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Achieving food security in Africa is mission possible

Regional, continental and international leaders make the case for greater investment in biosciences research

Advances in bioscience technologies and innovations have the potential to transform agriculture in Africa. For over a decade, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub and its partners have played a vital role in empowering African science leaders to use biosciences in addressing major agricultural challenges.

CelebratingBecA

On 3 February 2016, the BecA-ILRI Hub held its fifteenth anniversary celebration at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi. In 15 years of existence, the BecA-ILRI Hub has provided training in emerging biotechnologies to over 556 African researchers from over 27 countries, availing them access to state of the art laboratories which reflect global technological trends, including: genomics; bioinformatics; mycotoxin and nutritional analysis; tissue culture and plant transformation; and molecular breeding platforms.

The BecA-ILRI Hub has also hosted 226 projects that are responding to national priorities in 21 African countries, and together with national and international partners, made groundbreaking contributions to agriculture including discovery of new viruses at the pig and human interface and in crop; contribution to the release of new sorghum varieties; contribution to a better understanding of the maize lethal necrosis disease; establishment of systems for the diagnosis and management of aflatoxin in maize; and the establishment of a regional forage program to increase livestock productivity.

The February event convened over 200 people from across the globe to celebrate these accomplishments and explore ways to scale-up the Hub’s impacts to achieve food and nutritional security and economic well-being in Africa.

During the opening of the event, Kenyan cabinet secretary for the ministry of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, Willy Bett emphasized the obligation of scientists to contribute to the creation of sustainable agro-food sectors in Africa, and the need for a paradigm shift to fast track the conversion of research-based discoveries to solutions on the ground. Minister Bett said ‘feeding a growing population with less land resources is not mission impossible’, adding that his ministry was committed to ensuring the impact of bioscience research is felt in agricultural development in Kenya. 

In his keynote address, African Union’s New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Agency, Ibrahim Mayaki, described the BecA-ILRI Hub as a key player in agricultural research for development in Africa and lauded the initiative for contributing to the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) and Africa's policy framework for agricultural transformation, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The need to focus on opportunities rather than challenges was emphasized by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith who welcomed partnerships that will support the Hub’s contribution towards a well-nourished Africa.

Representing the BecA-ILRI Hub donor community, the Australian high commissioner to Kenya HE John Feakes and Canadian high commissioner to Kenya HE David Angell noted the BecA-ILRI Hub’s contribution to bridging a technological gap for African researchers. While commending individuals and institutions that were instrumental to the establishing the BecA-ILRI Hub, Gabrielle Persley, research director for the Crawford Fund Australia, challenged potential investors and partners to support the Hub and be a part of the seminal discovery for which it will be famous in the future.

In his vote of thanks, BecA-ILRI Hub director Appolinaire Djikeng recognized the invaluable contributions of African and international research and donor partners, governments and institutions to what he termed ‘the great African success story’.

The Team: BecA-ILRI Hub staff and ABCF fellows

 

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Read the announcement about this event.

Learn more about the BecA-ILRI Hub here

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View a collection of and social media coverage of the event by scrolling down through one page on Storify: CelebrateBecA—15 years of African agricultural biosciences excellence

View the ILRI livestream footage of the event

Watch a new 4-min video about the BecA-ILRI Hub

Follow the hashtag #CelebrateBecA for tweets about the event

 

The BecA-ILRI Hub celebrates 15 years of biosciences in and for Africa

An upcoming event on 3 February 2016 will mark the 15th anniversary of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research (BecA-ILRI) Hub's existence as a center for excellence in agricultural bioscience research.

The event brings together global, regional and local actors in agricultural biosciences research for development  at the ILRI's headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. It celebrates the role played by the BecA-ILRI Hub and its many national agricultural research system partners in advancing African agriculture and food and nutritional security.

Invited speakers and participants will deliberate on ways to scale the Hub’s programs and impacts, particularly by working in partnership with and further empowering African science leaders and institutions. The Hub’s technology platforms, offering vastly improved precision and efficiency in crop and livestock research, will be on display.

Celebrating BecA@15 will answer four questions.

  • Do the BecA-ILRI Hub’s platforms and services offer the region comparative advantages in agricultural science?
    What are they?
  • Has the Hub’s support through co-funding national researchers helped Africa meet its agricultural priorities?
    How?
  • Are there unexplored opportunities for the Hub to support African governments in implementing their agricultural policies?
    What are they?
  • What has enabled the Hub’s technology platforms, research projects and capacity building initiatives to thrive?
    What will do so in future?

The event

The event will be officially opened by the cabinet secretary for the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the honourable Willy Bett. It will feature speakers and panelists from organizations such as the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD), the Australian and Canadian high commissions in Kenya, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John Innes Centre and the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

Two high-powered panels will explore the BecA-ILRI Hub’s evolution in the agricultural biosciences space and the potential for science and technology to accelerate Africa’s agricultural development. Distinguished alumni of the Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) will describe the impacts the Hub has had on their research work, careers and institutions. Interactive displays and exhibition stands will showcase ways the Hub and its partners are helping to transform agricultural landscapes across Africa. And a state-of-the-art ‘Integrated Genotyping Service and Support Service’ supported by BMGF will be launched.

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The morning sessions will be livestreamed and can be viewed here.

Find out more about the BecA-ILRI Hub by visiting its website and blog.

For more information about the event, please contact BecA-ILRI Hub's Ethel Makila: e.makila [at] cgiar.org

For information about media engagement, please contact ILRI’s Muthoni Njiru: m.njiru [at] cgiar.org

Follow the event on social media with the hashtag #CelebrateBecA

Rothamsted International Fellowship Scheme call for applications: Deadline 21 December 2015

The Rothamsted International Fellowship Scheme (RIFS) supports scientists from developing countries to train at Rothamsted Research for 6-12 months on a research project they develop jointly with a Project Leader at Rothamsted. 

