The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) announces an $8.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over five years to fund research aimed at tackling global hunger in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
“This grant perfectly aligns with our current projects to improve the quality and quantity of food in developing nations,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This is a significant investment in the work being accomplished at UF/IFAS.”
Livestock can help families rise from poverty and malnutrition by not only providing meat, eggs and dairy products, but also by allowing families to increase their income potential as they sell animal products to neighbors, said Adegbola Adesogan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems at the University of Florida, and professor of animal sciences. “The grant is important because it will help poor farmers feed animals better diets. This research is particularly relevant in the face of climate change, and will develop environmentally-responsible strategies for farmers living in increasingly stressed environments,” he said.
“This award provides a tremendous opportunity to contribute towards improving the supply of quality feeds, which is perhaps the greatest constraint to livestock production in the developing world, and meeting the increasing global demand for livestock products,” Adesogan said. “Our research and capacity-building efforts will equip students, farmers and scientists in the target countries with the knowledge and innovative technologies to significantly increase livestock productivity and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable families.”
Adesogan leads research on providing feeds for dairy cows in Ethiopia, and sheep and goats in Burkina Faso. “These species are important for poor, smallholder livestock producers and are prioritized by the governments of their respective countries,” he said. “The research will have significant spillover impacts to other livestock species and neighboring countries.”
Another component of the research in Ethiopia will focus on helping children under the age of 2 avoid chronic gut inflammation by limiting exposure to chicken droppings. The inflammation, known as environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), likely causes chronic malnutrition and stunting, said the project’s leader Arie Havelaar, UF preeminent professor of global food safety and zoonoses (diseases of animals that are transmissible to humans) in the animal sciences department. Approximately 40 percent of all children under 5 in Ethiopia suffer from malnutrition and stunting, he said.
“Safe nutrition for children remains a major challenge for the rural people of Ethiopia,” Havelaar said. “Basic research questions remain about EED’s pathways and effects. Our project will break new ground in determining how contaminated environments cause stunting in children and help verify steps to prevent it,” said Havelaar, who is also affiliated with the UF/IFAS Institute for Sustainable Food Systems and the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF.
This project will be carried out by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems in collaboration with multiple partners from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and the U.S. For the feed research, partners include the International Livestock Research Institute, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, University of California-Davis, Hawassa University, Ethiopia, ACDI/VOCA and Environmental Institute for Agricultural Research ( Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles), Burkina Faso. For the EED research, partners include Haramaya University in Ethiopia, Ohio State University and Washington University in St. Louis.
In 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded UF/IFAS a $49 million, five-year cooperative agreement to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. The grant supports USAID’s agricultural research and capacity building work under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.
“USAID has invested more than $75 million in the University of Florida’s ability to provide leadership to the global food systems’ research, teaching and Extension efforts,” Payne said. “With the support of the Gates Foundation, we are able to empower the poorest in society to feed themselves and create a sustainable future for their families.”