Scientists join forces to decipher tsetse fly in battle against sleeping sickness

The decoding of the tsetse fly’s genome to reveal the genes responsible for its peculiar reproductive and feeding habits opened up new frontiers in dealing with the devastating trypanosome parasite it transmits. The tsetse fly is the sole vector for the parasite which causes sleeping sickness in people and livestock putting an estimated 70 million people in sub-Saharan Africa at risk every year and rendering livestock keeping almost impossible in some parts of the continent.

Unlike other insects, tsetse fly females get pregnant with a single young which is nourished and develops inside the body of the parent with "milk" secreted from special glands. Only eight to ten are produced during the lifecycle of a female tsetse fly, compared to the thousands of eggs laid by a  female mosquito over her life span. These insects also rely on proline, an amino acid that is a constituent of most proteins, as their source of energy unlike other insects which utilize different forms of carbohydrates.

Participants of the “Comparative Genome Annotation of Major Tsetse Fly Species” workshop in Nairobi, 17-21 March 2015From 15-21 March 2015, a team of scientists from across the world are gathered at the Biotechnology Research Institute-Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (BRI-KALRO) to compare the genomes of five tsetse species and determine the genetic factors responsible for their peculiar nutrition and reproduction as well as their vectorial capacity. The workshop to give in-depth meaning to the genome sequences of tsetse flies was convened by the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and BRI-KALRO, in collaboration with the Biosciences eastern and central Africa -International Livestock Research Institute Hub(BecA-ILRI) Hub; African Insect Science for Food and health (icipe); the Center for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics –University of Nairobi (CEBIB-UoN); and South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI).

The scientists including Lorna Jemosop from Kenya, Tania Bishola from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Abraham Mayoke from Congo Brazzaville whose participation was facilitated by the BecA-ILRI Hub, are annotating the genes associated with chemosensation and vision, immunity, reproductive physiology, horizontal transfer events, digestion, salivary biology, regulatory systems and more.

The hands-on annotation efforts are being accompanied by topical lectures on the different physiologies given by experts in these fields including BecA-ILRI Hub bioinformatics post-doctoral scientist, Mark Wamalwa.

Australian envoy to Kenya visits Australian funded agricultural research programs at the BecA-ILRI Hub

The Head of Mission at the Australian High Commission in Kenya, HE John Feakes visited ILRI on 11 March 2015 to acquaint himself with various agricultural research programs funded by the Australian Government through the partnership between BecA-ILRI Hub and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO.

 HE John Feakes visits the BecA-ILRI Hub
During the visit, HE Feakes who was accompanied by Dr Paul Greener, ‎Senior Specialist - Agricultural Productivity and Markets at Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and key link in the BecA-CSIRO partnership, held discussions with the ILRI director general, Jimmy Smith. Thereafter, he met with BecA-ILRI Hub staff and project partners to get an overview of the partnership; the research projects; and the capacity building activities.

While at the Hub, HE Feakes took a tour of the lab facilities and was able to see the nutrition and mycotoxin analytical laboratory that was established in 2011 through the BecA-CSIRO partnership and which has since hosted work of more than 60 researchers, from seven African countries, Australia, Europe and North America, significantly increasing the capacity for mycotoxin research on the continent.

HE Feakes also met with research fellows conducting their research at the BecA-ILRI Hub under the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund fellowship program which is co-funded by the Australian and Swedish Governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

Introduction to Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Training Workshop - 2015 Call for applications

e9edc.jpgThe Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub seeks to strengthen the capacity of the African scientific community to conduct bioscience research that will improve agricultural products and enhance food security in the region. As part of its capacity building programme, the BecA-ILRI Hub will hold a training workshop on introductory molecular biology and bioinformatics from 11th to 22nd May 2015.

This call seeks applicants from eastern and central Africa who require basic skills in molecular biology and bioinformatics to support their research. Graduate students and early career researchers will be selected based on evidence of productive scholarship and research; relevance of the workshop to current research; and engagement in agricultural research within a national research institute or university. Selected participants will attend an intensive 10-day training workshop at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, Kenya, with complimentary lectures and hands-on training in genomic DNA purification, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing and bioinformatics among others. Participants will also experience the research discovery process: potentially novel DNA sequences acquired by each participant will be analyzed and discussed during the bioinformatics sessions.


  • A national of one of the BecA countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda;
  • Affiliated with a national research program or university in the BecA region;
  • Currently engaged in biosciences research BSc, MSc or PhD (or higher) in biological sciences;
  • Good working knowledge of written and spoken English

Experts in molecular biology and bioinformatics from the BecA-ILRI Hub and research partners will deliver the training. The training workshop has been organized in partnership with the African Research Consortium for Ecosystem and Population Health (Afrique One). Further details about this training workshop are available at the following links:


About Afrique One

Created in 2009 with the financial support of the Wellcome Trust ranking to 5 millions GBP over 5 years, the consortium Afrique One is made up of 11 core African research centers including universities, and three global partners from the north (University of Bergen-Norway, Swiss TPH-Switzerland, University of Glasgow-United Kingdom) which have been building their collective human and technical capacities through structured and well integrated training and investment programmes.