Eligibility

The Candidate must meet the following criteria:

  • be of doctoral status, with at least two years post-doctoral experience. Candidates without Higher Degrees must have equivalent research experience to be considered eligible for the scheme. Applications will not be considered where the main objective of the visit is research leading to a higher degree for the Candidate.
  • The Candidate must be a citizen of a developing country, or have been based exclusively within a developing country. Please note that developing countries are defined as the countries listed on the DAC list of ODA recipients (http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/documentupload/DAC%20List%20of%20ODA%20Recipients%202014%20final.pdf – also available in the Downloads section).
  •  It is essential that the Candidate returns to employment in their home country where the work conducted in the fellowship can be applied. Candidates who have extensive and/or continuous employment in a developed country are not likely to be awarded an RI Fellowship. If the Candidate has previously travelled overseas to carry out research, there must be evidence that the skills gained have been applied in their home country.
  • The Candidate should know their Rothamsted Project Leader (either directly or indirectly), or have been highly recommended.
  • In addition to the support of the Rothamsted Research Project leader, applications must also have the support of the Head of Department where the fellowship will be hosted.

For more information and to apply, visit the Rothamsted website.

The Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund 2016 – 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 of 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.
  • 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.

Areas of research

Applicants must be scientists affiliated (through employment) with an African National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) or university, 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;
  • Food safety, including addressing aflatoxin and other mycotoxins contamination in food and feeds;
  • Nutritional analysis of food and animal feeds;
  • 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.

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 CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs): including but not limited to Livestock & Fish, Agriculture for Nutrition & Health, Humid tropics etc.  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

  • National (passport holder) of a BecA-ILRI Hub target country for this call: Burundi, Central African 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 we may consider applicants from other African countries. The applicant MUST be a researcher employed at a NARI or university.

Please note that applicants from BURKINA FASO, CAMEROON, ETHIOPIA, GHANA, KENYA, RWANDA, SENEGAL, TANZANIA and UGANDA are NOT eligible to apply to this call. A separate strategy has been developed to support these countries through nominations, to build on the on-going engagements between national research organizations and universities in these countries and the BecA-ILRI Hub. The nomination will also aim at filling priority national research gaps jointly identified through on-going engagements. HOWEVER, research scientists from the nine countries may apply to this call only if;

(i) They have own funding to fully support their research and all other costs while at the BecA-ILRI Hub, or

(ii) 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.

  • 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 of the application from the head of the applicant’s home institute/organization/university faculty.

We particularly welcome applications from women and less resourced NARIs and universities.

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[1];

  • Research costs at the BecA-ILRI Hub;
  • Travel;
  • Medical insurance;
  • Accommodation;
  • A modest subsistence allowance.

Key timelines

  • For any inquiries / clarifications related to this call, please send an email to: w.ekaya(at)cgiar.org Responses to inquiries/clarifications will close on December 20th 2015 mid-night (Nairobi time).
  • Closing date for applications: December 31st 2015.
  • Notification to early applicants will start from January 22nd  2016. The notification process will be completed by February 22nd  2016 (indicative dates depending on volume of applications).
  • Implementation of projects: projected start date is late March 2016. 

Application form

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

Link to application form:  http://hpc.ilri.cgiar.org/beca/training/ABCF_2016/index.html 

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 Research Fellowship program is supported by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK Government through the Department for International Development (DFID), the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), and the Australian Government through a partnership between Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the BecA-ILRI Hub. 

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[1] Please note that BecA-ILRI Hub-funded fellowships do not cover the cost of fieldwork or research at the applicant’s home institute. Applicants who can fund their  proposed research at BecA-ILRI Hub (either fully or partially) will have  added advantage.

 

International Foundation for Science (IFS) individual research grants 2016 call for applications - Deadline 31/12/2015

The International Foundation for Science invites early-career scientists in IFS eligible developing countries to apply for IFS Individual Research Grants and carry out research projects for a period of up to 3 years. An applicant must have at least an MSc/MA, be younger than 35 years of age (for men) or 40 years of age (for women) and must do the research project in an IFS eligible country.
 
Young researchers wishing to start or consolidate their independent research careers and who fulfil the IFS eligibility criteria are welcome to apply.

For more information, download the full CALL FOR APPLICATIONS.

Alliance to tackle African food security challenges strengthened

The John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich and the Biosciences east and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Nairobi have announced advances in their collaboration which aims to find scientific solutions to African food security challenges.



The BecA-JIC alliance works on collaborative research projects and, in doing so, builds agricultural research capacity in the BecA-ILRI Hub and more widely in eastern and central Africa.

The BecA-ILRI Hub Director Dr Appolinaire Djikeng, visited JIC Director of International Strategy and Liaison Support Serviceshis Dr Christopher Darby earlier this week to thrash out a ten-point programme of collaboration over the next two years. Projects include improving food crops using modern breeding techniques, reducing the levels of toxins found in certain African crops and transferring key technology platforms from the UK to Africa.

The John Innes Centre has already posted a full-time research scientist to Nairobi as a concrete expression of the alliance’s goal to strengthen research through the mobility of scientists.
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Original post by Kate Sweeney on BusinessWeekly

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Research to inform continental action plan for control of African swine fever in Africa

From 10–12 November 2015, key stakeholders in the pig industry in Africa will convene in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to validate a regional strategy for the control of African swine fever (ASF) in Africa and develop a continental program for its implementation.

