East Africa News

ILRI researchers test communication approaches for optimizing informed consent processes

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) aims to employ the highest standards in its research, including the ways it engages with partners and stakeholders. The institutional research ethics committee (IREC) provides oversight of this effort. It was established to set and monitor ethical standards, including those affecting how researchers engage with farmers and other people participating it it research.

Informed consent is a key approach to ensure that ILRI research is not exploiting the people it work with and aims to serve.

Informed consent is essential, not only for legal and moral reasons but because the process provides a vehicle for dialogue between researchers and the people who keep livestock and are are most affected by any interventions that may be developed. Informed consent processes can be particularly complex in cross-cultural contexts. In these settings, novel communication approaches may enhance participant understanding of project information, so their consent can be truly informed.

While piloting field tools in Morogoro, Tanzania, ILRI researchers tested three alternative tools to use as part of the informed consent process. The study aimed to determine which tool would be best to use in field work, judged by participant comprehension of information presented and engagement in the process. Tools used to explain the project and informed consent included a written form, a poster with cartoons (see below) and a poster with photographs.

While the number of participants involved in this pilot study were small, some of the results were significant. The poster containing cartoons was found to be the superior communication tool and was therefore used for ensuing field work. The results will be written into a report for publication and ILRI is planning to expand the study to include more participants and trials in different contexts.

Poster, in Swahili, explaining a project and intended to strengthen community engagement.

 

Written by Tarni Cooper, consultant researcher with ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses Program.


This week ILRI hosts major conference in Nairobi on livestock-based options for development

ILRI 40 years logo

On Wednesday 1 Oct 2014, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will host a high-profile conference in Nairobi on livestock-based options for sustainable development.

In 2014, to mark 40 years of its international research, ILRI is facilitating a series of events that highlight the ways in which livestock research advances the global development agenda, specifically for sustainable food and nutritional security, economic well-being and healthy lives.

Among the expected participants at the conference, at ILRI in Nairobi, are global, regional and local actors in sustainable livestock development, including farmers, the public and private sectors and research and development agencies.

The highlight of the event will be a keynote address by Modibo Traoré, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization sub-regional coordinator for eastern Africa and representative to Ethiopia, the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The keynote address will seek to answer the question: Why invest in livestock-based options for livelihoods, healthy lives and a sustainable environment?

At the conference, Ed Rege of PICO-Eastern Africa will facilitate a panel discussion to provide opportunities for regional and local actors, industry players and key partners in the livestock sector to look ahead to the next 40 years and identify the most critical livestock issues to invest in for better lives through livestock.

The members of the panel are:

  • Bright Rwamirama, Honourable State Minister for Animal Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Republic of Uganda;
  • Fina Opio, Executive Director, Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA);
  • Kipkirui arap Lang’at, Chairman, Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association and Kenya Dairy Processors’ Association;
  • Joseph Kipkoech, Senior Advisor, Vocational Skills Development, SNV Kenya; and
  • Ibrahim Idi-Issa, Deputy Executive Secretary, Comité permanent Inter-Etat de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS).

The event will be streamed live from 0900 hours (GMT+3) on 1 October 2014.

All ILRI alumni, partners, donors and other stakeholders are invited to a reception and ‘alumni gathering’ on the same day from 1630-2000 hours at the ILRI campus in Nairobi. Come meet your old colleagues and friends. Register with ILRI’s Angeline Nekesa (a.nekesa[at]cgiar.org) or Dorine Odongo (D.A.Odongo[at]cgiar.org) before 1 Oct.

Visit ilri.org/40 to find out about the other ILRI@40 events.

Follow #ilri40 on Twitter.

This article was written by Tezira Lore, a communications specialist at ILRI.


CTA-ILRI African dairy value chain seminar closes with colourful results

Crossbred dairy cow in Rwanda

An improved, crossbred, dairy cow made available in Rwanda by an East African Dairy Development project, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Heifer International; the International Livestock Research Institute is a partner in this project (picture credit: ILRI/EADD).

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) organized the CTA-ILRI African dairy value chain seminar from 21 to 24 September 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya. This event was made possible thanks to funding support from CTA, the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions, and Markets and on Livestock and Fish.

Around 80 participants came from all over Africa and beyond to share their experiences, lessons learned, dairy value chain development models and analytical tools to study dairy value chains. The event was facilitated in an interactive way and simultaneous translation was available to maximize opportunities for sharing across the continent’s French-English language barrier. Throughout the seminar, participants were asked to relate information they were gathering to three topics:

1. African smallholder inclusion into dairy value chains

2. Private-sector investment into the African dairy industry

3. Gender roles and empowerment in African dairy value chains

All the case stories shared, the analytical tools contributed, the solutions shared by peers to concrete dairy value chain development problems, the photos, the videos and the presentations linked to the seminar are being compiled on the seminar’s website.

As for the colourful finish, view it here.

Written by Jo Cadilhon, senior agricultural economist with the Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program at ILRI.


New studies on MERS coronavirus and camels in eastern Africa published

Northeastern Kenya 17

Part of a large camel herd in northern Kenya; on the outskirts of Marsabit and Moyale, the average distances to watering points run into dozens of kilometres (photo credit: Ann Weru/IRIN).

Written by Dan Klotz

Two new papers on MERS coronavirus and camels in Eastern Africa have been published in the science journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Summary points

  • Studies find that camels in Egypt, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan have antibodies to the coronavirus that causes MERS.
  • The first study indicates that young camels are at greater risk of harbouring the virus than older camels.
  • We do not know if the infections in East African camels have led to, or could lead to, disease in people; this possibility should be investigated.
  • We do not know if or how much the East African camel virus is related to the one infecting camels and people in the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt; this possibility should also be investigated.
  • Such investigations could help hasten knowledge and control of MERS, which is still urgently needed.

Middle East respiratory syndrome: Camel-to-human transmission
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (or MERS-CoV) was first discovered in a Saudi Arabian patient in 2012 and, as of 23 July 2014, had infected 837 people, killing 291 (World Health Organisation [WHO]). Almost all of the reported cases have been linked to the Arabian Peninsula (US Centers for Disease Control). There is currently no cure or vaccine for MERS—a severe respiratory disease that causes cough, fever, shortness of breath, and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

Studies are finding that dromedary camels can harbour the MERS-CoV, and camels infected with MERS have been reported from Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and Egypt. Camels carrying antibodies to MERS—an indicator that the animals have been exposed to the virus or a similar virus variant—have been found in Egypt, Jordan, KSA, Oman, Qatar, Spain and United Arab Emirates.

The similarity between MERS found in camels and in people suggests that camels may provide a primary source of infection for people. The majority of livestock camels slaughtered on the Arabian Peninsula are imported from the Greater Horn of Africa, in particular Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan.

New studies of MERS in camels in East Africa
To improve our knowledge of the prevalence of MERS-CoV in camels, the research group of Christian Drosten from the University of Bonn, in Germany, and collaborators from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Kenyan partners studied the prevalence of antibodies to the MERS virus in camels in Kenya. Their studies were published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Serum samples were collected in camels in seven Kenyan counties in a study of MERS

In the first study, the scientists investigated MERS-CoV antibody levels and patterns of seroprevalence in farmed and nomadic camels in Kenya. Serum samples that were obtained from 1992 through 2013 from 774 camels in seven Kenyan counties (Baringo, Isiolo, Laikipia, Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir) were examined in the first study. Ethical clearance for the collection was part of the overarching agreement between ILRI and the Government of Kenya, which authorizes ILRI to broadly investigate livestock disease in Kenya.

Camels with MERS-CoV antibodies were found in all regions and during the full 20-year sampling period. With the exception of one county, serum prevalence of MERS-CoV antibody levels was generally higher in camels from the northeastern and eastern counties than the counties in the northwestern Rift Valley area. Interestingly, 28 camels originating from the northeastern Wajir County but held in isolation in the Rift Valley since 1998 did not have MERS-CoV antibodies. This corresponds with a previous observation that camels bred in isolation in Dubai also lacked antibodies. The antibody levels of nomadic animals from the eastern region were significantly higher than in pastoral animals from the Rift Valley region. Adult animals in both regions had a 7–10 per cent higher level of infection than juveniles.