Advancing the march towards a food secure Africa: The role of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute Hub

Leading African agricultural scientist, is visiting Australia this week (Brisbane and Canberra) to discuss the latest scientific developments achieved through partnerships with and support from Australian institutions and private sector partners.

 Dr Appolinaire Djikeng

‘Africa is at the stage of agricultural development that was experienced by China and India back in the 1980’s and we have their lessons to hasten our development,' says Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub.

‘Our commitment is to support African scientists national agricultural research systems in responding to the food security needs of the region’ says Dr Djikeng.

The BecA-ILRI Hub, a shared research facility established by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) and ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya, stays on the cutting edge of advanced high-tech biosciences by establishing partnerships with advanced research institutes across the globe, including with Australia’s CSIRO, which facilitates exchange visits of scientists and research technicians to and from Africa.

 Djikeng explained that a critically important Australian Government funded partnership between the BecA-ILRI Hub and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has made several discoveries that are being applied by agricultural scientists in Africa, for example, to breed maize varieties that resist the accumulation of aflatoxins that threaten the health of Africa’s maize consumers, improve the production of protein rich cavies (guinea pigs) and to improve programs controlling the spread of African swine fever, an economically devastating disease of pigs on the continent.

 ‘The private sector is a significant partner in Africa, where even getting enough seed to farmers, let alone appropriate varieties, is challenging. We have private sector partnership to accelerate the delivery to farmers of innovations generated by biosciences research.’

 ‘In another related public-private partnership with Australia’s International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC) of the Australian International Agricultural Research Centre (ACIAR) and the Crawford Fund, we will help plant breeders reduce the cost of producing preferred improved crop varieties for smallholder farmers that meet market demands,’ explains Djikeng.

 ‘Africa’s food security depends on the continent’s capacity to efficiently use every resource available, including its rich human resource of scientists,’ says Djikeng.

‘With the support of Australia and other partners, the BecA-ILRI Hub is helping Africa lay a strong technological and scientific human resource foundation,’ he said.

Read original post: Crawford Fund News

 About the BecA-ILRI Hub
The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub is a world-class agricultural research and biosciences facility located within and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. It supports African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges and acts as a focal point for learning, interaction and strategic research — facilitating collaborations that benefit African farmers and markets within the region. The Hub was established as part of an African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) African Biosciences Initiative, which employs modern biotechnology to improve agriculture, livelihoods and food security in eastern and central Africa.

 About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.
ILRI is a not-for-profit institution with a staff of more than 600 and, in 2014, an operating budget of about USD83 million. A member of the CGIAR Consortium working for a food-secure future, ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and offices in other countries in East, West and Southern Africa and in South, Southeast and East Asia.
ILRI leads the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, leads a component of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health on the prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases, and contributes to six other CGIAR research programs. Staff members work in integrated sciences and biosciences programs that develop and deliver science-based practices, provide scientific evidence for decision-making and develop capacities of livestock-sector stakeholders.

Comparative Genome Annotation of Major Tsetse Fly Species: Call for Applications

Workshop Theme: From Genomes to Functions: Analyzing the Glossina genome cluster

Efforts of the International Glossina Genome Initiative (IGGI) resulted in the annotation and publication of the Glossina morsitans morsitans genome in April, 2014. The genome sequence of Glossina is of interest not only as an important vector but also for evolutionary comparison due to its positioning in the higher Diptera. Recent work supported by the National Institutes of Health USA has generated five additional Glossina genomes (G. pallidipes, G. brevipalpis, G. austeni, G. fuscipes fuscipes and G. gambiensis palpalis) and the genomes for two related dipterans, a non-vector blood feeder (stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans) and a non-blood feeding dipteran relative (house fly, Musca domestica). These resources will facilitate comparative analysis with the G. m. morsitans genome and other available genomes to understand the various phenotypes that mediate differential vector competence, haematophagy, viviparity, host-seeking and discriminatory biology. These efforts may highlight novel targets and approaches for control of tsetse fly populations.

The Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and Biotechnology Research Institute-Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (BRI-KALRO), in collaboration with the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), the Biosciences eastern and central Africa -International Livestock Research Institute Hub (The BecA-ILRI Hub), the Center for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics –University of Nairobi (CEBIB-UoN) and South African National Bioinformatics Institutes (SANBI), invite applications for participation in an up-coming workshop on comparative analysis of the five major tsetse species. The workshop will take place at BRI, Muguga, Kenya on March 15th – 21st , 2015.

Scope and Topics

The workshop will investigate the differences and similarities among the genomes of the five tsetse species relative to those of the stable and house flies to underpin genetic factors in tsetse flies that are responsible for differences in their bionomics and vectorial capacity. The workshop topics will include annotations of genes associated with chemosensation and vision, immunity, reproductive physiology, horizontal transfer events, digestion, salivary biology, regulatory systems and more! The hands-on annotation efforts will be accompanied by topical lectures on the different physiologies given by experts in these fields.


