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

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

Full information

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:


and all the featured articles here:


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:

Click to visit the original post

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).

Fodder seed field day in Ethiopia is an encouraging sign of sustained innovation

During the lifetime of the Fodder Adoption Project ILRI established local innovation platforms at various field sites around Ethiopia. The idea behind these was to provide a forum for key livestock feed stakeholders to get together and jointly plan actions to improve the livestock feed situation for smallholder farmers. One such innovation platform was established in our Ada’a site and a key stakeholder was the Ethiopian Meat and Dairy Technology Institute. In all our sites and at our national Fodder Roundtable another key actor was Eden Field Seeds, a local private seed supplier.

At one of our Fodder Roundtable meetings we focused on difficulties with forage seed supply and one of the recommendations was to encourage local agribusinesses to expand and begin to take on the seed supply function from the national research system. As the Fodder Adoption Project wound up we wondered whether some of the linkages established through the local innovation platforms would last beyond the project.

I was encouraged therefore when ILRI was approached by EMDTI recently to co-sponsor a forage seed field day involving Eden Field Seeds. The field day was held at one of the company’s outgrower schemes associated with Ataye Prison Farm in North Shewa. The day brought together a range of stakeholders and the subsequent discussion showed that there was good engagement.

You can read the field day report here.

ILRI staff member Aberra Adie was a key facilitator of the Ada’a platform. He writes:

The FAP platform at Ada’a woreda brought together a number of  stakeholders including private sector players like Eden Fields who continued the efforts to build a sustainable forage seed source for the increasing demand for improved livestock feeding systems in the country. It is  most rewarding that Eden Field Seeds, being the only certified private forage seed supplier in the country is now active in bringing together stakeholders around forage seed supply.

We look forward to seeing this initiative develop; dealing with forage seed supply in Ethiopia is a key constraint to improved livestock feeding and encouraging growth of small agribusinesses to deal with this issue seems a good way forward. I look forward to comments on this…

Tools for livestock feed assessment – lessons from ELF and QuickFeed projects

Earlier this year, ILRI joined national and international partners in two ‘feed assessment’ projects in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Livestock Feeds project (funded by ACIAR) and the ‘QuickFeed‘ early win project of the Africa RISING program both set out to  test a suite of rapid diagnosis tools to identify promising feed and fodder interventions.

At the recent QuickFeed synthesis meeting, we interviewed Jane Wamatu, Adugna Tolera and Getachew Legesse about their experiences with the FEAST, TechFit and value chain assessment (VCA) tools used in both projects.

Jane and Adugna explained that the first time they used the FEAST and TechFit tools was during the ELF project. By the time of the QuickFeed project they were more experienced and better able to provide training and support to the research teams, and this was one of the reasons why the fieldwork of QuickFeed proceeded more smoothly. Another reason, Getachew felt, was that the research team members were younger and highly motivated, partly because the QuickFeed project was part of the larger Africa RISING project and so researchers were hopeful that their research could be continued under Africa RISING project. Another reason was the improvements resource people made to the tools following ELF. In FEAST, the number of respondents for individual data collection was increased to 9 farmers. In TechFit, the list of technologies was revised and the methodology of VCA was simplified considerably and tailored to fit seamlessly with FEAST and TechFIt.

Jane, Adugna and Getachew agreed that FEAST was very well developed with a clear template, results, analysis and structure for reporting. TechFit, on the other hand, still needed considerable improvements. Adugna felt that the pre-filter worked well but that there is a need to complete and review the list of technologies and their attribute scores. Also, the cost-benefit analysis of potential technologies was very difficult to calculate and required a lot of assumptions. He also felt that there is a need to write fact sheets for each of the technologies. A clear description of potential benefits and cost would also be useful. Finally, there was a need for clear guidelines – a manual – for using the TechFit tool. Having said all this, everyone agreed that there was great potential and need for TechFit.

The VCA tool in QuickFeed was focused on dairy and sheep value chains. This was easier and more useful than the VCA in ELF which focused on feed in general. Getachew felt that VCA now worked well but still required some ‘expert’ guidance during implementation. The reason was that each VCA had different objectives and pathways, and the methodology needed to be adapted to fit the objectives.

Everyone agreed that the participatory nature of FEAST and VCA created a direct, deeper kind of interaction and communication with farmers and other actors along the value chain and that this was extremely useful. In fact, the process of implementing these tools in itself had been very beneficial for creating greater understanding and interaction between researchers , farmers, traders and other stakeholders.

Story by Werner Stur

More on the ELF project

More on the QuickFeed project

Fodder and feed in livestock value chains in Ethiopia – reports available

Three reports from the six-month ‘Fodder and feed in livestock value chains in Ethiopia – trends and prospects’ project were recently produced by ILRI.

