Asia Clippings

New livestock maps pinpoint ‘danger zones’ for possible spread of deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu

Feeding poultry, Bangladesh. Photo by WorldFish, 2006

Feeding poultry in Bangladesh (photo on Flickr by WorldFish).

A recent paper that maps the global distributions of the world’s major livestock species has already been used to advance understanding of where surveillance efforts should be targeted to prevent the possible spread of a lethal bird flu virus now circulating in poultry populations in China, where it has killed 62 people. The original mapping work, led by Tim Robinson, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and published at the end of May, was immediately put to practical use in locating large regions in South and Southeast Asia that would suit the new lethal virus. Ominously, unlike H5N1, a viral strain of bird flu that has killed millions of poultry and at least 359 humans since its first appearance in 1987, H7N9 does not cause severe illness in the chickens it infects, making it much more difficult to detect, and thus to control.

Here’s the BBC’s James Gallagher on the significance of the bird flu paper that came out in Nature Communications 17 Jun 2014.

‘The “danger zones” in Asia which are vulnerable to a deadly bird flu have been mapped by scientists.

‘The virus, called H7N9, has infected 433 people mostly in China and has killed 62.

The study, published in Nature Communications, showed parts of Bangladesh, India and Vietnam could easily sustain the virus. The research group said those areas should monitor poultry to ensure any threat is detected.

‘The H7N9 virus spread from birds to people and was first detected in March 2013 in China.

‘New viruses are always a concern because of their unknown potential to spread round the world as a deadly pandemic.

‘Data from the H7N9 outbreak was used to build a computer model of other at-risk areas in Asia.

‘It involved mapping 8,000 live-poultry markets and assessing how close together they needed to be to spread the infection.

The map does not show where the virus will end up next, just those areas where conditions are suitable to sustain the virus if it managed to get there. Bangladesh, northern India, the Mekong and Red River deltas in Vietnam and isolated parts of Indonesia and Philippines were identified as at-risk areas.

‘Thailand was not a risk zone due to cultural differences, which mean live-poultry markets are not common. It is also noticeable that the whole of China is not equally at risk.

H7N9 is not deadly in birds so there is no “body count” to help track the spread of the disease.

‘Dr Tim Robinson, a senior spatial analyst at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, told the BBC: “It is a risk map showing, if the virus arrived to an area, how likely it would be to spread and continue from there.

H7N9 can spread very quietly throughout the poultry population. The main use of the maps is to target surveillance, I think these maps can show areas where there’s a high chance of the disease flaring up if it arrives.—Tim Robinson . . . .

Read the whole article by James Gallagher in the BBC: Bird flu ‘danger zones’ mapped, 17 Jun 2014.

Read other news clippings
China Daily
‘The H7N9 bird flu virus, which has caused severe illness and deaths in China, may inhabit only a fraction of its 
potential range and could possibly spread to India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to a study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications. The emergence and spread of the disease has been linked until now mainly with areas that have a high concentration of markets selling live birds, but it does not appear related to China’s growing number of intensive commercial poultry operations, it found.’

Fast Company
‘A massive global map of where all the cattle, pigs, and other livestock live: As the world’s protein appetite explodes, mapping the world’s 19.6 billion chickens and 1.4 billion cattle will help scientists track disease and pollution hotspots. China has many times the human population of the U.S., and the same is true for pigs: It has 450 million of them, seven times the U.S. population. That’s one of the interesting things you can learn from a new set of maps that show the global distribution of livestock–all 1.4 billion cattle, 1.9 billion sheep and goats, 980 million pigs, and 19.6 billion chickens out there. Did you know that most of Argentina’s land area is given over to cattle? Or that most U.S. chickens live in the south? . . .’

Agence France Presse/Channel NewsAsia
‘Five Asian countries could join China as targets for the H7N9 bird flu virus that has claimed about a hundred lives since it erupted in March 2013, scientists said on Tuesday. . . .’

Science News
‘Avian flu could strike Asian poultry markets outside China, particularly in cities near water, H7N9 influenza could take hold, researchers predict. If it spreads beyond China’s borders, the H7N9 avian influenza virus could take hold in Vietnam’s Mekong and Red River deltas, the Bengal region of India and in parts of the Philippines and Indonesia, a new study predicts. The virus has infected 449 people in China, many of whom had visited live poultry markets. . . .’

Read the research papers
Predicting the risk of avian influenza A H7N9 infection in live-poultry markets across Asia, Nature Communications 5, 17 June 2014, by Marius Gilbert (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Nick Golding (University of Oxford), Hongjie Yu (Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Tim Robinson (ILRI) and others.

Mapping the global distribution of livestock, in PLOS ONE, 29 May 2014, by Timothy Robinson (ILRI), G R William Wint (University of Oxford), Giulia Conchedda (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO]), Marius Gilbert (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and others.

Read earlier articles
posted on ILRI’s News Blog about the PLOS ONE livestock mapping paper and the Nature Communications bird flu paper.

Filed under: Article, Asia, Bangladesh, China, CRP12, CRP4, CRP7, Disease Control, Emerging Diseases, Epidemiology, Geodata, Health (human), ILRI, India, Indonesia, LSE, PA, Philippines, Vietnam, Zoonotic Diseases Tagged: Avian influenza, BBC, H7N9, Marius Gilbert, Nature Communications, PLOS ONE, Tim Robinson

Linking smallholder farmers to markets in Northwest Vietnam

Multi-cropping in rural Northwest Vietnam (image: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon)

The recent situational analysis undertaken by the Humidtropics CGIAR research program in Northwest Vietnam identified three main value chains to bring agricultural products to markets:

  1. Direct marketing chains from farmers to consumers where farmers go to the retail market to sell their produce.
  2. Chains with ‘intermediaries’ linking producers through rural collectors to city wholesalers and processing agents. These are the dominant chains bringing produce from remote mountainous areas to city markets.
  3. Value chains targeting regional export markets for maize, fruits, tea and coffee.

The main recommendation from the situational analysis is to use existing success stories of marketing business models to replicate those within value chains for indigenous local foods targeting niche markets.

So this week my colleague Aziz Karimov, from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Office in Hanoi, and I partnered with the Agriculture Economics and Value Chains Department of the Centre for Agrarian Systems Research and Development (CASRAD) to conduct a value chain assessment on four agricultural products in Son La Province of Vietnam: maize, pigs, plums and tea.

The Humidtropics value chain assessment is based on the LINK methodology developed by the Center for International Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). It is applied during a two-day workshop with various stakeholders from the value chains, and government and development partners. The first part of the workshop maps the value chains of interest. On the second day, participants identify interesting business models for linking smallholder farmers to dynamic markets. Each value chain actor reflects on what their customers may want and what they offer to their suppliers. This helps agribusiness researchers identify which business models work in a given location and for which products. We can then try to adapt and replicate them in another commodity chain or location.

