News from ILRI

Unlocking the potential of Ethiopia’s livestock sector: growth, jobs and environmental sustainability

Africa RISING Innovation platform establishment meeting at kebele and woreda level in Tigray region

Building on Ethiopia’s agricultural roots

With a population of around 94 million, a government aspiring to reach middle-income status within a decade and real GDP growth forecast to average 7% a year in 2015—2019, Ethiopia offers enormous growth potential across a number of different sectors. Having topped USD950 million in 2013/2014, foreign direct investment is adding further dynamism to one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. In 2010, the government set out its first ambitious five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) in a bid to foster balanced sustainable development. In the last five years, the economy has expanded by almost 75%, benefitting broad segments of the population.

Accounting for a quarter of national and 40% of agricultural GDP, livestock play a crucial role in national development. At more than 50 million, Ethiopia’s livestock population is the largest in Africa and eighth largest globally. Mixed crop-livestock farmers comprise more than 80% of the rural population and supply most of the country’s food. And since 2010, the production of commercial livestock products—meat and milk, skins and hides, and poultry—has increased by more than 50%.

Ethiopia stands at a crossroads. While rising economic prosperity from a growing urban middle class engenders demand for livestock products, recurrent and widespread drought illustrates the country’s vulnerability to climate and other shocks. Enabling smallholder farmers to produce competitively priced, safe and nutritious livestock products offers sustainable solutions to these potential economic, environmental, social and health challenges facing the country.

According to scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which has a principal campus in Addis Ababa, well-targeted and sustainable agricultural interventions—particularly in livestock breeding, health and feeding and in further developing national and local capacities in livestock research and development—will help Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers and herders massively improve the country’s food production, helping to move more than two million livestock-keeping family households into market-oriented systems and adding value to Ethiopia’s emerging animal-source food processing and marketing sectors. And of course to the economy as a whole.

Despite the impressive progress in recent years, livestock productivity in Ethiopia remains very low. A recent ILRI study showed that the average dairy-farm household in Ethiopia is only half as productive as their most productive counterparts in the country. Demand for animal-source foods continues to rise faster than supply, particularly for meat and eggs, and food deficits are projected to increase over time unless the major challenges to the country’s livestock sector in the areas of animal feed, health, genetics, and policies and the institutional environment are addressed within the context of a sustainable systems approach.

Well-fed and healthy animals produce more. Feed shortages, particularly in Ethiopia’s lowland, drought-prone rangelands, have perhaps been the most critical constraint to increasing livestock productivity and development. Frequent outbreaks of endemic diseases, aggravated by a lack of frontline veterinary services and drugs, have increased livestock mortality and morbidity, reduced fertility and slowed growth, significantly impacting livelihood opportunities and food security.

Ethiopia has already begun responding to these challenges by implementing policies facilitating greater farmer involvement in improved feed production and contributing to increased milk supplies to dairy processors. Progress has also been made in liberalizing the country’s veterinary services, adhering better to international food safety and disease standards, and increasing the numbers of veterinary graduates.

Even though research by livestock experts in Ethiopian institutes and ILRI have demonstrated the potential of experimental breeding programs, greater incentives in the form of loans, grants, land, tax-free equipment, etc., will be needed to realize the full potential benefits of modern genetics nationally. The rapid pace of change in the livestock sector, among other factors, has hindered capacity to support private-sector involvement in animal health; and shortages of suitable land have constrained the activities of livestock-related agribusiness producers and processors. Land shortages have principally reduced potential output of badly-needed animal feed.

Strategies contributing to the achievement of Ethiopia’s 2015–2020 Growth and Transformation objectives

Realizing Ethiopia’s middle-income status ambitions will largely depend on the country’s effectiveness in opening up key markets to strategic investments, regulating animal health and food safety sectors, and creating an environment in which productivity increases become synonymous with environmental sustainability. The sustainable intensification of integrated farming systems—specifically livestock production—offers significant benefits to Ethiopia in terms of food security, incomes, opportunities for trade, smallholder competitiveness, and ecosystem services. Overcoming low livestock and crop yields, and protecting the environment and farmers from external climate shocks, are essential to the transformation of Ethiopian agriculture. The following are particularly needed.

  1. Enhance livestock reproduction. Facilitate widespread adoption of improved artificial insemination technologies and genetic selection techniques to increase livestock productivity. Trials undertaken by ILRI and its Ethiopian partners have demonstrated that by synchronizing breeding and artificial insemination procedures together, pregnancy rates increased by up to 300%. Ability to schedule these techniques has helped time animal births to meet peaks in market demand and feed supply.
  2. Intercrop feed and food crops. Help smallholder farmers intercrop livestock feed crops with crops for human consumption in a productive and environmentally sustainable manner. For instance, ILRI research demonstrates that intercropping fruit with short maturing crops, such as vegetables and leguminous fodder species, brings multiple benefits: it increases producer incomes, improves soil fertility and enhances water-use productivity. And effective storage and treatment of fodder increases the availability of year-round low-cost feed, while combatting environmental degradation and increasing livestock productivity.
  3. Provide livestock insurance. Promote the provision of insurance that triggers payments to herder policyholders at the onset of severe droughts. Index-based livestock insurance provides a valuable safety net, protecting families from having to take drastic measures during times of drought, such as divesting themselves of their last remaining animal assets. Insured households in southern and eastern Ethiopia, according to ILRI studies, demonstrated more than 25% reductions in distress sales of livestock assets and dependence on food aid, and experienced significant nutritional benefits as well. Reduced risk of drought encouraged insured households to invest more in their livestock, such as by spending more on veterinary care, which in turn increased total incomes from sales of livestock products.

Public sector officials, researchers, smallholder farmers and large-scale specialized farmers, processors and other service providers (feeds, veterinary services, etc.) can play complementary roles in transforming Ethiopia’s livestock sector. Involving all relevant stakeholders in livestock development will accelerate local adoption of appropriate research-based technologies and the transfer of knowledge along Ethiopia’s livestock value chains. Ethiopia is well-placed to lead Africa in harnessing the contribution of the livestock sector to maximize food and nutritional security, reduce poverty and develop sustainable farming. The recent publication of the Ethiopia livestock master plan indicates that it is gearing up to do so.

ILRI-DAAD PhD scholarships 2016

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is collaborating with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to offer up to eight in region PhD scholarships in 2016 through a co-funding arrangement. 

ILRI through its graduate fellowship program will provide an opportunity for successful candidates from sub-Saharan African countries to undertake quality research for development, access ILRI’s cutting-edge research facilities and receive mentorship from ILRI scientists within the following broad ILRI program areas.

  • Animal Biosciences
  • Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity
  • Feed and Forages Biosciences
  • Food Safety and Zoonoses
  • Livestock, Gender and Impact
  • Livestock Systems and the Environment
  • Policy, Trade and Value Chains

DAAD is a publicly funded self-governing organization of the institutions of higher education in Germany which promotes international academic exchange as well as educational cooperation with developing countries through a variety of funding and scholarship programs.

Successful candidates will be expected to commence their PhD programs earliest 1 September 2016.

A call for applications will be placed here soon which will include more details on the application criteria and on specific ILRI programs that will host the PhD fellows.

For more information please contact Joyce Maru, capacity development officer (ILRI) on +254 20 4223417 or email CapDev.recruitment[at]

The BecA-ILRI Hub celebrates 15 years of biosciences in and for Africa


Coming up next week is an event marking the 15th anniversary of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research (BecA-ILRI) Hub, located in Nairobi, Kenya, and working with partners across the continent as well as with bioscience institutions worldwide. This event brings together global, regional and local actors in agricultural biosciences research for development. It celebrates the role played by the BecA-ILRI Hub and its many national agricultural research system partners in advancing African agriculture and food and nutritional security.

Invited speakers and participants will deliberate on ways to scale the Hub’s programs and impacts, particularly by working in partnership with and further empowering African science leaders and institutions. The Hub’s technology platforms, offering vastly improved precision and efficiency in crop and livestock research, will be on display.

Celebrating BecA@15 will answer four questions.

  • Do the BecA-ILRI Hub’s platforms and services offer the region comparative advantages in agricultural science?
    What are they?
  • Has the Hub’s support through co-funding national researchers helped Africa meet its agricultural priorities?
  • Are there unexplored opportunities for the Hub to support African governments in implementing their agricultural policies?
    What are they?
  • What has enabled the Hub’s technology platforms, research projects and capacity building initiatives to thrive?
    What will do so in future?

In 2016, the BecA-ILRI Hub marks 15 years of existence as an African centre of excellence for agricultural biosciences. Celebrating BecA@15 acknowledges the dedicated efforts of its international, regional and national partners in strengthening African agricultural biosciences capacities, knowledge, innovations and leaders.

Research at the Hub is conducted in five themes serving a demand-led research agenda.

  • Improving crops (with a focus on staple crops of Africa)
  • Enhancing food safety and nutrition
  • Increasing livestock productivity
  • Mitigating climate change and sustainably using natural resources
  • Making better use of underutilized crop and livestock species, breeds and varieties

In addition, the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) is the main mechanism through which the BecA-ILRI Hub responds to research demands from, and institutional and human capacity gaps within, national agricultural research systems.


Some 150 people will participate
in Celebrating BecA@15
which will be held at the campus
of ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters
on 3 Feb 2016

The event will be officially opened by the cabinet secretary for the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF), the honourable Willy Bett. It will feature speakers and panelists from organizations such as the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD), the Australian and Canadian high commissions in Kenya, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the John Innes Centre and the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

Two high-powered panels will explore the BecA-ILRI Hub’s evolution in the agricultural biosciences space and the potential for science and technology to accelerate Africa’s agricultural development. Distinguished alumni of the Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) will describe the impacts the Hub has had on their research work, careers and institutions. Interactive displays and exhibition stands will showcase ways the Hub and its partners are helping to transform agricultural landscapes across Africa. And a state-of-the-art ‘Integrated Genotyping Service and Support Service’ funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will be launched.