The first study proposed that young immunologically naïve animals (those with no evidence of previous exposure to the coronavirus) may spread the virus in camel populations and that MERS-CoV infections increase when camel population density increases.

Different types of animal husbandry in different counties may also be an important predictor of transmission. Camels in this area are often nomadic and are taken across borders into neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia for trade purposes. The observed rise in infection rates from Northwest to Northeast and East could be attributed to an increased animal-to-animal contact as the migration paths merge and cross.

In the second study, samples from 189 camels in Egypt, Somalia and Sudan that had been collected and stored over the past 30 years were tested for MERS-CoV antibodies. In all, 84 per cent of all camels tested positive, a finding that supports conclusions from previous studies.

In short, the combination of nomadic camel husbandry with a high-population density of camels, along with the presence of younger virus-susceptible camels, could increase the overall levels of the virus in regional camel populations and also increase the likelihood of virus transmission to humans.

That no human MERS cases have been observed in East Africa could indicate either that the virus is not as virulent in the region or that there is a lack of detection and reporting of cases. More research, focusing on people handling camels and consuming camel milk in this region, could help to determine whether there have been silent or unrecognized infections.

As the MERS outbreak continues, the WHO’s Emergency Committee addressing the MERS outbreak urged that WHO and member states improve national policies that address infection prevention and control, and then implement those policies in health care facilities and systems. Critical investigations should be initiated and accelerated, vulnerable countries should be supported, and better communications should be embraced to strengthen collaboration between all parties fighting the outbreak as well as to disseminate advice and warnings to the general public.

Read the two journal papers
Antibodies against MERS Coronavirus in dromedary camels, Kenya, 1992–2013, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 20, Number 8—August 2014, by Victor M Corman, Joerg Jores (ILRI), Benjamin Meyer, Mario Younan, Anne Liljander (ILRI), Mohammed Y Said (ILRI), Ilona Gluecks, Erik Lattwein, Berend-Jan Bosch, Jan Felix Drexler, Set Bornstein, Christian Drosten and Marcel A Müller: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/20/8/14-0596_article

MERS Coronavirus Neutralizing Antibodies in Camels, Eastern Africa, 1983–1997, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 20, Number 12—December 2014, by Marcel A Müller, Victor Max Corman, Joerg Jores (ILRI), Benjamin Meyer, Mario Younan, Anne Liljander (ILRI), Berend-Jan Bosch, Erik Lattwein, Mosaad Hilali, Bakri E Musa, Set Bornstein and Christian Drosten: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/20/12/14-1026_article

For further information, please contact Joerg Jores (j.jores@cgiar.org), senior scientist in the Mycoplasma Research Group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Dan Klotz is a Washington DC-based science writer and policy analyst; he also serves as a senior consulting writer for Burness Communications.


Gerardine Mukeshimana, BecA-ILRI Hub plant researcher, appointed minister of agriculture and animal resources in Rwanda

Gerardine Mukeshimana

Gerardine Mukeshimana has been appointed minister of agriculture and animal resources in Rwanda (photo credit: ILRI).

Gerardine Mukeshimana, a plant researcher working at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in Nairobi, Kenya, has been appointed minister of agriculture and animal resources in Rwanda.

Mukeshimana has been working as a plant scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub where her focus has been on using molecular virology, plant transformation, genomics and bioinformatics tools to develop strategies to control the spread of aphid-transmitted virus diseases in the common bean. She was also contributing significantly to capacity building and resource mobilization to better support African national agricultural research systems.

Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, congratulated Mukeshimana on the appointment on behalf of the entire ILRI community and remarked, ‘this is tremendous news, we will do all we can to support Gerardine, and look forward to working with her in her new capacity’.

‘Gerardine’s appointment is a recognition of the values of a true scientist, a great leader and a strong advocate for African agricultural development that we all saw in her,’ said Appolinaire Djikeng, the director of the BecA-ILRI Hub. Djikeng further added that ‘we are excited by this appointment and we believe it is a testament to the importance of the work we do at the BecA-ILRI Hub and the caliber of the people that we attract for our mission.’

‘I am absolutely pleased and proud of Gerardine’s appointment. It gives her an opportunity to contribute to African agricultural research at a larger scale,’ said John Carr, a researcher in the department of plant science at the University of Cambridge, UK, the principal investigator who worked with Mukeshimana in her bean project.

Her passion to make food and nutritional security in Africa a reality has resulted in recognition for international awards. In 2012, she was recognized by the United States Agency for International Development’s Board for International Food & Agriculture Development (BIFAD) for her significant contributions to the breeding of the common bean for drought tolerance and disease resistance. She also received a Norman Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP) fellowship for key contributions to breeding of the common bean.

Mukeshimana has previously served in different roles in education, agriculture and rural development sectors in Rwanda and she has conducted research in Africa, South America and the USA. She holds both PhD and MSc degrees in plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology from Michigan State University (USA), and an agriculture engineering degree from the National University of Rwanda.


New map: Benefits of controlling trypanosomosis in the Horn of Africa

Benefits of trypanosomosis control in the Horn of Africa

Benefits of Controlling Trypanosomosis in the Horn of Africa, by Timothy Robinson, Giuliano Cecchi, William Wint, Raffaele Mattioli and Alexandra Shaw.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has published an atlas illustrating the current state of African smallholder agriculture.

The Atlas of African Agriculture Research and Development comprises a series of maps and short analyses that showcase and locate the continent’s diverse agricultural challenges and opportunities. Seven topics are covered: political, demographic, and institutional classifications; the footprints of agriculture; growing conditions on the continent; the role of water in African agriculture; drivers of change in African agriculture; access to agricultural trade; and human welfare.

In briefs facing each map, the Atlas answers four questions: What are these maps telling us? Why is this important? What about the underlying data? Where can I learn more? By presenting a broad range of geospatial data and explanatory text, the analysts hope the Atlas will serve as a reliable and up-to-date guide for informed decision-making, which can help speed, broaden and sustain Africa’s agricultural productivity.

Benefits of Controlling Trypanosomosis in the Horn of Africa
By Timothy Robinson, Giuliano Cecchi, William Wint, Raffaele Mattioli and Alexandra Shaw

What are these maps telling us?
Using the Horn of Africa as an example, the maps illustrate different steps in a methodology developed to estimate and map the economic benefits to livestock keepers of controlling a disease (Shaw et al. 2014). Cattle are first assigned to different production systems as shown in Map 1, illustrating for example, where mixed farming is heavily dependent on the use of draft oxen in Ethiopia, areas of Sudan and South Sudan where oxen use is much lower, and the strictly pastoral areas of Somalia and Kenya.

Information on the location of cattle and production systems is combined with the distribution of tsetse fly species in the area (Map 2) to estimate the presence and absence of trypanosomosis, a parasitic disease transmitted by the tsetse fly. Herd growth and spread is modelled for the current situation, and for the simulated removal of trypanosomosis.

The outputs of the model are then presented as a map of the financial benefits to livestock keepers that would be realized from trypanosomosis removal, expressed as US$ per km2 (Map 3).

The estimated total maximum benefit to livestock keepers, interpreted also as the maximum level of losses avoided, in the Horn of Africa amounts to nearly $2.5 billion, discounted at 10 percent over 20 years to account for the opportunity cost of funds— an average of approximately $3,300 per square kilometer of tsetse-infested area. Map 3 shows how these benefits vary spatially.

Why is this important?
African animal trypanosomosis reduces the productivity of livestock, especially cattle, when it sickens or kills them. It also affects rural development and livelihoods more generally by limiting options for mixed farming and hindering a balanced use of natural resources. Moreover, in many areas the parasite causes sleeping sickness in people; a highly debilitating disease which if not treated is lethal.

