Category Archives: Partnerships

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In an unconventional approach to science communications, a diverse group of scientists at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub take to the stage to illustrate their role in the march towards a food secure Africa.

Performed by the BecA-ILRI Hub staff, research fellows from African national programs and international collaborators, this 25 minute skit sheds light on how technology, partnerships and increased research capabilities of national agricultural researchers and institutions can bring about agricultural development in Africa.

The play dramatizes the role of the BecA-ILRI Hub and its national and international partners in bridging high-end research with practical solutions for smallholder farmers. Established as an African centre for excellence for agricultural biosciences, the BecA-ILRI Hub supports African national agricultural research institutes and universities enhance in harnessing bioscience technologies for sustainable agricultural development in Africa.

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Often, adoption of new technologies or practices designed to improve people’s, lives does not take place due to various factors including lack of understanding by communities and the absence of support for the innovations from leadership. Félix Meutchieye, Cameroon national coordinator of the “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” project speaks about the strides being made by the project in involving communities and increasing the chances of adoption of research findings through innovation platforms.

Felix Portrait_Issue3Harnessing the diversity of native livestock in Africa is becoming a pressing need as continual changes in the environment exert pressure on small holder livestock farmers. The higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are contributing to the increased spread of existing vector-borne diseases and the emergence of  new diseases as well affecting the feed production.

Small ruminants play a significant role in livestock production systems throughout the wide range of agro-ecological regions in Africa. For many rural farmers, they are a critical resource of nutrition and income, and goats in particular are more resilient and adapted to different husbandry conditions. It is well documented that genetic variation in ability to various infections and diseases as well as to adapt to harsh environments with higher temperatures and less water, exists between and within different breeds of goats.This adaptation is especially evident in indigenous breeds, but gaps still exist in the knowledge available.

The “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” project is focused on bridging this knowledge gap by helping farmers take advantage of the best genetic resources locally available. Our strategy involves working closely with the goat keepers, traders, policy makers and all other stakeholders so that there is collective ownership of the existing problems and in the approach to finding solutions. Through the innovation platform (IP) system, the project is drawing from the existing indigenous knowledge, receiving guidance in terms of farmers’ actual needs and preferences and establishing effective channels that act as vehicles for information on research findings and promotion of sustainable livestock keeping practices.

Already in Cameroon, one regional IP in Kouoptamo (West Highlands) has identified high fecundity as a desirable trait in their goats and are promoting their animals as high value breeding stock for proven twinning ability. Additionally, as a result of close engagement with the project through the
Cameroon National goat IP, the Ministry of Livestock, fisheries and animal industries has recognized the importance of goats and small ruminants as an important resource to grow the country’s rural economy and has started a program to revitalize three small ruminant breeding and multiplication
stations in different agro-ecological regions.

Our counterparts in Ethiopia have established a community based goat breeding initiative where a group of 50 farmers have formed a cooperative society to drive the breeding activities. The cooperative members brought their goats for selection to form the next generation of goat parents in their village and in the neighbouring villages as well.

I see this active participation by communities as a very exciting and practical way of doing research. Through community involvement, the project has been able to stay relevant and ensure that good science supports the things that are most relevant to Africa’s development.

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In March 2014, six key officials of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) under the Philippines Department of Agriculture visited the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya to learn about the strategies, programs, and platforms for livestock research and development at the institute. This visit was part of a five-day international benchmarking exercise coordinated by the Science and Education for Agriculture and Development (SEARCA).

The visit to ILRI specifically aimed at identifying relevant and specific international public and private sector program concepts and strategies that are applicable, can be refined and adapted to strengthen the genetic improvement, enterprise development, and research and development of the National Carabao Development Program.

While at ILRI, the PCC team met with Dr. Rob Skilton, Team Leader, Capacity Building at the BecA-ILRI Hub who  gave them an insight to the different avenues of capacity building, knowledge transfer and  sharing of facilities that are being used to solve some of Africa’s key agricultural challenges.

The full article can be accessed here: http://www.searca.org/index.php/news/1454-searca-pcc-institutional-benchmarking-activity-in-kenya-begins-smoothly

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During the review of the BecA-Sweden partnership programmes at the BecA-ILRI Hub in November 2013, Gity Berhavan, Senior Research Advisor/First Secretary: Regional Research Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Kenya, expressed her thoughts on Sweden’s contribution to research for development in Africa and specifically about the partnership with the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Gity Behrevan

Gity Berhavan, Senior Research Advisor/First Secretary: Regional Research Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Kenya during an interview at the BecA-ILRI Hub (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Tim Hall)

Sweden’s strategy for development cooperation with Africa, especially in the area of research, is to align itself with the African agenda. For example, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) agenda is to increase the productivity of the food and agricultural systems in Africa.

Partnering with the BecA-ILRI Hub (or BecA) is a strategic way of tapping into the wider African science agenda. The BecAILRI Hub is an African initiative that responds to this agenda by bringing together different national agricultural research institutions in collaborative research based on regional and national priorities, for the improvement of livestock and crop production.

By supporting BecA, the Swedish government is able to provide funding to increase the capacity of an array of African institutions to conduct high end agricultural research. A case in point BecA’s programme to increase the use of bioinformatics to mine genomics and metagenomics data for the development of disease diagnostics tools. Through this programme, the knowledge and capacity in bioinformatics which is already at Hub is being extended to other institutions in the region, ensuring the sustainability of research in that area. The African Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) is another exciting programme which is giving early career scientists in Africa access to training and skills that will enable them to design and lead bigger research projects on their own.

The highlight of the review, however, has been getting acquainted with the kind of research and capacity building alliances the BecA-ILRI Hub is building that are not limited to ‘south-south’, ‘north-south’ but also ‘south-south-north’ collaborations. These broad partnerships are what 21st Century research needs in order to find timely solutions to the challenges of global food insecurity.

Going forward, we would like to see the BecA-ILRI Hub engage more with policy makers and institutions responsible for the development of national Masters and PhD programmes curriculum development. A paradigm shift from training scholars for employment, to training scientists who will create jobs through innovative research will greatly accelerate development in the region.

We would also wish to see the constitution of the BecA advisory panel as laid out in the new BecA-ILRI Hub Business plan for 2013-2018. This panel will play a very critical role in providing dynamic strategic direction in the selection of projects and partners in the future.