Enhancing Livelihoods of Poor Livestock Keepers through Increased Use of Fodder: Project news

Fostering convergence and technology adoption: Scaling MilkIT dairy feed innovations in India

During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.

Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.

B.K. BhattB.K. Bhatt works as Program Manager for Agriculture-Horticulture in the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP) financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He works for the Uttarakhand Gramya Vikas Samiti one of three agencies implementing the ILSP for the Rural Development Department   of the Uttarakhand state government in India.

He summarized the aims of the UGVS- ILSP as up scaling food production through market access as well as market and innovation linkages. Within this wider scope, dairy value chains are one of the subsectors that the project focuses on. He says this is because dairying ‘provides a lot of income for small farmers – at their doorsteps.’

The project works through ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ in many villages that provide a range of animal health and husbandry services, including, of particular relevance to MilkIT, support of fodder banks. So far, the project has worked in 11 districts and 41 blocks.

Fostering convergence

He first encountered ILRI’s Thanammal Ravichandran – local MilkIT project facilitator, when he was posted to Bhageshwar. “I was very much happy and I went with her to the various actors and stakeholders in order to get convergence across the different departments. My project also financially supported the cooperative where MilkIT was working, to upscale the activities and strengthen the dairy cooperative.”

Collaboration and convergence were what initially attracted him. He could see the local innovation platforms operating in some locations, bringing different actors together. “This was a great thing because every department is working in isolation; they do not come together on a single platform.”This is what, he says, MilkIT offered: “Bringing together the technocrats and market players, with a lot of motivation!”

“Everybody was working in their own direction, but MilkIT united everyone and brought together all the different information.” It was particularly useful that the platforms also connected with research; they were also a conduit to new technical information.

Beyond its convening power, Bhatt also saw that the platforms could help his project to promote technologies to communities, things like forage chopping and animal health improvements.

He recognized the potential of the innovation platforms to create ‘convergence’ among different actors and to bring technologies into the reach of farm communities, especially women.

Looking to the future, now that the main research phase of MilkIT is ending, he reflected on what brought the projects together and how to build on the connections built.

Livestock development platforms

“The MilkIT project is leaving a footprint that we will try to carry forward – we share the exact same technical agenda.” In the coming period, the ILSP will set up 100 ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ (including the existing 64 ).

Each will ideally be linked to dairy cooperatives (Aanchal of the Uttarakhand Co-operative Dairy Federation) as well as other actors like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. He says he would like them to be more like the MilkIT innovation platforms, taking on some of their roles and helping to converge all the various schemes in each location. Each centre is run by a local community member, normally a paraprofessional (or para-veterinarian) with some technical skills, and, perhaps now, with some facilitation training to help ensure the envisaged monthly meetings of actors are effective.

Ultimately he wants the communities to be uplifted through better technologies and improved market linkages.

MilkIT, through its platforms, helped trial and test some practical, low-tech feed interventions and prove their usefulness. He wants these to be scaled out and put into practice, where appropriate, in all the districts where the UGVS- ILSP works.

While less tangible, he also sees a lot of benefits provided by the platforms themselves as places where all the various actors – community, government and market – can interact and especially converge around the important work that has to be done.

Read a related interview with Ahmed Iqbal, chief development officer for Almora district in the Uttarakhand state government

Solution-oriented action research: Scaling MilkIT dairy feed innovations in India

During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.

Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.

Ahmed Iqbal Ahmed Iqbal is chief development officer (CDO) for Almora district in the Uttarakhand state government. In this role, he supervises the rural development and poverty alleviation operations of state and federal government departments as well as a vast set of governmental schemes and services provided in the district. This includes aspects of livelihood related to agriculture, horticulture, animal health, fisheries, dairy development, and the dairy cooperative amongst others. In all this, he says that “livestock is at the heart of farmers’ livelihoods, so animal health and dairying are very central” to his work.

He sees one of his key roles as to make sure the intended beneficiaries are aware of the various schemes and that they are taking up the services. “My job is to help make sure that farmers are really accessing these services. The innovation platforms [of MilkIT] seem to play a positive role in this. By bringing people together in a similar platform, informally, it was easy to convince them to take up the schemes.”

Connecting communities with service providers

Like his colleague B.K. Bhatt from the IFAD-supported Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP), it was the local MilkIT coordinator Thannamal Ravichandran who brought the platforms to his notice. He said that he was at that time especially interested in overcoming challenges of inter-departmental coordination, which is a major implementation challenge, and he saw a potential in innovation platforms to facilitate this.

After initial discussions with MilkIT and ILSP staff (early November 2014), he saw the platforms in action, linking dairying communities and cooperatives. They looked like good mechanisms to help identify local problems and devise local solutions (specifically for dairying – which has a large potential). Moreover, he realized they might also be vehicles to connect government services to people. His concern was however not to overload the platforms. Let them keep a dairy focus and “let’s try and scale these.”

Since then, he was approached by the state dairy cooperative (under the brand ‘Aanchal’) asking that the approach be taken up elsewhere.

