Tag Archives: capacity strengthening

Strengthening the capacity of African women scientists


Over the years, the ABCF program has supported several researchers who have now grown into positions of influence within their institutions. This week we feature two scientists from the national research organizations and are doing great things for agricultural development.

Nina Wambiji, Kenya

As the assistant director of the fisheries program at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) headquarters based in Mombasa, Kenya, Nina Wambiji is the epitome of a scientist who has grown in leaps and bounds. 

As a young researcher, Wambiji was able to secure the African Women in Agricultural Research for Development (AWARD) fellowship and advanced science training placement at BecA-ILRI Hub with the support from the ABCF program. The opportunity gave her the chance to conduct her research on the application of next-generation sequencing approaches to assess the genetic diversity of Siganus (rabbit fish) species from Kenya.  Her interest to work on this species of fish also called tafi by the coastal people is because it has no scales or bones which makes it easy to prepare and eat. At the time of doing this research, there was no data on rabbit fish.

Dr. Wambiji (left) and Dr. Mukhebi, the Deputy Director of AWARD at a previous seminar held at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

She says, “If we are to identify the cause of dwindling populations beyond overfishing it is important that we also understand the fish physiology and genetics, their movements as well as the effects of climate change”.

From this work, she was able to successfully barcode different Siganus species caught along the Kenyan coast. In addition to acquiring molecular biology skills, Wambiji was also able to gain skills in research communication and public speaking which has greatly helped her in her line of work where she engages various stakeholders. In addition, she supervises undergraduate students taking up coastal and marine sciences subjects. She continues to apply the molecular techniques of extracting and processing of total RNA, cDNA synthesis, DNA, gene expression analysis, cloning procedures, sequence analysis through partnering with colleagues attached to molecular laboratories. 

Wambiji is responsible for contributing to the development of the research agenda of KMFRI Strategic plan by contributing to research knowledge, data and projections needed for strategic planning to make KMFRI undertake research as per her mandate and Strategic Plan. She also manages research programs by coordinating proposal developments for research work, planning research teams, coordinating research reporting and reviewing research performance. 

As a senior scientist, her research areas are on fisheries biology and ecology, stock assessment, fish genetics and impacts of fishing gears on marine mammals. She is also the Country Coordinator for the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association, an organization that aims to promote the educational, scientific and technological development of marine sciences throughout the Western Indian Ocean.

Barberine Assongo, Cameroon

Barberine Silatsa Assongo grew up in a small village along the Cameroonian coastal region where her family farmed cacao and maize. Her love for farm animals made the dream of becoming a veterinarian. But as fate would have it, circumstances could not allow Assongo to enroll in the only school of veterinary medicine. Instead, she enrolled for a course in biochemistry at a local university in Cameroon. 

While doing her Ph.D. at the University of Dschang, West Cameroon, Assongo understood her need to gain access to a well-established laboratory where she could do her research. She came across the ABCF fellowship call during her search for scholarships and successfully put in her application.

At BecA-ILRI Hub, Assongo investigated ticks and tick-borne diseases among the cattle population in Cameroon. Within the context of global warming and conflicts that trigger livestock movements and disease dissemination across the region, her aim was to evaluate the current epidemiological status of ticks and tick-borne diseases of cattle in Cameroon with a goal of assembling baseline data and evaluating the risk of disease outbreaks.

She established that Rhipicephalus microplus (Asian blue tick), one of the most important ectoparasites and livestock disease vectors globally, is now present in Cameroon. This species is known to invade and displace endemic species of the same genus, can transmit a broad range of parasites as well as develop resistance against acaricides.  

Since its introduction in West Africa a decade ago, R. microplus has been reported in Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria with potentially far-reaching adverse impacts on the livestock sector in the region. Because of its strategic location in the central Africa region, Cameroon plays a pivotal role in livestock trade both within the region and between Central Africa and West Africa. The study has highlighted the future importance of the control of R. microplus in Africa and illustrates just how rapidly it is spreading.

Her research findings have already been published in Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.

Assongo is now back at the University of Dschang as an assistant lecturer as well as a researcher.  She continues to acknowledge BecA’s role in helping her grow and reiterates that she would like to be the ‘Tick Woman’ who is significantly involved within the community of African scientists that safeguard the livestock sector in Africa. She is also very vocal in her gratitude to BecA ILRI Hub and the opportunities she has been able to get along the way. 