Deciding where and how to intervene against this disease requires knowledge of relevant socioeconomic dimensions, such as poverty levels and the role of livestock in people’s livelihoods. The map of potential benefits from trypanosomosis removal in the Horn of Africa can help decisionmakers prioritize interventions by highlighting areas, such as Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya, where the financial return on investments to control the disease would be highest.

More information
Production of 30-plus maps covering the 7 topics took more than 5 years of work and the collaboration of many experts and organizations, including the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Africa’s diverse farming systems; McGill University on the extent of crop- and pasturelands; HarvestChoice and IFPRI on agroecological zones; and Welt Hunger Hilfe, Concern Worldwide and IFPRI on the severity of hunger.

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) produced four of the maps and accompanying analyses:

  • ‘Livestock and mixed crop-livestock systems’ and ‘Impacts of climate change on length of growing period’,
    by Phil Thornton, of ILRI’s Livestock Systems and Environment Program
    and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security
  • ‘Ruminant livestock’ and ‘Benefits of trypanosomosis control in the Horn of Africa’,
    by Tim Robinson, also of ILRI’s Livestock Systems and Environment Program

Tanzanian dairy film: The workings of a successful dairy platform

Innovation platform are increasingly being used in the development sector to bring stakeholders together to achieve shared development objectives. This 5-minute film tells the story of the Tanzanian Tanga Dairy Platform, which is helping dairy farmers in Tanzania to improve their milk production and sales.

Tom Ole-Sikar, a dairy advisor with the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Tanzania, and Charles Tumaini, the head of milk sourcing at Tanzania’s Tanga Fresh Limited, explain how the Tanga Dairy Platform started, who its members are, and how these stakeholders are benefitting from the forum.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with Tanzanian partners in implementing the ‘More Milk in Tanzania (MoreMilkIt)’ project to improve farmer access to feeding, breeding and animal health and credit services. This research is linked to the CGIAR Research Programs on Livestock and Fish and Humidtropics.

Read more about how ILRI works with partners in innovation platforms.


Tanzanian dairy film: Making a living from urban cows

 

This 3:47-minute film tells the story of Sheha Saidi, a dairy farmer from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, who compares her experiences of keeping dairy cattle in Tanzania’s largest city with the experiences of her sister who lives and keeps dairy cows in Pongwe, Tanga.

‘Keeping livestock is very beneficial,’ says Saidi. ‘Nearly everything that comes from livestock is useful, including milk, meat and hides,’ she adds, ‘and livestock also produce calves, which means a farmer gets a good return on what they invest.’

According to Saidi, compared to rural farmers, livestock farmers in urban centres like Dar es Salaam have better access to veterinary services for their animals and can produce more milk from fewer animals through zero-grazing.

‘However,’ Saidi says, ‘in Tanga livestock keepers have a ready and reliable market for their milk through the Tanga Fresh Dairy.’

In Tanzania, researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with their Tanzanian counterparts, farmers and other dairy sector stakeholders to help small-scale dairy farmers produce and sell more milk to meet increasing national demand for dairy products.

Read about ILRI in Tanzania.


Tanzanian dairy film: A farmer’s experiences in coastal Tanga


Watch this 3:47-minute film that shares the experience of dairy farming in Tanzania’s coastal region of Tanga.

In the film, Faustina Akyoo, a small-scale dairy farmer, explains how she learnt dairying from her parents in Arusha before moving to the coastal town of Tanga where she continued keeping cows in addition to taking up employment. She is now retired, and her five dairy cows are an important source of income for her family.

Akyoo is a member of the Tanga Dairy Platform, a pioneer dairying initiative in the country that is helping farmers like her better engage with dairy sector players in Tanga to improve milk production and marketing.

Tanzania is a target country of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, which is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). One of the projects under this program is ‘More Milk in Tanzania (MoreMilkIt)’, which is working with partners such as Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture to improve farmer access to feeding, breeding, animal health and credit services.

The ILRI-Tanzania country office was officially opened in June 2014.

Find out more about ILRI’s research in Tanzania.


Realpolitik–Nairobi ‘Community of Practice’ communicators get real practice impacting policymakers

 Johanna Lindahl 'pitches' her aflatoxin research to a policymaking panel in a Dragon's Den session

A community of practice for communications staff in research and development organizations (DevComms CoP) based in Nairobi participated in a ‘Science Communications for Policy Impact’ workshop following a conference, ‘Landscapes for People, Food and Nature’, at ICRAF on 3 July (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

A group of communications professionals working in agriculture, research and development in greater Nairobi have been meeting every year or so for the last four years. Communications staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have hosted most of these gatherings in the past. This year the gatherings have taken a ‘self-educational’ turn under the leadership of Abby Waldorf, a communications professional based on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she coordinates work for an Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. In March 2014, Waldorf worked with ILRI staff to organize two communications training workshops (in Addis and Nairobi) on ‘Blogging for Impact’ (see WLE blog article and ILRI blog article, the latter with links to resources recommended).

Waldorf more recently worked with communications staff of ILRI and the World Agroforestry Institute (ICRAF) to organize a  workshop on ‘Science Communications for Policy Impact’. It was held last week (Thu, 3 July 2014, 2–4pm) at ICRAF.

The workshop was a side event at a conference on Landscapes for People, Food and Nature in Africa, also hosted by ICRAF. The conference brought together some 200 African government officials, researchers, civil society leaders and private sector actors to generate an ambitious agenda to advance ‘integrated landscape initiatives’ in Africa. Given the conference’s goal of influencing policy, Waldorf and her communications teams at ILRI and ICRAF saw an opportunity to bring together Nairobi’s science communication professionals and the many policy wonks attending the conference.

The aim of the workshop was to give science communicators an opportunity to hear directly from policymakers about what works—and what doesn’t—about the communications materials and activities they tailor for policymakers. To this end, a Dragon’s Den session was conducted, with four scientists pitching their agricultural research to a panel of professionals engaged in policymaking processes; the latter then critiqued the research pitches, giving pointers on what, and what not, to do when engaging with policymakers.

All four of the brave scientists who volunteered to pitch their research to the policy panelists (and be publicly skewered in the process) were women (ahem). Hats off to them, including Johanna Lindahl, a Swedish post-doctoral scientist in ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses Program. Lindahl pitched innovative ways to reduce levels of toxins poisoning Africa’s food chains. Aflatoxins are a mould that infests groundnuts, maize and other staple food crops as well as milk, which is contaminated when the dairy cows of  smallholder farmers are fed crop wastes contaminated by the mould. Read more about her research here.

 Johanna Lindahl 'pitches' her aflatoxin research to a policymaking panel in a Dragon's Den session

ILRI post-doc Johanna Lindahl pitches her aflatoxin research to the policy panel (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The panel members comprised the following (truly ‘illustrious’) members.

 Policymakers Alex Awiti, East African Institute of the Aga Khan University (Kenya); and CJ Jones, One Acre Fund microinsurance (Kenya)

Policymakers Alex Awiti, director of the East African Institute of Aga Khan University (Kenya); and CJ Jones, CEO of ACRE (Kenya) (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Alex Awiti
Alex Awiti, a Kenyan ecosystems ecologist, is director of the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University, a regional platform for policy-oriented research, public engagement and capacity building, and assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on education, conservation, agriculture and food systems, population health, climate change, urbanization and natural resource governance. Awiti maintains an active blog (Advancing Global Sustainability) and Twitter account (@AlexAwiti) and writes regular op-eds for leading East African newspapers. He sits the on the board of the Resilience Alliance and is Africa editor for the Environmental Development journal. Before joining Aga Khan University, Awiti was a postdoctoral fellow at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a landscape ecologist at ICRAF.

