East Africa Clippings

Shelter from the storm (literally): As remote herders get drought-related insurance payments, the heaven’s open

Livestock market in Wajir

Livestock market in Wajir, where Kenya’s remote, never-before-insured livestock herders are getting their first protection from drought (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

‘It was almost inevitable that the day chosen to make the first drought insurance payments in Wajir, in the arid north-east of Kenya, would be the same day the rains came.

‘Herders who lost sheep, cattle and camels in the scorching first quarter of the year sheltered from the storm in an airless hall waiting for the cheques from an innovative new scheme that seeks to break the drought-and-bust cycle blighting pastoralists across the Horn of Africa.

‘No one among the weathered ranks of Somali herders thought a day of rain was a sign of easier seasons to come. “Drought is always going to come,” said the county governor, Ahmed Abdullahi Mohamad. “If you have rains for two years you know that in the third year they will fail. The question is how we build the systems to deal with drought.”

This is a question that has hung over Andrew Mude, a Kenyan economist, for the past six years. Working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the capital, Nairobi, he has brought to bear satellite technology and 30 years of data on drought and herd losses in quest of a solution. . . .

‘This kind of ambition has attracted donors such as the UK and Australia, which have been willing to commit funds to educating herders about the benefits of insurance. Lisa Phillips, head of the UK Department for International Development in Kenya, who attended the payout ceremony, believes it is worth taking a punt on schemes that have the potential to break through ingrained poverty. “It’s cheaper than providing humanitarian assistance (after a drought),” she said. “We’re building resilience now to avoid spending loads of money later.”‘

Read the whole article by Daniel Howden in the Guardian‘s Global Development Blog: Kenya’s drought insurance scheme shelters herders from financial storm, 4 Apr 2014.

Read more about this insurance scheme and recent payout below.

ILRI Clippings Blog
Times Live (South Africa): Space tech provides Africa’s first Islamic insurance for herders, 1 Apr 2014

Business Daily (Kenya): Takaful, ILRI payout ‘sharia-compliant’ insurance to drought-suffering livestock herders in Wajir, 28 Mar 2014

Business Daily (Kenya): Pastoralists bank on index insurance to reduce losses, 26 Mar 2014

Watch a 2-minute video clip from Al Jazeera about the Wajir payout
New insurance scheme protects Kenyan farmers, 26 Mar 2014

Watch a 5-minute filmed interview by Roger Thurow on IBLI
Roger Thurow of the Chicago Council, interviews ILRI’s Andrew Mude, of IBLI, at the World Food Prize ceremonies in Iowa in Oct 2012, a Feed the Future Greenroom Interview, posted 28 Dec 2012.

Read ILRI’s press release about this on the ILRI News Blog
Africa’s first ‘Islamic-compliant’ livestock insurance pays 100 herders in Kenya’s remote drylands of Wajir for drought-related livestock losses, 25 Mar 2014

Visit related sites

ILRI website

IBLI Blog

BASIS: Assets and Market Assets

Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4)


Filed under: CRP11, CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Insurance, Kenya, Launch, LGI, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: Australia, DFID, Guardian's Global Development Blog, IBLT, Takaful, UK

Kenya is hotspot for alfatoxin-related deaths–Report

‘The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has commissioned a research project that will ascertain the levels of aflatoxins in the milk consumed in Kenya.

‘Kenyans consume more than 145 litres of milk per person annually increasing the risks associated with milk-related aflatoxins.

Because of the higher milk consumption, especially by young children, pregnant and nursing women, Kenyans are likely to be more at risk from aflatoxin-contaminated milk than other Africans,’ said Johanna Lindahl, a food safety researcher at ILRI.

‘The research will determine the risks posed to such different groups of people by exposure to aflatoxin-contaminated milk. The project has been funded by the government of Finland.

‘Aflatoxin poisoning is produced by fungi Aspergillus, which infests grains such as maize and sorghum that have been badly stored under high moisture content. Consequently, the resultant contaminated feed leads to poisons getting into milk.

The presence of these toxins in food can harm human health and can be lethal in high doses. Kenya is among the world’s hotspots for aflatoxin-related deaths. . . .

‘Research conducted between February 2006 and March 2007 by the Department of Public Health Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Nairobi indicated high levels of aflatoxin B1 and M1 in samples of commercial feeds and milk respectively. . . .

‘In conclusion, the researchers, E. Kangeth’e and K. Langa’t, observed that there was the need to create awareness and establish routine monitoring of animal feeds and milk to reduce animal and consequently human response.’

Read the whole article by Mwangi Mumero in African Farming and Food ProcessingILRI research project to address milk poisoning in Kenya, 25 Feb 2014.

Read other news about this project
ILRI News Blog: ‘Bio-control’=effective control of aflatoxins poisoning Kenya’s staple food crops, 13 Feb 2014
ILRI News Blog: Dairy feed to reduce aflatoxin contamination in Kenya’s milk, 11 Feb 2014
ILRI News Blog: Australia-funded research fights aflatoxin contamination in East African foods, 6 Feb 2014
ILRI News Blog: Reducing aflatoxins in Kenya’s food chains: Filmed highlights from an ILRI media briefing, 18 Dec 2013
SciDevNet: Fungus strains, new tools ‘could help fight aflatoxins’, 6 Dec 2013
IRIN: How to stop a deadly fungus affecting billions, 25 Nov 2013
Daily Nation: Scientists develop research platform to fight aflatoxin, 25 Nov 2013

ILRI Media Briefs
Strengthening regional research capacity to improve food safety, ILRI Media Briefing 7, Nov 2013
Biological control of aflatoxins: Outcompeting harmful aflatoxin producers, ILRI Media Briefing 6, Nov 2013
Safer food through risk reduction of mycotoxins within the feed-dairy chain in Kenya—MyDairy, ILRI Media Briefing 5

IFPRI -2020-Agriculture for Nutrition and Health Briefs
Read a series of 19 briefs released Nov 2013 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and its 2020 Vision initiative jointly with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition (A4NH), which is led by IFPRI, with a component on Agriculture-Associated Diseases led by Delia Grace, of ILRI. Grace co-edited the series of briefs, co-authored the overview (Tackling Aflatoxins) and wrote the brief on Animals and Aflatoxins. Two other ILRI scientists, Jagger Harvey and Benoit Gnonlonfin, of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, in Nairobi, Kenya, are two of the authors of the brief on Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection.

