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A novel mechanism of functional cooperativity regulation by thiol redox status in a dimeric inorganic pyrophosphatase

Our latest outputs -

A novel mechanism of functional cooperativity regulation by thiol redox status in a dimeric inorganic pyrophosphatase Costa, E.P.; Façanha, A.R.; Cruz, C.S.; Silva, J.N.; Machado, J.A.; Carvalho, G.M.; Fernandes, M.R.; Martins, R.; Campos, E.; Romeiro, N.C.; Githaka, N.; Konnai, S.; Ohashi, K.; Vaz, I.S. Jr; Logullo, C. Inorganic PPases are essential metal-dependent enzymes that convert pyrophosphate into orthophosphate. This reaction is quite exergonic and provides a thermodynamic advantage for many ATP-driven biosynthetic reactions. We have previously demonstrated that cytosolic PPase from R. microplus embryos is an atypical Family I PPase. Here, we explored the functional role of the cysteine residues located at the homodimer interface, its redox sensitivity, as well as structural and kinetic parameters related to thiol redox status. Methods In this work, we used prokaryotic expression system for recombinant protein overexpression, biochemical approaches to assess kinetic parameters, ticks embryos and computational approaches to analyze and predict critical amino acids as well as physicochemical properties at the homodimer interface. Results Cysteine 339, located at the homodimer interface, was found to play an important role in stabilizing a functional cooperativity between the two catalytic sites, as indicated by kinetics and Hill coefficient analyses of the WT-rBmPPase. WT-rBmPPase activity was up-regulated by physiological antioxidant molecules such as reduced glutathione and ascorbic acid. On the other hand, hydrogen peroxide at physiological concentrations decreased the affinity of WT-rBmPPase for its substrate (PPi), probably by inducing disulfide bridge formation. Conclusions Our results provide a new angle in understanding redox control by disulfide bonds formation in enzymes from hematophagous arthropods. The reversibility of the down-regulation is dependent on hydrophobic interactions at the dimer interface. General significance This study is the first report on a soluble PPase where dimeric cooperativity is regulated by a redox mechanism, according to cysteine redox status.

Insights and opportunities from mapping ecosystem services of urban green spaces and potentials in planning

Our latest outputs -

Insights and opportunities from mapping ecosystem services of urban green spaces and potentials in planning Pulighe, Giuseppe; Fava, F.; Lupia, Flavio Urbanization and rapid population growth pose the cities in front of massive challenges in terms of environmental impacts. This paper explores recent progresses in mapping ecosystem services provided by urban green infrastructures (GI) and discuss how GI can contribute to promoting cohesion, resilience and livability toward sustainable and green cities. It also investigates the interlinkages between ecosystem services paradigm, mapping approaches at urban level and benefits provided for human well-being. A literature study focusing on recent research papers is conducted, highlighting new trends on methods and data, unexplored developments and opportunities on literature regarding mapping green infrastructures with respect to planning, management and ecosystem services’ provision. Additionally, an in-depth analysis of selected case studies synthesizes and discusses key insights of quantitative results related to key ecosystem services mapping approaches. The results indicate that mapping efforts integrates multiple disciplines, combining advanced technology and sophisticated models and methods. We argue that mapping ecosystem services would allow urban designers and planning practitioners to help and inform policymakers during the decision process and management of urban landscapes.

Effects of grazing and climate variability on grassland ecosystem functions in Inner Mongolia: Synthesis of a 6-year grazing experiment

