Friday, September 18, 2020

The University of Nairobi is among the regional partners that will participate in the Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab program. Through the partnership with the Allen School’s Global Health – Kenya as the lead, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the program has received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The program will take an interdisciplinary approach to addressing livestock diseases and will tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food security.

The 5-year grant, which has an opportunity to grow to $16 million, will be used to develop a regional Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab and research program, based in Nairobi, Kenya. The lab will identify interventions to address livestock diseases, particularly East Coast Fever (ECF), and develop capacity in-country in both research training and institutional development for long-term impact.

“Small scale farmers are the key players in the livestock sector in Eastern and Central Africa. This program is consistent with the sustainable development goal of poverty eradication. It will go a long way in supporting livelihoods and transforming lives of marginalized populations," says Prof. Stephen Kiama, Vice-Chancellor, UoN.

“Twelve African countries are affected by East Coast Fever, impacting approximately 20 million small scale livestock holders. With high livestock mortality and morbidity comes lowered household incomes and related degradation of social and nutritional health,” said Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, associate professor at the Allen School and Animal Health Innovation Lab director.

Infectious animal diseases pose critical challenges for livestock health and production, economic growth, food security and safety, and consequently human health and nutrition. Controlling ECF will enhance livestock productivity, household incomes, food security and nutrition, and ultimately human health and welfare.

The Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab will employ state-of-the-art technologies including CRISPR-Cas to develop pen-side diagnostics and improve ECF vaccines; deploy animal health interventions and track their impact on livelihoods and human health; and train the next generation of animal health scientists in East Africa.

“A small group of animals can sustain many families for many years. On the other hand, their loss to disease can compromise food security for entire communities. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Feed the Future, we are reminded that without sustained food security, we risk economic prosperity and the potential for long and healthy lives,” stated Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator, USAID. “The new Animal Health Innovation Lab, in partnership with Washington State University, goes beyond just agriculture or food—through research and innovation, the new Lab will help us work towards a more prosperous and resilient future.”

Improving the control of animal diseases is critical in reducing malnutrition and improving livelihoods of livestock-dependent communities in many settings in low- and middle-income countries with unacceptably high malnutrition levels, disproportionally affecting children under 5 years of age and women of reproductive age.

“The USAID Grant will support the establishment of the Feed the Future Innovation Laboratory for Animal Health and support the training of 9 PhD and 5 MSc students,” said Prof George Gitau, the principal investigator from the University of Nairobi. Other principal investigators include Dr. Vish Nene from ILRI.

Thumbi added, “We are honored and eager to work with the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative to support families and improve their household economies by mitigating poor animal health in the eastern, southern and central Africa regions.”

Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. We are helping people feed themselves and creating important opportunities for a new generation of young people, while building a more stable world.