Edmund Barrow
Edmund Barrow, an Irish community-based natural resources and drylands expert with over 40 years of experience in Africa and globally, is director of the Global Ecosystem Management Program of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is based in Nairobi. This program embraces IUCN’s work on drylands and islands, adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and the evolving IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. Barrow has extensive practical working experience with community-based natural resource and wildlife management and sustainable development (agroforestry, participatory natural resource and forest management) in different ecosystems (dryland and forest ecosystems in particular) and places much effort on capacity building and empowerment. His work has increasingly focused on the links between people’s livelihoods and their natural environments. He places emphasis on participatory approaches to environment and livelihood security and on customary and local knowledge and institutions. He has been collaborating with ICRAF (he told us), since ICRAF was located in Bruce House, in Nairobi’s Central Business District, which was many years ago!

CJ Jones
CJ Jones, from Australia, was until very recently country director and senior regional manager for private sector engagement with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), in Nairobi. She is now CEO of ACRE, a new micro-insurance think tank and product development initiative for smallholder farmers. Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd. (ACRE) helps reduce the burden of weather and other risks for small farmers. An experienced strategic thinker, business leader and entrepreneur, Jones builds relationships and delivers strategy at executive levels across range of sectors in challenging markets. She has extensive experience in African agricultural and business forums, leading market entry, acquisition, due diligence and business structuring assignments in both the private and development sectors. Follow CJ Jones (@ismicj) on Twitter.

Odigha Odigha
Odigha Odigha, a Nigerian forest activist and educator, leads a campaign against devastating industrial logging in the forests of Cross River State in southeastern Nigeria. These are the last remaining rainforests in Nigeria and are home to 2,400 native forest communities comprising 1.5 million people and the highest primate diversity on the planet. Odigha is part of Cross River State’s Ijagham community. He grew up admiring the richness of the rainforest, only to see the majority of it decimated by the early 1980s. Since 1994, Odigha has focused on the protection of the Cross River Rainforest and on sustainable development for rainforest communities. Despite enormous odds (he was forced to live ‘underground’ in the 1990s), Odigha has forged historic victories in the fight to protect Nigeria’s forest. With a democratic government now in place, Odigha has returned to his public role leading forest protection campaigns. His work has resulted in representation for Nigerian civil society in all forest management policies, including a statewide logging moratorium to protect the country’s remaining rainforests. In 2003, Odigha was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Ayodele Olawumi
Ayodele Olawumi, from Nigeria, is assistant director in charge of monitoring and evaluation for the Great Green Wall Programme and environmental officer in the Federal Ministry of the Environment, in Abuja. Also known as the ‘Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative’, this is a pan-African project to ‘green’ the continent from west to east by planting a wall of trees across Africa at the southern edge of the Sahara desert. It was developed by the African Union to address land degradation and desertification in the Sahel and the Sahara. Aiming to tackle both poverty and soil degradation, it focuses on a strip of land of 15 km (9 mi) wide and 7,100 km (4,400 mi) long, from Dakar to Djibouti.

 Policymaker Olawumi Ayodele, Great Green Wall Programme (Nigeria)

Policymaker panel member Olawumi Ayodele, of the Great Green Wall Programme (Nigeria) (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Do’s and Don’t’s
What follows is the gist of what the policy wonks had to say about our efforts to ‘pitch’ a bit of research to them.

DO

  • Be clear, crisp, accountable.
  • Put a story behind your facts.
  • Present your solution as doable.
  • Spell out why they should care about it.
  • Know your audience.
  • Do the research you need to do to know who you are speaking to.
  • Find out what they care about.
  • Be perfectly clear about what you are asking for.
  • Make every word count (tweeting is good discipline for scientists).
  • Speak policy, e.g., talk numbers (economic value, annual cost, etc.).
  • Tell them how much your project will cost (and how much not doing it will likely cost).
  • Combine your numbers with your passions.
  • Get personal.
  • Engage your audience.
  • Talk about what they care about.
  • Insert soundbites that perfectly suit (short) election cycles.
  • Think about incremental shifts that politicians can talk about at the next election.
  • Paint the bigger picture first so they see how your project serves big (global) ambitions.
  • Know your audience.
  • Think from your audience.
  • Make sure everyone has the same understanding of the terms (e.g., ‘hunger’) that you use.
  • Engage your audience.
  • Employ ‘soft skills’ (as important as your message).
  • Be patient: you are in the business of building up steam (or chipping away, as in the Berlin Wall).
  • Know whether you are speaking to bureaucrats (who dream up policies) or politicians (who enact them).
  • Connect your ‘ask’ to the bigger picture (e.g., not ‘landscape initiatives’ but ‘jobs creation’).
  • Be prepared to sustain your engagement with policymakers.
  • And—know and engage your audience.

DON’T

  • Present problems too big for policymakers to solve (not interested in those).
  • Use generalist terms that present unmanageable ‘asks’ (e.g., solving hunger); rather, reduce your ask to bite-size pieces (no one research project is going to solve ‘hunger’).
  • Never, ever, underestimate the power of soft skills (or their lack): how you dress, stand, walk, talk, make eye contact (or don’t), smile (or don’t smile). . .
  • Speak down to your audience (e.g., earnest, pontificating, moral, righteous, ‘you ought to’ kind of talk).
  • Talk to policymakers before you have done your homework on them.

Other policy advice

  • If no one uses your science, it’s as good as nothing.
  • If you can’t explain your science to a policymaker, you aren’t going to do any science that’s going to make any difference to anyone.
  • Make and use maps of champions and influencers in your area.
  • This (research for development) can be a very unkind, unforgiving business: Get used to it (and use it).
  • Science is not going to solve the problems of the world.
  • Make your objectives bite-size rather than aspirational so that policymakers have something they could begin tackling this month.
  • Know where the real policy power lies, as it’s not always (or usually) with the politicians or policy wonks themselves (e.g., you might be better off making your case before ‘the First Lady’ rather than the president).
  • Get rid of your disabling notions about policymakers (and they might just get rid of their disabling notions about scientists).
  • When you talk to a policymaker, don’t assume you’re the only expert in the room (see The Guardian‘s Top 20 things scientists need to know about policy-making (2 Dec 2013).
  • Annihilate over- and undertones of ‘we smart scientists’ ‘we aid workers saving the world'; they’re demeaning to your audience. (And not true.)

 Odigha Odigha, environmental activist (Nigeria); Ed Barrow, IUCN Global Ecosystems Program (Kenya); CJ Jones, OneAcre (Kenya)

Four of the five members of the policymaker panel (left to right): Odigha Odigha, award-winning environmental activist (Nigeria); Ed Barrow, director of IUCN’s Global Ecosystems Management Program (Kenya); CJ Jones, CEO of ACRE (Kenya); and Alex Awiti, director of the East African Institute of Aga Khan University (Kenya) (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Other policymaking communications channels
As few of us in the research or development worlds will make statements before panels of eminent policymakers, the next session of the workshop invited inputs as to other channels we can use to reach and influence policymakers. These include:

  • Op-eds and letters to the editor (300 words or less)
  • Community organizations
  • Social media (blogs, tweets, LinkIn news)
  • Short Web-published multimedia products
  • Parliamentary sub-committees
  • Newspapers and magazines (mainstream and specialized)
  • Television and radio
  • Science presentations at conferences and workshops where policy types are present
  • ‘Downtime’ at formal meetings (coffee breaks, bus rides to the hotel, field trips, etc.)
  • Working directly with champions of work in given areas
  • Breakfast/lunch roundtables mixing journalists with politicians, policymakers, technical experts, and clients
  • Field walks (people are moved by what they see/experience)
  • Kind of sexy timely chatter that gets picked up at cocktail parties or goes viral online (e.g., plays World Cup idiom right now)
  • Adverts
  • Advocacy campaigns

Invitation
If you’re a communications professional in the agricultural, research or development communities in Kenya, we invite you to become part of our vibrant local professional network, which we’ve recently dubbed ‘DevComms’. Please shoot an email to ILRI’s Angie Nekesa (a.nekesa [at] cgiar.org) to be included in our mailing list. That will ensure you get an invitation to the next DevComms gathering/event.

