Poverty, health & pastoral ecosystem interactions in Kenya

Pastoralists are over-represented among the poor. Poverty has been mainly attributed to lack of access, e.g. to goods, education or enabling institutions, but recent insights suggest that ecosystems may influence poverty and the self-reinforcing mechanisms that constitute poverty traps. One example could be zoonoses. The article “Poor livestock keepers: ecosystem–poverty–health interactions” by Delia Grace et al (2017) brings a case study on a pastoralist community in Kenya which shows that the community bears heavy burdens of human and animal disease and devotes its limited resources to treatment rather than prevention.

Epidemic zoonoses elicit responses from governments and donors, but the high burdens of endemic disease and the unanticipated effects of disease control may act as poverty traps. A systems understanding of disease control – i.e. understanding the complex interactions between ecosystems, culture, values, institutions, behaviour and genetics – can lead to more effective disease management that reduces poverty. The example in Kenya shows how a system dynamics model can help optimise responses to Rift Valley Fever outbreaks by giving decision-makers real-time access to the costs of delay in vaccinating. A broader understanding of poverty and of appropriate responses to diseases can thus contribute to improving pastoralist livelihoods in Africa.

This article is part of the themed issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) entitled “One Health for a changing world: zoonoses, ecosystems and human well-being”.

Posted on 3 August 2017 in Pastoralism & Services, Pastoralist Livelihoods & Nutrition