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ILRI Ethiopia: Introducing our new Chief Security Officer

Latest ILRI announcements -

As you may be aware, Commander Kebede Alemu is retiring from ILRI. As a result we have recruited a new chief of security who will be joining us next Wednesday on 15 April. Commander Kebede will graciously continue assisting us until June through the transition.

Ato Admassu Mekonnen is joining us from Sheraton Addis where he was Assistant Director of Security serving over the past three years. He has 25 years of experience in security.  Much of his experience is from his time with the Ethiopian police where he obtained the rank of Commander. During his time with the police he held several different positions including Head of Public Relation for the Amhara Region Police Commission, head of the Amhara Region Police Commission Training Center, and head of Crime Prevention and Crime Investigation for 5th and 4th Police Station in Addis Ababa. He has a BA degree in Technology Policing from University of South Africa, a BA degree in Management from Unity University, and a diploma in Police Science and Leadership from the Ethiopian Police University College.

I hope you will all join me in welcoming him as he begins his duties next Wednesday.

Gail Amare
Email: G.Amare@cgiar.org

Gender divisions and climate variability are hindering a climate-smart East Africa

CRP 7 News -

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been promoted as an option with many benefits. It is expected to increase agricultural productivity and income in a sustainable way, but also to make farming systems more reslient to climate change, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The question then is: How can CSA become mainstream practice in the bio-physically and socio-economically diverse environments that characterize East Africa’s smallholder farming systems.

With this question in mind, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and partners developed a Climate-Smart Agriculture Rapid Appraisal (CSA-RA) tool, for prioritizing CSA across diverse landscapes.

Read more here: Simple, yet comprehensive: A Climate-Smart Agriculture Rapid Appraisal prioritization tool for outscaling CSA practices

The (CSA-RA) tool has already been tested in four districts in northern Uganda (Gulu, Nwoya, Kitgum, and Adjumani) and in the Southern Agriculture Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Kilolo, Kilosa, Bagamoyo and Mbarali).

Challenges facing farmers in Uganda and Tanzania

The first steps in targeting CSA are to understand the existing agricultural challenges and to identify the benefits of introducing appropriate technologies. The CSA-RAs in Uganda and Tanzania identified climate variability as a great challenge in agriculture production.  In particular, farmers pinpointed unreliability of the onset and cessation of the rains, uncertainty about the duration of the rainy season, occurrence of too much rainfall, and droughts. Both male and female farmers reported an increase in pests and diseases associated with too much rainfall, water scarcity, famine, loss of crops and livestock.

Already, farmers have adaptation options which include charcoal burning, brick making, sale of livestock, engaging in small businesses, irrigating crops along valley bottoms and dependence on remittances from their kin working in urban centers. A strong concern among women is that men often adapt by migrating to urban areas and abandon their families to seek paid employment.

Gender and CSA implementation

As one might expect, gender impacts on views of climate variability. In Tanzania's Kilolo district, for instance, women and men described weather events and impacts that had occurred in previous years in different ways.

climate calender - women

Normal, wet (1998) and dry (2006) years, as perceived by female farmers of the Kilolo district in Tanzania

Cropping calender - men

Normal, wet (1998) and dry (2012) years, as perceived by male farmers of the Kilolo district in Tanzania

Cropping calendars by traditional gender groups revealed differences in the division of labor in terms of both crops and livestock. Marketing of agricultural produce is mainly considered a man’s activity as women are perceived to be poor negotiators and deemed unable to effectively source for markets. This suggests that there is a need for empowering women with negotiating skills and market information.

cropping calender - women

Example of a cropping calendar developed during the CSA-RA. Crop management activities by month for beans, cassava and sesame as detailed by the women’s group in Gulu district. Logograms indicate whether men or woman undertake the activity.


Institutional mapping with Venn diagrams also indicated gendered differences in resource and information flows. These data are vital to recognize key institutions and entry points for men and women.

In conclusion,  using the CSA-RA tool enables prioritisation of climate-smart agriculture with an understanding of gendered challenges, priorities, perceptions and impacts.

Click for more information about the tool

Livestock and Fish breeding better farm animals and fish for developing countries

CRP 3.7 News -


Composite of parts of two paintings: A Cow Like That Gives 5,000 Liters a Day, by Maria Primachenko, and Fish, by Aldemir Martins (both via WikiArt).