For more information about the event itself, contact WLE’s Abby Waldorf (a.waldorg [at] cgiar.org), ICRAF’s Daisy Ouya (d.ouya [at] cgiar.org) or ILRI’s Muthoni Njiru (m.njiru [at] cgiar.org).

Comment please!
If you participated in this DevComms CoP workshop, please add any other advice given in the comment box below. And if you weren’t at the event, please give us your own suggestions there!


ILRI-Tanzania country office opens in Dar es Salaam

 Hon Titus Mlengeya

Hon Titus Mlengeya (MP), the Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development in Tanzania, officially opened the ILRI-Tanzania country office on Friday 13 Jun 2014 in Dar es Salaam (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)-Tanzania country office is now open.

The Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development in Tanzania, Hon Titus Mlengeya (MP), officially opened the ILRI-Tanzania country office on Friday 13 Jun 2014 in Dar es Salaam at a reception hosted by ILRI and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

More than 45 guests from across Tanzania’s livestock sector and local media attended the opening ceremony.

Hosted at the IITA compound in the Mikocheni area of Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city and the country’s commercial centre, the opening of the ILRI-Tanzania office marks an important step towards ILRI’s increased presence and engagement in the country.

The ILRI-Tanzania office is headed by Amos Omore, a senior epidemiologist who serves as the Tanzania country representative in charge of coordinating ILRI’s research in the country.

‘In Tanzania we’re helping to intensify mixed crop-livestock production systems by increasing livestock productivity and enhancing livestock value chains’, said Omore.

Tanzania is also a target country of the ILRI-led CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, which is working to improve smallholder dairy value chains. One of the projects under this program is ‘More Milk in Tanzania (MoreMilkIt)’, which is working with partners such as Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture to improve farmer access to feeding, breeding, animal health and credit services.

 Jimmy Smith

‘Livestock is an important resource for many small-scale farmers in Tanzania, and we’re committed to helping this country’s farmers greatly improve their livestock livelihoods’, said Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI.

Victor Manyong, the IITA East Africa Hub director, said IITA looked forward to greater research collaboration between the two CGIAR centres to benefit Tanzanian farmers.

The chief guest of the occasion, Hon. Mlengeya, welcomed ILRI’s increased engagement in Tanzania saying it would ‘significantly contribute to the country’s research and development efforts towards improving livestock-dependant livelihoods’.

The minister highlighted the potential to improve people’s lives offered by the large livestock herds in the country. Tanzania is third in Africa in terms of the size of its livestock population, with 23 million cattle, 15 million goats, 7 million sheep, 2 million pigs and 60 million poultry.

‘We view dairying as an important agricultural pathway out of poverty’, said Mlengeya. He said the country had prioritized areas of focus for dairy development in the country’s eastern and southern highlands, and the northern and lake regions, to improve household incomes and nutrition.

At the event, ILRI researchers Denis Mujibi and Silvia Alonso, both based at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, and Edgar Twine, based at the MoreMilkIt project office, in Morogoro, spoke about ILRI’s on-going and upcoming projects in Tanzania.

 IITA science building

The ILRI-Tanzania office is located in the IITA compound in Dar es Salaam (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Three films were screened at this event. Produced by ILRI’s communication team, the short films record the stories of farmers in the Tanga Dairy Platform, which is improving small-scale farmer incomes from milk in Tanga, along the country’s northern coast.

The official opening of the office was preceded by a one-day field trip to Mvomero and Kilosa districts of Mororogo region, where ILRI staff, including Jimmy Smith and Iain Wright, ILRI’s acting deputy director general for integrated sciences, visited project sites of the MoreMilkIt project.

Watch a 3:47 mins filmed story of dairy farmer Fautina Akyoo on the benefits of  keeping cows for milk in Tanga, Tanzania.

 

Watch a 5:10 mins film on the experience of building a dairy innovation platform in Tanzania.

 

View more photos from the ILRI-Tanzania office opening.

Read more about ILRI in Tanzania


New UK funding for disease surveillance will improve health and farming in Kenya

189_kenya_Nanyingi

A small mixed crop-livestock farm in Western Kenya (photo credit: LCC CRSP/Mark Nanyingi).

The University of Liverpool has been given funding to start a surveillance program to reduce the incidence of diseases transmitted between people and livestock in western Kenya.

The £3.6 million grant will train veterinary and medical technicians to monitor farms, markets and slaughterhouses. They will use a mobile data collection system to generate a comprehensive database of the prevalence and economic impact of these diseases. The information generated will be used to provide evidence for government health policy in the area.

The area around Lake Victoria is among the most densely populated in East Africa and its population is still growing rapidly. To meet increasing local demand for milk, meat and eggs, many livestock farmers are ‘intensifying’ their subsistence farming methods.

But livestock here carry many diseases, called zoonoses, that are transmitted to humans from animals. This has led to outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis, Rift Valley fever, brucellosis and anthrax, but there is little data on which livestock are infected and by which diseases and some meat companies are introducing a blanket ban on products from this area.

Eric Fèvre, an epidemiologist in the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health who works jointly with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Kenya, explains.

Kenya is experiencing radical change in the way it produces meat for its growing population. However, the system for checking the quality and safety of this meat is not equipped to deal with the pace of change. This has a major impact on public health that is only going to grow as the population expands.

The Liverpool-led study will test 7,500 livestock and 6,000 humans for 14 diseases by training officials to visit markets, slaughterhouses and healthcare facilities. By the end of the project, a population of 1.5 million will be covered. The 5-year project will closely involve the Kenyan government’s Zoonotic Disease Unit, leaving a trained group of technicians, a comprehensive dataset and sample selection and the framework for a national surveillance system that can be adopted in future.

There is a lot of science behind how diseases are controlled and managed, but very little science around how to best do undertake surveillance. Our strategy is not to develop a completely new system but to strengthen and integrate surveillance work for zoonotic diseases.—Eric Fèvre 

The £3.6m Zoonoses in Livestock in Kenya project (ZooLinK) project is funded through a ‘Zoonoses in Emerging Livestock Systems’ (ZELS) program, which is a joint research initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Medical Research Council (MRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Partners in the ZooLinK project include the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Nottingham, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Government Zoonotic Disease Unit.

Read the original news release on the University of Liverpool website: £3.6m to improve health and farming in Kenya, 11 Jun 2014.


Aflatoxins in Kenya’s food chain: Overview of what researchers are doing to combat the threat to public health

ILRI aflatoxin infographic

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), made the following remarks at a media roundtable ILRI held late last year (14 Nov 2013) on the subject of aflatoxins in the food chain and what research is doing to combat their presence in developing countries.

‘Many organizations within and outside CGIAR are tackling the aflatoxin problem. Earlier this month, for example, a set of 19 research briefs on this global problem was launched in Washington DC by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative, and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

Why this topic is critical
‘Aflatoxins are toxic chemicals produced as by-products by fungi (moulds) that grow on maize, groundnuts and other food crops. These toxins also affect feedstuffs, which then contaminate milk, meat and eggs. The toxins occur everywhere in the world, but pose particularly high risks in tropical developing countries where certain staple foods, such as maize and sorghum, comprise a large part of the diets of the poor.

With maize and milk being so important in Kenyan diets, their contamination with aflatoxins poses a large threat to public health here.

‘Take milk for example. Kenya has more than 3 million dairy cows and 800,000 small-scale dairy farmers. A full 86% of Kenya’s milk is marketed “informally” by small-scale producers (note that neither boiling nor pasteurizing milk eliminates the aflatoxins). Kenyan milk consumption, estimated at 100 litres per person per year, is the highest on the continent.

Kenya is one of the world’s hotspots for aflatoxins, with what is believed to be the highest incidence of acute toxicity ever documented. This country suffered severe outbreaks of illness from aflatoxins in 2004 and 2010, poisoning more than 300 people in the 2004 event alone, and killing more than 100 of them. Domestic animals that consume feeds contaminated by aflatoxins also can become sick and die.