  • Evidence of prior training and/or experience in computational biology/bioinformatics.

  • Prior knowledge of genome annotations and participation in the IGGI network will be an advantage. 

  • Access to personal/laptop computer.

Target Audience

Postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty involved in bioinformatics and/or functional genomics of insects. Prior knowledge on tsetse and trypanosomiasis will be an advantage.

Registration for Participation

Registration and lunch will be covered by the sponsors. Participants are expected to meet their own accommodation, local and international travel expenses to and from BRI, Muguga, Kenya. Full board is available at $55 per day. The organizers have limited competitive travel and accommodation fellowships for exemplary applicants unable to cater for their expenses. Please indicate your support needs to the organizers when you apply.

Application Criteria

Interested applicants are required to submit the following documents, merged into one document:

  1. Application cover letter (please describe your background, personal area of interest and potential synergy between the training and your career– limit to 1 page)

  2. Curriculum vitae

  3. Two recommendation letters from persons familiar with the applicant’s potential.

Follow the link: to apply.

For any clarifications, contact Drs. Geoffrey Attardo (geoffrey.attardo (at) or Paul Mireji (peterpaul.mireji (at)

CLOSING DATE: February 7th, 2015

Celebrating PhD award to BecA-ILRI Hub alumnus Joshua Amimo

The BecA-ILRI Hub celebrated Dr Joshua O Amimo, a BecA-ILRI Hub alumnus who received his Ph.D. in Animal Genetics and Breeding from the University of Nairobi, Kenya on 5th December 2014.


Amimo who was among 105 PhD graduates conferred degrees by the university’s Chancellor Dr. Vijoo Rattansi, has been carrying out research on swine enteric viruses affecting pigs in smallholder farms along Kenya-Uganda border and successfully defended his thesis titled “Molecular detection, genetic characterization and zoonotic potential of porcine rotaviruses”.

Amimo’s 18-month scholarship under the ABCF fellowship program gave him access to mentorship and availed molecular biology tools that facilitated the advance in detection of rotaviruses in non-clinical pigs which would help in the design of control strategies of diarrhea in pigs in smallholder farms. He also managed to detect two other swine viruses (Astroviruses and Kobuviruses) for the first time in African pig population during his placement at the BecA-ILRI Hub. The presence of these gastroenteritis-producing viruses in clinically healthy pigs represents a source of infection of pigs, and possibly to humans.

During his placement, Amimo played a mentorship role to other ABCF fellows. Of his experience at the BecA-ILRI Hub Amimo says "Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many you brought with you."

Amimo's PhD was sponsored by the Global One health program of the Ohio State University. His work feeds into a bigger Australian funded project on "Understanding African Swine Fever epidemiology as a basis for control", which will help in the development of accurate diagnostic tools and implementation of appropriate control strategies for pig diarrhea to improve pig health and production. Improved pig health will lead to improved production and ultimately improved livelihood.

Call for applications: PhD Fellowshis in Health and Productivity of Livestock at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Arusha, Tanzania.

The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania in collaboration with four partner universities; Penn State University (PSU), Washington State University (WSU), University of Glasgow(UoG) and Scotland Rural College (SRUC) will be implementing a PhD program entitled “Program for Enhancing the Health and Productivity of Livestock”. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the program is a joint effort of the five universities andit is intended to train and engage researchers on projects to improve the health of livestock and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Under the program a multidisciplinary and international cohort of PhD students will be trained on development of effective strategies for improving the health and productivity of smallholder farmers’ livestock, and in turn enhance the wellbeing of households and communities. In this research-intensive training program, fellows will work to enhance the economic and food security of smallholder farmers in East Africa by improving livestock genetics, health, and productivity while safeguarding animal welfare, public health and the environment.

Potential projects include, among others, assessment of uptake and impact of interventions such as vaccination on the economic and food security of smallholder farmers; policy and social determinants of improved livestock health, productivity, and market access; and determination of antibiotic efficacy and impact on livestock health and antimicrobial resistance. Preferably, potential projects should be developed to address the following broad areasof enhancing health and productivity of smallholder livestock production that are also in line with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s focus on increasing productivity of smallholder livestock systemsin Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Socio-economic impact and strategies for effective control of Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia, Peste des Petits Ruminants and Sheep and Goatpox to improve small ruminant productivity in smallholder farming systems in East Africa.
  • Optimizing animal health interventions through improved disease diagnostic tools for transboundary diseases of small ruminants in East Africa.
  • Understanding the socio-economic impact and the inter-epidemic epidemiology of Rift Valley fever in East Africa.
  • Spatial and temporal patterns of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) virus circulation in livestock populations and FMD control settings in wildlife-livestock interface areas of East Africa.
  • Etiology and productivity impacts of ruminant abortions in northern Tanzania.
  • Immunizing to enhance broad spectrum innate immunity in small ruminants.
  • Defining the barriers to uptake of the East Coast fever (ECF) infection and treatment method of immunization and, quality of tetracycline and impact on “virulence” of the ECF infection and treatment immunization.
  • Tsetse and trypanosome prevalence and distribution in the Maasai Steppe.
  • Increasing nutritional and economic impact of smallholder local chicken through introduction of highly productive Kuroiler breed and deployment of mobile application system for better health and record management.
  • Genetic mechanisms of resistance to Newcastle disease in locally adapted breeds of poultry and determination of Newcastle disease impact through intervention trial analysis.
  • Antibiotic efficacy and impact on smallholder broiler production in peri-urban and rural areas of Northern Tanzania.
  • Barriers to health of smallholder poultry flocks and development of interventions with minimal impact on antibiotic resistance.
  • Robust, low-cost, point-of-care diagnostics for multiplex detection of livestock and public health significance in Tanzania.
  • Investigation of farmer-led breeding goals and strategies in smallholder dairy systems to cope with variations in feed sources and quality
  • Use of cow-side milk progesterone tests in the management of dairy cow fertility
  • Use of mobile technology for phenotype recording for dairy cow management and genetic improvement in smallholder production systems.

