Scientists in Kenya have unveiled a new tsetse fly repellent developed from cow urine that will significantly help farmers curb diseases spread by the insect.
The eco-friendly repellent is worn as collars around necks of cattle and repels the dreaded tsetse fly, which is responsible for transmitting a deadly parasite that causes trypanosomiasis ( sleeping sickness).
Infected animals suffer from poor growth, weight loss, low milk yield and often become infertile and die.
The groundbreaking invention has been developed by the Nairobi-based International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).
The invention was recently showcased at Shimba Hills by Icipe team led by Dr Rajinder Saini.
Environment Minister Ali Mwakwere praised the innovation and said it would significantly boost incomes of livestock keepers who incur huge losses from the deadly flies.
“Livestock keepers around Shimba Hills gave up keeping high grade cattle long time ago due to the tsetse menace. The development will help the rural people out of the poverty,” Mwakwere said.
The collars contain a synthetic repellent developed from a compound originally found in the urine of cows. It may also have urine from wild waterbuck. Tsetse flies avoid feeding on waterbucks, which are common in tsetse habitats.
The repellent collars slowly dispense the chemicals in them, thereby protecting the animals and herders from the flies. The challenge now is to ensure the technology is accessible to livestock keepers in areas infested with the insects.
In Kenya, nine out of ten people in rural areas depend on livestock for their livelihoods. That is because much of the country is arid or semi-arid, and in three years out of four, crops fail due to drought.
Dr Saini said the disease levels in protected cattle had been reduced by more than 90 per cent and that repellent collars performed better than traditional traps. He added that demand for the collars was so great that the project could not cope.