Violet Barasa

Project Title: Maasai Pastoralists’ Experiences with Febrile Illness: An Ethnographic Study of Social Drivers of Zoonoses and Rural Health-Seeking Behaviours in Monduli District in Northern Tanzania

About Violet: I have just completed the first year of my PhD at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK. For my appraisal, I gave a seminar before the IDS Research Fellows and PhD candidates. The seminar was a culmination of 10 months of comprehensive literature review on and around Changing Pastoralist Livelihoods and Zoonoses in East Africa. I received insightful feedback on my proposal, and I was approved to proceed with the fieldwork.

Next Steps: I am currently finalising preparations for Tanzania, where I will commence an ethnographic study that will last for 12 months. Throughout my time in the field, I will be talking to people, and hanging around a small pastoralist village called Lokisale in Monduli district, northern Tanzania. I hope to explore and experience first-hand, how people’s interaction with livestock impact zoonotic disease transmission patterns. I will investigate pastoralists’ knowledge and awareness of febrile illness in humans, and the link with livestock diseases, through in-depth interviews, transect walks, focus group discussions and participant observation. I will also interview key informants such as, traditional healers and clinicians regarding illness labels, diagnosis, causes and treatment for febrile disease. I will mostly observe social relationships of pastoralism and how these impact on everyday animal-human interaction.

At the end of the 12 months, I hope to understand important social drivers of zoonoses, including, how such factors as gender impact on people’s exposure to zoonotic pathogens, and also how they influence people’s health-seeking behaviours. This knowledge is crucial for designing interventions and predicting potential uptake of interventions for zoonoses control and management in these communities.

It has been a tremendous pleasure for me to be a part of the ZELS-AS cohort over this past year, and I have learned enormously from the interactions with fellow students through journal clubs and during cohort events. As am sure all students would agree, none of this would have been possible without funds from the BBRC, and I am grateful for this life-changing opportunity.

I look forward to a great year in the field, great learning opportunities and even greater collaboration with fellow ZELSers!

Contact Violet:

Read a blog about her journey to IDS and ZELS-AS:

Project Outline: This PhD studentship is linked with the project investigating Social, Economic and Environmental Drivers of Zoonoses in Tanzania (SEEDZ). The interdisciplinary supervisory team will be drawn from researchers with expertise in social sciences, development studies, and health, agricultural and wildlife policy based at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Glasgow, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania, and other partner institutions in the Zoonoses and Emerging Livestock Systems (ZELS) programme. The PhD will align with others in the ZELS Associated Studentships (ZELS-AS) programme through common interests in developing interdisciplinary approaches to tackle zoonotic disease problems, with relevance for the range of disease problems addressed by the ZELS programme.

This particular PhD studentship will be linked to the Health and Nutrition Cluster at IDS. Focusing on zoonotic disease, the studentship invites attention to its social dimensions - in relation, for instance, to risk and knowledge; transmission processes; ecological and environmental drivers; social and political change; development and poverty; public health and diagnoses challenges; and policy and politics. In the context of growing research and policy interest in One Health approaches that consider human, animal and environmental health together, this studentship offers a unique opportunity to bring new interdisciplinary insights and critical perspectives to bear.

In conceptual and methodological terms, the research will be able to employ, adapt and further develop a range of ethnographic and narrative approaches to the understanding of epidemics and disease dynamics, and the politics of policy processes, already pioneered by IDS researchers. The work will be situated within a strong social science research trajectory exploring the social, economic and political dimensions of zoonotic disease.

It will complement and add value to the established and ongoing work of IDS, which emphasises the social-ecological dynamics of disease. For example, IDS has been at the forefront of work looking at the social-ecological dimensions of the 2014/5 Ebola epidemic. The IDS-based Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre also leads the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium, which is exploring a range of disease case studies and settings, including Rift Valley fever in Kenya, Lassa fever in Sierra Leone, trypanosomiasis in southern Africa and henipa viruses in Ghana.

Other STEPS projects explore livestock-transmitted zoonoses in Asia and examine the complex interplays between science and policy on zoonotic disease while also looking at how these play out amongst poor and affected communities (on topics such as avian flu, Rift Valley fever, epidemics, bats and disease policy).

Supervisor: Dr Linda Waldman (Main supervisor, Institute of Development Studies)