Dagoretti, a district of Nairobi, is a maze of tin huts and wood shacks. Since the 1970s, it’s grown from about 40,000 residents to roughly 240,000, springing up haphazardly as Nairobi spilled over into the surrounding land. There aren’t clearly delineated plots so much as a mass of semiformal homes belonging to former country folk who’ve arrived in search of economic opportunity.
Today, about 40 percent of the African population lives in urban areas, a rapid migration that’s expected to triple in size over the next four decades.
But the people who are moving to cities aren’t entirely leaving their rural lives behind. Instead, they are bringing their livestock with them, often keeping them right in their backyards, even in densely populated areas.
As a result, low-income countries have started to see a dramatic spike in a class of disease known as zoonoses, which pass from animals to humans. These can cause everything from tapeworms to fatal diarrhea, and they’re concentrated near major cities in Africa and India.
A recent study by the International Livestock Research Institute found that zoonoses make up 26 percent of the infectious disease burden in low-income countries, but just 0.7 percent in high-income countries.
Now, researchers are beginning to trace these ailments to the livestock that sleep just over the windowsill from the residents of the developing world’s newest cities.
In Dagoretti, one in 80 people keep cattle, and 60 percent of households have poultry. A typical house there might have a shed full of rabbits or chickens under the bed. A cow kept in the yard may graze by the roadside or munch potato peels from a local eatery.
But animals and cities don’t always mix well. Throughout history, as cities modernized and developed, any lingering livestock were soon banished to the countryside.
So no to chickens, cattle, and water buffaloes in Saskatoon. Â If I run for city council in 2016, that is going to be a major plank on my electoral platform.