Today the spotlight is on European partners in livestock biosciences for development.
European donors and research institutions working in partnership with ILRI and other CGIAR Centres to speed up agricultural development in poor countries will be highlighted at a breakfast meeting at the 2005 World Bank Sustainable Development European Forum entitled ‘Managing Ecosystems and Social Vulnerabilities in the 21st Century: Towards a More Secure World’, to be held in Paris on 14-15 June 2005. The Forum provides an opportunity to update European bilateral donors on the strategy and work program for the World Bank’s Environmentally & Socially Sustainable Vice Presidency. A significant portion of the agenda is reserved for in-depth, issues-based break-out sessions.
Examples of ILRI projects with European partners are summarized below.
Saving Africa’s unique indigenous cattle breeds critical to its poorest people
In 1998, with funding from Ireland Aid and other European donors, the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) teamed up with Trinity College, Dublin, to analyse the genetic diversity of indigenous African cattle populations. This project completed molecular diversity datasets from the two centres, unravelled the genetic make-up of African cattle and identified priority cattle breeds for conservation or utilization for the benefit of the farmer communities. The project also helped nations develop strategies for conserving these animals and broadening their use. The project supported evidence that the African continent was a likely center of origin of cattle pastoralism. The latter award-winning research, published in the leading research journal Science, raised awareness of the genetic wealth of Africa’s indigenous cattle populations. African countries are now taking steps to conserve, characterize and make better use of them.
A public-private partnership for technological innovation against a lethal African cattle disease
The East Coast fever vaccine project is an initiative funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to design and disseminate a bio-engineered vaccine against a parasite that kills cattle across eastern, central, and southern Africa. A complex set of partnerships between public and private sectors across several continents, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Kenya, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, in Belgium, and the University of Oxford, UK, has played an important role in moving the science forward. The multinational veterinary pharmaceutical company Merial, headquartered in France, is helping to produce the vaccine for trial and will be responsible for the delivery of the vaccine among poor countries. A high degree of complementarity exists between the major partners. ILRI has reached an advanced state of research on the protozoan parasite that causes East Coast fever, bovine immunology and the economic impacts of the disease. Merial produces the vaccine candidates and has been working with Oxford on novel delivery system with potential spin-offs for other human and veterinary vaccines. The project is an example of conceiving and funding a ‘system of innovation’ within the CGIAR, one which cuts across research institutions in new ways, building capacity across the widest possible spread of partners, including NARS.
Conserving a unique genetic resource and way of life among Ankole pastoralists in East Africa
In late 2003, with funding from Austria, scientists from the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the BOKU University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, in Austria, launched a project to identify indigenous selection criteria and genetic diversity in African longhorn Ankole cattle. The results of this project will improve and sustain the livelihoods of poor Ankole cattle keepers in the four East African countries where these unique cattle are found: Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. Specifically, the project is facilitating community-based delivery of technical interventions that are genetically improving this breed to meet the needs of their pastoral owners. In the process, the project will help the pastoral communities sustain their environment and culture as well as the genetic diversity of their breed. Indigenous knowledge of animal husbandry and breeding are being captured, as well as selection criteria used by the pastoralists to assess intangible values of their unique Ankole genetic resources.
Development of a second-generation anti-tick vaccine
In late 2004, the Swiss Centre for International Agriculture (ZIL) began funding a project conducted jointly by the Swiss Tropical Institute (Basel), Pevion Biotech (Bern), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Nairobi), to develop an anti-tick vaccine to control ticks and tick-borne diseases of tropical cattle. Current tick-control methods rely on regular treatments of animals with acaracides, which kill the ticks. Development of an anti-tick vaccine is one of the most promising alternatives to chemical control, being much safer for the environment and human health. The only commercial vaccine against ticks currently on the market, based on a hidden tick-gut antigenic molecule, requires a series of inoculations to boost the vaccine’s effectiveness. This project is developing a novel antigen-delivery system for use in cattle using virosomes. The aim is to improve the efficiency, handling, user friendliness and cost of the existing vaccine for smallholder farmers. The technology platform developed for the new vaccine may be applied in future against a range of livestock diseases.