ILRI bioscience hub to support international One Health research consortium


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


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


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


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


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: 

  • 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.


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

Click Here

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).

  • For general information on the BecA-ILRI Hub visit
  • For information on the technologies and research-related services available at the BecA-ILRI Hub visit A full prospectus is available at
  • A full prospectus on the ABCF program is attached below.




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. 


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.



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.’


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.


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.


Strengthening bioscience research capacity in Uganda: BecA-ILRI Hub partnership with Gulu University

13 June 2017–The Gulu University vice chancellor Nyeko Pen-Mogi visited the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Nairobi yesterday.

Pen-Mogi was exploring opportunities to strengthen the capacity of the team charged with establishing and maintaining a USD 12 million biosciences research facility at the Gulu University, northern Uganda.

‘I want to ensure that my team is competent in operating and maintaining all the equipment that will be installed in the new lab,’ said Pen-Mogi, adding that he was pleased with the increased capacity of his staff who had already received training at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

The partnership between Gulu University and the BecA-ILRI Hub begun in 2009 with support to the university in developing a proposal that earned the institution a grant to establish a bioscience platform to support the human medicine, veterinary medicine, plant science and basic sciences faculties of the university. 

To date, the Ugandan institution has benefited from a range of capacity building activities including research mentorship through the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship program; training during the BecA-ILRI Hub annual training workshops; hosting special trainings on laboratory management. In 2014, a team from the BecA-ILRI Hub and ILRI engineering department provided technical support in installing the university’s bioscience platform.

During his visit, Pen-Mogi met ABCF fellows from Gulu University currently conducting part of their research at the BecA-ILRI Hub including: Geofrey Kawube a lecturer investigating blast disease management in improved finger millet; and Godfrey Otim and Geoffrey Wokorach who are developing and validating a new diagnostic tool for detection and characterization of sweet potato viruses in East Africa.


Read related story: BecA-ILRI Hub installs bioscience lab at Gulu University in Uganda

Listen to related interviews: Gulu University Gets UGX 1.8 Billion Bio Science Research Lab


Premiere African biosciences center for excellence gets a new director

Dr Jacob Mignouna has been appointed director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub. Mignouna assumes the helm from Dr Appolinaire Djikeng who has held the post since December 2012.  

A plant molecular breeder and geneticist by training, Mignouna brings to the BecA-ILRI Hub a wealth of experience in leading research and managing donors’ investments in agricultural research for development spanning Africa, Europe and USA. 

He has previously served as the director for technical operations at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, and most recently as a senior program officer and senior regional advisor for West Africa at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, USA. 

In welcoming the new director, ILRI director general Dr Jimmy Smith said: 

'We are very pleased that Jacob has agreed to take up this challenging but exciting position as director of the BecA-ILRI Hub. He is eminently well qualified and offers great insights as to what the future of the Hub could look like, bringing high-end biotechnology to bear on Africa’s agricultural opportunities and challenges. I look forward working with him as a member of my leadership team here at ILRI.'

The chair of the BecA-ILRI Hub advisory panel Dr Eugene Terry said:

'On behalf of my colleagues who serve as members of the BecA-ILRI Hub advisory panel, and on my behalf, I warmly welcome the appointment of Jacob to this position. I look forward to working closely with him and the rest of the members of the BecA-ILRI Hub team in fulfilling the mission of enabling African science leaders to address key agricultural challenges through the applications of modern biotechnology.'  

The outgoing BecA-ILRI Hub director Appolinaire Djikeng welcomed Mignouna’s appointment saying: 

'I am delighted to pass the baton to a remarkable champion who has tirelessly contributed in very many ways to agricultural transformation and capacity building in Africa. In the recent past, I have had the opportunity to interact with Jacob and I am confident that under his leadership, the BecA-ILRI Hub will continue to deliver on its commitments–to grow and strengthen its position as a leading institution and important contributor of science for development.'

About his appointment, Jacob Mingouna said: 

'I am very excited about the opportunity to lead this premier African bioscience center. I look forward to building on the legacy of my predecessors and taking the BecA-ILRI Hub to a new horizon. I envision the BecA-ILRI Hub as the lead bioscience center addressing the food security challenges in Africa.'


About the BecA-ILRI Hub

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub is a shared agricultural research and biosciences facility located at and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. It provides support to African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges and acts as a focal point for learning, interaction and strategic research — enabling collaborations in the scientific community to benefit African farmers and markets within the region. The Hub was established as part of an African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) African Biosciences Initiative, which employs modern biotechnology to improve agriculture, livelihoods and food security in eastern and central Africa. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research centres that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations.



Transfering the Golden Gate technology to crop research in Ethiopia

From 3–5 May 2017, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub hosted a workshop on Golden Gate technology for researchers from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Hawassa University and Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute. 

The workshop aimed at familiarizing the researchers with the technology, which can reduce months or years of plant transformation work to a matter of days. The Golden Gate technology allows the rapid assembly of DNA constructs that contain multiple desirable genes, ready for transformation and testing in plants.