“The program helped improve my communication skills, I won a prize for the best oral presentation at the International Congress on Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Buenos Aires in 2018. Thanks to BecA’s ABCF seminar series”.

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Research at BecA-ILRI Hub supports vaccine development policy in Kenya

By Jane Githinji, assistant director of veterinary services, Kenya and ABCF alumnus

Jane githinjiAs head of the virology laboratory at the Central Veterinary Laboratories in the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) in Kenya, my responsibilities include laboratory surveillance, and confi rmation and reporting of animal viral diseases. My reports form the basis upon which disease control strategies are developed. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that these reports refl ect the true picture of the disease situation in the country, from which appropriate disease control policies and strategies can be derived.

Like in most developing countries, poultry farming in Kenya is mainly in the hands of the smallholder rural poor, mostly women and young people, and is usually the only livelihood source for smallholder farmers. Outbreaks of infectious viral diseases that cannot be treated pose a major constraint on poultry production. Vaccination is the recommended method of control for these diseases. But vaccines do not always prevent occurrence of a disease.

The apparent failure of vaccines to protect chicken from infectious bursal disease (IBD) got me interested in understanding the cause of the disease despite prompt vaccinations by farmers (IBD causes immune suppression, making chicken more prone to other infectious diseases). I wanted to improve my understanding of the epidemiology of IBD in Kenya, starting with the comparative molecular characterization of the circulating viruses with the currently used vaccine virus strains.

The facilities available at the central veterinary laboratory are suitable for carrying out basic molecular analysis. However, to undertake more advanced molecular research required to gain a better understanding of IBD viruses circulating in Kenya, I needed access to the facilities at the BecAILR Hub. Under the mentorship of the BecA-ILRI Hub scientists, in a very conducive research environment as an ABCF fellow, I learned many skills, including sequence editing and analysis, primer design, scientific paper writing and communicating science to non-scientists. These crosscutting skills will be very useful in improving my diagnostic capacity, and ultimately, scientific data collection for policy development at the DVS.

Based on the feedback and recommendations I gave to the DVS director, I am confident my research findings will form the basis for developing effective IBD control strategies, including diagnosis, vaccination, hatchery surveillance and certification, IBD vaccines registration and vaccine production. Implementation of such strategies will have far reaching impacts on poultry production, poverty alleviation, nutritional security, economic empowerment for women and young people, and self-employment. Reducing antimicrobial residues in poultry products will also contribute to a reduction in antimicrobial drug resistance in humans.

With my newly acquired skills, I will be able to contribute more to livestock research: science, technology and innovation. I am a better mentor to young people, a better leader and manager, a more fulfilled person, and, above all, an asset to my country. My time as an ABCF fellow marked the beginning of what I believe will be a journey full of discoveries, networking, research development and fulfilment.

chicken and chics

Read more about the bioscience research and innovations that underpin development outcomes in the BecA-ILRI Hub 2016 Annual Report.

Putting East African smallholder farmers on the path to global soybean market

Written by Tony Obua, African Biosciences Challenge Fund research fellow

Tony ObuaSince 2010, I have worked on developing soybean varieties with improved nutritional value and high yield. My passion for soybean research earned me a fellowship––the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship––at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research (BecA-ILRI) Hub.

Through this fellowship, I am conducting in-depth analyses of five soybean varieties released by Makerere University and 95 elite soybean lines for different nutritional properties.

Owing to its increased use as human food and animal feed, soybean has great economic potential, which I want to help smallholder farmers in East Africa exploit. I am looking for a fast way of introducing good nutritional properties to existing soybean varieties and hope to develop high yielding, nutritionally superior lines.

Containing approximately 40 percent protein, 20 percent oil and an ideal supply of essential amino acids and nutrients, soybean grains are the world’s largest source of animal protein feed and the second largest source of vegetable oil globally. Aside from their significance as food and livestock feed, the crop improves soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and enhancing moisture retention.

Between 2006 and 2009, earnings from the crop in Uganda rose by 288 percent, but despite the economic opportunities in production and processing, factories established to process soybean oil and soy-based products across East Africa lack adequate raw material to run at full capacity. Furthermore, increased awareness by oil consumers has increased the demand for soybean oil as they seek more nutritious alternatives.