Full list
1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions
by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace (ILRI)

2. Aflatoxicosis: Evidence from Kenya
by Abigael Obura

3. Aflatoxin Exposure and Chronic Human Diseases: Estimates of Burden of Disease
by Felicia Wu

4. Child Stunting and Aflatoxins
by Jef L Leroy

5. Animals and Aflatoxins
by Delia Grace (ILRI)

6. Managing Mycotoxin Risks in the Food Industry: The Global Food Security Link
by David Crean

7. Farmer Perceptions of Aflatoxins: Implications for Intervention in Kenya
by Sophie Walker and Bryn Davies

8. Market-led Aflatoxin Interventions: Smallholder Groundnut Value Chains in Malawi
by Andrew Emmott

9. Aflatoxin Management in the World Food Programme through P4P Local Procurement
by Stéphane Méaux, Eleni Pantiora and Sheryl Schneider

10. Reducing Aflatoxins in Africa’s Crops: Experiences from the Aflacontrol Project
by Clare Narrod

11. Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Reduce Aflatoxin Risk
by Felicia Wu

12. Trade Impacts of Aflatoxin Standards
by Devesh Roy

13. Codex Standards: A Global Tool for Aflatoxin Management
by Renata Clarke and Vittorio Fattori

14. The Role of Risk Assessment in Guiding Aflatoxin Policy
by Delia Grace (ILRI) and Laurian Unnevehr

15. Mobilizing Political Support: Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
by Amare Ayalew, Wezi Chunga and Winta Sintayehu

16. Biological Controls for Aflatoxin Reduction
by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay and Peter J Cotty

17. Managing Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize: Developing Host Resistance
by George Mahuku, Marilyn L Warburton, Dan Makumbi and Felix San Vicente

18. Reducing Aflatoxins in Groundnuts through Integrated Management and Biocontrol
by Farid Waliyar, Moses Osiru, Hari Kishan Sudini and Samuel Njoroge

19. Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection
by Jagger Harvey (BecA-ILRI Hub), Benoit Gnonlonfin (BecA-ILRI Hub), Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell


Filed under: CRP4, East Africa, Feeds, Food Safety, Food Safety Zoonoses, Health (human), ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, Kenya, PA, Project Tagged: aflatoxins, African Farming and Food Processing, Finland

Africa’s first Islamic insurance for herders

Takaful CEO Hassan Bashir in front of the new Takaful Insurance of Africa branch in Wajir

The son of a camel herder, Takaful CEO Hassan Bashir knows how tough traditional life in Kenya’s arid north is, where pastoralists rely on livestock herds surviving boom and bust cycles of drought (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

‘[Hassan] Bashir is also an astute entrepreneur, developing Africa’s first livestock insurance scheme to make payouts compliant with Islamic law, by bringing together Muslim scholars and number-crunching agricultural experts using NASA weather satellites.

‘”I’ve come from the community, and I understand its needs,” said Bashir, a sharp-suited businessman respectfully greeting elders dressed in traditional flowing robes in his hometown of Wajir, where goats and donkeys wander the dusty streets.

‘Bashir, 48, set up Takaful Insurance of Africa three years ago, which unlike ordinary insurance schemes prohibited by Islam, takes only a management fee from clients.

‘”It is a fair and ethical way to protect pastoralist’s livestock assets from natural hazards,” said Bashir, whose 80-year old father was one of the first to receive a payout this week for his herd of 50 cows.

‘Payments are assessed not according to deaths of individual animals as it would be impossible to provide proof, but according to an index drawn up by experts at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), using satellites to measure vegetation coverage and thus the severity of drought.

The company is named after the Islamic concept of takaful, in which risks are shared among the community, rather than insurance where policy holders effectively gamble risks against the company.

Any surplus money after payments are made is distributed equally to remaining policy holders.

‘”It is a cooperative welfare basket for the community,” Bashir added, who was inspired to switch from regular insurance broking to the Islamic system after “hot discussions” with his family who refused his “unethical” money.

‘”I wanted to do something to develop the people here,” he said.

‘In 2011, fierce drought here in northeastern Kenya decimated herds with a devastating impact, and spiralled into famine in nearby war-torn Somalia.

‘Like elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, vast numbers of livestock are kept as a form of savings account. But these living investments face natural hazards. . . .

Takaful made the first payouts this week in Wajir to 100 policyholders. . . .

‘But the economic potential is also huge: here in Wajir country, a scrubland region where most live in traditional huts, government estimates value livestock at some $550 million (400 million euros).

Across Kenya, the pastoral livestock sector is valued at around $5 billion (3.5 billion euros).

‘Organisers — backed by some $6 million (4.5 million euros) from Australia, Britain and the European Commission — hope it can strengthen the ability of fragile communities across the region to cope during droughts, and reduce reliance on food aid.

‘”It is an innovative product with the possibility to replicate it elsewhere in Kenya and other nations,” Dominique Davoux from the European Commission said.

‘With few of the semi-nomadic people holding bank accounts, insurance premiums are even payable via mobile telephone money transfers using text messages.

‘Across the Horn of Africa, over 70 million people live in pastoralist areas, regional governments estimate, supplying some 90 percent of all meat.

The ILRI-designed system is already being taken up by insurers in other northern Kenyan regions and southern Ethiopia, totalling some 4,000 policyholders, with numbers growing. . . .

Read the whole article in Times Live (SouthAfrica) by the South Africa Press Association (Sapa)/Agence France Presse (AFP): Space tech provides Africa’s first Islamic insurance for herders, 1 Apr 2014

 


Filed under: CRP11, CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Insurance, Kenya, Launch, LGI, LSE, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: AFP, Australia, European Commission, IBLT, SAPA, Takaful, Times Live (South Africa), UK

East African dairy: Donors and stakeholders meet this week in Uganda to better coordinate their development work

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visit to project sites, June 2011

ILRI scientist Steve Staal (in blue) and Gregg Bevier (right) of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), take a close look at a cowshed typical of Kenya’s smallholder dairy sector (photo credit: BMGF/Lee Klejtnot).

In its wisdom, an Inter-Agency Donor Group (IADG) on pro-poor livestock research and development agreed in 2013 to explore ways to better coordinate their investments in dairy development in East Africa.

The Netherlands, one of the IADG members, offered to take the lead in this and organized a study on commercializing dairy value chains in six countries — Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Results of the study are being discussed this week (1–3 Apr 2014) in an expert consultation being held in Uganda with stakeholders in the region’s dairy development, including policymakers, industry players and representatives from farm organizations, development agencies and research institutions.

Isabelle Baltenweck, an agricultural economist from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is based in two of the targeted countries (ILRI is headquartered in Kenya and had a principal campus in Ethiopia), is a member of a ‘guiding group’ for this donor dairy collaboration project. Together, the members of the guiding group comprise a veritable ‘who’s who’ among donor agencies investing in East Africa’s agricultural development, representing, in addition to ILRI, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Netherlands Government, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), of Wageningen UR (a university and research centre in the Netherlands that focusses on healthy food and living environment), serves as secretary to the guiding group.

This week’s consultation will prioritize actions to capitalize on the (big) development opportunities offered by this region’s booming dairy sector, and determine the roles best played by different actors among relevant donor agencies and within the public and private sectors.

This 2.5-day consultation is taking place in Mbarara, in Uganda’s southwestern region, where the discussions are being interspersed with visits to a ghee processing farm and a cultural dairy centre in addition to a dairy breeding centre and a few dairy farms, milk collection centres and cooperatives and milk processing plants.

This consultation is being organized by CDI, the Netherlands Embassy in Uganda, and local development partners from Agribusiness Initiative (aBi) Trust (a multi-donor entity founded by the governments of Denmark and Uganda), the BMGF-funded East African Dairy Development Project (EADD), GIZ and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV).

We will link here to news of the final study report, which will be made public some time after the conference closes.