The morning sessions will be livestreamed and can be viewed here.

Find out more about the BecA-ILRI Hub by visiting its website and blog.

For more information about the event, please contact ILRI’s Ethel Makila: e.makila [at]

For information about media engagement, please contact ILRI’s Muthoni Njiru: m.njiru [at]

Follow the event on social media with the hashtag #CelebrateBecA.

Vaccination proclamation: India protects the neglected ’living assets’ of its remote pig farmers

Pig in Nagaland, India

Indigenous black pig from Nagaland, in the far northeastern corner of India, where tribal people traditionally keep pigs and eat pork (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Classical swine fever, also called hog cholera and pig plague, is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs of all ages, usually killing the animals within two weeks of infection. The disease is endemic in the states of northeast India, where pig husbandry and meat eating are ubiquitous among the tribal communities that inhabit this remote region, isolated from the rest of India except through a slender corridor flanked by foreign territories.

Pork is the main meat in the generally poor diets of the people, whose languages and traditions are of Sino-Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic origin and whose rugged, mountainous and heavily forested region continues to suffer from underdevelopment, widespread insurgency and severe poverty.

A 2011 study conducted by ILRI in the states of Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram found that pig farmers there incur huge annual losses of more than USD3.2 million (2 billion Indian rupees) due to pig deaths and the costs of treating sick pigs and replacing dead stock. These results convinced the Indian government to scale up production of vaccine against classical swine fever and to launch a control program focused on northeast India.

Classical swine fever costs, although negligible for treatment (about USD0.27 per pig), are considerable when it comes to a household’s loss of a pig (USD137) and the costs of replacing it with a piglet (USD29).

A meeting of northeast Indian policymakers was held to discuss ILRI’s findings and determine ways forward. Based on resolutions made at that meeting in Guwahati, ILRI drafted a policy brief and provided it and related information to senior government policymakers. The latter in August 2012 organized a meeting in New Delhi co-chaired by India’s animal husbandry commissioner and ILRI’s representative for South Asia. The scientific presentations and deliberations led the commissioner to declare classical swine fever a national priority. He set up a high-level task force to develop a national control program for the country.

The central government launched the program in early 2014 and supported private vaccine manufacturers to step up their production so as to ensure sufficient doses of the vaccine were available for regularly immunizing all of the country’s pig populations against classical swine fever. By drastically reducing pig fatalities, this initiative is preventing devastating losses among India’s millions of small-scale pig farmers, including the 1.5 million poor pig-keeping households in northeast India.

Poverty has been reduced in much of India in recent years. However, it has remained entrenched and even increased (2004/5–2009/10) in the country’s northeastern states, where 80% of tribal households rear pigs. For this reason, India’s national and state governments are focusing much development work in this region.

Funders: CGIAR | Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust | Sir Ratan Tata Trust
Partners: ILRI’s Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems (ELKS) project
CGIAR research program: Livestock and Fish
Contact: V Padmakumar, manager of the TATA-ILRI project in India on ‘Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems’ (ELKS), in ILRI’s Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program: v.padmakumar [at]

ILRI Research Brief 8: Prevention of classical swine fever—An impact narrative from northeast India, Mar 2014
     by Bernard Bett, Ram Pratim Deka, V Padmakumar and Keith Sones
ILRI Policy Brief 7: Classical swine fever in northeast India: Prevention and control measures, Jun 2012
     by Bernard Bett, Ram Deka, V Padmakumar and M Rajasekhar
ILRI web portals: ILRI in India and Classical swine fever

 This article is
the 1st of 21 stories
from the
ILRI 2014–2015 Corporate Report
that we’re posting on this ILRI News blog.
View or download the whole report
by clicking on the link above.

Cover of the ILRI Corporate Report 2014–2015

Some of ILRI’s top livestock slide presentations in 2015



  • Livestock overviews
  • Livestock in Africa
  • Livestock in Asia
  • Livestock feeds
  • Livestock breeds
  • Livestock health
  • Livestock and food safety
  • Livestock and pastoral systems
  • Livestock and climate change
  • Livestock and human nutrition and health
  • Livestock and One Health
  • Livestock and the environment
  • Livestock communications
  • And from CGIAR
Livestock overviews Better lives through livestock from ILRI The role of livestock in achieving the SDGs from ILRI ILRI overview from ILRI The global livestock sector: Trends, drivers and implications for society, health and the environment from ILRI ILRI overview 2015 from ILRI Food security and animal production—What does the future hold? from ILRI Livestock and food security: An ILRI perspective from ILRI Towards successful, and sustainable, livestock futures worldwide from ILRI


Livestock in Africa African animal agriculture: Grasping opportunities from ILRI Sustainable animal production systems in Africa from ILRI Kenya livestock projections from ILRI Introducing some ILRI and CGIAR activities in Ethiopia from ILRI The livestock landscape and ILRI in Southern Africa from ILRI


Livestock in Asia Livestock, livelihoods and the future of India’s smallholder farmers from ILRI The opportunities and challenges for livestock and aquaculture research for development in Asia from GCARD Conferences EcoZD and other EcoHealth/One Health initiatives in Southeast Asia: Lessons and perspectives from ILRI


Livestock feeds Innovative processing of cassava peels to livestock feeds—A collaborative project by ILRI, IITA and CIP from ILRI Feeding research and feeding innovation from ILRI Leveraging instructional design and innovative ICT to improve food security and farmer productivity—The FEAST experience from ILRI


Livestock breeds The changing livestock sector in developing countries: The context for animal genetic research from ILRI Vision for livestock genetics in Africa from ILRI The BecA-ILRI Hub: B4FA Animal Genetics for Africa from ILRI Genomics selection in livestock: ILRI–ICARDA perspectives from ILRI


Livestock health Climate change and animal health from ILRI Serological evidence of MERS-CoV antibodies in dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) in Laikipia County, Kenya from ILRI


Livestock and food safety The role of informal food markets—Towards professionalizing, not criminalizing from ILRI Food safety and informal markets: Animal products in sub-Saharan Africa from ILRI


Livestock and pastoral systems Resilience and sustainable development: Insights from the drylands of eastern Africa from ILRI Sustainable livestock insurance for pastoralists: From research to practice and impact from ILRI


Livestock and climate change Climate smart livestock interventions from ILRI CCAFS 4 Degree World by Philip Thornton from CCAFS | CGIAR program – Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security


Livestock and human nutrition and health CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health from ILRI Antimicrobial use in developing countries from ILRI Antimicrobial resistance and the global livestock sector from ILRI The livestock revolution and implications for human health and disease from ILRI


Livestock and One Health Healthy people, animals and ecosystems: The role of CGIAR research from ILRI


Livestock and the environment Manure management policies: A supportive tool for saving the earth and improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers from ILRI


Livestock communications,
knowledge management
and capacity development
Livestock: The global context from ILRI Using social media to communicate research: Experiences of the International Livestock Research Institute from ILRI Setting international livestock research priorities: Some livestock research challenges and priorities suggested by participants in ILRI@40 events in 2014 from ILRI Why communicate animal genetics research from ILRI Overview of Capacity Development at ILRI from ILRI BecA-ILRI Hub capacity building program: Empowering African scientists and institutions to solve Africa’s agricultural challenges from ILRI The road to CGSpace from ILRI


And from CGIAR Gender Responsive Research from CIAT CRP portfolio 2017-2022 – Wayne Powell from Independent Science and Partnership Council of the CGIAR

A look back at some of ILRI’s top stories of 2015

Mozambique, Maputo

Despite contamination concerns, Africa must embrace ‘wet markets’ as key to food security, 27 Jan 2015


Where do the world’s cattle, chickens, pigs live? Check out these cool maps (sheep and goats coming), 11 Feb 2015


The meat we eat, the lives we lift–Opinion by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith, 26 Feb 2015


WILD: Take a look at some of the ‘Women in Livestock Development’, 3 Mar 2015


Tanzania dairy sector gets USD1.5 million boost through East Africa Dairy Development project grant, 13 Mar 2015

 Nr Mega, southern Ethiopia.

Fighting fire with fire: New study shows co-parasitic infections of cattle protect the animals from lethal disease, 21 Mar 2015


First global map of the rising use of antimicrobial drugs in farm animals published in PNAS, 25 Mar


All things zoonotic: An ‘Urban Zoo’ research project tracks livestock-based pathogen flows in and around Nairobi, 31 Mar 2015


Managing the most nutritious, and riskiest, foods in the informal markets of developing countries, 11 Apr 2015


New project promises more productive chickens for Africa’s smallholders, 4 Jun 2015


Toughening animal agriculture for worse climate with ‘preventive breeding’–Scientific American, 11 Jun 2015


Climate change impacts on livestock: ‘This information does not exist’, 16 Jun 2015


The rise of antimicrobial resistance (lethal) and animal agriculture (critical): Their links in developing countries, 18 Jun 2015


Ethiopian ‘livestock master plan’ to take 2.36 million households out of poverty, 2 Jul 2015


A look at multi-stakeholder (aka innovation) platforms: From Africa RISING to MilkIT to imGoats to Humidtropics, 7 Jul 2015


Reducing human exposure to aflatoxins in poor countries: Towards new technologies and practices, 3 Aug 2015


All flesh is grass (except in Nigeria, where it might be cassava peel), 10 Aug 2015


Kenya Government launches insurance program to protect its northern frontier herders against catastrophic drought, 10 Aug 2015


Just how much gas does Africa’s livestock produce? A new environmental lab sets up to find out, 12 Aug 2015


‘Soft’ science at ILRAD/ILRI: A lively look back at three decades of veterinary epidemiology for development, 24 Aug 2015


New study recommends continued research on the possible role pigs could play in transmitting Ebola in Uganda, 1 Sep 2015


New DNA analysis of Asian sheep reveals unique diversity crucial to contemporary food and climate concerns, 1 Sep 2015


Mixing it up—The information ‘black hole’ on crop+animal recipes for climate-smart and climate-resilient farms, 2 Sep 2015

ILRIZerihun Sewunet

Creating an enabling environment for livestock development in Ethiopia, 9 Sep 2015


ILRI’s Corporate Report 2014–2015 is out: Twenty-one stories of better lives through livestock, 28 Oct 2015


Director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Jimmy Smith

What’s driving Ethiopia’s fast development? Millions of smallholder farmers, of course, 30 Oct 2015


Climate-smart livestock farming in developing countries is boosted by a £10-million research award, 25 Nov 2015



A couple of ‘missings’ for the Paris climate talks, 30 Nov 2015


Can we eat meat and still reduce greenhouse gas emissions?, 13 Dec 2015


A CapDev banner at the ILRI@40 conference in Nairobi, 1 Oct 2014 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).