He immediately convened a district level stakeholder workshop to analyze the complete dairy value chain and obvious bottlenecks and come up with a strategy and roadmap. It served as a sensitization event where various stakeholders expressed interest in these approaches and ideas, notably the dairy cooperative. He says the group plans to meet every month …

“The MilkIT team sold a mix of demonstrable interventions, maybe also the innovation platforms as one of the interventions. Now we need to decide the best approach, and maybe select some other needy clusters.” He reflected that they “could perhaps build this approach on to the existing 260 mini-cooperatives under Aanchal, perhaps with funds from IFAD or the cooperative itself. We need to find the right interventions and the right institutional entry points.”

He further emphasized two points: that a lack of good communications among the big stakeholders is a big issue and, most importantly, that they need to show tangible results.

“But one of my primary concerns concerns is who should play the role of the facilitator of the Innovation platforms? We need to keep it informal and avoid becoming rule-bound but at the same time there is a risk of making the entire process appear as very casual and amateurish”

That’s the process so far.

Sustaining momentum

When asked to reflect on what it was about MilkIT that interested him and what the future holds, he said: “MilkIT grabbed my attention particularly because we were already conceptualizing a mechanism to identify possible causes of declining milk production in the district, particularly by the cooperatives. MilkIT acted as a catalyst in our efforts; the most promising aspect was probably the outcome that simple and small interventions could produce visible and immediate effects on the value chain provided they were carried out with clinical precision. So I thought that we could really scale this up. I found something like this that could really trigger wider behavioral changes…”

He argued that the biggest challenge he sees is to make the platform sustainable. The stakeholders are critical in this and he pointed to the need to instill a sense of ownership, and “choose some areas where we have a good chance to make progress.” He mentioned that the strong interest by the dairy cooperative and the IFAD project may provide the flexibility in pursuing such approaches, “that we don’t usually have.”

One path to sustainability he saw was to integrate the platform approach with existing systems and services so it is taken up easily. He noted that there are many existing schemes in the district, perhaps the “only thing lacking is a platform for getting to specific local constraints and to help target these.” The advantage he saw is that joining forces would help to overcome previous piecemeal interventions that have not given good results. He cautioned that the tradeoff in joining the larger schemes is that ‘innovation’ may fall off.

Solution-oriented action research

Finally, our conversation shifted to other areas, looking at the contributions of agricultural research more generally to his work in the state government.

From his perspective Iqbal suggested that there’s a “huge disconnect between research and extension and people.” He observes much research in silos and not well-connected to the district or to farmers. There seems to be a “huge time gap between lab to land.”

MilkIT, he said, kind of “reverse engineered the research process.” Research would be more relevant if it was more context-based and with tangible results.

Pat of the challenge is with the ways research interacts with government. He described much of the dialogue with research and academia as very formal and rigid and cursory. He took some responsibility however: “We as government are not very proactive with academia and research.” He also recognized the potential benefits of better engagement with research. He and other development officers do meet and exchange with one another. But they struggle to access past knowledge and research. They are literally “starving (for knowledge).”

He concluded by reminding us that districts are where the (development) action is. And “what I need is solution-oriented action research.”

Leveraging instructional design and learning theories to improve livestock feed productivity

At this week’s international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture, Iddo Dror presented a poster on ways that ILRI is leveraging instructional design and learning theories to improve productivity in  smallholder systems. The poster is about a learning package to support use of the FEAST tool.



Feed for livestock is often cited as the main constraint to improved productivity in smallholder systems, yet uptake of feed technologies remains relatively low. The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) is a set of electronic forms and accompanying documentation designed by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to help research and development practitioners working in the agricultural sector conduct farmer-centered diagnoses by providing a more systematic means of assessing current feed, related strategies and analytics to inform the development of new strategies. The main forms of the FEAST tool are built on Microsoft Excel, but feature a more visual, more intuitive interface than typical spreadsheets.

To date, FEAST training for practitioners has consisted of 3-day, face-to-face sessions conducted on-site in host countries, facilitated by members of ILRI’s staff. While the growing popularity of the FEAST tool is seen as a positive development, the increasing demand for training has placed a considerable strain on ILRI’s staff, to the detriment of other activities, and perhaps also limits the dissemination of the tool to all those who can benefit from it. Meanwhile, there is a sense that 3 days of traditional classroom instruction might not be sufficient to adequately address the major concepts and skills necessary for the participants’ success in the field.

As part of ILRI’s contributions to CGIAR research programs on Livestock and Fish and Humidtropics, ILRI has decided to convert the existing materials into a blended learning course with both online and offline modules, and a re-designed face to face component, to provide a more effective learning experience to more participants in less time than current methods / resources allow, reduce the burden on current facilitators while ensuring consistency and accuracy of instruction even if less experienced facilitators are enlisted to deliver the classes, and better track the performance of class participants.

The poster/presentation covers the process followed, explain why and how to reformat and refine course materials, and provide an overview of effective development of eLearning and blended learning materials in the context of systems research developing countries.