In late-March, the Livestock and Fish Research Program held a virtual review and planning meeting to take stock of progress since 2012, examine the wider science and development environment and devise plans and deliverables for the coming years. The discussions were organized around each of the five research and technology ‘flagships’ of the program, examining strengths, weaknesses and desired results.

The Animal Genetics Flagship works to ensure that by 2023 choices of improved and appropriate livestock and fish breeds and strains are widely available, used sustainably and are equitably providing nutritious, affordable food and income for the poor.

The flagship in a nutshell
Demand for healthier, higher performing and higher yielding animals through genetic improvement and the dissemination of those genetic gains to animal producers is increasing in the developing world, where rising populations and incomes are raising the need as well as demand for nutrient-dense milk, meat, fish and eggs.

In response, many small-scale livestock and fish producers, processors and service providers are working to become more commercially oriented. At the same time, global warming is causing many of them to have to cope with more variable and extreme climates and most face on-going reductions in their access to fresh water, productive lands, healthy agro-ecosystems and other natural resources.

What’s needed are animal stocks better tailored to their (changing, resource-scarce) environments and more profitable, efficient and sustainable smallholder animal production systems. Animal genetics, along with animal health and feeds, is one of three traditional pillars supporting such transformation.

Recent advances in molecular genetics and genomics enable scientists not only to characterize the genetic diversity and compositions of breeds and to develop higher yielding stock, but also, increasingly, to identify the genes controlling other important and complex animal traits such as resistance to disease and drought and resilience in the face of fodder scarcity and harsh environments. These scientific advances are particularly critical for programs aiming to improve developing-country livestock and fish, which as yet still greatly underperform compared to the improved breeds and strains of livestock and fish that are the mainstay of industrialized countries.

The Animal Genetics flagship is identifying and promoting improved breeds and strains as well as developing new ones. It is developing robust delivery systems that ensure that poor livestock and fish producers can access these genetic resources. The flagship employs both traditional and novel animal breeding approaches adapted to the low-input systems used by smallholder food producers. It makes use of the latest technologies in phenomics (measurements of the changing physical and biochemical traits of organisms in response to genetic mutation and environmental influences), genomics (molecular investigations of the structure, function, evolution and mapping of genomes) and reproductive biology (studies of the mechanisms regulating reproductive processes in livestock and fish).

In both its development and delivery work, this flagship also makes use of advanced information and communications technologies, tools and methodologies promoting gender equity, and programs strengthening capacities for livestock and fish research and development work.

Animal Genetics flagship snapshots

Click to view slideshow.

Virtual discussion

John Benzie, a fish geneticist at WorldFish and leader of the flagship, started the virtual discussion with a short overview of the work of his flagship. Click on the presentation below to listen to his audio-enhanced slide presentation.



The 40 comments fell into four major topics:
1) Who should decide on the breeds and breeding goals for a given farming system
2) The long time scales needed to develop genetically improved animals and fish
3) The importance of local building capacity to maintain animal breeding programs
4) The need to build an evidence base for continued investment in genetic improvements

  • Decision-making: Much discussion centred on the importance of developing clear breeding goals and who should determine these or be involved so as to ensure an appropriate fit to a given farming system and its environment. Opinions varied as to the extent to which a variety of value chain actors (e.g. processors, marketers, consumers), in addition to farmers, should have a say or be consulted as well as the proper extent to which women’s choices should be solicited and adhered to. Examples of farmer involvement in determining breeding goals, and of gender-responsive approaches, in the program’s present work were given. Some argued the need for integrating approaches to improved feed, health and breeds. The discussants agreed to summarize breeding goals for particular value chains for the second phase of the program.
  • Time scales: The long time needed to develop genetically improved breeds, and the need for unbroken investment over that time to achieve production goals, was highlighted. It was agreed that it is in the nature of animal breeding research that significant development impacts in this area are achieved only over the longer term. Indeed, it was emphasized that much of the current Livestock and Fish work involves improved strains developed with considerable investment by CGIAR starting long before the start of this program. However, the scientists agreed it will be important also to initiate new breeding activities for the various value chains Livestock and Fish works in, even though these will take a long time to bear fruit.
  • Capacity building: Participants discussed wide variations in the levels of capacity within Livestock and Fish’s targeted value chains to maintain the genetic improvement of their animal and fish stocks. Without such capacity, it was agreed, as well as the ability to disseminate genetic gains widely, farm communities would not be able to sustain the gains achieved, however sophisticated the genomic and ICT tools used to rapidly identify appropriate breeding traits. This challenge raised a related problem, that of uncontrolled, indiscriminate animal breeding, which is still common in smallholder farming communities and which can reduce, and eventually wipe out, any genetic gains made. Farmers and farm communities must therefore be encouraged to maintain good breeding practices through appropriate incentives.
  • Impact assessment: The discussants noted a dearth of information on the impacts of genetic improvements of animals and fish in developing countries and the importance of obtaining this information for Livestock and Fish. Such information is also needed, they said, to build an evidence base for continued investment in genetic improvement programs. Future impact surveys should be designed to elicit gender disaggregated information. And the ICT systems now being used to collect genetics data and farmer feedback should be modified to include gendered information.