Briefs on capacity development experiences at the International Livestock Research Institute, 14 Dec 2015


Nyando climate-smart villages are home to a mix of technologies tailored to boost farmers’ ability to adapt to climate change, manage risks and build resilience. These technologies will in turn improve livelihoods and incomes. Photos S.Kilungu (CCAFS)

New Kenya value chains program to lift 300,000 plus households out of poverty, 15 Dec 2015

 ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Dairy cow in Tanga, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Towards more productive dairy cattle for Africa’s smallholders, 23 Dec 2015


Slum farming and superbugs—An ‘Urban Zoo’ science project tracks bacterial routes in complex environments, 29 Dec 2015


The ‘year of meat’: Tamar Haspel, Bill Gates and others weigh in on the good, the bad and the ugly—and end up siding with ‘a little moderation and more innovation’, 30 Dec 2015






Foods available to African farm households increase with market access and off-farm work

 Fish stew, boiled maize, mixed beans, dried mushrooms, pumpkin leaves and egg stew

Common foods of Khulungira village, in central Malawi: Nsomba zophika (fish stew), chimanga chophika (boiled maize), nyemba zophika (mixed beans with salt and oil), bowa wofutsa (dried mushrooms with ground groundnuts), nkhwani wophatikiza ndi maungu anthete ndi kachewere wophika (pumpkin leaves, pumpkin blossoms and potatoes) and mazira ophika ndi phwetekere, anyezi, mafuta ndi mchere (boiled eggs with tomato, onions, oil and salt) (photo credit: CGIAR/Mann).

A unique dataset covering land use and production data by more than 13,000 smallholder farm households in 93 sites in 17 countries across sub-Saharan Africa is described in a paper recently published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Mark van Wijk, a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), led the study with other colleagues from ILRI and partner institutions. Excerpts from the paper, and its key messages, follow.

‘We calculated a simple indicator of food availability using data from 93 sites in 17 countries across contrasted agroecologies in sub-Saharan Africa (>13,000 farm households) and analyzed the drivers of variations in food availability. Crop production was the major source of energy, contributing 60% of food availability. The off-farm income contribution to food availability ranged from 12% for households without enough food available (18% of the total sample) to 27% for the 58% of households with sufficient food available.

Using only three explanatory variables (household size, number of livestock, and land area), we were able to predict correctly the agricultural determined status of food availability for 72% of the households, but the relationships were strongly influenced by the degree of market access. Our analyses suggest that targeting poverty through improving market access and off-farm opportunities is a better strategy to increase food security than focusing [only] on agricultural production and closing yield gaps. Recognizing and understanding diversity among smallholder farm households in sub-Saharan Africa is key for the design of policies that aim to improve food security. These results show there is a strong need for multisectoral policy harmonization and incentives and improved interconnectedness of people to urban centers and diversification of employment sources, rather than a singular focus on agricultural development of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Achieving sustainable food security (i.e., the basic right of people to produce and/or purchase the food they need, without harming the social and biophysical environment) is a major challenge in a world of rapid human population growth and large-scale changes in economic development. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), production on smallholder farms is critical to the food security of the rural poor and contributes the majority of food production at the national level. National policies and local interventions have profound impacts on the opportunities and constraints that affect smallholders.

However, policy frameworks that aim to improve food security and rural livelihoods in the developing world face many uncertainties and often fail.

‘The formulation of effective policies needs adequate information on how different options affect the complex issues surrounding food security and sustainable development. A complication in generating such information is the large diversity within and among smallholder farming systems. Agroecological conditions, markets, and local cultures determine land use patterns and agricultural management across regions, whereas within a given region, farm households differ in many ways, including resource endowment, production orientation and objectives, ethnicity, education, past experience, management skills, and in the farm households’ attitude toward risk.

Policies by their nature have to be widely applicable, but recognizing this diversity in farm households is key to designing more effective policies to help poor farmers. Understanding the main drivers of household diversity and their relationship with livelihood strategies can help to better codesign and target agricultural innovations.

‘In this study, we brought together cross-sectional farm household characterization data from 93 sites in 17 countries of SSA. Such a large database provides an immensely rich resource to derive descriptions linking indicators of food security and land use to the socioeconomic and biophysical environment of the smallholder farmers. We use these data to develop a simple farm household performance indicator that is robust and can be calculated based on the household information collected in different surveys. . . . ‘

Some excerpted statements from the paper

  • Consumption of self-produced food crops did not cover the food need for almost 80% of the households. Crop and livestock product sales were a substantial part of the [food availability] indicator.
  • Across the three [food availability] classes, the contribution of livestock to [potential food equivalent] was relatively conservative with a total contribution of about 20%. Within this overall contribution of livestock, though, there was a clear shift away from poultry to cattle as the level of [food availability] increased.
  • [Food availability] without off-farm income increased gradually with increasing livestock ownership.
  • Based on the resources of the household and its size (crop land, livestock, and family size), the model predicted correctly the [food availability] status (can a household, yes or no, produce and/or purchase enough food to feed the family?) of 72% of the households.
  • Households in market-constrained environments needed more land to achieve sufficient [food availability] values, with livestock being important or necessary.

Key messages from the discussion section
Bridging yield gaps is important, but improving market access is essential
‘Consumption of food crops produced on the farm forms the base level of energy supply in all smallholder farms, but most farm households start selling food crops before the households’ consumption reaches food self-sufficiency. Farm households sell produce even when they do not produce enough food to be self-sufficient: 83% of the farm household sell part of their crop produce, and only 4% of the farmers do not sell anything of their crop or livestock produce. Thus, market access is crucial to ensure or improve the livelihoods of these families.’

Livestock matter for both the poor and the rich
‘Livestock provided roughly 20% of the energy of the households. A clear shift in livestock species was observed: the poorest farmers rely on poultry, and those with better [food availability] own cattle. This shift follows what has been described as the “livestock ladder” across different farms. The livestock ladder depicts a system that poor smallholders can use to ascend from keeping small-stock to acquiring larger animals, so a dynamic change over time within the same smallholder farm. Our results show that the upper rungs of the ladder are associated with better [food availability]. However, the ladder does not show whether limiting resources, for example, fodder availability, will limit the ability of farmers to climb the ladder .’

Off-farm income is the stabilizer in the equation
‘Off-farm income was strongly related to the degree of [food availability] . . . .’

Simple models and indicators are needed for targeting and upscaling policy and development
‘When farmers have good market access, the size of the farm needed to produce and/or purchase enough food to feed the family secure can be small. . . .’

More land does not automatically mean more food is available throughout sub-Saharan Africa
‘[A]cross these different ranges, land productivity systematically declined with an increase in cropland holding. . . . [M]edium size farms are most efficient per unit area. . . . [W]here there is no land constraint and where there is no market access (e.g., in semiarid regions with low population densities), . . . the only way to become food secure . . . is through livestock holdings . . . .’

Targeting more than agricultural development is a necessity
‘[R]ural development in [sub-Saharan Africa] has to be more than closing yield gaps and agricultural development per se. Connecting people to urban centers and generating other employment sources will directly affect food security in a manner that boosting production cannot. As discussed earlier, farmers start selling produce at levels below fulfilling food self-sufficiency, and increasing productivity of food crops will only lead to substantial improvement in food security if cash crops and intensified livestock production can take place, both needing good market access. . . .’

Read the whole scientific paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Drivers of household food availability in sub-Saharan Africa based on big data from small farms, by Romain Frelata (ILRI and CIMMYT), Santiago Lopez-Ridaura (CIMMYT), Ken Giller (Wageningen University), Mario Herrero (CSIRO), Sabine Douxchamps (ILRI), Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt (Lund University), Olaf Erenstein (CIMMYT), Ben Henderson (CSIRO), Menale Kassie (CIMMYT), Birthe Paul (IITA and ICIPE), Cyrille Rigolot (CSIRO and French National Institute for Agricultural Research), Randall Ritzema (ILRI), Daniel Rodriguez (University of Queensland), Piet van Asten (IITA) and Mark van Wijk (ILRI), online early edition, 28 Dec 2015.

This work is a joint output of the CGIAR research programs on Livestock and Fish (LivestockFish), Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the following bilateral donor projects:
AFRINT: Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida) and the Swedish Research Council (VR)
CIALCA: Belgian Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGDC)
AFSI CORAF-AUSAID: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
N2Africa: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) grant to Wageningen University
SIMLESA: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
LiveGAPS: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) grant to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Concrete recommendations emerge from Ethiopia-CGIAR country collaboration and site integration consultation meeting

Dr Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopia State Minister of Livestock and Fishery for Livestock opens the consultation meeting

HE Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopia State Minister of Livestock and Fishery, opens the consultation meeting (photo credit IWMI/D. Tadesse).