More information: ilri.org/feast

More about the conference:

Web page

Twitter hashtag: CGIAR_Systems


FEAST – how it helped a feed innovation project with engagement, intervention design and impact assessment

Selecting locally appropriate feed technology - Uttarakhand, India

Selecting locally appropriate feed technology – Uttarakhand, India

In December 2014, the IFAD-financed MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) held final workshops in Lushoto and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

As we mentioned before, we sought to draw out some key insights from our experiences. This concerns the use of a feed assessment tool which we discovered to have more uses that we first planned …

FEAST was originally developed as a decision-support tool to help in identifying appropriate feed interventions in smallholder systems. During the MilkIT Project FEAST was used in both India and Tanzania but in different ways and with different benefits. We reflected on the use of FEAST during our final project meeting in Lushoto Tanzania and produced a rough poster outlining the various ways in which FEAST was used and what the benefits of use were.

In Tanzania, FEAST was applied at an early stage of the project and used to characterize the livestock production system and the various livestock feeding issues prevalent in our study sites. The results of the FEAST exercise were then fed back to IP’s and used as a catalyst to discussing possible intervention strategies. What emerged from these discussions was a series of feed interventions that were then applied in project sites. The Tanzania team felt that using FEAST helped to build engagement with farmers and other stakeholders and also created a sense of ownership of the interventions that were subsequently tried. Interventions in Tanzania included private pasture improvement and cultivation of planted forages.

In India, when FEAST was applied, the emphasis was on collecting quantitative data for impact assessment. The India team put a lot of effort into a rigorous sampling regime and used FEAST in both target and control communities. This allowed the FEAST data to be used as a biophysical baseline. FEAST was re-used at the end of the project with the same households to allow changes in feeding practices to be assessed. There was less emphasis on the qualitative aspects of FEAST.

In both cases, the fact that FEAST is a ready-made tool with questions that have been tried and tested, meant that it could be applied relatively quickly and easily. Although the use of the tool was different in the two project countries, in both cases application of a simple tool allowed project staff and partners to quickly identify key feed issues and move forward with some practical interventions. In both countries, the process of applying FEAST helped to get the conversations going and engage local stakeholders in the process of deciding on interventions.

Three key features of FEAST emerged from brainstorming at the Lushoto meeting:

  1. FEAST is a proven tool for identifying feed interventions
  2. FEAST is a good way of engaging local communities and stakeholders
  3. FEAST helps to catalyze “buy-in” of local stakeholders which helps the subsequent implementation of feed interventions

A writeshop in early March 2015 will help transform these insights into finished learning products.

More news from the MilkIT project

More experiences with FEAST

Enhancing dairy feed interventions in India and Tanzania – three messages from the MilkIT project

In December 2014, the IFAD-financed  MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) held final workshops in Lushoto and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

On 11 December, team members met in an  ‘Outreach Meeting’ with various stakeholders and partners. The aim of the meeting was to continue synthesizing the key insights of the project through interactions with a wider community.

Alan Duncan, project coordinator from ILRI, kicked off the discussions with a brief presentation of the project and its activities.  Beyond the formal project objectives (institutional strengthening, enhanced productivity, and knowledge sharing), he emphasized how the team actually worked towards three sets of results:

  • More milk sales (at village level)
  • More actor-market linkages (at various levels)
  • More and better feed (at local levels)

He explained how the project approach was essentially around three sets of interventions:

  • Diagnostic activities designed to help target interventions to real issues and constraints at community level
  • Delivery of solutions – technical as well as institutional, to address challenges and needs
  • Preparing for scale – engaging with other institutions, building partnerships and promoting wider uptake of the solutions and the approaches employed in the project
  • . . . all devised and delivered through innovation platforms at different scales.

For the outreach session, the project team worked on three main messages emerging from the work. Using a ‘bus stop’ approach, groups of participants interacted around the different issues using informal ‘posters’ prepared by the teams.

MilkIT poster on diagnostic tools for feed interventions 1. Identifying feed diagnostic tools to target interventions

The two main tools used to target interventions in the project were dairy value chain assessment and FEAST. The dairy assessment tool focuses on the wider set of actors related to feed and market linkages whereas FEAST is a systematic approach to assess whether feed is an issue in a given situation, as well as any specific constraints and opportunities. FEAST is used in a process of farmer-centred diagnosis to pinpoint what needs to be done within the specific local context.

Key messages are that this is a well-tested and proven tool that helps identify suitable interventions. Moreover, it engages the communities and other stakeholders in discussing and assessing the various options and it has been helpful to build ‘buy-in’ from communities to implement feed technologies.

In India, the various assessments were also used as part of the community baseline activities and provided a basis to re-visit communities over time.


2. Linking technical interventions with market interventions

One key characteristic of the project was to address both milk marketing and dairy feeding issues. In fact, the project’s hypothesis was that improvements in milk markets would lead to increased productivity (and more milk production) in the different communities. This team explained how the innovation platforms in each country tackled this question in a different way.