The project was led by ILRI and involved the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research, the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute and the International Center for Research in the Dry Areas.

The project aimed to develop a preliminary understanding of how feed components of intensifying livestock production systems in Ethiopia are changing as systems intensify and how this is reflected in the feed-related elements of focal value chains. The project outputs included three synthesis reports along with a series of field reports that can be accessed via links in the synthesis reports.


This project was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); it is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

MilkIT India advisory council reviews project plans, sites, partners

On 1 June, members of the MilkIT project advisory council held their first meeting in Dehradun. Nils Teufel of the International Livestock Research Institute introduced the project and its intended activities.

View the presentation:


The subsequent question and answer session generated lively exchanges; the main questions – with answers – included:

1. What is the meaning of “innovation platform”?

  • It’s about to bringing together experiences of a variety of stakeholders on
  • dairy marketing, feed support , knowledge sharing and innovation/change
  • regarding how to test & adapt these innovations.
  • Innovation platforms are not only a discussion forum and not just an extension activity.

2. What will be the project output in Dec 2014 and who will receive it?

  • As a research project, papers and reports will be major outputs, with IFAD being the first recipient.
  • Research outputs will be aligned with the demands of donors and partners.
  • Documentation of processes and results will enable global and local use.
  • Documentation of establishment and success/failure of innovation platforms will be a major output. Induced changes will be a main indicator.

3. What will be language of dissemination?

  • Main audience will be institutions. Therefore, first language will be English.
  • However, for local institutions documents in Hindi will also be prepared.

4. What will be done to reduce livestock impact on forests?

  • Feed requirements, current sources & opportunities will be assessed with FEAST
  • General land-use change will not be a focus of MilkIT because of its short duration
  • More efficient use of existing resources will probably emphasise farm products and labour efficiency (reducing forest use)
  • Himmothan has already experience with introducing winter fodder. Forest use has already decreased.

5. How can MilkIT improve green fodder supply when the project is only 32 months and most green fodder comes from trees which yield only after 3-5 years?

  • MilkIT will prioritise technologies (with the help of Techfit) which yield fast effects (no planting campaigns, no focus on breed improvement).
  • More efficient use of existing feeds will be focus (supplementation, chopping) and wider use of under-utilised resources (grass-lands).

6. How will feed-related problems be identified? How will local capacity & willingness for adoption be considered?

  • Innovation platforms will improve communication.
  • Specific tools (e.g. Techfit) will enable efficient discussion.

7. What will be main project indicators, milk yield?

  • Milk yield will be important, but profitability and labour returns will also be main indicators.
  • Improved productivity will decrease pressure on forests.

8. How will other aspects of productivity be considered (breed, health) and who will be doing this?

  • Within the project period no major breed improvement effects can be expected.
  • But we know that local cows are being replaced with buffaloes.
  • Feed improvements offer greater effect in improved animals with less labour.
  • Where health issues are important we include local institutions in platform.
  • How will the variation between households and animals be considered?
  • MilkIT will only target groups (e.g. SHGs), not individual households/animals
  • At the platform level discussions will have to consider for which type of households/animals technologies are suitable.
  • When documenting effects we will have to collect household/animal data.

9. How is MilkIT going to compete with strong local dairy organisations?

  • We will map which institutions are working on which issues.
  • The innovation platforms will bring all relevant and willing actors together as a complementary activity.
  • We are aware that compared to local institutions MilkIT will only show a brief appearance and cannot compete.

After reviewing work plans, members formed three groups discussing:

  • Innovation platforms: “How can innovation platforms support development and dissemination of new technologies for dairy development?”
  • Marketing constraints: “What are you most interested in for overcoming institutional and marketing constraints in the dairy sector?”
  • Feeding constraints: “What should MilkIT produce to help with improving productivity of dairy animals among small holders through better feeding, breeding & health?”

The project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). It started in January 2012 and runs for three years

Basic project information

Project brochure

News on the project

Outputs from this project

Project wiki

This project is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Successful feed interventions are all about context: Ethiopian Livestock Feeds (ELF) project synthesis workshop reflection

On 28-29 May we wrapped up the Ethiopian Livestock Feeds Project with a synthesis workshop in Addis Ababa. This brought together the whole project team including colleagues from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute. We have been working together on refining various tools including FEAST, Techfit and a simple value chain assessment checklist.

This suite of tools is designed to help with developing ideas and plans for feed interventions at local level. This was our chance to review results of using the tools in the field. Also, we used the opportunity to review the tools themselves and look for ways of improving them.