Six concrete areas of collaboration have been recommended in a meeting between CGIAR centres operating in Ethiopia and national partners and key stakeholders in a move to further align their activities with the national Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP 2015-2020).

The meeting was scheduled following a decision by the Consortium of CGIAR centres last June, in anticipation of the launch of the second generation of CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs). Improved coordination and collaboration will be the focus of strengthening alignment between CGIAR and the priorities of national governments (initially) in 20 selected countries.

A draft report will be finalized in January 2016 and made available to participants and other key actors for comment, particularly the relevant international and regional organizations.

One of the ways of improving coordination and collaboration of the new, more integration-focused CRPII portfolio within selected geographies will largely take place at country level. In close consultation with key partners and national stakeholders, this process is being first piloted in six countries—Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Vietnam—to showcase what CGIAR centres and CRPs can achieve as a result of improved collective action. The Ethiopia country collaboration meeting, held on 11 December 2015, was the fourth event, following ones held in Nigeria, Nicaragua and Uganda.

Importantly, there is the potential to achieve research outcomes at scale if CGIAR can better coordinate its research contributions and link them with the major agricultural and related nutrition and health research and development initiative undertaken in Ethiopia. It is expected that developed country integration/collaboration plans in any particular country will be included in the CRP II proposals showing how the CGIAR centres and CRPs are going to work together while also aligning with the national strategies and priorities.

Giving the keynote speech at the event, the State Minister of Livestock and Fishery, HE Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, underlined the importance of sustained investment in agriculture for poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, raw material for industries, and export earnings. An increase in production and productivity and developing a drought resilient agriculture, he continued, cannot be sought without a strong research support. Thus, national and global research institutions are expected to fill the technological gaps and must position themselves to respond to emerging challenges, transforming the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Representatives from key semi-state organizations, ministries, national research partners and development partners in Ethiopia outlined their activities. Highlighting priorities in the coming years, in line with the Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II), they also made suggestions where they thought Ethiopia would benefit from closer collaboration with CGIAR centres in the country. One of the key areas highlighted was the establishment of a joint CGIAR-national agriculture research system collaboration and communication mechanism. This mechanism, it was recommended, would establish a permanent secretariat for joint planning, sharing of findings, and monitoring and evaluation.

The other areas of collaboration were the development of joint research proposals, the sharing of CGIAR-Ethiopian Agricultural Research System equipment and resources, the streamlining of policy engagement, and opportunities and modalities of capacity development.

A draft report will be finalized in January 2016 and made available to participants and other key actors for comment, particularly the relevant international and regional organizations. A country working group will move the agenda forward. In addition to feeding into the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3), the recommendations of the final country-collaboration report will guide the research and development and the mechanisms for better coordination, collaboration and strengthening the partnership within the CGIAR in Ethiopia, particularly the CRP and partners.

In terms of capacity building opportunities and modalities, the participants focused on the need for both more formal, short-term and on-site (joint research) training for national partners, and support in out-scaling for CGIAR centres. They also highlighted the need for facilitating access to laboratory facilities. These goals could be achieved through joint research implementation and supervision, and publications, linkages with international universities and research institutes and staff exchanges.

The participants also recommended more joint proposal development and research, focusing on a systems, rather than a sectorial approach, with common objectives linked to national goals. The last recommendation highlighted the need for the development of protocols on shared facilities, equipment and germplasm.

The minister’s intervention was preceded by a speech by the director general’s representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Ethiopia, Siboniso Moyo, on the CGIAR work globally, and followed by presentations by Dereje Biruk of the Agricultural Transformation Agency, Fentahun Mengistu of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Garry Robbins of the United States Agency for International Development, on the Rural Economic Development and Food Security Sector Working Group.

What we talk about when we talk about ‘evidence-based’ advocacy communications


From a poster, Abecedarium Broadside, created by David Lance Goines in 1972 for Saint Hieronymus Press and re-designed and reprinted in 1979 as A Constructed Roman Alphabet.

This opinion piece is written by Susan MacMillan

This year, a group of staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has started to think through more intentionally, and with more discipline, than before kinds of communications likely to be most effective in influencing decision-makers in livestock development. The latter is one of ILRI’s three strategic long-term goals (the other two are changing practices and increasing capacity)—but this is still relatively new territory for the research institute.

One of three of ILRI’s strategic goals is working with partners to provide compelling scientific evidence in ways that persuade decision-makers—from farms to boardrooms and parliaments—that smarter policies and bigger livestock investments can deliver significant socio-economic, health and environmental dividends to both poor nations and households.

It could be argued that when we speak or communicate anything, we are always advocating something.

On the other hand, scientists on the whole see themselves as producers of primary evidence, and as such, unbiased, above the fray of opinion-making or influence peddling, and certainly far above any form of direct lobbying.

This puts those of us in the business of science communications—not to speak of science ‘advocacy’—in an awkward position. We work daily to communicate something, for some reason, with some imagined and desired impact, as concerned with a finding’s potential significance as the finding itself, while the researchers for whom we work characteristically view such add-ons not so much as added value as dangerously unscientific, and at best irrelevant.

To be a science communicator in a research institute that has a mission—in our case, to help reduce world poverty and its attendant ills through research-based livestock development—is more challenging still. For such organizations are conducting science not for its own sake but to make a difference to equitable as well as sustainable human development. In ILRI’s case, we have resolved anew that we shall not deem ourselves successful, no matter how high the quality of our science, until we have ensured that pro-poor difference gets made, on the ground, and at scales that matter globally.

So how do we reconcile scientific principles of detachment with development ambitions for impact? How do we stay true to scientific rigour while communicating scientific results in ways that help influence publics and create big impacts?

An advocate, says the Oxford English Dictionary, is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. And to advocate is to publicly recommend or support. Both have obvious inherent dangers to the scientific enterprise, as the latter relies on evidence that can be (scientifically) reproduced, not on what will sway large (and largely lay) publics.

If the experience of ILRI is anything to go by, no resolution of these conflicting dispositions is at hand. It is (and likely always will be) a messy business harnessing the results of scientific dispassion for the benefit of development ambitions.

But that is not to say the endeavour is not a useful one, or even one without rather special power.

The word ‘advocacy’ comes from mediaeval Latin,
advocatia, from advocare,
meaning ‘to summon’ or ‘call to one’s aid’.

Both scientists and communicators might agree that they are always in some ways in the business of ‘summoning’ the known (or what can be known or learned) for what is as yet unknown. (To quote American writer Grace Paley: ‘You write from what you know, but you write into what you don’t know’.) While researchers rely on demonstrable evidence to push the frontiers of the unknown, science writers rely as much on rules of rhetoric as on those of logic, and on the muses of story-telling, of narrative drive, without which, no amount of logic or evidence will suffice to change hearts or minds or influence global events and challenges.

Of course, it is commonplace to say (and to believe) that neither the supremely influential nor the supremely rational is sufficient for creating ‘the world we want’. But how we go about getting these dance partners to the floor, and what score we play to enable a performance more affecting than clumsy, is less considered.

Rather than focus on ‘how to advocate’, it may be a more useful starting point to focus on ‘what to advocate’ and then to work backwards from there to figure out how to do it.

On this, we could take a leaf from food / science columnist Tamar Haspel, who recently recommended that we step back a bit to listen as well as to preach—to bring more diverse people to our tables, to concern ourselves as much with the universal values than underpin diverse opinions as we do with our superior opinions and specialist issues. Here’s part of what Haspel says:

. . . [C]onsider spending more time with people you disagree with. Surely, if you’re a GMO proponent, you know an opponent you could have lunch with. Organic advocate? Spend time with a conventional farmer. Expand your social media circle to include ‘them.’ Mute anyone who routinely calls names or hurls insults. If you’re part of the food industry and a member of an organization that gathers people together to talk about food at conferences and events, invite some outsiders. When everyone in the room sees the world in the same way, progress is unlikely. It’s harder to believe people are greedy or duplicitous or anti-science when you sit down together with a beer and discover you both like fishing or Portugal or ‘Zoolander.’ That last one’s particularly important because it doesn’t cost anything to implement. It requires no particular expertise. It has no downside. —Tamar Haspel, 10 things we should do to fix our broken food system, Washington Post, 28 Dec 2015

I like that. So I’m making it a priority this (new) year to promote a more inclusive and constructive conversation about our global food/agricultural/livestock systems and all that come in their wake.

If you’re interested in this ‘advocacy’ topic, please stay tuned because we’ll soon be posting here highlights of a Livestock Advocacy and Communications Convening that ILRI held late last year with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And we’d love to hear from you about what works, and what doesn’t, in your advocacy communications work. If you have ideas, links, challenges, please send them along using the Comment Box below.

And a (late) Happy New Year to you all.

Susan MacMillan leads awareness and advocacy work within ILRI’s Communications and Knowledge Management department.

Fragments d’ILRI : Traiter la peau du manioc, pour un milliard de dollars

Des sacs de peau de manioc de haute qualité, Ibadan, Nigeria (photo credit: ILRI/Iheanacho Okike).

Cet article a été publié originellement en anglais sur ce site; traduit par Ewen Le Borgne.

La production d’animaux d’élevage devrait doubler dans les 40 années à venir et le traitement de la peau du manioc pour en tirer du fourrage de qualité pourrait s’avérer une stratégie de choix pour les économies africaines qui n’arrivent pas à combler la demande de produits d’origine animale, selon une étude récemment publiée par trois centres CGIAR.

