Multilateral thinking

My friend Naffa told me a story yesterday, which I thought was brilliant: some years ago, Zanzibar had a huge problem with tsetse flies which affected the cattle. Now, this could have been “solved” like any typical development project, ie resulting in a massive loss of funds, lining the pockets of sundry officials. But in this case the solution was much different: First, economic control was removed from Tanzania, minimizing the risk for corruption. Secondly, total control of the project was demanded by the commission that solved the problem, namely IAEA.

What they did was this: instead of trying to kill all tsetse flies with pesticides and such, they directed their efforts directly toward the male flies. Since the males of the species has the distinct feature of only being able to mate once in their lifecycle, the scientists decided to lure the flies into shooting their wad in a sterilized female. So what they did was to build a “tsetse factory” in Tanzania, that produced 70 000 radioactively sterilized female tsetses, which were then let loose. True, there was a period when there were A LOT of tsetses flying around Tanzania, but very vey quickly, there were no more males with loads to spend, and thusly, all tsetses on Zanzibar died. To this day (the project took place in 1997), there are no tsetses on the island.

True, one might argue that using “mutated” flies is to meddle with the forces of nature, but it did get rid of the problem, and in a much more efficient and economic way than any normal pesticides would do. What would be a better method? Infesting the island with fly-eating lizards?

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