Author Archives: BecA-ILRI Hub Communications

Vibrant innovation platforms equals relevant research – sustainable gains in research through community involvement

Often, adoption of new technologies or practices designed to improve people’s, lives does not take place due to various factors including lack of understanding by communities and the absence of support for the innovations from leadership. Félix Meutchieye, Cameroon national coordinator of the “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” project speaks about the strides being made by the project in involving communities and increasing the chances of adoption of research findings through innovation platforms.

Felix Portrait_Issue3Harnessing the diversity of native livestock in Africa is becoming a pressing need as continual changes in the environment exert pressure on small holder livestock farmers. The higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are contributing to the increased spread of existing vector-borne diseases and the emergence of  new diseases as well affecting the feed production.

Small ruminants play a significant role in livestock production systems throughout the wide range of agro-ecological regions in Africa. For many rural farmers, they are a critical resource of nutrition and income, and goats in particular are more resilient and adapted to different husbandry conditions. It is well documented that genetic variation in ability to various infections and diseases as well as to adapt to harsh environments with higher temperatures and less water, exists between and within different breeds of goats.This adaptation is especially evident in indigenous breeds, but gaps still exist in the knowledge available.

The “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” project is focused on bridging this knowledge gap by helping farmers take advantage of the best genetic resources locally available. Our strategy involves working closely with the goat keepers, traders, policy makers and all other stakeholders so that there is collective ownership of the existing problems and in the approach to finding solutions. Through the innovation platform (IP) system, the project is drawing from the existing indigenous knowledge, receiving guidance in terms of farmers’ actual needs and preferences and establishing effective channels that act as vehicles for information on research findings and promotion of sustainable livestock keeping practices.

Already in Cameroon, one regional IP in Kouoptamo (West Highlands) has identified high fecundity as a desirable trait in their goats and are promoting their animals as high value breeding stock for proven twinning ability. Additionally, as a result of close engagement with the project through the
Cameroon National goat IP, the Ministry of Livestock, fisheries and animal industries has recognized the importance of goats and small ruminants as an important resource to grow the country’s rural economy and has started a program to revitalize three small ruminant breeding and multiplication
stations in different agro-ecological regions.

Our counterparts in Ethiopia have established a community based goat breeding initiative where a group of 50 farmers have formed a cooperative society to drive the breeding activities. The cooperative members brought their goats for selection to form the next generation of goat parents in their village and in the neighbouring villages as well.

I see this active participation by communities as a very exciting and practical way of doing research. Through community involvement, the project has been able to stay relevant and ensure that good science supports the things that are most relevant to Africa’s development.

Learning new skills through research at the BecA-ILRI Hub

By Rodrigue Ayagirwe Basengere, Junior Lecturer, faculty of Agronomy and Environment, Evangelical University of Africa-DRC and MSc Student in Animal Breeding at the University of Dschang, Cameroon 

Rodrigues Ayagirwe from DRC gets help from Isaac Macharia of Kenya

Rodrigues Ayagirwe, (center) gets some help from Isaac Macharia (left), a senior researcher at Kenya’s
plant regulatory agency Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and
Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellow

As students conducting research on domestic cavies under the BecA-ILRI Hub project –“Improving production, nutritional protein and household income through increased consumption of domestic cavies”, my colleagues Jeanne Wikondi, Youchahou Poutougnigni and I visited the Hub in Nairobi Kenya to acquire skills in molecular biology.

Everything about, our one month stay at the BecA-ILRI Hub was very exciting, starting with the very warm welcome from the staff members which made me feel right at home. The superb planning and the training we received meant that we could already work in the lab within three days of our arrival.

We brought 109 blood samples from domestic cavies which I had collected from mono-modal agro ecological zone in Cameroon and our main task was to assess the genetic diversity of the cavies in this area.

Aside from having a laboratory technician assigned to assist us, we each received a comprehensive manual which enabled us to work independently and all the equipment and chemicals I needed were readily available.

At the end of every week, I attended a four-hour presentation session where all visiting scientists and ABCF fellows made presentation on the progress of their work. These sessions not only allowed research fellows to talk about the challenges they are facing, but they were also an opportunity for us to give each other suggestions on how better to go about our research.

I am very grateful for the training we received at the BecA-ILRI Hub. Not only were we able to establish the genetic diversity of cavies in our study area, but we also feel confident to give advice to cavy farmers regarding rearing of these species. Most importantly, we have acquired the knowledge and tools necessary to apply molecular biology in our research.

In future, we will try to determine which genes are responsible for desirable traits e.g. coat colour, growth rate and prolificacy. We hope that our findings will contribute to the selection and breeding of cavies for increased productivity.