Les 50 millions de tonnes de peau de manioc rejetées en Afrique chaque année pourraient générer au moins 15 millions de tonnes de peau de manioc de haute qualité, ce qui permettrait de combler les lacunes en fourrage et de générer une activité industrielle valant environ 2 milliards de dollars par an.

L’étude en question résulte du travail conjoint par l’Institut International pour la Recherche sur l’Elevage (ILRI), l’Institut International pour l’Agriculture Tropicale (IITA) et le Centre International pour les Pommes de terre (CIP), avec le soutien des programmes de recherche du CGIAR sur les racines, tubéreuses et bananes (RTB), Tropiques Humides, et Elevage et Pêche. En coopération avec des partenaires du secteur privé, ILRI dirige les efforts pour développer et améliorer des technologies innovantes en vue de traiter la peau du manioc pour en faire du fourrage de haute qualité.

La proposition de travail propose, d’ici cinq ans, de faciliter la production de fourrage de haute qualité à base de peaux de manioc, en créant environ 100,000 emplois et en éliminant plus de 20% de peaux de manioc nuisibles à l’environnement. Selon les projections, les effets induits de cette initiative pourraient bénéficier à l’économie africaine à hauteur de 900 millions de dollars US sur la durée du projet, et permettre au secteur privé d’impulser l’adoption accélérée des technologies et usages de ces produits de manière indépendante.

Les centres CGIAR impliqués recherchent 25 millions de dollars US pour mettre en œuvre ce projet quinquennal et le plan de travail serait entrepris en République Démocratique du Congo, au Nigeria, en Tanzanie et en Ouganda – quatre pays qui représentent 40% de la production annuel de manioc en Afrique. La recherche serait dirigée par ILRI Ibadan, en collaboration avec IITA et les programmes de recherche du CGIAR sur les Tropiques Humides, Elevage et Pêche et Racines, Tubéreuses et Bananes. Chacun de ces programmes est présent sur au moins l’un de ces quatre pays. ILRI et IITA Nigeria s’assureraient de coordonner, évaluer et peaufiner les activités de projet.

Environ 98% de la production de peaux de manioc du Nigeria est rejetée en raison des contraintes liées au séchage de ces peaux et aux risques d’intoxication alimentaire par l’acide cyanhydrique et les mycotoxines. Sécher les peaux en plein air – une activité quasi-impossible en saison des pluies – prend deux à trois jours. Par conséquent les peaux restent pourrir en tas ou sont brûlées, ce qui pollue l’air ambiant, le sol et l’eau souterraine, et gâche cette ressource de fourrage potentielle.

En 2015, des scientifiques de CGIAR ont développé des technologies accessibles et peu onéreuses pour transformer les peaux fraiches de manioc en ingrédients de fourrage de haute qualité, sûrs et hygiéniques. En huit heures ils ont produit une tonne de mélange de peaux de manioc de haute qualité (PMHQ, HQCP en anglais) à partir de trois tonnes de peaux fraiches de manioc. Les 50 millions annuels de tonnes de déchets de peaux de manioc estimées en Afrique pourraient générer 15 millions de tonnes de PMHQ, offrant une alternative sérieuse aux lacunes de fourrage, et créer ainsi une industrie continentale estimée à 2 milliards de dollars US par an.

Les éleveurs auraient ainsi accès à du fourrage de meilleure qualité et meilleur marché ; ils réduiraient leurs coûts d’exploitation et pourraient même améliorer la qualité et la quantité de aliments de source animale qu’ils produisent. Pour les consommateurs humains, le surcroit de céréales préservé ainsi serait doublé par la présence d’aliments de source animale qui améliorent leur santé et en particulier la santé cognitive des enfants.

Une copie du résumé de la proposition de travail ‘Scaling the use of cassava peels as quality livestock feed in Africa’ (Passer l’usage de la peau du manioc à l’échelle en tant que fourrage de qualité pour l’Afrique) est disponible ici, en anglais :

Limiting use of antibiotics in livestock production to stem growing antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens


A woman in Uganda lets her chickens out to forage during the day (via Flickr by Jennifer Wilmore/Bread for the World).

A commentary published in The Lancet last month supporting a series of five papers on antimicrobials recommends prohibiting use of antibiotics critically important for human medicine to promote the growth of livestock or to prevent routine livestock disease.

The commentary was written by Tim Robinson, a principal scientist in spatial analysis at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and colleagues in partner organizations.

‘One of the major public health challenges this century is the development of antimicrobial resistance in many important and common pathogens, such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus. . . .

‘A substantial share of antimicrobial consumption is attributed to animal production.

Recent findings conservatively estimate that, from 2010 to 2030, global consumption of antimicrobials in livestock production will increase by two thirds, and that it will double in the rapidly growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

‘In China, already the largest producer and user of antibiotics in the world, the livestock sector could consume a third of the antibiotics produced worldwide by 2030. . . .

The evidence that links antimicrobial use in animal production and the development of antimicrobial resistance in medically important pathogens is growing, thanks largely to advances in genetic analysis which allow the origins of genes conferring such resistance to be traced.

‘Using whole-genome sequencing and phylogenetics, an international team of researchers described the evolution of meticillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA) in livestock from meticillin-susceptible S aureusin humans. This livestock-associated MRSA (clonal complex CC398) now frequently infects people both inside and outside of the livestock industry, and is an unequivocal example of the evolution of a multidrug-resistant pathogen that emerged in livestock and was subsequently transmitted to humans. . . .

In developing countries, there can be a dual problem of lack of access to antimicrobials among smallholders and overuse in intensive production. Agricultural practices in developing countries have a higher dependency on antibiotics because of a more disease-prone environment and lower levels of biosecurity than in high-income countries. Global policies intended to reduce antibiotic consumption must be highly context-specific lest they have negative effects on livelihoods, nutrition, and food security.

‘. . . Although we recognise the challenges involved in enforcement of legislation on antimicrobial use in low-income and middle-income countries acknowledged by Osman Dar and colleagues and the importance of ensuring that antibiotics remain available to control animal diseases, we strongly support working towards a global prohibition on animal growth promotion or routine disease prevention with any antibiotic deemed critically important to human medicine.

‘With growing transportation networks and international trade, pathogens travel quickly around the world making antimicrobial resistance a global problem in need of global solutions such as coordinated policy interventions.

‘But antimicrobial resistance is also a multisectoral issue that involves consumers of animal source foods, the retail industry, farmers in livestock and aquaculture whose livelihoods rely on the ability to keep healthy animals, the feed industry, animal health practitioners, regulatory bodies, the pharmaceutical industry, and the public health sector.

‘To be successful, policy interventions will require buy-in from diverse stakeholders.

If we are to ensure the future universal access, sustainability, and effectiveness of antimicrobials to treat disease in people and their livestock, these issues must be tackled from the health perspectives of people, animals, and the environment. This perspective sits at the very core of the One Health approach, which recognises that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. Such an inclusive approach will be needed to reduce selection pressure for antimicrobial resistance genes and protect our medically important antibiotics.

Tim Robinson receives funding from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) research programs on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics); Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

Read the whole commentary in The Lancet: Animal production and antimicrobial resistance in the clinic, by Timothy Robinson, Heiman Wertheim, Manish Kakkar, Samuel Kariuki, Dengpan Bu and Lance Price, 18 Nov 2015, DOI:

Read a related report by ILRI scientists Delia Grace: Review of evidence on antimicrobial resistance and animal agriculture in developing countries. Report produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Jun 2015.

Read related articles about this topic on the ILRI News blog:
UK chief scientific adviser visits Kenya: Part 3—The dual rise of the global livestock sector and antimicrobial resistance, 23 Jul 2015
The rise of antimicrobial resistance (lethal) and animal agriculture (critical): Their links in developing countries, 18 Jun 2015
First global map of the rising use of antimicrobial drugs in farm animals published in PNAS, 25 Mar 2015

and on the ILRI Clippings blog:
New publication warns of rising use of antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs in farm animals, 30 Mar 2015
Livestock in poor countries need drugs to stay alive and productive, but how to avoid the rise of ‘super bugs’?, 23 Mar 2015

and on ILRI’s AgHealth blog:
The Lancet marks World Antibiotic Awareness Week with series on access and effectiveness of antimicrobials, 19 Nov 2015

Fragments d’ILRI: Le plan directeur pour l’élevage en Ethiopie devrait aider 2.36 millions de ménages à sortir de la pauvreté

Boy feeding his goats in Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Bruno Gerard).

Cet article a été publié originellement en anglais sur ce site; traduit par Ewen Le Borgne.

Il est loin le temps où le discours sur le développement se résumait à l’assistance humanitaire. Certains pays en voie de développement rapide essaient d’assurer que les bénéfices de cette croissance se réalisent pour les ménages les plus pauvres. En Ethiopie, pays où 70% de la population rurale possède du bétail, l’élevage est officiellement au cœur de ce débat.

Depuis 20 ans, le gouvernement éthiopien compte sur une réelle transformation du secteur agricole, mais l’absence d’un plan directeur en a retardé la mise en œuvre. Cependant un nouveau projet de recherche interdisciplinaire, que Barry Shapiro – chercheur à l’Institut International pour la Recherche sur l’Elevage (ILRI)—a présenté au Ministère de l’Agriculture (MdA) à Addis Abeba, révèle les bénéfices potentiels d’un Plan Directeur pour l’Elevage (PDE, LMP en anglais) en Ethiopie.