In addition to the proposed research areas above, highly innovative proposals that have potential to bring big impact on transformation of the lives and socio-economic wellbeing of smallholder livestock farmers in East Africa will be considered.

The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology is soliciting applications from qualified candidates for five (5) PhD fellowships to take part in the program for the 2015/16 academic year, comprising three (3) from Tanzania and two (2) from either Kenya, Uganda or Ethiopia. Selected candidates will be registered at NM-AISTand pursue their studies by thesis and, upon successful completion of studies they will be awarded a PhD of NM-AIST (See admission criteria for PhD by thesis at Applicants will be subjected to an interview by a panel comprising members from the partner institutions and selection will be based on passing the interview and successful defense of the research proposal. The fellowship cover tuition fees, stipend, research and other study related costs based on NM-AIST fee structure.

The application package should comprise the following:
•    Certified photocopies of relevant certificates and academic transcripts.
•    Most recent Curriculum Vitae.
•    Names and contact details of at least two professional referees.
•    Abridged research proposal of not more than three pages.
•    Contact details:Telephone, E-mail and Postal Addresses.

Applications containing all the above documents and titled “Application for PhD Fellowship under PEHPL” should be sent by e-mail or post to:
Principal Investigator,
Program for Enhancing Health and Productivity of Livestock (PEHPL),
The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology,
P.O. Box 447,
ARUSHA – TANZANIA E-mail: dvc-acad(at); Copy to: admission(at)

Female candidates are very highly encouraged to apply.
Deadline for receipt of applications: 15th February 2015.

African Plant Breeding Academy – Call for applicants

In collaboration with The African Union, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency and the African Orphan Crops Consortium (‐orphan‐crops.aspx), the University of California, Davis is launching the African Plant Breeding Academy. The Plant Breeding Academy is a premium professional certificate program currently offered in the USA, Europe and Asia. Eight classes offered worldwide since 2006 were attended by 133 breeders from 43 countries, making the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy (PBA) the most recognized program of its kind. The program covers the  fundamentals and the most recent developments in plant breeding theory and practice. In 2013, UC Davis has been recognized as the top University for teaching and research in
agriculture in the world (

The goal of the African Plant Breeding Academy is to train practicing African plant breeders in the most advanced theory and technologies for plant breeding in support of critical decisions for improvement. This includes the latest concepts in plant breeding, quantitative genetics, statistics and experimental design. It also includes accurate and precise trait evaluations, development of appropriate strategies to integrate genomics into breeding programs and experience in identifying and utilizing genomic data and DNA‐based markers in breeding programs.

This six‐week program will be delivered in three 2‐ week classes with session one beginning in Nairobi, Kenya on June, 2015. The instructors are internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology. Scholarships are available for select students to attend this prestigious program.

Participant criteria and selection
Classes are limited to 25‐30 students. All students will be from Africa. Ideal students will:
1) Have a Ph.D. or Masters degree with significant plant breeding experience
2) Have taken courses in statistics, genetics and breeding
3) Be currently managing a breeding program in any crop
4) Have proficiency in English language
5) Be available to attend all 3 sessions

For more information on course curriculum, dates, the application process (see PBA site) and
scholarships, please visit or

Closing date for application is January 30, 2015.

BecA advisory panel chair recognized for his role in agricultural development in Africa

14056061149_70d903c58e.jpgThe BecA-ILRI Hub Advisory Panel chair Eugene Terry has been recognized by the Modernizing African Food System Consortium (MAFS) for his devotion to raising the productivity of smallholder African farmers through advances in the biological sciences.

Terry has been lauded as being among the few African scientists who have “demonstrated the breadth of vision, the scientific discipline, the managerial skills and sheer audacity in channeling the power of scientific research to make improved technologies available to the majority of African people, who currently work in agriculture.”

Throughout his career, Terry has been involved in technology development and transfers from large international agribusinesses for the benefit of small farmers in Africa. He views agriculture as a business with great potential in and would like to see agricultural education institutions in Africa develop new curricula and approaches to training that will better equip students with business, research and marketing skills.