‘You will hear further today about the pernicious as well as pervasive damage aflatoxins cause in this as well as other countries’ agriculture and health sectors. Our research tells us that it will take a comprehensive approach to bring aflatoxins down to acceptably low (safe) levels. Scientists within CGIAR and its partner organizations are taking such an approach (see an infographic on this).

‘Through research, many institutes are attacking this problem on multiple fronts, such as:
• Reducing fungal contamination of crops in the field through biocontrol
• Developing cheap and easy to use ways to identify contaminated foods and feeds to prevent them getting into the food chain or being fed to animals
• Assessing the health risks posed by aflatoxins in dairy products

There is still considerable research to be done, but with this army of experts, working in some of the best research facilities on the continent, progress is being made.

Speakers at the 14 Nov 2013 ILRI event included the following.

Abigael Obura, of the US Centers for Disease Control, spoke of the Kenyan context of this problem.

Charity Mutegi, of CGIAR’s International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, where she is on secondment from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, spoke of development of biocontrols that prevent the spread of aflatoxins. Mutegi was recently honoured for her research on aflatoxins with the prestigious 2013 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application.

Johanna Lindahl, of ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, described national surveys conducted with Kenyan institutions to assess the extent and impacts of aflatoxins in dairy products. This constitutes the first ever study to assess the risks to human health of aflatoxins in Africa’s dairy products.

Jagger Harvey, of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, described development of cheap and easy-to-use tests to diagnose aflatoxin contamination.

Erastus Kang’ethe, of the University of Nairobi, concluded by noting what research remains to be done, and what practices to take up, to win the battle against aflatoxins in Kenya.

View an ILRI infographic: Aflatoxin: A fungal toxin affecting the food chain

View an ILRI poster: Levels of aflatoxins in the Kenyan dairy value chain: How can we assess the economic impact?, Oct 2013

Read previous articles about this event: ‘Bio-control’=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
Australia-funded research fights aflatoxin contamination in East African foods, 6 Feb 2014

Read an ILRI News Blog article introducing a 6-minute film interview of five panelists at the media roundtable on aflatoxins in Kenya: Reducing aflatoxins in Kenya’s food chains: Filmed highlights from an ILRI media briefing, 19 Dec 2013

Read an ILRI News blog article introducing a 6-minute ILRI film interview of John McDermott (IFPRI) and Delia Grace (ILRI), who lead research on aflatoxins for A4NH: Fighting aflatoxins: CGIAR scientists Delia Grace and John McDermott describe the disease threats and options for better control, 8 Nov 2013

Read more about the 19 IFPRI aflatoxin briefs released in Nov 2013: http://www.ifpri.org/publication/aflatoxins-finding-solutions-improved-food-safety

Read the whole publication: Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety, edited by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

Download Table of Contents and Introduction
1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace
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
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 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, Benoit Gnonlonfin, Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell


Africa’s first ‘Islamic-compliant’ livestock insurance pays 100 herders in Kenya’s remote drylands of Wajir for drought-related livestock losses

1-Kenya

A boy and a woman struggle with the dusty wind looking for water in Wajir, Kenya (photo on Flickr by Jervis Sundays, Kenya Red Cross Society).

Today, for the first time in Africa, an insurance policy that combines an Islamic-compliant financial instrument with innovative use of satellite imagery is compensating Muslim pastoralists for drought-induced losses suffered in Kenya’s northeastern Wajir County, where livestock are valued at Ksh46 billion (USD550 million).

Thirty women and 71 men in arid and semi-arid Wajir are the first beneficiaries of livestock insurance that conforms to the Islamic concept of takaful, in which risks are shared among a group of participants. Through a contract called tabbaru (donation), participants make contributions to a risk fund. In the case of a payout, which happened today, the fund makes payments commensurate with the contributions received.

The pilot program is paying approximately Ksh500,000 (USD5,800) for losses suffered to their herds of sheep, goat, cattle and camels during the long dry season that typically ends in March.

The herds were insured last August by Takaful Insurance of Africa (TIA) with an Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) product, branded as Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT).

IBLI uses satellite imagery—measuring the conditions of grazing lands—that is fed into an algorithm that predicts livestock loses. Predictions beyond the 15-percent level trigger indemnity payments. Drought conditions in much of Wajir County have surpassed the index trigger and active contract holders in these areas were compensated today.

This payout is critical for building confidence in the concept of insurance for the pastoral, drought-prone regions of East Africa, where life revolves around livestock and droughts can bring disaster,” said Andrew Mude, who leads the IBLI program of the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

It’s particularly important to make livestock policies work for places like Wajir,” he added, “where many thought the combination of isolation from economic activity and the vast, remote areas covered by pastoralist herders made protecting livestock assets with market-mediated insurance products impossible.”

 drought leaves dead and dying animals in northen Kenya

Dead and dying animals at Dambas, in the Arbajahan area of Wajir District, in northeastern Kenya, which in the mid-1990s dried up due to successive years of very little rain; Africa’s climates have always been erratic but there is evidence that global warming is increasing droughts, floods and climate uncertainty and unpredictability (photo on Flickr by Brendan Cox / Oxfam).

ILRI works in collaboration with a wide array of partners in this program that include the government of the Republic of Kenya, Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4), among many others.

ILRI and partners want to see livestock insurance available throughout East Africa, where an estimated 70 million people live in drylands, many of them making their living by herding animals. In Kenya alone, the pastoral livestock sector is estimated to be worth at least USD5 billion. The eight-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) estimates that over 90 percent of the meat consumed in East Africa comes from pastoral herds.

So far, about 4,000 pastoralists in northern Kenya, not all of them Muslim, have bought IBLI contracts since the project launched in 2010, an indication that there is both interest in and demand for livestock insurance.

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 Hassan Bashir, the CEO of Nairobi-based Takaful Insurance, whose father is a client and received a payout today.

Takaful earns a management fee from participants who pay contributions to become members of a fund or risk pool. The pool receives contributions and makes payments when the contract pays out. If a surplus results, it is distributed equitably to those members who are not recipients of the payout.

Experts at ILRI say that in semi-arid and arid regions, insurance can make keeping livestock a more effective and sustainable livelihood strategy and can act as a cushion to household assets and income in times of distress. Initial studies from other pastoral regions that have access to the IBLT product showed that droughts were less likely to damage diets in households that had bought insurance. The insurance also was linked to a 50 percent drop in distress sales of livestock and a 33 percent drop in reliance on food aid.

The IBLI program in Kenya is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Australia and the European Union.

Without aid we would be dead

Sixty-three-year-old Yarey Abdi iIobe lives in Shabantaabaq Village (the name means ‘five acacia trees’), in Wajir District, in the northeast corner of Kenya’s vast drylands. In 2001, the village had not seen rain in two and a half years and some 80% of its cattle died as a result (photo on Flickr by Oxfam East Africa).

ILRI researchers note that making livestock insurance commercially viable in East Africa will require catalyzing a critical mass of informed demand. They acknowledge this will be a challenge in a region where many herders occupy vast remote areas where communication and transport are difficult. But some experts believe the potential to protect pastoralists from drought and help them improve their herds justifies support from governments and donors, just as agriculture insurance is often subsidized in many countries across the globe.

We saw what Wajir was like in 2011 when the worst drought in decades killed almost half the livestock in the region and lives were left hanging in the balance,” said Liesbeth Zonneveld, country director of Mercy Corps, an organization that is a partner in the IBLT project. “Today we see a situation where drought remains a threat, but people have a way to protect their central source of food and income.

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith said the success of the IBLI program is evidence that pastoralists in Africa are as receptive as livestock keepers anywhere to options for managing risk.

These are people who over the centuries have learned how to nurture herds in some of the most challenging conditions in the world,” Smith said. “They may not have encountered livestock insurance before, but they have quickly understood how it can help bring a new level of stability to the pastoralist way of life.

The Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT) is a brand of the Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project developed in partnership by ILRI, Cornell University and Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4) at the University of California at Davis. The ILRI-led IBLI and IBLT projects are part of ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender and Impact Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Further information on the wider program agenda is available at www.ilri.org/ibli.

