1) Livelihood analysis and strategy developement - led by CIAT and University of Dschang

  • Activity 1.1. Map, characterize and document cavy distribution within the study region. Documentation available on the distribution of cavy culture in Cameroon, eastern DRC and other African countries will be collected and mapped. Based on secondary source data and key informants, a relevant sampling method will be designed to have a sound survey protocol. A comprehensive questionnaire will be developed. With GPS and questionnaire, data will be collected in targeted areas and processed using GIS procedures. Contacts have been already made with PAPENOC in charge of mini livestock in Cameroon for collaboration in the mapping. Data from other countries will be considered.
  • Activity 1.2. Characterize current production systems in rural and peri-urban environments to identify constraints/bottlenecks for achieving higher productivity. Marketability and consumption. Current cavy production systems will be documented by use of a questionnaire and focus group discussions, to identify key constraints/bottlenecks for achieving higher productivity, marketability and consumption in representative sample communities.
  • Activity 1.3. Study cavy market value chain(s) from producer to trader and consumer. A study on the Cavy value chain will be conducted as part of the Innovation Platform set up process in order to understand the potential and the challenges of the value chain that the platform actors will address. This will contribute in knowing who are the cavy farmers and where cavies are coming from and who are the chain actors between the producers and the final consumers.
  • Activity 1.4. Establish Cavy Innovation platforms (IP) and ensure their sustainability. An IP is an institution that brings together multiple stakeholders to address the farmers’ concerns (problems, needs and/or opportunities) through visioning, planning and implementing agreed strategies. The aim of an IP is to address the issues identified and strategize on addressing them in order to achieve the desired change. It is a forum for sharing and learning from all actors as equals. We envision to establish one IP each in Cameroon and eastern DRC that will regularly meet, including all relevant actors (i.e., farmer representatives, partners such as HIC, Women for Women, Village Cobayes, hoteliers, traders, government departments). In these meetings they will develop their activity workplans and budgets, and design their M&E systems. Innovation platforms have shown to be a useful tool for development oriented research in the region (Tenywa et al. 2011).
  • Activity 1.5. Assess the socio-economic and cultural importance of cavy for wealth creation among women and youth, and determine household nutrition security. Participatory diagnosis and approaches will be used in some sample communities to establish the role of cavies in women’s and young boy’s incomes. We aim to establish the contribution of cavies in household nutrition security, especially for children.

2) Genetic diversity and animal improvement - led by BecA and University of Dschang

  • Activity 2.1. Map (geo-reference), characterize and understand genetic diversity among and within cavy populations by applying molecular markers. Blood samples of various cavies (national populations) will be collected. The collection of samples will be based on guidelines developed to promote not only collection of sample animals, collections of biological samples but also metadata from Activities 1.1 and 1.2, including location, husbandry and feeding practices and breeding strategies if any. Sampling size and locations will be based on population importance and phenotypic variations already mentioned or observed and registered on site. GPS and questionnaires will be used together with a camera. Blood samples will be sent to BecA-ILRI for genomic analysis. Two MSc students in Genetics and Production Systems will be enrolled for field and primary data collection and primary analysis aspects both in Cameroon and South Kivu. Blood samples from control populations (Peru or any other non-African country) will be searched to understand similarities in clustering. Laboratory activities including genomic DNA preparation, PCR amplification of the selected simple sequence repeat (SSR) loci, fragment analysis, data collection and analysis will be implemented at the BecA Hub under a joint supervision of Drs. Djikeng and Mwai. All available SSR markers for cavy genotyping have already been purchased and are currently available at the BecA Hub. All SSR markers will first be tested based on published conditions and PCR products will be subjected to fragment analysis using the ABI 3130/3730 genetic analyzer. Upon completion of all fragment analysis experiments, the data collected will be analyzed using various standard packages.
  • Activity 2.2. Define African breeding populations and facilitate use of existing regional or national networks to address inbreeding issues. Production systems will be assessed with emphasis on breeding schemes. On-farm performance (reproduction, weight gain, mortality and morbidity) will be assessed during the survey concerning production systems and population diversity. Results from previous studies would be considered. Selected animals will be purchased from farmers and pooled together for further performance assessments under controlled conditions. These animals will be used to establish breeding populations in the two countries. ILRI/ CIAT Project Agreement - Version 1 35
  • Activity 2.3. Pilot controlled introduction (promotion) of new (elite) breeds with selected farmers under very strict monitoring system. Depending on the results of the diversity studies to measure the level of inbreeding, we aim to introduce a core population of improved/exotic breeds from South America, preferably from Peru. These animals will be reared separately during an adaptation period of at least six months. Performance experiments will be designed integrating variables such as purity or mixture of local and exotic breeds. General linear model will allow appraising performance on and off farm. Students enrolled will follow up with farmers selected for the occasion in targeted important locations. At this stage selected farmers linked to the innovation platform will be involved in the pilot study. Similarly some of the local breeds that appear to perform well will also be selected for similar studies. The long term goal will be to maintain both at the University of Dschang and in farmers cooperative a stock of male cavies that will progressively be used for crossing in a protocol developed to reduce inbreeding.
  • Activity 2.4. Integrate genetic diversity data with breeding information and performance, and new husbandry practices (incl. feeding) to design a sustainable cavy production system. This activity will be developed based on results and observations made in activities 2.2 and 2.3. Specifically, the breeding program will include: (i) screening of regional breeds, comparison with improved exotic lines, and establishment of a national gene pool(s); (ii) implementation of a selection/ crossbreeding program; (ii) testing of genotype-environment interactions, production of improved breeds for use under different conditions. Special attention will be paid to the local conditions of people in order to not overly increase their risks in cavy cultur.

