A training course run in Nairobi, Kenya, last month will lead to some 350 researchers across Africa learning new techniques that will help them tackle plant diseases that devastate crops.
An innovative partnership between the UK-based CONNECTED Virus Network and Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA – ILRI) Hub enabled 19 delegates from 10 countries (Benin, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) to take up fully-funded places at ‘An introduction to virus and vector diagnostics’, a five-day course which took place in Nairobi at BecA-ILRI Hub.
Jacob Mignouna, Director of BecA-ILRI Hub, said: “The training workshop had scientists coming from all over the continent to learn new technologies and new methods of virus detection.
“On their return home not only are they applying knowledge of the new methods to their own programmes, but they are also able to pass the information to their colleagues in their national programmes.
“This is the way we work, and we really appreciate the partnership that we have with CONNECTED in the UK,” he added.
Members of the CONNECTED management board are now actively looking to arrange further virus and vector diagnostic training for its early career researcher members, following the resounding success of the course.
“We have now been able to analyse feedback from delegates, and it is remarkably positive”, says Prof. Neil Boonham, CONNECTED Network Co-Director.
“The feedback highlights the huge value of providing this sort of training to share and spread good practice in virus and vector diagnostics to help improve food production and food security in Sub-Saharan African countries.
“Vector-borne plant diseases contribute to food insecurity, hunger, and limited economic development. Tackling these diseases is the CONNECTED network’s mission and, if we are to succeed, scientists in Africa need to be able to detect the viruses and identify the insects that carry and spread the viruses that are responsible.
“So CONNECTED, working with BecA-ILRI Hub, brought together a cohort of early career researchers for a fully-funded five-day training programme to do just this.”
What the feedback showed
In a post-course online questionnaire, delegates were asked to rank aspects of the training on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is the highest.) Analysis of the feedback showed:
88% gave the highest possible ranking to the course’s relevance to their own professional development, with all the others giving four out of five stars
Every single respondent gave five stars to the quality of the trainers, and either four or five stars to the training materials used
Overall course organisation achieved the top possible marks from 82 per cent of delegates.
Each and every delegate confirmed their intention to share their newly acquired skills and knowledge with others in their network. They were asked how many people this would involve, and their responses show dissemination will now be taking place to a minimum of 350 colleagues in their networks across the 10 countries represented.
Collectively the delegates confirmed they would do this through a combination of lectures, laboratory practicals, seminars & tutorials, research supervision, articles, newsletters, blog posts and funding reports.
“The fact that nearly 90% of survey respondents said they would recommend attending a CONNECTED course to others underlines the need for our management board to actively consider similar training,” added Prof. Boonham. “We are hopeful we will be able to bring good news of future opportunities in the months ahead.
“Early career researchers are warmly invited to ensure they don’t miss news of future opportunities, by joining the CONNECTED network free of charge using this link.”
Prof. Boonham shared teaching duties during the week with Dr Goncalo Ramalho E Silva, from The Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK. Course content included:
DNA barcoding sample preparation – DNA extractions on insects
Polymerase chain reaction
Electrophoresis and purification of DNA for sequencing
DNA sequence analysis – clustering, database searching
Isothermal amplification techniques – LAMP and RPA
Course delegates applied to a call from the CONNECTED network to attend the course. Successful applicants took up places which were fully funded, including travel, accommodation, course fees and subsistence. They came from 10 countries: Benin, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.