Filed under: Burundi, Cattle, Dairying, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Kenya, LGI, PA, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Value Chains Tagged: aBi Trust, ACIAR, ASARECA, BMGF, EADD, FAO, GIZ, IFAD, Isabelle Baltenweck, SNV, USAID, Wageningen

Uganda: Where a pig in the backyard is a piggybank for one million households–and rising

Curious pig in Uganda raised for sale

This curious pig in Kiboga District, Uganda, will be sold in about 2 months and generate between 100,000 to 150,000 Ugandan shillings (USD40) for the household (photo credit: ILRI/Kristina Rösel).

‘Uganda is the leading consumer of pork in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

‘Over 2.3 million pigs are kept by one million households in Uganda for consumption, says the institute which further indicates that the majority of pigs are kept by women in smallholder households.

‘Pig rearing has become a popular and a lucrative venture in Uganda over the last 30 years.

The institute, which works to improve food security and reduce poverty in developing countries, says the local pig population has climbed from 190,000 to over 2.3 million in the three decades. . . .

Researchers from ILRI – whose headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya – are conducting two projects in Uganda.

‘The projects are targeted at presenting more efficient ways of raising pigs, safer ways of handling and selling pork, and ways to increase access to pig markets by poor farmers.’

More information from ILRI about this project
‘Pig farming is widely practiced in all regions of Uganda with high concentrations around the Central region. Unlike other key agricultural enterprises, pig farming has experienced fundamental improvement in the number of pigs reared and households that rear at least one pig over the last three decades. This has been possible despite the limited government support to the pig subsector and the fact that pigs are not considered among the 20 priority sub-programs of the country’s Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP). This notwithstanding, about 17.8% (i.e. 1.1 millions) of all households own at least one pig in Uganda. The number of pigs increased from 0.19 million in 1980 to 3.2 million in 2008.

‘The current daily consumption of pigs (pigs slaughtered per day) in Kampala city alone is estimated to be between 300 and 500. These include about 75-80 pigs that are slaughtered at the main pig abattoir of Wambizi cooperative society in Nalukolongo in Kampala city. The per capita consumption of pork is 3.4 kg/person/year, the highest in the region. This level of consumption is reported to have increased 10 times more than it used to be 30 years ago. The market for pig products along the pig value chain is however disorganized, has many value chain actors, and many service providers, whose activities are not well coordinated. . . .

‘The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) through its Kampala based office is implementing an IFAD funded Smallholder Pig Value Chains Development (SPVCD) project in Uganda. The main objective of the SPVCD project is to improve livelihoods, incomes, and assets of smallholder pig producers, particularly women. . . . This report documents potential best-bet interventions (BBI) that can be tested in pilot research areas for the SPVCD project.’— Read more in this report: Successes and failures of institutional innovations to improve access to services, input and output markets for smallholder pig production systems and value chains in Uganda, published by ILRI Aug 2013.

Read the whole news article in New Vision (Uganda): Uganda ‘top pork consumer in sub-Saharan Africa’, 29 Mar 2014.

Watch a short (2:40-minute) ILRI photofilm on its smallholder pig value chains research in Uganda: Smallholder pig farming in Uganda: A day in the life of a research for development project,

View slide presentations by Uganda-based ILRI research project manager Danilo Pezo: Smallholder pig value chains in Uganda, Jun 2013, and  Smallholder pig value chain development in Uganda, Mar 2012.


Filed under: ASSP, CRP37, CRP4, East Africa, Food Safety, Food Safety Zoonoses, ILRI, ILRIComms, PA, Pigs, Uganda, Value Chains Tagged: New Vision (Uganda)

Takaful, ILRI payout ‘sharia-compliant’ insurance to drought-suffering livestock herders in Wajir

A beneficiary of Takaful insurance in Wajir

Shamsa Kosar, a beneficiary of Takaful livestock insurance payouts made in Wajir, northern Kenya, in March 2014. This novel insurance was made possible by an ILRI index-based livestock insurance research project in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

‘Takaful Insurance will pay livestock farmers about Sh500,000 for losses incurred during the December to March dry season.

‘The farmers, 30 women and 71 men from Wajir County, are the first to be compensated after they took up the Shariah-compliant Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT) cover in August 2013. . . .

‘The insurer said its focus is to make the Shariah-based policy more popular.

Our goal is to show pastoralists that they can use a fair and ethical business model to protect their assets from a natural hazard of keeping livestock in East Africa,” said Takaful Insurance chief executive Hassan Bashir.

‘Takaful makes revenues through management fees and pays out any surpluses made.

‘The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which was part of the team that designed the policy, also said that the popularity of the package is the priority at the moment.

This payout is critical for building confidence in the concept of insurance for drought-prone regions of East Africa where life revolves around livestock and droughts can bring disaster,” said Andrew Mude who leads the IBLI programme at ILRI.

‘ILRI estimates that livestock farmers in northern Kenya have cows, goats and sheep worth Sh46 billion. Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4) at the University of California at Davis are the other partners in the project.

‘The World Bank has also shown interest in the livestock industry. The lender has set aside a Sh6.7 billion grant for building infrastructure meant to reduce risks for Kenyan livestock farmers. The bank estimates that the Eastern Africa region has a livestock population of between 12 to 22 million.’

Read the whole article at Business Daily (Kenya): Insurer to compensate livestock farmers​, 24 Mar 2014

Read other news clippings:
Business Daily (Kenya): Pastoralists bank on index insurance to reduce losses, 26 Mar 2014

Watch a 2-minute video clip from Al Jazeera about the payout, New insurance scheme protects Kenyan farmers, 26 Mar 2014

Read ILRI’s press release about this on the ILRI News Blog:
Africa’s first ‘Islamic-compliant’ livestock insurance pays 100 herders in Kenya’s remote drylands of Wajir for drought-related livestock losses, 25 Mar 2014


Filed under: CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Insurance, Kenya, Launch, LGI, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: Andrew Mude, Business Daily, Cornell University, IBLI, IBLT, Index Insurance Innovation Initiative, Takaful Insurance, World Bank

Are aflatoxins contaminating the milk you’re drinking in Kenya? New research to find out

Kenyan boy drinking milk

‘The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has commissioned research to ascertain the levels of aflatoxins in the milk consumed in Kenya.

Studies say every Kenyan consumes over 145 litres annually – higher than other Africans – increasing the risk of milk-related aflatoxins.

‘“Because of the higher milk consumption, especially by young children, pregnant and nursing women, Kenyans are likely to be more at risk from aflatoxin-contaminated milk than other Africans,” says Johanna Lindahl, a food safety researcher at ILRI.

‘This research will determine the risks by exposure to aflatoxin-contaminated milk. The project is funded by the Government of Finland.

‘Aflatoxin poisoning is produced by fungi Aspergillus that infests grain such as maize and sorghum that are badly stored under higher moisture content. Consequently, the resultant contaminated feed lead to poisons getting to milk.

DSC_1257

‘Presence of these toxins in food that can harm human health and be lethal in high doses.

Kenya, in East Africa, is one of the world’s hotspots for aflatoxin-related deaths . . . .

Read the whole article by Mwangi Mumero in The People (Kenya): Kenyans could be drinking poisoned milk, 20 Feb 2014.

