Teams of researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have joined forces with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya to launch the initiative, which has seen the development of a new Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, which will have bases in both Scotland and Africa.
The project will initially focus on the use of genetic information to improve the health and productivity of animals farmed in tropical climates, through exploration of the genes that make some animals more resistant to diseases than others.
The overall aim of the venture is to develop technologies that will enable these farmers to identify which are the best animals to breed from in order to increase the value and quality of their livestock.
Genetic techniques will also be used to characterise new diseases and track their outbreaks.
The site in Africa will be located at the ILRI in Nairobi, and will involve scientists from its new global livestock genetics program (LiveGene) as well as the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub and their partners in Africa.
Dr Jimmy Smith, director general, ILRI, said: "Modern genetic approaches offer new opportunities to identify livestock suited to the diverse and demanding conditions under which African smallholder farmers work. This new alliance brings together a unique mix of skills to address these exciting and important challenges."
The Scottish site will be located on the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus, which includes The Roslin Institute, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Scotland’s Rural College.
Professor David Hume, director of The Roslin Institute, said: "With the threat of rising temperatures due to climate change, the need for affordable techniques to improve farming and food security in warmer climates is becoming a global challenge. We are delighted to announce this new partnership to address the issue, which builds on existing, successful collaborations between our three organisations."
Professor Geoff Simm, vice-principal for research at SRUC, added: "This is a very significant alliance because it has the potential to transform our international efforts to help improve livestock genetics, enhancing food security but also reducing the environmental impact of global livestock production."