Real help in Tolay

Good health is our greatest asset. It is crucial not just for individual well-being but also for a country’s workforce and its overall prosperity. This was clear from the results of a pilot project from 2006–2017 involving Biovision, icipe (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi, Kenya) and affected communities in the Ethiopian district of Tolay.

The key to the success in Tolay was the integrated holistic approach adopted by the project. It comprised four different interventions, each of which was complementary and mutually supportive. Scientists monitored the project and analysed the results. In essence, they identified synergies, showing that the combined effect of the four interventions was greater than the sum total of each individual one. The positive interaction between the four interventions allowed farming families to increase net income per capita by more than three times and so overcome hunger, improve their health and escape poverty.


  • People with cattle
    Almost all of the cattle succumbed to the sleeping sickness nagana. There is a shortage of milk, meat, manure and income.
  • Men with a flytrap
    The use of biological tsetse traps has brought the deadly sleeping sickness in cattle under control.
  • Woman at the microscope
    Similarly, there are measures, including the supply of information to local people, has defeated malaria.
  • Man is stacking corn
    Thanks to the successful pest management programme in maize and sorghum, the people have better diets, are healthier and have higher incomes.
  • Beekeeper on beehives
    Honey is a healthy product and with demand high in Ethiopia, it provides beekeepers with a secure income.

Misfortunes seldom come singly

Life was grim when the project started. Malaria was prevalent. Young children were dying and adults laid low by the disease. There were not enough healthy people to work in the fields. It was a human tragedy.

It was no better for the cattle. Almost all of them succumbed to the sleeping sickness nagana. There was a shortage of milk, meat, manure and income. The ploughs were idle because there were no oxen to pull them. The amount of cultivated land declined drastically and harvests plummeted. The results were malnutrition, hunger, deteriorating health and poverty.

Successful help for self-help

In their hour of need, the people turned to icipe and Biovision. The two organisations had already demonstrated in Kenya and elsewhere in Ethiopia that biological methods could control malaria and nagana and so the concept was introduced in Tolay as well. Working with the local population, the project started by targeting the disease carriers. The initial priority was to explain what caused the diseases, how they were transmitted and how they could be prevented. A combination of environmentally friendly measures successfully controlled the number of malaria mosquitoes, so averting the immediate danger. For example, the project monitored and eliminated the breeding grounds, controlled larvae biologically, saw to the distribution of mosquito nets and worked with the local health officials. Scented and coloured traps were used to reduce the number of tsetse flies to an acceptable level.

Gradual escape from the crisis

The success of addressing two issues together was also the strong basis for two subsequent programmes: the biological control of pests in maize and sorghum and the introduction of modern beekeeping. The help provided by these programmes allowed people to help themselves and so improve their health and diet, find new sources of income and overcome the crisis.