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The strategy was developed by a task force set up in May 2014 and comprising the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) andAfrican Union Interafrican Bureau For Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).

For two years, a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by the BecA-ILRI Hub has worked to develop a clearer understanding of the pig systems and constraints to pig farming in East Africa a  with a special focus on ASF. The pig industry in Africa which has grown in economic significancewith the current pig population totalling 34.2 million head and official figures putting pork production at 1.2 million tonnes a year is threatened by ASF, a devastating disease of pigs that is present in more than 20 countries in Africa. African swine fever is highly contagious and causes up to 100 percent mortality in pig herds. Although ASF does not cause infection in people, it impacts on the livelihoods of farmers, and others who trade pigs and pork, through loss of income and food. The Australian funded research focused on pig production systems, ASF causes and transmission patterns, and control measures for the disease.

Drawing from studies on production systems, breed characteristics, health constraints including zoonotics, and disease epidemiology the project has successfully modelled disease transmission dynamics. These studies are supported by biosciences research capacity at the BecA-ILRI Hub that include deep sequencing, genotyping and bioinformatics, in vivo challenge containment facilities and lab based platforms that supports immunology. Based on this work, guidelines for the control of the spread of ASF, developed in partnership with key actors in the departments of veterinary services in the project target countries is informing the regional strategy which will be validated in Ouagadougou.

The strategy is based on three founding principles:

  • It is knowledge-based, using the  best available epidemiological and socio-economic knowledge and experiences and on optimal preparedness, to reduce prevalence and prevent further spread of ASF;
  • It is area-specific, addressing country and sector-specific epidemiological scenarios and technical options for prevention and control; developing regional and national capacities to monitor the disease situation and implement and maintain prevention and control options; and providing sustainable, technically sound and socially equitable support to control ASF;
  • It is holistic, promoting gradual transformation of the less bio-secure, small-scale, scavenging production system common in Africa into a more bio-secure, small scale, semi-intensive production system. The strategy also promotes biosecurity in existing semi-intensive and intensive production systems.

As the strategic research partner the development of the regional action plan, the 'African swine fever: diagnostics, surveillance, epidemiology and control' project team represented by ILRI scientist Edward Okoth who leads the project, will make two presentations on ASF control initiatives. The presentation on ‘ASF Control Research and epidemiology in East Africa’ will highlight research on pig value chains, ASF and how research outputs have contributed to ASF control and pig sector development. The presentation on ‘Managing of ASF risk in local pig value chains through increased prevention, detection and response capability’ will focus on a proposed ASF control approach developed in partnership with Australia’s national science organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Partners in the BecA-ILRI Hub ASF project include CSIRO, Australia; Makerere University, Uganda; Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, Uganda; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (Department of Veterinary Services), Kenya; and Centro de Investigación en Sanidad Animal (CISA–INIA):  Europian Union and FAO reference laboratory for ASF, Spain.

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Read related story on African swine fever research at the BecA-ILRI Hub: Understanding the molecular variation and evolution of African swine fever virus in Uganda

Learn more about the project: African swine fever: diagnostics, surveillance, epidemiology and control

 

Taking stock of Sweden’s research for development investment in Africa: Dr Claes Kjellström from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency visits the BecA-ILRI Hub

The Swedish Government’s strategic approach to sustainable development through research for development is at the heart of the sustained support for agricultural research programs in Africa including the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub.

A recent visit by Dr. Claes Kjellström, Senior Policy Specialist in the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s Department for Africa,  to the BecA-ILRI Hub demonstrated Sweden’s support for increased agricultural biotechnology as one of the means of achieving food and nutritional security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2011, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has provided financial support to a wide-ranging mix of innovative research for development and capacity building activities led by the BecA-ILRI Hub and implemented in collaboration with African national agricultural research systems (NARS). The Swedish funded research programs focus on two major agricultural development issues in Africa—achieving food security and climate change mitigation. The visit by Kjellström was his first opportunity to familiarize himself with the Swedish funded activities at the BecA-ILRI Hub since he assumed leadership of the BecA-Sweden partnership from Dr Gity Berhavan.

The one-day visit started with a partnership introductory meeting with Dr Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the BecA-ILRI Hub. During this first session, Kjellström was briefed on current status of the BecA-Sweden partnership and its importance in the delivery of BecA’s mission since 2011. Kjellström then met with leading scientists and other key BecA staff who have been leading various components of the partnership.

Swedish investment in African agricultural research

Morris Agaba highlighted the role played by the program on genetic diversity of goats in Ethiopia and Cameroon program in influencing national policy and farmer practices to increase investment and management of goat genetic resources; Sita Ghimire gave an overview of the ‘climate-smart Brachiaria grasses to increase livestock production in East Africa’ research program which is being implemented in Kenya and Rwanda and has raised the profile of these grasses as a preferred forage for livestock especially in drought prone areas; and Francesca Stomeo talked about the suite of genomics and bioinformatics tools developed through the Plant virome project and have been applied in the exploration of the viral community in different agro-ecological zones in Kenya.  

On the capacity building activities that are co-funded by the Swedish Government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Australian government, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, Wellington Ekaya underscored the impact being achieved through the close to 400 fellowships of up to one year that have been supported; over 600 NARS scientists have attended short courses; and the upgrading of bioscience research capabilities in four regional research institutions. 

Josephine Birungi who has oversight of the development of various technology platforms with the support of Swedish expertise from the Swedish National Veterinary Institute (SVA) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The tools and the knowledge gained on these platforms are being transferred to national laboratories.