The MAFS is a consortium of universities in Africa and USA that aim to help African agricultural education and training (AET) institutions develop the technical skills and institutional capacity required to modernize African food systems.


Read the full article:

Read about the BecA-ILRI Hub Advisory Panel:

Plant breeding educators in Africa develop tools to train the next-generation of experts

“The planet needs more plant scientists”

African educators meet in Nairobi to develop educational tools for a next generation of African plant breeders

Educators of plant breeders in Africa are meeting in Nairobi this week to develop new education and training materials for “Demand led plant variety design”. The educators from several African universities, regional and international organizations are sharing experiences across eastern, southern and West Africa on the content and organization of current plant breeding courses and future needs. They are benefiting from the participation of plant breeders from the private sector who work in a market driven environment. 

The new educational materials will be based on demand-led R&D. They will be available for inclusion in post graduate programs in African universities. The course materials will also be available for continuing professional development of practicing plant breeders; and they will be made available on line for open and distance learning, thus extending the reach of the new knowledge Africa-wide.


Dr Appolinaire Djikeng, Director of Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Nairobi, said:  “The planet needs more plant scientists. Over the past decade, there has been rapid growth in the numbers of biomedical scientists but no growth at all in the total number of plant scientists. Yet the demand for increasing quantities and higher quality, safe and nutritious food will double over the next 50 years. The BecA-ILRI Hub is giving a strong focus to strengthening plant breeding in Africa. As a shared research platform, the BecA-ILRI Hub makes available the tools for modern plant breeding to plant breeders, especially those working on staple food crops “

Dr Pangirayi Tongoona and Dr Agyemang Danquah, the delegates of the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana said:  “WACCI is very pleased to be associated with the development of these new education and training modules on demand -led plant variety development. We believe plant breeding should be driven by stakeholder demand and this will enhance adoption of new varieties. The inclusion of demand-led approaches to variety design will help educate young African plant breeders on the importance of understanding changing customer demands when setting targets and traits to include in their national crop breeding programs. ”

094a0.jpgDr Heather Merk Program Lead for the Syngenta Plant Breeding Academy described the continuing education program that she leads within the Syngenta company. Dr Merk said “Continuing education and professional development of plant breeders is critically important. In the US, the National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) is a respected professional organization that brings together plant breeders from the public and private sectors in the US, where (pre) plant breeding in the universities is very important. I see a similar situation in countries in Africa, where having continuing professional development available to plant breeders in both the public and private sectors will contribute to the development of market driven, well adapted and widely adopted new plant varieties of the major food crops in Africa”.



Demand led Plant Variety Design

The project on “Demand led plant variety design” is the first project being supported by a new Alliance on R&D for food security, formed by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the Australian International Food Security Research Centre of the Australian International Agricultural Research Centre (AIFSRC/ACIAR) and the Crawford Fund).   

The educators’ meeting is an important part of a new project on “Demand led plant variety design”, which is addressing how to make new plant varieties being developed in Africa more responsive to changing customer demands and more widely adopted by farmers. The new project covers three aspects: 1. Demand led plant variety design; 2. Education and training of plant breeders; and 3. Policy and institutions required to support the breeding, distribution and adoption of higher performing crop varieties across Africa. The Project Co-leaders are Dr Vivienne Anthony from the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, Basel, Switzerland ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) and Dr Gabrielle Persley from the University of Queensland Global Change Institute, Brisbane Australia This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Partners in the Alliance for Agricultural R&D for Food Security

The AIFSRC is an entity established by the Australian Government in the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to accelerate the delivery of research innovations for food security. The AIFSRC aims to support research to accelerate the uptake of new technologies; and understanding and resolving constraints to dissemination and adoption of new technologies. It has a focus on exploring different partnership models to achieve effective implementation, delivery and communication of the adoption of agricultural research for development.

The Crawford Fund is a Canberra based entity whose purpose is to make more widely known the benefits that accrue both to Australia and the developing world from investment in international agricultural research and development.  The CF conducts public awareness activities, commissions studies on research policy and practices related to its mission and arranges specialist training activities in Australia and abroad for developing country scientists. 

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is a non-profit organisation based in Basel, Switzerland. Its mission is to create value for small farmers in developing countries by supporting innovation in sustainable agriculture and activation of value chains. It works with a wide range of partners operationally and in thought leadership. SFSA engages, for example, the public sector, international organizations, think tanks, the private sector, other foundations, social entrepreneurs, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As well as establishing pilot projects, the Foundation also puts major emphasis on successful scale-up.

The Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, Australia, is an independent source of research, ideas and advice for addressing the challenges of global change. GCI advances discovery, creates solutions and advocates responses that meet the challenges presented by climate change, technological innovation and population change. Measured through a combination of three key global university rankings, UQ is currently ranked in the top 100 of all universities worldwide and is a founding member of the Australian Group of Eight (Go8) universities. The University of Queensland Global Change Institute is the program manager of the Demand led plant variety design project, on behalf of the partners.