Through my research at the BecA-ILRI Hub and my home institution, Makerere University, I hope to contribute significantly bridging the supply gap and increasing the global competitive edge of locally produced soybean.

4N-1

About Tony Obua:
Tony Obua is a researcher at Makerere University in Uganda. He is currently conducting research on genetic improvement of oil quality and yield of soybean in Uganda at the BecA-ILRI Hub as an ABCF research fellow.

Read more about the ABCF fellowship program

‘Tell the world about your research’ scientists at BecA-ILRI Hub urged

Roger Pelle, BecA-ILRI Hub principal scientist stresses a point during the Science Communication workshop

Roger Pelle, BecA-ILRI Hub principal scientist stresses a point during the Science Communication workshop

Communicating research findings to the general public is increasingly becoming a necessary part of being a scientist. However, the skills to do this are not intuitive to scientists, who have been trained in research methodologies, analytical skills, and the ability to communicate with other scientists. This hurdle is one that the team at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute Hub (BecA-ILRI) Hub sought to overcome as they underwent an intensive science communication course.

‘We have a lot of knowledge in the labs but we don’t get it out for people to appreciate and accept’ said Appoliniare Djikeng, the BecA-ILRI Hub director, at the start of the two-day workshop conducted by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter.

Djikeng acknowledged that ineffective outreach could be a contributing factor to researchers not attracting funding from national budgets. ‘We have not made the case for policy makers to appreciate that what we are doing is useful to them’, he said.

During the training that took place on June 28 and 29 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus, the BecA-ILRI Hub team was joined by researchers from the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) working on the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project. While giving an overview of the VIRCA project, field implementing coordinator Hannington Obiero remarked that effective communication is key to the project’s success.

‘We are here to acquire the communication skills needed to complement VIRCA’s research and ensure that our findings are adopted by the end-user’ said Obiero.

Margaret Karembu, Director ISAAA AfriCenter, thanked the researchers for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend the training, stating that it was a testament to their commitment to communicating effectively with all their audiences. She lauded their passion for seeking solutions to help African farmers and encouraged them to ensure that their work was well communicated and impacted the very people they work hard for.

The course familiarized participants with various strategies to engage policy makers, the media and the public at large. At the end of the training, participants had learnt how to identify their audiences and develop audience-specific messages.Roger Pelle, a Principal Scientist at the BecA-Hub appreciated the participatory approach to the training which included practical sessions on the use social media for science communication and mock media interviews.

Bioscience hub cited among strategic investments for improved livelihoods in Africa by BMGF and DFID

Jacqueline Kasiiti Lichoti from the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock (a key member of the BecA-led African swine fever research team) explains biosecurity measures to pig farmer in Busia, Kenya (photo: BecA-ILRI Hub/Larelle McMillan)

Jacqueline Kasiiti Lichoti from the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock, a key member of the BecA-led African swine fever research project, explains bio-security measures to pig farmer in Busia, Kenya (photo: BecA-ILRI Hub/Larelle McMillan)

Extreme poverty can be ended by putting science at the centre of international development. These are the thoughts of Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and Nick Hurd, international development minister for Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID).

In an article written for the Guardian’s Global Development blog on 16 March 2016, Hellman and Hurd articulate how joint investments by BMGF and DFID are already contributing to improving lives globally.

The article cites support to the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub) which provides access to cutting-edge facilities by crop and livestock scientists from over 18 African countries. This support has also facilitated the creation of triangular alliances between the BecA-ILRI Hub, African national agricultural research systems and advanced international research institutions, bringing to bear the most advanced knowledge and technology to smallholder farmers’ fields in Africa.

Hellman and Hurd also highlight joint support to a partnership for livestock veterinary medicines, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), in which ILRI is a major partner. Through GALVmed, ILRI is helping livestock-keeping communities in Africa to access a vaccine against East Coast fever, the lethal cattle disease endemic in 11 countries of eastern, central and southern Africa.

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Read the whole article by Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Nick Hurd, the international development minister for Britain’s Department for International Development in the Guardian’s Global Development blogTo end poverty, put science at the heart of development, 16 Mar 2016.

Read a related article on the ILRI website: ILRI biosciences hub and vaccine development named global public goods by heads of BMGF and DFID

Get more about ILRI’s livestock vaccine platform on the ILVAC blog site.