Touring the state-of-the-art biosciences laboratories

During a tour of the laboratory facilities, Kjellström met with recipients of the ABCF fellowships currently working at the BecA-ILRI Hub including Damaris Mwangi from the University of Nairobi; Asheber Tegegn from Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; and Francis Mwatuni from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service. Mwangi and Tegegne’s studies are leveraging on the research conducted by the Swedish funded research on climate smart Brachiaria grasses to improve livestock feed in Africa while Mwatuni is utilizing the genomics tools developed through the Plant virome project to develop a better understanding of MLND.

Emerging opportunities

Kjellström observed that the BecA-ILRI Hub’s approach to research for development is in consistent with the Swedish Government’s strategy of creating synergies between research across different programs as well as with other development investments. In agreement with these sentiments, Djikeng emphasized the emerging opportunities for further support that have arisen from Sweden’s initial support.

‘In addition to being in alignment with Sida’s regional cooperation agenda and with the BecA-ILRI Hub’s mission and business plan, the developing research areas are well positioned to respond to key national, regional and continental priorities,’ said Djikeng.

Comprehensive plans for engagement with selected NARS in eastern and central Africa have been developed to guide joint efforts and investment in research and capacity building that include commitments of resources from national governments in eastern and central Africa. A similar approach is being used with key partnering institutions in West Africa in responding to the increasing demand for support from the region.

Building on the success of the climate smart Brachiaria grasses program and the wide range of partnerships established in 11 countries, the BecA-ILRI Hub is poised to lead a regional forage program to ensure that farmers increase their options for animal nutrition. Key innovations delivered under the Brachiaria program will be pivotal to support the establishment and acceleration of robust research programs on livestock productivity for other important forage species in the region.

Outputs and outcomes from the robust livestock productivity program which has strong engagement of national research institutes and universities have already begun to guide key investments in Cameroon and other countries. There are also emerging opportunities for crop improvement including plant pathogen interactions, emerging plant disease, new cultivar development through breeding for high yield disease resistance and nutritional quality that would greatly enhance BecA’s capacity and leverage current strategic partnerships with African partners and other collaborators in advanced research institutions across the world.

Promising returns on investment

Kjellström termed his visit as an excellent update of what had been done with Sweden’s investment since 2009, saying he concurred with his predecessor’s assessment of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s achievements. ‘In her hand-over report to me Gity has described the BecA-ILRI Hub’s performance as being excellent,’ he said. ‘You have achieved all objectives with very few risks’, he added.

 

 

Regional cooperation in agricultural bioscience research: maximizing the opportunities at the BecA-ILRI Hub

2 October 2015—Increased investment in modern biosciences can significantly contribute to the transition of sub Saharan Africa from a source of raw materials to a producer of value added products and drive economic growth on the continent.

According to Dr Peter Ndemere executive secretary of Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), science, technology and innovation in general and modern bioscience in particular are critical to the transformation of regional populations from subsistence to modern and prosperous communities. Ndemere was speaking at a symposium convened on 29 September 2015 at the UNCST headquarters in Kampala, Uganda, to discuss regional cooperation in biosciences for agricultural development.

The gathering of researchers, policy makers and representatives of international agricultural research institutions were exploring opportunities for collaboration in bioscience research and capacity building for improved agricultural productivity, income generation and food and nutritional security; and prospects for the Uganda national agricultural research system (NARS) actors to maximize opportunities available at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa–International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr Appolinaire Djikeng, the director of the BecA-ILRI Hub highlighted the support that has already been availed to Ugandan agricultural research institutions totaling over USD 725,000. The BecA-ILRI Hub’s contributions include ongoing research and capacity building activities with Makerere University, Gulu University and the National Agricultural Research Organization.

‘The BecA-ILRI Hub presents an opportunity for the African scientists to develop their capacities and should be seen as an extension of the capabilities available within the NARS’ said Djikeng.

Dr Theresa Sengooba, chairperson of UNCST commended the BecA-ILRI Hub for supporting regional NARS in seeking practical solutions to agricultural development challenges in the country and the region. Dr Sengooba who is also a BecA-ILRI Hub advisory panel member underscored the need to strengthen public-private, public-public and private-private partnerships for sustainable collaboration. 

To demonstrate the contribution of the BecA-ILRI Hub to bioscience innovation in the region, Dr Charles Masembe, associate professor at Makerere University talked about his research on African swine fever while Dr Laban Turyagyenda, director of the Ngeta Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute highlighted his work on tolerant cassava varieties, both of which have been done in collaboration with the BecA-ILRI Hub. Dr Alex Bombom, a post-doctoral scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub gave insights to his groundbreaking work in the development of a hybrid crop between maize and sorghum, with high potential for dual use as food and fuel. 

The symposium was attended by 30 participants comprising UNCST Board Members and senior managers, senior scientists and researchers from NARO and Makerere University and government officials from the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports. The ILRI country representative, Dr Ben Lukuyu was also present at the symposium which was moderated by Dr Julius Ecuru from UNCST.

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Read the original article on the UNCST website.

 

Enhancing agricultural research in Africa through bioinformatics–The BecA-ILRI Hub hosts annual training advanced genomics and bioinformatics workshop

On 10 September 2015 the African Academy of Sciences (AAAS) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency launched the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA). The impetus for this initiative is to increase the capacity of African Scientists to conduct for scientific and health research in Africa.

During the same week, the BecA-ILRI Hub kicked off its annual Advanced Genomics and Bioinformatics training workshop. The intensive 10-day training which runs up to Friday 18 September is among the four annual workshops designed by the BecA-ILRI Hub to address capacity gaps in agricultural biosciences research in Africa.

Through this workshop, researchers from national agricultural research systems (NARS) in eastern, central and western Africa acquire skills that help them decipher the huge amounts of biological data that could translate to the more rapid solution of challenges to acquiring food and nutritional security on the continent.