Read other articles about aflatoxin research on the ILRI News Blog:

‘Biocontrol’=effective control of aflatoxins poisoning Kenya’s staple food crops, 13 Feb 2014

Dairy feed project to reduce aflatoxin contamination in Kenya’s milk, 11 Feb 2014

Australian-funded research fights aflatoxin contamination in East African foods, 6 Feb 2014

Reducing aflatoxins in Kenya’s food chains: Filmed highlights from an ILRI media briefing, 19 Dec 2013

Fighting aflatoxins: CGIAR scientists Delia Grace and John McDermott describe the disease threats and options for better control, 8 Nov 2013


Filed under: Cattle, CRP4, Dairying, Disease Control, East Africa, Feeds, Food Safety, Food Safety Zoonoses, Health (human), ILRI, ILRIComms, Kenya, PA, Value Chains Tagged: aflatoxins, Johanna Lindahl, The People (Kenya)

Review of sheep research and development projects in Ethiopia

This working paper reviews and documents sheep research projects/activities in Ethiopia and provides an overview of major research outputs, dissemination of research results, impacts on the sheep industry, and the gaps in research. Thoughts on the future directions of sheep research are also presented.

Sheep research and development in Ethiopia dates back to the early 1960s, and has focused on characterization of genetic resources, description of farming systems, genetic improvement, introduction and evaluation of forage species, development of feeding packages, identification of diseases and parasites, development of health interventions, and marketing studies.

Research on identification, classification and description of sheep resources of Ethiopia began in the 1970s with the classification of the sheep populations into broad categories of tail and fibre types; molecular characterization has been a relatively recent development. While Ethiopian sheep are now well characterized, further research may be required to fill gaps in previous projects.

A number of research projects to improve the production environment (feeding, health) have been conducted, resulting in generation of new technologies and information. The impact of these research projects on the sheep industry has been quite notable in some cases. These include adoption of improved forages in some areas, identification and mapping of geographical and agro-ecological prevalence of economically important diseases, vaccine development, and design of health interventions (e.g. strategic deworming regimens and vaccination for viral diseases).

The existing documentation system for research and development projects and their outputs is not systematic and the information is not readily accessible, making a comprehensive appraisal difficult. While the review reported here is not exhaustive, it can be seen that numerous research projects have been undertaken. A wealth of information and numerous technologies have been generated.

Some of the research outputs have been published in technical publications and journals, annual reports and progress reports. While technologies have been demonstrated to end users through farmers’ field days and promoted through pamphlets and brochures, uptake by end users remains low. There are also gaps in the research and development endeavours (e.g. breeding programs are not coordinated).

This calls for a revisiting of the organization and functioning of the sheep research and development system. The links between research and development wings of the livestock sector need to be strengthened for effective dissemination of research outputs.

Download the full report


Filed under: Africa, Animal Production, ASSP, BecA, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, Livestock, Research, Sheep, Small Ruminants Tagged: SIDA

Exotic sheep popular in Kenya, but better native animals are a better solution—New study

ILRI Bioscience strategic meeting in Kapiti

A recent study of livestock markets in Kajiado County, in the dry rangelands of southeastern Kenya, shows that the most popular animals among sheep traders are purebred imported Dorper, as well as Dorper cross-breds. Less important to the traders is the asking price for the animals, and the age or sex of the animals being sold.

Findings from the study have been published in a paper: ‘Assessing sheep traders’ preferences in Kenya: A best-worst experiment from Kajiado County’.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) partnered with the non-governmental organizations Concern Worldwide Kenya as well as Neighbourhood Initiative Alliance, a community-based organization based in Kajiado, to carry out this analysis, which was the first-of-its-kind assessment of the purchase behaviour of sheep traders in Kenya.

‘Traders are a first source of market information for sheep producers. Understanding their preferences is important when designing interventions to help small-scale sheep farmers commercialize their production’, says Nadhem Mtimet, an agricultural economist working with ILRI’s Policy, Trade and Value Chains program and a co-author of the paper.

Carried out in April 2013, the study involved more than 100 traders in three livestock markets (Kiserian, Mile 46 and Bissil). Project staff interviewed the traders about their sheep trading, including the markets they use and the number of animals they buy.

Nadhem Mtimet

‘We found that traders place most value on purebred exotic sheep such as the Dorper, as well as Dorper crossbred animals, especially the red Maasai’, says Mtimet.

Though exotic and crossbred Dorper sheep are in high demand in Kajiado’s livestock markets, these animals pose threats to the livelihoods of the region’s pastoral livestock herders. Keeping these high-producing exotic breeds alive and productive in these dry, drought-ridden, rangelands is difficult. Unlike exotic breeds, the region’s native stock, though less productive, are well adapted to semi-arid climates and tolerate intestinal worms and other parasites.

Julie Ojango, a Kenyan animal scientist at ILRI, says that what we ought to be doing is encouraging pastoralists to conduct ‘selective breeding, retaining pure-bred indigenous breeds such as the red Maasai, coupled with strategic use of exotic and crossbred Dorper rams in more favourable environments’.

Julie M Ojango

According to Ojango, such selective breeding enables communities such as the Maasai in Kajiado to keep animals with desired qualities for the market while also retaining more adapted indigenous breeds that can survive droughts and other harsh climates.

Findings from this study were presented at the International Agribusiness Marketing Conference, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (22–23 Oct 2013), where it won best overall paper award.

Read the whole paper ‘Assessing sheep traders’ preferences in Kenya: A best-worst experiment from Kajiado County’.

View the presentation on ‘Assessing sheep traders’ preferences in Kenya: A best-worst experiment from Kajiado County’.

Photo captions:

1. Red Maasai and Dorper rams in Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

2. Nadhem Mtimet, ILRI agricultural economist and a co-author of the paper (photo credit: ILRI).

3. Julie Ojango, ILRI scientist and co-author of the paper (photo credit: ILRI).


Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Breeding, CRP37, East Africa, Farming Systems, Indigenous Breeds, Kenya, Livestock, Markets, Presentation, PTVC, Report, Sheep, Trade, Value Chains Tagged: Concern Worldwide, Dorper, Julie Ojango, Kajiado, Nadhem Mtimet, red Maasai

Power, partnership and participation: Nile Basin Development Challenge in summary

 ILRI / Aberra Adie)

Farmers getting trained on forage management at Kolugelan, Jeldu (Photo credit: ILRI / Aberra Adie)

The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) was one of six challenges comprising the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).

In the second phase of the program (2010-2013), research in the Nile basin (mainly Ethiopia) focused on sustainable land and water management to “enable poor small holder farmers to sustainably and equitably improve their food security, livelihoods and incomes while conserving the natural resource base”.

The NBDC was led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The complexity of land and water management in Ethiopia meant that the NBDC adopted a landscape approach “based on the recognition that people living in complex agro-ecosystems have multiple objectives and priorities.” Further a participatory learning-oriented systems approach was used to identify, test and scale up interventions.

