USA: National Institutes of Health (NIH), US, awarded a project to Michigan State University (MSU). The project aims to eradicate tsetse fly – an African killer that spreads ‘sleeping sickness’ disease among humans and animals and wipes out USD 4.5 billion in livestock every year.
Under this project, researchers proposed to use satellite imagery of Kenya to monitor the movement of tsetse fly, technically known as African trypanosomiasis. “Current control efforts in Kenya are ineffective and waste money by targeting tsetse-free areas,” said Joseph Messina, associate professor of geography at the MSU. He is lead researcher on the project. He claimed, “Our model dramatically reduces the cost of controlling the tsetse, and it is more effective.”
The Kenyan government would need an estimated $100 million to run tsetse control efforts in its targeted containment areas. The problem: It doesn’t have nearly that much money and the government containment area is highly imprecise, Messina said.
The MSU plan would cost as little as USD 14.2 million. The plan relies on the use of targets – which are sheets of dark-coloured cloth sprayed with insecticide – in more strategic areas. Targets are highly effective and the most environmentally friendly control method, said MSU researcher Paul McCord.
Current government strategy includes using targets and aerial spraying, but the spraying kills off beneficial species such as honey bees.
“They’ve been trying to control the tsetse for more than 100 years,” Messina said, “but nothing has worked on a large-scale basis.”
The MSU plan is based on a simulation that uses satellite readings every two weeks dating back to 2002. The plan takes into account a host of factors – including temperature, amount of vegetation, tsetse lifespan and location of cattle and other animals – to predict where the fly will be and when it will be there, McCord said.