UF receives $8.7 million to improve nutritional quality, food safety in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso

young girl outdoors with chickens
Photo by Dr. Sarah McKune

The University of Florida has received a five-year $8.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund research aimed at tackling global hunger in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

“The grant is important because it will help poor farmers feed animals better diets,” said Adegbola Adesogan, Ph.D., director of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems and professor of animal sciences. “This research is particularly relevant in the face of concerns about impacts of livestock on the environment as it will develop environmentally-responsible strategies for farmers living in increasingly stressed environments.”

Adesogan will lead research on providing feeds for dairy cows in Ethiopia, and sheep and goats in Burkina Faso.

In a second project, Sarah McKune, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of environmental and global health in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, and Arie Havelaar, Ph.D., a UF professor of global food safety and zoonoses at IFAS and the Emerging Pathogens Institute, will focus on environmental enteric dysfunction among children in Ethiopia. Environmental enteric dysfunction is a chronic gut inflammation that may be an underlying cause of malnutrition in young children.

The team will investigate how Campylobacter bacteria found in chicken droppings on small farms affects the gut health and linear growth of children. Previous studies have indicated that environmental enteric dysfunction, which severely limits nutrient absorption, may be responsible for up to 40 percent of growth faltering in children.

“In Ethiopia there are widespread efforts to increase income and nutritional status of women and children through increased chicken production among small holder farmers,” McKune said. “This study’s findings will hold important implications for existing and future policies that aim to improve nutrition.”

The research team also includes colleagues from Haramaya University in Ethiopia, Ohio State University and Washington University in St. Louis.