Key messages – one integrated ‘paradigm shift’

In late 2013, the NBDC team identified eight key messages emerging from the project that will  help tackle poverty and degradation of natural resources as ‘business NOT as usual’. These were:

  1. Empower local communities and develop their leadership capacities to achieve long-term benefits and sustainable outcomes.
  2. Integrate and share scientific and local knowledge and encourage innovation through ‘learning by doing’.
  3. Strengthen and transform institutional and human capacities among all stakeholders to achieve the potential benefits of sustainable land management.
  4. Create, align and implement incentives for all parties to successfully implement sustainable innovative programs at scale.
  5. Adapt new models, learning and planning tools and improved learning processes to increase the effectiveness of planning, implementation, and capacity building.
  6. Integrate multiple rainwater management interventions at watershed and basin scales to benefit rainwater management programs.
  7. Attend to downstream and off-site benefits of rainwater management as well as upstream or on-farm benefits and costs.
  8. Improve markets, value chains and multi-stakeholder institutions to enhance the benefits and sustainability of rainwater management investments.

Outcomes and lessons

Beyond these eight key messages, some outcomes and lessons generated by the partners are captured in a Nile Basin summary produced by the CPWF. Some of the lessons include:

  • Develop, communicate and clearly internalize the program’s outcome logic and theory of change – as it can be a powerful learning conversation tool
  • Research for Development (R4D) differs significantly from CGIAR’s normal understanding of ‘applied research’ and requires a shift in behaviour
  • Pay attention to gender from the design all the way to implementation, with gender specialists involved as senior scientists
  • Partnerships matter throughout the program, from local to international level, and they require a consistent and committed point-of-contact
  • Not all innovations are the same: participatory planning tools, user-friendly Geographic Information Systems and the very implementation of an R4D approach seem to have been the most important innovations in NBDC
  • Knowledge management and communication can significantly strengthen learning and sharing towards adaptive management, provided top management is committed to it

From legacy to influence

As much NBDC work is getting integrated into CGIAR research programs on Water, Land and Ecosystems and on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, this Nile Basin summary is a neat and short review of some essential issues that NBDC has left as a legacy to influence land and water management in Ethiopia and the wider Nile Basin.

Read the full Nile Basin Summary

More on the NBDC


Filed under: ASSP, CRP5, East Africa, Environment, Ethiopia, Extension, Food security, Gender, ILRI, ILRIComms, Innovation Systems, Livelihoods, Livestock-Water, Nile Basin, NRM, Research, Water Tagged: CPWF, IWMI, NBDC, Nile Basin Development Challenge

Characterizing and improving village chicken production in Ethiopia

This ILRI project report describes the characteristics of village chicken production and marketing, analyses its contributions to farmers’ livelihoods, and presents options for improving the traditional village breeding practices in Horro and Ada’a woredas in the central and western highlands of Ethiopia.

For the survey, a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) technique was used which includes focus group discussion, wealth-status analysis, willingness-to-pay analysis, trend analysis, gender analysis, key-informant interviews and field observations. Options for improved breeding practices were derived from a desk study.

Local chicken production in both woredas is predominantly based on scavenging, a low input–output production system. There is virtually no investment for housing, feeding and other husbandry practices in both woredas. A higher level of management is practiced by farmers rearing exotic chickens.

Analysis of gender roles in both woredas showed that both the husband and wife as well as the children play important, but different, roles and assume different responsibilities in poultry production and marketing. Women (wives and girls) play the major role, have more responsibilities than do men, and are involved in house cleaning, feeding, watering, and selling of chickens and eggs.

The major constraints for profitable chicken production identified by farmers include: poor services to village chicken production including technical advices; trainings; input supplies and in particular breeding stocks; and health services. Farmers express particular dissatisfaction in the health services, as their chickens are not vaccinated before or after disease outbreaks. Diseases and external parasites are the major problems identified by farmers in both woredas.

The major diseases include New Castle disease (locally known as fengil), avian cholera, infectious bronchitis, red fowl mite (qinqin/susii), fowl pox (fentata), sticktight fleas (yeaynquncha). Farmers reported that New Castle disease is the most prevalent and economically important disease.

Characterization of the chicken production system leads to the following recommendations for improvement of chicken production in low-input systems:

  • introduction of market-oriented production practices to enhance the contribution of chicken production to farmers’ livelihoods;
  • introduction of an efficient system for the provision of inputs;
  • access to more profitable markets;
  • training of farmers to enhance their market orientation.

Interventions need to target women who are the main actors in village chicken production. Major technical interventions would be control of diseases, particularly New Castle disease, improved feeding, housing and breeding stock.

Download the full report


Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Animal Breeding, Animal Diseases, Animal Production, ASSP, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, Poultry, Report

N2Africa project putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Ethiopia

Workshop participants

On 27 and 28 February, the N2Africa project was officially launched in Ethiopia. More than 70 people attended the workshop, representing project partners, the private sector, universities, government and researchers.

On the first day, Ken Giller (Wageningen UR) and Bernard Vanlauwe (IITA) gave introductory presentations which inspired participants on the potential of nitrogen fixation and this project to enhance productivity.

N2Africa is committed to making the very best technologies from all around the world available to smallholder farmers in Africa. Through use of improved agronomic practices such as new varieties of grain legumes together with rhizobium inoculation and a small amount of manure or phosphorus fertiliser we can easily double yields, and we will be working hard to ensure that farmers have access to stable, profitable markets to sell their produce – Ken Giller

Vanlauwe explained how the first phase was really a proof of concept while the coming five years will focus on taking the results to scale. He stated that N2Africa’s vision of success is to ‘build sustainable, long-term partnerships to enable African smallholder farmers to benefit from symbiotic N2-fixation by grain legumes through effective production technologies including inoculants and fertilizers.’ The project aims to also leave a ‘legacy’ of strong national expertise in grain legume production and N2-fixation research and development that can deliver legume production technologies into the future.

Essential elements of the project approach include partnerships for research (technology development and testing); partnerships for development (public-private partnerships, last mile delivery and dissemination, value chain development); women’s empowerment (labour-saving technologies, enriched food baskets, business opportunities); and partnership platforms (engagement, validation).

Director General of the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research, Dr Fentahun Mengistu, officially opened the meeting emphasizing his support for this partnership of research and development organizations.

Endalkachew Wolde-Meskel, country coordinator joined with partners to give an overview of the achievements of the recently completed bridging phase project which included impressive photos of demonstration plots from around the country. The bridging phase has successfully established partnerships with a range of Ethiopian research institutions.

The strategy for implementing the N2Africa project in Ethiopia is to work in partnership with federal and regional agricultural research institutes and universities in four regions, Benishangul Gumuz (EIAR), Amhara (ARARI and Bahir Dar University), Oromia (OARI and EIAR) and Southern Regions (Hawassa University and SARI). During the bridging year, N2Africa has established solid and dynamic partnership with these institutions, thus providing a springboard for the smooth deployment of Phase II. Results from the bridging year showed the potential that exists to enhance the productivity of target legumes through rhizobium inoculation, improved varieties and better agronomic management – Endalkachew Wolde-Meskel

In the afternoon and on Day 2, participants worked in groups to define visions of success for the project in Ethiopia, and to sketch out action plans around key project outcomes: productivity, value chains and markets, nutrition, women’s empowerment, crop-livestock.

The project in Ethiopia differs from other countries in its additional focus on livestock:

Legumes are a core component of the Ethiopian diet, but legume residues are also hugely important in sustaining Ethiopia’s large livestock population. Through N2Africa’s work around improving legume productivity not only will farmers directly benefit through better yields – improved livestock productivity could generate additional income and lead to further crop productivity benefits through better traction and more manure for improved soil fertility – Alan Duncan, ILRI

The discussions were active and dynamic fueled by breaks for traditional Ethiopian coffee and a range of pulses with injera at mealtimes.

