OPTIBOV: Genetic Characterization of Cattle Populations for Optimal Performance in Africa Eco Systems
A large variety of local indigenous and commercial cattle breeds has been produced as a result of domestication and selection. This variety ensures the capability and adaptability of livestock to fulfil its role in food production under different circumstances, now and in the future. Local breeds exhibit unique adaptive features to harsh environments, which can be useful for adjusting mainstream breeds to climate change. Simply transferring high producing commercial animals to the African continent, will not be the solution due to low performance and even low survival under these harsh environments (ecosystems). The aim of the OPTIBOV project is to improve production and survival of traditional/indigenous breeds adapted to the local environments in Africa. This will secure the future of these well adapted traditional/indigenous local breeds.With combined effort from partners across the globe, the OPTIBOV project will help maintain traditional cattle breeds, capture adaptation, use known variations in production, train, educate & involve stakeholders to perform optimal breeding.
The project is coordinated in The Netherlands (Wageningen University and Research Centre). Participating institutions include; Makerere University, Uganda; Natural Resources Institute Finland; Agricultural Research Council Pretoria, South-Africa; University of Porto, Portugal; Cairo University, Egypt; and Taurus Foundation Netherlands.
Project members include; Dr. Richard Crooijmans, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; Dr. Donald Kugonza, Department of Agricultural Production, Makerere University; Prof. Juha Kantanen, Natural Resources Institute Finland; Dr. Nasser Ghanem, University of Cairo, Egypt; Dr. Linky Makgahlela, Pretoria, South Africa; and Dr. Catarina Ginja from Portugal.
The project is supported by LEAP-Agri, a joint Europe Africa Research and Innovation (R&I) initiative related to Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA).
An important deliverable of the project is a new genotyping assay specific for African cattle breeds which will include markers associated with specific traits.
Expected outcomes and impact:
- A uniform bovine phenotype scoring list for adaptation traits.
- Genome-wide information of the traditional breeds. Giving knowledge on the amount of diversity but also on the amount of inbreeding, detection of potential genetic defects and selective sweeps related to adaptation to a specific environment.
- The obtained information can be used to improve traits by selection of animals within or over breeds such as longevity, production and resistance to diseases. This will increase production, longevity and reduces cost for medical treatments which will result in breed performance in the next generations.
- Training of young researchers will be conducted to use the latest technology and techniques and how to implement the findings in breeding.
- Involvement of all stakeholders up to farmers by creating an APP, database and website to submit data and actively participate within the research.
On 25th April 2022, the project team met at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University to share updates on activities in the respective countries. The hybrid seminar was hosted by Dr Donald Kugonza and Dr Morris Agaba.
Seminar presentations/issues being researched
- Traditional cattle genomics: search for adaptive markers–Dr Richard crooijmans, Wageningen University in The Netherlands;
- Developments in SNP genotyping and next generation sequencing in South African indigenous cattle – Dr AA Zwane, a Researcher in Animal Breeding and Genetics, Agricultural Research Council-Animal Production (ARC-AP), Irene, Pretoria, South Africa;
- Molecular responses of heat stress during early embryonic development and alleviation strategies– Dr Nasser Ghanem from the Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University, Egypt;
- Application of genomics for livestock genetic improvement–Dr Linky Makgahlela, ARC-Animal Production, South Africa;
- Genomic characterization of northern native cattle breeds-Prof.JuhaKantanen, Natural Resources Institute Finland;
- Phenotypic and Genotypic Characterisation of Ankole, Ntuku and Nganda cattle of Uganda-Dr.Behabura Generous Betunga, an MSc. Animal Science student in the Department of Agricultural Production, CAES;
- Investigating the production and adaptive traits of indigenous cattle to eastern Uganda ecosystems-Waibi Sarah, an MSc. Livestock Development student at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Makerere University;
- The use of Genomic Tools to Improve Cattle, an Archaeogenomics Perspective– Dr Catarina Ginja
Issues arising from the research
1. Developments in SNP genotyping and next generation sequencing in South African indigenous cattle – Dr. A. A. Zwane