 

Providing much needed support to African women in science at the BecA-ILRI Hub

The BecA-ILRI Hub fraternity celebrates visiting researcher’s family milestone

On 24 June 2015, the BecA-ILRI Hub team and Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellows from across eastern and central Africa celebrated six-month old baby Rayan BecA Babiker.
Baby BecA who was born to ABCF fellow Rasha Adam from Sudan and her husband Babiker Mohammed is a testimony to the significance that the BecA-ILRI Hub places on supporting women in agricultural research.

Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund Fellow Rasha Adam and her family pose with BecA-ILRI Hub communications officer Ethel Makila and capacity building officer Valerian Aloo, Nairobi, Kenya

Adam, a researcher at the Biotechnology and Biosafety Research Centre at the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC) in Khartoum, Sudan joined the BecA-ILRI Hub on 30June 2014 for a year-long placement. Already expectant when she got her letter of acceptance to the highly competitive fellowship program, Adam was not willing to postpone her quest to improve the food security situation in Sudan despite being offered a postponement of the start date till after delivery. The BecA-ILRI Hub capacity building team worked with her to ensure her work-plan guaranteed her safety and comfort, and she commenced her placement in June 2014 as scheduled.

Rasha Adam and her husband Babiker Mohammed cut the cake to celebrate baby BecAAfrica Biosciences Challenge Fund fellows and BecA-ILRI Hub staff share out the cake to celebrate baby BecAAppolinaire Djikeng, director and Valerian Aloo, capacity building officer pose with Baby BecA and proud mother Rasha Adam, ABCF fellow from Sudan‘I am so grateful to all of you at the BecA-ILRI Hub for the support that you gave me throughout my pregnancy,’ said Adam, who gave her baby the name BecA as a reminder of the team that stood with her during a significant period in her career and family life.

In appreciating her co-ABCF fellows, Adam said ‘The ABCF fellows have become like family to me, watching over me throughout my pregnancy and showing me how to hold and care for the baby when she came.’

Appolinaire Djikeng, the director of the BecA-ILRI Hub lauded Rasha as a true example of the resilience of women in science.

‘It is inspiring to see Rasha balance her new status as a mother while conducting excellent science,’ said Djikeng. ‘Rasha is evidence of the heights that women can achieve when they are offered the right support,’ he added.

For the past one year, Rasha Adam has been working to optimize tissue culture and transformation protocols that will facilitate the enhancement of sweet sorghum for drought resistance. Sorghum is an important staple crop in Sudan due to its tolerance to high temperatures and drought. The sweet sorghum is increasingly significant in the country for its use as food, livestock feed and its potential for production of biofuels.

The research being conducted by this first time mother could result in the ground-breaking development of the very first protocol for the transformation of cereals.

For more pictures, visit the Flickr Album: Celebrating Baby BecA

Making agricultural sense of data in Sudan: The BecA-ILRI Hub bioinformatics workshop in Khartoum

From 1 December to 6 December 2014, the BecA-ILRI Hub held a bioinformatics workshop in Khartoum, Sudan. Mark Wamalwa, a post-doctoral scientist in bioinformatics and Joyce Nzioki, a bioinformatics analyst from the BecA-ILRI Hub, in collaboration with Andreas Gisel from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria and Etienne De Villiers from the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Wellcome Trust, Kilifi-Kenya.

BecA bioinformatics workshop in Sudan 2014

(Left-right) Nada Hamza Babiker, director, Commission of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, speaks during opening session; Joyce Nzioki, bioinformatics analyst, the BecA-ILRI Hub, gives support to workshop participants; Etienne De Villiers, scientist, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Wellcome Trust, Kilifi-Kenya prepares to facilitate a session

(Left-right) Ali Babiker, Assistant Professor, Plant Genetics Resources Unit-Agricultural Research Corporation pays attention during a lecture; H.E Alsadig Sabah Alkhair, State Minister of Science and Communications; Prof Migdam Elshekh Abdelgani, Director General, National Center for Research-Sudan; Joyce Nzioki, the BecA-ILRI Hub during the opening session; Mark Wamalwa, post-doctoral scientist in bioinformatics, the BecA-ILRI Hub, facilitates a session on bioinformatics

