Science Transforms Farming in Senegal

Four years ago in Senegal, the infamous Tsetse flies had spread over the Niayes region. These bloodsucking insects tormented the livestock and residents of sub-Saharan Africa each year. In parts of Africa, there were thousands of cases of sleeping sickness, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, along with the deaths of over three million livestock resulting in a loss of $4 billion yearly.

Until recently, the Senegalese government received financial support from the US and technical support from CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement) in France, to use the Sterile Insect Technique to eradicate the Tsetse fly.

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) uses irradiation to sterile male flies to reduce population growth. SIT is a type of pest control that radiates the male flies in a mass-producing facility. They are then released into areas infested with tsetse flies. After using this method, the flies were eradicated and the cattle became healthier and increased the farmer’s income by around 30 percent. Food security and socio-economic progress had improved since the flies were eradicated.

Many households with livestock businesses have had an increase in their total income due to the radiation treatment. Milk production has increased significantly. Scientists are using radiation to implement these techniques with other types of insects and fruits.

While there exist many horror stories about the destructive power of radioactive material and atomic weapons, scientists continue to search out benign and productive uses of radioactive materials.

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