La somme relativement modeste de 400 millions de dollars US échelonnée sur cinq ans devrait suffire pour que le plan conjoint du MdA et de l’ILRI réduise la situation de pauvreté de 2,36 millions de ménages s’occupant d’animaux d’élevage, et offre aux fermes familiales un avenir commercialement viable. Au-delà de l’impact direct sur les foyers ruraux, le PDE compte étendre ses vertus aux consommateurs urbains en réduisant les prix des produits alimentaires et en assurant la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle au niveau des ménages, du secteur de l’élevage et du pays dans son ensemble.

La réunion qui s’est tenue en juillet 2015 était organisée par le groupe de travail sectoriel sur le développement économique rural et la sécurite alimentaire (un groupe constitué d’agences des Nations Unies, organisations non-gouvernementales et bailleurs de fonds, entre autres) en vue de discuter l’établissement éventuel d’un programme de travail sur l’élevage. Les arguments en faveur d’une attention renouvelée pour l’élevage sont convaincants, alors que le PDE semble bien positionné pour atteindre la plupart des objectifs du Plan de Croissance et de Transformation (GTP dans son sigle anglophone) du gouvernement éthiopien.

Le développement du secteur à long terme repose sur les contributions de trois piliers de l’élevage : races, fourrage, et santé. Ces trois piliers sont analysés à l’aune des filières clé du secteur de l’élevage : aviaire, vaches à lait hybrides, et viande rouge/lait). Le PDE suggère qu’un investissement dans le développement des vaches à lait hybrides entrainerait un surplus de 47% de la production laitière (au-delà de la demande domestique). Ceci offrirait des opportunités pour améliorer la sécurité nutritionnelle, les produits industriels (e.g. dans la boulangerie) et les revenus de l’export. De larges gains assez similaires peuvent être dégagés pour la production de viande rouge/lait dans les exploitations familiales et au sein des populations pastorales et agro-pastorales.

La transformation du secteur aviaire est essentielle, car elle permettrait de pallier le différentiel national entre production et consommation. Par ailleurs, si l’on substituait le poulet à la viande rouge issue de ruminants émettant davantage, on pourrait atteindre l’objective de résilience au climat consistant à augmenter la part de la volaille de 5% à 27% de la viande consommée d’ici 2030.

Shapiro émet cependant quelques réserves : Les bénéfices du PDE ne peuvent être réalisés que si l’on adapte les préférences des consommateurs en défaveur de la viande rouge et en faveur des poulets hybrides. Par ailleurs d’importants investissements devront être faits en matière de : sélection génétique, insémination artificielle, réhabilitation des pâturages, fourniture de services vétérinaires, régulation et normes qualité et en matière de santé, ainsi que l’adoption de mesures en faveur de l’investissement privé.

Pour la mission de l’ILRI, passer ces leçons à l’échelle est tout aussi important. Le montage de ce plan directeur a réuni de nombreux experts intéressés à traiter un objectif ambitieux: promouvoir le développement durable et améliorer la résilience climatique et la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle, tout en contribuant aux objectifs de l’ILRI d’influencer les autres acteurs et de promouvoir le renforcement des capacités. La mise en œuvre de ce plan poserait de nombreux jalons en ce sens.

Le processus de développement du PDE a été financé par la Fondation Bill & Melinda Gates et supervisé par un comité technique de haut calibre, comprenant les directeurs des départements et instituts idoines du Ministère d’Etat pour l’Elevage du MdA éthiopien, ainsi que des représentants de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’Alimentation et l’Agriculture (FAO), l’Autorité Intergouvernementale pour le Développement (IGAD), L’Agence éthiopienne de Transformation de l’Agriculture (ATA), et les présidents des associations professionnelles de l’élevage (la Société Ethiopienne pour la Production Animale et la Société Vétérinaire Ethiopienne).

Cette activité a en outre été soutenue par le groupe Alive (African Partnership for Livestock Development) du Bureau Africain des Ressources Animales de l’Union Africaine (AU-IBAR) ainsi que du Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) et de la Banque Mondiale.

Les principales conclusions du bulletin politique du PDE sont disponibles ici (en anglais). Le document intégral sera disponible sous peu.

High-level EC-IFAD delegation tours smallholder pig projects in Uganda

Visit of IFAD-EC Delegation to Uganda, ILRI

Simon Lubega (left), manager of the Wambizzi Pig Cooperative Abattoir, in Uganda, in discussion with the EC’s Roberto Ridolfi (right) and other stakeholders during a tour of his biogas plant (photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

This article is written by Brian Kawuma, communications officer for ILRI in Uganda.

Members of the Uganda country team of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted a five-person delegation from the European Commission (EC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on 28 and 29 Aug 2015. Led by Roberto Ridolfi, director for sustainable development at the EC, and accompanied by Balduin Zimmer, Margarita Astralaga, Amine Belhamissi and Malu Muia Ndavi, the delegation sought to understand the work done by ILRI and its partners to enhance Uganda’s pig value chain and how this work relates to climate change adaptation and mitigation work.

As part of their visit, the guests toured Wambizzi Pig Cooperative Society slaughterhouse, the only centralized pig abattoir in the country, where ILRI and partners are piloting the setup of a bio-digester that will transform pig slaughter waste into clean energy (biogas) for heating and lighting. The innovation was lauded for the opportunities it presents for reducing tree cutting for firewood as well as reducing water pollution due to dumping untreated waste.

‘We need to scale up such innovations for a greener earth’, said the EC-IFAD delegation.

IFAD-EC delegation visit to ILRI Uganda

ILRI staff and partners pose for photo with the IFAD-EC delegation at the ILRI office in Kampala (photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

The delegation later held a dialogue with seven pig farmers from Masaka in a meeting that was attended by ILRI staff and officials from the Masaka District local government. The farmers presented different interventions being piloted by ILRI that they have benefited from, including use of planted forages and local feed resources for pig diets, implementation of biosecurity strategies on farms to counter the spread of African swine fever, and collective action through producer groups/cooperatives for greater access to input and output markets. Additionally, representatives of the pig farmers’ cooperative highlighted an ongoing pilot of the pig business hub in the Kabonera sub-county of Masaka that is expected to improve farmer access to markets and business development services.

Commending ILRI for the good work it is doing, Roberto Ridolfi urged the organization to focus on the ‘last inch’—the critical links between research and development outcomes—by working closely with other CGIAR centres and development partners.

‘I thank IFAD for supporting the smallholder pig value chain project—it is a vital link between research and development’, Ridolfi said.

While appreciating the role of research in agriculture, Ridolfi stressed the need for researchers to produce deliverables that clearly benefit poor people. He took particular note of ILRI’s work in catalyzing the formation and strengthening of pig farmer cooperatives in Uganda. These cooperatives, he said, should help eliminate unnecessary middlemen and give farmers greater bargaining power with pork buyers and consumers. Raising the issue of water scarcity in the dry season, Ridolfi recommended that ILRI and its partners explore sustainable and scalable water harvesting technologies for smallholder farmers.

The EC director commended the pig farmers from Masaka for being proactive in finding solutions to their farming challenges and embracing collective action. He encouraged them to use producer cooperatives to enable members to borrow money among themselves at good rates and also to borrow from banks to finance big investments. And he spoke of opportunities for the EC directly to support farmer groups.

From 2011 to 2013, IFAD and the EC funded a Smallholder Pig Value Chain Project to improve the livelihoods, incomes and assets of smallholders, women in particular, in Kamuli, Mukono and Masaka districts of eastern and central Uganda. The project helped the pig farmers increase their productivity, reduce their risks and access markets.

Watch a 2-minute video clip (between minutes 4 and 6) about ILRI’s work to enhance Uganda’s pig value chains; this film was showcased at the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris in Nov 2015.

Winners of the Humidtropics ‘Innovation Platforms Case Study’ competition honoured


Participants at the award ceremony pose for a photo with the winners of the competition (seated, left to right): Perez Muchunguzi (3rd place), Rebecca Kalibwani (1st place) and Thanammal Ravichandran (2nd place) (photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

 This article is written by Brian Kawuma, communications officer for ILRI in Uganda.

From offering a legal precedent for the creation of an innovation platform to demonstrating pathways to overcoming constraints in dairy marketing, the winners of the Innovations Platforms Case Study Competition are a testimony to the effectiveness of this ‘innovation platforms’ approach in linking up small-scale food producers, service providers and policymakers. This is how Ruth Nankabirwa, the government chief whip in Uganda, described the innovation platform approach adopted by the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on the Humidtropics.

The Humidtropics-sponsored competition was launched in Nov 2014. The following February, twelve candidates were selected to participate in a writeshop focused on writing stronger, more reflective and cohesive cases. Case studies were assessed based on their content, writing and usefulness. The winners were selected on the basis of having demonstrated the effectiveness of innovation platforms and having documented stories about mature innovation platforms from the developing world.

Speaking at an awards ceremony to recognize the winners of the Innovations Platforms Case Study Competition on 30 Nov 2015, Nankabirwa commended the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for their roles in promoting participatory approaches in the Humidtropics CGIAR research program. According to Nankabirwa, this innovation platform approach helps link smallholder producers to markets and input services.

Nankabirwa also launched a Humidtropics anthology in the form of a book entitled Innovation Platforms for Agricultural Development: Evaluating the Mature Innovation Platforms Landscape, which features eight case studies selected from twelve that were submitted for evaluation by an expert panel.

Book launch_Ruth_Nanabirwa

Ruth Nankabirwa launches the book; looking on (L-R) are Piet VanAsten, Kwesi Atta-Krah, Oluwole Fatunbi and Iddo Dror (photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

‘The book I launch today enhances the body of knowledge about mature innovation platforms in agricultural systems research, including the crop and livestock sectors, and innovations in farmer co-operatives and agricultural extension services’, Nankabirwa said.

