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BecA-ILRI Hub director visits AfriqueOne- African Science Partnership for Intervention Research Excellence program in Abidjan

The recently appointed director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Jacob Mignounga visited the AfriqueOne-African Science Partnership for Intervention Research Excellence (ASPIRE) program office at the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques (CSRS) in Côte d'Ivoire on 7 September 2017.

The visit was an opportunity for the AfriqueOne-ASPIRE team to meet with the new BecA-ILRI Hub director, Jacob Mignouna and apprise him of the activities of the partnership which is building a world-leading pan-African research capacity in One Health science—ensuring better human and animal health and well-being, greater financial efficiencies and the development of environmental services through closer cooperation between human and animal health, and related disciplines and sectors. 

AfriqueOne-ASPIRE program manager Kathrin Tokpa, communication officer Emmanuel Dabo, and the head of CSRS research group on biodiversity ethology and conservation (BEC) Karim Ouattara, received the BecA-ILRI Hub director. BecA-ILRI Hub communication officer Ethel Makila, plant molecular breeder Nasser Yao and alumnus of the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship program Parfait Kouakou, who is the technical adviser to the president of University Peleforo Gon Coulibaly in Korhogo, Côte d'Ivoire were part of the visit that included a tour of the research facilities at CSRS.

Ouattara gave a presentation on the work of CSRS while Tokpa’s presentation on the AfriqueOne-ASPIRE program highlighted the BecA-ILRI Hub’s main role as: the provision of laboratory and bioinformatics training; hosting of research fellows through the Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship program; access to the biobank at ILRI’s Azizi biorepository; postdoctoral scientist training opportunities; mentorship; and collaborative resource mobilization. The BecA-ILRI Hub’s senior scientist Wellington Ekaya is also a member of the board committee on communications and policy for the Afrique One-ASPIRE. 

Following both presentations, Ouattara emphasized the need for strengthened partnerships that would leverage expertise in various African research centres of excellence, for example genomics expertise at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Mignouna concluded that the BecA-ILRI Hub and AfriqueOne-ASPIRE have a strong partnership on which to base joint resource mobilization activities, going forward.

 

The BecA-ILRI Hub strengthens agricultural bioscience research support to Côte d’Ivoire

A delegation from the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub visited the University Peleforo Gon Coulibaly of Korhogo (UPGC) Abidjan office on 5 September 2017. The meeting was called to enable the university and the BecA-ILRI Hub develop strategies to activate an existing memorandum of understanding.

The BecA-ILRI Hub team comprising director Jacob Mignouna, crop breeder Nasser Yao and communications officer Ethel Makila were in Côte d'Ivoire in the context of the 7th African Green Revolution Forum whose theme was Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture. They were met by the university’s president Prof Adama Coulibaly; vice president, Prof Ferdinand Adja Vanga; director of agro-pastoral management institute, Prof René Yadé Soro; lecturer/researcher in agro-economy and chief of the president’s staff, Guy Romaric Balle; and zootechnician-geneticist and technical advisor to the president Parfait Kouakou.

The meeting between the two teams was a follow up to a visit by UPGC senior officials to ILRI in 2014 organized by Parfait Kouakou, an alumnus of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship program and steward of the BecA-supported community of practice on domestic cavy research.

The growing partnership between the BecA-ILRI Hub and UPGC that was initiated by Kouakou is testament to the mentorship in science leadership provided to researchers from national agricultural research systems through the ABCF program.

 

Scientific Research Paper Writing and Science Communication Training Workshops - 2017

The BecA-ILRI Hub seeks to strengthen the capacity of African National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) to drive agricultural research and innovation in Africa for Africa. Through strategic partnerships with NARS, the Hub also acts as an accelerator for priority research conducted at the national level. The Hub’s primary delivery mechanism is the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) Program. A full prospectus can be accessed here.

Communication of research findings in peer-reviewed journals and to non-expert audience is a major part of the ABCF program impact pathway. The program recognizes that skills in scientific writing and science communication are not an innate talent, but must be developed and honed through active and continued engagement in research and writing / journal publication, public engagement and training. The dynamic nature of today’s scientific world and the associated societal demands for addressing agricultural challenges places research scientists in a tight spot that requires them to acquire effective communication skills for engaging a wide spectrum of actors. Research scientists are increasingly expected to play a strong facilitative role with respect to scientific information exchange and utilization in addressing development challenges. In Africa particularly, researchers within NARS are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their contribution towards solving Africa’s agricultural challenges through research, dissemination and application of findings for policy influence. 

 

The Training Workshops:

As part of the ABCF program, the BecA-ILRI Hub in partnership with the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) will hold two hands-on training workshops on scientific research paper writing, each followed by a four-day science communication training (communicating science to non-experts). The training workshops will be delivered in two separate but identical modular sessions as follows;

Module 1:

  • Scientific Research Paper Writing Training Workshop 1: 20th – 25th November 2017
  • Science Communication Workshop 1: 27th – 30th November 2017

Module 2:

  • Scientific Research Paper Writing Training Workshop 2: 27th November – 2nd December 2017
  • Science Communication Workshop 2: 4th – 7th December 2017

 

Training Approach:

A team of highly experienced internationally sourced trainers will conduct the training workshops. 

Scientific writing: Selected participants will benefit from intensive, interactive hands-on training during which they will develop their own manuscripts with the goal of submitting to a journal for publication within three to six months of completing the workshop. Participants will be expected to bring along a project report for conversion into a paper, and/or figures and tables and any other illustrative material that have been generated from data analysis. To fully benefit from this workshop, bringing a manuscript at advanced stage of preparation is highly discouraged.

 

Science Communication:

Effective science communication is increasingly becoming an essential component of technology development-research-acceptance discourse. As well, technological advancements and dramatic changes in the socio-political environment and consumer sophistication are demanding for new approaches to science communication. The science communication training will acquaint scientists with communication approaches, skills and tools that promote public understanding of their research, effective mass and social media engagement and how to contribute towards evidence-based decisions and choices of products from bioscience research.

