International projects

Projects in the spotlight

World map of international projects

Gates Foundation

Professor Andy Peters, Head of International Activities at SRUC, has been working closely with the Gates Foundation developing a number of exciting projects.

PhD Studentships

SRUC is currently supervising two PhD students - funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - who study at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Tanzania.

Bridgit Muasa, who currently works in veterinary services in Nairobi, will be studying the use of cow side diagnostics (carrying out testing immediately after the sample and still by the side of the cow) for fertility management in dairy cows while animal scientist Aluna Chawala from Tanzania, will be investigating farmer based decision making in cattle breeding working in.

Both students will begin their research at our Dairy Research Centre in Dumfries, spending six months there from September onwards. Bridgit will be supervised by Professor Andy Peters and Aluna will be supervised by Dr Mizeck Chagunda.

Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Human Health

In November 2015 a new Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health will be launched thanks to £10 million of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is a partnership project led by the University of Edinburgh and with the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya. The aim is to establish a completely new genetics institute focused entirely on the genetic improvement of farm livestock in developing countries.

New joint venture between SRUC and University of Edinburgh School of Veterinary Science in association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

An application is currently underway to establish a new unit jointly between SRUC and University of Edinburgh (UoE) School of Veterinary Science to carry out international development projects for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation has set targets across several African countries to reduce the cattle mortality rate by 15% by 2020. In order to facilitate this they aim to investigate the main causes of cattle deaths and pilot preventative measures. The project will be in partnership with the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine at UoE.

Productivity Improvement in Smallholder and Emerging Dairy Systems

SRUC’s Dr Mizeck Chagunda, Reader in Dairy Sciences, has been leading another Gates’ funded project on dairy productivity.

SRUC, together with collaborators, is conducting a range of studies aimed at contributing to sustainable breeding strategies.

Genetic improvement of farmed livestock has had a major impact on productivity, resource use efficiency, and food security, in many sub-Saharan African countries. Being permanent, cumulative, and usually highly cost-effective, it is also of huge potential value in many countries most in need of improved food security. However, this technology has not been widely used to date, largely because of small herd and flock sizes and a lack of animal performance recording infrastructure, breeding goals and at times the use of genotypes that do not match the production systems. Dr Mizeck Chagunda expects that this project will work to address these and related challenges associated with smallholder farmers and & emerging diary systems.

The scheme includes; developing and testing systems of getting reliable data on the phenotypic performance of cows; examining the genetic improvement infrastructure for smallholder production systems; examining the feasibility of a cross-country genetic evaluation; investigating the genetic progress that can be achieved through incorporating farmer-based genetic goals; and breeding goals that have a focus on increasing productivity and reduction of environmental impact.

Project partners include: Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Agriculture Research Council (ARC, South Africa) and The Zimbabwe Herdbook. For further details, please contact Dr Mizeck Chagunda:


After four years work in Cuba Julian Bell and Paul Fotheringham have achieved their goal of producing renewable energy while returning abandoned sugar cane land to food production.

Julian explains: “Following the fall of the Soviet Union, demand for Cuban sugar collapsed leading to millions of hectares of land being abandoned and subsequently becoming infested with an invasive non-native woody weed called Marabu. Imagine gorse, 20ft high, with stems as hard as mahogany, growing 6ft a year and you quickly appreciate why the Cuban farmers armed with hand tools and old Soviet tractors became overwhelmed.”

Julian and Paul were tasked by UK investors Havana Energy and their Cuban joint venture partners to develop an economic method for harvesting and processing the weed for use in a series of bioenergy plants planned for sugar mills across Cuba. They had to find equipment tough enough for the task yet capable of high work rates. It was a challenge especially because they could not turn to US suppliers due to long standing sanctions. They scoured Europe for the right design and following their most recent trial in December 2014 where the land was cleared of Marabu and returned to food production, they, believe they have found suitable equipment. Further improvements are already planned to boost productivity.

“The Cubans were going wild with excitement as they saw twenty years of neglect overturned,” says Julian Bell. “From scrub to excellent farmland - all in a matter of hours, thanks to investment, training and new machinery. For a country that imports 70% of its food and much of its energy it was an historic moment and came at an auspicious time with the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba.”

Moldova project - 2014

SAC Consulting’s Matthew Brown was seconded to Fera (Food and Environment Research Agency) in 2012 to implement an EU-funded Twinning project in the Republic of Moldova. 

The goal was to build the capacity of the newly established National Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Moldova and to bring its procedures into line with those operating within the EU.

The project proved to be an excellent staff development opportunity and demonstrated SRUC’s transferable skills in an international context. During the period, various other SAC Consulting staff also provided short-term inputs into the project on an as needed basis.

Matthew said: ‘‘all opportunities to work in another country should be taken, as it is very educational and provides experience which literally cannot be obtained in the UK. Living and working in another country, especially one where English is not widely spoken, is an excellent personal development and learning experience, the benefits of which cannot be underestimated nor easily quantified’’.

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