By the end of the meeting, there was a strong spirit of collaboration among participants and some excellent networks were established which bode well for the establishment of N2Africa Phase II in Ethiopia.


Filed under: Africa, Animal Feeding, ASSP, Crop-Livestock, CRP12, East Africa, Ethiopia, Project, Research, Soils Tagged: legumes, n2africa, nitrogen fixation

ILRI in retrospect – Alexandra Jorge reflects on her work with ILRI in this exit interview

What was your position at ILRI and where you are headed next?

 ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)

Alexandra Jorge, former manager of the International Forage Genebank at ILRI (Photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)

I managed the forage Genebank at ILRI in Ethiopia, which has the most diverse collection of tropical highland grasses in the world. That position included managing four field sites, four laboratories (plant health lab, molecular lab, germination lab and nutritional lab) the genebank facilities and 30 staff.

I’m heading to Maputo (Mozambique), returning to the country where I grew up and started my professional life. I gained a lot of experience in the past 25 years, working in four African countries. Now it is the right  opportunity for me to return to  Mozambique, contribute to the development of my country, look for  challenging areas and find something that I enjoy there (as I have been enjoying my work).

I have just accepted the position of director of programs at BIOFUND Mozambique where  I will be shifting from conserving, studying and using forage crop diversity to work towards the conservation and sustainable use of aquatic and terrestrial  diversity in Mozambique. BIOFUND aims to support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources, including the consolidation of the Mozambican national system of conservation areas.

What were your last activities at ILRI?

Very diverse activities: We were challenged to work with other CGIAR centres on the Genebank CGIAR Research Program, get more people on board and expand the work – and to increase the quality of the work, for example by barcoding in the Genebank, upgrading the nutritional laboratory, acquiring  more modern equipment in all labs…

With the help of external expertise we were revising the procedures, improving and upgrading our facilities to be more efficient and offer better quality results.

In the field we were also upgrading equipment, upgrading greenhouses, field regeneration fields and better irrigation systems, working on improving seed quality…

An important part of our activities have focused on networking, expanding our network with national partners in Mexico, Brazil, Kenya and Ethiopia.

We have been working on impact and – in relation with the 30-year anniversary of the Genebank – we have been discussing the impact of distributing seeds, together with ILRI Nairobi staff to look at statistics. We have conducted some impact assessment of Napier grass in Kenya together with KARI; we were assessing the impact of the Genebank distribution; and working with the program on Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) and their students to assess the impact of the distribution of seeds, in cooperation with the Herbage Seed Unit.

What have been your best moments and achievements at ILRI?

I really enjoyed working with my dedicated Genebank team: We have good, responsible and knowledgeable people.

We have had a lot of support from other ILRI departments e.g. procurement, stores, HR in Addis Ababa and Nairobi – in fact from all departments at ILRI, which helped us immensely.

I also benefited from an AWARD fellowship which helped improve my personal and professional abilities in areas like leadership, people skills and personal confidence. AWARD covers 11 countries so I could engage with other people in my field and related fields and countries in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and others. I also enjoyed a fellowship  to improve my molecular skills at the BecA-ILRI hub in Nairobi.

During the 10 years at ILRI I learned a lot about forages and I became a forage fan. I have a sweet spot for neglected crops such as root crops and forages!

I also expanded my regional and international network immensely – after working for 10 years and in four different positions at ILRI and Bioversity International.

Finally, it was really nice to be part of the celebrations of the 30 years of the Genebank that created a lot of awareness about the work we do.

Where do you see the big challenges or opportunities for ILRI?

The key challenge remains to attract and retain the right staff at the right place.

Another challenge is to keep ILRI’s focus, independently from donors’ agendas. Things change all the time and we have to keep clear ideas on where we want to go and what we want to achieve.

In terms of gaps, since I came to ILRI I noticed there was not much sharing of information between people. It still relies on face-to-face interactions. Coffee mornings are good but not enough. I still meet a lot of people who have no idea about the Genebank and what we do. We’ve tried really hard to raise awareness but it’s still not enough. Sometimes we have more exchange between CGIAR centres than within ILRI. And with new people coming in regularly, it gets all the more complicated.

ILRI has also put a lot of effort into improving relationships with local institutes but we have to do more. I tried to network with the Kenyan Genebank and I noticed that it was perhaps easier to do so from Ethiopia than from Kenya, even though they are located very close to ILRI Nairobi.

In terms of opportunities, ILRI has a wide diversity of expertise: so many experts in so many areas, so many offices in so many places – it could be considered a weakness but also an enormous opportunity.

Who will take over from your work and how you hope your ‘legacy’ will be taken forward…

For the time being Jean (Hanson) will take over the routine work but a lot more needs to be done and we need a full time person to do that, hopefully to be recruited soon. Now, every new person brings different things and may change the way things are done, for better or for worse.

I tried to do more on networking and awareness raising – writing blogs, leaflets, hosting many visits for schools and otherwise etc. – and it’s something I hope will keep expanding rather than shrinking.

I also hope we keep trying building our relationship with national partners. Sometimes we had really excellent results. For instance we worked with KARI on the Napier grass impact assessment study and enjoyed full support from them – it was a really good joint working experience. I also went to a couple of  Kenyan agricultural fairs, displayed Genebank materials at the ILRI booth and the connection and interaction with the farmers was amazing. From the egenbank, we are not usually ready to respond to the farmer challenges such as “What do you recommend me to feed my pigs?

Any final words?

There is, within ILRI, a huge capacity to do things better. Working together with other CGIAR centres is a good approach: farms are integrated, with people, animals, crops, markets etc. So ILRI is going in the right direction with that cooperation, especially on the Addis Ababa campus with its great potential to do a lot more and benefit more from interactions with other CGIAR centres. We should build on that and bring together our network of local partners.

Alexandra was interviewed by Ewen Le Borgne


Filed under: Animal Feeding, Biodiversity, BioSciences, East Africa, Ethiopia, Forages, Genebank, Genetics, Interview, Staff Tagged: Alexandra Jorge, exit interview

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

Cows, missing milk markets and nutrition in rural Ethiopia

In rural economies encumbered by significant market imperfections, farming decisions may partly be motivated by nutritional considerations, in addition to income and risk factors. These imperfections create the potential for farm assets to have direct dietary impacts on nutrition in addition to any indirect effects via income.

A working paper from IFPRI tests this hypothesis for the dairy sector in rural Ethiopia, a context in which markets are very thin, own-consumption shares are very high, and milk is an important source of animal-based proteins and micronutrients for young children.

The authors find that cow ownership raises children’s milk consumption, increases linear growth, and reduces stunting in children by seven to nine percentage points. However, they also find that the direct nutritional impacts of household cow ownership are less important where there is good access to local markets, suggesting that market development can substitute for household cow ownership.

