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Mapping animal diseases

One of the methods the Transmara Western Group in Kenya uses to promote sustainable development with farmers and extension workers is the mapping of livestock diseases 

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From: Animal health – Footsteps 34

Different ways to improve and maintain animal health

by Naftally Felix Omondi.

Transmara Western Group (TMWG) in Kenya is a small team of researchers which has volunteered to promote sustainable development. Members encourage the use of traditional knowledge in agriculture to help relieve poverty. They work through extension training, research and by networking with NGOs in seminars and workshops.

One of the methods which they use with farmers and extension workers is the mapping of livestock diseases. Maps are drawn of the area and the natural features. Livestock diseases are then indicated on the map. This technique has many advantages. It is easy to use and flexible. It helps in planning how to treat livestock diseases in any area.


  • First select the best people to draw the map. If on the farm, this is obviously the farmer. If it is with a village community, then village leaders or elders are likely to be the best people. Maps can also be drawn at regional level by livestock development workers or extension agents.
  • At village or farm level, make maps on the ground, using whatever local materials are available to illustrate forests, ponds, hills, villages etc. In office or workshop situations, people may prefer to use paper and pen. Choose items to represent particular livestock diseases common in the area. For example, maize kernels for east coast fever, beans for redwater, yellow flowers for foot and mouth disease. Place one of these items to represent every known case of disease.
  • Carefully record the information, location and number of cases of each disease.
  • Discuss how to use this information in the future in planning how to treat disease cases.

Mapping at workshops

Workshops which bring together farmers and extension workers for a whole location provide an ideal opportunity of using mapping for livestock diseases. People first work in small groups, producing maps for their own area. These can then be compiled to produce a large map with information about livestock diseases for the whole location.

Once maps are finished, encourage discussion to draw out all possible information:

  • Are diseases much more common in certain areas? If so, why might this be?
  • How do people treat the diseases? Are there herbal treatments?
  • What kinds of medicines are farmers able to buy and use? Is their use carried out safely?
  • How easy is it for farmers to ask for help quickly from livestock officers?
  • What are found to be the most serious diseases – causing either serious damage or death?
  • What help can be provided in the future by the government livestock services?

Information gathered must be carefully recorded and a copy made of all maps, using coloured pens to indicate the incidence of different diseases.


Information about disease cases was collected over four years through mapping exercises carried out with the Kipsigis and Maasai community in Transmara district. In addition to the detailed information collected about disease patterns and incidence, the following points became clear:

  • Farmers are no longer able to dip their large herds of cattle regularly, owing to the rising cost of chemicals.
  • Most tick-borne diseases are treated by local herbalists.
  • East coast fever is the most serious disease and farmers are unable to afford the chemical treatment.
  • Home spraying of animals is done mainly by women, who lack proper training and equipment.
  • Lack of water is a serious problem in the area. This means herds travel several miles in search of water sources, greatly increasing the spread of ticks from wayside vegetation.
  • There is a great shortage of extension workers, livestock workers and community workers from both government and NGOs.
  • There is a lack of credit facilities available to farmers to enable them to buy chemicals and improve their facilities.

From the information collected and the understanding gained from the above points, future planning can now be based upon sound information. TMWG plan to produce locally produced, low-cost remedies with the help of traditional healers.

Naftally Felix Omondi is a researcher with TMWG, PO Box 16, Kilgoris, Kenya.

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