Elise Norberg, senior scientist at Aarhus University and capacity building specialist, introduces herself and her work in this one of a series of portraits of key people in the Africa Chicken Genetic Gains (ACGG) program.
Tell us about your education background
I have a PhD in animal breeding and I’m working as senior scientist at Aarhus University in Denmark, mainly doing research, supervising PhD students and developing PhD programs.
What is your work and what are you currently doing in ACGG?
I’m working on capacity building, which includes giving a course on advanced breeding. I’m also supervising joint PhD students with Hans Komen of Wageningen University and Tadelle Dessie of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
What are you focusing on right now within and also outside ACGG?
We are working on the outline of the next course, which is tentatively planned for early next year. I am also working on PhD projects which will focus on, among other subjects, feed efficiency, probably starting with Ethiopia.
Why does ACGG matter and what gets you excited about it?
I think this program offers a huge possibility for impact. Genetics is a really strong tool and you can see how the Horro chicken breeding program has really improved the Horro breed in terms of egg numbers and growth. There is always room for improvement using genetics. And of course the global impact of this project on poverty reduction, increasing possibilities for women to get income etc. is very important.
What challenges are you facing and how would you deal with them?
In the Horro breeding program, one of the biggest issues was keeping farmers involved. It’s essential that farmers are committed to this project and that they own it. Communication is really important to motivate them and to help them understand why they need to effectively follow the agreed measures such as keeping records of chicken and building sheds.
The other concern I have is around logistics: Moving materials across Africa is often a challenge and so being able to distribute and maintain genetic material could be an issue. I am also concerned about how we will collecting phenotype data.
What do you think will be the lasting impact of ACGG?
The main goal of reducing poverty and improving the conditions for women in agriculture is the impact I hope we will have with this project. If we succeed in adapting local breeds that are improved for local conditions etc. and have sufficient production, we will be able to illustrate the usefulness of local genetic resources.
Any other thoughts?
It’s a great and ambitious program, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to inform, motivate, and keep the farmers on board throughout the project.