James Mushi, a 2016 Fall Borlaug LEAP fellow, holds an MSc in Molecular Biology, as well as a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVM) from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania. James is currently pursuing his PhD at SUA where his focus is on improving productivity for chicken farmers through the selective breeding of Tanzanian free range local chickens (FRLC) for resistance to Newcastle disease, a major killer of poultry birds. He hopes his work will contribute to improving food security, national health and wealth, and improved income potential through these chickens.
After receiving his BVM, James worked as a veterinarian in his immediate community, treating animals and providing consultations to improve animal welfare. However, his true desire was to improve animal production using modern scientific techniques and to contribute to the increase of animal proteins in local diets. James was subsequently hired to work as an assistant research scientist in the Newcastle Disease-Avian Influenza project based at SUA, which focused on the control of the two diseases. He was later employed by the University in 2008 to work as a lecturer and a researcher. He then began focusing his attention on the free range local chicken. The FRLC has high a fecundity rate and is easy and inexpensive to keep even by the poorest household. James is looking forward to fulfilling his vision through this fellowship in addition to receiving help and direction in completing his PhD research.
For this fellowship, James will be under the mentorship of two scientists who have made great contributions in the world of animal production and food quality. Professor Huaijun Zhou at the University of California, Davis is a molecular geneticist and an immuno-geneticist. He will guide James in the molecular and immunological components of his work, attempting to isolate the molecular elements and immunological mechanisms for the resistance to Newcastle disease in the Tanzanian FRLC. Dr. Tadelle Dessie of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Ethiopia, is animal geneticist and breeder with great experience and a long track record of research on poultry. He will work with James, giving him hands-on experience at the ILRI lab and giving him exposure to breeding programs for the perpetuation of identified Newcastle disease resistant type FRLC. James is expecting to finish his PhD studies in 2019.