There is notable difference in using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data and whole genome sequence (WGS) data in characterizing SA indigenous cattle breeds
WGS data holds the potential for the improvement of indigenous livestock breeds due to the in-depth analysis genome-wide
Genetic diversity studies give the understanding of population structure, demographic history, introgression and heterozygosity levels in South Africa indigenous cattle
Identification of selective signatures provides insight into selection events that have shaped the genomes of indigenous cattle breeds, and allows the identification of important genes
This will allow genomic selection, sooner, in the indigenous breeds, and more studies are needed for other indigenous livestock species
2. Application of genomics for livestock genetic improvement – Linky Makgahlela, ARC-Animal Production, South Africa
- Genomics drives biological efficiency of production, boosts livestock contribution for sustainable protein source
- Genomics promises cutting-edge solutions: Nutritional needs of all human beings, while safeguarding natural resources, and preventing environmental degradation
- Genomics enables farmers to increase efficiency, decrease production costs & prophylactics and limits expenditure of resources
- Research (and capacity development) ongoing for better understanding of breeds and to put science to practice
3. Genomic characterization of northern native cattle breeds – Prof. Juha Kantanen, Natural Resources Institute Finland
The gene expression analysis of the northern Eurasian breeds revealed;
- Several differentially expressed genes (DEG) that were associated with the eicosanoid metabolic process (ALOX15, ALOX5 and HPGD) in northern Finncattle and with immunity (CCL4, CCL5 CX3CR1, CXCR6 and PRF1) and the regulation of lipid transport (ABCA1, ABCG1, IRS2 and THBS1) in Yakutian cattle.
- The genes involved in the immune system are also associated with environmental adaptation.
- The eicosanoid metabolic process was previously found to be involved in the hibernation of brown bears (Ursusarctos) and indigenous peoples associated with seasonal changes. These findings indicate a convergent evolution that may have occurred in different mammalian species living in northern and sub‐arctic environments.
4. Phenotypic and Genotypic Characterisation of Ankole, Ntuku and Nganda cattle of Uganda – Dr. Behabura Generous Betunga, Makerere University
The Ugandan cattle herd is comprised of 93.3 percent of indigenous breeds and their crossbreeds which are mainly; Long-horned cattle of Uganda (Sanga) (Bostaurusindicus); Zenga breeds (Sanga and Zebu crosses); East African short-horn Zebu (Bosindicus). The OPTIBOV breeds of interest in Uganda are; Long horned Ankole cattle (South-Western Uganda); Nganda cattle (Central-Uganda) and Ntuku cattle (Mid-Western Uganda). The study aims to carry out phenotypic characterization for performance traits and draw a genomic growth curve for Ankole, Ntuku and Nganda cattle under different management systems for a period of 0 to 18 months in Uganda. It also aims to carry out genetic characterization and measure the genetic relationship between the Ankole, Ntuku and Nganda cattle in Uganda; and to assess selection techniques (natural and human mediated) of Ankole, Ntuku and Nganda cattle of Uganda. Meetings have been held with farmers and animals selected for sampling and samples collected for analysis.
Issues arising include;
- The Indigenous cattle breeds are at the threat of genetic erosion. There is need for Phenotypic & genotypic Characterization for the performance traits of the Ankole, Ntuku and Nganda
5. Investigating the production and adaptive traits of indigenous cattle to eastern Uganda ecosystems
Cattle is a valuable source of income, employment & a major source of nutrition to people in the East especially Karamoja and Bukedi in Tororo. Angoria Ting and Cheptoyoi are the indigenous cattle breeds in Karamoja: Karamajong women prefer rearing goats to cows. The study aims to;
- To phenotypically characterize the performance and adaptive traits of the Nkedi and Karimajong cattle
- To develop indices for assessing the productivity of the Nkedi and Karimajong cattle
- To assess status and risk of erosion of the two indigenous cattle genetic resources
Meeting with Makerere University Vice Chancellor
In the course of the seminar, the OPTIBOV project team paid a courtesy call on Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe who congratulated them upon winning the research grant.“As we celebrate 100 years of teaching, research and innovation, such projects are vital in pushing forward our agenda of transforming Makerere into a research-led University,” he noted, pledging to accord the researchers all the support they need to achieve the project objectives.