(Left-right) Ali Babiker, Assistant Professor, Plant Genetics Resources Unit-Agricultural Research Corporation pays attention during a lecture; H.E Alsadig Sabah Alkhair, State Minister of Science and Communications; Prof Migdam Elshekh Abdelgani, Director General, National Center for Research-Sudan; Joyce Nzioki, the BecA-ILRI Hub during the opening session; Mark Wamalwa, post-doctoral scientist in bioinformatics, the BecA-ILRI Hub, facilitates a session on bioinformatics

The workshop which attracted participants from 13 institutions in Sudan received support the Sudan Government and the National Centre for Research (NCR). Participants were introduced to the basic concepts of bioinformatics and the use of various tools for the analysis of complex genomic data; Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies and the tools for NGS data analysis, data integration and visualization; multiple sequence analysis and phylogenetics; and sequence analysis using the eBiokit.

Participants to the workshop received the eBioKit, a complete kit of bioinformatics tools, enabling them to work independently from any location. The system runs multiple open source web services on an Apple Mac-mini where all databases are stored locally. The e-biokit reduces the need for fast internet connection while giving the users an opportunity to incorporate their data sets in widely used web services.

Sudan is among the eastern and central African countries where the BecA-ILRI Hub is expanding the base of expertise in agricultural research. Since 2011, over 10 national scientists from Sudan have had access to training in the latest agricultural bioscience technologies as they conducted research on the country’s priority areas addressing food and nutritional insecurity and livestock health.

Getting goat facts straight – ABCF fellow makes a presentation during the 6th All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture

“There is need for us, African scientists to design research to suit our own context so that we can get the real picture of what we have on our continent.”

This was the powerful message delivered by Getinet Mekuriaw, an Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund (ABCF) research fellow at the BecA-ILRI Hub, during the Sixth All African Conference on Animal Agriculture in Nairobi on 27 October 2014. Mekuriaw’s presentation titled “A review of genetic diversity of domestic goats identified by microsatellite loci from global perspective” was based on a paper authored together with five other scientists from the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub and ILRI. The paper was an evaluation of the research that has been done so far in establishing the genetic diversity of domestic goats globally.

Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund fellow, Getinet Mekuriaw at work at the BecA-ILRI Hub. (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Marvin Wasonga)

Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund fellow, Getinet Mekuriaw at work at the BecA-ILRI Hub. (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Marvin Wasonga)

Genetic diversity holds the key to animal breeding and selection. Accurate information on the observable characteristics or traits of a species, their form and structural features and how this varies amongst different populations in a given region is crucial in the development of appropriate breeding strategies for the improvement and for the conservation of important breeds.

In Africa, the role of indigenous goats in smallholder livestock production is growing rapidly as keeping them is often the only practical way to use vast ranges of grasslands that cannot be used for crop production. There is evidence of local goat breeds being better able to withstand the increasingly harsh environmental conditions that come with climate change including higher temperatures, lower quality diets and greater disease challenge.

Unfortunately, not enough has been done to generate information about the genetic resources available and it is feared that many goat populations could disappear before they are even identified. Mekuriaw attributed the gaps in knowledge on goats globally, and in Africa specifically, to deficiencies in research methods. While it is indeed possible that there is low genetic variation between goat populations in Africa and beyond due to uncontrolled and random mating within flocks as well as huge population movement in between regions, inefficient technical and statistical data management have contributed to conclusions drawn from research so far.

Mekuriaw, a PhD student from the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, is currently attached to the BecA-led research project “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” under the ABCF fellowship program. Through this component of his PhD research which is supervised at the BecA-ILRI Hub by project Principal Investigator Dr Morris Agaba, Mekuriaw hopes to establish the extent of diversity among indigenous goat breeds in Ethiopia. He also hopes to map out the genes responsible for growth and twinning and thus contribute to the establishment of a breeding strategy that will select goats for those traits. In addition, he is also developing a molecular tool, DNA profiling, which enables the determination of pedigree of the animals which will also be used in the establishment of the breeding strategy.

Mekuriaw’s research is helping the BecA-led project to achieve its overall goal which includes empowering goat breeders in Cameroon and Ethiopia to develop better goats suited to resource-poor farmers and to develop ICT based tools to support management decisions throughout the goat production chain.

Institutional benchmarking exercise brings Philippine Carabao Center to ILRI, Kenya

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

A partnership for the future – Gity Berhavan talks about the BecA-Sweden partnership

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.