5 December 2012

Africa: 'Tsetse Flies Infest 10 Million Kilometers Square Fertile Land in 35 African Countries'

Minna — The Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC) in Nigeria has said that tsetse flies infest about 10 million square kilometres of fertile land spread across 35 countries of the African continent, saying that most of the infested areas are identified to be the most suitable for livestock and crop production.

Minister of Science and Technology Professor Ita Bassey Okon Ewa who stated this at a sensitization workshop and hands-on training for personnel of the National Park and Reserves on the eradication of the disease in Nigeria in New Bussa, Niger State, said, "these areas, however, are today devoid of livestock and other agricultural productive activities due to the menace of the tsetse vector and trypanosomiasis."

The minister who was represented by the Director of Physical and Life Science, Dr. Manasseh Gwoza, said that tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis have been a scourge to the African continent for several decades, adding that their negative impact on the political and socio-economic development of the country has been devastating.

He, therefore, called for proposed budget of N10 billion for the total eradication of tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis from the North-Western and North-Eastern states of Nigeria within the period of three years, lamenting that the enormous expenditure on tsetse control efforts and medicaments for the treatment of trypanosomiasis is eroding the per capita income in Africa

The minister further explained that the creation of tsetse flies free areas would also allow for even distribution of livestock and more appropriate utilization of the abundant agricultural resources, stressing that this would boost economic activities.

He stated that human health is endangered by these species as sleeping sickness has continued to affect the rural populace all over sub-Saharan Africa as the vector-borne diseases do not recognize geo-political boundaries.

Ewa then expressed optimism that one of the regional Tsetse Mass Rearing Centres being proposed by AU-PATTEC to be sited in Vom, Plateau State will be of immense contribution to the activities of PATTEC-Nigeria in particular and AU-PATTEC in general.

Also speaking at the occasion, Director General of the Nigeria Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), Professor Mohammed Mamman, said successful eradication of tsetse flies would break the cycle of transmission and remove the risk of contracting African trypanosomiasis in livestock to human.

He maintained that this will improve human health nationwide and livestock productivity, thereby doubling crop yield and the current GDP of 30.8 in the agricultural sector due to increase in livestock and other agricultural production units in tsetse free areas.

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