The project leader at Makerere University, Dr. Donald Kugonza expressed gratitude to the Vice Chancellor for the support he accorded the team in their bid for the project.
Food vendors can only afford LPG cookstoves at their households – EfD-Mak study
A study conducted by researchers at the EfD Mak Center Uganda has shown that Chapati vendors could only afford to use the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cook stoves at their households. The study findings indicated that LPG cook stoves were more costly for such small businesses.
The study also revealed that Chapati vendors demonstrated considerable credibility on settling instalments and that given appropriate terms and access to hire-purchase schemes can support adoption of cleaner and modern cook stoves by food vendors.
The study titled, “Purchase and Learning Schemes and Adoption of LPG Cook stoves: Experimental Evidence from Uganda”, was funded by Sida under the auspices of the EfD network at an estimated budget of US$ 55,747.
The project was launched on 18th August 2021 under the leadership of Dr. Aisha Nanyiti assisted by three Co-PI’s Prof Fred Matovu, Dr. Suzan Kavuma and Richard Ssebagala , School of Economics, Makerere University.
Disseminating the study findings, on 13th October 2022, Dr. Nanyiti said, Biomass is predominantly the energy used for cooking by households and food vendors in Africa. In Uganda for instance Biomass constitutes 94% of energy used with Fuel wood forming 64% and Charcoal for 30%/.
Nanyiti reported that reliance on biomass increases the deforestation rate and contributes to climate change noting that 44 million tonnes of tree biomass is used per year in Uganda posing negative health effects with respiratory infections accounting for 18% of all illnesses in Uganda with women facing higher risk of illness. .
She said various interventions have been undertaken to promote use of cleaner cooking technologies. Earlier studies focused on improved cookstoves while some studies asses LPG cookstoves.
These studies Nanyiti said, focus on adoption of and attitude towards LPG and identify barriers in high initial cost, limited supplies and perceptions. High initial cost she said, is relevant especially to adoption by the low income groups where subsidization is not sustainable.
“Hire purchase schemes are relevant to easing the high initial cost. These have not been assessed before. Most studies focus on households. This study assesses the impact of Hire purchase schemes, Learning schemes, on adoption of LPG cookstoves by chapati vendors.”, Dr. Nanyiti said.
To achieve the objective Dr. Nanyiti said the study employed a Randomised Control Trial with chapati vendors in the capital Kampala in 3 divisions of Kampala, Constructed 3 clusters of parishes in each division and implemented 3 treatment arms in each division (Treatment 1 information only, Treatment 2-information + hire purchase and Treatment 3-information + grace period learning+ hire-purchase)
Treatments were administered to individual owners at their chapati stalls. From each cluster; 100 chapatti vendors were randomly selected. 5 surveys; Baseline, intervention, first follow-up, second follow-up and endline. Intervention conducted at stall in teams of two and vendors always carried the full kit of LPG cookstove to the stall.
“In Treatment 1 (Information) the research team offered verbal information on the benefits of using LPG cookstoves and offered opportunity to buy the LPG cookstove by paying at once the full cost of UGX 210,000 ($60). This opportunity lasted for two weeks where the vendors refilled gas cylinders themselves at a nearby refill station.
In Treatment 2(Hire purchase) the research team provided Verbal information on the benefits of using LPG cookstoves. Vendors were offered opportunity to buy the LPG cookstove on a hire-purchase in 3 instalments (70,000 @) or 4 instalments (50,000 @). The vendors had opportunity to instead pay at once. The opportunity lasted for two weeks and vendors had to refill the cylinders by themselves at a nearby refill station”, Dr.Nanyiti explained.