3) Improved forages for higher production - led by CIAT and the University of Dschang

  • Activity 3.1. Assess and document existing feed resources and typical feeding practices. Except from incipient surveys and trials in Cameroon (Manjeli et al. 1998; Tchoumboue et al. 2001; Tedonkeng-Pamo et al. 2005; Kenfack et al. 2006), peri-urban situations in Kinshasa/DRC (Bindelle et al. 2007, 2009), and incipient studies in eastern DRC (Nguizani 2001; B.R. Ayagirwe 2011, unpublished), there are no data available on quantity, quality, seasonality and acceptability of feed resources together with typical feeding practices of traditional cavy keepers. This knowledge, however, is basic in order to design improved foraging/feeding for cavies. In the two countries, participatory assessments of feeding calendars will take place together with quality analyses (representative sampling for crude protein and fibre) throughout the year. The feed assessment tool (FEAST) developed by Duncan et al. (2010) may be used for this assessment. Results will be compared with existing data on nutritional requirements for cavies from a multi-lingual literature review. This will lead to recommendations for enhanced feeding, thereby also mitigating seasonality.
  • Activity 3.2. Identify spatial/temporal niches for utilization of improved forages in production systems; assess farmer acceptability of forages. Improved tropical forages, such as the legumes Arachis pintoi or Canavalia brasiliensis have been recently introduced into eastern Africa (e.g., Katunga et al. 2011). However, they are not yet widely distributed and farmers are not aware in most of the cases that they can enhance their small animal husbandry by improving their feeding. On-farm trials will be performed in South Kivu in order to familiarize farmers with improved forage options. An MSc student will be enrolled to monitor herbage performance, acceptability by animals and farmers as well as the effects on cavy production. In Cameroon, research to improve feeding will focus on the highlands, as biomass is usually abundant in the forest zone.
  • Activity 3.3. Produce vegetative propagation materials with farmers. Forage propagation materials usually do not have a market. In order to run on-farm trials with farmers, such propagation materials have to be made available. Therefore, vegetative materials of suitable forages (e.g. Guatemala grass, improved Brachiaria, and the legumes Arachis glabrata or A. pintoi) will be produced together with farmers to enhance availability. We will base our activities at local schools in South Kivu that have earlier partnered with CIAT. In Cameroon, farmers already involved in cavy culture will be offered suitable forages together with forage husbandry training.
  • Activity 3.4. Determine acceptability and utility of new feeding materials for cavies as well as traits of production, reproduction, and animal size and nutrition values under improved feeding practices. Feed availability and feeding practices probably vary largely between and among the two countries. When introducing new feeds and/or feeding practices, their acceptability ought to be assessed not only regarding animal performance but also in terms of labor, social and economic compatibility for farmers. Probably on farm, there are many potential feeding materials, whose acceptability and utility for cavies are not known (e.g., tree/shrub leaves); this will be tested under controlled conditions. To improve feeding, all production and reproduction factors need to be studied with local and improved breeds. Different innovations concerning the presentation of feeds to cavy by improving/introducing materials (grass-chopper, pellets made from forages) may depend on the general level of technology available. Experiments will be designed to assess the effects of locally identified or introduced forages on production (growth and carcass yield) and reproduction (pregnancy duration, litter size, birth weight and weaning age). The effects of treating forages (e.g., wilting, drying) on the acceptability by the animals will also be studied. Experiments will be managed and followed by MSc students enrolled for this purpose both in Cameroon and DRC.