MilkIT poster on milk market linkages In India, the project deliberately sought to link farmers to markets. Farmers found various ways to market their milk such as setting up their own marketing organization or actively seeking increased collaboration with the state dairy co-op. Once milk started to be sold, other interventions, including those promoted by other organisations, were identified and implemented, which led to improved efficiencies and increased milk production.

This all led to strong demand and subsequent widespread adoption for improvements in feed supply, such as better links to concentrate suppliers or reducing feed wastage through adoption of fodder troughs and choppers – interventions which had not been envisioned at the project outset. In this case, the focus on development through market linkages proved to be efficient and fast, but rather unpredictable.

In Tanzania, the innovation platforms concluded that addressing milk market issues directly would be difficult. Thus, the entry points were focused around fodder and forages, increasing their availability to farmers. This led to some increases in milk production and ultimately to more efforts to connect to the markets. In this case, the focus on development through productivity (of animals) had positive results, but was quite difficult and slow.

These cases stimulated a lively discussion on phasing dairy development. Should farmers connect to markets and use the market ‘pull’ to drive productivity increases? Or, should farmers focus on increases in milk productivity which will attract the processors, for example, to come to them. Arguments went both ways with no definitive answer. However ILRI’s Nils Teufel who led this session did conclude calling for people to ‘Go for the market, go!’


MilkIT poster on innovation platforms for dairy 3. Innovation platforms to identify promising solutions to dairy development

Innovation platforms were set up at different levels as part of the project. In Tanzania the focus was on village platforms as well as a regional one for Morogoro (connecting to and complementing an existing regional one for Tanga). In India, the platforms were set up for village clusters and initial work was done for a district platform.

The key messages were that the platforms benefit the farmers and other participants. They resulted in more milk sales, more interactions and better linkages among different value chain actors and, in Tanzania, access to a larger variety of better feeds.

In terms of their comparative advantages, the platforms were perceived to be need based (they pulled technologies), providing faster adoption, improved communication linkages, and fostering gender equity and greater actor empowerment.


More about the MilkIT project


Story based on a draft by Mercy Becon, ILRI Tanzania with inputs from Nils Teufel

Growing food and feed with less environmental impact: A dual-crop impact narrative

Dual-purpose crops, which produce both high grain yields and nutritionally-rich crop residues for livestock, allow combined production of food and fodder from the same land and using a similar amount of water and labour.

Such crops particularly benefit smallholders with mixed livestock-crop farming systems, addressing common problems such as poor availability of quality livestock feed and strong competition for land. Much research to improve the feed value of fodder in recent decades has emphasized post-harvest treatment of crop residues.

In contrast, ILRI and its partners have focused on crop breeding, to develop improved crop cultivars that better match farmers’ needs for both grain and nutritious residues. In India, for example, research has shown that improved sorghum residue, combined with feed fortification, could more than triple average daily milk yields from 4 to 15 litres per animal.

Download a brief that illustrates how ILRI and its partners are developing highly productive dual-purpose crops and presenting a strong case for further, stronger collaboration between national and international crop and livestock institutions.

MilkIT: Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India through feed innovation

The MilkIT (enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation) project comes to an end in December 2014.

The overall goal of the project was to contribute to improved dairy-derived livelihoods in India and Tanzania via intensification of smallholder production focusing on enhancement of feeds and feeding using innovation and value chain approaches.

From 9-11 December, project participants will meet in Tanzania to document lessons and results, holding an outreach workshop on the 11th in Dar es Salaam to bring the key insights to different stakeholders and partners. We expect to share some of these lessons on this web site.

The project team in India recently produced a video documenting some of the project’s experiences, zooming in on innovation platforms, womens’ empowerment, and enhanced forage availability.

Watch the video:



Innovation platforms as a route to dairy development in India

In the hills of Uttarakhand climate change is leading to reduced water from snow-melt being availability for irrigation and more extreme weather events. This is making crop production difficult and some crop land is being abandoned. Men are migrating to find work and many of the women remaining in the villages would like to earn an income from milk production.

The International Livestock Research Institute has adopted an innovation platform approach as a route to dairy development in the hills of Uttarakhand. Innovation platforms are a way to bring together different stakeholders to identify solutions to common problems or to achieve a common goal. They ensure that different interests are taken into account, and that various groups contribute to finding solutions. Used by the private sector for many years to gather information and improve networking among key stakeholders in a particular economic sector, they caught the attention of development agencies at the end of the 1980s. They are now increasingly common in research and development initiatives.