Our latest outputs -

Effects of grazing and climate variability on grassland ecosystem functions in Inner Mongolia: Synthesis of a 6-year grazing experiment Hoffmann, C.; Giese, M.; Dickhoefer, U.; Hongwei Wan; Yongfei Bai; Steffens, Markus; Chunyan Liu; Butterbach-Bahl, Klaus; Xingguo Han From 2004 to 2010, the Sino-German research group MAGIM (Matter fluxes of Grasslands in Inner Mongolia as affected by grazing) ran a grazing experiment in a typical steppe ecosystem in Inner Mongolia, North China. Multiple ecological effects of grazing, climate variability and topography on plant and animal productivity, plant species composition change, decomposition and mineralization, soil nitrogen and organic matter distributions and dynamics, soil physics and chemistry, and soil-atmosphere gas exchange were measured in fenced plots with defined stocking rates and under different grazing management systems. This paper reviews and synthesizes the most important outcomes, conclusions, and open questions from the different project groups, as published in 125 ISI articles. While greenhouse gas fluxes, plant properties, and livestock performance were particularly responsive to (inter-) annual climate variability, soil properties were more affected by grazing intensity. Various management options based on the project results for semi-arid grasslands under changing climatic conditions are discussed.

Challenges and priorities for modelling livestock health and pathogens in the context of climate change

Our latest outputs -

Challenges and priorities for modelling livestock health and pathogens in the context of climate change Ozkan, Seyda; Vitali, Andrea; Lacetera, Nicola; Amon, Barbara; Bannink, Andre; Bartley, D.J.; Blanco-Penedo, Isabel; Haas, Yvette de; Dufrasne, Isabelle; Elliott, John; Eory, Vera; Fox, N.J.; Garnsworthy, P.C.; Gengler, Nicolas; Hammam, H.; Kyriazakis, Ilias; Leclère, D.; Lessire, F.; Macleod, Michael; Robinson, T.P.; Ruete, Alejandro; Sandars, D.L.; Shrestha, S.; Stott, Alistair; Twardy, Stanislaw; Vanrobays, Marie-Laure; Vosough Ahmadi, Bouda; Weindl, I; Wheelhouse, Nick; Williams, Adrian; Williams, H.W.; Wilson, Anthony; Østergaard, S.; Kipling, R.P. Climate change has the potential to impair livestock health, with consequences for animal welfare, productivity, greenhouse gas emissions, and human livelihoods and health. Modelling has an important role in assessing the impacts of climate change on livestock systems and the efficacy of potential adaptation strategies, to support decision making for more efficient, resilient and sustainable production. However, a coherent set of challenges and research priorities for modelling livestock health and pathogens under climate change has not previously been available. To identify such challenges and priorities, researchers from across Europe were engaged in a horizon-scanning study, involving workshop and questionnaire based exercises and focussed literature reviews. Eighteen key challenges were identified and grouped into six categories based on subject-specific and capacity building requirements. Across a number of challenges, the need for inventories relating model types to different applications (e.g. the pathogen species, region, scale of focus and purpose to which they can be applied) was identified, in order to identify gaps in capability in relation to the impacts of climate change on animal health. The need for collaboration and learning across disciplines was highlighted in several challenges, e.g. to better understand and model complex ecological interactions between pathogens, vectors, wildlife hosts and livestock in the context of climate change. Collaboration between socio-economic and biophysical disciplines was seen as important for better engagement with stakeholders and for improved modelling of the costs and benefits of poor livestock health. The need for more comprehensive validation of empirical relationships, for harmonising terminology and measurements, and for building capacity for under-researched nations, systems and health problems indicated the importance of joined up approaches across nations. The challenges and priorities identified can help focus the development of modelling capacity and future research structures in this vital field. Well-funded networks capable of managing the long-term development of shared resources are required in order to create a cohesive modelling community equipped to tackle the complex challenges of climate change.

ILRI and Kenya’s National Land Commission to collaborate in land use planning and rangelands management

Clippings -

ILRI-NLC signing ceremony

ILRI deputy director general, Iain Wright (left) with Tom Aziz Chavangi, CEO and secretary of the National Land Commission in Kenya

On 13 October 2016, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the National Land Commission (NLC) in Kenya signed an agreement to initiate collaboration between the two institutions on land use planning and rangeland management.

The NLC manages public land in Kenya and recommends appropriate land management policies to the national government. It recently produced county spatial planning guidelines to monitor how land is used in counties across the country.