 

Eligibility / Applicants requirements:

The workshops are open to NARS researchers with a strong interest in improving their scientific writing and communication skills. More specific applicant requirements include the following:

  • Currently conducting agricultural biosciences research within an African NARS. 
  • The courses have a major focus on applicants from BecA countries (Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda), however, eligible applicants from other African countries will also be considered.
  • Special preference will be given to ABCF program alumni.
  • Must have a research / project report for conversion to a paper, and / or analyzed research data through figures and tables.
  • Fluent in English (written and spoken)
  • Women candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.

 

How to apply: 

Interested eligible NARS research scientists should apply by completing the online application form.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Key dates:

Call for applications release: 1st September 2017

  • Application deadline: 30th September 2017. Late and / or incomplete applications will NOT be considered.
  • Communication to applicants: 6th October 2017

Sponsorship: 

There are several fully funded places for this workshops. However, eligible applicants who can fully or partially fund their participation (at least 50%) have an added advantage. The cost of workshop is approximately $1600, excluding flights and accommodation.

 

About the partners:

International Foundation for Science: The IFS aims to support excellent individual and collaborative research, to build capability of early-career scientists in the developing world, and to contribute innovation to the sustainable management of biological and water resources. In particular, to enable young scientists to contribute to a global research community that is aiming to reduce poverty and supporting sustainable development. The primary focus remains the promotion of excellent science through early-career research grants and capability enhancing support to individual researchers in developing countries. More information is available at: http://www.ifs.se/ifs-programme/ 

 

International Service for Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications: ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that shares the benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing initiatives and the transfer and delivery of proprietary biotechnology applications. ISAAA's global knowledge sharing network and partnerships in the research and development continuum, provide a powerful combination of science-based information and appropriate technology to those who need to make informed decisions about their acceptance and use. ISAAA’s services include capacity building for policy makers and scientists; regulatory oversight on such issues as biosafety and food safety; impact assessment, and science communication. More information is available at: http://africenter.isaaa.org/

 

Training Venue:

All workshops will be  hosted at the BecA-ILRI Hub, a shared agricultural biosciences platform located at and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. The platform increases access to world class bioscience facilities for African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges. The BecA-ILRI Hub was established as part of the African Union/ New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) African Biosciences Initiative (ABI). It was developed within the framework of NEPAD’s Centers of Excellence for Science and Technology and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). The BecA-ILRI Hub’s mission is mobilizing bioscience for Africa’s development, by providing a centre for excellence in agricultural biosciences. This enables research, capacity building and product incubation, conducted by scientists in Africa and for Africa. The Hub empowers African institutions to harness innovations for regional impacts in improved agricultural productivity, income, and food and nutritional security.

For comprehensive information about the BecA-ILRI Hub visit: http://hub.africabiosciences.org/

 

Vacancy: Senior Scientist-Molecular Breeder

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to recruit a Senior Scientist Molecular Breeder to lead the analyses and interpretation of molecular plant breeding data from projects being conducted by the Integrated Genotyping Service and Support (IGSS) platform.

Screening of applications will start on 15 September 2017 and continue until the position is filled.

For more information about the position and to apply, visit: https://ilri.simplicant.com/jobs/24747-senior-scientist-molecular-breeder/detail

 

Head of the excellence in breeding platform tours ILRI facilities

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The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub hosted a lab tour by Michael Quinn, head of the new CGIAR initiative—Excellence in Breeding Platform— and Mariane Banziger, deputy director general for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

The CGIAR is establishing the Excellence in Breeding Platform to support modernization of breeding programs in developing countries for greater impact on food and nutrition security, climate change adaptation and development. This will be achieved through provision of access to cutting-edge tools, services and best practices, application-oriented training and practical advice.

During the lab tour, Quinn and Banzinger visited the various technology platforms at the BecA-ILRI Hub including the genomics and bioinformatics platform and the Integrated Genotyping Service and Support (IGSS) platform; and the Plant Molecular Breeding platform. They also visited ILRI’s bio-repository and interacted with staff from CGIAR centers—International Potato Centre (CIP) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)— and scientists from African national research systems (NARS) whose research is hosted at ILRI.  They also visited the experimental plots where five varieties of Brachiaria grass are being evaluated for adaptability to various environmental stresses under the BecA-led  ‘Climate smart Brachiaria grass to increase livestock production in East Africa’  program, as well as the ILRI animal unit.

Quinn and Banzinger are on a mission to assess the status and challenges of individual centers’ breeding programs, information that will underpin the agenda of the new Platform.

 

BecA-ILRI Hub alumnus recognized for research on small ruminants

Getinet Mekuriaw, an alumnus of the Bioscience eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub was recently recognized for his research on goats.

A beneficiary of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program, Mekuriaw was awarded the “Young Professional Award” from the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production (ESAP) during its Silver Jubilee celebrations at Haramaya University from 24–25 August 2017.

Getinet Mekuriaw is an assistant professor at the Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia. In 2014, his PhD research was linked to the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity project where he contributed largely to establishing the extent of diversity among indigenous goat breeds in Ethiopia.

As a visiting scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub from 2016 to mid 2017, Mekuriaw undertook research that has identified the genetic potentials of the goat populations of Ethiopia, Cameroon, Morocco and Egypt. His work has singled out genes that are candidates to enhance adaptation to harsh climates, disease resistance, reproduction, and hair fiber production. 

Mekuriaw is currently a postdoctoral scientist in dairy genetics and genomics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden.