In Treatment 3 (Learning) the team provided Verbal information on the benefits of using LPG cookstoves, offered opportunity to use the LPG cookstove for two weeks then decide to buy the LPG cookstove on a hire purchase basis or to pay at once.. The opportunity lasted for two weeks and refill done by the vendors themselves at a nearby refill station. But on returning, vendors would pay 49000 for the gas used.
University management applauds Dr. Nanyiti
The study findings were disseminated during the two in one event of the EfD- Mak center disseminating the outputs from the study funded through the EfD Network but also getting to launch and start the journey for other studies at centres’ conference room on 13th October 2022.
The event presided over by the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences brought together members of staff and students from the School of Economics and Agricultural sciences and the EfD members.
The Principal Prof. Eria Hisali congratulated Dr. Aisha Nanyiti and the team upon delivering the research output calling for more involvement of other stakeholders during the dissemination activities.
“Dr. Nanyiti and your team, we congratulate you and thank you for delivering and for not disappointing the network. From the questions that were coming up, it clearly seems to be a very interesting study and with a lot of potential to contribute to policy.
Let us get closer involvement of the policy makers, implementers, and key actors from the private sector both in the course of our research but also in the dissemination activities. This is very important for purposes of uptake because you take care of their concerns, insights and that way the findings became immediately useful”, Hisali said.
Hisali also thanked the EfD Global hub for sponsoring the study and the participatory model used in the partnership.
“I thank colleagues from the EfD Global hub for the continued support and for the very healthy partnership. The EfD over the past few years is that kind of partner that does not stop at sending resources and waits for reports but these are colleagues who we are working with along the way .Many of the activities we run, you take off time and participate and urged you keep at that.
Gender Dynamics affect Uptake of Agricultural Technologies – Mak SECA Study
A study conducted by Makerere University researchers in Iganga and Bugiri districts indicates that disparities still exist regarding access and sustained use of improved crop varieties among women and men. The men still dominate decision making power which negatively impacts on the sustained use and uptake of improved crop varieties in the two districts. Gender transformative approaches that consider the interest and needs of both men and women, are deemed fit for the design and implementation of interventions and ensure voices and aspirations of men and women are considered.
Between 2020–2022, researchers from Makerere University Department of Extension and Innovation Studies with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York under the Auspices of the Directorate of Graduate Research and Training programme of Supporting Early Career Academics through Post-Doctoral training at Makerere University (SECA) undertook a study titled, “Intra-household Gender Dynamics in Uptake of Agricultural Technologies for Sustained livelihoods in Uganda.”
The study was conducted in Nakigo and Nambaale sub-counties in Iganga and Buwunga and Nabukalu sub counties in Bugiri districts. The study areas were selected because of the intensity of interventions by government and non-state agencies in the area aimed at enhancing resilience of the farming systems and increasing agricultural productivity.
The study, aimed to unravel the power dynamics at the household level that influence sustained use of new crop varieties for equitable and sustainable likelihoods in Uganda. The research therefore adopted a gender approach in examining decision making patterns, power relations and negotiation processes at household level and how these influence access to control over new technologies and ultimately sustained use. This was disclosed during the research dissemination workshops conducted on 6th and 7th October 2022 in the study areas that brought together district administrative and technical officers including, production, extension and agricultural officers, district chairpersons, senior production secretaries, farmers and farmer groups, civil society organisations and community-based organisations.
According to the Principal Investigator, Dr. Losira Nasirumbi Sanya, progress towards attaining food security remains a challenge partly due to low use of science and technological innovations developed over time. While sharing the study findings for validation, Dr. Losira explained that the overall objective of the research was to contribute towards promoting sustainable use of new agricultural technologies and innovations through better understanding of the gendered dynamics that enhance access and sustained use as a pathway to transformation of production systems and increasing productivity.
“The specific objectives were to describe the dissemination and use of agricultural technologies in selected districts of Eastern agro-ecological zone of Uganda; analyse the intra-household gender roles and relations in regard to technology access and sustained use within the institution of the household, and quantify the distribution of the decision-making power within dual adult households and how this influences technology uptake and empowerment among women,” she said.