The agreement will give ILRI a chance to build on and expand these guidelines, incorporating inclusion of social and institutional aspects of land use planning especially in relation to the unique nature of arid and semi-arid lands where ILRI is working with county governments and the NLC in the livestock component of the Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) program to support policy development for rangelands management in Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo, Turkana and Wajir counties.

The memorandum of understanding will guide collaboration between ILRI and NLC in three areas:

  1. Developing an annex to the county spatial planning guidelines which were recently produced and a complementary toolkit.
  2. Facilitating the mapping of shared resources in arid and semi-arid lands through a series of multi-stakeholder workshops, which will bring together knowledgeable local experts to document and map shared rangeland resources to lay the foundation for equitable and joint use of those resources by mobile pastoralists.
  3. Capacity development for county government personnel in spatial planning in rangelands.

The mapping workshops will result in geospatial data that will provide a better understanding of rangelands issues and needs of pastoralist livestock production systems

‘Land use planning is a powerful double-edged tool that can contribute to more effective rangeland management governance, but can make things worse if not well managed,’ said Iain Wright, ILRI’s deputy director general.

He said the collaboration between ILRI and NLC would be a stepping stone towards engaging in more activities. ‘I hope that in 2020 when Kenya will host a joint congress of the International Rangelands Congress and the International Grasslands Congress, there will be some success stories from this collaboration reported at that global forum.’

Tom Aziz Chavangi, the CEO and secretary of the NLC, appreciated ILRI’s willingness to collaborate with them. He said institutional foundation and enabling environment were important for formal community level and spatial planning processes.

The signing took place at the NLC offices and was attended by ILRI’s Iain Wright, Lance Robinson and Dorine Odongo, as well as NLC’s Tom Aziz Chavangi, Herbet Musoga, Charles Konyango Otieno and Rose Kitur.

Filed under: AVCD, Drylands, East Africa, ILRI, Kenya, Livestock Systems, LSE, Pastoralism, Policy, Rangelands Tagged: MoU, National Land Commission

Book: Innovation for inclusive value-chain development: Successes and challenges

CRP 2: program news -

The new book edited by a group of authors working with our Inclusive Value Chains and Efficient Trade research flagship talks about value-chain development (VCD) for stimulating economic growth and combating rural poverty, that has been increasingly embraced by governments, nongovernmental organizations, donors, and the private sector. The book helps to fill the current gap in systematic knowledge about how well VCD has performed, related trade-offs or undesired effects, and which combinations of VCD elements are most likely to reduce poverty and deliver on overall development goals. It uses case studies to examine a range of VCD experiences. Approaching the subject from various angles, it looks at new linkages to markets and the role of farmer organizations and contract farming in raising productivity and access to markets, the minimum assets requirement to participate in VCD, the role of multi-stakeholder platforms in VCD, and how to measure and identify successful VCD interventions. The book also explores the challenges livestock-dependent people face; how urbanization and advancing technologies affect linkages; ways to increase gender inclusion and economic growth; and the different roles various types of platforms play in VCD.

For more references and to order a free hard copy, visit this IFPRI publications page.

Mainstreaming gender in agricultural research key to development

CRP 5: Program news -

This post was originally published on ICARDA's website. Read the original post.

