., the International Development Research Centre/Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s Canadian International Food Security Research Fund grant call and potentially a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Discovery grant).
The project also successfully collaborated with a research project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that examined training in, and use of, a quantitative water quality test by commune office public health workers, and to correlate results with the government laboratory test results.