She said data was collected from men and women using survey questionnaires, focus group discussions and in-depth farmer interviews. The findings indicated that farmers were involved in growing at least eight crops, two of the crops purposely for food security, one for cash and the rest for both food and cash. The crops include maize, cassava, beans, sweet potatoes, ground nuts, rice, soybeans, coffee and bananas among others.
The study revealed that in the past five years, men had more access to training on farming and improved seeds from government related experts and NGOs.The study also revealed that though women went to cluster project [ACDP] and accessed improved seed, only a few continued to use such varieties due to several factors.
The study also established that households had joint and individual plots for women and men. Joint farms according to this research were preferred by men and women to promote harmony and reduce domestic violence, ease management, sharing resources and labour, timely planting and due to limited land.
Men, the study found, preferred their own plots to meet their diverse demands since some were polygamous, and wanted to fulfil family obligations. On the other hand, it was found that women preferred individual farms for financial independence, control over their income and the need to ensure food security.
When it came to access to farming resources such as land, fertilizers, herbicides and seeds, the study indicated that men had more access but women were mostly involved in providing farm labour for planting and weeding.
Findings on the intra-household decision making power indicated that 62% of women accorded themselves a high score of having more decision making power than what men scored them in relation to their input to decision dimensions related to asset ownership and use, productive decisions, use of labour (hired and family), marketing, financial time allocation and access to trainings, extension and group membership. However, 29% of the women gave themselves a lower score than their spouses scored them across the different decision dimensions. The study found perfect agreement in the scores assigned by men and women in only 9% of the households. “Decision making power is directly linked to one’s ability to make choice and action on that choice,” said the PI. “A mismatch between actual and perceived empowerment in decision making signals opportunities for creating awareness among farming communities if we are to achieve the intended goal of equitable access and outcomes.”
The study revealed that the disparities in decision making power affected the use of improved technologies and productivity.
“Women with high decision making power (empowered) were more likely able to sustain use of improved varieties than those with lower scores.Those with low decision making power were highly associated with low use of improved varieties. Those with the ability to make decisions and even when closer to extension services were able to grow more improved varieties though high decision making power was negatively associated with the number of improved varieties grown. This illuminates the fact that women’s empowerment in decision making has potential to contribute to closing the gender gap in sustained use thus the need to be more intentional about women’s participation, decision making and agency in development interventions if we are to achieve greater impact in sustained use of agricultural technologies towards better livelihoods,” Dr. Losira explained.
During the dissemination workshop, the District Agricultural Officer, Iganga, Mr. Bazalaki Sully Nantatya said, the research has been of great value and has unearthed the dynamics in the communities in regard to gender relations, decision making and uptake of technologies.
He reported that technology uptake in Iganga district has been good because of the capacity building initiative undertaken by a number of partners and projects both through government and non-state actors.
“This research has revealed that adoption of improved technologies has been embraced which has led to increased yields and farmers are very appreciative. Since the start of this research, we have observed that gender relations have improved among participating households when it comes to working in gardens and decision making and that now a wife and husband have come closer and jointly taking lead in implementing farming activities right from planting to marketing. This has been made possible by the approach adopted in this research of having both spouses involved in all activities. Farmers are also realising the use of improved technologies which they feel must be sustained. As a district, we are thinking of enhancing input delivery system to sustain the new interventions and all these have been revealed during the dissemination workshop which has pointed out where things are working out well and not,” he said
The Agricultural Officer, Nambaale Sub County, Gwahaba Richard said farmers easily take up new technologies especially to increase yields but hardly sustain their use.
“We need to wake up as extension officers and district partners and concentrate on gender issues so that men, women and children at the household level embrace these technologies and work together to sustain them,” he said.
Representing the District Chairperson Iganga, the Vice Chairperson, Ali Mukacha appreciated Makerere University for choosing Iganga as a site for the research saying, the study was in line with the government strategy of modernising agriculture and improving farmers’ livelihoods from a peasantry to middle income earners by the year 2030.
