Tag Archives: beca-hub

Celebrating the woman who inspired me (3) – Mondeil Fanjavola, a charisma that fuels my pursuit for scientific excellence

Celebrated by Nasser Yao, scientist leading the plant molecular breeding activities at the BecA-ILRI Hub

Mondeil Fanjavola was my MSc supervisor at the University of Abidjan, Cocody (now University Felix Houphouet Boigny). Although she was very rigorous and demanding of her students academically, Mondeil was very caring, just like a mother. To her, supervision of post-graduate students went beyond the science. Mondeil understood that a balanced social life got better results and she tried as far as she could to help her students achieve this.

Mondeil’s charisma is so unforgettable that I still hold on to the concepts and methods of research that she taught me. In guiding my first steps in research, she taught me that everything in science should be questioned. She believes that findings or citations should only be considered as simple hypotheses rather than divine truths. To her, even the most wonderful finding was a truth only at that specific moment that it is discovered, not a static finding that will remain forever. She taught me to believe there is always room for improvement.

As I lead the activities on the BecA-ILRI Hub breeding platform, I am convinced that there is always a more effective, more efficient way to improve crops and I am determined to find it and ensure farmers benefit from advances in research.

Woman with pots-ILRI

Woman carrying traditional water pots for sale in Niger (photo credit: ILRI)

Celebrating the woman who inspired me (2) – Anna Nagadya, my inspiration to innovate

Celebrated by Alexander Bombom, lead project scientist for the sorghum-maize hybrid project at the BecA-ILRI Hub

The woman who has had the most influence on my life and growing career is Ms Anna Nagadya. Growing up with my grandma Anna on the large acres of coffee and banana she farmed for a living automatically made me love agriculture and nature.

When my great grandfather, Anna’s father, opted not to educate his daughters in favor of his sons (as was the tradition then), Anna strove to achieve a basic education. Despite dropping out of school at primary 2 (grade 2), Anna taught herself to read and write.

Alexander bombom

Alexandar Bombom (then in high school) and his grandmother Anna Nagadya

When Anna had her own daughter, she went against the norms and ensured my mother, Elizabeth Nandawula Ovuga, now a trained nurse, had a good education. Her determination to educate a girl child against all odds inspires me.

Anna’s passion for education did not stop at my mother. She always said to her grandchildren and especially the girls;

“Kumulembe guno, omukyala yena asana asomeko muleme kubera nga ffe. Mwongere ku degree gyemufunye, mu fune emirimu mubeko ne sente zamwe”

meaning,

In the present times, unlike in our times, a woman too needs to have a good education. Don’t sit on your first degrees, but strive to study further, find jobs, have your own earnings and contribute to your homes”.

When chose agriculture as my bachelors degree, grandma Anna supported me in every way, sharing her traditional agricultural knowledge. In her last words to me before her passing, she said:

“Bombom, education is the basic gift you have received from your parents. Now use your innovation to put food on the tables of many, for many shall die of starvation if things continue as they are now ”.

With these words etched in my mind, how can I fight the desire to do something revolutionary that will save people’s lives? My dream now is to develop agricultural products that will be useful to the large population of smallholder farmers who are struggling to earn a decent living in Uganda and beyond!

Celebrating the woman who inspired me (1) – Judith Francis, connecting people, multiplying potential

Celebrated by Wellington Ekaya, Senior scientist capacity building at the BecA-ILRI Hub

 

JudithAnnFrancis

Judith Ann Francis, the Senior Program Coordinator at Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), The Netherlands (photo credit: CTA)

Judith Ann Francis is the Senior Programme Coordinator, Science and Technology Policy at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) in the Netherlands.

Judith is one of those people with the unique ability to bring people together, who when connected, achieve much more than they would on their own. She is great at brokering partnerships, identifying opportunities, and fanning a spark into a blazing fire.

Judith has been instrumental in the building capacity of women and young professionals in agriculture through the Africa-wide women and young professionals in science Competition which rewards the contributions of women and young professionals involved in innovative research; communicating their research results and technological developments; and advocating for policy change as well as influencing policy processes through their research. Judith has been my mentor and I truly appreciate her contribution to preparing me to manage the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund program which provides fellowships to scientists and graduate students from African national agricultural research organizations and universities mentors them to be leaders in biosciences research-for-development.

