One Health: Plantwise’s ambition to improve the health of people, plants and animals

Blog written by Léna Durocher-Granger and Solveig Danielsen

One Health Day is held on the 3rd of November to highlight “the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines — working locally, nationally, and globally — to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment” (One Health Initiative, 2016).  Although One Health Initiative is focusing mainly on zoonotic diseases as a key interface between human and animal health, it is important to remember that many human and animal health problems are caused or worsened by hunger, malnutrition and poor quality of food and feed. Looking beyond zoonoses, it is clear that human and animal health are closely connected to plant health for at least four reasons: Food security – enough food at the right time to feed people; Food safety – plant products of good quality; Feed security – enough feed at the right time to feed animals; and Livelihoods – agriculture is fundamental for economic growth in developing countries. Plant health is essential if crop yields are to be sufficient and of the right quality (Danielsen, 2013).

Farmer in Nepal reading a factsheet (Phil Taylor, CABI)

This is where CABI’s Plantwise programme aims to make a difference. Plantwise’s global objective is to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses due to pests and diseases. Further to this, experiences from different countries show that Plantwise, through its work to strengthen plant health service delivery, can also contribute to improving human and animal health and play a role in expanding One Health approaches (Boa et al., 2015).

Good agricultural practices for mycotoxins management

Aspergillus flavus infecting a maize cob (Margaret Kioko)
Aspergillus flavus infecting a maize cob (Margaret Kioko)

Mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus (important fungal pathogens) can contaminate food products from various crops and be fatal to many. Without effective management practices being widely disseminated to farmers in the right format, outbreaks can occur frequently in developing countries and thus impact on human health. Extension materials are needed to provide farmers with effective management options in order to prevent the survival of fungal disease on crop debris and in soil which can lead to repeated outbreaks. Plantwise countries such as Malawi and Zambia have produced detailed factsheets and Pest Management Decisions Guides (PMDGs) ensuring that good pre- and post-harvest practices reach farmers via plant doctors.

Safe use of pesticides

Training in Bangladesh (CABI)
Training in Bangladesh (CABI)

Inadequate handling and application of pesticides can harm human health. Giving good advice on the safe use of pesticide is a core aspect of Plantwise. As part of their initial training, all plant doctors review good practices and are given the Plantwise pesticide red list to ensure that international banned pesticides are not recommended to farmers. In Bangladesh, plant doctors requested training on how to diagnose pesticide poisoning and plant clinics promoted the safe use of pesticides (Kelly et al., 2008).

Integrated farmer services

Dr. Huingo treats a cow belonging to Mrs. Antonia Calua García of Secsemayo (CABI)
Dr. Huingo treats a cow belonging to Mrs. Antonia Calua García of Secsemayo (CABI)

Several Plantwise countries have stated the need for more integrated services that can meet farmers’ demand for advice more broadly. Many farmers in developing countries have diversified production systems with both crops and animals. Plant doctors report that farmers often ask for advice on animal production and health at the plant clinics. In Peru, some of the plant clinics have already taken the step to integrate provision of animal advice into the plant clinics. Other countries, such as Uganda, show a keen interest in converting plant clinics into ‘crop and livestock clinics’. Who knows, maybe one day plant clinics could also deliver messages on human nutrition?

Green and Yellow Lists

Maize intercropping with snap beans (CABI)
Maize intercropping with snap beans (CABI)

Plantwise promotes the use of Green and Yellow Lists as a type of extension material for plant doctors. The Lists use traffic lights to rank control measures according to their safety for humans and the environment. The green section gives the best management advice to prevent and control the problem using non-hazardous methods and should be used first. Some cultural practices include the use of cover crops and intercropping systems to repel or attract pests. As an example, using cowpea as a cover crop with maize is favourable for: plant health by repelling pests; soil health by fixing nitrogen; and human health by reducing the amount of chemicals used and increasing nutrition diversity by growing nutritious crops within the same field. The yellow section recommends safe and nationally registered pesticides and should be used only if necessary. The restrictions section gives more details about considerations, limitations and classifications of active ingredients so that pesticides are used safely, therefore reducing the impact on human health and the environment.

Whilst Plantwise promotes the delivery of better plant health services to small scale farmers, the programme also has a great potential to contribute to better health for people, animals and the environment.

 

References

Boa E., Danielsen S. & Haesen S. 2015. Better Together: Identifying the Benefits of a Closer Integration Between Plant Health, Agriculture and One Health. In J. Zinsstag, E. Schelling, D. Waltner-Toews, M. Whittaker & M. Tanner (Eds), One Health: The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches (pp. 258-271). Wallingford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, CABI.

Danielsen, S. 2013. Including plant health in the ‘one health’ concept – In theory and in Uganda. Centre for Health Research and Development, University of Copenhagen. http://curis.ku.dk/ws/files/123783239/2013_DBL_book_One_health_with_plants_SDanielsen.pdf

Kelly P., Bentley J., Harun-ar-Rashid and Zakaria A. 2008. Plant health clinics help curb pesticide use in Bangladesh. Pesticide News 81, 16-17.

One Health Initiative. 2016. One Health Initiative Will Unite Human and Veterinary Medicine. URL: http://www.onehealthinitiative.com/. One Health Initiative. Accessed on 2 Nov. 2016.

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