This case study illustrates how the Innovation Platform (IP) approach is being used by the project “Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches” (MilkIT), which is being funded by a grant from IFAD. In Uttarakhand the project is working in two districts, with two village clusters – each of four to six villages – in each district. Initial meetings of the innovation platforms in each cluster identified the following main constraints and issues where interventions are needed:

  • Lack of market access and high transaction costs
  • Distance to road/ lack of accessibility to road
  • Low price for milk from Aanchal, the state dairy co-operative
  • Wastage of fodder (estimated at 20-30%) through inefficient feeding systems
  • Shortage of green fodder in several specific periods
  • Poor availability and high cost of concentrate feed
Innovations emerging from application of the IP approach:

Jeganath women’s dairy cooperative was formed in February 2013 by female members of a self-help-group (SHG) associated with the Bageshwar dairy value chain IP. Their aim was to sell their surplus milk at a higher price than that being offered by Aanchal, the state dairy cooperative. Milk is now being collected from 7 villages and sold in the nearby town of Bageshwar directly to consumers through a rented shop, and to tea shops. As a result farmers are receiving a price which is 20% higher than for the previous marketing system. Initially, only 35 farmers were participating with 40 litres of milk per day but soon this reached 120 litres from 105 farmers. Each woman is earning Rs600 to Rs4,000 per month and eight members have been employed along the value chain for collection, transport and marketing of the milk, providing each with an income of Rs1,000-7000/month.

Geeta Bisht, a women farmer who collects milk for the cooperative at Kolseer village in Uttarakhand

Geeta Bisht, a women farmer who collects milk for the cooperative at Kolseer village, earning Rs2/litre for this work. Photo by Thanammal Ravichandran.

The new attractive market for milk has motivated farmers and encouraged them to replace their local cows with higher-yielding cross-bred animals. Dairy is now considered as an important means of income generation and is reducing the migration of some younger people. The initial capital investment for the purchase of equipment (chillers, cans, milk analyser) was supported by a grant and a loan from the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP), which is being supported by an IFAD loan. The dairy cooperative is now being operated independently by its members, and earned a profit of Rs60,000 over the period of 16 months.

The IP as a platform for the convergence of support. IP members include the National Agricultural Bank for Rural Development (NABARD), commercial banks and the local Animal Husbandry Department. These agencies are supporting farmers through credit and subsidy for the purchase of high yielding animals and for the renovation of cow sheds. NABARD has taken the decision at state level to scale up the IP approach in 3-4 more clusters of other districts in collaboration with ILSP. Krishi Vikas Kendras (KVKs), local research and development centres have provided technical support to farmers for the construction of feed troughs, shelters and for the purchase of grass seed.
Initially, it was difficult to attract private institutions to the IP meetings. However after a while private milk traders have taken the initiative to collect excess milk from these clusters at competitive prices in order to supply restaurants and sweet shops with milk. TARA, a private feed company, has also shown interest to enter into an agreement with women farmers for long term supply of concentrate feed at competitive rates. A private agricultural equipment supplier from Haldwani, the local commercial hub, has agreed to supply Mounted Scythe Chaff Cutters (Gujarat model), which are in demand among the farmers for chopping fodder, but are less expensive and labour demanding than standard models found in the plains.

Women farmers discussing their problems in an IP meeting in Kolseer village, Uttarakhand

Women farmers discussing their problems in an IP meeting in Kolseer village, Bageshwar. Photo by CHIRAG

Improved feeding practices can be observed among the farmers participating in IP meetings. These include the construction of feed troughs and the use of chaff cutters to reduce fodder wastage. This helps to decrease the labour needed for collection of fodder from hilly areas and reduces the feed constraint. Feeding of concentrate feed to increase milk yield, cultivation of high yielding dual purpose cereals and planting fodder crops have also emerged as solutions to the constraints in feed supply. Loans from ILSP have been used to purchase concentrate feed directly from TARA.

Impacts: improved livelihoods are becoming apparent as the result of the interventions. Income from dairy production is managed mainly by women and used for household expenses, to pay school fees and to buy inputs. Some households have invested in crossbred dairy animals as well other enterprises such as poultry or in a vehicle for hiring out. Community-based interventions through the IP approach have given people confidence that the dairy enterprise is profitable for women farmers in these hill areas.

This story was first published  by IFAD India in its November 2014 newsletter.

It was written by Thannamal Ravichandran, Nils Teufel and Alan Duncan

Innovation Platforms as a tool for smallholder dairy development: Experiences from Uttarakhand in India

At last week’s Tropentag 2014 conference Thanammal Ravichandran, Nils Teufel and Alan Duncan gave a presentation on the use of  innovation platforms in the ‘milkIT’ project in India.

Innovation platforms (IPs) are emerging as a new tool for agricultural development focusing on sustainable market development and technology uptake. IPs as a development approach recognise that innovation emerges from the complex interaction of multiple actors who together foster technical, social and institutional change.

In recent years, with funding from IFAD, ILRI has implemented 2 dairy value chain IPs in 2 districts in the state of Uttarakhand in India. This study evaluates the process of IP functioning and conflict management through a qualitative “innovation storyline”. The IP meetings were regularly documented with details of issues discussed, actions planned and follow up activities.

Qualitative analysis of IP documentation over one year led to a storyline which showed that even though identified constraints were similar for both platforms, different innovations emerged according to the driving forces and the enabling environment. The first innovation to emerge was linking to the market for milk sales; linking with the state co-operative was the only option for the Sult clusters as the distance to the nearby town is large. In Bageshwar clusters marketing channels are diverse, starting with a self-help group based co-operative, followed by sharing excess milk with private traders. Feed and breed improvement innovations emerged later and were reasonably successful after market access had been improved. There were institutional conflicts (co-operative membership, breeding policy) and religious beliefs (not to sell milk) which hindered the innovations but these were handled through informal negotiations and tackled through innovative champions. Private actors were not attracted to the value chain initially, but were later motivated by marketing and feed sales.