Referring to ‘Can an Innovation Platform Succeed as a Cooperative Society?, which is the story of Bubaare Innovation Platform Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd., the judges commended the authors for having done ‘a great job in illustrating a true multipurpose innovation platform, with the capacity to innovate and scale up its innovations for the benefit of members’. In discussing MilkIT Innovation Platform: Changing Women’s Lives–One Cow and One Litre of Milk at a Time–Deep in the Foothills of India’s Himalayan Mountains, the judges said it ‘demonstrates a pathway for removing constraints faced by dairy farmers in India, with development and policy impact, and powerful lessons.’

Rebecca Kalibwani, Thanammal Ravichandran and Perez Muchunguzi emerged as the three winners (first, second and third places, respectively) and received cash prizes totalling USD4,500.

For more information, see this article on the Humidtropics website.

Is the ‘Third Epidemiological Transition’ upon us?


Khnum, the Egyptian ram-headed god who created man from clay (from Elephantine Island, in Aswan, southern Egypt).

Zoonoses—diseases transferred from animals to humans—have been with humanity throughout history. But today’s growing scale of livestock production in developing countries to feed their fast-growing and fast-urbanizing populations is sparking debate about whether the livestock sector is contributing to a fundamental a shift in global disease mortality, something known as an ‘epidemiological transition’. If so, it would be the third such transition in human history, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). (See a previous report on this paper by ILRI.)

The first epidemiological transition occurred some 10,000 years ago, the paper reports, with the invention of crop agriculture, the domestication of farm and herding animals and the associated rise of human settlements, which led to a surge in zoonoses and other crow-related diseases. The second transition occurred in recent decades, as more effective drugs, vaccines and diagnostics led to a steep decline of infectious disease, such as mastitis in dairy cows, with noncommunicable diseases replacing infectious diseases as the most significant health burden in many countries.

Today, the authors argue, globalization, ecological disruption, population growth and the on-going ‘Livestock Revolution’ may be driving a new era of disease, one that could dramatically reduce human and animal health both. The authors of the PNAS paper, Current drivers and future directions of global livestock disease dynamics, say it’s clear that both the distribution and the emergence of diseases are changing.

Although control and management of many endemic diseases in rich countries have improved, new diseases such as BSE and HPAI have emerged. Some consider that we face a third epidemiological transition of disastrous consequence in which globalization and ecological disruption drive disease emergence and reemergence; as occurred in the first epidemiological transition (associated with neolithic sedentarization and the domestication of livestock), the worst of the emerging diseases are likely to be zoonotic.


Khnum, an ancient Egyptian ram-headed god who creates people, based on New Kingdom tomb paintings (illustration by Jeff Dahl/Wikipedia).

The authors describe three global disease trajectories influencing zoonotic disease threats in the world today.

The ‘worried well’
The first is the livestock-related health risks in wealthy countries among the ‘worried well’. Here, the researchers find that while the incidence of many diseases has been reduced, the concern over disease has actually grown. High-profile livestock-associated diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), popularly known as ‘mad cow disease’, shocked rich-world disease authorities out of their complacency in recent years, the authors note. In these countries overall, there is a steadily improving approach to disease control and management. The main zoonotic disease risks in wealthy countries are in the form of drug resistance (linked to overuse of drugs in industrial livestock systems) and the economic harm that can result from livestock-related disease scares.

Livestock diseases and zoonoses associated with urbanization are becoming more important, and literate, media-aware, and connected urban populations are demanding more control of zoonotic and food-borne diseases. At the same time, the dramatic increase in the mobility of the world’s population (for example, the over sixfold increase in air passenger travel between 1990 and 2007) is challenging for effective control of movement-associated diseases.

The hotspots for disease shifts
A second disease trajectory is found in China and other rapidly developing countries, where livestock production and marketing have exploded in recent years. While the risks of outbreaks of zoonoses and the emergence of new zoonoses, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are both rising in these countries, the latter’s capacity to meet international animal health standards is generally inadequate.

In summarizing the relative importance of different drivers of change, the most important issue here is the rapidly increasing demand for livestock products and marketing opportunities in developing countries, which is fueled by population growth, urbanization, and increasing incomes . . . .

The neglected cold spots
A third disease trajectory is occurring in Africa and other of the poorest regions of the world. While the intensive livestock production systems associated with the emergence of new zoonoses are uncommon in these regions, inadequate disease control measures, infrastructure and expertise keep livestock and people vulnerable to existing (largely preventable and curable) diseases, which periodically flare into epidemics.

If disease trends at the macro scale remain controversial (with some proclaiming that we have never had it so good, whereas others warn of the impending perfect microbial storm), in the here and now, disease is demonstrably changing in spatial distribution and emergence.

The Balkanization of livestock health
The authors warn that in an increasingly globalized world, deepening ‘the existing balkanization of livestock health status’ threatens global stability. They call for action on two fronts. The first is to speed convergence of livestock health practices between emerging economies now rapidly intensifying their livestock production systems and wealthy nations that have already adopted effective measures for controlling ‘diseases of livestock intensification’. In poor countries, the researchers advocate directly linking livestock health investments to poverty-reduction programs.

Underlying these trajectories is the determined and steady global trend to greater intensification of livestock systems and the benefits and challenges that it brings to animal health status. Threatening this trend is the risk of a third epidemiological transition and dramatic deterioration of animal and human health as the result of emerging and reemerging disease. Additionally, in the background is the significant component of the world’s livestock enterprises in the hands of the very poor, for whom intensification is just not a realistic option and who are likely to be most vulnerable to disease resurgence.

Read the whole paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Current drivers and future directions of global livestock disease dynamics, by Brian Perry, formerly of ILRI and now of the University of Oxford; Delia Grace, of ILRI; and Keith Sones, ILRI consultant; 24 Dec 2014.

Read an earlier review of the early online version of this paper on the ILRI News Blog: New PNAS-published study discloses the ‘hot spots’, ‘warm spots’ and ‘cold spots’ of global livestock disease risk, 25 May 2011.

Tanzania’s ‘Livestock Master Plan’ kicks off with a one-year training program for government officials


Amos Omore and livestock in Ubiri village, Lushoto

Amos Omore and livestock on a dairy farm in Ubiri village, Lushoto, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Nils Teufel).

This article is written by Mercy Becon, communications officer for ILRI in Tanzania.

Eight staff from Tanzania’s Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development are undergoing a 14-month training and planning program assisted by experts from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Amos Omore, ILRI’s country representative, lauded the project and the contribution it will bring to the livestock sector: ‘This is the first time the livestock sector will benefit from a quantitative sector analysis of this kind, thus providing more credible bases for investments. Tanzania’s livestock sector is currently dominated by the traditional and mostly pre-commercial production. This needs to change towards more commercialization’.

On what to expect from the master plan, Omore added: ‘The Tanzanian Livestock Master Plan should provide pathways for livestock sub-sectors where investments for commercialization would provide the greatest returns serving the country’s national goals of reducing poverty, improving food security and increasing the country’s earnings from exports.

‘Evidence generated by the livestock master plan should support efforts by Tanzanian institutions and ILRI to transform the country’s smallholder dairy value chains in inclusive ways, through such programs as the “Maziwa Zaidi“, a national initiative to have more milk in Tanzania. “Maziwa Zaidi” is supported on the research side by the ILRI-led the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

The Tanzanian government officials are being trained in using a ‘Livestock Sector Investment and Policy Toolkit’. The results of using the toolkit will be used to build herd and sector models for a 15-year ‘Livestock Sector Analysis’ and a 5-year ‘Livestock Master Plan’ for Tanzania.

A group photo with the Director of Policy and Planning

Participants of the Tanzanian Livestock Master Plan workshop, including Catherine Joseph (front row, second from right), director of policy and planning in the Tanzanian Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, who represented the permanent secretary at the opening of the workshop (photo credit: ILRI/Mercy Becon).

The training started on 17 Nov 2015, with Catherine Joseph, director of policy and planning in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development and representing the permanent secretary in the ministry, lauding the syllabus and saying she is looking forward to see the results of the training. The country’s livestock master plan, she said, will identify high-priority livestock investment interventions for the government, donor agencies, the private sector and other development stakeholders. She further said the plan will help Tanzania reduce poverty and improve food security in the country while also significantly increasing the country’s earnings from exports of livestock and livestock products.

At the opening of this training and planning program, Barry Shapiro, ILRI’s senior livestock development advisor leading the livestock master plan project, thanked the director of policy and planning in the Tanzania Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development for the ministry’s ownership of this work, exemplified by the government assigning eight officials to attend the one-year full-time training and planning program.

Shapiro briefed the participants and guests on the origin of the toolkit and where it has been used. ‘Under the auspices of AU-IBAR’, Shapiro said, ‘the toolkit was developed by livestock experts at the French agricultural research and international cooperation organization (CIRAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank. It has been applied in Mali and Zambia, with financial and technical support from the World Bank, and in Ethiopia by ILRI, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The ILRI staff members and livestock specialists experienced with the toolkit from Ethiopia who are delivering the training are Getachew Gebru, Solomon Desta, Asfaw Negassa and Kidus Nigussie.

Shapiro also shared his insights as to how development of the Ethiopia Livestock Master Plan should help the exercise in Tanzania:

‘To realize the economic potential of livestock, the government of Tanzania has launched the Tanzanian Livestock Modernization Initiative to raise the level of government and donor support and private investment in the sector (TLMI concept note 2015 and TLMI Scoping Study 2015). The first step was to hold a TLMI workshop for key policymakers and stakeholders to identify the key policy issues that need to be resolved to modernize the sector.

‘The analysis of potential investments now being undertaken for development of Tanzania’s Livestock Master Plan will help identify high-priority interventions and also provide the evidence needed to increase both public and private investments in the livestock sector.’