As an example, consider maize collectors in Son La Province. They are often decried as ‘evil middlemen’. But the group working on maize in the workshop, which included two farmers, one collector and the CASRAD facilitator, identified their clear value proposition to both smallholder suppliers and animal feed miller customers: they provide a very convenient service.  They make sure that the maize they sell to the millers meets quality standards; their extensive network of maize producers allows them to respond immediately to demands of millers to feed the booming livestock industry in Vietnam. The convenience of the collectors’ service for the ethnic minority smallholder producers farming high up in the remote mountains of Son La Province is even more interesting: They pay for the harvest in cash upon collection from the farm plot; they send and pay for the transport of the grain down from the mountains; they provide a good price for the grain; they usually help producers by investing in farm services and inputs against a commitment from the farmers to sell the maize back to them; finally, they also provide gifts in kind to their suppliers who do not have to worry about finding a market outlet for their maize, even in the full glut season.

Similar discussions on the other plum, pig and tea value chains provided further insights into business models linking smallholder farmers to dynamic markets. These are helping us suggest future Humidtropics research-for-development interventions on policies, institutions and markets.

Jo Cadilhon, ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chain Program

Read a longer version of this story


Filed under: Asia, CRP12, Markets, Southeast Asia, Value Chains, Vietnam Tagged: humidtropics

Condensing lots of information into a situational analysis report: think about key messages

Group photo of the participants of the writeshop to write up the situational analysis report of the Humidtropics Northwest Vietnam action site situational analysis, 25 January 2014, Hoa Binh Province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Aziz Karimov).

As promised six months ago, the Humidtropics situational analysis being conducted in the Northwest Vietnam action site is now ready to share its first lessons.

This preliminary research activity of the Humidtropics CGIAR research program has been coordinated by Steve Staal, Regional Representative for Southeast Asia of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It has involved several international partners: The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Bioversity International. The bulk of the field work and writing up has been undertaken by Vietnamese partners from the Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute (SFRI), the Centre for Agrarian Systems Research and Development (CASRAD), the Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute (FAVRI) and the NGO Sustainable Rural Development (SRD). The draft output of the writeshop now has to be compiled and edited before approval and publication. We are hoping this will only take two more months.

At this stage, the main lesson I would like to share from the writeshop is that we faced a major difficulty in condensing all the information our local partners had gathered over the past five months into a report that is supposed to be only 50 pages long. After some trial and error, Steve Staal suggested that we focus first on identifying the key messages that come out from the situational analysis covering the development overview, agricultural production systems, markets and institutions, and natural resources management. So each lead author of these four report sections worked on distilling these key messages out of his or her data and presented those to the rest of the group. And once those had been approved, it was much easier for them to select out of their much larger draft report the key information and data they had collected which allowed them to back their different key messages while keeping to the 10 pages reserved for each section of the final report.

ILRI is also involved in coordinating other Humidtropics situational analyses. The CGIAR research program on Livestock and Fish is also finding it challenging to write up condensed situational analyses reports of its target value chains. So coaching authors to focus on identifying the key messages from their research would then allow all these situational analyses reports to be synthesized more efficiently. Short, well argued reports will be more convincing in determining, and finding funding for further research and development interventions that are relevant to local contexts of agricultural and livestock systems.

Jo Cadilhon, Senior Agro-Economist

Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program, ILRI

Filed under: Agriculture, Asia, Crop-Livestock, CRP12, CRP37, Event, Farming Systems, Humid Tropics, PTVC, Research, Vietnam

Is there an integrative role for livestock in agricultural systems? Positive insights from Vietnam

I have just come back from Sapa, Vietnam, where I helped facilitate the launch meeting for the situational analysis of the CGIAR HumidTropics research program in Northwest Vietnam.

Terraced rice fields in Northwest Vietnam After the meeting, and to get a better idea of the situation of the farming systems we will be studying with our local research and development partners, I went on a two-day tour across the rural areas of Northwest Vietnam. I asked a reputable operator specialized in natural adventure tours how best to see the natural environment around Sapa up close and opted for the two-day mountain bike ride in the mountains East of Lao Cai city.

I was not disappointed. Cycling through the mountains allowed me to go through several of the main landscapes of the HumidTropics in Northwest Vietnam and to see their agricultural production and marketing systems. The exhilarating 16 km ride down from 1600 m into the Chay river valley offered a fascinating vertical transect of changing agricultural practices along the mountain slope.

Water buffaloes grazing in forest in Northwest Vietnam The HumidTropics program aims to help poor farm families, particularly those led by women, in tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas, to boost their income from integrated agricultural systems’ intensification while preserving their land for future generations. In this program, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hopes to enhance the contribution of livestock in sustaining the farming systems and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. We wish to uncover the integrative roles livestock play in traditional and innovative production systems.

My two-day bicycle ride allowed me to gather visual evidence of the central role that water buffaloes play in the upland mixed rice-maize production system and in the livelihoods of the Hmong ethnic minority in Northwest Vietnam.

The buffaloes have a clear role in transferring natural fertility from forests and fallow land to crop land. This farming system has been in existence for the past 2000 years after arising on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, according to Mazoyer and Roudart.

Water buffaloes in their pen in Northwest Vietnam How can buffaloes transfer fertility from the forests to crop land? By using the natural mobility of the animals. Children lead them to graze in the forest each day. They spend their whole day in the shade foraging on natural grass and leaves. Closer to the farm, the buffaloes are sometimes let loose onto fields that have already been harvested to eat the crop residues, making full use of the organic matter produced.

In the evening, the buffaloes are parked under their shed, where they will defecate their dung: a natural source of organic matter and minerals. This can be dried or incorporated into compost and used as fertilizer for the fields to grow more crops.

I was fortunate to chance upon the scene below. It encapsulates the central role of the buffalo in the upland maize cropping system. We see here a whole family preparing a plot of sloping land for maize production.

Ploughing, fertilizing and sowing maize field in Northwest Vietnam The buffalo is doing the hard work pulling the plough. The lady on the right with the woven basket is handling black solid matter – buffalo dung – and dropping it into the furrows. The boy bent over behind the plough is inserting a seed into the furrow. The other household members with hoes are turning soil onto seed and dung to protect them from runoff due to rain.

Perhaps less pleasant from the buffalo’s perspective, but essential to the household’s livelihood, selling a small buffalo or even an adult is a ready source of cash for the family. Weekly livestock markets are held in the various towns of the province where farmers can sell their produce and livestock in exchange for cash.

I got a terribly aching backside after cycling up and down over 100 km in two days. Nonetheless, this quick overview as a tourist, complemented by information from my local guide, has already given me interesting insights into the local production and marketing systems, and the role of livestock within them.

In the coming years, more rigorous research by HumidTropics colleagues and our local partners will try to improve these systems for better and sustainable smallholder livelihoods.