“When I invoke 'a farmer', what is the first image that comes to your mind?' asked Bezaiet Dessalegn, gender expert, and monitoring and evaluation specialist at ICARDA to an assembly of Jordanian and Egyptian agricultural researchers and development experts. 
“He is a man, a poor man working on his field,” one person said. “He owns his land,” said another. “He is responsible about production” added a third expert. 
“This is exactly my point,” stressed Dessalegn. “The last thing that comes to mind when picturing a farmer, is that she can be a woman,” she said. 
The day-long workshop on “Gender mainstreaming for inclusive research and developmental outcomes: Concepts, approaches and lessons learned” was held on October 9 in Cairo, Egypt. Jointly organized by ICARDAFAO and CGIAR Research Program on Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE), it aimed at sensitizing agricultural researchers and developmental experts on the importance of being gender-inclusive in their work, which is a key driver for wide and sustainable adoption of proven technologies.
Gender-inclusiveness should be integrated in all research topics, be it crops, water, soil analysis, food security, irrigation, harvesting, or livestock. “Women make up for 47% of all farmers worldwide,” she said, but that is often forgotten by researchers themselves, who mostly think about the way a new machinery, technology or cultivar will be handled and manipulated by a man. “If we don't include gender in our research, our approach is discriminatory from the onset,” Dessalegn explains, stressing that the goal of research is livelihood improvement, which cannot be achieved outside of who the target beneficiary of the study will be, and that includes women, children and the elderly as well as men. 
Illustrating the Gender Gap
Dr. Malika Martini, Regional Gender Officer in Agriculture and Rural Development at FAO, indicated that both men and women are heavily involved in agriculture-related activities within the Near East region, but that specific roles are assigned to men and women. This gender-based task allocation follows societal rules and norms and can vary by country. 
'Gender analysis' investigates the roles men and women play in intra- and inter-household dynamics within a given farming system, and should be applied to decisions about agricultural research and development activities. Such information is crucial to understand in working towards closing the “gender gap” – the effect that gender-based constraints have on limiting women’s access to agricultural inputs and improved technologies and thereby, constraining their overall productivity and potentially, household food security. 
Access vs. Control, Equality vs. Equity
In Egypt, the prerequisite to becoming a member of an agricultural cooperative is to own one's land. While the law does not discriminate between men and women’s membership in cooperatives, the reality is that not many women own land and even if they do, their active participation is not socially acceptable. This gender-based constraint in turn affects their ability to access agricultural inputs that are often cheaper and of a better quality as compared to what’s available in the market. 
"In many countries, women who don't own land cannot readily have access to credit partly because land serves as a collateral and partly, related to social norms established by the society,” explained Martini to illustrate the gap between access and control, and gender-based discrimination.
Researchers and development practitioners were encouraged to make conscious efforts to promote gender equity in their work through ensuring that both men and women have equal opportunities – which often requires additional effort to bring women to the same level as men.  
How to Integrate Gender into Research for Development
Basing research on sex-disaggregated data is one way researchers can ensure that gender is factored into their study. At each step of the research, men and women should act as informants, collaborators, and evaluators about current practices and experimental technologies.
Being gender-inclusive in agricultural research is one of the key ingredients to a successful research and a precondition for out-scaling. In Jordan for example, where research largely focuses on finding solutions to the country's extreme water scarcity, an ICARDA-led pilot study on the use of small-scale greywater treatment units has highlighted the specific role played by men women in water management, at the household and farm levels. Similarly, gender-sensitive research on the management, use, and perception of treated wastewater in Egypt identifies differences between men and women, enriching the quality and breadth of information that can be used to develop different scenarios for safe and efficient use of treated wastewater for agriculture. 
In Egypt, the mechanized raised bed technology improved by ICARDA and national research institutes to reduce water usage and fertilizers' input is being used in the governorate of Sharqeya, where it is particularly suited to the area's small land plots. Delivered by the extension services to the cooperatives, the machine carves an optimal bed width into the soil, and by doing so reduces labour, water and fertilizer use. 
“How easily can women access mechanized raised bed machines from cooperatives, even when they head the household?” asked Shinan Kassam, social scientist at ICARDA. 
Dr. Gehan Elmenoufi, a researcher at Egypt’s Agricultural Research Center who looked into gender sensitivity and responsiveness to the machines, met one female farmer in Sharqeya governorate driving a tractor.  “It was not seen as socially acceptable,” she recalled. 
During a focus group discussion Kassam had with women, he asked them what they saw as the biggest advantage of the machine. Two said:  “We don't have to deal with the youth anymore.” By youth, they were referring to the seasonal workers typically in charge of the initial sowing and land preparation, who are perceived as unreliable. 
Another positive outcome of this technology for women is that they no longer have to cook for the laborers and can reallocate this time to other activities, added Elmenoufi.
Gender as a Tool for Out-Scaling
According to Dessalegn, gender-inclusive research is certainly one of the factors that influence adoption of agricultural technologies, but is not in and of itself a sufficient condition. Gender should also be considered throughout the technology dissemination process, to ensure that both men and women have access to the technology and the means to adopt and use it effectively. 
“In order to foster real change, researchers need to identify from the very beginning the various actors that will need to come along to bring about effective adoption, and involve them at different levels. These could include agricultural extensions, local NGOs and Community Based Organizations, other research institutions, and the private sector” said Dessalegn, citing the example of the crucial role played by the private sector in Lebanon in disseminating ICARDA’s Integrated Pest Management technologies. 
Embedding the gender dimension throughout the study is a key criterion to enable large-scale adoption of a technology, needed to effectively impact development from the research. 
“Providing support to both men and women in agriculture has a multiplier effect on the rest of the household,” stressed Martini. “The more we understand the gender dynamics within the household and outside of it, the better our interventions will be,” she concluded.