 Juliah Khayeli from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya a participant of the Advanced  Bioinformatics Workshop 2015

Julia Khayeli, a participant from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural Technology in Kenya said ‘I am very excited because I have finally made sense of the sequences I got from my research!’ In addition to deciphering her data, Khayeli had the opportunity to network with researchers from 12 eastern, central and western African countries.

 The workshop is being conducted in collaboration with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) which has partnered with the BecA-ILRI Hub for the last nine years, providing access to technical advice and enhanced expertise from the institution and co-convening regional bioinformatics workshops.

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Read a related story on the partnership with SLU:

 

Building bioinformatics capacity in Africa: The BecA-ILRI Hub and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences partnership

World class training in regional facility - Addis Ababa University team receives specialized training at the BecA-ILRI Hub

NAIROBI, 4 September 2015—The shortage of scientists, engineers, health professionals and technicians in sub-Saharan Africa has been blamed for the lack of sustainable homegrown solutions to development challenges on the continent. To address this gap, innovative approaches to providing high level Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills training with the limited national resources available to majority African governments of must be sought.  

From 17-28 August 2015, a team of eight scientists from the Addis Ababa University received a tailor-made training in molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Nairobi.

By undertaking the training just 1,500km from home, the team, which had received funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH, USA) to conduct research on tuberculosis in Ethiopia, was able to minimize project costs of time, travel and accommodation. The project entitled “Systems Biology for Molecular Analysis of Tuberculosis in Ethiopia” is being implemented in collaboration with the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), USA.

Appolinaire Djikeng, BecA-ILRI Hub Director (left) and Wellington Ekaya Senior Scientist, Capacity Building (right) present Prof Gobena Ameni with his certificate of participation

‘When my counterpart Dr Rembert Pieper from JCVI proposed the BecA-ILRI Hub as the training sight, I was excited because it meant we could have more people trained,’ said Prof.  Gobena Ameni, project principal investigator and Professor at the Addis Ababa University. ‘The option of travelling to USA for the same training would have cost the project too much time and money,’ he added.
The two-week training which comprised lectures and hands-on experience enabled the participants acquire basic skills in genomic DNA purification, polymerase chain reaction, plasmid cloning, DNA sequencing and bioinformatics.

‘The training was excellent and has opened our minds to new ideas and areas of study,’ said Ameni.  ‘It will not only be relevant to our current project NIH-funded project but also for our projects in other areas’ he said.

Appolinaire Djikeng presents certificate to Zufan Bedewi from Addis Ababa UniversityThe workshop was conducted as part of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s mandate to strengthen the capacity of African national research scientists and institutions. This shared research platform exists to enable African science leaders to solve some of Africa’s key agricultural challenges through the applications of modern biotechnology by hosting research, conducting trainings and by providing research related services.

‘The BecA-ILRI Hub will build on this model of building capacity and continue to engage national agricultural research systems in the region in order to sharpen our focus on innovatively responding to the needs of the NARS,’ said Wellington Ekaya, a senior scientist in charge of capacity building. ‘This kind of engagement means that BecA-ILRI Hub can build the capacity of research scientist from African NARS to conduct high-end research at an affordable cost’.

A training workshop on Scientific Research Paper Writing

 

The BecA-ILRI Hub hereby invites applications for a workshop on scientific research paper writing to be held from 26-30 October 2015. The workshop is one of BecA-ILRI Hub’s annual training workshops under the capacity building portfolio, whose objective is to strengthen the capacity of African NARS to effectively, efficiently and sustainably deliver on their national mandates. The training will be conducted at the ILRI Campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 

Eligibility / Applicant requirements
The workshop is generally open to PhD students and early career agricultural researchers with a strong interest in improving their writing skills. More specific applicant requirements include the following:

•    African scientist with PhD or MSc in any agricultural discipline
•    Fluent in English (written and spoken)
•    Currently conducting agricultural bio sciences research with an African national agricultural research program or university in one of the BecA countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda.
•    Must have a project report for conversion to a paper, and/or analyzed research data through figures and tables Women candidates are particularly encouraged to apply

How to apply
Interested eligible scientists / researchers should apply by completing the online application form; http://hpc.ilri.cgiar.org/beca/training/Applications/Writeshop2015/
In addition, the applicant must attach a supporting letter from his/her supervisor or Head of Institution. 

Key dates / Application deadline

•    Call for applications release: 27 August 2015
•    Application deadline: 18 September 2015
•    Information to successful applicants: 24 September 2015- Applications submitted after the 18 September 2015 deadline and incomplete applications will not be considered.

 

Sponsorship
There are several fully funded places for this workshop. However, applicants who can fund their participation have an added advantage. The cost of the workshop is $1500, excluding flights and accommodation

Inquiries
Inquiries about the workshop and / or the BecA-ILRI Hub Capacity Building Program should be directed to Dr. Wellington Ekaya, Senior Scientist Capacity Building (w.ekaya "at" cgiar.org) or Ms. Valerian Aloo, Capacity Building Program Officer (v.aloo "at" cgiar.org).

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

Attached is the concept note and information flyer for the workshop.

Attachments: Download this file (Concept note_Scientific Paper Writing BecA Annual Workshop - 2015.pdf)Concept note_Scientific Paper Writing BecA Annual Workshop - 2015.pdf[ ]170 Kb

The BecA-ILRI Hub hosts Kenyan legislators on an agro-biotechnology fact-finding mission

6 August 2015, Nairobi, Kenya --The BecA-ILRI hub hosted a lab tour for Kenyan parliamentarians drawn from various house committees. The Members of parliament were on a mission to assess the human and infrastructural capacity in agricultural biotechnology research in Kenya.

