Agriculture-Associated Diseases (Flagship 3)

Several white, black and yellow chickens forage in dirt

Indigenous chicken flock foraging in Ethiopia. Source: flickr (ILRI/Collins)

Prevention and Control of Agriculture-Associated Diseases


In poor countries, diseases associated with agriculture have important health impacts. Food that nourishes can also sicken and kill. This research component focuses on managing the health risks associated with food safety, zoonotic (diseases that are transmissible between man and animals) and emerging diseases, and diseases associated with agricultural intensification. The focus of our research is on the multiple burdens and potential benefits of controlling these diseases for poor populations. A4NH also focuses on risk-based approaches to food safety and disease control that can work in informal markets and marginal areas.

Subcomponent 1: Improving food safety

Food-borne diseases (FBD) have enormous impacts on the health and livelihoods of people around the globe and are of great concern to consumers, producers, and policymakers. Risk analysis (assessing, managing, and communicating risk) brings a set of common concepts and tools to addressing FBD of different origins (plant, livestock, fish) and in different value chains. Urgently-needed, science-based measures to reduce exposure along the food chain must go hand-in-hand with appropriate policies, institutions, and incentives for their adoption. Under this subcomponent, we identify two food safety health risks that can have significant implications for developing countries, and require agriculture or value-chain inputs for effective management.

  1. Mycotoxins are fungal toxins that contaminate staple foods, feeds, and animal source foods in most of the humid tropics; they cause acute poisoning as well as chronic disease.
  2. Biological hazards cause the great majority of food-borne diseases and appear to be increasing in recent years; many are zoonotic and many are also transmitted through water.

Subcomponent 2: Zoonotic diseases and diseases emerging from animals

The entire world bears the burden of diseases that originate in animals (such as HIV/AIDs and swine flu). However, the risks and benefits from emerging disease control are much greater for poor people. Research in this component therefore focuses on estimating and reducing the impacts of zoonotic diseases on poor people. Specifically, research in this area relies on multisectoral initiatives grounded in epidemiological studies, and an in-depth understanding of the variables that influence disease emergence and transmission. Effective interventions are assessed based on their relevance to the poor and their grounding in the knowledge of disease transmission pathways. Participatory methods— a powerful tool for engaging stakeholders and fostering positive change—are frequently used.

Subcomponent 3: Other health risks in agroecosystems

The intensification of agriculture in different ecosystems poses a number of new and emerging risks to human health. For example, irrigation and dam construction expose millions to the malaria and other diseases. Other “Eco-health” issues that fall at the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health include an increase in the number of new diseases; an increase in the number of diseases due to wildlife pathogens that are amplified through growing livestock populations; the emerging resistance of pathogens to chemicals used in agriculture; and the increased impact of climate on diseases associated with agriculture. These developments are creating a need for ecosystem-related health services. Given the important role of the intensification of agriculture in managing emerging health risks, we will explore these research areas with partners to better understand the value that CGIAR research can add in the medium term.


For more information on this component, please visit ILRI's AgHealth website