The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) recently hosted a workshop to train a group of African researchers working in animal science, breeding and genetics. The objective of the workshop was to provide knowledge and training for the researchers to apply in their own work, to improve the productivity of African livestock, including dairy cattle.
Over 20 researchers from 14 sub-Saharan African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo, took part in a week of training on current genomic data tools, methods and trends and their application in Africa. The workshop, which was held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the beginning of October, aimed to build their capacity in genomics so that they can ultimately move genomic tools from the laboratory to farms.
“Our aim is to equip the researchers with the information and skills they need to apply these tools in the continent’s smallholder livestock production systems to improve the productivity of dairy cows,” said Abdulfatai Tijjani from ILRI’s Livestock Genetics programme.
“The training provided participants with practical skills in using genomic data in the field to understand livestock population genomics and improve breeding,” he said.
Better breeds of dairy cows, which produce more milk, for example, will enable rural farmers in Africa to produce more milk and sell the surplus to earn more income, which will improve their diets and nutrition as well as their livelihoods. This and future training sessions in genomics by SLU and ILRI aim to support a critical mass of African researchers working in the livestock sector to improve dairy farming.
The training was funded by SLU and ILRI under the genetics flagship of the CGIAR Research Programme on Livestock. The training participants included young scientists from Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as 14 African partners of CTLGH’s Dairy Genomics Programme, which works with African institutions to help African livestock keepers, value chain actors and consumers to benefit from improved dairy cattle genetic resources
Claire Hirwa, a livestock researcher from the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resource Development Board (RAB) said she enjoyed the training experience and gained knowledge on the latest tools for bioinformatics which included software application of LINUX, R, UNIGENE and TASSEL. She said: “I hope to add the knowledge and skills gained in genomic data analysis to my research and plan to train other students and colleagues in genomic data analysis.”
Professor Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, from SLU gave a lecture on bioinformatics resources for data management and next-generation sequencing technologies. He said: “It is crucial to empower African researchers to analyse livestock genomics data, which can be achieved only through educational deployment of information platforms that use existing open-source software integrating bioinformatics analysis workflows.”
Olivier Hanotte, a principal scientist at ILRI and Co-Programme lead of CTLGH’s Poultry Genomics Programme, said the CTLGH livestock genetics programmes focus on building in-country capacity in livestock genomics characterisation and utilisation.
“African institutions and scientists should take the lead in valuing the continent’s unique livestock genetic resources, which can greatly benefit Africa’s livestock producers and consumers.”
– Olivier Hanotte, Co-Programme lead of CTLGH’s Poultry Genomics Programme
For more information on the genomics reference resource for African cattle, contact Karen Marshall, principal scientist at ILRI and Co-Programme lead of CTLGH’s Dairy Genomics Programme.
This feature was written by Ekta Patel and Paul Karaimu from ILRI and is reproduced with their permission.