The tour which was organized by the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) under the BioAWARE programme in collaboration with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), the Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (KUBICO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) included visits to Kenyatta University and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).


The visit which gave the law makers an opportunity to interact with scientists was hailed as an eye opener by the chair of the education committee in parliament, Hon. Sabina Chege who took part in the tour. “I urge scientists to organize more such events to equip the legislature with vital information in research that will enable them make informed decisions” she said.

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Read original post in the CropBiotech: Kenya Has Capacity to Grow GMOs, Parliamentarians Say

 

Celebrating outgoing BecA-Sweden partnership leader, Gity Behravan

Wednesday 5 August 2015 - The BecA-ILRI Hub staff and Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellows held a celebration in honour of Dr Gity Behravan, First Secretary – Regional Research Cooperation, at the Embassy of Sweden in Kenya.

Through her oversight role in the BecA-Sweden partnership, Berhavan has been instrumental in the growth of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s capacity to empower African scientists and national agricultural research systems (NARS) to solve Africa’s agricultural challenges by strengthening research for development capacity in biosciences.

'Having engaged with BecA since the very beginning, I am impressed with how it has grown into a vibrant program that is relevant to the wider African science agenda,' said Behravan. 'I am not leaving you behind, but will continue to support this program in my new role in Stockholm.'

The partnership which is funded by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) brings together partners from African NARS, private sector, international research institutes, foreign universities and the CGIAR to conduct research  aimed at achieving food security and climate change mitigation. The partnership also provides financial support for the BecA-ILRI Hub annual training workshops and avails technical advice and enhanced capacity from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to the bioinformatics platform.

Berhavan who has been with the partnership since its inception in 2011 will be relocating to Stockholm Sweden.

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Read more about the BecA-Sweden partnership: Enhancing international partnerships for agricultural productivity in Africa – The BecA-ILRI Hub’s research for development partnership with Sweden in focus

Read a related story on the partnership with SLU: Building bioinformatics capacity in Africa - The BecA-ILRI Hub and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences partnership

UK chief scientific adviser visits Kenya: Research and capacity building partnerships for development

A visit by the United Kingdom Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya on 15 July 2015 highlighted how UK’s investment in research in Africa is spurring the emergence of strategic partnerships between research institutions in UK and Africa.

During his visit to ILRI, Sir Mark toured the state-of-the-art Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI (BecA-ILRI) Hub laboratories, a facility that provides access to and hosts research by African national scientists and their partners working to tackle key challenges to food and nutritional security on the continent. 

Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program

Sir Walport learned how the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and other donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sweden, Australia (DFAT) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) are jointly supporting a program that brings over 50 African national scientists a year to the BecA-ILRI Hub to conduct cutting edge, appropriate research aimed at addressing key constraints to African food and nutritional security, from BecA-ILRI Hub capacity building scientist Wellington Ekaya. 

To demonstrate the impact that the ABCF program is already having on national programs’ research, Barberine Assongo from the University of Dschang in Cameroon briefed Sir Walport on the research she is conducting as an ABCF fellow to control the economically significant cattle disease, East coast fever (ECF). This tick borne disease is responsible for the deaths of over one million cattle each year valued at over $300 million in Sub Saharan Africa. Although a vaccine based on the whole live parasite is available, its need for cold storage and delivery has hampered widespread use in endemic areas. There are also concerns about spreading the disease to new areas by establishing a ‘carrier’ state in vaccinated animals. Through her research, Barberine hopes to contribute to the development of a vaccine based on parts of the parasite which will not require cold-chain storage and delivery.

Stemming food losses from devastating crop diseases in Africa 

Among the scientists Sir Walport met during his visit to ILRI were researchers Jagger Harvey, Josiah Mutuku (BecA-ILRI Hub) and Samuel Mutiga (University of Arkansas/BecA-ILRI Hub visiting researcher) who are working on components of bean and rice improvement projects supported by the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID) initiative, funded by UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and (through a grant awarded to BBSRC) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). 

The SCPRID project focused on beans is working to manipulate natural dynamics in bean-virus-aphid interactions for the benefit of over 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on the common bean for nutrition and income. A team of scientists from University of Cambridge and Rothamsted Research (UK); the BecA-ILRI Hub; and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)-Pan African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) are exploring new ways of controlling bean virus diseases by altering the feeding patterns and behaviour of aphids through this initiative.

In the SCPRID rice project being partly conducted at the BecA-ILRI Hub, researchers from University of Exeter, the Ohio State University, the University of Arkansas, the BecA-ILRI Hub, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and the Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso are using genomics to develop durable blast resistance in rice in Africa. The production of rice which has recently become the staple food for a large population in Africa is threatened by rice blast, a fungal disease which causes a global loss of amounts large enough to feed around 60 million people each year. The project has collected and tested blast fungal isolates from East and West Africa against a panel of potentially resistant rice lines, and is devising the breeding strategies for deployment in each of the two regions.

New alliances for capacity building in research

Through strategic collaborations with advanced research institutions in the UK, the BecA-ILRI Hub has set the stage for sub-regional organizations, African universities and research institutions within the BecA region; western and southern Africa and beyond to benefit from relevant high-end basic research. A Memorandum of Understanding between the BecA-ILRI Hub and the John Innes Centre (JIC), UK, has brought one of the leading plant science institutes in the world as direct partners in the research for development pipeline for African agricultural improvement. The JIC Director of International Strategy and Liaison, Christopher Darby and JIC molecular wheat breeder Cristobal Uauy who were in Nairobi to lead a selection panel for a JIC Science for Africa PhD studentship in yellow wheat rust research, expounded on the role of the alliance in significantly augmenting the BecA-ILRI Hub’s ability to support NARS research to Sir Walport. 