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Celebrating the woman who inspired me (2) – Anna Nagadya, my inspiration to innovate

Celebrating the woman who inspired me – tribute to women who influenced the career of men leading research

Men leading research at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub pay tribute to women who influenced their career

A lot has been said about the under-representation of women in the field of science and technology; something has been said about women who have made significant contributions to science; but not enough has been said about the women who motivated men to become leaders in science.

Girls at research facility ILRI Ethiopia

Introducing girls to agricultural research in Ethiopia. (photo credit: ILRI\ Apollo Habtamu)

This is the introduction of a four-part blog series to mark the International Women’s Day and to celebrate the achievements of women in science worldwide.

Science leaders at the BecA-ILRI Hub pay tribute to the women who played a key role in shaping their career. Each man speaks from his heart about a woman whose expertise, ability to share knowledge and tendency to inspire the inner person, imparted principles which are guiding them as they reach out to and inspire the next generation of science leaders in Africa.

Part 1: Judith Anne Francis – Connecting people, multiplying potential

 

Welcome home Brachiaria! Home coming of Africa’s “super” grass

“The hitherto overlooked Brachiaria grasses have returned home to Africa and have been warmly embraced by smallholder dairy farmers in eastern Africa.”

Presenting a paper co-authored by nine scientists from seven institutions including the BecA-ILRI Hub, Dr Brigitte Maas from International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) gave an overview of the research, successes and challenges of adopting improved Brachiaria hybrids Mulato and Mulato II in the African context during the 6th All Africa Conference of Animal Agriculture in Nairobi on 27 October 2014.

Brachiaria grasses have higher nutrient content than most commonly used forages. They are adapted to drought and low fertility acidic soils. These grasses are good for the environment as they enhance nitrogen use efficiency, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emission and ground water pollutions. These attributes make Brachiaria one of the most widely cultivated forages in South and Central America, and Australia where they have been shown to increase milk and meat yields in cattle.

Farmers participatory selection of brachiaria grasses

Farmers select their preferred variety of Brachiaria grasses at the KALRO-Katumani experimental plot in eastern Kenya. (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai)

Re-introducing Brachiaria grasses to their native home
Despite the fact that they are native to Africa and that they occur plentifully across many regions of sub Saharan Africa, these grasses are yet to be explored and fully utilized as forage on the continent. However, thanks to the implementation of a Swedish funded research program “Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses for improved livestock production in East Africa” which is led by BecA-ILRI Hub in partnership with CIAT; Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO); Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB); and Glasslanz, the anonymity of these “wonder grasses” is coming to an end. The heightened publicity of the importance of Brachiaria grasses and as a strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change has resulted in substantial interest in these grasses among farmers, researchers and policy makers across the continent.

While improved varieties developed in Latin America are being tested in Africa, challenges from pests and diseases have been observed on these imported varieties. The grassed developed in South American conditions have already been observed to be vulnerable to spider mites; sorghum shoot fly, and a number of fungal diseases that are currently in the process of identification. This has necessitated a deeper investigation into locally available diverse genetic resource in Africa to identify the pest and disease resistant varieties.

Finding the best local varieties for the African context

Dr Sita Ghimire, lead scientist in the BecA-led project on Brachiaria, examines one of the varieties under testing at the KALRO-Katumani experimental field. (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai)

Dr Sita Ghimire, lead scientist in the BecA-led project on Brachiaria, examines one of the varieties under testing at the KALRO-Katumani experimental field. (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai)

Since Africa hosts a high genetic diversity of Brachiaria, the way forward would be the utilization of this untapped genetic resource to breed varieties that are suitable to the African context. The BecA-ILRI Hub-led project is exploring local ecotypes and gene bank accessions of African origin for drought tolerance, pests and disease resistance and biomass yields. This program consists of four main components – evaluating Brachiaria genotypes for drought tolerance and adaptation to marginal soils; evaluating varieties for biomass production, animal nutrition (including feeding experiments) and seed production; identification and use of phytobiomes for potential agricultural applications as bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides and bio-yield enhancement agents; and the building the capacity of African scientists to conduct research on Brachiaria grasses.