Vacancy for Post-doctoral Scientist-Plant Sciences and Food Safety (closing date: 18 September 2017)

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to recruit a Post-doctoral Scientist –Plant Sciences and Food Safety to lead the activities in developing improved grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) genotypes for East Africa and coordinate research on other food safety and nutritional security issues at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Responsibilities for this position include:

Scientific research

  • Develop resources to enable the rapid improvement of grass pea (Lathyrus sativus)
  • Lead in pre-breeding of improved genotypes of grass pea for East Africa
  • Coordinate and supervise other research projects (e.g. ABCF fellowships) with a focus on nutritional quality and food safety
  • Analyse the nutritional content of grass pea and other plant products including animal feeds
  • Contribute to project reports and publish relevant findings on a timely basis in scientific literature and present at international scientific conferences

Capacity building

  • Contribute to capacity building activities at the BecA-ILRI Hub, including improvement of facilities and scientific and transferable skills trainings
  • Assist the partners from National agricultural research systems (NARS) in developing research platforms in their labs
  • Supervise staff, students and research fellows

Resource mobilization

  • Contribute to resource mobilization efforts of the BecA-ILRI Hub
  • Participate in plant and food science professional forums in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Contribute to building collaborations and partnerships with international research institutions

Read the full advertisement for this position: Vacancy: Post-doctoral Scientist-Plant Sciences and Food Safety

 

Driving Africa’s agricultural development by enabling biosciences innovations- BecA-ILRI Hub 2016 Annual Report

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub 2016 Annual report is out!


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In 2016, the BecA-ILRI Hub celebrated 15 years as a centre for excellence for agricultural research. Against a backdrop of renewed impetus for innovation in agricultural research for development in Africa, BecA-ILRI Hub and its partners showcased their joint achievements in responding to the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A)— leveraging science in an agriculture-led social and economic transformation. 

In this annual report, you will read about:

  • Fifteen years as a regional centre for excellence, strengthening the capacity of African national researchers and institutions in agricultural bioscience for development impact;
  • Research led by national programs that is influencing agricultural policy development in food security and livestock health;
  • Strategic partnerships that facilitate technology transfer and bring international research capabilities to bear on African agricultural challenges;
  • Progress in mobilizing regional researchers and institutions to pool resources and jointly tackle agricultural issues of continental importance;
  • Engagement with the advisory panel and donors to support, sustainability and strategic relevance within the region; and
  • A summary of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s human and financial resources.

The full report can be downloaded at this link: https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/83016

 

 

 

Finding a lasting solution to rice blast disease in Africa

The Bioscience eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub convened a stakeholder meeting in Arusha, Tanzania to discuss a possible roadmap to combat rice blast disease in Africa. The 22–24 July 2017 meeting was convened in collaboration with the United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF), the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Exeter University

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The July meeting held under the auspices of the Durable Rice Blast Resistance for Africa project marked the culmination of four years of research by partners from East and West Africa, UK and USA. Rice is steadily becoming a staple food for a large population in Africa, yet its production is outstripped by demand, resulting in net imports. Rice blast disease is one of the major production constraints to rice production in Africa. Between 2013 and 2017, the BecA-ILRI Hub has been collaborating with international and regional partners to develop rice varieties that are resistant to blast disease and enhance rice production in sub-Saharan Africa

Representing the Assistant Director for Plant Health Services in the Tanzania Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, Grace David emphasized the need to find a solution to rice blast disease, which has been responsible for up to 40 percent yield losses in the country.

Project leader Nick Talbot from The University of Exeter expressed his optimism for the development of a continental surveillance system for rice blast pathogens:

‘The repository we have developed at the BecA-ILRI Hub for isolates of the rice-blast fungus will help in the establishment of a disease surveillance system,’ said Talbot.  ‘Having such a facility will make it easier to monitor outbreaks of rice blast disease so we can identify specific forms of the pathogen. In this way, we can facilitate efficient screening of African rice varieties for blast resistance, and guide future rice breeding programs’' he added.

The BecA-ILRI Hub director Jacob Mignouna stressed the importance of translating the research to impact: ‘We have to ensure that all the research efforts being made to address this challenge eventually get to the farmer,’ he said.

The multidisciplinary team of experts in this project are drawn from national, regional and international research institutions including: AfricaRice, the BecA-ILRI Hub; the University of ArkansasUniversity of Exeter; KALROInternational Rice Research Institute (IRRI); Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso; and the Ohio State University. Their four-year efforts have made very significant progress in breeding for durable resistance against blast in rice varieties that are adapted for Africa, have set the stage for continental surveillance of the disease, and developed a robust collection of resources for outreach and awareness creation.

Five of the most promising genes that confer rice blast resistance to adapted African cultivars have been identified. These are already being included in breeding efforts by national rice breeding programs in Burundi, Kenya and Burkina Faso in activities supported by international rice research centres Africa Rice and IRRI. The bio-bank of different isolates of the rice blast disease-causing fungus established at ILRI in Kenya is facilitating regional monitoring of the blast pathogen population and contributing to efficient screening of African rice varieties for blast resistance. A KALRO-led outreach program connecting to rice farmers in Kenya has allowed the project to tap into existing knowledge and given a better understanding of farmer needs.

In closing the meeting KALRO Director for Crop Systems, Lusike Wasilwa commended the efforts of the project team.

‘Your achievements in this project will go a long way to securing one of the four most important food crops in Kenya,’ said Wasilwa. ‘Based on the current challenges facing the number one crop, maize, rice may become even more significant for food security in Kenya,’ she added.

Talbot attributed the success of the project to the strength of the partnership, highlighting AfricaRice and IRRI's significant expertise in marker-assisted plant breeding which he said had greatly accelerated the breeding efforts.

Also participating in the meeting were representatives from Embu University, Kenya Plant health inspectorate Service and University of Eldoret (Kenya); Chollima AGRO-Scientific Research Center, KATRIN Agricultural Research Center, Kilimanjaro Agricultural Training Center, Lekitatu Irrigation Scheme and Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania); and Gulu University (Uganda).