Download the report

See an earlier presentation:


Filed under: CRP4, Dairying, East Africa, Ethiopia, Nutrition Tagged: IFPRI

Scientists launch consortium to control a lethal disease of cattle in Africa

Inception workshop for improved East Coast fever vaccine

Group picture of participants of an inception workshop for a project to improve vaccines for the control of East Coast fever in cattle in Africa. The workshop was held at ILRI’s Nairobi campus 27-29 January 2014 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

A new East Coast fever vaccine project, supported by a USD11-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (USA), is receiving additional support coming from partners in a new consortium established to battle this African cattle killing disease. These partners/investors include the Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases (Malawi); GALVmed, a livestock-oriented non-profit product development partnership (UK); the Institute for Genome Sciences (University of Maryland, USA); the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp (Belgium); the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh, UK); the Royal Veterinary College (UK); the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS); and Washington State University (USA).

From the Global Times/Xinhua (China): ‘. . . The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) said on Friday the consortium . . . will develop the highly advanced cattle vaccine to battle East Coast fever.

We need to get better control of East Coast fever because there are millions of people in East and Central Africa whose existence depends on healthy cattle, and right now they are losing about one animal every 30 seconds to this disease,” said Vish Nene, who leads ILRI’s Vaccine Biosciences Program and heads up this “improved vaccines for the control of East Coast fever” initiative. . . .

‘East Coast fever is a devastating cancer-like disease of cattle that often kills the animals within three weeks of infection. The vaccine can also help malaria and cancer research in humans. . . .

‘The disease was first recognized in southern Africa when it was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century with cattle imported from eastern Africa, where the disease had been endemic for centuries, DFID said.

‘The disease is spreading rapidly and currently threatens some 28 million cattle in East and Central Africa.

‘It killed more than one million cattle in 11 countries — Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe — and caused 300 million US dollars in losses in 2013.

‘ILRI said the researchers will focus on recent breakthroughs that have isolated proteins in the parasite, called antigens, likely to be crucial in protecting cattle from East Coast fever to develop the vaccine. Some of the antigens appear capable of stimulating production of protective antibodies.

‘Other parasite antigens could help endow the vaccine with the capacity to stimulate the cow’s production of a type of lymphocyte known as cytotoxic or “killer” T cells that are able to target and destroy the cow’s white blood cells infected with the parasite.

Statistics indicated that about 70 percent of the human population of sub-Saharan Africa depend on livestock for their livelihoods, with farming and herding families relying on cattle for vital sources of food, income, traction, transportation and manure to fertilize croplands.

‘The East Coast fever team will ensure that the vaccine is made available, accessible and affordable to livestock keepers who need it most and to scale up its production for the future.

‘Many of the animals threatened by the disease — which typically kills cows within three to four weeks of infection — belong to poor pastoralist herders and smallholder farmers for whom the loss of even one cow can be disastrous. . . .’

Read the whole article at the Global Times (China) / Xinhua: Scientists launch bid to save cattle herds in Africa, 31 Jan 2014.


Filed under: Africa, Animal Diseases, BioSciences, Cattle, CRP37, Disease Control, East Africa, ECF, Event, ILRI, ILVAC, PA, Vaccines Tagged: BMGF, CTTBD, GALVmed, Institute for Genome Sciences, Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, Roslin Institute, RVC, USDA-ARS, Vish Nene, Washington State University, Xinhua

ILRI upgrades its nutrition analysis laboratories in Addis Ababa

On 10 January, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) inaugurated new nutrition laboratories at its Addis Ababa campus. Feed quality is in good hands again.

 ILRI/Addis Tigabu)

Jimmy Smith and Said Silim (country manager ICARDA Ethiopia and coordinator sub saharan Africa program) cutting the cake for the renovated nutritional labs (Photo credit: ILRI/Addis Tigabu)

The importance of feed quality

Feed quality reflects the ability of a given feed to meet the daily nutrient needs of animals consuming the feed.

Tremendous variation exists in nutrient composition between different feeds. Low quality feeds have less available nutrients, thus requiring larger amounts of supplements to meet the needs of the animals.

Even within a feed ingredient, there is potential for significant variation in composition. This is especially true for forages. Forages harvested off the same field within the same year can have a very different composition, depending on environmental conditions and cutting time.

Residues from food crops are also important feed sources and the feed quality may vary, depending on the varieties, field management, time of harvest and storage. A better estimation of feed value and quality not only for forages but also food crops is therefore very important to choose the most adequate types of cultivars that can suit both uses.

Nutritional quality is a valuable parameter to be measured for feed quality of diet formulation, quality control of marketed feeds, breeding and evaluation of food-feed agricultural programs, conservation agriculture and diversity studies.

Establishment of the laboratories

The initial analytical services laboratories at ILRI Addis Ababa were constructed around 1980 alongside other laboratories for animal reproduction and health and later rumen microbiology.

For the first 15 years, the nutrition laboratories supported research in animal nutrition and dairy science in ongoing ILRI projects, mostly carried out in the ILRI zonal stations in Debre Zeit and Debre Berhan. In the mid-1990’s the laboratories went through a lot of upgrading and an international laboratory manager was hired to coordinate and supervise all all laboratories in ILRI Ethiopia until the early 2000’s.

In those days, the nutrition laboratory provided services to ILRI projects and partners such as the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, regional agricultural research institutes, universities and private organizations. Most analysis was carried out using wet chemistry procedures, which required large laboratory infrastructure and a large number of equipment and staff.

From the mid 1990’s Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was introduced to help predict feed values of plant materials. This newer, simpler, faster and chemical-free procedure allowed the accurate prediction of nutritional parameters from most plant/feed samples with less time, space and consumables.

Currently, most of the analysis is carried out using NIRS supported by wet chemistry to develop or expand equations for prediction of new feeds or to confirm results which do not fall within expected ranges for a specific parameter and feed.

Laboratory upgrades

 ILRI/Addis Tigabu)The first upgrade to the lab facilities was undertaken at the facilities formerly owned by ILRI in Debre Zeit (the station was handed back to the government in 2007 with ILRI retaining use of the forage genebank and seed unit facilities and the in vitro digestibility laboratories). The equipment was reduced and re-allocated into a smaller and more efficient space, within the same facilities as the seed unit.

The second (and much larger) upgrade of the laboratories in Addis Ababa started in October 2013 and was finished in January 2014. This upgrade reallocated the nutritional laboratories from Research Building II into the old generator building, and incorporating the processing laboratories into the same laboratory space. This move provides modern facilities that will allow us to prepare samples for analysis by NIRS and wet chemistry and will bring a lot more space efficiencies and work flow, better health and safety and improved working areas.

The laboratories were inaugurated on 10 January 2014 by Dr. Jimmy Smith and Dr. Iain Wright from ILRI, and Dr. Said Silim from ICARDA.

 ILRI/Addis Tigabu) Smith mentioned in his speech that he greatly appreciates and values the importance of feeds for livestock to keep them healthy and less prone to many diseases. Iain Wright mentioned that this laboratory upgrade is part of the general upgrade currently on-going at ILRI campus in Addis. Silim welcomed the collaborative work and efforts between ILRI and ICARDA to not only upgrade the laboratories but also to vacate important space that will be used for offices for ICARDA.