Jo Cadilhon, ILRI Policies, Trade and Value Chains Program

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Production, Asia, Buffalo, Crop residues, Crop-Livestock, CRP12, Farming Systems, Humid Tropics, Livelihoods, PTVC, Southeast Asia, Vietnam Tagged: situational analysis

Northwest Vietnam situational analysis shapes up for HumidTropics research program

Researchers elaborate their workplans

Researchers elaborate their workplans

On 15 and 16 August 2013 the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) organized the launch meeting of the CGIAR’s HumidTropics research program situational analysis in Northwest Vietnam. Jo Cadilhon represented the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the meeting and helped facilitate the process. He reports on the outcomes.

The HumidTropics program aims to help poor farm families, particularly those led by women, in tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas, to boost their income from integrated agricultural systems’ intensification while preserving their land for future generations.

ILRI is responsible for the situational analysis component of the whole research program. This meeting in Northwest Vietnam was the start of an integrative process to deliver this research output with the help of other CGIAR centres and national partners.

The situational analysis is meant to paint a broad picture of the agricultural system in the action site where we will work. This short exercise, which should not last more than five months, involves gathering and analysing already available data and complementing this with key informant interviews in the field. Some of the questions we want to answer through the situational analysis are:

  1. System overview. What is the current situation in terms of rural development (incomes, poverty, nutrition)? What are the legal frameworks, social and cultural institutions? What is the current situation in terms of the environment and natural resources management?
Multicropping production system in rural Northwest Vietnam

Multicropping in rural Northwest Vietnam (image: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon)

  1. Agricultural production systems. What are the main agricultural production systems? For example, I encountered two radically different production systems when traveling through the mountains of Northwest Vietnam. One was a mix of upland maize and rice with irrigated rice terraces, farmhouse gardens of banana, fruit trees, vegetables and cassava, water buffalo, one traditional-breed sow with its piglets, and a few chicken (see picture right).
    The second (picture below) was much more commercial and integrated tea, cassava and pineapple with a tree cover to protect the slope from erosion. This section of the situational analysis will go deeper in characterizing production systems like the ones defined above.

    Agroforestry pineapple and tea plantation on a mountain slope in Northwest Vietnam

    Agroforestry pineapple and tea plantation in Northwest Vietnam (image: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon)

    What are the main cropping practices? What are the current yields and their past and future trends? Where are the major crops and livestock located? What are the interactions between crops, trees, livestock, labour and the environment? Is agriculture still a major part of farmers’ livelihoods or is off-farm work becoming more prevalent? What are the roles of women and youth in the agricultural production systems?

  1. Markets and institutions. This section of the situational analysis will focus on the products investigated by the previous section to determine the markets available for them and the institutions that facilitate or hinder their production and marketing. What is the current and potential market demand and structure? What are prices like along the value chain from input suppliers through farmers, processors and traders to consumers? What are the forms of collective action (cooperatives, groups, associations, supply contracts) between producers and other actors of the value chains to help link farmers to markets? I was particularly impressed when I encountered this red truck in the small rural town of Muong Khuong in Northwest Vietnam. It is a truck taxi service company, which farmers or traders can call on to transport their wares to the market in the big city of Lao Cai. This type of useful service allows smallholder farmers to send their products to markets and receive some income.

    Truck taxi service on offer in Northwest Vietnam

    Truck taxi service on offer in Northwest Vietnam (image: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon)

  1. Natural resources and the environment. This part will describe the key trends and issues faced by the HumidTropics ecosystem of the action site: Deforestation, soil degradation, water quality and availability, biodiversity, etc. In particular, we will try to find the innovative and traditional practices being used to protect current natural resources and the environment. For example, out of the two cropping systems described above, what are their impact on deforestation, soil degradation, water quality and biodiversity? The answer might not be as straightforward as one may think.
  1. Recent and existing research-for-development interventions and players. This last section of the situational analysis will review the current development programs already in place in the action area: Who has been doing what? What are the main success stories and past failures? Who are active development partners in the action site? What data bases are available to allow further analysis?

But what is all this information going to give us? By also determining the main opportunities and constraints faced by the agricultural and livestock system for each one of these five topics, we expect to generate a list of priority interventions or pilot research trials that may improve the current systems.

The results of the situational analysis will be reviewed, validated and prioritized by a research-for-development platform composed of various key actors from academia, but also from government, NGOs, farmers’ organizations, the women and youth unions, and the private sector. They will tell researchers which interventions or field trials we should be focusing on in the next stage of the research program where we will assess the costs and benefits of these innovations for farmers and their value chains.

Results from this situational analysis in Northwest Vietnam are expected by early 2014. The same process will be launched this year in Western Kenya and Nicaragua. Many more will follow as the research program starts its activities in other action sites across the humid tropics.

Story by Jo Cadilhon, ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program

A family of Hmong farmers thresh their maize harvest in rural Northwest Vietnam

A family of Hmong farmers thresh their maize harvest in rural Northwest Vietnam (image: ILRI/Jo Cadilhon)

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Production, Asia, CRP12, Environment, Farming Systems, Gender, Humid Tropics, Innovation Systems, Livelihoods, PTVC, Vietnam

Researchers in Kenya funded to start work on development of a vaccine against African swine fever

Sweet potato vines offered to pigs as feed

Smallholder pig producer family in Kiboga, Uganda (photo credit: ILRI/Danilo Pezo).

‘Scientists in Kenya have launched research of a vaccine to be used against African swine fever. The study is still at an early stage where scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are identifying antigens and best-bet delivery systems to be used.

‘“Research in this area, with the ultimate goal of generating resistant and productive domestic pigs, is just beginning,” said ILRI molecular biologist Dr Richard Bishop.

‘He said that ILRI has just been awarded major funding from BMZ for vaccine development in collaboration with FLI (Riems) Germany to help save the global pig industry that is worth $150 billion.

‘Africa-wide economic impacts of swine fever are hard to quantify due to a dearth of disease recording, especially as this infection rapidly turns lethal in pig herds and active surveillance for the infection is rare. The prevalence of the disease has thwarted investment in the smallholder pig sector.

‘The disease is still emerging in Africa and in the last 20 years, it has spread to parts of West Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius and most recently (in 2011) to Chad from Cameroon.

In Uganda, pig numbers have increased to four million today and continue to rise from 100,000 in the 1970s and pork consumption is now close to that of beef.

‘There were 20 recorded outbreaks of African swine fever in Uganda in 2010 alone.

‘“This is an underestimate due to a difficulty in diagnosing the disease and under-reporting of livestock diseases,” Bishop said.

‘Although the absolute total number of pigs kept in Africa remains relatively small (less than 50 million), pig keeping is very profitable for many of Africa’s rural poor, providing a flexible means of generating an income in the right environments. . . . .’

Read the whole article in the Daily Nation/Xinhua: Kenyan experts search for swine fever vaccine, 12 May 2013.

