African trypanosomiasis is a devastating disease, both for humans and animals. Over the last hundred years huge efforts have been made to control it.
This paper explores the scientific and policy debates surrounding the control of the disease and its vector, the tsetse fly. The paper focuses particularly on East and Southern Africa, and so the savanna tsetse flies and Trypanosomiasis brucei rhodesiense. Based on an extensive review of documentary material, combined with a series of interviews with scientists and policymakers, the paper offers an assessment of the changing institutional politics associated with tsetse and trypanosomiasis control. The paper investigates in particular the controversies surrounding a range of control methods, including bush clearance, game culling, baits and traps, sterile insect release, animal breeding, drugs and vaccines, among others.
The focus on particular control methods has meant that alternatives have often been overlooked, and the perspectives of livestock keepers living with the disease have not taken into account. In addition, competition for dwindling research and operational funds, combined with a lack of institutional coordination, has resulted in the failure to develop an integrated approach; one that links ecological and disease dynamics with socio-economic conditions. The conclusion discusses why such a ‘One Health’ approach is required, and why addressing the politics of science and policy is essential.