At present, most samples from within ILRI relate to food-feed crop and forage experiments and studies in which some 20 parameters are analysed:

  • Dry matter (DM) from fresh samples with ovenDM/Ash
  • Nitrogen /crude protein, Kjeldahl
  • N + P, nitrogen/phosphorus, auto-analyzer
  • P ( phosphorus, auto-analyzer)
  • Neutral  detergent fiber, NDF
  • Acid  detergent fiber, ADF
  • Acid Detergent Lignin, ADL
  • NIRS scanning and prediction plus equation development
  • In vitro Dry matter digestibility
  • Mineral element analysis available: Ca (Calcium), Mg (magnesium), Na (Sodium), K (Potassium), Fe (Iron), Mn (Manganese), Cu (Copper), Zn (Zinc), Cr (Chromium), Co (Cobalt), Ni (Nickel), and Pb (Lead).

Story contributed by Alexandra Jorge


Filed under: Africa, Animal Feeding, Biodiversity, Crop residues, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Feeds, Forages, Genebank, Integrated Sciences

In Africa, livestock are a catalyst for economic growth—Livestock data study findings

 M&E training

Investing in smallholder farmers who own livestock in rural Africa, such as these women in Tanzania, is a catalyst for economic growth (photo credit: ILRI/Deo Gratias Shayo).

Last October (2013), the World Bank reported on the findings of a case study on ‘Livestock and Livelihoods in Rural Tanzania.’ The study assessed opportunities and barriers to contributions livestock make to livelihoods of the poor in three African countries.

This analysis was part of a two-year ‘Livestock Data Innovation in Africa’ project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project was implemented in Niger, Tanzania and Uganda by the World Bank, the African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources and the International Livestock Research Intistute (ILRI) from 2010 to 2012.

The study reveals ‘investment gaps, potential benefits, and overall social impact’ of the livestock sector in rural Africa, the article says. These facts include how the ‘livestock sector [contributes] to the economic growth of the country, productivity of the sector itself and gender issues, especially in terms of differential livestock ownership and access to inputs and markets.

The study reports that most rural households in Tanzania are earning an average of 22% of total household income from livestock activities and 25% of the households that own livestock use organic fertilizer from their animal stock for crop production, a practice, the article says, ‘that if taken to scale can potentially increase overall agricultural production’.

Most African farmers depend on livestock such as chickens, goats and cattle for food and much-needed income from the sale of livestock and livestock products, such as meat, milk and eggs. Animal stock are thus a key asset for many households in the continent.

Furthermore, the study shows that ‘Tanzanian women who own livestock and are heads of household provide better nutrition for their entire family and are more commercially oriented than their male counterparts. Among women who own livestock, 37% of their total production is sold on the market compared to 30% of male livestock production.’

But livestock management challenges remain significant in the country. For example, ‘less than one-third of all family-owned livestock is vaccinated and approximately 60% of all the animals suffer from some type of preventable disease.’

The findings of the study, reports the World Bank article, ‘confirm that investing in smallholder farmers who own livestock in rural Africa is a catalyst for economic growth’.

Read the whole article from the World Bank website: ‘The Role of Livestock Data in Rural Africa: The Tanzanian Case Study.’

Visit the project website: Livestock Data Innovation in Africa


Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Production, Article, East Africa, Livelihoods, Livestock, Pro-Poor Livestock, PTVC, Tanzania, Value Chains Tagged: AU-IBAR, BMGF, Livestock Data Innovation in Africa project, World Bank

Collaboration with Brazil expands Napier grass diversity in ILRI’s forage genebank

From May 2011 to May 2013, the Africa-Brazil Marketplace sponsored a project to introduce Napier grass elite lines for screening for stunt resistance to provide feed for improved smallholder dairy productivity.

The project was a partnership between the Forage genebank of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and EMBRAPA Dairy Cattle (Juiz de Fora) in Brazil. Both institutes have complementary research programs and maintain genebanks of Napier grass germplasm.

The project aimed to identify unique materials and exchange improved Napier grass germplasm from the collections maintained at ILRI and EMBRAPA.

Innovative methods of targeting germplasm for introduction were used on 171 genotypes to select unique genotypes for exchange, concentrating on elite lines from Brazil (but not at ILRI) and germplasm from ILRI that is not in Brazil.

Nine unique genotypes from the collection at ILRI were transferred to EMBRAPA in 2012 under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. These materials are already being used in Brazil to help develop higher yielding smut resistant lines that can then be released globally to provide a genetic solution to control this devastating disease.

Fifty three genotypes of germplasm and elite breeding lines from EMBRAPA were received at ILRI in 2013 under an SMTA and are currently being established and checked for diseases of quarantine significance. They will be multiplied for further screening for adaptation, biomass and disease tolerance. These materials are available for users under an MTA with EMBRAPA.

This important exchange of germplasm greatly increases the diversity of the Napier grass collection at ILRI, enhancing the potential to find suitable types tolerant to emerging diseases in Africa (smut and stunt) but also drought tolerant types. The availability of a larger pool of Napier grass germplasm for research and evaluation for selection of superior better adapted and more productive types for smallholder farmers will support the smallholder dairy sector in East Africa. Among the materials from Brazil there are also short leafy genotypes that have potential for grazing and use in beef and small ruminant meat production systems and more extensive dairy systems.

53 new accessions of Napier grass received at Forage Genebank 53 new accessions of Napier grass received at Forage Genebank

53 new accessions of Napier grass were received at the Forage Genebank in Addis Ababa in early August 2013. Asebe and Yeshi planting and labeling the cuttings into pots and the materials vigorously growing after 4 months, in December 2013.

53 new accessions of Napier grass from Brazil being tested for phytoplasma in the Forage Plant Health Laboratory 53 new accessions of Napier grass from Brazil being tested for phytoplasma in the Forage Plant Health Laboratory

The new accessions from Brazil being being tested for phytoplasma in the Forage Plant Health Laboratory, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Filed under: Biodiversity, East Africa, Ethiopia, Feed Bioscience, Forages, Genebank, ILRI, Seeds Tagged: Embrapa, Napier grass

Field Crops Research special issue on dual-purpose maize for food and feed

Maize harvest in village near Nain Bagh, northern India

The inability of livestock keepers to feed their animals adequately throughout the year remains the major technical constraint in most livestock systems, particularly in smallholder systems in emerging countries.

Meeting the demand for meat and milk in a way that poor livestock keepers benefit more from their animal assets will require sustainable production of more and higher quality feed.

The September 2013 special issue of Field Crops Research (edited by Elaine Grings, Olaf Erenstein and Michael Blümmel) primarily deals with dual-purpose maize and the intention to improve whole plant utilization – i.e. the use of both maize grain and crop residues (stover). It primarily focuses on three broad thematic areas:

  1. demand for dual-purpose maize cultivars and associated targeting domains;
  2. quality traits, whole plant utilization and phenotyping; and
  3. exploiting trait variation for maize improvement.

These themes variously touch upon dual-purpose maize in relation to use by farmers, germplasm development, management/feeding improvement and feed quality analysis. The main focus is on mixed crop – livestock systems in emerging countries – particularly Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia.

ILRI authored papers in the issue include:


Filed under: Animal Feeding, Article, ASSP, Crop residues, Crop-Livestock, CRP37, East Africa, Feeds, South Asia Tagged: Maize, Michael Blummel

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