This collaborative research project was supported by the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID) initiative grant, funded jointly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department of International Development (DFID), and (through a grant awarded to BBSRC) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

 

 

 

Laboratory Management and Equipment Operations Training Workshop 2017- Call for applications

Background:

The BecA-ILRI Hub seeks to strengthen the capacity of African National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) to drive research and innovation. Through strategic partnerships with NARS, the Hub also acts as an accelerator for priority research conducted at the national level. The Hub’s primary delivery mechanism is the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) Program. A full prospectus can be accessed using the link: http://hub.africabiosciences.org/activities/capacity-building 

 

The training workshop:

 As part of the ABCF program, the BecA-ILRI Hub in partnership with the Biosciences Research and Training Center at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Uganda will hold a five-day hands-on training workshop on Laboratory Management and Equipment Operations from 25 – 29 September 2017.

Efficient management of any laboratory facility ensures the cost-effective use of resources and the reliability of research-generated data. Laboratory management practices must ensure compliance with and adherence to national, international and/or local standards, policies, protocols, legal and regulatory frameworks for health and safety. This may include bio-containment, waste management, import and export of biological materials and other good laboratory practices. In addition, the core function of managing a laboratory facility including the personnel, equipment and activities contributes significantly towards the success of any laboratory. Therefore, good laboratory management skills are necessary for personnel responsible for these vital facilities.

The success of efforts being led by African scientists and other collaborators towards improving agriculture and tackling food insecurity is dependent on the efficiency of their laboratory environments and the ability of their facilities to harness advances in research. There is a need for personnel who are equipped with skills that contribute to a well run, safe and reliable laboratory. Such facilities will create a relaible platform from which to address the challenges of food security in Africa.  

Relevant staff from African NARS who require further skills in laboratory management and equipment operations are invited to apply for the training workshop. A total of 25 applicants will be selected on competitive basis and sponsored to attend the training workshop. 

Key topics to be covered will include; 

  • Laboratory design and classification 
  • Laboratory organization structure
  • Documentation requirements 
  • Equipment operations and maintenance 
  • Laboratory health and safety 
  • Procurement procedures 
  • Shipping of biological samples  
  • Material transfer agreements (MTA).

 A team of highly experienced trainers from ILRI, BecA-ILRI Hub and NaCCRI will conduct the training sessions.

 

Applicant eligibility and requirements:

The workshop aims to provide a learning forum for laboratory heads or supervisors, scientists and  laboratory / research technicians. The main expected outcome in the long run is to have NARS laboratories being managed more efficiently to ensure safe use and high quality research output. 

  • The BecA-ILRI Hub places greater focus on nationals of BecA countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda. However, suitable applicants from other African countries will be considered.
  • Applicants must be proficient in both written and spoken English.

Women researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.

 

Application timelines and process:

  • Call release: 27th July 2017
  • Application deadline: A complete online application form must be submitted latest midnight 18th August 2017 (Nairobi time).
  • Late and incomplete applications will not be considered
  • Communication to all applicants will be done by 20th August 2017
 APPLY HERE

 

Training approach:

The workshop will comprise series of lectures, extensive hands-on practical sessions, group discus-sions and experience sharing by, and with participants. Pre- and post- workshop evaluations will be conducted by the trainers. 

 

Workshop venue:

The training workshop will be held at NaCRRI - Biosciences Research and Training Center in Namu-longe, Uganda.  NaCRRI is a public agricultural research institute under the policy guidance and co-ordination of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO). The mandate of NaCRRI is to generate, develop and disseminate appropriate crop technologies, methods and knowledge on food and cash crops of national importance. NaCRRI works towards generating crop research outcomes for impact, addressing critical farmer challenges for a healthier and wealthier populace. 

For more information about NaCRRI visit: www.nacrri.go.ug  

 

ILRI bioscience hub to support international One Health research consortium

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The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub is set to be the centre for training and capacity strengthening in a new international One Health initiative.

ILRI's state-of-the art biosciences hub will be used in the implementation of the GBP 7.7 million grant to University of Liverpool  to increase capacity for ‘One Health’ research in the Horn of Africa. The One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa (HORN) project led by University of Liverpool brings together partners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. The program will deepen existing University of Liverpool and ILRI links, already well established through several joint UK Research Council projects.

Livestock play a critical role in the economies of low- and middle-income countries where up to three-quarters of a billion of the poorest people rely on livestock farming and products to make a living. However, livestock also pose human health risks because their ability to transmit infectious diseases.

Project-lead Professor Matthew Baylis, from University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: 

‘Our hope is to understand better the health links between people, animals and the environment. This should lead to improved nutrition, less risk of new diseases emerging from animals, and more prosperity… as well as a strong system in place for conducting further research.’

The grant has been awarded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Growing Research Capability call which aims to build upon research knowledge in the UK, and strengthen local capacity to address priority challenges in the developing countries.

The project will start in October 2017 and will run for four years.

Read full story: 'One Health’ research awarded £7.7million from Global Challenges Research Fund

 

Advanced Bioinformatics Training Workshop 2017 - Call for applications

Background: 

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform that seeks to strengthen the capacity of the African scientific community in driving research and innovation for development. Through strategic partnerships with National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and through its Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program, the BecA-ILRI Hub is accelerating progress towards impact in priority research conducted at a national level.

The Advanced Bioinformatics Training Workshop: 

As part of the ABCF program, BecA-ILRI Hub will hold a 10-day hands-on training workshop on Advanced Bioinformatics, from 4-13 October 2017. The workshop will provide a learning forum for researchers in advanced bioinformatic analysis of various genomic data sets. Designed to 'train the trainers', this workshop aims at expanding the continental network of NARS researchers with strengthened capacity for application of bioinformatics.