Two key collaborations under the BecA-JIC alliance on crop improvement received special attention. Alemu Abate, a grass pea breeder from Askum University in Ethiopia who is currently an ABCF fellow and Peter Emmrich, a JIC grass pea researcher currently at the BecA-ILRI Hub to provide technical support, highlighted the significance of Abate’s project to produce safer lines of the drought-hardy crop that can survive under harsh conditions faced by millions of subsistence farmers, but which is associated with a plant toxin that causes paralysis. Doreen Mutoni, a bean breeder from the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and ABCF fellow, Tilly Eldridge, a JIC scientist based at the BecA-ILRI Hub and Cristobal Uauy a JIC molecular wheat breeder, highlighted how Mutoni and the RAB program are being supported in applying genomics to introduce molecular breeding to an already strong conventional breeding program. 

Eldridge’s secondment at the BecA-ILRI Hub is funded by The John Innes Foundation and a BMGF supplementary grant to the Engineering Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA) project. Over the next year, Eldridge and other JIC researchers will be supporting capacity building activities at the BecA-ILRI Hub. The BecA-ILRI Hub’s capacity to connect NARS scientists to global research partners in an aggressive effort towards a food and nutritionally secure future continues to be strengthened by a four year Program Support Grant of USD 12.5 million being funded jointly by DFID and BMGF. 

Call for applications: A training course on advanced genomics and bioinformatics

Workshop dates: 7 – 18, September 2015
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 in collaboration with SLU will hold a training workshop on Advanced Genomics and Bioinformatics commencing from 7th– 18th September 2015. The workshop aims to provide a learning forum for researchers in bioinformatics, computational biology as well as scientists utilizing computational methods in their research.


We are seeking applicants from East and Central Africa who require advanced skills in Bioinformatics to support their research. A total of 25 graduate students and early career researchers will be selected based on evidence of productive research and relevance of the training to their current research. Applicants who are currently engaged in agricultural research within a national research institute or a university are highly encouraged to apply.
Selected participants will attend an intensive 2 weeks training workshop at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, Kenya. The program includes comprehensive lectures and hands-on training sessions in Linux, Genomics and Next generation sequencing technologies, Genome and transcriptome assembly, Metagenome and metagenomic analysis tools and their applications to biological research.

A team of creditable facilitators from the SLU, New York University and BecA-ILRI Hub (Kenya) will conduct the training.

Applicant requirements
•    A national of one of the BecA countries: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
•    Affiliated with a national research program or university in the East African BecA region
•    Currently engaged in biosciences research
•    a minimum of MSc in biological sciences
•    Good working knowledge of written and spoken English
•    Online application form completed by 10th August 2015:
http://hpc.ilri.cgiar.org/beca/training/Applications/AdvancedBFX2015/

Women candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.

Applications received after deadline and incomplete applications will not be considered. Successful applicants will be notified by 14 August 2015.

The workshop concept note is attached.
 
Thank you for considering this opportunity and we look forward to hearing from you.

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

Attachments: Download this file (BfX workshop 2015 CN-Final.pdf)BfX workshop 2015 CN-Final.pdf[ ]303 Kb

Enhancing international partnerships for agricultural productivity in Africa – The BecA-ILRI Hub’s research for development partnership with Sweden in focus

From 29-30 June 2015, the Director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Appolinaire Djikeng, visited the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in Stockholm to discuss Sweden’s continued role in enhancing agricultural productivity in Africa.

For the past nine years, the BecA-ILRI Hub and SLU have been partnering to increase the capability of African national agricultural research systems (NARS) in bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques. The BecA-ILRI Hub has also, since 2012, been implementing a suite of unique research projects focused on achieving food security and climate change mitigation with funding from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sida.

The deliberations during the meetings focused on the key outputs of the BecA- Sweden partnership, the lessons learned and emerging areas of collaboration.  Plans for joint resource mobilization and implementation of collaborative programs were also discussed in the context of a presentation given by Djikeng on ‘The BecA-ILRI Hub and its role in enhancing agricultural productivity in Africa through regional and international collaborations for research for development.’

Read the original story here: SLU enhances the collaboration with bioscience hub in eastern and central Africa

Read a related story on the partnership with SLU here:

Building bioinformatics capacity in Africa: The BecA-ILRI Hub and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences partnership

Find out more about the BecA-Sweden partnership here.

 

Top plant research institution stations scientist in Africa - The BecA-ILRI Hub John Innes Centre alliance

Through an alliance established with the BecA-ILRI Hub in 2014, the John Innes Centre (JIC), a world-leading international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology, has now stationed one of their scientists, Tilly Eldridge in Kenya. 

The agreement between the institutions opens doors to new capacity building, resource mobilization and technology transfer activities between Africa and Europe. Tilly, a post-doctoral scientist from the UK, talks about her inspiration, aspirations and experiences as a pioneer in anticipated vibrant exchange of research experiences between UK and Africa.

Inspiration, aspirations and experiences by Tilly Eldridge

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Inspiration:

I have always wanted to spend part of my career contributing to the advancement of research for agriculture in Africa. I first heard about the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub when I was entering the final year of my PhD studies and started enquiring about opportunities to work in Africa. It was not long after this that Jagger Harvey, a BecA-ILRI Hub scientist, visited the John Innes Centre (JIC) where I was and gave a very good presentation about the BecA-ILRI Hub.  

