New partnership with great innovative potential

Since the start of the year, Biovision has had a new project partner: the Swiss Tropical and Public-Health Institute (Swiss TPH). Simon Gottwalt, molecular biologist and responsible for Biovision's animal and human health projects, presents the new "One Health" project in Ethiopia and talks about the potential of this partnership. 

Simon, why was Swiss TPH selected as our “One Health” partner?

In our development projects, we test innovative, sustainable ways to combat hunger. We adopt a scientific approach and seek to establish what is most likely to succeed. Swiss TPH is one of the world’s leading research institute in the field of global health and so is an ideal partner with a track record of innovation. Our aim is to exploit the synergies of this partnership.

What synergies does Biovision hope to achieve by cooperating with Swiss TPH?

For about the last two years, Biovision has used the “One-Health” approach as a way of fostering closer links between the areas of animal and human health. The new project in Ethiopia in cooperation with Swiss TPH complements our previous projects by using an innovative system that will improve the detection of animal and human diseases. If it is successful, this knowledge will then feed into other projects.

What is the role of local organisations in the implementation of the project?

Implementation of the project is through a consortium consisting of Swiss TPH and the Jigjiga University in Ethiopia. The role of Swiss TPH is to act primarily as a mentor and trainer: Project officers are local to the area but are participating in doctoral and master’s programmes in Basle in order to train them as experts in the “One-Health” approach. “One Health” is a genuinely new concept and so there is little detailed knowledge of it in East Africa. This makes thorough training particularly important. The Biovision focus is entirely on the local delivery of the project and the training of the Ethiopia project managers.

The “One Health” concept is pursuing a holistic approach that takes account of different stakeholders. How does this cooperation support this approach?

The research group “One Health” at Swiss TPH links the health of animals, humans and the environment and so is an ideal partner for Biovision. In addition, the research team uses a participatory approach, which means that local people are consulted extensively and are routinely involved in decisions on the measures to be tested. In addition, the Ethiopian project stresses the importance of linking traditional knowledge with modern technology. For example, in order to obtain important information on water and grazing land the project will integrate the traditional survey methods used by the nomadic people with satellite data.

What is the current phase of the project and what are the next steps?

In recent years, Swiss TPH has carried out comprehensive research into the needs and problems of nomadic people in particular. Following consultations with the pastoralists, it was decided to introduce an integrated information system covering the health of humans, animals and grazing land. In addition, as a first step a “One Health” unit – a sort of Call Centre – is being established in the building that houses the Ministry of Health. The next step will be to train local people in how to use this system. This will allow the early identification of potentially dangerous diseases and imminent drought. Biovision is currently supporting the new project with the development of this information system.

Simon Gottwalt during a project visit in the dry region of the Horn of Africa.