Applications are invited from individuals in African NARS who require advanced skills in bioinformatics to support their research. A total of 20 research scientists will be selected based on evidence of productive research and the relevance of advanced bioinformatics skills to their current research.

Key topics to be covered in the training include;

  • Introduction to Bioinformatics, biological databases and genomics resources. 
  • Introduction to Genomics and next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies.
  • Introduction to Linux 
  • Introduction to statistics and 'R'
  • RNA sequencing and DNA sequencing analysis 
  • Microbial community analysis 
  • Genome assembly and annotation 

The workshop will be conducted by a team of facilitators drawn from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU); University of California, Davis and Ohio State University (USA); Earlham Institute and Fathom Labs (UK); and the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Applicant eligibility and requirements:

  • The training workshop targets research scientists currently engaged in research within NARS, particularly those working with RNASeq, DNASeq, 16s Amplicon sequencing and whole genome data.
  • The BecA-ILRI Hub places greater focus on nationals of the BecA countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda. However, suitable applicants from other African countries will be considered.
  • Applicants must have basic familiarity with the Linux/Unix (or Mac) command line, as well as familiarity with basic biological concepts.
  • Applicants must be proficient in both written and spoken English.

Women researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.

There are few fully-funded slots on highly competitive basis. Applicants able to secure their own sponsorship to meet full or part of the course costs are highly encouraged to apply. The full course cost is approximately USD 1500 (exclusive of travel costs).

Application timelines and process:

  • Call release: 12 July 2017
  • Application deadline: Complete online application form must be submitted by 20 August 2017 (APPLY HERE
  • Late and incomplete applications will not be considered
  • Communication to all applicants: by 27 August 2017

Training approach:

The workshop will comprise series of lectures, extensive hands-on practical sessions, group discussions and experience sharing by, and with participants. Pre and post workshop evaluations will be conducted by the trainers. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit the BecA-ILRI Hub’s state-of-the-art facilities during the workshop. 

About the BecA-ILRI Hub:

The BecA-ILRI Hub is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform co-created by ILRI and the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It increases access to world-class laboratories for African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges. The BecA-ILRI Hub’s mission is to mobilize advances in bioscience for Africa’s development, by providing a centre for excellence in agricultural biosciences. This enables research, capacity building and product incubation, conducted in Africa and for Africa, and empowers African institutions to harness innovations for regional impact. 

Online application form: APPLY HERE

Research solidarity for food security: BecA-ILRI Hub alumni communities of practice

From 3-7 July 2017, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub mobilized 17 researchers representing 12 communities of practice (CoPs) to develop concepts for research on key agricultural challenges in Africa. The CoPs formed through the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program and comprising researchers within national agricultural research systems across the region are developing proposals to respond to funding calls on agricultural research for development.

Although agriculture is viewed as the sector with the greatest potential to transform Africa’s economy (AfDB, 2016), it continues to face the challenges of low productivity across all farming systems. In the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) document—a roadmap towards transforming Africa’s agriculture—regional collaborations, that enable the attainment of economies of scale in terms of human, technological and financial resource, are singled out as a means to achieving the vision of a food-secure Africa by 2030. 

Many agricultural problems in Africa are common to more than one country and as such, it is more effective use a concerted approach across countries and institutions in tackling these issues,’ said BecA-ILRI Hub principal scientist Roger Pelle, emphasizing the importance of the CoP approach to research for development.

The concept note write-shop is a follow-up of a facilitated proposal writing workshop held for the same CoPs in April 2017 involving 50 participants from 16 African countries—Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Through these CoPs, the investment in the ABCF program is gaining momentum beyond individual and institutional capacity strengthening.

‘We see this as a powerful approach to harness the power of our alumni and multiply the initial investment made towards their fellowship at BecA-ILRI Hub,’ said Wellington Ekaya who heads the ABCF program.

The proposals being developed crystallized around research themes responding to sustainable development goals (SDGs) 1, 2 and 13 (no poverty, zero hunger and climate action). They included research on crop and livestock health, livestock genetics, crop improvement, food safety and climate change mitigation. 

In his address to the write-shop participants, the BecA-ILRI Hub director Jacob Mignouna advised the researchers to critically consider the value proposition of their proposals. 

‘Sciences is good, but your proposals should clearly articulate the economic impact of your research,’ said Mignouna, adding that it was important for the CoPs to consider how the products of their research would be transferred to the ultimate beneficiaries—the resource poor smallholder farmers in Africa. 

 

Statistical modeling and genomics to enhance livestock breeding in Africa

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June 30, 2017 marked the final day of the Animal Quantitative Genetics and Genomics training held by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Nairobi. The workshop was held as one of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program annual trainings in key skill areas. 

The increasing demand for animal protein in emerging economies in Africa presents opportunities to sustainably improve livestock productivity. A better understanding of quantitative genetics—the basis of traits controlled by multiple genes in livestock—underpins the development of more successful livestock breeding programs that could accelerate animal protein production and move Africa towards food security. 

For 10 days, 21scientists from national agricultural research systems (NARS) of 14 African countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania—participated in the course that gave them skills to support their research in livestock improvement including: population and quantitative genetics, linear models, variance components, selection principles, breeding strategies, genome selection and implementation of statistical tools in animal breeding.

Researcher Salome Shayo from Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute acknowledged the relevance of the workshop to fish breeding programs in Tanzania. Shayo is involved in research to improve the growth rate, survival, age at maturity, and carcass quality of tilapia fish, which will be produced by smallholder farmers in the country.

‘The knowledge I gained from the workshop has enabled me design a selective breeding program for improvement of tilapia production in Tanzania,’ said Shayo, who plans to start the breeding process with wild stock selected for genetic variation and heritability of traits of interest.

Echoing Shayo’s sentiments, tutorial fellow Sophie Miyumo from Egerton University in Kenya commented:

‘Attending this workshop gave me clarity in my proposal for research on indigenous chicken which I intend to carry out through the ABCF fellowship program.’