The platform at the BecA-ILRI Hub was established with support from the John Innes Centre (JIC) in May 2015. Andy Breakspear and Christian Rogers of JIC conducted the workshop, with support from BecA-ILRI Hub’s Leah Kago. 


Call for applications: Data management and genotyping-by-sequencing analysis workshop

The BecA-ILRI Hub seeks to strengthen the capacity of the African scientific community, to conduct bioscience research and significantly contribute to improved agricultural products that can enhance livelihoods of farmers in the region.

As part of this capacity building programme, the BecA-ILRI Hub will hold a two-week training workshop on Data Management and GBS analysis from 5–16 June 2017. The first week of the workshop will focus on project organization, data management, data analysis, interpretation and visualization of various types of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) datasets. The second week will cover Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS) data analysis and interpretation.

We are seeking applicants who require skills data management to support their research, priority will be given to participants who have NGS datasets, especially SNPs data. Researchers who are currently engaged in agricultural research within a national research organization or university are highly encouraged to apply.

About the program

The program will mainly address:

  1. Data cleaning, formatting and storage 
  2. Downstream statistical analyses for the following areas: (Metagenomics data, Genomics data, Transcriptomics data, Metabolomics data, Field data, Lab data, and other data)
  3. Variant discovery from SNPs data especially Diversity Array Technology (DArTseq) SNPs data
  4. Diversity analysis using TASSEL, R/RStudio, Structure.
  5. Genome-wide association study (GWAS) analysis
  6. Other GBS related topics.

A team of facilitators from the Ohio State University, USA; Earlham Institute, UK; collaborating CGIAR Centers and the BecA-ILRI Hub will conduct the training sessions.

Applicant requirements

  • A national of one of the following BecA countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Applicants from other African countries may be considered. 
  • Currently engaged in biosciences research and having NGS data, especially SNPs.
  • Proficiency in molecular biology and genomics
  • Holders of MSc or PhD in biological sciences
  • Good working knowledge of written and spoken English 

Women researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.

Application procedure

Online applications are submitted using the link given below:

*Please note that a letter of nomination/recommendation from head of department or home institution head is required.

*Incomplete applications will not be considered. 

Key dates

  • Call release: 2 May 2017
  • Application deadline: 14 May 2017
  • Notification to successful applicants: 16 May 2017

About the training venue 

The training workshop will be held at the BecA-ILRI Hub located within the ILRI Campus, Nairobi, Kenya. BecA-ILRI Hub is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform located at and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. The platform increases access to world-class laboratories for African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges. 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, and empowers African institutions to harness innovations for regional impacts in improved agricultural productivity, income, and food and nutritional security. 

More information about the BecA-ILRI Hub is available at: 



The BecA-ILRI Hub's Appolinaire Djikeng appointed director of international tropical livestock centre


Appolinaire Djikeng has been appointed director of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH), a partnership between the University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Djikeng who is currently director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa- (BecA)-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, has also been appointed to a new Chair in Tropical Agriculture and Sustainable Development at the University of Edinburgh.

With a background and interests in genomics, Djikeng brings to his new appointment a wealth of experience in developing and leading biosciences research and development and capacity building programs across agricultural development and public health initiatives.

The Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health was established to build on the world-class research expertise of its partner institutions, ensuring the development and deployment of genetics and genomics technologies to improve livestock productivity and livelihoods in the tropics.


Read the article on ILRI Clippings Blog: Appoliniare Djikeng, of BecA-ILRI Hub, appointed director of leading tropical livestock centre

The BecA-ILRI Hub to support implementation of World Bank centers of excellence initiative

20 April 2017—The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub is set to play a key role in implementing World Bank funded Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (ACE II) initiative. 


As a technical partner to four East African institutions (Egerton University, Kenya; Sokoine University and Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania; and Makerere University, Uganda), the BecA-ILRI Hub will provide technical backing and support the strengthening of capacity for researchers from national institutions through fellowships and workshops.

The ACE II is the second phase of an initiative first launched in West and Central Africa. The new phase will be implemented in 24 centers across eight countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia—and seeks to build research capacity in five regional priority areas: agriculture, applied statistics, education, health, and industry (science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM). 

The Kenya chapter of the initiative was officially launched by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i earlier this month. Already, Egerton University has advertised calls for applications for Masters and PhD Scholarships in sustainable agriculture and agribusiness management to be conducted in part at the BecA-ILRI Hub. Other Kenyan institutions participating in the project are Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology focusing on sustainable use of insects as food and feeds; and Moi University focusing on phytochemicals, textiles and renewable energy (PTRE).

Through this project, each center of excellence will receive USD 4.5–6 million over five years. With this funding, the centers are expected to achieve higher institutional capacity for quality education and advanced research; enhanced national, regional and international research partnerships for increased impact; and improved institutional management.

Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management: MSc and PhD scholarships 2017/2018

The Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management (CESAAM) at Egerton University (Kenya) and funded by World Bank is modelled to contribute to sustainable agricultural and agribusiness management through capacity development, research and technology transfer for enhanced food security. It offers fellowships to support students' training and research in relevant fields including Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management, Animal Sciences, Crop and Soil Sciences, Dairy and Food Sciences.

Applications are invited for Masters and PhD Scholarships for programmes commencing in August 2017. The awardees for the MSc programmes will be on a two year full time study while the PhD awardees will be on a three year full-time study programme.

The limited, competitive Masters and PhD scholarships are open to applicants from Kenyan, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Burundi. Preference will be given to students from the following institutions that are key partners in the project:


  • University of Rwanda, Rwanda
  • University of Juba, South Sudan
  • University of Burundi, Burundi
  • Gulu University, Uganda
  • Egerton University, Kenya
  • Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Kenya
  • BecA ILRI-Hub

The deadline for applying for the scholarships is April 30, 2017. For more details visit the link below:


The BecA-ILRI Hub at conference to increase food availability by reducing postharvest loss

28-31 March 2017—The BecA-ILRI Hub participated in the 1st All Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition held at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to the United Nations, the world population will reach the nine billion by 2050 with Africa’s population accounting for almost 30 percent. Meeting the food and nutrition needs of this growing population requires 70 percent increase in food availability. Approximately 1.3 billion metric tons of food produced annually is (one third of the production) is lost along the supply chains globally. Thus the reduction of food losses and waste is an important strategy to mitigate the shortfall in food availability.


Jane Ambuko, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi and an alumnus of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) capacity building program, championed the convening of the conference as the local organizing committee. The BecA-ILRI Hub plays a key role in strengthening the research capacity of individuals and institutions in African national agricultural research systems (NARS) through the ABCF program. Forty researchers are nominated annually by the NARS to conduct research at the BecA-ILRI Hub through fellowships, while over 200 benefit from training offered through workshops in key skill areas.

According to BecA-ILRI Hub scientist Sita Ghimire, NARS are not investing enough in postharvest research. ‘Out of 600 applications to the ABCF fellowship program, only about 30 focus on postharvest management issues’ he said. 

Ghimire was made this disclosure as a panelist in discussions on the role of capacity development in research on reduction of postharvest food losses and waste. Other panelists supported his view, calling for more attention to be given to curriculum on postharvest waste management in institutions of higher learning.

‘Universities need to institutionalize postharvest research rather than have it embedded in time-bound projects,’ said Paul Nampala, the grants manager at the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) secretariat.

The conference featured the Postharvest Technologies Challenge (PTC) for innovators from all over Africa to share new technologies and ideas developed within the African context.


Ugandan Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation visits the BecA-ILRI Hub

The Ugandan Minister for Science and Technology and Innovation, Hon. Elioda Tumwesigye, visited the BecA-ILRI Hub on Thursday 9 March 2017. Tumwesigye, who was at the ILRI Nairobi campus for a meeting at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) had an opportunity to meet Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund (ABCF) research fellows from Uganda who are currently working at the BecA-ILRI Hub. Accompanying the Minister were AATF executive director Denis Kyetere, Uganda National Council for Science & Technology executive director Peter Ndemere and AATF’s Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) project manager, Daniel Otunge.


Five-day technologists’ training at the BecA-ILRI Hub to enhance national agricultural research

After five days of intensive experiential learning at the BecA-ILRI Hub, six laboratory technologists from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were equipped with skills that will enhance their capacity to support scientists, teach and design research at their home institutions.


The training for technologists, conducted by the BecA-ILRI Hub from 27 February–03 March 2017 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus, is a deliberate effort to enhance support to emerging science leaders in national agricultural research systems (NARS). Every year, the BecA-ILRI Hub offers fellowships to over 50 NARS scientists through the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program. These scientists enhance their skills and knowledge in research, and receive mentorship in science leadership and resource mobilization. 

There are however, limited opportunities for laboratory technologists and technicians in most African NARS, to upgrade their skills in tandem with the researchers. This poses a real challenge in getting effective support to sustain advanced research by ABCF research fellows on returning to their home institutions. During the 5-day training, the technologists experienced hands-on learning while embedded within diverse, ongoing research projects by ABCF research fellows. 

‘I have learnt how to use equipment available at my home institution but which lack staff trained to operate them,’ said John Mshanga from the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Tanzania.


‘Through this workshop I have also made so many useful contacts,’ said Winnifred Akech from Makerere University, ‘I now know that there is support for me and the students I assist, beyond this workshop,’ she added. 

The pilot training will help the BecA-ILRI Hub to better understand the capacity gaps in agricultural bioscience research support in African NARS. 

‘Our alumni are key drivers of change within the NARS,’ said BecA-ILRI Hub capacity building senior scientist, Wellington Ekaya, adding that they can only be effective researchers and change agents if supported by technologists with the necessary capacity.


Photo Gallery View all Photos

BecA Hub Videos

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required