Takaful Insurance of Africa Limited (TIA) is a dynamic insurance company responsible for pioneering the Takaful concept, a new and ethical perspective to the insurance industry in Kenya and the region. http://www.takafulafrica.com/

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research on efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock. The products generated by ILRI and its partners help people in developing countries enhance their livestock-dependent livelihoods, health and environments. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a second principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other offices in Southern and West Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia.

Read more about ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project
Index-Based Livestock Insurance Blog

ILRI Clippings Blog
Livestock keepers in Kenya’s northern Isiolo District to get livestock-drought insurance for first time, 30 Jul 2013

ILRI News Blog
ILRI films on research helping Africa’s small-scale livestock keepers better adapt to changing climates, 13 Jan 2014
‘Livestock insurance project an excellent example of innovative risk management in Kenya’s arid lands’—Kenyan minister, 10 Sep 2012
Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance, 22 Feb 2012
Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders, 26 Oct 2011
Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa, 25 Oct 2011
Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments, 21 Oct 2011


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

Last month (14 Nov 2013), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held a roundtable briefing/discussion for science journalists in Nairobi to highlight on-going multi-institutional efforts to combat aflatoxins in the food chains of Kenya.

Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic by-product of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts. Researchers from across East Africa are joining up efforts to address the significant human and animal health challenges posed by these food toxins in the region.

Watch this 6-minute film, which highlights some of the interventions being used to tackle aflatoxins in Kenya. The film features interviews with the five panelists at the media briefing, who came from the University of Nairobi, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Kenya, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, and ILRI.

‘Even though the presence of aflatoxins in Kenya dates back to the 1960s, the first recorded outbreak of aflatoxins that affected humans was recorded in the early 1980s,’ says Erastus Kang’ethe, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Nairobi.

‘The biggest risk of aflatoxins comes from long-term exposure to these toxins, which leads to chronic aflatoxicosis,’ says Abigael Obura, of CDC. ‘The CDC in Kenya is working closely with the Ministry of Health to improve aflatoxin surveillance measures in Kenya’s districts through better sample collection and analysis.’

At the same time, Johanna Lindahl and other scientists at ILRI are assessing the risks posed by aflatoxins in Kenya’s dairy value chain; cows that consume aflatoxin-contaminated feeds produce milk that is also contaminated with the toxins.

According to Charity Mutegi, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, one of the key strategies in managing aflatoxins in Kenya is by using a ‘biological control technology that targets the fungus that produces the aflatoxins while the crop is still in the field.’ Known more popularly as ‘aflasafe,’ this technology, which is expected to be available in the country soon, is in use in other parts of Africa where ‘farm trials have yielded aflatoxin reduction of over 70 percent,’ says Mutegi.

Jagger Harvey, a scientist with the BecA-ILRI Hub, says the hub has established a capacity building platform for aflatoxin research that is being used by maize breeders from Kenya and Tanzania to, among other control efforts, come up with maize varieties that are more resistance to the aflatoxin-causing fungus.

Read a related ILRI news article about a filmed interview of two scientists leading work of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Delia Grace, of ILRI, and John McDermott, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who describe some of the risks aflatoxins pose, new options for their better control and why research to combat these toxins matters so much.

View an ILRI infographic of the impact of aflatoxins in the food chain.

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World’s largest agricultural research partnership, serving 1 billion poor, marks $1 billion funding milestone–CGIAR

Tanzanian Maasai helping to treat cattle against East Coast fever

Tanzanian Maasai help vaccinate their calves against lethal East Coast fever (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

CGIAR has doubled its funding in the last five years, from $500 million (in 2008) to $1 billion (in 2013).

Officials say harvesting the fruits of this historic commitment could, among other benefits, lift 150 million people in Asia out of poverty by boosting rice production, provide 12 million African households with sustainable irrigation, save 1.7 million hectares of forest from destruction, give 50 million poor people access to highly nutritious food crops, and save up to 1 million cattle from dying untimely deaths each year due to a lethal disease.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is one of 15 global research centres belonging to CGIAR, which works with hundreds of partners to develop innovative solutions, tools, and technologies for the benefit of the world’s poorest people. It seeks to bring cutting edge science to bear on a wide range of issues facing millions of farmers and other poor smallholders in developing countries who collectively generate nearly 70 percent of the world’s food production.

‘The $1 billion in funding will help finance CGIAR’s 16 global research programs and accelerate the development of scientific, policy and technological advances needed to overcome complex challenges—such as climate change, water scarcity, land degradation, and chronic malnutrition, greatly improving the well-being of millions of poor families across the developing world’, said Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium.

For more than 40 years, CGIAR and its partners have transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people with the tangible outcomes of agriculture research, including improved crop varieties, sustainable farming methods, new fish strains, novel livestock vaccines, climate-smart solutions, and incisive policy analysis.

For example:

In eastern Africa, a ‘live’ vaccine against the deadly cattle disease East Coast fever developed by ILRI with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and other partners and now being distributed by GALVmed, has saved 620,000 calves, benefiting up to 50,000 poor households that rely on cattle for food and income. The vaccine could benefit 20 million more people in the region, with annual benefits of $270 million.

  • Drought tolerant maize has increased farmers’ yields by 20-30%, benefiting 20 million people in 13 African countries.
  • ‘Scuba rice’, which can survive under water for two weeks, is protecting the harvests, incomes, and food security of poor farmers and consumers across monsoon Asia.
  • Newly developed potato varieties that withstand late blight disease and yielded eight times more than native varieties in the region have made the difference between having enough to eat or not in the Paucartambo province of Peru, where late blight threatened to devastate staple food supplies.
  • By integrating food crops with trees that draw nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil, an innovative agroforestry practice captures carbon and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, while improving soil fertility, rainwater use efficiency, and yields by up to 400% for maize in the Sahel region.
  • Across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nepal, and Pakistan, high-yielding wheat varieties resistant to Ug99, a highly virulent disease, have protected the livelihoods and food security of 500,000 farming families.

Read the CGIAR press release: CGIAR doubles funding to $1 billion in five years, 17 Dec 2013.

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Short filmed interviews of researchers and practitioners in livestock and fish ‘value chains’ in Uganda

Watch two short video interviews made on the sidelines of a recent three-day AgriFood Chain Toolkit Conference-Livestock and Fish Value Chains in East Africa, held 9–11 Sep 2013 in Kampala, Uganda.

Researchers and practitioners in livestock and fish value chains came together in this meeting, which ambitiously set itself the tasks not only of refining a research-developed value chain toolkit but also of supporting a community of practice established to review, assess and improve value chain approaches in research-for-development projects.

Fifty-seven participants from across Africa attended the conference, which was hosted by two multi-centre CGIAR research programs—‘Livestock and Fish’, led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, and ‘Policies, Institutions and Markets’, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, DC.

In this first, 3-minute, film, the meeting’s CGIAR research hosts share their views on what they hope to get out of the meeting and why their research matters.

‘We’re looking at ways research can help speed development of both the livestock and the aquaculture sub-sectors,’ said Iheanacho Okike, who leads ‘value chain development’ research in the Livestock and Fish program. ‘The value chain approach is helping us assess these commodities right from the dealers of inputs to livestock and aquaculture farmers to the production, marketing and consumption of the farmers’ food products, whether milk, meat and eggs, or fish, crustaceans and molluscs.’

Derek Baker, an ILRI agricultural economist who works with the Policies, Institutions and Markets program, said feedback from this meeting will help his research team assess if and how markets can be make to work better for small-scale food producers.

‘We wanted to capture the personal experiences of value chain practitioners and stakeholders in their use of our value chain toolkit. And we wanted to better understand the opportunities these livestock entrepreneurs would like to take advantage of if they could find the means to do so,’ said Baker.

In this second, 4-minute, film, a few value chain agents/practitioners share their experiences in using the CGIAR toolkit for dairy, fish and crop farming in eastern Africa.