 In Africa 

Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA-ILRI Hub)

Appolinaire Djikeng, BecA-ILRI Hub Director a.djikeng at 

Ethel Makila, Communications Officer, BecA-ILRI Hub e.makila

West Africa Crop improvement Centre (WACCI), University of Ghana

Agyemang Danquah adanquah

 In Australia

Crawford Fund, Canberra Australia

Cathy Reade, Director Communications Cathy.reade

In Switzerland

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Basel Switzerland Paul Castle Communications Director paul.castle 



Celebrating PhD award to BecA-ILRI Hub alumnus Gladness Elibariki

The BecA-ILRI Hub is pleased to congratulate Dr Gladness Elibariki, a BecA-ILRI Hub alumnus who received her Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 8 November 2014.

Elibariki who was among 68 PhD graduates conferred degrees by the university’s Acting Chancellor Ambassador Nicholas Kuhan, has been carrying out research on two major cassava viruses and successfully defended her thesis titled “Regeneration, diversity and RNA interference strategies to enhance resistance to cassava mosaic viruses in Manihot esculenta”.

In 2012, Elibariki successfully applied for a fellowship under the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program which enabled her to spend five months at the BecA-ILRI Hub. Her placement at the Hub gave her access to cutting-edge molecular biology tools that facilitated the advance in developing cassava landraces that are resistant disease resistance.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cassava is the fourth most important source of carbohydrate in Africa. This food crop ranks second to maize in Tanzania and is grown by subsistence farmers for local consumption and as a cash crop on local markets. Unfortunately, the majority of cassava landraces grown in Tanzania are highly susceptible to viral diseases, compromising the food security in the country.

Elibariki’s work is feeding into a bigger research program at the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) which is supported by the BecA-ILRI Hub and aims at producing several cassava cultivars that are resistant to the Cassava mosaic disease.

Congratulations Gladness!

Farmers in north western Cameroon are improving their income through better goat breeding practices

Through an innovation platform system (IP), the BecA-led project on "Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity" has begun addressing the issue of low productivity of flocks by training farmers on best practices in goat keeping.

This initiative will enable the goat farmers in Ndu, a local market in north western Cameroon, to maximize on the increased demand for their animals in major cities in the country and in neighbouring Gabon.


Read more: The ABCs of good goat keeping: Improving goat productivity in Cameroon15257982751_804823b0b0.jpg


Apply for an Australia Awards Scolarships

Scholarships for Masters Studies and Fellowships in Australia in the priority sectors of mining, agriculture/fisheries, or public policy/governance are now being offered to eligible African candidates under the following awards:

  • Australia Awards Africa Fellowships (for study in 2015): professional development short courses in specialized fields delivered in both Africa and Australia (applications close 16 January 2015)
  • Australia Awards Scholarships (for study in 2016): Masters-level study at an Australian University (applications close 12 December 2014)

The application process for Australia Awards is open and competitive, providing equal opportunity regardless of gender, ethnicity or disability. The Australian Government also strongly encourages applications from women. Mechanisms are in place to support the participation of people with disability.

The Awards aim at attracting high calibre, early to mid-career professionals from the public and private sectors as well as civil society who have the potential to lead and support accelerated progress towards development objectives in their country.

Further details about the Awards and how to submit an application can be found at the following website:

Call for applications: scientific research paper writing training workshop 2014


10th-14th November 2014, ILRI Campus, Nairobi, Kenya

Call for applications

The BecA-ILRI Hub hereby invites applications for a workshop on scientific research paper writing to be held from 10th to 14th November 2014. 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, Nairobi, Kenya.

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 biosciences 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.
•    A project report for conversion to a paper, and/or the figures and tables and any other illustrative material that have been generated from data analysis
•    Women candidates are particularly encouraged to apply

How to apply

Interested eligible scientists / researchers should apply by completing the online application form;

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: 11th September 2014
•    Application deadline: 5th October 2014
•    Information to successful applicants: 10th October 2014
•    Information to unsuccessful applicants: 11th October 2014
•    Training dates: 10th – 14th November 2014
Applications submitted after the 5th October 2014 deadline and incomplete applications will not be considered.


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 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" or Ms. Valerian Aloo, Capacity Building Program Officer (v.aloo "at"

For comprehensive information about the BecA-ILRI Hub visit

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

Attachments: Download this file (Advert_scientific research paper.pdf)Advert_scientific research paper.pdf[ ]392 Kb Download this file (Concept note_Scientific Paper Writing BecA Annual Workshop - 2014.pdf)Concept note_Scientific Paper Writing BecA Annual Workshop - 2014.pdf[ ]154 Kb

John Innes Centre forms research and capacity building alliance with the BecA-ILRI Hub

A team of scientists from the John Innes Centre (JIC), UK, visited the BecA-ILRI Hub from 20-22 August 2014. The team included lead crop researchers and PhD students who are collaborating with the BecA-ILRI Hub to develop capacity building-through research-modules to support African national agricultural research system (NARS) scientists in applying Next Generation Sequencing techniques to their breeding programs.

This partnership for the capacity development of African crop breeders is among several capacity building, resource mobilization and technology transfer activities made possible by a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between JIC, ILRI and the BecA-ILRI Hub in January this year.