This collaborative research effort is giving renewed hope to millions of smallholder livestock farmers across eastern Africa who operate smallholder crop-livestock mixed farms on less than 10 ha and are at pains to increase their production in a set up where natural grazing is limited or no longer available

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Read related story: Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses: livestock feed, household cash
View a poster on the project here:  Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses for improved livestock production in East Africa

 

Genetic diversity studies: Improving goat productivity, improving farmers’ lives in Ethiopia

The most significant part of research is the point at which the output transforms the lives of those for whom it is intended. When Tilahun Seyoum, a small holder livestock farmer in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, learnt basic principles of goat breeding and health management from a group of researchers his approach to goat farming completely changed.

This Ethiopian goat displays its identity card proudly. (Photo credit:ILRI/Wondmeneh Esatu)

This Ethiopian goat displays its identity card proudly. (Photo credit:ILRI/Wondmeneh Esatu)

Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) initiated a community based goat breeding initiative/program in Seyoum’s village and are helping him and 49 other farmers to exploit existing genetic diversity in their herds to improve goat productivity. The program is a part of the Swedish funded ‘Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity’ project led by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA-ILRI) Hub.  The project which spans Ethiopia and Cameroon is conducting genetic diversity studies in these countries, knowledge that is being used to empower breeders to develop better goats suited to their context.

Already, a tagging exercise has helped the farmers in the Luma Tatesa kebele in Meta Robi distinguish the difference between goats whose parentage is known and those of unknown pedigree. The tags also indicate that the performance of the future offspring of these goats can be predicted hence the increasing their value compared to untagged animals.

Through this project, farmers in participating in the research have also been provided with access to animal health workers and are learning how to observe differences in their performance caused by illness as they keep animal health records for breeding purposes.

Read the original article:
http://sustainable-livestock.ilri.org/2014/05/25/ear-tags-stir-fresh-interest-in-goats-in-ethiopian-village/

Read related stories: 
http://hub.africabiosciences.org/blog/improved-goat-productivity-in-ethiopia-qa-with-dr-tadelle-dessie/
http://hub.africabiosciences.org/blog/pose-and-click-hassle-free-goat-sampling-in-ethiopia/

Growing healthier sweetpotato – research to combat sweetpotato weevil

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Lydia Wamalwa is a molecular plant scientist with the International Potato Center (CIP) whose research in Kenya is hosted at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi. Lydia and her colleagues at CIP are working to develop sweetpotatoes that will fight off the sweetpotato weevil without using pesticides.

The sweetpotato is an important food crop in developing countries which account for 95% of the over 105 million metric tons produced each year globally. Its ability to grow in marginal conditions and with little labor and inputs, makes the sweetpotato a source of resilience in food and nutritional security to smallholder farmers. Not only is sweetpotato nutritious to humans (contains vitamin A, B, C and E) but it also provides inexpensive, high-protein fodder for animals.

Unfortunately production of this highly adaptable food crop faces a major threat from the sweetpotato weevil, which often causes losses of 60% – 100% during periods of drought. In this two and a half minute video, Lydia Wamalwa talks about the ongoing research to develop sweet potato resistance to sweetpotato weevil which is supported by the World Bank.

The International Potato Center is among the hosted members of the CGIAR consortium which contribute valued crop biosciences capacity to the BecA-ILRI Hub. Other members of the CGIAR consortium whose research is hosted at the BecA-ILRI Hub include International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

For more information on sweetpotato research, visit the CIP website page – Sweetpotato in sub-Saharan Africa.
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About the CGIAR
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.

Institutional benchmarking exercise brings Philippine Carabao Center to ILRI, Kenya

In March 2014, six key officials of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) under the Philippines Department of Agriculture visited the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya to learn about the strategies, programs, and platforms for livestock research and development at the institute. This visit was part of a five-day international benchmarking exercise coordinated by the Science and Education for Agriculture and Development (SEARCA).