He said Nambaale Sub County has been one of the model sub-counties in the district that has participated in many interventions. He pledged the district support towards any research program in the area.
Rebecca Naigaga, a farmer from Iganga districts appreciated the research.
“I have learnt a lot that a husband and wife need to sit together during the planting season and agree on how to rent land, its size, what crops to plant. Then during harvest, we need to agree on what amount to sell and leave for food and what to sell for fees. The other, I have learnt is that, men have more access to land but as women we can also hire,” she noted.
Elias Mutyaba from Nambaale Agro business appreciated the study for changing his mindset and called upon farmers to adopt modern farming practices.
“This time I have changed my attitude. I was so piteous of myself that I was unemployed but with this workshop, I have learnt that farming is also a business where I can earn money. I call upon my fellow farmers to embrace new varieties and use of fertilisers to improve the yields,” he said.
Mak Flags off 50 Students for Agrostudies Internship in Israel
The Government of Uganda currently holds bilateral cooperation with Israel, encompassing: agriculture, post harvest technologies, animal husbandry, water management, health and on land security. The cordial relationship resulted into the Israel Agrostudies Apprenticeship Programme, which has incredibly benefited many Ugandan students since 2013. The programme started in 2013 but was institutionalized in 2021. The Agrostudies Institute in Israel, which is the international centre for agricultural interns, coordinates the programme. The Agrostudies opportunity comes with a lot of practical agricultural skills training and international cultural exposure.
Makerere University in September flagged off 50 male students to Israel for a one-year paid internship. Ten (10) of these were from Busitema University while 40 were from Makerere. The students were flagged off by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Banarbas Nawangwe, who was represented by the Principal, College of Agricultural and Enviromental Sciences (CAES), Prof. Gorretie Nabanoga, on 21st September 2021 at an event held in the Council Room at the Frank Kalimuzo Teaching Facility), Makerere University.
The event was attended by the Dean, School of Agricultural Sciences (SAS), Dr. John Baptist Tumuhairwe; the Head Department of Agricultural Production, Dr Mildred Ochwo Semakula; as well as alumni and coordinators of the Agrostudies Apprenticeship Programme at Makerere University.
In his remarks, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Banarbas Nawangwe urged students to be hardworking, resilient and committed to the training. “You need to go with an open mindset. Have an inquisitive mind and use this as an opportunity to acquire a variety of skills. Your main focus should be skills acquisition rather than money making. Do not let money be the driving force. Have it in mind that you are ambassadors of Makerere University,” he said. “As you make individual choices, know that you are in it alone. Do not be influenced by others. In case of challenges that cannot be addressed by those around you, always get back to us.” Prof. Nawangwe advised the students to share their skills as a way of showcasing their seven (7) months training.
The Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Prof. Gorretie Nabanoga applauded the coordinators of the programme and the Dean SAS for equipping students with the necessary skills. She further appreciated the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nawangwe for the support accorded to the programme.
Dr. John Baptist Tumuhairwe, Dean School of Agricultural Sciences, cautioned students against indiscipline. “While out there, you need to be mindful of your actions. Do not spoil the future for other. We shall lobby for an increase in number from fifty (50) to more depending on your progress,” he said.
Dr. Tumuhairwe further urged students to make good use of the opportunity to develop skills for future employment.
In his remarks, Mr. Narisi Mubangizi, Lecturer in the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, also part of the coordination team, cautioned the interns against diversion and tarnishing the country’s image. “Remember how far you have moved on your course and focus to successfully complete. The future of this programme lies in your hands. Any mistake you make will deter progress of the programme.”
According to Mr. Moris Bua, a former beneficiary, the Agrostudies Programme is a life changing initiative. “You must have goals in your life. You must see the future. Use the opportunity to map out your future.
Mr. Deric Niwasasira, a student and Team Leader Agrostudies Apprenticeship Programme, Cohort 2022/2023, urged the interns not to lose focus on the major objectives of the programme. “The next journey requires endurance and focus. Let us not disappoint our country and our college.”
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