Two African researchers have praised their new home in Dumfries as they embark on projects which aim to help dairy farmers back in their home countries.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded PhD students, Bridgit Muasa and Aluna Chawala, are based at SRUC’s Dairy Research and Innovation Centre on the outskirts of Dumfries, and both have received a warm welcome from their colleagues and locals.


Aluna says: “I love the politeness and respect of the Scottish people to foreigners and the freedom to have different opinions. The country’s transport system is efficient and it is not necessary for a foreign student like me to have a car.”

Brigit is also enthusiastic about life in Scotland, noting: “I particularly enjoy the scenery and the well preserved historical buildings. I enjoy the beautiful rolling hills and ancient castles such as Caerlaverock and Drumlanrig and the magnificent churches.”

The new research projects are an expansion of ongoing work with sub-Saharan Africa which has involved not only researchers but also staff from SRUC Barony Campus and SAC Consulting.

Brigit’s and Aluna’s projects should both boost the dairy sector in Africa, in very different ways. Aluna will spend time with dairy farmers in Tanzania, with the aim of identifying the genetic traits needed to help breed for the ideal African dairy cow.

“There has historically been a lack of understanding around what breeding companies consider to be a good dairy cow, and what is actually a good dairy cow in Africa,” Aluna explains.

“The environment is so different over there, in terms of weather, feed and diseases, that we really need to breed a completely different type of dairy cow. But first we need to know exactly what that dairy cow should be.”

Barony Dairy

This is where Aluna’s work comes in. His aim is to create practical breeding goals for African dairy farmers, so that their livestock is adapted for an African system, rather than a Western one.

Brigit’s research will focus on improving conception rates in east Africa, where farmers lack easy access to technologies which can help them tell when their animals are ‘on heat’. This means animals can take longer to conceive and calve, a significant cost for the farmers.  Bridgit will study a number of the tools currently in use in the UK before taking them to a farm in Kenya to assess how they work in the African environment.

“I hope that this research will identify practical tools the dairy farmers in east Africa can use, and that those tools will save them money result in a rise in conception rates.” Bridget says. “I’m really interested to find out both how well the products work generally, and what differences we might see between the UK and African dairy sectors.”

Certainly both students have found there to be a quite a difference between Scotland and Africa, for Aluna, who is used to a dry and sunny climate of Tanzania, the weather has obviously been quite a noticeable change.

For Brigit however the most significant difference is simply down to size and scale. Coming from the bustling city of Nairobi in Kenya, she says: “One of the main differences for me has been living in Dumfries which has a population of about 40,000 whereas my home city of Nairobi has a population of about 4 million. The change in pace has been quite refreshing and I enjoy the fact that I am able to walk to most places around the town.”

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