Julius Hagan, a senior lecturer from the University of Cape-Coast in Ghana requested that the workshop be offered to an even broader pool of scientists as he considered the training to be beneficial and needed by so many African countries. 

The workshop was facilitated by: Raphael Mrode, ILRI principal scientist and professor in quantitative genetics and genomics at the Scotland Rural College; Samuel E. Aggrey, professor at University of Georgia’s Department of Poultry Science and Institute of Bioinformatics; and Romdhane Rekaya, professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Animal and Dairy Science and Institute of Bioinformatics. The trainers are among BecA-ILRI Hub’s extended faculty comprising affiliated scientists drawn from institutions across the globe, which enables a broader scope of scientific advice, supervision and training through the ABCF program.

 

Australian Centre For International Agricultural Research CEO Visits ILRI

On 27 June 2017, Andrew Campbell, chief executive officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) visited the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi. As part of the visit, Campbell, who was accompanied by Mellissa Wood, ACIAR’s general manager for global programs, toured the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI (BecA-ILRI) Hub laboratory facilities

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Among the highlights of the facilities tour were discussions with scientists from national agricultural research institutions who are currently research fellows at the BecA-ILRI Hub through the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program. Various governments and donor agencies—Australia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sweden, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and the UK Department for International Development (DFID)—fund the ABCF program which provides access to high-end bioscience facilities, and hosts research by African scientists and their partners working to tackle key challenges to food and nutritional security on the continent.  

Through support to the ABCF program’s 2016 Advanced Genomics and Bioinformatics training workshop, ACIAR facilitated the training of four national crop breeders who are part of an initiative— Demand led plant variety design for emerging markets in Africa—is developing plant varieties suited to market demands in Africa. 

Campbell and Wood also visited the Integrated Genotyping Service and Support platform set up with funding from BMGF and implemented in partnership with Australian genotyping and information technology company, Diversity Arrays Technology Pty Ltd (DArT); held discussions with ILRI scientists involved in vaccine research and measurement of green house gas emissions in livestock production systems; and visited the ILRI bio-repository which provides long-term storage for biological material, as well as management of and access to associated data.

 

Swedish funding to boost bioscience research and capacity building in eastern and central Africa

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub has received USD 5.5 million to support the increased application of biosciences to boost agricultural productivity in the eastern and central Africa.

The grant to the BecA-ILRI Hub has been awarded by the Swedish government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), for a period of five years starting from 1 July 2017.

The support of the Government of Sweden to the BecA-ILRI Hub started in 2011. The resources were targeted to the development of a comprehensive mix of innovative research for development and capacity building activities under the food security program. 

Building on the successes of the food security program, Sida funded another program on Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses to increase livestock production in East Africa in 2012. This program is aimed at enhancing availability of quality forage for dry semi-arid lands and other agro-ecological zones of Kenya and Rwanda. 

Sida senior policy specialist Claes Kjellström said that so far, the BecA-ILRI Hub has had excellent performance and attained all agreed objectives with very few risks. He added:

‘The BecA-ILRI Hub’s approach to research for development is consistent with the Swedish government’s strategy of creating synergies between research across different programs and with other development investments’.

Agreeing with Kjellström, BecA-ILRI Hub director Jacob Mignounga said:

‘The BecA-ILRI Hub is the right program for the region and such funding will help ensure that we maintain our course in achieving agricultural transformation and a great future for Africa.’  

Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general appreciated Sweden’s decision to fund agricultural research amid a general shift in priorities for development funding saying:

‘We realise that the enormous pressure to give precedence for overseas development funding to education, healthcare, national security, climate change and emergency assistance compared to agriculture. This funding is therefore a testament to the significance placed by Sweden in the development  outcomes of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s interventions.’

In 2013, Sida awarded a supplementary grant to the BecA-ILRI Hub that provided additional resources for research, capacity building and strengthening technology platforms of the BecA-ILRI Hub and three NARS institutions. 

This new support to BecA-ILRI Hub’s research, capacity building and technology platforms will facilitate the strengthening of existing partnerships with national agricultural research systems and other donor funded initiatives that are visibly contributing to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) agenda. 

 

The Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) Fellowship 2017/2018 Call for Applications

 

Background

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa - International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, located in Nairobi, Kenya, is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform that exists to increase access for African researchers to affordable, world-class research facilities.  The mission of the BecA-ILRI Hub is “Mobilizing Bioscience for Africa’s Development” by providing a centre for excellence in agricultural biosciences, which enables research, capacity building and product incubation, conducted by scientists in Africa and for Africa, and empowers African institutions to harness innovations for regional impact.

This mission is achieved by the BecA–ILRI Hub’s contributions to:ABCF Fellow: Patrick Bisimwa, Lecturer, Evangelical University of Africa in DR. Congo

 

  • Research: enabling research to harness the potential of the biosciences to contribute to increasing agricultural productivity and to improving food and nutritional safety and security.
  • Capacity building: Strengthening capacity of NARS to drive and accelerate high-end bioscience research and innovation in agriculture.
  • Education: contributing to the education and training of the next generation of African agricultural research leaders and scientists.
  • Innovation: promoting the development, delivery and adoption of new technologies to address key agricultural productivity constraints.


The BecA-ILRI Hub capacity building program is branded The Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF). The ABCF program operates in the critically important intersection between agricultural research for development (ARD), food security, and individual and institutional capacity building. The ABCF program is delivered through: i) a visiting scientist program (the ABCF fellowship) targeting scientists from African national agricultural research organizations and universities to undertake biosciences research-for-development projects at the BecA-ILRI Hub; ii) annual training workshops to support the acquisition of practical skills in molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, laboratory management, laboratory safety, equipment maintenance and scientific writing; iii) mobilizing national and regional capacities for joint action; and iv) supporting and strengthening the capacity of national agricultural research systems  (NARS) to deliver on their research for development agenda.
 

