The BecA-ILRI Hub 2016 Advanced Quantitative Genetics and Genomics Concept note

Background  
Projected increases in animal protein demand and consumption are likely to maintain livestock’s position as one of the fastest growing sub-sectors in agriculture for the foreseeable future, particularly in low-income and emerging economies. Genetics and genomics provide one of the greatest opportunities to sustainably improve livestock productivity in these economies, in addition to maintaining genetic diversity.  The design and application of effective breeding programmes are underpinned by understanding of sound genetic principles. Recent advances in molecular biology, implies that genetic progress can be accelerated by means of genomic selection. However, the application of successful breeding programmes continues to be only a dream in Africa due to lack of required capacity and design.  Moreover, the use of genomics in identifying genes associated with production and survival in the harsh climatic conditions of Africa has not received adequate attention.

A number of NARS in Africa continue to use animal research methodologies which are outdated. In addition, most of them lack access to some of the required software for analyzing animal breeding data. This training course seeks to address skills gaps in methodologies in animal quantitative genetics and genomics to increase the capacity of African scientists and institutions to conduct research in animal genetics using methods which are based on recent advances, access to necessary software and ability to design breeding programmes for livestock improvement in Africa.

The main target group is researchers within the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Africa who are actively engaged in Animal breeding and genomics research, and who need the skills to address technology gaps in their own research programs.

Objective(s)
To give Animal breeding researchers from Africa the working knowledge of methods in animal quantitative genetics and genomics that can be applied to address technology gaps in their own breeding research programmes, and which can be disseminated to other researchers at their home institutes.

Scope of the training workshop
Selected applicants will attend an intensive 10-day training course consisting of lectures and hands-on practical training in population genetics, mixed linear models, variance component estimation, genome organization, genetic markers, GWAS and genomic selection among other topics. Participants will also be taught practical programming skills and the use of a number of software.

Expected outputs and outcomes   
Outputs
At least 20 animal breeding researchers from NARS in the Africa equipped with practical knowledge of methods and software in animal quantitative genetics and genomics.

Outcomes
Strengthened practical skills in methods for animal quantitative genetics, genomics and use of animal breeding tools for application to breeding research in NARS in the East and Central Africa region.

Training Approach
The workshop will comprise a series of lectures, extensive hands-on practical, group discussions and experience sharing by participants. Pre and post workshop evaluations will be conducted by both participants and trainers.

Who can apply / selection criteria
The BecA-ILRI Hub is seeking applicants who require basics skills in quantitative genetics and genomics to support their research. The training is targeting NARS researchers, based on evidence of productive scholarship and research, relevance of the workshop to applicant’s current research, and visible engagement in agricultural research within a national research institute or university. Additionally, applicants must meet the following criteria:
•    A national of one of the following BecA countries: Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Madagascar, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. In exceptional cases, applicants from other African countries may be considered.
Please note that applicants from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda are NOT ELIGIBLE to apply. A separate strategy has been developed to support these countries through nominations by home institutions, aiming at building on on-going engagements with BecA-ILRI Hub. However, applications from the above nine countries may be considered only if they are sponsored or have own funding to meet at least 75% of the full cost of the course.

•    Strong affiliation with a national agricultural research program or institution or University in any of the above BecA countries.
•    Currently engaged in agricultural biosciences research.
•    Good working knowledge of written and spoken English.
•    Endorsement by applicant’s home institution through Letter of nomination/recommendation from head of department or institution head.
Women candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.
 
Key Dates
Call release date: 11th March 2016
Closing date for applications: midnight 10th April 2016 (Nairobi time)
Successful applicants will be notified by: 20th April 2016. 
Workshop Dates: 30th May – 10th June, 2016

Sponsorship
There are several funded places for this workshop, on a highly competitive basis. Applicants who can fund their participation will have added advantage. The approximate cost of the course is US$. 1800, excluding flights and accommodation.

Partners
The training course will be conducted in collaboration with the College of Agricultural and environmental science (CAES) at the University of Georgia, USA. The faculty and staff of the CAES are dedicated to discovering, teaching and delivering the science required for healthy living. The animal breeding and genetic group at CAES is a national and internal leader in genetic improvement of livestock and poultry species with expertise ranging from classical quantitative genetics to genomics and bioinformatics. Faculty members in the animal genetic group have strong international research collaboration and capacity building activities including teaching of advanced courses worldwide.

Funding   
This training workshop is funded by;
•    The Australia Government Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through a partnership between Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the BecA-ILRI Hub;
•    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
•    Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida);
•    The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA);
•    The UK Government through the Department for International Development (DFID).
   
Training Venue   
The training workshop will be held at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub at ILRI, Nairobi, is a Centre for excellence in modern plant, animal and microbial biology in Africa. BecA is an initiative developed within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)/ African Union African Biosciences initiative. It consists of the Hub, based on the ILRI campus in Nairobi, Kenya, and a network of regional nodes and other affiliated laboratories and organizations throughout the region. The BecA-ILRI Hub facilities are world class, including a range of molecular, plant transformation and genomics laboratories, and other research platforms. The Hub hosts and conducts research in crop, microbe and livestock areas where new developments in science offer promise to address previously intractable problems constraining Africa’s development.  Capacity building is a major goal of all activities. The scope covers agriculture and food security and their intersections with human health and nutrition, and the sustainable use of Africa’s natural resources. 

For any inquiries about this course please contact either Raphael Mrode (r.mrode at cgiar.org) or Wellington Ekaya (w.ekaya at cgiar.org)

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