But several factors threaten this progress. Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), a respiratory disease affecting cattle, is among the most serious livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, imposing substantial costs on farmers and weakening the region's food security. Aflatoxin, a disease that affects maize, groundnuts and other crops, results in annual trade losses of almost a half-billion dollars and poses a real health risk.
Solutions exist for both of these problems. Improving the inconsistent vaccine manufacturing process for CBPP is clearly achievable, and aflatoxin biocontrol is being used successfully in the United States. But various challenges prevent these interventions from being applied widely and efficiently in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Milken Institute, in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened two half-day Financial Innovations Labs aimed at overcoming the challenges. Participants included authorities from finance, development finance institutions, philanthropy, academia, government and NGOs, as well as scientists, manufacturers and buyers. The Labs focused on the use of "pull mechanisms," whereby donors provide funding only when specified outcomes are delivered and adopted.
Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP)
The CBPP Lab began with the question of how to incentivize R&D and manufacturing of a better vaccine for CBPP. William Amanfu, formerly of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, described problems with the current vaccines: They confer less than full immunity, can cause side effects in vaccinated animals and require frequent boosters. Other barriers exacerbate the issue, including difficulties with vaccine distribution and quality, deterioration of vaccines in the field, incorrect administration and a lack of data on disease incidence and vaccinations.
Developing a new vaccine would take 10 to 15 years, according to Declan McKeever, a professor at The Royal Veterinary College. Participants considered whether new technology was essential to CBPP eradication or whether alternatives - such as improving the existing vaccine, enhancing its distribution and administration, or expanding the use of antibiotics - might be more promising.
Participants concluded that a mix of solutions and funding strategies is necessary. Push funding, or upfront grants, could be used to increase tracking of disease occurrence and vaccinations. Pull mechanisms, such as price guarantees from donors, could incentivize manufacturers to produce consistently high-quality vaccines. But the Lab concluded that the economic argument for public and private involvement must be better developed.
In the Lab session on aflatoxin, participants examined how to incentivize smallholder farmers to buy aflasafe, a biocontrol product developed in Nigeria. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture explained how aflasafe has performed successfully in trials, reducing contamination levels by 80 percent on average. Participants discussed other means of reducing aflatoxin and concluded that using biocontrol in combination with drying technologies is the best way forward. But encouraging farmers to buy biocontrol poses a challenge. Most of their crops are sold locally, where little distinction is made between contaminated and aflatoxin-free products. On the health side, the benefits are too uncertain or far into the future to be considered.
Orin Hasson of the Gates Foundation discussed how pull mechanisms might be used to encourage farmer demand for aflasafe. A pay-for-performance model, in which individual farmers are rewarded for using biocontrol in their fields or national governments are paid based on macro-indicators of aflatoxin reduction, emerged as the most promising approach. Participants discussed the next steps needed to create a pilot program, from collecting data on the extent of the aflatoxin burden in the target country to mapping out surveys and awards.
To read the results of the Lab, including recommended next steps for implementation, view the full report. For more information, contact Caitlin MacLean, manager of Financial Innovations Labs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.