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.