Listening to Jagger talk made me feel that the BecA-ILRI Hub was the perfect place for me to fulfil my ambitions. The institute has an excellent scientific reputation and ground breaking policies in capacity building. The completion of my PhD at JIC in October 2014 was perfect timing since the JIC-BecA alliance collaborations had started to gain momentum and I had an opportunity to get involved. 

Aspirations:

I hope that I can be an integral part of the JIC-BecA alliance, helping align projects and expertise from both institutes to make this a really fruitful collaboration. I hope that I also that I can evolve my own area of expertise and offer support to the many African national agricultural research system (NARS) scientists that are hosted here. I am inspired by the fact that the BecA-ILRI Hub is a hub for scientists working on national priority research projects from across the whole region.  I look forward to making 

Experiences:

Everyone at the BecA-ILRI Hub has been really welcoming, enthusiastic and friendly since my arrival. I found that the science conducted here is indeed cutting edge and I am really impressed with the level of support that the staff provides no matter how busy they are. I look forward to continuing in the key role of being the main point of contact for the JIC-BecA alliance here at the BecA-ILRI Hub

For my own research, it is really empowering to not just be focussed on getting that next important result but to also be part of capacity building for African scientists. I think that many students and post-doctoral scientists from JIC would benefit greatly from spending time at the BecA-ILRI Hub and vice versa. 

 

Final update on Africa Biosciences Challenges Fund 2015 fellowship applications

We apologise that due to the thorough review conducted by internal and external panelists, the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) selection of successful candidates has taken longer than initially planned.

The exercise is however complete and successful applicants have been contacted. ALL contacted candidates have responded and are at various stages of finalizing their proposals. If you have not received any notification on the same then consider your application not successful.

Below is a summary of statistics on the 2015 ABCF applications and selected projects:

  • Total applications / proposals received: 278
  • Total projects selected: 34
  • Categorization of selected projects into BecA-ILRI Hub research themes:

        Livestock Improvement: 13
        Crop Improvement: 11
        Food safety and nutrition: 5
        Climate change: 3
        Under-utilized species: 2

Out of the 34 projects, 7 projects have received co-funding from home institutions.

Note that:

  • Should any applicant whose project has been selected drop out for any reason, the selection committee will identify another project on the reserve list within the same thematic area of research.
  • Due to the large number of applications, we are not able to give applicants individual feedback on comments made on a proposal. Kindly accept our apologies.


The BecA-ILRI Hub sincerely appreciates your interest in the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund.

Modernizing small-scale livestock agriculture – Rwanda and ILRI agree to closer collaboration in future

Written by Ethel Makila, BecA-ILRI Hub communications officer

The Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) earlier this month signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate research that will help modernize small-scale agriculture in the country.

 

The agreement was signed in Kigali, Rwanda, on 6 May 2015 by the Rwandan Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Hon Gerardine Mukeshimana, and Iain Wright,ILRI’s deputy director general for integrated sciences. Until mid-2014, the minister, who is a plant breeder by training, had beenworking at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, where she employed molecular virology, genomics and bioinformatics in strategies to control the spread of viral diseases of the common bean, a staple food of her country.

Present at the signing ceremony were the director of the BecA-ILRI Hub, Appolinaire Djikeng, and Romano Kiome, an agricultural and rural development specialist who formerly served as director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI, now the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation) and permanent secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

 ‘I’m delighted to have signed, on behalf of ILRI, the MoU with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources,’ said Iain Wright. ‘It is clear that the livestock sector in Rwanda has huge potential to contribute even more than it currently does to economic development and food and nutrition security.’ He added that the Rwanda Government’s ‘One Cow per Poor Family’ program, which has already reached nearly a quarter million poor households since its inception in 2006, is an example of the difference livestock development can make to people’s lives.

The MoU marks a new level of collaboration between ILRI and the Rwanda Government to bolster the livestock sector’s ability to feed a rapidly growing population. From 2008 to 2013, ILRI was a key partner in the first phase of a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) Project—that operated in Rwanda and two other East African countries. Implemented by a consortium of partners led by Heifer International, this project has helped enhance the region’s dairy value chain and increase the incomes of its many small-scale dairy farmers.

Funders of the BecA-ILRI Hub have to date invested nearly half a million dollars in support of Rwandan scientists tackling various food challenges in their country. A joint initiative ofthe African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU-NEPAD) and ILRI, the Hub has helped more than 40 Rwandan scientists apply the latest biotechnologiesin research on issues of national importance.

Starting in 2013, scientists of the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) have also been engaged with the Hub in collaborative research on Brachiaria grasses, producing improved, farmer preferred, varieties of this nutritious fodder that is now in use by more than 100 livestock farmers. These grasses, which are native to Africa, are among the most widely cultivated forages in South and Central America and Australia, where they have significantly increased cattle milk and meat yields in cattle. Some 56 Rwandese farms are now testing responses in productivity levels (changes in milk and/or liveweight gains) to Brachiaria feeding.

Among other Rwanda scientists the Hub has supported is Kizito Nishimwe, a lecturer at the University of Rwanda who conducted a study of the levels of aflatoxin contamination of Rwanda’s maize. To date, a dearth of data on aflatoxin levels in this nationally important crop, which feeds animals as well as people, has hampered development of policies to control contamination and has limited the growth of Rwanda’s commercial maize markets and trade. Nishimwe’s research lays the foundation for development of interventions that will better control aflatoxin poisoning.

 

This new partnership agreement between Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and ILRI lays the foundation for even closer and more productive collaborations in future. Working together, scientists from Rwanda, the BecA-ILRI Hub and the rest of ILRI will be well-positioned to advance and accelerate knowledge and technologies that improve Rwanda’s agricultural productivity and incomes as well as its food and nutritional security.

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