Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance: A Pioneering Endeavor in Kenya’s Dairy Sector

The escalating antimicrobial resistance constitutes a formidable global threat to human health, a concern brought to prominence by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2021. Antimicrobials, encompassing antiseptics, antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitic treatments, including commonplace disinfectants, play a pivotal role in maintaining public health.

WHO emphasizes that both the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are precipitating drug resistance in pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. Urgent and multi-sectoral action is imperative, particularly to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to food safety and security by 2030. These goals encompass endeavors to eradicate hunger, enhance nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Kenya’s substantial dairy sector presents viable opportunities to address antimicrobial resistance, yet substantial risks persist, potentially eluding detection. The Dairy Board reports an annual production of 652.4 million liters of milk, generating earnings estimated at 22.6 billion Kenya shillings (approximately $151 million).

Nevertheless, the sector grapples with intertwined challenges, notably the prevalence of small-scale, often unregulated producers and the occurrence of antibiotic residues in milk resulting from certain animal husbandry practices. This challenge has called for a collective effort from both small-scale and large-scale farmers to deal with Antimicrobial Resistance.

Teresia Ndung’u, Director for Livestock Production in Nyandarua County and a doctoral student at Kenya’s Egerton University, actively confronts this issue. She is formulating solutions that promise to enhance food safety not only in Kenya but throughout East Africa.

“I previously participated in the Quality Based Milk Payment Systems project, where antibiotic residues emerged as a significant challenge. I discovered a reagent capable of detecting microbial resistance during my work in a laboratory,” she explains. Teresia identified that the reagent effectively detected antibiotic resistance in milk samples from various cows.

Antimicrobial Resistance
Women measuring milk quantities ready for sale… online source: Bles dairies

Recognizing the exorbitant testing costs within the existing milk collection system, Teresia seeks to devise an affordable and user-friendly solution for farmers and processors. She underscores the critical importance of identifying antibiotic residues at the farm level to prevent their infiltration into the value chain of animal products and reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Teresia’s pioneering work is made feasible through a scholarship supported by World Bank International Development Association (IDA) funding for the Center of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management at Egerton University. “With research funds and a stipend, I am alleviated from financial challenges such as transportation and rent payments. This support enables me to focus on my research,” she states.

Having registered her solution with the Kenya Industrial Properties Institute and securing a certificate as the owner of a utility model, Teresia aims to scale up her smallholder-based approach for widespread adoption. She aspires to patent the innovation upon graduation.

The Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (ACE II) (2016–2025), backed by a $148 million IDA credit, has played a pivotal role in enhancing the capacity of higher education institutions for quality post-graduate education and collaborative research. In Kenya, one of eight countries hosting 24 ACEs, including Egerton University, this initiative focuses on areas pertinent to economic development in industry, agriculture, health, education, and applied statistics.

Teresia underscores that while solutions for testing antimicrobial resistance exist in the market, their prohibitive costs render them inaccessible to the majority of Kenya’s small-scale farmers, who constitute approximately 80% of milk producers

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