Purpose

The purpose of the ABCF fellowship program is to develop capacity for agricultural biosciences research in Africa, to support research for development projects that ultimately contribute towards increasing food and nutritional security and/or food safety in Africa, and to facilitate access to the BecA-ILRI Hub facilities by African researchers (and their partners).  We seek applicants with innovative ideas for short to medium term research projects (up to 12 months) aligned with national, regional or continental agricultural development priorities that can be undertaken at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Since its inception in 2010, the ABCF program has contributed to strengthening capacities of individual scientists and institutions in sub- Saharan Africa. To enable national programs take full advantage of the opportunities available through the ABCF program, prospective candidates will require full support from their home institution. Institutions are strongly encouraged to nominate staff and faculty members for the ABCF program to help address critical capacity gaps or tackle key agricultural research for development challenges. Letters of  nomination articulating institutional capacity building needs and alignment of the proposed research project to national priorities is an important criteriaon for selection.

Areas of research

Applicants must be scientists affiliated (through employment) with African National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) e.g. national agricultural research institutes and  universities, and conducting research in the areas of food and nutritional security or food safety in Africa. Those carrying out research in the following areas are particularly encouraged to apply*;

  • Improved control of priority livestock and fish diseases including: African Swine Fever (ASF); Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP); Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR); Rift Valley Fever (RVF); East Coast Fever (ECF); Capripox Virus diseases of ruminants;
  • Harnessing genetic diversity for conservation, resistance to disease and improving productivity of crops and livestock and fish (livestock focus: African indigenous breeds, particularly  goats, chickens, alternative small livestock species);
  • Molecular breeding for important food security crops in Africa;
  • Plant transformation to address food insecurity in Africa;
  • Plant-microbe interactions;
  • Tissue culture and virus indexing for production of virus-free planting materials in Africa;
  • Orphan/underutilized species of crops and livestock;
  • Crop pests, pathogens and weed management research, including biological control;
  • Microbial technology for improving adaptation of staple food crops and forages to biotic and abiotic stresses;
  • Rapid diagnostics for crop, livestock and fish diseases;
  • Genomics, bioinformatics and  metagenomics including microbial discovery;
  • Studies on climate-smart forage grasses and mixed livestock-crop systems;
  • Microbial technology for improving adaptation of staple food crops and forages to biotic and abiotic stresses;
  • Soil health in agricultural systems; 
  • Improved control of parasitic pathogens of plants (bacteria, fungi, oomycetes) that cause enormous economic losses as well as environmental damage in natural ecosystems (e.g.: Phytophthora infestans that causes potato blight).


*This list is not exhaustive and applicants working on other relevant topics are welcome to submit their suggestions.

Special opportunities also exist to connect with leading international scientists linked with the BecA-ILRI Hub in the following areas: wheat rusts, insect pests, and nitrogen fixation. Other special opportunities exist to connect with Agri-Food systems CGIAR Research Programs. Such collaboration would allow the applicant’s research to contribute more directly to an impact-oriented research-for-development agenda, and offer additional opportunities for joint activities.
 

Eligibility/applicant requirements

  • The call mainly targets nationals of BecA focus countries (Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda). Under special partnership and collaboration arrangements, applicants from other African countries are considered for the fellowship.  The applicant MUST be a researcher employed within NARS or with strong affiliation.
  • Currently engaged in research in food and nutritional security or food safety in Africa, or in a research area with relevance to agriculture in Africa.
  • Good working knowledge of written and spoken English.
  • Completed online application form.
  • A signed letter of endorsement / nomination of the application from the head of the applicant’s home institute/organization/university faculty.

   
Applicants stand a higher chance of acceptance to the program if:

  • They have own funding to fully support their research and all other costs while at the BecA-ILRI Hub, or
  • They are able to secure a significant portion (at least 50%) of their total research budget and other necessary costs while at the BecA-ILRI Hub. In this case they would be seeking partial funding through application for an ABCF fellowship.


We particularly welcome applications from women and less resourced NARS.

What the fellowship covers

The BecA-ILRI Hub has secured funding to sponsor several fellowships on a highly competitive basis. The fellowship will cover the following costs ;

  • Research costs at the BecA-ILRI Hub;
  • Travel;
  • Medical insurance;
  • Accommodation;
  • A modest subsistence allowance;
  • Cost of publication in an open access journal.

 

Key timelines

  • For any inquiries / clarifications related to this call, please send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Closing date for applications: Applications will be accepted on an on-going basis until 30th June 2018.
  • Notification to successful applicants and commencement of successful projects will be on continuing basis.


Application form

To apply for a fellowship, click on the online application link below:

 http://hpc.ilri.cgiar.org/beca/training/ABCF_2017/

Decision on applications

Details of successful applicants will be posted on the BecA-ILRI Hub website on a continuous basis until completion of the review process.

Note: Successful applicants will be expected to secure leave from their workstation to fully focus on their research fellowship at BecA-ILRI Hub during the fellowship contract period.


Our Sponsors

The ABCF Program is funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the BecA-CSIRO partnership; the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

 

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Attachments: Download this file (ABCF prospectus.pdf)ABCF prospectus.pdf[ ]5294 Kb

Harnessing the power of data: data management workshop at the BecA-ILRI Hub

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub held a two-week training workshop on Data Management and Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS) analysis from 5–16 June 2017. The focus of the workshop was to equip scientists with computational skills needed to manage and analyze GBS data. 

The training was offered in response to the needs of national agricultural research systems (NARS) scientists identified through various engagements with the BecA-ILRI Hub including annual workshops on Advanced Genomics and Bioinformatics in and Introduction to Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics. 

Twenty participants from nine African countries—Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda—had an opportunity to work through their GBS data under the guidance of facilitators from Earlham Institute, UK; Fathom Labs, Kenya; and Ohio State University, USA as well as bioinformatics research associates from the BecA-ILRI Hub.