As an early activity in the BecA-ILRI Hub/JIC alliance, a group of African, BecA and JIC researchers are planning to work together to identify useful molecular markers to accelerate rice breeding for disease resistance and other traits. This undertaking was identified in response to breeding program needs by Negussie Zenna, a rice breeder from the AfricaRice Cente and long-time user of the BecA-ILRI Hub laboratory facilities and service platforms. The project will be implemented at the BecA-ILRI Hub by Jagger Harvey (Scientist, BecA-ILRI Hub); Cristobal Uauy (group leader, JIC); and Tilly Eldridge (PhD student, Coen research group, JIC).


About the John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology based in the UK whose mission is:

To generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research

  • To apply our knowledge of nature’s diversity to benefit agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being
  • To train scientists for the future
  • To engage with policy makers and the public



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

Regional and international experts strengthen the capacity of the African scientific community in bioinformatics and computational biology

Technological advances in bio scientific agricultural research have meant that scientists are generating vast quantities of data concerning the structure and functions of different genes in living organisms over a shorter period of time. To translate the huge amounts of data produced into practical information such as livestock breeds, crop varieties, differences between breeds, responses to environmental stress etc., there is need for scientists to have the tools to decipher this information.

5a939.jpgSince 2007, Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, a biologist and computer scientist who heads the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)-Global Bioinformatics Centre has been coming to Kenya to facilitate a workshop aimed at equipping researchers from across Africa with skills in bioinformatics, the application of computer technology to the management of biological information.

“This workshop does not just teach skills,” says Bongcam, “it also arms participants with a whole virtual system that gives them access to a complete workbench with a variety of bioinformatics tools which they can upload on any computer and continue working with from their home institutions.”

Bongcam’s participation in BecA-ILRI Hub’s annual workshop on advanced bioinformatics is part of a bigger partnership which provides support to BecA-ILRI Hub’s bioinformatics platform, affording BecA access to technical advice and enhanced expertise from SLU, including infrastructure upgrade.

14918658998_4ea9422743.jpgThis year’s workshop which took place from 18 – 29 August 2014 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi campus brought together participants from national agricultural research systems (NARS) in 13 African countries including Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The program exposed participants to comprehensive lectures and hands-on training sessions in Linux, Perl programming, genomics and next generation sequencing technologies, genome assembly, metagenome and metagenomic analysis tools and their applications to biological research. Other facilitators at the workshop included Isak Sylvin from SLU; Manpreet Katari from New York University; Sarah Schaack from Reed University; Gordon Harkins from South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI); Leendert Cloete from SANBI; Mark Wamalwa, Joyce Nzioki and Dedan Githae from the BecA-ILRI Hub; and Alan Orth and Maureiq Edith from ILRI.

The workshop is funded by the Australia Government Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through a partnership between Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the BecA-ILRI Hub; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); and the Swedish Government.


Read related story (Swedish) - SLU's cooperation with Africa highlighted

Rwanda Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources bids farewell to her BecA-ILRI Hub colleagues



Rwanda Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana visited the BecA-ILRI Hub on 21 August 2014. The visit was an opportunity for Mukeshimana to say farewell to her former colleagues whom she had not seen since her appointment in July. The appointment came while the Minister was on a mission trip, representing the BecA-ILRI Hub at the Molecular Plant-Microbe Interaction conference in Greece in July 2014.

During the visit Mukeshimana had the opportunity to celebrate her new assignment with the BecA team which she said she had come to regard as her family.

“The one year spent at BecA was great because I made many friends and I really enjoyed my work. I am not really leaving because I look forward to coming back many more times,” said Mukeshimana.

Mukeshimana expressed her optimism about future collaboration with the BecA-ILRI Hub that will contribute to enhanced agricultural productivity, income, and food and nutritional security in Rwanda through improved research capacity.

To date, over 20 researchers from Rwanda have benefited from workshops aimed at strengthening biosciences research capacity conducted by the BecA-ILRI Hub in collaboration with its capacity building partners; seven researchers from the country’s national agricultural research system have been hosted to conduct their research at the Hub; and the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) is a national partner in the BecA-led  project to improve the quantity and quality of forages in the livestock industry in East Africa “Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses for improved livestock production in East Africa”.

Concerning her new assignment Mukeshimana said “It was totally unexpected but I am going to give it my very best. That is what I have always done wherever I am. Always do your best…you never know where you will be called to serve!”


Read related stories:

- BecA-ILRI Hub scientist Gerardine Mukeshimana appointed Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda

- Investing in the Next Generation of Agricultural leaders  - graduate of Michigan State University appointed Rwanda Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources

The BecA-ILRI Hub advisory panel is unveiled

The inaugural meeting of Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub’s advisory panel took place on 13 May 2014 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.


The advisory panel was constituted to provide strategic advice to the co-owners of the BecA-ILRI Hub, the African Union/ New Partnership for Africa's Development (AU/NEPAD) and ILRI, and to the BecA–ILRI Hub team on future research directions, new technology developments, potential science and development partners and resource mobilization opportunities.