The innovation storyline/history is a powerful tool to reflect on the innovation process and to share experiences with outsiders and it can be a qualitative first step for impact assessment. Addressing the conflicts or power dynamics in the initial stage is important in the IP to avoid stalling the innovation process.

View the presentation:



Last week, ILRI staff participated in the Tropentag 2014 International Conference in Prague (17-19 September 2014). See all the posters and presentations.


More on innovation platforms


Impact of feed technologies on livestock production in India: Poster summaries from four studies

The livestock sector in India plays an important role in sustaining the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, especially the rural poor. Dairying is particularly important for these farmers because they rely on milk for nutrition and to supplement household income. However, the livestock sector in India faces many challenges related to access to high-quality livestock feeds and markets for dairy and livestock products.

The posters below, prepared for the Tropentag 2014 conference, highlight livestock feeds and milk marketing challenges in India and research evidence of ways they could be addressed based on studies by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners.

The first poster presents experimental results from Odisha State on the impact of straw chopping in combination with feeding mineral mixture on milk productivity in livestock.



The second poster presents findings from a study of the effects of balanced concentrate feed on livestock productivity in Samastipur and Muzaffarpur districts of Bihar State, in comparison to existing feeding practices.


The third poster presents results from an analysis of the adoption and the impact of livestock feed technology that used locally available components and that were nutritionally superior to the commercial concentrates available in local markets.


The fourth poster presents information from a study of the effectiveness of milk markets in Odisha state,  which examined among other topics, feed markets, milk production and market channels.


Last week, ILRI staff participated in the Tropentag 2014 International Conference in Prague (17-19 September 2014). See all the posters and presentations.

The feeding component in rural and peri-urban smallholder pig systems in Uganda

In the last 30 years, Uganda has had a massive growth in pig population, and currently has the highest per capita consumption of pork in East Africa. The majority of Uganda’s pig farmers are smallholders (1.2 million households raise pigs) in low input/ low output systems.

This poster, prepared for the Tropentag 2014 conference, presents findings from a study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to characterize the pig feeding systems in Uganda in terms of the use of local feed resources and gender roles. The study found that regardless of the setting, whether rural or peri-urban, smallholder pig production in Uganda is mostly done in mixed crop-livestock farming systems where farmers use crop residues such as sweet potato vines, cassava leaves, yam leaves and Amaranth spp. as pig feed.

The feeding component in rural and peri-urban smallholder pig systems in Uganda from ILRI

This week, ILRI staff are participating in the Tropentag 2014 International Conference in Prague (17-19 September 2014). There is also a dedicated ‘ILRI@40’ side event on ‘Livestock-based options for sustainable food and nutritional security and healthy lives.’  See all the posters.

Forage diversity – an essential resource to support forage development

Poor-quality feed, fluctuating feed supplies and seasonal feed shortages are major constraints to increasing livestock productivity in many tropical countries. Forage diversity is an essential resource for the selection and breeding of superior forages for use in smallholder farming to alleviate these constraints.

This poster, prepared for the Tropentag 2014 conference, describes forage diversity activities at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) which include maintaining a forages collection of about 19,000 accessions from over 1400 species of forage grasses, legumes, fodder trees and shrubs and researching forages suitability as livestock feed and their adaptation to various environments.

This week, ILRI staff are participating in the Tropentag 2014 International Conference in Prague (17-19 September 2014). There is also a dedicated ‘ILRI@40’ side event on ‘Livestock-based options for sustainable food and nutritional security and healthy lives.’  See all the posters.

ILRI Consultancy: Fodder Impact Study (closing date 28 August 2014)

ILRI Communications:

ILRI seeks a consultant to implement a fodder impact study in Kenya and Ethiopia

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Originally posted on ILRI jobs:

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to hire a consultant to implement this study in Kenya and to synthesize results from Kenya and Ethiopia into a comprehensive report outlining distribution channels, major target areas and adoption patterns. In addition, data on livelihood impacts of the selected fodder species will be collected.

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. http://www.ilri.org.