Open-access Knowledge Bank tackles malnutrition

Knowledge and Information blog News -

Adequate nutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days of life, is critical to both physical and mental development and long-term health. Poor access to agricultural and health information has been recognised as a major barrier in the uptake of improved nutritional practices, particularly for women and vulnerable groups in marginalised areas. Developed through the mNutrition Initiative, the Nutrition Knowledge Bank (going live on 25 October) aims to help bridge the gap between information providers and users by providing an open-access store of both nutrition-sensitive agricultural approaches and nutrition-specific health interventions.

Read the full news item

The GSMA mNutrition Initiative is a DFID-funded global project developing agriculture, health and nutrition messages to address knowledge gaps and promote behaviour change. The Global content partner consortium consists of BMJ, CABI, GAIN, ILRI and Oxfam. It partner with local organisations to produce localised content, which is then directly disseminated by service providers through mobile networks.

Call for Afrique One-ASPIRE Fellowships

Beca news -

 The research consortium Afrique One-ASPIRE (African Science Partnership for Intervention Research Excellence) is recruiting 5 Postdoc Research Fellows15 PhD Fellows and 18 Master Fellows.

Fellowships are designed to cover 5 Thematic Training Programs within the consortium:

Thematic Training Program (TTP)

  1. TTP1: Canine rabies control and elimination - MSc 3; PhD 3; Postdoc 1
  2. TTP2: Brucellosis control and prevention - MSc 4; PhD 3; Postdoc 1
  3. TTP3: Mycobacterial Infection and Control (i.e. tuberculosis and Buruli ulcer) - MSc 4; PhD 3; Postdoc 1
  4. TTP4: Food-borne diseases and nutritional illnesses - MSc 4; PhD 3; Postdoc 1
  5. TTP5: Human and animal disease surveillance-response systems - MSc 3; PhD 3; Postdoc 1

Total Afrique One-ASPIRE fellowships MSc 18; PhD 15; Postdoc 5

Deadline for applications: Sunday, November 20, 2016

For more information about the fellowships, visit the Afrique One website.

 About Afrique One-ASPIRE

Afrique One-ASPIRE is a research consortium addressing questions of disease elimination based on the ‘One Health’-concept. Our research aims at identifying integrated approaches for disease elimination in relation to zoonotic and emerging diseases by taking human, animal and environmental components into consideration. The consortium comprises nine core institutions in East and West Africa including the BecA-ILRI Hub

More information about the consortium and the call can be found online: www.afriqueoneaspire.net and www.csrs.ch

New procurement policy & practices-ILRI Addis presentation

Latest ILRI announcements -

Dear All,

With reference to my earlier message concerning the new procurement policy from Misja, Director of Corporate Service, I am hereby inviting all ILRI and hosted CGIAR staff to attend a small presentation on the matter, followed by an open question session.

Therefore, if you would like to know more about what procurement will do to speed up the process, what preferred suppliers are, how they are selected, or how we can help to procure things on line, please come to the Lalibela meeting room on Friday, October 28, 2016 at 2:oo p.m.

Habtamu Fekadu | Supply Chain Manager


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