Foodborne illness prevention in Debre Berhan, Ethiopia: Preliminary efforts to understand household agricultural practices

  • H.A. Craddock
  • E.F. Maring
  • S,K. Grutzmacher
Keywords: Diarrhea, Livestock, Small-scale agriculture, Food safety, Urban agriculture


While strategies to mitigate risks for foodborne illness and childhood diarrhea via sanitation and behavioral interventions have been explored, there is a dearth of knowledge about household practices regarding food production and use, livestock, and other sources of risk for foodborne illness in urban and peri-urban areas. The objective of this research was to increase understanding of household agricultural practices in Debre Berhan, Ethiopia in order to design targeted behavioral interventions to improve food safety and decrease diarrheal disease. A convenience sample of 21 teachers and parents were recruited for a mixed-methods pilot survey. The survey covered topical areas such as methods for growing, washing, and cooking produce, specifically focusing on practices in home vegetable gardens. Participants were also asked about fertilizers and manures used, animals on the property, and irrigation water sources. Descriptive statistics were calculated, and data were analyzed with SAS 9.2. The majority of
participants (76.2%) reported growing some or all of their own food, and many used compost (62.5%) and manure (62.5%) as fertilizer. Uncomposted manure was used as fertilizer by half (50.0%) of respondents who reported the use of manure. Respondents most commonly reported raising chickens (23.8%), yet among those using manure, they most commonly reported using sheep or lamb manure as fertilizer (50%). Most (93.7%) respondents used municipal water to irrigate their crops, while none of the respondents reported using surface water to irrigate. Nearly all (95.2%) reported always washing their produce before eating it. Respondents most commonly requested education regarding
how to more effectively grow produce. This study suggests that children and adults in Debre Berhan may have a high risk of exposure to pathogens via contact with uncomposted manure and multiple species of animals. Findings identify an opportunity for increased education in the topical areas of urban agriculture and diarrheal disease prevention. In particular, education regarding the safe utilization of manure as fertilizer could be included in agricultural extension programs. Additional research is needed to understand the extent of exposure via common household sources to pathogens that cause diarrheal disease.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358