Water: Amplifying impact through the CGIAR Initiative on One Health

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Water plays a crucial role as a key connector between the three components of One Health. What happens to water upstream affects humans and animals downstream. The concept of One Health recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal and environment health and emphasizes the importance of addressing health challenges through a holistic approach that integrates multiple disciplines and sectors.

Globally, the health of water is affected by various water users and pollution sources including cities, towns, crops, livestock and industries.

Water scarcity, water pollution and inadequate water management have profound impacts on the health of people and animals and the ecosystems where they co-exist.

Climate change, population growth, increased per capita consumption and unsustainable production all aggravate this challenge.

The CGIAR Initiative on One Health—a research collaboration of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), WorldFish and local and international partners—aims to mitigate zoonotic disease outbreaks, improve food and water safety, and reduce antimicrobial resistance to benefit humans, animals and the environment.

As part of the initiative, IWMI conducts research and provides evidence-based solutions to address water-related challenges in the context of One Health.

Livestock production value chains and their link to water are a crucial aspect of One Health that IWMI addresses.

Livestock play a significant role in many rural economies and provide essential resources such as milk, meat and eggs.

However, inadequate water availability, poor sanitation and improper waste management in livestock production can lead to the spread of diseases and environmental degradation.

IWMI leads the initiative’s work package on water which addresses challenges associated with watershed pollution, with a focus on microbial contamination, livestock waste and improper water management in the livestock value chain.

The work package selected to study the Akaki watershed in Ethiopia and the Song watershed in India where microbial pollution is relevant, livestock is one of the potential pollution sources and there is previous work, data and stakeholder interest that the initiative can build on.

Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa sits in the Akaki watershed which is critical for the livelihoods of communities living in the region and provides water for agriculture, livestock and domestic use.

However, unsustainable land use practices, pollution and climate change have placed immense pressure on water resources.

In India, the Song River watershed is located in the state of Uttarakhand and is not only a source of water for agriculture, cities and towns, but is also an important habitat for various aquatic species.

However, the rapid expansion of agriculture, unplanned urbanization and industrial activities have led to increasing water scarcity and pollution in the basin.

The initiative is working with stakeholders so that watershed planners and pollution control authorities can make informed decisions and investments, food safety authorities promote water safety interventions in critical points along livestock value chains, and livestock farms and waste managers adopt business models to reduce, reuse and recycle animal waste.

In Ethiopia and India, the initiative expects to inform national One Health planning processes and provide evidence on the role of water in the transmission of pathogens.

The initiative recognizes that addressing water-related challenges requires collaboration and integration across disciplines and sectors.

By conducting research, generating knowledge and advocating for evidence-based policies, IWMI contributes to global efforts aimed at achieving One Health objectives.

Javier Mateo-Sagasta, a scientist at IWMI and who leads the water work package, said: ‘It is our hope that by 2030, we will be able to see the impact and say that water pollution in these watersheds has been reduced, as our evidence will support planning of pollution control.’

‘We aim to ensure that mechanisms which currently do not exist, such as reuse of animal waste products, are in place to reduce pollution and improve human health outcomes,’ he added.

One Health and water are closely intertwined, and the initiative’s water work package plays a crucial role in advancing this integrated approach.

By embracing the principles of One Health, this research will contribute towards creating a healthier and more sustainable future for all.

Read more
Better monitoring of microbial hazards in Ethiopia’s Akaki watershed will improve water quality for Addis Ababa’s 5 million residents

Photo: Goats drink water at a drying river in Isiolo county, Kenya (ILRI/Geoffrey Njenga)

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