ILRI is a not-for-profit institution with a staff of about 700 and in 2014, an operating budget of about USD83 million. A member of the CGIAR Consortium working for a food-secure future, ILRI has…

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Transformation of beef production in Vietnam – an innovation case study

IMG_0010During the Fodder Adoption Project our Vietnam case was particularly successful building as it did on previous forage development efforts in Vietnam led by CIAT. Through the Fodder Adoption Project and previous projects the livestock system in study sites moved from a subsistence system to one based on marketing of improved cattle to distant markets. Some of the key success factors in that work were:

(i) a convincing innovation – the use of farm-grown fodder – that provided immediate benefits to farmers and provided a vision for local stakeholders;

(ii) a participatory, systems-oriented innovation process that emphasised capacity strengthening;

(iii) a value chain approach that linked farmers and local traders to markets;

(iv) the formation of a loosely structured coalition of local stakeholders that facilitated and managed the innovation process; and

(v) technical support over a sufficiently long time period to allow innovation processes to become sustainable

We wrote this work up for the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability and as part of Fair Trade Fortnight, the journal publisher has made the article open access. Until Mar 9 you can access the article free of charge here:


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Selecting appropriate feed technologies to support livestock intensification in Uttarakhand, India

An approach to select locally appropriate feed technologies to support livestock intensification – Uttarakhand, India (ILRI/Alan Duncan)

In Uttarakhand, feed is one of the most limiting constraints to livestock intensification. Although many nutritional technologies are available to improve the quantity and quality of feed and fodder, or to plug seasonal shortages, farmers seldom use these new interventions because, for instance, women who rear animals are already fully loaded with existing domestic and agricultural work, farmers lack access to credit for feed-based investments, or farmers are uncertain which technologies are most appropriate to them.

A research brief by V. Padmakumar, Alan J. Duncan and Keith R. Sones describe a systematic approach to help select feed technologies and interven­tions based on careful assess­ment of technical, institutional, social and economic param­eters.

Download the brief

This is one of seven briefs from the Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems partnership program in India. It sets out an impact narrative for different interventions, showing how project activities are translating research outputs to development outcomes.

Prioritizing animal feeding interventions – TechFit tool takes shape

From 23-24 May this year, a group of feed specialists from ILRI, CIAT, ICARDA and partner institutes got together in Addis Ababa to further elaborate the TechFit tool. This followed from a March 2013 meeting that took stock of progress since the original November 2011 workshop in India. The meeting especially drew on experiences in using TechFit in Ethiopia last year as part of the Ethiopia Livestock Feeds and Africa RISING projects. These showed that the tool is a good start but needs quite a lot of further refinement to really help people set priorities for feed interventions.

How does TechFit work?

TechFit is designed to be used alongside FEAST – a ‘feed assessment tool’ to answer three main challenges holding back animal feed interventions:

  • Placing feed in broader livelihood context
  • Engaging farmer knowledge in design and ownership
  • Neglecting how interventions fit local contexts, particularly land, labour, cash and knowledge.

FEAST, in brief, is a diagnostic instrument that helps researchers and development workers understand feed within the local context. It helps clarify whether livestock is an important livelihood strategy and, if so, the importance of feed problems relative to other problems. It also captures important information on the local situation in terms of labour, input availability, credit, seasonality, markets, etc.

It results in a relatively standard report with some ideas on key problems and solutions; the participatory process used also builds better links and understanding between farmers, research and development staff. Many reports of FEAST assessments are online (the tool can be downloaded here).

Once FEAST confirms that feed is an issue in a specific location, TechFit is used to help prioritize different interventions and technologies.

It works by ‘scoring’ the local context in terms of land, labour, credit, inputs and knowledge (these scores are normally generated by FEAST) and matching these with scores of attributes of a technology or an intervention contained in TechFit. The starting point is that each intervention or technology has rather standard attributes in terms of labour or land or inputs needed.

Running the local context score through the TechFit ‘filter’ (of technologies) generates a short list of prioritized interventions that can be further discussed with communities to assess adoptability and subjected to cost benefit analyses.

This is the essence of the approach.

Where is the tool now?

In March and May 2013, the various people got together to take the tool forward. Ethiopia experience in 2012 indicated some areas for attention – missing cost benefit analysis, incomplete list of interventions, incomplete scoring and missing ‘filters’ to help narrow down technologies suited, for example, to specific species, over-arching constraints or farming systems.

In May, a group of feed and animal nutrition scientists with experience in smallholder livestock feeding and production systems in Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast and South Asia sat down and scored 50 different interventions. The potential of each intervention to mitigate feed scarcity and quality, and its potential impact on animal production was discussed for different animal types, and production and farming systems.  The group also scored the requirement of each intervention in terms of land, labour, capital, input delivery and knowledge. There were rich discussions, as the group compared experiences with the range of interventions in different parts of the world, and reached consensus on scores.

When scoring interventions, the group found that some were duplicated and could be combined, some were not yet sufficiently proven in smallholder systems and were excluded, some needed to be divided into two interventions as they could not be scored together, some were excluded as they were strategies rather than an intervention and so had no core attributes that could be scored, and some were added as they were missing from the original list.

The next step is to properly test the scoring of the interventions and the overall matrix to be sure that results generated make sense.

Werner Stür, lead consultant on the scoring process comments: “I enjoyed the scoring and feel confident that we are on the right track to make this a useful tool.”

Beyond the scoring – the heart of TechFit – participants also worked on the FEAST tool so it generates the context information needed by TechFit; they worked further on an ‘adoptability’ component and cost benefit analysis approach/tool that could be applied to interventions emerging from TechFit; and started on a manual for users/developers and the look and feel/design of a user-friendly tool. Initial ideas were also developed for a series of ‘factsheets’ on different interventions to complement the scoring matrix.

