ILRI’s annual Capacity Development Grand Challenge sees an increased number of entries in 2020

Every year since 2019, Wellington Ekaya, ILRI’s head of Capacity Development has been hosting the CapDev Grand Challenge, a vibrant contest that sees young and upcoming livestock researchers make a pitch to explain their research in three minutes, to effectively engage with donors and policymakers. This year, the judges panel, which is made up of a scientist, donor, development policy experts and a communication professional reviewed pitches from 46 participants over two days, which is nearly double the number of entries in the 2020/21 CapDev Grand Challenge. 

Participants in the 2020/21 CapDev Grand Challenge, which was launched on 17 November 2020, culminating in the 3 minute research pitching contest on 9- 10 March 2021, included researchers from ILRI, development organizations and programs working in livestock research for development in sub-Saharan Africa, east, south and southeast Asia.

‘Celebrating the CapDev Grand Challenge awardees marks the start of an exciting transformational journey – 10 courses in 10 months. A series of soft skill trainings designed to sharpen the skills of these next-generation researchers in systems thinking, communicating science to lay audiences, leadership, working in multidisciplinary teams, negotiation and problem management.’- Ekaya Wellington

The virtual award ceremony, which took place on 16 March 2021 was headlined by the former president of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, a politician and biodiversity scientist who was the first women elected as president of the country. Her keynote address marked the start of a 10-month soft skill training journey for the 2020/21 Grand Challenge winners, which will run to the end of 2021. 


Gurib-Fakim shared powerful thoughts on why quality higher education, science and technology and innovation matter. ‘Education and investing in our youth is the only fundamental that will propel a country to the next stage of its development, ensuring social mobility,’ she said. Recognizing the need to build scientific capacities in low-and middle-income countries to keep its population in good health, she called for institutional transformation saying it should address opportunities such as those provided by the CapDev Grand Challenge, a platform that is building the transformational research capacities of next-generation scientists. 

‘Our interventions must be guided by sound policies, increased investment and greater innovation, all backed by rigorous, science-based evidence, which can help guide the creation of policies that are growth-inducing, fair, free from political bias and benign to the environment.’- Ameenah Gurib-Fakim

Winners of the Cap Dev Grand Challenge in the various categories included:
ILRI only category on overall winners:
1.    Wilkister Nakami (f)
2.    Hussein Abkallo (m)
Partners only category on overall winners:
1.    Joel Bargul (m) – International Foundation for Science
2.    Manyando Simbotwe (m) – International Foundation for Science
Bioscience category:
1: Charles Byaruhanga – International Foundation for Science
2: Alice Kiarie – MSc graduate Fellow, ILRI
2: Emmanuel Kifaro – Regional Scholarships Innovation Fund, icipe
2: Jean Baptiste – Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
2: Saroj Sapkota – Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
Integrated sciences category:
1: Phyllis Ndung’u – PhD graduate fellow, ILRI
2: Betty Gisore – PhD graduate fellow, ILRI
2: Caroline Mburu – Afrique One ASPIRE
Women in livestock science:
1: Velma Kivali – PhD graduate fellow, ILRI
1: Faith Mutavi – PhD graduate fellow, ILRI
2: Gaby Monteiro – International Foundation for Science
2: Clarisse Umutoni – Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
2: Tasneem Osman – PhD graduate fellow, ILRI
Junior scientists (Msc):
1: Richard Kenana – Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)
2: Amos Lucky Mhone – ILRI
2: Peter Kurui – ILRI
2: Sylvia Woor – RUFORUM

CapDev Grand Challenge peer mentor medalist:
Daniel Korir – PhD graduate fellow, ILRI (winner of 2019 CapDev Grand Challenge)

Photo Credit: Annual Scientific Gender Conference and Capacity Development Workshop  Sep 2018 (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)