‘Using this toolkit has helped me to improve my livestock production and to find new, better, ways to run my business’, said Lovin Kobusingye, a fish processor from Uganda.

‘Understanding how these value chain tools are used is critical in helping us know if and how the value chain approach works in the smallholder context’, said Elijah Rusike, from the Swedish Cooperative Centre in Zimbabwe. ‘We want information that can help us establish benchmarks and enables us to trace all the different actors within particular food value chains’, said Rusike.

The Kampala conference is one of several planned review workshops that will collate, synthesize and share good practices of value chain tool users, practitioners and researchers. This information supports ongoing CGIAR agriculture ‘value chains’ research in eastern Africa.

Read a related story from the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish blog

Read a related story from ILRI’s Livestock Markets Digest blog

Read notes from the event

View pictures of the event

View posters featured at the conference

Read a report on the workshop storytelling process

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CGIAR on the recent tragic events in Nairobi

Social media symbol of sympathy for Kenya after terrorist attack Sep 2013

Symbol of concern, sympathy, community spirit that quickly spread on Facebook and other social media sites during the 4-day terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which began just after noon on Sat 21 Sep and ended the evening of Tue 24 Sep 2013, at which time Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning, beginning today, Wed 25 Sep 2013 (photo / graphic credit: unknown).

We are all shocked by the tragic events that unfolded in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in recent days. We stand together with the people of Kenya during these three days of national mourning called for by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. We offer our deepest condolences to the many people who have lost loved ones or were hurt or traumatized as a result of this 4-day siege.

We thank everyone who has expressed concern for CGIAR staff members and their families during this time; while several were directly touched by this, we are thankful that we know of no staff member or member of their immediate families who have lost their lives or sustained major injury.

This, the worst terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 US embassy bombing, has touched every life in the nation and many beyond. We share the grief and sorrow that has resulted. We are committed to working with our partners in Kenya and many other countries to fulfill the CGIAR mission to help create a future more secure for all.

Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium
Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Jimmy Smith, Director General, International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

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Want ‘climate-smart’ farming adopted in Africa? Then better start collecting data on how much greenhouse gases African countries are emitting

 Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, a scientist at ILRI, says data on emissions estimates from developed countries are inapplicable to Africa’s climatic and environmental conditions (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Obtaining country-specific greenhouse gas emission data from agricultural activities is critical in supporting ‘climate smart’ agricultural practices that will help Africa’s smallholder farmers protect their livelihoods in the face of climate change.

According to Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), ‘current estimates of emissions from Africa’s agricultural sector rely heavily on data collected in developed countries that are inapplicable to Africa’s climatic and environmental conditions’. As a result, he says, many African countries simply don’t have reliable information on ‘greenhouse gas emission factors’ for their agricultural production activities. This is despite the fact that such agricultural emissions are the dominant source of harmful greenhouse gases in developing countries.

Butterbach-Bahl, who is on joint appointment at ILRI and the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, in Garmisch, Germany, made these remarks while giving a ‘livestock live talk’ on ‘Standard assessment of mitigation potentials and livelihoods in smallholder systems’ at ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 14 Aug 2013.

Food production contributes 19–29% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that originate from human activity, he reported. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land cover change, contributes 80–86% of total food system emissions.

According to Butterbach-Bahl, the absence of region-specific measurements of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities is hurting efforts to verify the environmental impacts of agricultural intensification in Africa. ‘Farmers and farmer organizations, government and non-governmental organizations need this information to know which options will make the best use of their land resources without further fuelling climate change.’

‘Without accurate emission data’, says Butterbach-Bahl, ‘African countries have little chance of identifying emission hotspots, of developing ways to reduce their emissions or of helping their communities to adapt better to a changing climate’. This will happen only by developing capacity and expertise in collecting greenhouse gas emission data in Africa, he says.

Butterbach-Bahl is leading a team of climate change scientists at ILRI and partner organizations, including an initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) that is assessing ways smallholder farmers in Kenya can help reduce emissions, and, thus climate change.

This project, ‘Identifying pro-poor mitigation options for smallholder agriculture in the developing world’, is working with smallholder farmers in mixed livestock-and-crop production systems in Nyando, in western Kenya. The project aims to quantify greenhouse gas emissions in this region and to identify mitigation options for smallholders at both farm and landscape levels.

 Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

The audience at a ‘livestock live talk’ on assessing climate change mitigation potentials in smallholder systems at ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 14 Aug 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

‘We’re looking at both the ecological and the economic impacts of climate change options adopted by smallholder farmers’, said Butterbach-Bahl.

ILRI is hoping to use experiences from this project and other ongoing climate change research activities:

  • to develop capacity in quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural sources
  • to build ILRI’s competence in measuring Africa’s agricultural greenhouse gas emissions
  • to build a network of greenhouse gas assessment labs across the continent that will allow countries to obtain country-specific agricultural-related data.

‘We want to show the benefits of climate-smart agriculture’, says Butterbach-Bahl. ‘We intend to collect enough evidence to demonstrate these benefits to policymakers so that governments have the information they need to implement climate-smart interventions.’

View the slide presentation made by Butterbach-Bahl.

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Index-based livestock insurance pilot launches today in drought-prone northern Kenya’s Wajir County

 drought leaves dead and dying animals in northen Kenya

Kenya: dead and dying animals in previous drought in Arbajahan, in northern Kenya’s Wajir County (photo credit: Brendan Cox / Oxfam).

Today (Sat 10 Aug 2013), Takaful Insurance of Africa is launching a pilot project providing satellite date-based livestock insurance cover for pastoral livestock herders in the drought-prone drylands of northern Kenya’s Wajir County.

The Takaful Livestock cover will provide livestock keepers in the county with covers against livestock deaths resulting from shortage of fodder due to prolonged dry weather.

Those who subscribe to this insurance policy will receive payments if the forage available for their insured cattle, camels, sheep or goats falls below a given threshold, with assessment of the state of vegetative cover in the county determined by satellite data.

Takaful Insurance is partnering in this project with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and MercyCorps. ILRI, under the leadership of Andrew Mude, is providing the satellite data and MercyCorps is coordinating public awareness campaigns.

Among those who will be in attendance are:

  • Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI
  • Andrew Mude, leader of ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project
  • Abdihafith Maalim, deputy governor of Wajir County
  • Liesbeth Zonnoveld, country director of Mercy Corps
  • Hassan Bashir, chief executive officer of Takaful Insurance of Africa

The launch of this new livestock insurance scheme, the first ever provided in this county, begins at 12 noon at the Wajir Guest House in Wajir town.

About Takaful Insurance of Africa
Founded in 2008 and licensed in Mar 2011 by the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), Takaful Insurance of Africa Limited (TIA) is pioneering an ethical approach to insurance in Kenya and the region based on the Shariah principles of togetherness, cooperation and mutual solidarity. Each participant contributes a given premium, which is pooled in a general fund managed by TIA on behalf of the members. Through the principle of Tabarru’, or donation, members allow the company to pay any loses suffered by participants contributing to the pool, while any surplus left from the pooled funds after payment of claims and other expenses is either used to grow the reserves or is distributed among members.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) ILRI is a not-for-profit institution with a staff of about 600 and, in 2012, an operating budget of about USD 60 million. A member of the CGIAR Consortium working for a food-secure future, ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and offices in other countries in East, West and Southern Africa and in South, Southeast and East Asia. ILRI works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.

Read more about ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project

Index-Based Livestock Insurance Blog

ILRI Clippings Blog
Livestock keepers in Kenya’s northern Isiolo District to get livestock-drought insurance for first time, 30 Jul 2013

ILRI News Blog
‘Livestock insurance project an excellent example of innovative risk management in Kenya’s arid lands’ Kenyan minister, 10 Sep 2012
Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance, 22 Feb 2012
Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders, 26 Oct 2011
Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa, 25 Oct 2011
Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments, 21 Oct 2011

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