£10m award boosts research into farming in developing countries


Efforts to tackle the challenges faced by livestock farmers in developing countries have been boosted by a £10 million research award.

Scientists will use funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to look at how genetic information can improve the health and productivity of farmed animals in tropical climates.

The institutions in Scotland and Africa where the researchers are based are also making additional contributions, taking the total funding pot to £20 million over the next five years.

The Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health is an alliance between the University of Edinburgh, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and the Africa-headquartered International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The teams plan to investigate the genes that make some animals more resistant to diseases than others. They will also look at why certain breeds are able to thrive in hot and arid conditions.

Their ultimate aim is to develop technologies to help farmers in developing countries identify the best animals in a herd for breeding.

It is also hoped the research will help Africa's farmers improve the quality and productivity of their livestock.

The researchers will also use genetic techniques to identify and track emerging livestock diseases in tropical countries.

The University of Edinburgh's involvement is being led by scientists at its Roslin Institute.

Institute director Professor David Hume said: "This new joint centre will enable us to adapt, develop and transfer knowledge on improving livestock productivity to developing countries and greatly improve the lives of smallholder farmers in tropical environments."

Professor Andrew Peters, of the SRUC, said: "We are delighted to be partners in this important initiative to improve the genetics of cattle and poultry in sub-Saharan Africa, contributing to the improvement of livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

"We see it as only the beginning of what will grow into a major international initiative to improve the lot of poor farmers but also contributing importantly to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by farm livestock."

Africa's involvement in the centre is being led by the ILRI.

Director Dr Jimmy Smith said: "The work of this new centre comes at an opportune time, when demand for milk, meat and eggs is rising fast in developing countries.

"The centre's focus on livestock genetics will help the world's one billion small-scale livestock keepers to meet that growing demand for animal-source foods, and thus to improve both their livelihoods and their food security."