Project Title: African Centre of Excellence East and Southern Africa Innovative Rodent Pest Management and Biosensor Technology Development [ACE IRPM&BTD] (RatTech)
Funded by: World Bank
Implementation Duration: 2016– 2020
BRIEF NARRATIVE SUMMARY
Rodents are one of the most serious mammalian pests the world over. Rodents cause serious losses of crops in fields, stores, warehouses and factories. Rodents are problematic in our cities where their harbouring and feeding habits result in damage to sewage and drainage systems, building structure, damage electrical cables and gas piping systems.
The economic and social impact of such damage is not quantified in Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa urgently needs centres that are able to conduct state of the art research on rodents in order to overcome their negative impact on crop productivity, human health and damage of property and structures.
For centuries, rodents have changed the history of nations (e.g. the plague pandemics in Asia, Europe and Africa) but in the 21st century, only Africa is more susceptible to the catastrophes involving rodents than any other continent. The aim of the ACE IRPM&BTD would be to enhance Scientific knowledge,
Technology and Innovation (STI) on Rodent Pest Management in Africa and to develop and use biosensor technology for humanitarian purposes Zoonotic diseases such as Lassa fever and bubonic plague are endemic in rural Africa, occasionally leading to serious outbreaks. More often than not, rodent-borne diseases are not recognized, as such, and hence are inadequately managed.
Research on pest rodents is typically carried out by relatively isolated African researchers, and even fewer institutions have sustainable teams of experts studying the behaviour and innovative management of rodents. This low capacity for innovation has led to a situation whereby low investment has been accorded to rodent research, which explains the limited awareness and poor documentation of the scale of rodent pest problems on the African continent.
The IRPM &BTD activities will incorporate biosensor technology using trained rats for land mine detection and support their operational deployment to complement existing technologies to free mine afflicted lands in Africa and elsewhere and release these for safe use by humans (settlement, agriculture, mining, livestock, etc.).
Novel diagnostic approaches are a key component to tackling Tuberculosis epidemic, yet in resourcelimited settings in Africa, the latest advanced diagnostic technologies are sadly a serious challenge. Trained rats are efficient and reliable TB diagnostic biosensor technology.
In order to enable our partners in Eastern Africa to be able to develop capacity in rodent biology and management, the ACE IRPM&BTD will facilitate the establishment of Rodent Research Units (RRU) in Uganda and Ethiopia.
The RRU will become the hub for research on rodents in their respective countries in order to generate knowledge, develop technologies and disseminate them to stakeholders. The RRU will build capacity in STI on rodent pest management.
The ACE IRPM&BTD will train the core staff of the RRU to MSc and PhD levels. The formation of the RRU will lead to research collaborations regionally and internationally and in the process attract sustainable funding for their activities.
The ACE for IRPM&BTD will build capacity through training at the MSc and PhD levels in rodent taxonomy, ecology, innovative STI in rodent management and biosensor technology in East, Southern and central Africa.
The ACE IRPM&BTD will train not less than 75 MSc students and 30 PhDs. About 30 of these candidates will be from our regional partners.
The ACE IRPM&BTD will establish basic and applied research programs for African scientists to pursue high-impact projects in rodent management,
understanding the impact of zoonotic diseases on communities and their mitigation, and how best to use biosensor technology for detecting landmines and diagnosis of diseases.
The expected outputs of the ACE IRPM&BTD at the end of the project are:
- Thirty two (32) PhD and Sixty (60) MSc. Students of which 24% are regional and 76% are national.
- Six short-term courses developed and two hundred and twenty (220) new short-term students trained (27% regional students and 73% national students)
- Nine (9) national and regional workshops for capacity building in research on innovative rodent pest management and biosensor technology development (Two (2) workshops in Ethiopia, two (2) in Uganda and five (5) in Tanzania).
- Partnership established with NGOs for a biosensor technology laboratory in Ethiopia for Tuberculosis diagnosis
- Faculty exchanges with 15 national, regional and international institutions of higher learning and research (three (3) national, nine (9) regional and three (3) international.
- Ninety two (92) fellowships awarded to ACE IRPM&BTD students
- Four (4) new funded projects with regional collaborators from East and southern Africa amounting to more than USD 1,000,000.
- Three (3) research projects with funds sourced nationally in partnerships with national institutions by the third year of the project.
- Three (3) MSc. Programmes developed and accredited with at least one programme running in each of the two partner universities (Uganda and Ethiopia)
- Support at least 15 faculty and 20 PhD students to participate in relevant national, regional and international scientific conferences.
- Scientific output: At least sixty five (65) articles published by students and faculty in regional and international peer reviewed journals
- About four (4) new innovations for pest management introduced regionally.
- Two (2) partner universities assisted to establish a Rodent Research Centre
- 10 Field schools for rodent knowledge conducted nationally and regionally (Four in Tanzania, Three (3) in Uganda, three (3) in Ethiopia with participants from neighbouring countries, mainly for graduate students and young scientists
- Well equipped research laboratories to accommodate research activities for postgraduate students, faculty and visiting scientists constructed and operational by the second year of the project.
- Outreach programmes to facilitate dissemination of developed technologies implemented in each of the partner countries.
- ACE IRPM&BTD partnerships with three (3) private companies for marketing developed innovations for rodent management.