The 14-month training program will be launched on 10 Dec 2015, after the newly elected president of Tanzania appoints his new cabinet.

ILRI is leading several projects in the country, including the MoreMilkiT project which is implemented by Tanzania Dairy Board, Faida MaLi and Heifer International with funds from Irish Aid. The project works with farmers in Morogoro and Tanga to pilot approaches to increase their use of inputs and services to improve milk production and marketing to meet rising demand for milk and dairy products. Information on other ILRI-led initiatives in Tanzania can be accessed here:

Towards more productive dairy cattle for Africa’s smallholders

Dairy cow in Tanga, Tanzania

Dairy cow in Tanga, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Improving the genetic makeup of Africa’s dairy cattle has the potential increase farmer productivity and profitability, hence transform the lives of millions of dairy families across Africa. This latest program, African Dairy Genetic Gains (ADGG) program, led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), offers real opportunities to help smallholders improve their lives through livestock. It also contributes to ILRI’s global livestock genetics program—LiveGene.

Building on previous research and integrated with complementary ongoing initiatives, the program draws on recent successfully outcomes in the Dairy Genetics East Africa (DGEA) projects: the achievement of productivity gains in smallholder dairy herds when farmers are informed about the suitable cross-bred animal types.

Initiated in November 2015 by ILRI and partners, ADGG helps African smallholder farmers grow their livelihoods through better access to productive and adapted dairy cow breed types, and helps them to access two-way information, extension and training systems tailored to their needs. This improved knowledge of the breed composition of their cows will help farmers determine the profitability compositions in their environments.

Specifically, ADGG will establish performance recording and sampling systems in Tanzania and Ethiopia, use the information and samples to develop systems to select cross-bred bulls and cows of superior genetic merit for artificial insemination (AI) and natural mating, and pilot farmer-feedback systems that assist farmers to improve their productivity. The goal is to establish working systems based on public-private partnerships with a clear route to long-term sustainability within the five-year life of the program.

Building on previous research and integrated with complementary ongoing initiatives, the program draws on recent successful outcomes in the Dairy Genetics East Africa (DGEA) projects: the achievement of productivity gains in smallholder dairy herds when farmers are informed about the suitable cross-bred animal types. Building upon these outcomes, ADGG will establish national Dairy Performance Recording Centres (DPRCs), equipped with digital data capture and farmer-feedback systems in the two countries.

This initiative will run parallel with a private-public Partnership for Artificial Insemination Delivery (PAID). Led by Land O’Lakes International Development, PAID will partner with local government institutions and multinational and local dairy genetics companies to scale-out effective door-step AI delivery and heifer multiplication in Tanzania and Ethiopia. The linkages between the two programs will combine the partners’ strengths to engage in research and deliver improved dairy performance for smallholders.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ILRI will partner with national AI centres in Ethiopia and Tanzania, the Tanzania Livestock Research Institute, the University of New England, Scotland’s Rural College, Green Dreams Tech Ltd. and Land O’Lakes International Development.

For more information, see the ILRI project profile, African Dairy Genetic Gains

Forage farming changes lives of Zimbabwe smallholder farmers

Zimbabwe Crop-Livestock Integration for Food Security (ZimCLIFS) project

Garikai and Naome Gore from Chikwaka in Goromonzi District Zimbabwe (photo credit: ILRI/Irenie Chakoma).

By Chakoma Irenie Chakoma1, Lovemore Gwiriri 1, Aleck Gora 2 and Lucia Hamadziripi 3.

With the right training and support, food and nutrition insecurity can become a thing from the past. With training in conservation agriculture and fodder production practices, the Gore family have tripled their income in two years and are now able to pay for their children’s school fees. After buying goats, they now dream of getting their own cattle.

Many rural households in Zimbabwe rely on food aid to meet their nutritional needs. This problem, often aggravated by unemployment and falls in income, threatens the livelihoods of low income and food-insecure populations.

Forty-four year-old Garikai Gore had decided to leave his job as a truck driver in South Africa in 2010 and come home to Zimbabwe because he did not see future in that type of work. But the smallholder farmer from Chikwaka, Goromonzi District still struggled to make ends meet.

‘We never thought we’d ever own livestock, but with ZimCLIFS, we are dreaming of owning cattle’, she added.

At that time, Gore, his wife (Naome) and two children, survived on USD 175 a year from the sale of 400kg of soya bean. Their two hectare piece of land was not well utilised. They grew maize, soya beans, cowpeas and groundnuts, mainly for home consumption. They exchanged any surplus maize they had for household goods.

But an on-going project that is enhancing integration and intensification of the country’s smallholder crop-livestock systems has improved his family’s fortunes. The project is helping farmers like Gore to take advantage of market opportunities to increase their incomes.

As early volunteers in the Zimbabwe Crop-Livestock Integration for Food Security (ZimCLIFS) project in Chikwaka Communal Lands, Gore and Naome decided to grow forages, starting in December 2012, because they did not have any livestock. This was the first time they had taken part in a farming improvement and food security project.

To begin with, ZimCLIFS researchers working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) provided the Gore family with training in conservation agriculture and fodder—including seed—production practices. After planting 0.1ha maize and 0.1ha forage legumes using conservation agriculture techniques, the Gore’s reaped the benefits.

At the end of the 2012-13 growing season (their first), they sold 50kg of forage seed to local farmers, mostly dairy farmers. They made USD 150 from these sales. In the following–2013-2014–season, they increased the area under forage cultivation to 0.7ha and realized over USD 600 from forage seed sales.

According to Gore, he is now able to pay his children’s school fees from the extra income and has also bought crop inputs to expand his forage business. The income from forage seed sales has also helped him to buy four goats to start livestock farming.

‘ZimCLIFS opened our eyes to the opportunities around us,’ says Naome, ‘and we now see that our forage farming is helping dairy farmers in this community.’

She says they will continue growing forages because incomes from their sales help them buy enough food and the forages provide feed for their goats and improves the soil on their farm.

‘We never thought we’d ever own livestock, but with ZimCLIFS, we are dreaming of owning cattle’, she added.

Funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the implementation of ZimCLIFS is led by ILRI, in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), CIMMYT, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Ecosystem Sciences, University of Queensland, Community Technology Development Organization, and Cluster Agricultural Development Services. It contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

The initiative was supported by government extension staff and Cluster Agricultural Development Services (CADS) in Goromonzi District.

The project is now in its second phase after a first phase from June 2012-June 2015.

2Cluster Agricultural Development Services
3Zimbabwe Department of Livestock Production and Development

More on ILRI’s feeds and forages work

Instructional design, helping researchers pass on their findings

Education on livestock insurance

Educating how insurance works to the nomadic community (photo credit: ILRI/IBLI project).

Applying the principles of instructional design to the development of blended learning programs could help ILRI scientists pass on their findings to those actors and agencies in country, and help embed research into policy making and development processes. These are the findings in a nutshell of the latest brief produced by the Instructional Design Specialist, Deborah Wyburn, of the Capacity Development Unit of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

For more information see the ILRI capacity development brief 1, Instructional design at the International Livestock Research Institute

Scientists frequently run workshops to help disseminate the findings of their research. But this method is rarely sufficient to the scaling out process. It is both resource and time intensive. One solution is to create a blended learning program. This would mix online learning and classroom workshops where learners apply new-found knowledge to professional contexts in the presence of an expert.

Such programs reduce the time commitment required of researchers in attending workshop sessions. As the target learners are always adults, ILRI instructional designers draw on adult learning principles (andragogy) to produce appropriately engaging courses. Based on relevant and practical examples, these highly interactive courses connect with learners’ existing knowledge and skill sets and mesh with perceived professional development needs.

See the ILRI capacity development brief 1, Instructional design at the International Livestock Research Institute, to read more about the successes and challenges faced by the ILRI Capacity Development Unit in implementing the instructional design approach to the Feed Assessment Tool and mNutrition project

This brief was published as part of an internal ‘capacity development’ week at ILRI in December 2015.

See all the ILRI capacity development briefs




Mobile technology-driven capacity development: Lessons from mNutrition and IBLI projects

With global mobile technology growing exponentially, the opportunities for resource- and infrastructure-poor countries to rapidly expand learning are huge. Two projects managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)—mNutrition and Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI)—have seized this opportunity and developed mobile technology solutions to challenges they encountered.

For more information on the challenges and oppotunities of mobile-driven learning, see ILRI capacity development brief 3, Mobile technology-driven capacity development: Lessons from the mNutrition and IBLI projects.

Both projects deliver complex content through a combination of low-tech online content and face-to-face classroom teaching. mNutrition delivers nutrition services to at least three million people in 13 African countries. IBLI works closely with public, private and non-profit sector partners to design, develop and implement market-mediated index-based insurance to protect livestock keepers from drought-related asset losses, particularly those living in arid and semi-arid lands.

mNutrition and IBLI rely on ‘go-betweens’ to deliver their final products to the target groups. Thus, the projects’ success depends on effectively training the ‘go-betweens’. The two projects initially used traditional classroom training that proved ineffective due to low knowledge retention by the learners. Resource constraints prohibited refresher training due to the large numbers of learners involved and the vast distances to be covered. Blended learning was, therefore, adopted where the learners would first take lessons in traditional ‘brick and mortar’ classrooms, and complete e-learning activities, using computers and mobile phones. This resulted in better training outcomes for learners who were also able to control the time, place and pace of the courses.

For more information on the challenges faced by ILRI staff and opportunities offered by mobile-driven learning, see ILRI capacity development brief 3, Mobile technology-driven capacity development: Lessons from the mNutrition and IBLI projects.

This brief was published as part of an internal ‘capacity development’ week at ILRI in December 2015.

See all the ILRI capacity development briefs