4) Capacity building and information dissemination - led by BecA and Dschang University

  • Activity 4.1. Review, compile, synthesize and publish available knowledge on cavy culture from Africa. Published articles as well as information from unpublished reports, theses and other ‘grey literature’ on cavy culture in Africa will be collected, scanned and organized into a soft database for collaborators. For the time being most of papers published in Cameroon have been traced and copies are available. All documentation available will be reviewed, analyzed and synthesized by all partners of the project. This will result in a peer-reviewed publication by all partners. Accessibility of information and documentation will be sought by establishing a project internet site, such as a Wiki.
  • Activity 4.2. Access, transfer and disseminate available knowledge from South America to improve cavy culture in Africa. Access to information about improved cavy husbandry is grossly deficient and lacking behind the level of knowledge available, especially in South America (e.g., Chauca de Zaldívar 1995, 1997; Valle-Zárate 1996a,b; Rico-Numbela and Rivas- Valencia 2003). A large body of knowledge on cavy culture has been produced over decades, however, it has been published in Spanish and is, therefore, not accessible for most Africans; a small book shall be produced under the overall guidance of CIAT that summarizes major results available in Spanish into English/French.
  • Activity 4.3. Train and assist in training of African researchers, students and extension staff in molecular breeding; tropical forage husbandry and seed systems/vegetative propagation; and improved methods of cavy culture.The project will put major emphasis on training staff and/or enrolled students, but also extension staff in the two countries in various methods and techniques that can help to improve cavy culture in a comprehensive way; this refers to molecular breeding; improved cavy culture in general; and forage husbandry together with their seed systems, including vegetatively propagated materials. Various MSc students shall be trained within the project, and they are encouraged to make use of the two partner universities, of Dschang and UEA, in order to build strong capacity. MSc and other trainings will incorporate farmer capacity building as part of addressing the main issues brought out from the Innovation Platforms.
  • Activity 4.4. Capacity build stakeholders in the Cavy Innovation platform establishment and processes. In the two countries, all potential stakeholders and platform members will be trained during workshops what an Innovation Platform is about, how it is established and how it runs. This is crucial for Innovation Platforms to function.
  • Activity 4.5. Organize workshops: inception workshop of the project among key partners; final workshop to assess achievements and define future research and development needs. We propose the organization of two workshops (inception and final) at the beginning and the end of the project. The inception workshop is proposed to be at University of Dschang, Cameroon. It will include all investigators and students who will participate in the project from the University of Dschang together with all principal investigators from the major collaborating institutions. This workshop will include two parts; (i) the strategic project design, which will review the implementation plan; one of which outcomes will be an agreement on the data collection and analysis strategy with all components of the metadata to be collected in the field. (ii) The second part will be devoted to field visits providing opportunities to start data collection while ensuring the consistency of the same activities at other collection sites in Cameroon and in DRC. All leaders of project activities will make in-depth presentations on the activities that they will oversee emphasizing the overall relationships among activities. The final workshop will embrace key stakeholders, including Australian partners, activity leaders and students trained through this funding opportunity, NGO/CSO/FBOs and community representatives who will play key roles in the implementation of the outcomes of the projects. It is yet to be decided, where this workshop will take place.