Rural India's One Health Approach in Action
Two years ago, Dr. Karlyn Eckman of the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota took notice of shifting cultivation, subpar water quality, and food insecurity in the northeastern state of Mizoram in India. This interest was sparked when Mr. Chongthu Chawnghnuna, the supervising engineer for the Public Health and Engineering Department for water supply in Mizoram, spent four months at the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright scholar. He communicated his concern to Eckman for the environmental and public health problems plaguing his homeland, as shifting cultivation in recent years have caused soil erosion and degradation of land fertility. As a result, water quality has declined and food production has proven insufficient to meet the needs of the people. Because of its geographic isolation, however, it has been difficult for the area to receive international assistance.
Eckman traveled to Mizoram in early 2013 with College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Science (CFANS) staff Joe Magner, Michele Schermann and Dean Current. This team sees tremendous opportunity to deploy a One Health approach in Mizoram, given that its challenges lie at the interface of agriculture, public health, food safety, and nutrition. The principle behind One Health is that approaching a challenge from multiple disciplines produces synergetic results, and thus greater benefit for the public than if a single institution were acting alone. Eckman’s team envisions partnerships between the academic, governmental, and intergovernmental sectors to address the consequences of harmful agricultural practices. Their primary goal is to support the Mizoram government in developing strategies for technical support, capacity building, and training.. The project was kicked off with funding from the University of Minnesota’s Global “One Health” Fund. In addition funding was secured from The Indian government and the State Government of Mizoram, which also play a vital role in understanding of the area’s unique cultural and historical context. The Delhi and Rome offices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are also partnering on this project and providing support and resources. The CFANS team also seeks to establish exchange and research opportunities for faculty and students between the University of Minnesota and the University of Mizoram, in order to capitalize on the diverse expertise and experience that they offer. The team presented their findings in Aizwal, the capital of Mizoram, at FAO in Delhi and Rome, and at the University of Minnesota. In the future, Eckman envisions a restored environment and self-sufficiency in the system of food production in Mizoram.
The Global “One Health” Fund catalyzes new partnerships focused on the increasingly complex dilemmas at the convergence of animals, humans, plants, and the environment. The funds are intended to provide start-up money for new public-private-academic partnerships involving University Of Minnesota faculty, recognizing the synergy that comes from transdisciplinary approaches, bridging multiple sectors of society. The Global “One Health” Funds are administered by the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS), as part of the annual One Health Partnerships Workshop.