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Training representatives of agricultural institutes in 11 African countries

Participants at B4A-ILRI, holding certificates

Press Release

As part of a joint programme co-delivered by Biosciences for Africa at the B4A-ILRI Hub, the University of Bristol’s CONNECTED Network has trained 21 plant scientists from 11 countries in ‘Vector and Virus Diagnostics’. This unique and practical course ran from 20-24 February in Nairobi, Kenya.

This course gave participants specialist knowledge enabling them to identify which virus is devastating a plant, and which insect (vector) is carrying it.  

participants at B4A-ILRI training, february 2023

Most attendees were representatives of their country’s National Agricultural Research Institute or System (NARS), governmental organisations which conduct research to improve agriculture.

Recognising CONNECTED’s strong track record in training, B4A-ILRI approached the Network to co-deliver the course, which was taught by plant virology and entomology experts from both the UK and Kenya.

As well as building strong international partnerships, CONNECTED and the University of Bristol are aiming to create real impacts on plant health internationally. The week-long training course in February is being followed by a second train-the-trainer course in March. This will enable participants to upskill many more lab analysts, researchers, plant health inspectors and officers within their institute, embedding the interdisciplinary knowledge within the agricultural systems of multiple African countries and impacting on policy, regulation and practice.

Dr Cathrine Ziyomo, Business Development Specialist at Biosciences for Africa (B4A) International Livestock Research Institute, said:

“B4A are delighted to be working with CONNECTED to jointly deliver this molecular diagnostic training course. Together we are creating an environment in which researchers from across Africa can support each other in learning the latest techniques, which they can then use in their own countries.”

Professor Neil Boonham, based at Newcastle University, is a Director of CONNECTED and helped develop and deliver the course. He said: 

“Meeting delegates from so many countries and sharing knowledge and experience has been such a joy, as has working with the team at B4A-ILRI. This course is all about improving efficiency in diagnosing plant diseases and identifying their vectors, equipping participants with skills that they can take home and apply to the crops they are working on in their own institutes.”

Professor Jeremy Tavaré, Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Bristol, said:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the B4A-ILRI Hub to develop brand new connections with so many African agricultural organisations, combining our world-class plant health research with their capacity building expertise to develop international clusters of excellence in vector-borne plant disease.”

The development of this course and its training materials represents a collaboration between Newcastle University, the University of Bristol and Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich (all UK) and with B4A-ILRI Hub (Kenya) to design the programme. Alongside Professor Neil Boonham, Dr Sophie Bouvaine and Dr Gonçalo Silva from the Natural Resources Institute developed and delivered the training.

This work is one of many projects funded by a £500,000 grant awarded to CONNECTED by UKRI International in 2022, as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The CONNECTED Network’s mission is to tackle insect-spread plant diseases globally. It was founded in 2017, grant funded by the UK government Global Challenges Research Fund through BBSRC. It is led by Professor Gary Foster (recently retired) and Dr Andy Bailey at the University of Bristol and Professor Neil Boonham at Newcastle University. It currently has around 1600 members from 91 countries.