The visit to ILRI specifically aimed at identifying relevant and specific international public and private sector program concepts and strategies that are applicable, can be refined and adapted to strengthen the genetic improvement, enterprise development, and research and development of the National Carabao Development Program.

While at ILRI, the PCC team met with Dr. Rob Skilton, Team Leader, Capacity Building at the BecA-ILRI Hub who  gave them an insight to the different avenues of capacity building, knowledge transfer and  sharing of facilities that are being used to solve some of Africa’s key agricultural challenges.

The full article can be accessed here: http://www.searca.org/index.php/news/1454-searca-pcc-institutional-benchmarking-activity-in-kenya-begins-smoothly

Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses: livestock feed, household cash

A Swedish funded research program led by the BecA-ILRI Hub is improving the adaptation of Brachiaria grasses, an indigenous East African forage crop, to drought and creating forage seed production enterprises to benefit resource poor smallholder farmers in the region.

During the 22nd International Grasslands Congress held in Sydney, Australia from 15-19 September 2013, Sita Ghimire, a plant pathologist and senior scientist with the “Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses for improving livestock production in East Africa” program presented a poster about the possibilities that these highly nutritious grasses present.

By using the genetic diversity of Brachiaria grasses and endophytes found within the host (beneficial microorganisms growing within the plants) the research aims to enhance the drought resilience of the grasses; reduce the conversion of soil nitrogen to greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide; and possibly develop microbe based pesticides and fertilizers with wider applications.

See more about the project here: Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses research

View the poster here:  Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses for improved livestock production in East Africa

Read about what drew Sita out of USA and into Africa to work on this project: Coming to Africa

Pose and Click: Hassle-free goat sampling in Ethiopia

Sarah Osama takes blood samples from a goat in Ethiopia

Sarah Osama takes blood samples from a goat in Ethiopia

Narrated by Sara Osama, Research Technician

Taking blood, tissue or hair samples for genetic analysis and at the same time doing physical measurements of livestock in the field can be a very hectic and time consuming activity.

This tedious but necessary sampling process has greatly been eased by the use of a sampling method (AdaptMap photo protocol and sampling kit) developed by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). When I visited the villages of Haro Wolkite and Luma Tatesain in Ethiopia on a mission to investigate the genetic basis of goats in that region, I had the opportunity to test the sampling kit which had a slight modification made to it at the Hub.

Photo shoot
By taking photographs of the goats at different angles, we were able to deduce the physical measurements of the goats without struggling to pin them down. The process involved making markings on the animal’s pin bones which could easily be viewed by the photographer. An identifying card was then attached to the animal on which information such as the animal’s unique identity number, sex, birth date, owner, breed, sampling date, district/location, country and the distance from the camera was recorded.

A photograph of the goat’s eye with a color guide placed next to it was taken to determine the anemic state for the animal. This “famacha” guide has five levels of red and an animal giving a low score of 5 (very pale red) indicates the animal could be suffering from anemia. A photograph of the teeth helped us estimate its age while various profile shots were taken to deduce the pin bone width; the chest girth; height and length; and the points of shoulder width. All the information acquired from the photo shoot was recorded onto the card attached to the animal.
Finally, blood samples are drawn immediately after taking photos of each animal. The blood samples were labeled using the identity numbers given to the animals while taking the pictures for physical measurements.

Take and give
The farmers in the two villages visited were very cooperative with the researchers and gave extra assistance in managing the blood samples on FTA cards (cards developed for the collection and storage of DNA from organic samples), as they dried under the shade of a tree before storage. The farmers expressed their satisfaction with the minimal handling of their animals and in return for their cooperation in the sampling process they received on-the-spot diagnosis and treatment for worms based on the eye exam. Since the team included production experts, the farmers also received advice on better production practices.

This sampling exercise was part of the field activities being carried out by the BecA-ILRI Hub led team researching the genetic diversity of goats for improved productivity in Ethiopia and Cameroon.