Filed under: Africa, Animal Health, ASF, Asia, Biotech, Chad, Disease Control, Emerging Diseases, ILRI, Kenya, PA, Pigs, Project, Uganda Tagged: Cameroon, Daily Nation (Kenya), Richard Bishop, Xinhua

Reframing the pastoral narrative: Ancient mobile herding strategies to make a comeback in a hotter world

Fulani boy in Niger herds his family's animals

Fulani boy in Niger herds his family’s animals (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Mobility to unlock scattered food, feed, water and other scarce and scattered essential resources is a human strategy as old as humankind itself—and one that remains key for pastoral livestock herders the world over. As the world warms and its natural resources become ever scarcer, it would profit all of us to take a long hard look at how livestock herders track those resources over time and space, and how their movement and that of their animal herds helps them stay resilient in the face of some of the earth’s most unforgiving, and now increasingly unpredictable and extreme, climates.

It appears the rest of us are going to need to adopt strategies for resilience sooner rather than later. Last Thursday, reports Polly Ericksen, scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was a red letter day. On that day, 9 May 2013, the level of emissions of carbon dioxide reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million, a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.

Red Letter Day
The new measurement came from analyzers atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide, or CO2. . . . Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa. But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday.’ — Heat-trapping gas passes milestone, raising fears, New York Times, 10 May 2013

Carbon dioxide, of course, is the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. So what do we know about what will happen as the world’s average temperatures rise with the increasing amounts of carbon trapped in our atmosphere? Well, not much, as even our most sophisticated and integrated models are unable to forecast likely changes after a certain threshold has been passed. But what we can surmise is grim, as the following plausible scenarios illustrate.

One degree, two degrees, three degrees, four . . .
With a global average rise of 2ºC, ‘Greenland’s glaciers and some of the lower lying islands would start to disappear. At 3ºC higher the Arctic would be ice-free all summer, the Amazon rainforest would begin to dry out and extreme weather patterns would become the norm. An increase of 4ºC would see the oceans rise drastically. Then comes the twilight zone of climate change, if the global temperature rises again by another degree. Part of once temperate regions could become uninhabitable, while humans fight each other for the world’s remaining resources. The sixth degree is what is called the doomsday scenario as oceans become marine wastelands, deserts expand and catastrophic events become more common.’ — Six degrees could change the world, National Geographic, 2012

Studies written by scientists at 14 of the 15 CGIAR centres and compiled and published last year by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) (Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate, 2012) provide a snapshot of how climate change is likely to affect key food crops and livestock farming and natural resources in poor countries, where these staple foods and resources remain the backbone not only of food security but also of national economies.

While nothing is certain, a few things are probable, writes Philip Thornton, scientist at CCAFS and ILRI and leader of the research study. First and foremost is that old-fashioned foods and food production strategies are likely to make some major comebacks.

Crops and animals till now neglected by major research initiatives, and now considered ‘old-fashioned’ by many, are likely to play an increasingly important role on global food production once again. Drought-resistant camels and goats, ‘famine foods’ such as heat-tolerant cassava and millet, and dual-purpose crops such as protein-rich cowpea (aka black-eyed peas) and groundnut that feed people and animals alike are all likely to come back to the fore in regions with drying or more unpredictable climates. In some drying regions, smallholders will be forced to switch from crop growing to livestock raising, and/or from raising dairy cows to raising dairy or other goats. — As the cooking pot turns: Staple crop and animal foods are being ‘recalibrated’ for a warmer world, ILRI News Blog, 1 Nov 2012

So herding livestock, the so-called ‘pastoral’ food production system, is likely to become much more important as we warm the globe. But as Mike Shanahan, press officer for the International Institute for Environment and Development (UK), reports this week, if we’re going to increasingly rely on livestock herding across the world’s current vast drylands, and across the lands now drying up, to help feed our increasingly crowded planet and support the lives and livelihoods of its poorest people, we’d better start rethinking the ways we perceive, talk about and approach pastoralism, now a neglected sector in many fast-modernizing countries, which tend to view it as ‘backward’.

Shanahan recently investigated how media reports on pastoralism in India, China and Kenya. ‘These policy narratives overlook both the dynamics of dryland ecosystems and how dryland communities have long learnt how to live with and harness variability to support sustainable and productive economies, societies and ecosystems.

The narratives ignore the ways that mobile herding can increase people’s resilience in a changing climate. They also ignore the three E’s—the economic value of pastoralism, the environmental benefits that herding brings to rangelands and the equity that should be at heart of good policymaking.

‘Once upon a time, not so long ago,’ says Shanahan, ‘we were all mobile. Movement was what enabled our ancestors to track resources that were here today, gone tomorrow. In parts of the world where water, pasture or good hunting are not constantly available, mobility is still the key that unlocks scattered resources. It is the key to resilience. And as the climate changes, this ancient strategy could become more important.

‘Yet in many countries, governments marginalise mobile pastoralists and would prefer them to settle instead of roaming the land. Dominant policy narratives cast pastoralism as a backwards, unproductive activity that takes place in marginal fragile areas, where unpredictable rainfall leads people to overgraze and damage the land.

Media stories both contribute to and reflect the dominant policy narrative around pastoralism.

‘In Kenya, pastoralists feature mostly in ‘bad news’ stories of conflict and drought. They appear vulnerable and lacking in agency. Stories make almost no mention of the benefits that pastoralists bring.

‘In China, the media presented pastoralists as the cause of environmental degradation and as (generally happy) beneficiaries of government investment and settlement projects.

‘In India, newspapers tended to portray pastoralists with more pity, as people whose rights to grazing land had been taken away and whose livelihoods were at risk as pastures dwindle and locally resilient livestock breeds disappear. . . .

Yet opportunities to reframe pastoralism abound. In Kenya, for instance, an alternative narrative could show how the new constitution could work best for the drylands and their communities. In India, an alternative narrative could show how herding is part of the wider dryland agriculture system that can increase food security in the context of climate change. In China, an alternative narrative can relate how support for pastoralism can increase food security and better manage rangelands for economic benefits. . . .’

Read the whole article by Mike Shanahan on the Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems: Pastoralists in the media: Three E’s please, 13 May 2013.

See Mike Shanahan’s full research paper or a four-page summary.

Filed under: Asia, China, Climate Change, Drylands, East Africa, Environment, Food security, ILRI, India, Kenya, LivestockFutures, PA, Pastoralism, Policy, Report, South Asia Tagged: CCAFS, CGIAR, IIED, Mike Shanahan, National Geographic, New York Times, Polly Ericksen

‘Nature’ takes a hard look at the ‘messy middle ground’ — the ‘difficult adolescence’ — of GM crops

Nature special issue on GMOs

Cover of a special issue of ‘Nature’ on GMOs, 2 May 2013.

The leading British science journal Nature has published a special issue on GM crops: Promise and reality  (2 May 2013). This hub of updated science-based information on GM crops includes feature news stories, commentaries, a podcast and more.

‘Foreign genes were successfully introduced into plants for the first time 30 years ago . . . .  Ever since, genetically modified (GM) crops have promised to deliver a second green revolution: a wealth of enhanced foods, fuels and fibres that would feed the starving, deliver profits to farmers and promote a greener environment. In many ways, that revolution has arrived. Crops engineered to carry useful traits now grow on 170 million hectares in at least 28 countries . . . .

‘But to many, GM crops have been a failure. The market is dominated by just a few insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops. The environmental benefits are disputed, and activists question the safety of GM foods. Politicized and polarized, the war of words that surrounds GM crops ignores the complex truths.

‘In this special issue, Nature explores the messy middle ground. . . .

The battles are by no means over, but the hope is that science and reasoned debate can inform the future of these technologies.

An editorial in this special issue, Fields of gold, argues that GM research needs to happen outside of the industry (in the non-profit sector) so that developments are driven by objectives other than profit:

‘There is reason to stand up for the continued use and develop­ment of GM crops. Genetic modification is a nascent technology for which development has moved very quickly to commercialization. That has forced most research into the for-profit sector.

Without broader research programmes outside the seed industry, developments will continue to be profit-driven, limiting the chance for many of the advances that were promised 30 years ago—such as feeding the planet’s burgeoning population sustainably, reducing the environmental footprint of farming and delivering products that amaze and delight.

Transgenic technologies are by no means the only way to achieve these aims, but the speed and precision that they offer over traditional breeding techniques made them indispensable 30 years ago. They still are today.

In another article, Transgenics: A new breed, Daniel Cressey argues that:

The next wave of genetically modified crops is making its way to market—and might just ease concerns over ‘Frankenfoods’.

‘When the first genetically modified (GM) organisms were being developed for the farm, says Anastasia Bodnar, “we were promised rocket jet packs”—futuristic, ultra-nutritious crops that would bring exotic produce to the supermarket and help to feed a hungry world.

‘Yet so far, she says, the technology has bestowed most of its benefits on agribusiness—almost always through crops modified to withstand weed-killing chemicals or resist insect pests. This has allowed farmers to increase yields and spray less pesticide than they might have otherwise.

‘At best, such advances have been almost invisible to ordinary consumers, says Bodnar, a biotechnologist with Biology Fortified, a non-profit GM-organism advocacy organization in Middleton, Wisconsin. And at worst, they have helped to fuel the rage of opponents of genetic modification, who say that transgenic crops have concentrated power and profits in the hands of a few large corporations, and are a prime example of scientists meddling in nature, heedless of the dangers . . . .

‘But that could soon change, thanks to a whole new generation of GM crops now making their way from laboratory to market. Some of these crops will tackle new problems, from apples that stave off discolouration to “Golden Rice” and bright-orange bananas fortified with nutrients to improve the diets of people in the poorest countries.’

In another article of this special issue, Biotechnology: Africa and Asia need a rational debate on GM crops, ‘Christopher Whitty, chief scientific adviser at the UK Department for International Development, and his colleagues argue that the negative attitudes towards GM crops in the developed world undermine the technology’s potential in the developing one.’

The authors state that policymakers in developing countries should resist being swayed by the politicized debate around GM food and crops in Europe, a continent where food insecurity and malnutrition are not widely present. They also argue that developments in GM crop research will be key to addressing the challenge of feeding rising populations in the face of climate change.

In a Nature News Feature in this issue, Case studies: A hard look at GM crops, Natasha Gilbert reports on how the evidence is holding up on the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ of  GM crops.

‘In the pitched debate over genetically modified (GM) foods and crops, it can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin. In the nearly 20 years since they were first commercialized, GM crop technologies have seen dramatic uptake. Advocates say that they have increased agricultural production by more than US$98 billion and saved an estimated 473 million kilograms of pesticides from being sprayed. But critics question their environmental, social and economic impacts. . . .

‘Here, Nature takes a look at three pressing questions: are GM crops fuelling the rise of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’? Are they driving farmers in India to suicide? And are the foreign transgenes in GM crops spreading into other plants? These controversial case studies show how blame shifts, myths are spread and cultural insensitivities can inflame debate. . . .

Herbicide-resistant GM crops
‘On balance, herbicide-resistant GM crops are less damaging to the environment than conventional crops grown at industrial scale. A study by PG Economics, a consulting firm in Dorchester, UK, found that the introduction of herbicide-tolerant cotton saved 15.5 million kilograms of herbicide between 1996 and 2011, a 6.1% reduction from what would have been used on conventional cotton. And GM crop technology delivered an 8.9% improvement to the environmental impact quotient—a measure that considers factors such as pesticide toxicity to wildlife—says Graham Brookes, co-director of PG Economics and a co-author of the industry-funded study, which many scientists consider to be among the field’s most extensive and authoritative assessments of environmental impacts.

‘The question is how much longer those benefits will last. . . .

‘To offer farmers new weed-control strategies, Monsanto and other biotechnology companies, such as Dow AgroSciences, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, are developing new herbicide-resistant crops that work with different chemicals, which they expect to commercialize within a few years. . . .’

Bt cotton in India
Regarding claims that introduction in India of Bt cotton, which contains a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to ward off certain insects, have led to an increase in farmer suicides, an ‘oft-repeated story of corporate exploitation since Monsanto began selling GM seed in India in 2002′,  scientists have found that ‘there has been essentially no change in the suicide rate for farmers since the introduction of Bt cotton.

That was shown by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC, who scoured government data, academic articles and media reports about Bt cotton and suicide in India. Their findings, published in 2008 (ref. 4) and updated in 2011 (ref. 5), show that the total number of suicides per year in the Indian population rose from just under 100,000 in 1997 to more than 120,000 in 2007. But the number of suicides among farmers hovered at around 20,000 per year over the same period.’

ILRI's Purvi Mehta-Bhatt #2 in India

ILRI head of South Asia Purvi Mehta-Bhatt (photo credit: ILRI).

One of the authors of that study is Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, who now heads the South Asia program of work of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Mehta-Bhatt says that India’s adoption of Bt cotton has helped move the country from being a net importer of cotton to being a net exporter, and that household incomes have increased some 20–25 per cent as a result.

We’ve been talking about this in India for a very long time now. We’ve been hearing about the dangers of releasing GM crops. What we fail to hear much about are the dangers to India of not releasing such crops. India now has other genetically modified crops in the offing, many being generated by the public sector. India needs to make decisions on the way forward, and needs to make its decisions based on evidence, not on emotions.—Purvi Mehta-Bhatt

The Nature article goes on to report the following. ‘[S]ince its rocky beginnings, Bt cotton has benefited farmers, says Matin Qaim, an agricultural economist at Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany, who has been studying the social and financial impacts of Bt cotton in India for the past 10 years. In a study of 533 cotton-farming households in central and southern India, Qaim found that yields grew by 24% per acre between 2002 and 2008, owing to reduced losses from pest attacks. Farmers’ profits rose by an average of 50% over the same period, owing mainly to yield gains . . . . Given the profits, Qaim says, it is not surprising that more than 90% of the cotton now grown in India is transgenic. . . .’

Transgenes in Mexican maize
‘The scientific community remains split on whether transgenes have infiltrated maize populations in Mexico, even as the country grapples with whether to approve commercialization of Bt maize. . . . “It seems inevitable that there will be a movement of transgenes into local maize crops,” says [Allison] Snow. “There is some proof that it is happening, but it is very difficult to say how common it is or what are the consequences. . . . Snow says that there is no evidence so far for negative effects. And she expects that if the transgenes now in use drift to other plants, they will have neutral or beneficial effects on plant growth. . . .


Tidy stories, in favour of or against GM crops, will always miss the bigger picture, which is nuanced, equivocal and undeniably messy. Transgenic crops will not solve all the agricultural challenges facing the developing or developed world, says [Matin] Qaim: “It is not a silver bullet.” But vilification is not appropriate either. The truth is somewhere in the middle.’

Read the IFPRI research study
Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India: Reviewing the Evidence, by Guillaume P Gruère, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt and Debdatta Sengupta, IFPRI Discussion Paper 00808, October 2008, Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Read more on this topic in the ILRI News Blog
New advances in the battle against a major disease threat to cattle and people in Africa, 1 May 2013.

And more on this topic from the ILRI Clippings Blog
GMOs good for Africa–Calestous Juma, Kenyan biotechnology expert and Harvard professor, 25 Apr 2013.
Kenya testing ground for GMOs, 15 Jan 2010.

Filed under: Agriculture, Article, Asia, Biotechnology, Environment, Genetics, ILRI, India, North America, PA, Seeds, USA Tagged: Bt cotton, GMOs, Herbicide-resistant GM crops, IFPRI, Mexico, Nature, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, transgenic maize

Livestock and global change: Livestock live talk at ILRI on 28 November 2012

Globally, the demand for meat products is growing at 1.8% per year due to increasing populations, economic growth and rapid urbanization. Agropastoral and pastoral systems cover 45% of the earth’s usable surface and supply 9% of global meat production, while mixed crop-livestock farming systems produce 54% of the total meat and 90% of the milk consumed in the world.

This demand for livestock products is expected to grow but climate change and competition for land is likely to limit the area available for livestock keeping. What are the options to feed more people, more efficiently from livestock farming?

Join Mario Herrero – a senior systems analyst with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on Wednesday,  28 Nov 2012, as he gives a presentation on ‘livestock and global change’, at the ILRI Nairobi campus Info Centre, from 1500-1600 hours.

Herrero leads ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Futures program (SLF). The program conducts foresight studies on emerging livestock development challenges with uncertain future impacts and signals their importance for other ILRI programs and policymakers.

Mario Herrero, team leader for ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Futures program (photo credit: ILRI).

He has coordinated several global integrated assessment projects such as the CGIAR global assessment of food production systems, ecosystems services and human well-being. Additionally, he has contributed to numerous international assessments such as the 2010 World Development Report, the 2007/2008 Human Development Report and the 2007 Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. He has participated in international task forces such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC’s) Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Guidelines and has served in several donor and science advisory committees on livestock and the environment.

Herrero has published more than 150 refereed papers, book chapters and reports in his areas of expertise and is currently on the editorial board of Agricultural Systems and is a guest editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal (PNAS) in the area of livestock, sustainability science and global change. He has also supervised over 60 academic theses on different aspects of animal production systems.

View Mario Herrero’s publications here: query=%28%28author%3A%22herrero%2C+M%22%29%29&rpp=10&sort_by=2

The presentation is part of ILRI’s ‘livestock live talks’, a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who would want to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000).

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Central America, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Farming Systems, ILRI, Livestock Systems, LivestockFutures, PLE, Research Tagged: livestock live talk, Mario Herrero, PNAS

Using crop by-products to intensify and sustain food production: Livestock live talk at ILRI on 26 September 2012

On  26 September 2012, animal nutritionist Michael Blümmel with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) presented an ‘livestock live talk’ on Using crop by-products to intensify and sustain food production at the ILRI campus in Nairobi.

View the presentation:


Livestock live talks’ is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff wanting to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 422-3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 422-3000).

Filed under: Animal Feeding, Asia, Crop residues, Crop-Livestock, Event, Feeds, Fodder, Research, South Asia Tagged: livestock live talks, Michael Blummel

Livestock challenges and opportunities in Asia discussed at regional policy forum

Increasing livestock production to meet rapidly growing demands in a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable manner has become major challenge for the Asia-Pacific region. To discuss these challenges and to outline elements of a response, FAO, together with ILRI, IFPRI and other partners organized a Regional Policy Forum in Bangkok on 16-17 August 2012.

Asia and the Pacific region has been the strongest growing region for milk and meat over the last two to three decades. Total consumption of meat in the region has grown from 50 million tonnes to 120 million tonnes between 1980 and 2010. Comparable figures for milk were 54 and 190 million tonnes. By 2050, the consumption of meat and milk in the region is projected to cross 220 and 440 million tonnes respectively. While this growth can potentially create new opportunities for farmers and provide more affordable and healthier diets for future generations, managing this growth also requires a complex institutional response that can stimulate income and employment opportunities in the rural areas, protect the livelihoods of small farmers, improve resource use efficiency at all levels of the value chain, minimize negative environmental and health consequences, and ensure adequate access by the poorer sections of society to the food they need to live healthy lives.

To discuss and debate these issues, promote collaboration and knowledge exchange among relevant national and international  agencies and to discover the ways of addressing future challenges, FAO, together with ILRI, IFPRI and other partners organized the Regional Livestock Policy Forum at Royal Orchid Sheraton hotel in Bangkok on 16-17 Aug 2012. The forum was attended by about 80 participants comprising stakeholders from governments, national and international research agencies, civil society organizations, multilateral institutions, think tanks, private sector and regional and global networks. The forum provided a platform to share experiences, debate issues of key concern and to provide guidance for the nature of required policy response in different countries and growth scenarios.

Three keynote addresses highlighted environmental, social and health aspects of uncontrolled livestock sector growth and a number of presentations covered good practices and ongoing initiatives from a grass roots level perspective. Three thematic panel discussions were organized to further elaborate on selected key issues.

See ILRI presentations by:



The Conference Proceedings will be made available on the APHCA website in the coming months. The presentations made at the meeting, the detailed program and a list of participants is available online

Original story by: Vinod Ahuja, Livestock Policy Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP)

Filed under: Agri-Health, Agriculture, Animal Production, Asia, CRP4, Event, ILRI, Livestock, MarketOpps, Zoonotic Diseases Tagged: FAO

Innovation platforms: Documenting experiences from the imGoats project and beyond

Innovation platforms are a complex and some would say a not-so-straightforward approach. Nevertheless, ILRI, other CGIAR centers and other partners are using this approach in various projects such as the Nile Basin Development Challenge, IMGoats and the recently-completed Fodder Adoption and Fodder Innovation projects.

What are innovation platforms exactly?

This poster gives some ideas.


In light of experiences shared and questions posed in the recent imGoats workshop, here we briefly take stock of some ILRI experiences.

The recent India-Mozambique goats (imGoats) project reflection and learning workshop (July 2012) in Udaipur helped shape some reflections. The project, which aims to “increase incomes and food security in a sustainable manner by enhancing pro-poor small ruminant value chains in India and Mozambique”, has been using innovation platforms in its three sites: Mozambique as well as Jharkhand and Rajasthan in India.

In the learning and reflection workshop, two sessions were dedicated to a) describing the innovation platform processes in the three sites and b) finding practical solutions to improve these processes.

Early reflections indicate that using innovation platforms is much appreciated because it helps solve different issues, creates awareness about a wider set of issues related to a specific research agenda, reduces the weight of project interventions against the environment in which they are taking place (as the local constituents are taking ownership of the IP agenda), informs planning for all IP members and – though arguably perhaps – reduces the timeline between raising an issue and finding a solution.

The imGoats participants also identified some challenges related to innovation platforms:

  • How to stimulate consistent participation of IP members?
  • Should we ensure the sustainability of the IP and if so, how?
  • How to facilitate the IP meetings and ensure strong engagement and ownership of participants?
  • How to facilitate activities in between IP meetings and, as much as possible, with value chain actors?

They also reflected what they would do differently if they were to start the IP process all over again, revealing interesting opportunities on the horizon:

  • Spending more time on advocating, explaining and agreeing about the  approach at the onset;
  • Getting to know all members better before developing secretariat and groups;
  • Pre-identifying issues that matter to goat farmers before bringing them to an IP meeting.
Group discussions at the imGoats project learning and reflection workshop

imGoats participants at the learning and reflection workshop sharing views about innovation platforms in India and Mozambique

Other wider IP questions raised in Udaipur concerned the diversity and intensity of participation, clarity of the vision/roles/tasks, information sharing and communication processes, problem-solving capabilities and facilitation mechanisms.

In the coming months, the imGoats project will try and unpack these questions and further document innovation platforms through:

  • A technical advisory note on collective action (including innovation platforms);
  • An internal reflection meeting on our experiences with IPs, hubs and collective action;
  • An article on IP processes in the imGoats project and on the outcomes registered;
  • Leaflet about the IP processes (in English and in Hindi).

More generally, ILRI and other organizations like it may need to better specify the roles they want to play vis-à-vis these platforms – which require a lot of facilitation and partnership/stakeholder management.

Read more about innovation platforms and systems

Filed under: Africa, Animal Production, Asia, CRP11, Drylands, Event, Goats, ILRI, India, Innovation Systems, Knowledge & Information, Livestock, MarketOpps, Mozambique, South Asia, Southern Africa Tagged: imGoats, innovation platforms

Preventing and controlling classical swine fever in northeast India

Classical swine fever is a highly contagious, potentially fatal viral disease that affects pigs. This disease is a major constraint to the development of pig farming systems in northeast India where pig farming is a main source of livelihood for most households. About 80 per cent of households in northeast India rear pigs and pork is a key part of the local diet.

A 2011 participatory epidemiological study conducted in Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram by the International Livestock Research Instititute (ILRI) with support from Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) and Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust (NRTT) revealed that pig farmers in India incur huge losses from mortality, treatment and replacement costs—amounting to over 2 billion rupees each year.

This ILRI Policy Brief briefly explains measures to control classical swine fever and recommends policy interventions to prevent and control the disease.

The brief was produced as part of the Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems project under the TATA-ILRI partnership program.

Download the Policy Brief

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Diseases, Asia, ILRI, India, Pigs, Policy, South Asia, Vaccines Tagged: Classical swine fever, ELKS, TATA

m-Kisan: Using mobile technologies to strengthen farmer-extension-expert-linkages in India

This week, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) joins partners in India for the launch of the m-kisan project, part of an mFarmer Initiative funded by GSMA (the worldwide association of mobile operators).

In partnership with Handygo Technologies, a mobile value adding service provider for major network operators, ILRI will provide quality content mainly for small scale dairy, poultry and goat farming. With the additional information provided by CABI and Digital Green, the m-Kisan project will run in six Indian states for the next two years.

The project purpose is to develop a comprehensive agro-advisory service for smallholders using mobile devices. Different mobile channels such as voice and text messages and on-demand videos, a Farmer Helpline, including multiparty teleconferences will be used. This exciting suite of agricultural advisory services on mobile will offer affordable and effective advice to smallholders on relevant crop and livestock topics and provide a platform for service providers, interest groups and experts alike to exchange knowledge and experiences of interest for the majority of farmers in each area.

The mFarmer Initiative was launched in 2011 in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. It exists to support mobile service providers, in partnership with public and private sector agriculture organisations, to utilise the mobile channel to extend the reach and improve the quality of information and advisory services for smallholder farmers in emerging markets. It is expected to reach two million poor farming households by 2015.

The mKisan project management team and GSMA mAgri management are meeting this week (26 – 28 June 2012) in New Delhi, India to kick off the India project. The group will discuss key strategies for marketing and developing crop and livestock content of the service, review the workplan milestones and agree on M&E procedures. The latter will be supported by GSMA by engaging a local agency that specializes in project M&E in rural areas.

More about GSMA, mAgri and mFarmer

View a recent presentation by ILRI’S Pier Paolo Ficarelli on content management on m-Agriculture platforms 

Filed under: Agriculture, Asia, Extension, ILRI, India, KMIS, Knowledge & Information, South Asia Tagged: gsma, ICT, mKisan, Mobile phones

Pakistan launches online dairy guide

The Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development Board (PLDDB) has launched Pakistan’s first online dairy farming guide.

‘Pak Dairy Info’ gives information on Pakistan’s livestock and dairy sector, breeds suitable for dairy farming, selection of animals, modern dairy farm housing, management of animals at different stages, record keeping, farm sanitation and hygiene, feed and nutrition, reproduction, diseases and reproductive disorders are different topics which have been covered in this website.

Visit the web site

Filed under: Animal Production, Animal Products, Asia, Dairying, Pakistan, South Asia

African swine fever is growing threat to poor and rich countries alike

African Swine Fever workshop, July 2011, Nairobi

Participants of an African swine fever workshop held in July 2011 at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters: (From left) Raymond Rowland (Kansas State University), David Odongo (ILRI), Richard Bishop (ILRI), Maria-Jesus Munoz (Centro de Investigación en Sanidad Animal-Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias) and Jose-Manuel Vizcaino (head of the World Animal Health Organisation’s African Swine Fever World Reference Centre, in Madrid) on a visit to the new laboratories at ILRI and Biosciences eastern and central Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Edward Okoth).

‘Scientists from around the world came to Kansas State University’s Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) May 15–17 to take a global look at the highly contagious viral disease, African swine fever (ASF). The researchers assembled to give updates on research and in some cases, the status of ASF in their countries.

‘ASF has not been found in the United States, but is a serious problem in Africa and outbreaks have occurred in other countries, including Spain, Italy, Russia and the Dominican Republic. There is no vaccine or treatment. Changes in production practices and increasing globalization have increased the risk of introducing ASF into North America and other parts of the world, according to the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University. . . .

‘Humans are not susceptible to the African swine fever virus (ASFV), but when an outbreak occurs in any region or country, the financial and physical implications can be devastating to the swine industry and those related to it. During outbreaks in Malta and the Dominican Republic, for example, the swine herds of the entire countries were completely depopulated. . . .

Richard Bishop, senior molecular biologist with the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya spoke of the importance of the swine herd in Africa, adding that even one pig can make a significant difference in a family’s income. He said that the pig population in Africa increased 284% from 1980 to 1999 and that pork consumption during the period almost doubled. . . .’

Read the whole article at National Hog Farmer (USA): African swine fever represents growing global threat, 18 May 2012.

Filed under: Africa, Animal Diseases, Asia, Biotech, Disease Control, Emerging Diseases, Europe, Event, ILRI, North America, PA, Pigs, Russia, Vaccines Tagged: African swine fever, INIA, Richard Bishop

Safe food, fair food: Making milk and meat safe and affordable for the world’s poor

milk prices

Demand for milk and meat continues to rise in developing countries (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The New Agriculturist recently reported on a Safe Food, Fair Food Project led by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

‘Rising demand for livestock products is providing opportunities to improve the livelihoods of smallscale livestock farmers across Africa. However, with generally low levels of hygiene throughout the value chain, this new market opportunity for farmers could come at a high price in terms of food-borne disease. In response, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is implementing a ‘Safe food, fair food’ programme, to improve the safety of livestock products, maximise market access for livestock keepers and minimise the risk of food-borne disease.

Safer food can generate both health and wealth for the poor, but attaining safe food in developing countries requires a radical change in food safety assessment, management and communication,’ explains Delia Grace, Safe food, fair food principal investigator. ‘We are doing this by adapting risk-based approaches, successfully used for food safety in developed countries and international trade, to domestic informal markets, where most livestock products are sold.’

‘The project has conducted national workshops to engage policymakers to raise awareness about the potential food safety hazards that exist along the entire value chain, from farm to fork. “Use of participatory methods at a community level provides ways in which better food safety management in informal markets in sub-Saharan Africa can be promoted,” Grace adds. . . .’

Read the whole article at New Agriculturist: Safe food, fair food: Improving livestock health and livelihoods, Nov 2011.

Watch a short photofilm on this subject: Dying for meat, which is narrated by ILRI’s Delia Grace and features small-scale butchers and consumers interviewed in Nairobi about issues that connect animal and human health. This film was made for ILRI by duckrabbit, a UK-based multimedia production company.

Or read a chapter written by Delia Grace and her colleague John McDermott, Agriculture-associated diseases: Adapting agriculture to improve human health, which was recently published in a conference proceedings volume titled Reshaping Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, edited by S Fan and R Pandya-Lorch, Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), pp 103–111.

Filed under: Africa, Agri-Health, Asia, Consumption, CRP4, Film and video, Food Safety, ILRI, MarketOpps, Nutrition (human), PA, Project Tagged: 2011 IFPRI 2020 Conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health (Delhi), agnutrhealth2011, Delia Grace, Dying for Meat Photofilm, Fair Food Project, IFPRI, New Agriculturist, Safe Food, Safe Food Fair Food

Building capacities in animal genetic resources – a ‘training of trainers’ approach

Since 1999, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)  has partnered with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to provide capacity building on the sustainable use of Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR).

This report by Julie Ojango, Birgitta Malmfors, Okeyo Mwai, and Jan Philipsson on Training the trainers – An innovative and successful model for capacity building in animal genetic resource utilization in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia was released by ILRI and SLU on 31 December 2011.

Scientists from 46 developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have been trained on animal breeding and genetics developments, implementation of breeding strategies, and on teaching and communication methods.

Livestock accounts on average for about 30% of the agricultural GDP in developing countries, yet the productivity of many livestock populations is inadequate due to a complexity of factors. The genetic variability between and within species and breeds is largely unexploited at the same time as a continuous loss of genetic diversity takes place. Livestock productivity must increase to meet the projected demand for doubled meat and milk production within a few decades in developing countries, while minimizing environmental impact. These challenges require highly skilled people to lead the development in the desired direction. Unfortunately, developing countries suffer from a shortage of trained people, not least in the area of animal breeding and genetics, both at research and higher education institutions and in organizations responsible for livestock development.

It is in this context that the ILRI-SLU project has developed its philosophy of ‘training the trainers’ to effectively multiply knowledge and concepts to new generations of students, researchers and policy makers. This synthesis report provides insights and reflections on the project’s outputs and outcomes, and informs on the ways forward in terms of further investment in developing and strengthening human capacity in the field of AnGR.

Download the research report

More on this topic:

Filed under: Africa, Animal Breeding, Asia, Biodiversity, Biotech, Capacity Strengthening, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds, Livestock, Report, Research Tagged: AnGR, SLU

Beef production in crop–livestock systems

This new report from the ACIAR – the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research – argues that  the “improvement of production and profitability in smallholder beef enterprises is typically not limited by a lack of promising feeding and management technologies. It is more due to low access to, and uptake of, these technologies. There has generally been little understanding of how these technologies can be adapted to and integrated into smallholder systems.”

The case studies in this publication highlight approaches that have been taken by recent ACIAR-funded projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and China
to better understand the social, economic and technical drivers and inhibitors of uptake of these promising technologies.


Download the report …

Filed under: Animal Production, Asia, Books and chapters, China, Crop residues, Crop-Livestock, Indonesia, Livestock Systems, Southeast Asia, Value Chains, Vietnam Tagged: ACIAR, Beef

Global research with regional relevance – How ILRI works in different parts of the world

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at ILRI, Iain Wright, Siboniso Moyo and Abdou Fall prepared an issue brief on ILRI’s regional activities …

As a global research institute, ILRI focuses its research on challenges of global importance At the same time, it serves the needs of its stakeholders and poor livestock keepers in different regions of the world. It has to find a balance between international – global – public goods and the delivery of local or regional goods.

Download Issue Brief 7.

In this video, Iain Wright reflects on ILRI’s strategy for livestock development in Asia:

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosts a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event will synthesize sector and ILRI learning and help frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange will also mark the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General.  See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

Filed under: Africa, Asia, ILRI, Livestock, Partnerships, Report, Research Tagged: livestockX