In this five-minute video, participants from different countries share how they hope to apply the skills they acquired from the workshop. 

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New initiative to accelerate crop improvement for food security in Africa

8f548.jpg16 June 2017—A new initiative to speed up crop improvement in sub-Saharan Africa – Alliance to Champion the Acceleration of Crop Improvement in Africa (ACACIA) was launched today. The alliance has been established by founding members, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) through the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Kenya and the John Innes Centre (JIC) in the UK.

Speaking at the launch, which took place at JIC-UK, the BecA-ILRI Hub director, Jacob Mignouna noted that the initiative will fast-track scientific strides being made by African scientists and their international partners to achieve food security and improve nutrition through sustainable agriculture.

‘This alliance will harness the strengths of the global scientific community, as well as the recent advances in technology to find lasting solutions to the challenge of food insecurity in Africa’ said Mignouna.

‘ACACIA will build on the existing BecA-JIC alliance to provide African crop researchers and institutes access to cutting edge technologies’ added Appolinaire Djikeng, immediate former BecA-ILRI Hub director

‘We hope to develop a cadre of UK scientists who have a deeper understanding of the agricultural challenges in Africa and can connect to African scientists to achieve significant impact through their expertise,’ said JIC director, Dale Sanders.

Cristobal Uauy, JIC’s academic lead for international development and co-leader of ACACIA, stressed the importance of strong linkages with African National Agricultural Research Systems, CGIAR Research Centres and advanced international research institutions to advance the improvement of important African food crops. 

‘This initiative will leverage strategic, multidisciplinary partnerships to contribute to the achievement of the second United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger,’ said Uauy

‘Africa has a quarter of the world’s arable land, but generates only 10 per cent of global agricultural output,’ said ILRI director general Jimmy Smith. ‘The partnerships consolidated through ACACIA will strengthen access to tools for crop improvement for the ultimate benefit of smallholder farmers in Africa,’ he added.

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About ACACIA

The establishment of ACACIA has been made possible through initial funding awarded to JIC by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Activities carried out under ACACIA will build on achievements realized through financial support to the BecA-ILRI Hub from the Australian government, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), European Union, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, UK Department for International Development (DFID), US Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Wellcome Trust, UK. 

 

New project to accelerate use of innovations for increased agricultural productivity in Africa

14 June 2017: An ambitious project to increase the adoption rate of agricultural technologies and reduce the food insecurity burden in Africa was launched at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi Campus last week. 

The Innovations in Technology, Institutional and Extension Approaches towards Sustainable Agriculture and Enhanced Food and Nutritional Security in Africa (InnovAfrica) project is jointly coordinated by the Bioscience eastern and central Africa-ILRI (BecA-ILRI) Hub and the Norwegian Institute of Bio-economy (NIBIO). This four-year project will spearhead the implementation and promotion of innovations that have potential to sustainably increase agricultural productivity in Sub Saharan Africa.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), sub Saharan Africa continues to have high levels of food and nutrition insecurity despite advances in agricultural research and provision of extension services. The low uptake of innovations by farmers has been cited as a barrier transforming farming from subsistence to a profitable activity.

Speaking during the official opening of the five-day workshop marking the InnovAfrica launch, ILRI director general Jimmy Smith emphasized the need for the involvement of smallholder farmer right from the technology generation process.

‘If this project can turn ideas into solutions that add value from the customers’ perspective, then we will make a great contribution to food security search,’ said Smith.

‘Research that is supposed to benefit farmers is often carried out without ithe involvement of farmers,’ said Juvenal Musine, coordinator of the Federation of Farmers and Pastoralists of Rwanda (IMBARAGA). ‘We hope this project will integrate our indigenous knowledge into the new technologies,’ he added.

Adding his voice to the call to work closely with farmers, NIBIO director general Nils Vagstad said ‘It all begins with the farmers–empowering them and building their capacity to handle their challenges.’

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InnovAfrica brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts from 16 institutions including African national agricultural research systems (NARS), CGIAR and international institutions, farmer group representatives and private sector partners. The project spans six African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa – and is funded under the European Union (EU) Africa Research and Innovation Partnership, a partnership between EU and the African Union.

The BecA-ILRI Hub director Jacob Mignouna noted that partnerships and capacity building were at the heart of the project, which will use new approaches of extension services to increase smallholder farmers’ ability to adopt innovative agricultural systems. 

European Commission research programming and policy officer Agnieszka Romanowicz lauded the plans to support the practical application of research findings through multi-actor platforms.

‘What the EC would like to see from this project is the uptake of research products,’ said Romanowicz.

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Read related story: First step towards increased food and nutritional security in Africa

About InnovAfrica

The InnovAfrica project aims at improving food and nutritional security in Africa. This will be achieved by integrating sustainable agriculture intensification systems and innovative institutional approaches with novel extension and advisory services by enhancing capacity building and knowledge sharing in smallholder farming in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The project is coordinated by NIBIO and the BecA-ILRI Hub and brings together a consortium of partners including:

  • Haramaya University (Ethiopia)
  • Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (Kenya)
  • Kenya National Farmers' Federation (Kenya)
  • University of Malawi (Malawi)
  • Soils Food and Healthy Communities Organization (Malawi)
  •  Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rwanda)
  • Modern Dairy Farmers' Cooperative (IAKIB) (Rwanda)
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania)
  • University of Tuscia (Italy)
  • Stichting Dienst Landbrouwkundig Onderzoed (DLO-Alterra) (the Netherlands)
  • Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Norway)
  • Agricultural Research Council (South Africa)
  • International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) South Africa Regional Office (Zimbabwe)
  • Knowledge Intelligence Applications GmbH (Germany)

The project is funded by the EC under the Horizon 2020 program.

 

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