The coming months will see progress on all of these with September 2013 set as a target to have a fully refined and tested tool for wider use.

Reflecting on the process so far, TechFit champion Alan Duncan concludes: “Precisely because Techfit development is not project based, there is an energy and collegiality about its development which I like.

Additional insights and feedback and offers of feed expertise are most welcome and should be addressed to Alan Duncan (a.duncan@cgiar.org).

The ongoing work can be followed on the project wiki; read news and updates about TechFit; download reports, presentations, etc.

ILRI vacancy: Post Doctoral Scientist – Livestock Feeds, West Africa (closing 27 April 2013)

Reblogged from ILRI jobs:

Vacancy Number: PDSLF/WA/HT/01/2013
Location: Ibadan, Nigeria or Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Duration: 2 years with the possibility of renewal

Base salary dependent on skills and experience – from USD 35,000 per annum with an attractive international benefits package (tax free*).

 The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works to enhance the roles livestock play in pathways out of poverty in developing countries.

Read more… 681 more words

ILRI vacancy: Post Doctoral Scientist – Livestock Feeds, Ethiopia (closing 27 April 2013)

Reblogged from ILRI jobs:

Vacancy Number: LFPDS/ADD/HT/01/2013
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Duration: 2 years with the possibility of renewal

Base salary dependent on skills and experience – from USD 35,000 per annum with an attractive international benefits package (tax free*).

 The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works to enhance the roles livestock play in pathways out of poverty in developing countries. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, a global research partnership of 15 centres working with many partners for a food-secure future.

Read more… 648 more words

Refining livestock feed assessment tools – ILRI's work in 2012

Reblogged from ILRI Clippings:

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Researchers testing tools with farmers

Feed is often cited as the first limiting constraint to livestock intensification in smallholder mixed-crop farming systems in developing countries.

However attempts to deal with the feed constraint tend to focus on promotion of a fairly standard set of feed technologies with often disappointing results. Our experience is that feed intervention failures can be traced to three main issues:

Read more… 1,256 more words

Investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries

Feed for cattle in vietnam

The World Bank just released a new report that “assesses where the demand for feed [for ruminants in developing countries] is likely to change the most, and where investments in feed are most likely to increase animal productivity and improve the livelihoods of those who raise livestock. It covers policy, institutions, knowledge and innovation as well as technical issues – all in the context of rapidly changing demand for livestock products in developing countries.”

Based on growth and market opportunities, number of poor and pro-poor potential and supply constraints the study identifies first Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as priority areas, and then, within these areas, it identifies three commodity value chains in five regions of particularly great potential to benefit poor producers and consumers. They are:

  • Dairy in East Africa and South Asia;
  • Beef in West Africa;
  • Small ruminant meat in West Africa and Southern Africa.

In terms of feed types and sources, general trends analyzed in the report show a reduction in the use of crop residue such as straws and stovers; an increase in the use of crop-by-products (such as oil cakes and by-products of the milling industry) and concentrates; an increase in the area planted for forages, in particular in dairy systems; and a sharp increase in feed procurement from the market instead of supply from the own farm.

In terms of opportunities for feed-related investments with major positive impacts on the poor, more specific areas of improvement that warrant priority in targeting investments are:

  • Technological feed improving solutions including: more attention to research and development for feed/food crops; better ration formulation; and forage seed production.
  • Institutional issues include access to land and water for all smallholders, as a primary concern and as the main incentive to improve crop-residues. Effective governance on feed quality is also a common institutional issue raised. Similarly, reduction on transaction costs (both to access the feeds and to participate in product markets) is another key area for institutional investment support. The report strongly advocates support to Business Development Services – interpreted in the broadest sense as a key to facilitating access to feeds, markets and for reducing transaction costs.
  • While for many households increasing animal numbers is perceived as attractive, there are severe environmental limitations of the extent this is possible. Policies and investment that increase per animal productivity, such as adequate ration formulation and emphasis on mineral supplementation in the feed and nutrition domain, as well as genetic and health improvement related investment will be important. However, in some areas, increased efficiency (producing the same with fewer animals, or more with the same number of animals) can also be achieved through incentive systems such as payment for environmental services.

Download the report

The report was prepared under the guidance of Jimmy Smith and Francois le Gall of the World Bank by a team consisting of William Thorpe, Derek Baker, Shirley Tarawali of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILR), and assisted by Rainer Asse, Augustine Ayantunde, Michael Blummel, Oumar Diall, Alan Duncan, Abdou Fall, Bruno Gerard, Elaine Grings, Mario Herrero, Chedly Kayouli, Ben Lukuyu, Siboniso Moyo, An Notenbaert, Tom Randolph, Steve Staal, Nils Teufel, Francis Wanyoike and Iain Wright. Further inputs were provided by Cees de Haan and Gunnar Larson from the World Bank. Peer reviewers are Brian Bedard (World Bank), Stephane Foreman (World Bank) and Joyce Turk (USAID).