The panel, which comprises leaders in biosciences in Africa and internationally, will play a key role in strengthening  BecA’s existing science and development partnerships, as well as catalyzing the formation of new ones to facilitate translation of research results into innovations of benefit to farmers and other private enterprises in Africa. The panel will also provide a forum for greater interaction amongst African stakeholders including governments and regional bodies, and international science and development partners and investors.

Members of the first BecA-ILRI Hub advisory panel include Dr Eugene Terry, Senior Technical Adviser of TransFarm Africa and the advisory panel chair; Dr Yemi Akinbaminjo, Executive Director of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); Prof. Sir Edwin Southern , Chief Science Advisor, Oxford Gene Technology and inventor of the ‘Southern Blot’ method of analyzing complex DNAs; Dr Aggrey Ambali, Advisor and Head of Policy Alignment and Policy, NEPAD Science and Technology Innovation Hub (NSTIH), who serves on the panel as NEPAD’s  representative; Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace is the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union; Dr Theresa Sengooba, Regional Coordinator/Collaborator, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Kampala office; Prof. Abdourahmane Sangare, Biotechnology and Biosafety Programme Manager, Conseil ouest et centre africain pour la recherche et le développement agricoles/West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD); Dr Vish Nene, Director and leader of the Vaccine Biosciences program at ILRI and ILRI’s  representative to the panel; and Dr Appolinaire Djikeng, Director, BecA-ILRI Hub who serves as the panel secretary).

BecA-ILRI Hub scientist Gerardine Mukeshimana appointed Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda


Gerardine Mukeshimana, a plant molecular biologist at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI Hub) has been appointed Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda.

Until her swearing in on 24 July 2014, Mukeshimana was a key member of a research team at the BecA-ILRI Hub that is developing strategies for the control aphid-transmitted virus diseases in the common bean in smallholder farming systems in Africa. Mukeshimana contributed greatly to BecA-ILRI Hub’s efforts in building the capacity of institutions and individuals in the African national research systems in biosciences-related crop research through knowledge transfer and resource mobilization and was an ambassador of the BecA-ILRI Hub’s vision for the transformation of Africa through agriculture at international forums, most recently the Molecular Plant-Microbe Interaction conference held from 6-10 July 2014 in Greece.

‘This is tremendous news and we will do all we can to support her,’ said Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, who congratulated her on the appointment.

‘Gerardine’s appointment is recognition of the values of a true scientist, a great leader, and a strong advocate for African agricultural development that we all saw in her,’ said Djikeng, the director of the BecA-ILRI Hub.

 ‘We are excited by this appointment and believe that it is a testament to the importance of the work we do at the BecA-ILRI Hub and the caliber of the people that we attract for our mission at ILRI’ said Djikeng.           

Mukeshimana’s passion to make food and nutritional security in Africa a reality has resulted in her recognition for international awards. In 2012, she was acknowledged by the United States Agency for International Development’s Board for International Food & Agriculture Development (BIFAD) for her significant contributions to the breeding of the common bean for drought tolerance and disease resistance. She also received a Norman Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP) fellowship for her contributions to breeding of the common bean, which enabled her PhD research in plant breeding, genetic, and biotechnology at Michigan State University and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

 ‘Mukeshimana is a true example of African scientists in the diaspora who are ready to transform Africa through agriculture,’ said Jagger Harvey, a research scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub who has been working closely with Mukeshimana in the bean project alongside other experts from Cambridge University, Rothamsted Research and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

‘I am absolutely pleased and proud of Mukeshimana’s appointment and it gives her an opportunity to contribute to African agricultural research at a larger scale,’ said John Carr, a researcher in the department of plant science at the University of Cambridge and principal investigator in the bean project.

Mukeshimana has previously served in different roles in education, agriculture, and rural development sectors in Rwanda and she has conducted research in Africa, South America, and US.  She holds both PhD and MSc degrees in plant breeding, genetics, and biotechnology from Michigan State University, and an Agriculture engineering degree from the National University of Rwanda.

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Call for Applications for 2015 AWARD Fellowships

Established in 2008, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) was launched following a successful three-year pilot program in East Africa supported by the Rockefeller Foundation from 2005-2008.

AWARD is a career-development program that equips top women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate agricultural gains by strengthening their research and leadership skills, through tailored fellowships. AWARD is a catalyst for innovations with high potential to contribute to the prosperity and well-being of African smallholder farmers, most of whom are women.

AWARD Fellows benefit from a two-year career-development program focused on fostering mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity. Following a highly competitive process, the fellowships are awarded on the basis of intellectual merit, leadership capacity, and the potential of the scientist's research to improve the daily lives of smallholder farmers, especially women.

Since its inception, AWARD has received applications from more than 3,500 women for a total of 390 available fellowships. On average, only the top nine percent of applicants are selected each year.

To date, 390 African women scientists from 11 countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) have benefited directly as AWARD Fellows.

AWARD partners with more than 200 organizations and institutions, including many national institutes of agricultural research.

For more information on eligibility, visit the AWARD website

To apply online for the 2015 AWARD Fellowships now on-line, click here.

See FAQ for more details.

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