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K-State Today

November 16, 2016



K-State researchers awarded $1.1 million to address challenges in livestock systems in Ethiopia

By Molly McKneight

Ethiopia has a diverse cattle industry, with operations ranging from smallholder systems to large-scale feeding programs.

Two teams of researchers at Kansas State University have been awarded more than $1.1 million to investigate beef and dairy cattle systems, as well as mycotoxins in livestock feed, in Ethiopia. The projects, funded under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, or LSIL, in a four-year Reach grant and a one-year Focus grant, will employ a systems-based research approach that strengthens linkages between improved animal-source food production, consumption practices and human nutrition outcomes.

Jessie Vipham, assistant professor of global food systems and nutrition, and Dustin Pendell, associate professor of agricultural economics, will serve as principal investigators of the $1.04 million Reach grant. Deon van der Merwe, associate professor of toxicology, will lead the Focus grant. Both projects utilize expertise from K-State’s College of Agriculture, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet, or SMIL, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss, or PHL, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"An exciting component of both of these projects is that they have combined the expertise of K-State faculty from several disciplines with the international research networks of multiple K-State Feed the Future Innovation Labs," Vipham said. "It is a great example of the research capacity that exists at K-State."   

Ethiopia is a target country of the three Innovation Labs, which create opportunities for collaborative efforts between the Labs. Through collaboration with Ethiopian partners, the Reach grant will expand on current Innovation Lab research in Ethiopia, including research funded by SMIL.

"These grants provide another opportunity for the Feed the Future Innovation Labs at K-State as well as the Colleges of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine to leverage our collaboration towards a research for development outcome," said Nat Bascom, SMIL assistant director. "Within our own lab, our scientific research network and long-term partnership with Ethiopia’s national sorghum improvement program will support the projects in finding new solutions to address the feed and forage constraint felt by smallholders across the country."

Furthermore, both projects will directly align with the research as well as human and institutional capacity development goals of SIIL and PHL.

In addition to the synergies leveraged at K-State, the Reach grant will engage with a diverse group of institutions and organizations in Ethiopia, including key research partners of Hawassa University, Oda Bultum University, Haramaya University and the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research. 

"We recognize that we cannot meet the goal of reducing global hunger and poverty through individual effort," Vipham said. "We are specifically focusing on unifying the efforts of multiple research-for-development programs seeking to improve human livelihoods, environmental impacts, and social and economic outcomes in Ethiopia."

The Reach grant is not only multi-institutional, but also utilizes the expertise of its multidisciplinary team. The K-State faculty members engaged in the project include Doohong Min, assistant professor of forage management, Barry Bradford, professor of dairy nutrition, and Travis O’Quinn, assistant professor of meat science. Mary Murimi, professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University, also is a collaborator on the project.

"Multidisciplinary research is becoming more common, and rightfully so," Pendell said. "The project funded by the Reach grant is intended to investigate multiple dimensions of the cattle value chain, from feed production and cattle nutrition, to farmer income generation and human nutrition."

The leaders of the $107,000 Focus grant, "Safe Feed Safe Food: Mycotoxin Prevalence and Mitigation Measures in Ethiopia," will be collaborating closely with 24 farmer cooperatives, which are a part of the ACDI/VOCA Feed Enhancement for Ethiopian Development II initiative.

"The extent of risks posed by mycotoxins in livestock feeds in the region is currently poorly known," said Van der Merwe, project leader. "This project will start to fill in some of the knowledge gaps, and will help to build local risk assessment capacity for the future."