ILRI’s new Forage Genebank and Bioscience facility, located on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Jean Hanson).
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) officially opens state-of-the-art facilities for genebank and bioscience research today, 24 April 2017. The facilities will help protect a crucial component of the planet’s biodiversity—the diverse grasses and legumes that feed the world’s food animals. Research conducted here on livestock feed materials improves the sustainability and productivity of the livestock sector in many low-income countries across the world.
Sub-Saharan Africa, and Ethiopia in particular, is the ‘centre of origin’ of most of the world’s common forage grasses. With Ethiopia’s unique highland flora, including indigenous clovers and tropical highland grasses, it is highly appropriate that ILRI has located its forage genebank at its principal campus in Ethiopia. For many decades, ILRI has been entrusted with responsibility for conserving and managing a unique global collection of 19,000 forage plant accessions. Of particular note in the collection is germplasm of tropical highland forages from East Africa and drought-tolerant grasses from the Sahel and the drylands of southern Africa.
The ILRI Forage Genebank is one of 11 genebanks within CGIAR, a global partnership of 15 international research centres working with national and other partners for a food-secure future. The CGIAR genebanks are located in countries that are ‘centres of origin’ of key food crops so as to make optimal use of the natural diversity of indigenous plants. Researchers use the tens of thousands of diverse crop materials stored and conserved in these genebanks to discover and develop high-yielding crop varieties well adapted to diverse tropical agro-ecologies. All the germplasm storied in the CGIAR genebanks, including ILRI’s, is held in trust under an International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This germplasm, safely stored for use by researchers today and by those in future generations, is made freely available to all.
Explaining why the new facilities are so important for Ethiopia and the region, Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, said: ‘ILRI’s expanded laboratory facility, and users’ applications of its advanced biotechnologies, will help develop the ways and means to feed livestock better. This launch is happening as the Horn of Africa copes with the effects of one of the severest droughts to hit this region in decades.’
As Ethiopians well know, forages matter to people as well as animals.
By conserving and genetically improving its forage plants, Ethiopia not only feeds and sustains its large livestock population but also, through those efforts, nourishes its human population.
—Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general
The formal opening of the new facilities, starting at 15.30 on 24 April 2017, will take place at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa at the end of the 47th ILRI Board of Trustees Meeting.
Short presentations will be made by several dignitaries, including HE Gemedo Dale, minister for the environment, forest and climate change; HE Fekadu Beyene, minister of livestock and fishery; Lindsay Falvey, chair of the ILRI Board of Trustees; Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI; and Siboniso Moyo, the ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia. HE Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, state minister for livestock and fishery, will also attend.
‘With Ethiopia’s pasture lands diminishing in size, year-round access to good-quality forages is becoming crucial to the common practice of supplementing low-quality crop residue feeds’, Smith continued. ‘Research conducted here by Ethiopian and international scientists on the natural diversity of forages will identify plant genotypes with desired traits—those that have the potential to increase milk and meat production, for example, and those that enable plant survival under a harsh and changing climate.
‘Importantly’, Smith concluded, ‘these new laboratory facilities will improve the ability of researchers to diagnose diseases of forage plants and to identify pathogens that can contaminate meat, milk and eggs, putting food safety at risk.’
Shared and used by ILRI’s national partners in Ethiopia and abroad, the new laboratories are an investment in the future, in building the capacity of the next generation of young scientists.
ILRI’s new Forage Genebank, on the ILRI Addis Ababa campus (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.
ILRI is an international research institute co-hosted by the Government of Kenya in Nairobi and the Government of Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa. It works through a network of regional and country offices and projects in East, South and Southeast Asia and Central, East, Southern and West Africa.
ILRI leads the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock, leads a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health on the prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases, and contributes to several other CGIAR research programs and platforms. Staff members work in integrated programs that develop and deliver science-based practices, provide scientific evidence for decision-making and develop capacities of livestock-sector stakeholders. ILRI is the co-founder, with the AU-NEPAD, of the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub) on its Nairobi campus where world-class facilities for biotechnology research are in use by ILRI, other international centres and many national partners. The platform increases access to advanced laboratories for African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges. ilri.org
CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security and improving natural resources and ecosystem services. Its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR centres in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector. cgiar.org
ILRI gratefully acknowledges the donor organizations that have contributed to the construction of ILRI’s new genebank and bioscience facilities and to those donor organizations that have generously supported ILRI’s Forage Genebank in the past. These organizations are: Bioversity International, Bundesministerium für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), CGIAR Genebanks Platform, CGIAR Research Program for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, European Union, Global Crop Diversity Trust, UK Department for International Development, World Bank and World Vision. ILRI also thanks the countries, organizations and individuals that support its other livestock-research-for-development work and all the investors that globally support ILRI’s work through their contributions to the CGIAR system. Without this intellectual and financial support, ILRI could not make a difference in helping people make better lives through livestock.