ILRI geneticist wins prestigious ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’ award for innovative way to improve livestock breeding services in poor countries

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visit to project sites, June 2011

Fidalis Mujibi, a geneticist at ILRI, collecting information from a smallholder livestock farmer in Busia, Kenya. Mujibi is one of the winners of the 2013 ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’ award for an idea to improve livestock breeding services (photo credit: BMGF/Lee Klejtnot).

Fidalis Mujibi, a Kenyan geneticist working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, is one of the winners of the 2013 USD10,000 ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’, announced in July.

The award is given each year by the American National Science Foundation and is part of the ‘Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, which is co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This year, the award recognized 13 innovators amongst many applicants ranging from scientists, professors and graduate students from around the world. The winning challenges focused on ideas of solving pressing and largely ignored issues affecting smallholder farming in developing countries.

Mujibi received the award together with American scientist and beef reproductive management specialist George Perry, from South Dakota State University. Their idea is to eliminate the need for liquid nitrogen in livestock artificial insemination services in developing countries.

Liquid nitrogen is needed to preserve the semen used to inseminate dairy cows artificially, but it’s expensive and raises the costs of artificial insemination services for poor farmers in developing countries. Most of those providing artificial insemination services are unable to maintain a steady supply of liquid nitrogen in their tanks, leading to cases of dead semen being used for insemination. This in turn necessitates many repeated insemination procedures, which not only are unduly expensive but also result in long calving intervals, reducing the lifetime productivity of cows.

‘Our idea focuses on alternatives that could eliminate the “cold-chain” from the artificial insemination delivery process’, says Mujibi. ‘We’re exploring ways of delivering semen to remote villages in Africa where there is no infrastructure to support liquid nitrogen systems, so that farmers can access the germplasm they need easily.’

‘I want to explore new ways of helping Africa’s smallholder farmers to improve their livestock production through new germplasm delivery and novel reproductive tools. This will help them better cope with pressures from climate change and reduced farmland,’ says Mujibi.

Mujibi and Perry are preparing a full proposal they will submit to the American National Science Foundation in September.

‘The BREAD challenges range from the global to the local and across diverse disciplines’, said John Wingfield, assistant director for biological sciences at the National Science Foundation. ‘What they have in common is that they represent topics that have not had the attention or funding to prompt a solution. Solving any of these challenges would have a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of smallholder farmers around the globe.’

Read more information about the BREAD award:

Find out more about ILRI’s work in livestock genetics


Biologists in Nairobi to take part in two new animal health projects announced this week by the US National Science and Gates foundations

East Coast Fever

The National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States announced on 12 May 2010 that the Foundation, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is awarding 15 grants worth US$20 million in support of basic research for generating sustainable solutions to big agricultural problems in developing countries.

These are the first grants in a new five-year Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, which is jointly funded by NSF and the Gates Foundation.

The awards in this first year of funding will allow leading scientists worldwide to work together in basic research testing novel and creative approaches to reducing longstanding problems faced by smallholder farmers in poor countries.

Scientists from the Nairobi, Kenya, animal health laboratories of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will participate in 2 of the 15 projects selected among the many submitted to BREAD for funding.

Biologists at New York and Michigan State universities and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (USA), the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh (UK) and ILRI (Kenya) will test a novel approach to developing cattle that are resistant to trypanosomosis, a deadly cattle disease that is closely related to sleeping sickness in humans and that holds back animal agriculture across a swath of Africa as large as continental USA.

In another project, scientists from the University of Vermont and Plum Island Animal Disease Center (USA) will work with the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and ILRI on use of advanced genetics to develop vaccines for East Coast fever and other cattle diseases that threaten the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Go here for a 12 May 2010 news release from the US National Science Foundation:

A complete list of 2010 BREAD awards can be accessed at: