Southern Africa: Clippings

Gates-funded East African Dairy Development project expands into Tanzania

Faustina Akyoo,  dairy farmer in Tanga, Tanzania.

Faustina Akyoo is a dairy farmer in Tanga, Tanzania. Her five dairy cows are an important livelihood  asset for her family  (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Earlier this year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided a grant of USD25.5 million to boost dairy technology uptake in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Given through Heifer International, the grant is being used to implement technology projects under the East African Dairy Development (EADD) project, which aims to support 179,000 families living on 1–5 acre plots and keeping a few dairy cows.

‘More than 200 participants attended the launch of the Tanzanian phase of the project in late March 2014 among them players in the country’s dairy sector, including dairy processors, officials from the Tanzania Dairy Board, dairy farmers, banks and microfinance organisations.

‘The EADD is a regional program led by the Heifer International in partnership with the International Livestock Research institute (ILRI), TechnoServe, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the African Breeder Service Total Cattle Management (ABS-TCM). . . .

‘According to Heifer International, the implementer of the project, the aim is to strengthen relationships between farmers, processers, distributors and consumers in a region where milk demand outstrips supply. . . .

‘During the launch, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is major EADD partner, was represented by Amos Omore, the ILRI country representative in Tanzania and Edgar Twine, a value chain economist.

Read the whole article by Mwangi Mumero in African Farming and Food Processing, Gates Foundation rolls out Tanzanian dairy project, 26 Jun 2014.

And read an earlier article on this topic in an earlier issue of African Farming and Food ProcessingGates Foundation issues US$26mn grant to East African farmers, 30 Jan 2014.

Filed under: CRP37, Dairying, East Africa, ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, LGI, Southern Africa, Tanzania Tagged: African Breeder Service Total Cattle Management (ABS-TCM), African Farming and Food Processing Magazine, Amos Omore, EADD, Edgar Twine, ICRAF

East and Southern Africa drylands learning event on community based adaptation and resilience

The impacts of climate change are threatening the livelihoods of already vulnerable pastoralist, agro pastoralist and farming communities in East and Southern African drylands. In order to meet the scale and magnitude of these challenges, where extreme events and recurrent drought will be ongoing features, actors in development, adaptation, disaster risk management, social protection and humanitarian action are recognizing the need to focus on achieving resilient outcomes.

Community based adaptation (CBA) to climate change is providing valuable practical approaches and evidence of use for drylands related programmes and policy decisions.

Aim of the learning event
Bringing together stakeholders from a diverse range of disciplines working with dryland communities across East and Southern Africa, the aim of the event is to facilitate learning from experiences and evidence on climate change adaptation, in particular CBA, and resilience. Participants will co-generate new insights on the links between CBA and achieving resilient development.

The conference will explore:

  1. What is the added value that CBA practical experience brings to achieving resilience in dryland communities?
  2. How are climate change and related responses exacerbating the entrenched drivers of differential vulnerability among communities living in drylands? What are the barriers and drivers to change?
  3. What would an integrated and coherent approach to achieving resilience in vulnerable dryland communities look like?

CARE Ethiopia will host the event together with CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP), the CGIAR Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security programme (CCAFS) and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

Target audience: Practitioners working with drylands issues (government, non-government and donors) and researchers, who have knowledge and experiences to share on adaptation and resilience in drylands. Policy makers concerned with East and Southern African drylands are also welcome to register.

Participation will be dependent on the relevance of information shared in the registration form.

Location: ILRI complex, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Date: 1–4 September, 2014

Download the full concept note here

Express your interest to participate: download the registration form here and email it to

Deadline for registration: June 10 at midnight (GMT + 3)

Filed under: Climate Change, CRP7, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Livelihoods, Pastoralism, Resilience, Southern Africa Tagged: ALP, CARE, CBA, CCAFS, ICIPE

Women, livestock ownership and markets: Bridging the gender gap in eastern and southern Africa

Authored by Jemimah Njuki and Pascal Sanginga, this book provides empirical evidence from Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique and from different production systems of the importance of livestock as an asset to women and their participation in livestock and livestock product markets. It explores the issues of intra-household income management and economic benefits of livestock markets to women, focusing on how types of markets, the types of products and women’s participation in markets influence their access to livestock income.

The book further analyses the role of livestock ownership, especially women’s ownership of livestock, in influencing household food security though increasing household dietary diversity and food adequacy. Additional issues addressed include access to resources, information and financial services to enable women more effectively to participate in livestock production and marketing, and some of the factors that influence this access.

Practical strategies for increasing women’s market participation and access to information and services are discussed. The book ends with recommendations on how to mainstream gender in livestock research and development if livestock are to serve as a pathway out of poverty for the poor and especially for women.

Download the book from IDRC or order it from Routledge.

Filed under: CRP37, East Africa, Gender, ILRI, Kenya, LGI, Mozambique, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Women

Animal genetic resources workshop: Uniting Africa in preserving our future

Workshop participants

A workshop on Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa was recently held in Gaborone, as an ILRI-SLU capacity building Project in collaboration with the FAO, AU/IBAR and Team Africa. The workshop ran from 26 to 29 November 2013 with the main objectives of catalyzing and enhancing regional collaboration in order to improve training in animal breeding and genetics for sustainable use of Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR), plan and undertake research for development in prioritized areas of AnGR and improve capacity development including outreach activities in the relevant areas among others.

The workshop focused on strengthening national and regional structures for the management of farm animal genetic resources, and attracted participants from the SADC region and is co-hosted and supported by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), The Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU), the African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and FAO in partnership with the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism (TEAM-Africa), (Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), the SADC Secretariat and CCARDESA.

Professor Jan Philipsson, representing The Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) pointed out that livestock is extremely important, not just in Botswana but also to the rest of the region. “A research was made and it showed that there is a still lot of work that needs to be done in animal genetics in the region” Philipsson said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Animal Genetic Resource Branch representative Paul Boettcher, stated his delight at the existence of the workshop saying that it signifies great interest in genetic resources, something that could greatly benefit not only Africa, but the rest of the world.

The relevance of the initiative to Botswana was stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary who said, “Livestock accounts for 80% of the Agriculture GDP, mostly from cattle, and you are all aware of the sophistication it takes to supply the delicate EU markets. Dr. Motsu, the Director of Animal Production, added on to say that the Tswana Breed semen is stored in the local gene bank and is available for research especially for enhancement.

During the workshop it was revealed that there was a need for the design and implementation of an improved conservation and breeding programe which would improve livelihoods and food security in farming communities.

The low input breeding scheme situation analysis showed limited livestock recording and low enrollment, proving that there is potential for regional collaboration and need for proper design of schemes for different species. A need for regional collaboration on herd improvement, growth on on-going initiatives and strengthening the animal production sub-committee was established by the SADC.

The ILRI-SLU general AnGR issues for discussion included among others, the prevention of breeds from being at risk, the use of resources for conservation of inferior breeds and investment in improvement of still promising breeds, conservation of genes or genotypes, controlled cross breeding and globalization in the use of breeding materials. They stated the safest way of conserving a population as to keep developing it, and to include capacity building at all levels. ILRI-SLU stated that in record keeping, feedback from the farmer is very vital and that if the records are not used then it makes the research useless.

FAO stated the need for countries to manage their AnGR as being, Livestock diversity is essential to food and livelihood security; livestock provide meat, milk, eggs, fibres, skins, manure, draught power, and a range of other products and services; livestock contribute to the ecosystems in which they live, providing services such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling; and genetic diversity underpins the many roles that livestock fulfil and allows people to keep livestock under a wide range of environmental conditions. They mentioned that challenges included limited capacity in animal production and breeding, not enough data on AnGR and lack of effective livestock policies.

Read the full news item

Filed under: Africa, Animal Breeding, Biodiversity, Botswana, Capacity Strengthening, CapDev, CRP37, Event, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds, Southern Africa Tagged: AU-IBAR, CCARDESA, FAO, RUFORUM, SADC, SLU

Next steps for climate change social learning initiative – implementation, incubation, partnering, testing, scaling…

Climate change is a wicked problem, it requires wicked solutions, not business-as-usual.

The CGIAR research program on climate change, agriculture and food security (CCAFS) recognised this when they joined up with International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners to look at the potential of social learning and communication approaches to support decision-making on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The growing body of work has been referred to as ‘CCSL’ (climate change and and social learning) since the foundation workshop in May 2012. See related ILRI news items and these blog posts.

One year later, a small CCSL group sat together in a ‘plan-and-write-shop’ to review progress made and outputs developed and to bring this work to the next level. The focus was on implementation and testing of social learning hypotheses and approaches or tools at scale.

Since the start of this work, the CCSL team has developed a body of work which encompasses a number of projects which has led to a growing collection of resources dedicated to social learning in climate change and agriculture.

Much has been done and produced, however the team has worked in a rather opportunistic manner. The priority was to explore the five priority areas identified in May 2012 and to understand social learning approaches looking at past literature and experiences (i.e. desk-based work). When that body of work was presented to the wider CCAFS team during their annual science meeting, the feedback was clear: ‘make this practical and help us try it out in vivo’.

Results of the plan-and-writeshop

From 25 to 27 June, the CCSL group systematically reviewed all projects and publications produced and planned (resulting in this updated table of CCSL resources). The team will systematically review case studies and develop them into a well-structured database, including clear examples of successes and failures with social learning and associated experiences.

The team also developed a very initial vision and a strategy for a second phase of CCSL, focused on implementing social learning in CCAFS and elsewhere and engaging other institutions and individuals interested in this work. For the second phase, ambitions are stepping up, as CCAFS is ready to test CCSL ideas in its activities, but also other players, among which the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and partners in the Food Systems Innovation for Food Security (FSIFS) programme in Australia.

The new vision and strategy elaborated in late June are the following:

The vision – and overarching hypothesis – is that social learning helps institutions and individuals involved get smarter by combining their perspectives and capacities, and as a result they achiever smarter, more sustainable and collectively supported development outcomes.

The strategy is still in the making but some of its main pointers are:

  • To rapidly collect evidence of benefits and limitations of social learning by supporting incubation mechanisms for networks of local innovators (and social learners).
  • To document experiences using social learning approaches that primarily test two assumptions: 1) that social learning positively influence institutions and their effectiveness (led through IDRC’s CARIAA [Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia] programme); and 2: that social learning helps achieve better development outcomes (led through CCAFS and FSIFS).
  • To work around these initiatives following a robust and replicable ‘framework for action’ that involves assessing and choosing social learning approaches, ensuring proper process facilitation, documenting and collecting evidence, feeding evidence into planning, and disseminating results.
  • To continue using the CCSL sandbox as a mechanism to incubate and validate ideas and possible joint activities with an interested group of people that connects around various events and other initiatives.

The three days were very intensive and productive. The next step is to turn these words into action …

Notes from the plan-and-writeshop

Next steps

Social learning resources

Take a peek at upcoming and past events involving CCSL members

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Climate Change, CRP7, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Innovation Systems, Kenya, KMIS, Knowledge & Information, PLE, Research, South Asia, Southern Africa, West Africa Tagged: CCAFS, CCSL, sandbox, social learning

Zambeef: Indigenous Zambian company ‘makes good’ serving middle, as well as lower-income, groups

Zambia's future?

Cows wait to be milked at one of Zambia’s largest agribusinesses—Zambeef (photo credit: BBC World Service).

A butchery run by Zambeef in Lusaka, Zambia, is ‘a fast-growing food company based in Lusaka. It operates meat counters at all 20 Shoprite stores across Zambia as well as in the chain’s newer outlets in Ghana and Nigeria. Zambeef’s eggs, milk and yogurt drinks are stocked by Shoprite and other local supermarkets. Zambeef has around 100 shops of its own, making it one of the biggest chains in the continent outside South Africa. It is thus well placed to serve a burgeoning class of consumer between the well-heeled shoppers of Manda Hill and the majority that just scrape by.

Beyond South Africa there are few big indigenous firms that serve the continent’s middle class, which the African Development Bank reckons has swollen to more than 325m. Yet as their numbers keep increasing, demand for meat and other luxury foods will surely grow, because Africa has much scope to catch up with the rest of the world (see chart). Nigeria has Dangote Flour and UAC Foods. But most of the country’s big consumer firms are rich-world offshoots.

‘Zambeef is also unusual in that it reaches down to lower-income groups. Its outlet in Mtendere, a short drive from Manda Hill, sells fattier meat in smaller portions as well as beef liver and chicken’s feet. The store’s tiled floor and hair-netted staff stand out in Mtendere’s ragged street market. It turns over a tidy $30,000 a week. . . .

‘The firm’s farm-to-fork model is at odds with the investment-analyst dogma that says companies should stick to a core business and hive off other tasks to specialists. But Zambia’s economy is not so developed that there are firms which could be relied on to supply all that is needed to keep Zambeef’s stores fully stocked. The company has its own fleet of 78 refrigerated lorries. “There are no cold-chain logistics in Zambia,” says Mr Grogan, “We had to develop it ourselves.” . . . .’

Read the whole article in the Economist: Zambeef: A rare meat success in Africa, 8 Jun 2013.

Filed under: Animal Products, Article, PA, Southern Africa, Value Chains Tagged: Beef, Economist, Zambia

Invest in Africa’s fast-growing livestock sector: The time is now, says ILRI’s Jimmy Smith

Dairying in Bomet District, Kenya

Florence Chepkirui, a blind dairy farmer in Saoset village in Kenya’s Bomet District (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

The director general of the International Livestock Institute (ILRI) has called for significant investments in the development of Africa’s livestock sector, which he said is rapidly growing.

Jimmy Smith told the told participants of a recent three-day Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013), held in Nairobi, Kenya, that such investments ‘can ensure that livestock enterprises on the continent are economically profitable, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable.

By making such investments now, we can ensure that indigenous livestock enterprises are not shut out of the rapidly increasing livestock markets by imports of animal-source foods,” Smith said. . . .

‘Kenya’s livestock industry, for example, is estimated to be worth about 800 million U.S. dollars per year and produces most of the meat consumed in the country and is critical to the country’s food security.

‘Research by ILRI shows that long-term solutions to food security in Kenya and other countries in the Horn of Africa need to support livestock herding.

‘Pastoral systems are critical for the survival of livelihood here and offer the most efficient way of managing the region’s large arid and semi-arid lands.

‘During the meeting, Smith said developing world is where the livestock sector will continue to grow for the next decades, adding that the livestock sector continues to receive significant under-investment and called for measures to transform it. . . .

Smith noted that in most developing countries, animal-source foods are both produced and consumed in the countries of origin, so most attention should be paid to within-country/-region livestock trade rather than international trade.

‘According to [a] World Bank report, productivity of dairy cows is nearly three times higher in Kenya than elsewhere in Sub- Saharan Africa.

It says that with better policies and government support, the sector can help grow African agribusiness to a trillion-dollar food market by 2030.

‘The report notes that Africa and other developing regions, most milk, meat and eggs are produced by smallholders and family farmers; researchers, policymakers, development workers and business people should thus focus their attention on Africa’s small-scale livestock keepers and herders. . . .’

Read the whole article: Scientist seek further investments in African livestock sector, Xinhua and Coastweek (Kenya), 5–11 Jul 2013.

View the slide presentation made by Jimmy Smith: Opportunities for a sustainable and competitive livestock sector in Africa, Jun 2013.

Read related articles on the ILRI News Blog

Kenya livestock ‘on show’: A thriving dairy farm, a breeders show and a national resource for improved genetics, 4 Jul 2013.

Attention entrepreneurs: Your livestock business is growing–but only in Africa and other developing regions, 28 Jun 2013.

Livestock present Africa with huge – ‘right now!’ – opportunities for food, prosperity, environment, 27 Jun 2013.

Filed under: Directorate, East Africa, Environment, Event, Food security, ILRI, Kenya, PA, Policy, Pro-Poor Livestock, Southern Africa Tagged: ALiCE2013, Coastweek (Kenya), Jimmy Smith, Xinhua

Drylands of the developing world: New livestock and crop research program launched

Samburu livestock

A herd of sheep and goats in northern Kenya (photo on Flickr by gordontour).

The dry areas of the developing world occupy over 40% of the earth’s surface and are home to some 2.5 billion people. Many in these regions struggle to provide sufficient food for their growing populations and face a series of daunting physical and demographic challenges: high poverty levels and unemployment, rapid urbanization, severe water scarcity, and land degradation. Many of these problems and constraints are expected to worsen as a result of climate change.

An ambitious new science program launched in Jordan in mid-May 2013—the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems—aims to raise agricultural productivity and strengthen food security in the driest areas of the developing world. This USD120 million initiative, covering an initial three years, is the latest ‘research for development’ initiative of CGIAR, the world’s leading agricultural research partnership.

The Dryland Systems program is a new partnership of more than 60 research and development organizations. It proposes a ‘holistic’ approach to improving the food security and income of rural communities that live on tropical and non-tropical dry areas. Following an intense consultation and planning phase among a wide range of stakeholders in 2012, including scientists, civil society partners and policymakers, the program is now being implemented in five regions: the West African Sahel and the Dry Savannas, East and Southern Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and South Asia.

Livestock production is among the main strategies this program is employing to improve agricultural productivity in these dryland areas. This includes integrating dryland crops with the keeping of goats, sheep and other animal stock to increase the resilience of communities in marginal areas through the production and sale of milk, cheese, yoghurt, meat and wool.

Goats drinking water at an Oxfam funded borehole

Goats being watered at in Dilmanyale Village, Kenya; once the animals have finished drinking, they must be herded over 10 km to get to pasture (photo on Flickr by Anna Ridout/Oxfam).

Work of this drylands agricultural research program in East and Southern Africa
In the coming six years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over 600,000 square kilometres in East and Southern Africa.

This regional component of the program is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen.

Over 70% of marginal land in East and Southern Africa is categorized as arid, Ericksen says, with most of the rest semi-arid and the whole region subject to frequent drought.

Droughts, which lead to heavy livestock losses, are becoming more common in this region, which doesn’t allow time for the animal herds to recover between long dry spells. Many of the marginal rangelands in this region are degraded, commonly due to increasing human populations (much of them non-pastoral) and the resulting fragmentation of former rangelands, which is reducing the (critically important) mobility of livestock herders and their animal stock and leading to conflicts.

Levels of poverty, vulnerability and central government neglect in these drylands are all high. Increases in basic services and infrastructure would help promote diversification of livelihoods and market engagement (only 22% of households can reach the nearest market in less than three hours; nearly one quarter require more than 12 hours to get to the market), as well as reduce vulnerability, among communities in the region.

About CGIAR and the CGIAR Dryland Systems Research Program
CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is a global research partnership led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), with nine CGIAR research centres, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and some 60 partners worldwide. This dryland systems research program is conducted in the West African Sahel and the Dry Savannas, East and Southern Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and South Asia.

Filed under: CRP11, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Goats, ILRI, Launch, Pastoralism, PLE, Sheep, Small Ruminants, Southern Africa, Vulnerability Tagged: ICARDA, Polly Ericksen

Living with livestock, and livestock livings, in the city

Goat in Kibera

Goat in Nairobi slum (photo on Flickr by The Advocacy Project).

‘. . . [L]et’s consider what it means to raise urban livestock in the developing world, where people are poorer and hungrier, and cities are much more densely populated. It’s a starkly different picture of people and animals living together, and the question of how it’s done has major implications for improving food security and preventing public health disasters.

‘While humans have been raising food animals in their homes for thousands of years, what’s different now is that they’re doing it with so many other humans crammed next to them.

And they’re not just feeding their families: They’re feeding their neighbors, too. Worldwide, 34 percent of meat and nearly 70 percent of eggs are produced in urban areas, according to a 2008 report by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization. In Maputo, Mozambique, for example, a city with about 1.2 million people, 37 percent of households produce food and 29 percent raise livestock.

“Those moving from rural areas to the cities are bringing their livestock with them, often keeping them in close confinement inside the slums,” Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety specialist, tells The Salt. “People keep livestock like chicken, ducks, goats and even cows because there’s huge demand for them, and they’re profitable.”

Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, is studying these huge new city ecosystems. In a series of papers she’s published in the past several months in various scientific journals, she has looked at the risks and benefits of urban livestock in the developing world.

‘When it comes to risks, Grace says she’s most worried about what happens to the animal waste—especially in places where human waste isn’t even managed well. And she’s worried that sick animals that go untreated lead to zoonoses—diseases that spread from animals to humans. One of her recent studies, published in the journal Tropical Animal Health and Production, found that zoonoses and diseases recently emerged from animals make up 26 percent of the infectious disease cases in low-income countries.

“We’re talking about the everyday events of disease spreading from animals to humans, and the rare but more serious event of the emergence of a new disease,” she says. “Slums could be a good test tube for growing new pathogens, because people are poor and malnourished, and there’s generally just more disease.”

Kenya - on the way

Goat in Nairobi slum (photo on Flickr by Poland Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

‘Meat and eggs produced in slums also pose a food safety risk, she says. “There’s often no refrigeration or cold chain for these products,” she says.

‘But even with the risks, Grace argues there’s a net benefit from people keeping urban livestock, and cities should be trying to help producers learn how to safely care for their animals and the food they produce.

‘According to her research, urban livestock generate income and improve the nutrition and health of communities they’re in, because the animals are a source of fresh food for local consumers. When cities try to ban urban livestock, it backfires, she says. “We found that the more people were harassed by the police about their animals, the fewer precautions they took,” she says. . . .’

Read the whole article by Eliza Barclay on the website of the US National Public Radio (‘The Salt’ program): African cities test the limits of living with livestock, 21 May 2013.

Filed under: Agri-Health, CRP4, Disease Control, East Africa, Emerging Diseases, Food security, Health (human), ILRI, Kenya, MarketOpps, Nutrition (human), PA, Southern Africa, Zoonotic Diseases Tagged: Delia Grace, NPR

(Formerly) strange bedfellows in Zimbabwe: Crop and livestock researchers unite to improve smallholder agricultural in the country

CPWF exchange visit 21

The ultimate test: Do livestock eat this feed? Yes. (Photo on Flickr by Swathi Sridharan/ICRISAT).

In 2012, three CGIAR centres — the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Africa; the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico; and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in India — launched a joint project called ‘Integrating crops and livestock for improved food security and livelihoods in Zimbabwe, or ‘ZimCLIFS’ for short.

‘The goal of the project is to develop ways to increase agricultural production, improve household food security, alleviate poverty, and thereby reduce food-aid dependency in rural Zimbabwe through better integration of crop and livestock production and market participation. The inception workshop, held 17–19 October 2012, was attended by international project managers and local stakeholders, including research, extension, private-sector, and NGO personnel, and farmers, totaling 41 participants.’

This project has three big objectives:
(1) Increase the productivity of Zimbabwe’s many smallholder ‘mixed’ crop-and-livestock farmers in four districts and two very different regions, one with high potential for agriculture, the other with low potential.
(2) Increase access by these farmers to resources, technologies, information and markets by strengthening the value chains for cattle, goats, maize, sorghum and legumes in these two districts.
(3) Increase the knowledge and skills of Zimbabwe’s research, extension and agribusiness staff.

Godfrey Manyawu

The ILRI coordinator for this multi-centre project on ‘Integrating crops and livestock for improved food security and livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe’ is Godfrey Manyawu (photo credit: ILRI).

Since its launch in late 2012, the project has established field trials on 102 farm sites and, in January of this year, conducted a data collection training workshop run by staff from ILRI and CIMMYT.

Also in January, project manager John Dixon, of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and a consultant visited ZimCLIFS the CIMMYT office in Harare and project sites to see how far the project had progressed.

They witnessed conservation agriculture trials in which maize is grown along with livestock-palatable and unpalatable legume species, with the palatable species used to feed livestock and the unpalatable species used to generate biomass for soil cover in the subsequent season, given that livestock graze communally in the area. . . . Dixon also visited a local abattoir and a goat market as part of appreciating the value chain in livestock production.’

The project runs until July 2015.

Read more about this project on the ILRI website, and on the CIMMYT Blog: ZimCLIFS integrate crop and livestock production research in Zimbabwe, 9 Apr 2013.

Filed under: Crop-Livestock, ILRI, PA, PLE, Project, Southern Africa Tagged: ACIAR, Cowpea, ICRISAT, Maize, Mucuna, Zimbabwe, ZimCLIFS

Small stock connections lead to better business for goat keepers in Zimbabwe

Goats 1

Feed is scarce for livestock in the dry season, farmers can lose up to 30% of their herds in these three months (photo on Flickr by ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan.

Willie Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), highlights the success of taking a ‘value chain’ approach to improving goat production and marketing by small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe.

‘. . . [H]ow does . . .  innovation come about? One exciting example is the transformation of goat marketing underway now in southwestern Zimbabwe. We and our partners — SNV, Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development — thought that if the value-chain interest groups put their heads together, they could improve the system for everyone concerned. In addition to goat keepers, those interest groups include buyers, processors, government agencies that provide livestock health services, and input suppliers. In development parlance, this type of multi-stakeholder association has come to be known as an “innovation platform”. . . .

Gwanda 12

Clinching the deal: Cash changes hands at the end of a sale (photo on Flickr by ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

‘As a result of all these innovations, the prices received by smallholder goat sellers – at least a third of whom are women — have approximately doubled over the last five years, to about US$50 per goat. They find livestock much more profitable than crops, and see livestock-raising as their ticket to prosperity.

CPWF exchange visit 9

ICRISAT scientist Patricia Masikati talks about using mucuna as livestock feed to help animals survive the dry season (photo on Flickr by ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

‘The great thing about innovation platforms is that they keep right on innovating, as long as the capacities for innovation are nurtured and strengthened. This is where we and other supportive organizations can play a role.

An innovation platform isn’t yet another brick-walled institution. It is about connecting people across institutions to share ideas and innovate a future that extends beyond ‘business as usual’. . . .

Read the whole article at ICRISAT’s Director General’s Blog: Innovate to include, 19 Mar 2013.

Filed under: Feeds, Forages, Goats, ILRI, Markets, PA, Small Ruminants, Southern Africa, Value Chains Tagged: Goats, ICRISAT, Willie Dar, Zimbabwe

Vaccine developed by KARI, supported by ILRI, is ‘milestone in control of Africa’s livestock diseases’

Faith Kivuti and Mom Milking a Cow

Faith Kivuti with her mother milking a cow in Kenya (photo on Flickr by Jeff Haskins).

A vaccine to protect cattle against a lethal disease known as East Coast fever has been launched in Kenya, where Kenya Livestock Development Minister Mohammed Kuti says the development ‘is a big relief to livestock farmers in East, Central and Southern Africa where about 1.1 million cattle are lost to the disease every year.

The vaccine was developed jointly by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute, Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Global Alliance for Livestock and Veterinary Medicine.

‘Dr Kuti said the realisation of the vaccine is a milestone in the control of livestock diseases in Africa particularly livestock keepers in Kenya. . . .

‘In a speech read on his behalf by the Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Peter Maina Ithondeka, Kuti said the disease was a major constraint preventing farmers from keeping improved breeds in areas where it is rampant.

‘He said the disease would kill close to 100 per cent of the exotic dairy cattle. It is also a major killer of other varieties kept by local pastoralists. . . .

‘“The vaccine is now a boost on agricultural production through marketing, value-addition and agri-business will improve the livelihoods of Kenyans and create wealth,” he said.

‘Ithondeka said the disease endangered 10 million animals in sub-Saharan Africa and that drugs used to treat the disease are very expensive — above the reach or ordinary farmers. . . .

‘Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (Kenfap) lauded institutions that carried out tests and developed the vaccine. . . .

Kuti said Vision 2030 recognises livestock development as a key player in national development and a major component of the wider agricultural sector.’

Read the whole article by Osinde Obare at Standard Digital (Kenya): Reprieve to pastoralists as new vaccine for animal fever unveiled, 9 Dec 2012.

Filed under: Animal Diseases, Animal Health, Biotech, Cattle, Central Africa, Disease Control, East Africa, ECF, ILRI, Kenya, Launch, PA, Southern Africa, Vaccines Tagged: FAO, GALVmed, KARI, Mohammed Kuti, Standard Digital

New Australian International Food Security Centre seeks partnerships in Africa

Commissioners in Africa

Mellissa Wood (4th left), of the Australian International Food Security Centre, and other members of the the Commission for International Agricultural Research on a visit to ILRI in March 2012 (photo credit: ILRI).

A new initiative has been launched by the Australian International Food Security Centre to improve food security in Africa. The centre, which falls under the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, will spend AUD33 million (USD33.8 million) over four years to support food production in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific region.

‘This initiative will give African researchers access to Australian research and expertise to support smallholder farmers, including livestock keepers, through partnerships that respond to their priorities,’ said Mellissa Wood, the managing director of the Canberra-based Australian International Food Security Centre. Wood was speaking at a meeting at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 17 July 2012.

The new program is looking to engage partners in Africa and over the coming months will identify priorities to guide its operations on the continent. Program staff will consult with agricultural experts in different countries and set up an international advisory committee and a regional office in the lead up to an international food security conference being organized this November in Australia.

By studying African farming systems and reviewing existing research on farming practices on the continent, this new initiative will work to help bridge the gaps that remain between agricultural technologies, policies and practices and their adoption by Africa’s smallholder farmers. ‘We want to understand the incentives and barriers to delivery and adoption and how to accelerate the provision of practical solutions to benefit smallholders,’ said Wood. ‘Understanding these issues will help us improve the nutritional quality, safety and diversity of food; reduce post harvest losses; and enable better access to markets and other business opportunities.’

One of the initiative’s ongoing activities includes a project on ‘Strengthening food security and value chain efficiency through family poultry and crop integration in eastern and southern Africa’. This project, now in its design phase in Tanzania and Zambia, will explore how family poultry and crop farmers can improve the efficiencies of their production systems and whether they can increase their trade by making better use of supplementary feed from their cropping. The project will also conduct ecological assessments status to identify best-bet opportunities for chicken farming. This project will make use of relevant research outputs of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, ILRI and other organizations.

The Australian International Food Security Centre is looking to work with national and international partners, including researchers, extension workers and the public and private sectors, to help increase and sustain the productivity of smallholder African farms, markets, value chains and social systems.

For more information email: or register your interest at

Read more:

Filed under: Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Event, Farming Systems, Food security, Livelihoods, PA, Partnerships, Southern Africa

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

Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions

Wildlfie-rich rangelands of Kitengela

The wildlfie-rich rangelands of Kitengela, outside Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Scientists at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are this week hosting a regional inception workshop on a new CGIAR Research Program on dryland agriculture.

Three livestock-based models likely to be discussed at this week’s dryland agriculture workshop are index-based livestock insurance (see website and news), an innovation for pastoralists that is being piloted in northern Kenya; following research-based recommendations on how to better manage drought cycles in the Horn of Africa; and a Wildlife Lease Program to counter loss of wildlife migration on Kitengela rangelands, an hour’s drive from Nairobi, which is crucial for Nairobi National Park.

Farmbizafrica, a news website launched in April 2010, covered the latter in a story it published on the Kitengela Wildlife Lease Program in Mar of this year. This program, which has proved successful in Kenya’s wildlife-rich Masailands, involves the establishment of ‘eco-conservancies’, which work to protect both livestock-based pastoral livelihoods and populations of wildlife that have shared East Africa’s rangelands with the Masai for thousands of years. The following are excerpts from the Farmbizafrica  story.

‘[A] new model of paying pastoralists for conserving the ecosystem in reserves and parks is helping them diversify their income and end their dependence on rain fed agriculture alone.

‘The payment of pastoralists, mostly Maasais, has successfully been piloted in areas near Maasai Mara National Reserve and Kitengela, near the Nairobi National Park. In both areas, Maasai people have formed ‘eco-conservancies’ to protect their grazing areas for livestock and wildlife alike.

‘Under the payment for [e]cosystem services scheme, pastoralists are given monetary incentives in exchange for allowing their land to be used for ecological services that promote conservation, for example allowing free movement of wild animals in their land.

‘The pastoralists voluntarily agree not to sub divide, fence or cultivate the land they are in, in return for a fee that is paid to them. The pastoralists also commit to keeping the land open for livestock and wildlife grazing.

‘About 357 households living in Kitengela have given about 16,800 hectares of private land under the scheme, where they are paid roughly Sh900 per acre per year.

A report by the International Livestock Research Institute indicates that the income from the payment constitutes 59 per cent of the total off-farm earnings among participating households, but experts argue that the payment still remains paltry considering the sacrifices the pastoralists make.

‘. . . However in order to ensure that the conservation payment works for the long term, experts at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are investigating the trade offs to quantify how such interventions could be more equitable to pastoralists inhabiting these wildlife-rich areas.

The scheme comes hot on heels of a report recently released by ILRI which showed that despite government decision to invest Sh8.5bn in agriculture and funding irrigation schemes in drought ravaged parts of Turkana, the only feasible way to address future droughts is through investing in pastoralism in dry lands.

‘The report . . . argued that herding makes better economic sense than crop agriculture in many of the arid and semi-arid lands that constitute 80 per cent of the Horn of Africa, and that supporting mobile livestock herding communities in advance and with timely interventions can help people cope the next time drought threatens, and that pastoralists switching to growing crops that require extensive investment in irrigation would be counterproductive in the long run. . . .’

Other organizations represented at the ILRI-hosted CGIAR regional dryland workshop this week include the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). To learn more about the workshop, contact Pauline Aluoch at

Read the whole article about the Kitengela Wildlife Lease Program in Farmbizafrica: Pastoralists earn for conserving ecosystem, Mar 2012.

Read more about this CGIAR regional workshop on this earlier ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR drylands research program sets directions for eastern and southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

Read more about ILRI’s drought report on the ILRI News Blog: Investments in pastoralism offer best hope for combating droughts in East Africa’s drylands–Study, 24 Aug 2011, and Best ways to manage responses to recurring drought in Kenya’s drylands, 7 Aug 2011, and Livestock-based research recommendations for better managing drought in Kenya, 18 Jul 2011.

Read the ILRI drought report itself: An assessment of the response to the 2008–2009 drought in Kenya: A report to the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kenya, by L Zwaagstra, Z Sharif, A Wambile, J de Leeuw, M Y Said, N Johnson, J Njuki, P Ericksen and M Herrero; Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI, 2010.

Filed under: Biodiversity, CRP11, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, Kenya, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Research, Southern Africa, Vulnerability Tagged: Eco-conservancy, Farmbizafrica, IBLI, ICRAF, ICRISAT, IWMI, Jan de Leeuw, Kitengela, Masai Mara, Nairobi National Park, Polly Ericksen, The Wildlife Foundation

CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa

This week in Nairobi, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosts a ‘Regional Inception Workshop’ of the CGIAR Research Program ‘Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas.’ The program is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA).

The dry areas of the developing world occupy about 3 billion hectares and are home to 2.5 billion people: 41% of the earth’s land area and more than one-third of its population. About 16% of this population lives in chronic poverty. Drylands also face serious environmental constraints, which are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. Dryland agro-ecosystems include a diverse mix of food, fodder and fiber crops, vegetables, rangeland and pasture species, fruit and fuel-wood trees, medicinal plants, livestock and fish.

This research program is about getting the mix right in order to alleviate poverty, enhance food security and ensure environmental sustainability in dryland agro-ecosystems while enhancing social and gender-equitable development. The overarching challenge is to deliver benefits to the poor and vulnerable, especially women. It will thus focus on target dryland areas/systems, identified by two criteria: (i) those with the deepest endemic poverty and most vulnerable people, often associated with severe natural resource degradation, environmental variability, and social marginalization, and (ii) those with the greatest potential to impact on food security and poverty in the short to medium term.

The program is driven by a conceptual framework in which four Strategic Research Themes (SRTs) cut across the five focus Regions (they represent the steps in the impact pathway).

  • SRT1: Approaches and models for strengthening innovation systems, building stakeholder innovation capacity, and linking knowledge to policy action
  • SRT2: Reducing vulnerability and managing risk
  • SRT3: Sustainable intensification for more productive, profitable and diversified dryland agriculture with well-established linkages to markets
  • SRT4: Measuring impacts and cross-regional synthesis

During the proposal development, it was apparent that details of implementation at the Target areas and Site level within each of the five Target Regions, would need to be further developed  though “regional inception workshops’ with partners.

The June 2012 workshop has been developed by an interim Interdisciplinary Research Team headed by ILRI, with participants from the World Agroforestry Institute (ICRAF), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The meeting aims to bring together partners working in the target areas in East and Southern Africa to discuss key hypotheses and research questions; to agree on initial sites for activities; and to develop impact pathways and implementation plans.

Expected outcomes of the workshop include:

1. Specific research hypotheses for the action and satellite sites, based upon a problem analysis that identifies the key constraints and challenges.
2. Impact pathway based upon problem analysis, successful interventions, and identified research for development gaps. This pathway will define outcomes, objectives, outputs.
3. Agreement on initial sites in each target area.
4. Initial activities for 3 years proposed in each action and satellite site.
5. Confirmation of partners’ roles.
6. Implementation plan drafted with impact indicators.
7. Additional characterization information.

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, CRP11, Drylands, East Africa, Event, Livestock Systems, PLE, Research, Southern Africa

Could Rift Valley fever be a weapon of mass destruction? An insidious insect-animal-people infection loop explored

The Fifth Plague: Livestock Disease, woodcut by Gustave Doré, 1866 (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

Anthrax, bird flu , Ebola, HIV-AIDS, H1N1, H5N1, influenza, Rift Valley fever, SARS: What are the disease links between people, animals and environments? And what are we doing to protect ourselves against the next outbreak of a deadly infectious disease? A series being published in the Huffington Post is exploring such ‘living weapons’ and our preparedness, or lack thereof, in dealing with them. Keeping an eye on livestock diseases, experts agree, is a major way to prevent deadly outbreaks of human diseases. And these animal-human disease links, they say, are under-appreciated and under-funded.

Take Rift Valley fever, a disease transmitted between mosquitoes, livestock and people in Africa. Although considered by many experts to be a potential bioterrorist weapon, it remains underfunded.

As Lynne Peeples of the Huffington Post reports:

This emphasis on coordination among medical, veterinary and environmental health scientists, reflecting the global “One Health” movement, could also be employed in the development of vaccines and treatments for bioterror threats.

Rift Valley fever virus is a prime candidate for such collaboration, says BioProtection Systems’ [Ramond] Flick, an expert on emerging infectious disease, which can afflict both animals and humans. Creating a livestock vaccine would reduce the risk of human infection.

However, because the disease is not considered a priority human bioterrorism agent by the government, research funding is low. Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesperson, explains the agency’s exclusion of Rift Valley: humans typically contract the virus through bites of infected mosquitoes and just 1 percent of these victims die.

Flick disagrees.

The public’s current awareness of Rift Valley fever and its perception of the West Nile virus threat before 1999 are strikingly similar, he says. West Nile had not been given much thought before it cropped up in New York City. Within a few years it had spread across the country.

Flick warns of even more devastating consequences with the relatively unknown bug. More mosquito species can carry Rift Valley than West Nile. It is also more virulent. And according to research in Arabia and Africa, the fatality rate may actually be increasing, killing more than 30 percent of people infected during recent outbreaks. Further, there does appear to be potential for human-to-human transmission.’

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have been working with partner organizations in eastern and southern Africa to better understand the spread of Rift Valley fever. They are developing a toolkit that will help decision-makers make timely and appropriate interventions to prevent the disease from jumping from cattle to the poor people who rear them. The toolkit includes advice on the conditions that suit the Rift Valley fever virus infecting cattle populations (e.g., following unusually heavy rains northern Kenya and other parts of the Horn’s drylands), at which point disease control agents should begin surveillance to diagnose and stop the spread disease in the infected animals before it has time to begin infecting human populations.

Efforts to better align the work of organizations researching Rift Valley fever were the focus this month (Feb 2012) of a workshop organized and hosted by ILRI at its Nairobi headquarters. Watch for a forthcoming post on the ILRI New Blog on that workshop and what it achieved.

The urgency of adopting a ‘one health’ approach to disease control is highlighted by the Huffington Post‘s Lynne Peeples.

‘. . . Biological weapons have a long and sordid history, from catapulting infected corpses to dropping bombs of plague-infected fleas. But what if a biological weapon were being developed and studied by scientists that had the potential to kill not a battalion or a city, but 150 million people? According to some public health and defense officials, that is exactly what we’re facing, following the cultivation of a highly contagious form of H5N1—a lethal bug better known as bird flu. The contagion, they fear, could escape the lab or its recipe could land in the wrong hands.

. . . A super flu is just one of a growing list of potential pandemics that could develop in the near future, either as a result of terrorism, of superbugs leaping from animals to humans, or both. In fact, nearly 80 percent of the bioterrorism agents recognized by the U.S. government started in animals. . . . And nature will spawn new agents continuously.’

‘This means a terrorist may need few tools, little training, minimal money and no published blueprint to harvest a superbug and then unleash it in food, water, air or via insect vectors such as fleas or mosquitos. . . .

The overlap of bioterrorism agents and emerging infectious disease also means that officials could defend against biological attacks and natural outbreaks in tandem.’

‘. . . Yet federal funding to prevent and respond to bioterrorism is plummeting. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biodefense budget peaked in 2005 at about $1.2 billion. The 2012 budget is down to $800 million, with state and local programs—the country’s first line of defense—absorbing some of the most significant cuts. . . . The U.S. “remains largely unprepared for a large-scale bioterrorism attack or deadly disease outbreak.”

. . . Meanwhile, nature knows no rules or regulations and continues to create new viruses and alter old ones. And because animal-borne diseases may need no help spilling over into humans, outbreak investigations could easily confuse intentional and natural outbreaks.

“The government spends a lot of money developing biosensors,” says Princeton’s Kahn, referring to air sampling surveillance and other sophisticated systems. “But I would argue the best ones are flying around,” or in this case, hanging out on farms.

Zoos can be particularly good sources of sentinels, she adds, as they house a wide array of animals from around the world with different levels of susceptibility. Most zoos are also located near densely populated urban centers, which tend to be terrorism “hot spots.”

“There’s a possibility that the high-tech tools are not even in the right place,” says Rabinowitz. “By being constantly aware of new events in animals as well as in humans and the environment, we’re more likely to pick up a new threat.”. . .

This emphasis on coordination among medical, veterinary and environmental health scientists, reflecting the global “One Health” movement, could also be employed in the development of vaccines and treatments for bioterror threats. . . .

Researchers have discovered an average of 15 to 20 previously unknown diseases in each of the past few decades, including incurable diseases like HIV/AIDS, ebola and SARS, with new pathogens likely to emerge and spread faster due to the global population’s increasing size and mobility.’

‘. . . The ability to detect and identify diseases as they initially emerge can go a long way in thwarting an outbreak, [Scott Lillibridge] says. It can provide the time to prepare, including upgrading quarantines at the border, researching a vaccine and identifying what drugs might successfully combat the infection.

‘”A couple weeks can be critical,” says Lillibridge. “It can make an administration look foolish or like they’re in control.”

‘Overall, the U.S. government spent approximately $60 billion on biodefense from 2001 to 2009. Only 2 percent of that was dedicated to preventive measures such as programs to discover and reduce biological threats overseas, according to Koblentz.

To protect Americans, we must look at what is going on in the rest of the world,” says Khan.

ANSER’s Gursky, recently returned from hosting a NATO meeting in Central Europe: “The most important strategy is to build up the capabilities that we share, which means reaching across borders and politics,” she says.’

‘Coalescing efforts might also allow the government to do more with less. “We’re looking at not only man being a terrorist, but nature can be a terrorist as well,” says Henderson. “The natural occurrence of a disease gives us similar problems, so whatever we’re doing to prepare for one, prepares us for the other.”‘

Read the whole article, by Lynne Peeples, in the Huffington Post: Bioterrorism funding withers as death germs thrive in labs, nature, 10 Feb 2012; this article is part of a series, ‘The Infection Loop,’ investigating the complex links between human, animal and environment.

Read more on ILRI’s News Blog and Clippings Blog about recent research advances in better control of Rift Valley fever.

Filed under: Animal Diseases, Biotech, Biotechnology, Diagnostics, Disease Control, Drylands, East Africa, Emerging Diseases, Environment, Epidemiology, Event, Health (human), HIV-AIDS, ILRI, Kenya, PA, Research, Southern Africa, USA, Zoonotic Diseases Tagged: Biological weapons, Huffington Post, One Health, Rift Valley fever

Multi-stakeholder innovation in Africa: Dairy and beef cases feature in new report from FARA

The Forum on Agricultural Research in Africa just published a new report on agricultural innovation in sub-Saharan Africa: experiences from multiple-stakeholder approaches.

The report draws together case experiences across Africa with an ‘integrated agriculture research for development (IAR4D) approach’ that brings together multiple actors along a commodity value chain to address challenges and identify opportunities to generate innovation.

Included in the cases are assessments of dairy development in Kenya and Uganda as well as the beef sector in Botswana.

On Kenya, the report observes: ‘The development of a successful smallholder industry requires two complimentary elements. Firstly, increased productivity requires improved livestock breeds, strong disease control and veterinary services and improved quality and quantity of feeds. Given the need to encourage many smallholder dairy producers, delivery of support services remains dependent on local institutions and their development. Secondly, expanding market institutions with facilities for milk bulking and collection, and group organisational structures are essential and can be most effectively supplied by the private sector. Although formal licensed markets based on processed milk products are important, informal markets selling raw milk, informal dairy products with low-cost processing remain an essential component of a successful dairy industry.’

On Uganda, the report observes: ‘A key lesson is the need for ongoing discussions and coordination efforts by stakeholders along the value chain. This includes smallholder farmers and traders, development agencies, and policymakers. Although the dairy industry and its supporting services were liberalised, there is a need to coordinate business development services, involving farmer organisations, while avoiding direct subsidies that are known to stifle markets.’

On Botswana, the report observes: ‘Understanding the role the private sector plays in facilitating change at local, regional, and national government levels is important when considering changes to the enabling environment for value chains. It is essential that the private sector is able to speak with an informed and unified voice and is able to engage with Government.’


The case studies demonstrated that successful innovation is dependent on a wide range of factors and interventions, the most important being the existence or creation of a network of research, training and development stakeholder groups drawn from public, private and NGO sectors.

Download the report …

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Animal Production, Animal Products, Botswana, Cattle, Dairying, East Africa, Innovation Systems, Kenya, Livestock, Report, Southern Africa, Uganda, Value Chains Tagged: FARA, IAR4D

ILRI in southern Africa–More efforts needed to address vulnerability and climate change

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at ILRI, Sikhalazo Dube, from South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council (ARC), reflects on ILRI’s work in southern Africa …

Livestock research and development practitioners in the region welcomed the opening up of ILRI’s regional office in southern Africa five years ago. ILRI identified two areas as possible entry points: a) enhancing the market participation of smallholder farmers, and b) reducing the vulnerability and increasing the resilience of communities who derive the bulk of their livelihoods from livestock.

Since then, ILRI has made progress with the theme on enhancing market opportunities, as is shown by ongoing work on value chain analysis and innovations systems approaches with a focus on cattle and goats in selected countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). However, there is still a visible gap on the reducing vulnerability theme. This is one area that ILRI still needs to do more in this region.

This region has been identified as one of the hotspots for climate change with most model projections to 2050 indicating a largely dry region. There is no doubt that management of feeding resources for livestock, including water, will become an area where we need innovations focused on mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

As we look to the future, we need to address the role of livestock, particularly small stock, in the livelihoods of poor farmers. History will judge us by our ability to feed vulnerable members of society in a climate-challenged world. There is opportunity for ILRI to strengthen its collaboration with existing partners and create new ones in order to meaningfully contribute to this agenda.

We look forward to continued engagement with ILRI in advancing the livestock agenda for sustainable natural resources in the face of global climate change. As an ILRI champion in this region, I am grateful to have worked under the guidance of former ILRI director general Carlos Seré and have no doubt that ILRI and the partners benefited from his great leadership. I had the pleasure of meeting Carlos and listening and reading his work. His passion was evident and inspirational.

I wish Carlos well in his new endeavors and look forward to working with ILRI’s new director general, Jimmy Smith.

Agriculture remains the cornerstone of the society we live in and together we can do more!

Contributed by Sikhalazo Dube, senior scientist, rangeland ecology and management, with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa and ILRI ‘champion’ in the region.

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

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked 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: Animal Production, Climate Change, ILRI, Livestock, Opinion piece, Pro-Poor Livestock, Research, Southern Africa, Vulnerability Tagged: 2011 Livestock Xchange Conference (ILRI Addis), livestockX

Animal health and emerging diseases a focus for CIRAD in East and Southern Africa

The Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) is a French research center working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues.

It’s recently updated site on it work in East and Southern Africa introduces CIRAD’s activities in the region. ‘Animal health and emerging diseases’ is one of the focus areas and includes the following projects:

  • Risk analysis in swine fever transmission (ASFRISK)
  • A regional network on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)
  • Ecology and epidemiology of avian influenza (H1N1) in Southern countries (GRIPAVI)
  • Ngamiland Interface Disease Investigation (NIDI)
  • Effect of increased aridity and drought frequency on socio-écological systems in the savanna (SAVARID)
  • Improving swine fever control in Maurice (TCP)
  • Vaccines for the Control of Neglected Animal Diseases in Africa (VACNADA)

Visit the web site

Filed under: Africa, Agri-Health, Animal Diseases, Animal Health, CRP4, Disease Control, East Africa, Emerging Diseases, Livestock, Research, Southern Africa, Zoonotic Diseases Tagged: CIRAD