The results showed that the tools are a rapid way of developing a good overview of the farming system and some of the constraints to improved feeding. Generating ideas for feed intervention was more challenging and probably requires an existing insight into what might work. However the tools were helpful in guiding thinking, and in ensuring that suggestions for feed improvement took into account system constraints such as land and labour availability. These tools are certainly not recipes for generating workable feed interventions but the process of working with the tools at field level could help to arrive at interventions which are more likely to succeed – especially if researchers work with development people in applying the tools.

What struck me at the workshop was the context specificity of successful feed interventions. The presentation from EIAR Holeta on a FEAST assessment in a dairy system showed that two areas in close proximity had completely different constraints. In the village of Robe Gebya there are plenty of cross-bred cows and farmers derive much of their livelihood from sale of milk. In nearby Berffetta Tokkoffa, horticultural crops are the dominant livelihood option and most cows are indigenous and primarily kept for draught purposes. Interestingly when farmers were asked about key solutions to improve their livestock-based livelihoods those relying on indigenous cows suggested various feed-related interventions including backyard forage and improved use of crop residues. Those with cross-bred cows were more concerned about arrangements for milk marketing – they seemed already to have sorted out their feeding. This contrast illustrates the dangers of blanket recommendations to improve feeding strategies and is one reason why many previous efforts to improve feeding have been disappointing.

As I stressed in my closing remarks, I hope that as this work develops we can move to the next stage which is working with farmers to test some of the interventions that the tools are coming up with. Time to get our hands dirty….

View the final day presentations:

Ethiopian Livestock Feed Project – approaches, tools, results

Results and experiences using value chain analysis, FEAST and Techfit tools in the Ethiopian Livestock Feed Project

Well-managed tropical forage-based systems improve livelihoods and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions

New research from CIAT – the International Center for Tropical Agriculture shows that well-managed “LivestockPlus” systems involving improved forage crops – plants grazed by livestock – have impressive environmental credentials.

Published in chapter 11 of CIAT’s new flagship publication ‘Eco-Efficiency: From Vision to Reality‘ – the authors conclude that “well-managed tropical forage-based systems can contribute not only to improved livelihoods of the rural poor in the tropics, but also to the overall quality of the environment. With a global community increasingly cognizant of the environmental implications of agriculture, forage-based systems should figure prominently in future innovative agricultural systems.

See a related story: Livestock: Cure or curse?

See related work as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish

Project team gathers in Tanga to kick-start MilkIT project

On 24-25 April scientists from India and Tanzania gathered in Tanga, Tanzania for the inception meeting of the IFAD-funded MilkIT project. The project is implemented by ILRI and CIAT are a major partner. This was the first opportunity for the whole project team to get together, familiarize themselves with the project and begin to develop activities.

Partners from the project in Tanzania are

  • Sokoine University of Agriculture, Department of Animal Science and Production
  • Tanzania Livestock Research Institute, Tanga-Centre, Tanga

and in India:

  • Institute of Himalayan Environmental Research and Education (INHERE)
  • Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHIRAG)

Representatives from each partner organization participated in the meeting.

MilkIT is being implemented under the umbrella of the Livestock and Fish Research Program of the CGIAR and we planned activities jointly with a related project in Tanzania funded by Irish Aid.

During the meetings we spent time aligning our thinking on some key concepts: innovation platforms and how they work; and value chain approaches. We also discussed site selection following recent scoping visits to various prospective sites. Partnership arrangements, gender considerations and links to IFAD programs were also on our agenda.

Finally we made a start on developing activity plans for Year 1.

So the MilkIT train has now left the station and we are looking forward to seeing activities begin to take shape in coming months.

Barriers to the uptake of improved feeding strategies

At last week’s Africa-RISING ‘quick feed’ project inception meeting, Werner Stür reflected on some of the reasons why improved animal feeding strategies seem not to be taken up, and some ways to address this.
He started by arguing that current future livestock productivity challenges would benefit significantly from “a little more feed per animal.” He outlined four main ways to get this feed to the animals:

  • Reduce the number of animals, improve herd structure or grow additional feed
  • Introduce forage legumes to improve diet quality; or grasses to increase available feed quantity
  • Grow specific fodder crops
  • Strategic feeding of available feed resources – smarter use

He also explained that these technical solutions are much less simple to accomplish than we might think. Why?

  • Technologies are seldom simple
  • Smallholder farming systems are diverse
  • People and livelihoods differ
  • The incentives to increase production are nor always in place

He concluded that ‘one-size-fits all technologies’ don’t work. Instead we need need a systems-oriented innovation process that

  • includes all relevant stakeholders
  • takes account of the range of farming system and livelihoods in the area
  • places innovation in the context of the value chain to ensure that farmers reap the benefits of innovations


More information on the project

More information on the inception workshop