Matching and delivering …

Benzie stressed the need for genetics, genomics and reproductive technologies. He argued that we need genetics to better match animal and fish stock with farming systems, genomics to improve breeding, and reproductive technologies to deliver our improved genetics. He said what’s needed are the cash and skills to maintain breeding programs and the networks able to get breeding materials to farmers. Other participants mentioned we also need the following:

  • to ensure farmer participation and leadership in local breeding programs
  • to look at an animal’s feed and health as well as its productivity
  • to get a good handle on second-generation problems such as the effects of indiscriminate crossbreeding
  • to train feed stockists in ration formulation and to implement schemes for certifying those involved in commercial feed formulations
  • to enlarge the role of nucleus herds and reproductive technologies to disseminate improved genetics
  • to have models of sustainable breeding programs for within-breed improvements, without which it’s difficult for other technologies, particularly genomics, to deliver

Progress so far …
Benzie also noted that in recent years researchers had produced a locally suitable GIFT strain of tilapia (O. niloticus) in Asia, an Abbassa strain in Egypt, an Akosombo strain in Ghana and a strain of indigenous fish (O. shiranus) in Malawi; they had assessed the genetic resources of the small mola fish in Bangladesh due to its importance for women and young children; and they had new work on carp in Bangladesh that should produce an improved fish by 2030 (‘a fairly quick turnaround’!).

Okeyo Mwai, a livestock geneticist at ILRI, added that scientists had genetically improved indigenous disease-resistant red Maasai rams and flocks in collaboration with local Maasai pastoral communities, and were combining genomic and ICT technologies, which is speeding development of more precise breeding objectives and delivering desired genetic gains faster. In Ethiopia, said Aynalem Haile of ICARDA, the emphasis has been more on expanding the use of community-based breeding programs.

What’s next …
‘I’m looking forward to seeing the extent to which the proposed breeding and delivery programs embrace various production systems along the gradient of intensification,’ said Amos Omore, a veterinary epidemiologist at ILRI and leader of the program’s value development team in Tanzania.

There has never been a better time for the science of animal genetics, with very recent (and very big) breakthroughs in the fields of genetics and genomics promising unprecedented refinements in breeding work. This group of CGIAR Livestock and Fish scientists is working to ensure that those breakthroughs benefit small-scale livestock producers and consumers throughout the developing world.

Participants in the virtual discussion

 Animal Genetics Flagship

Above: Participants in the Animal Genetics Flagship discussion. Left to right, and top to bottom:
Row 1: John Benzie, Michael Peters, Tom Randolph, Stuart Worsley, Malcolm Beveridge
Row 2: Karen Marshall, Barbara Wieland, Jens Peter Tang Dalsgaard, Mats Lannerstad, Patricia Rainey
Row 3: Barbara Rischkowsky, Amos Omore, Keith Child, Jane Poole, Max Rothschild
Row 4: Absolomon Kihara, Evelyn Katingi, Ulf Magnusson, Carlos Quiros, Catherine Pfeifer
Row 5: Isabelle Baltenweck, Alan Duncan, Dirk Jan de Koning, Rhiannon Pyburn, Ben Hack
Row 6: Henk van der Mheen, Okwyo Mwai, Lucy Lapar, Acho Okike, Emily Ouma
Row 7: Alessandra Galie, Michael Blümmel, Esther Ndung’u, Danilo Pezo, Shirley Tarawali


More from this flagship


Filed under: Animal Breeding, CRP37, Genetics, Indigenous breeds, Livestock-Fish, Research, WorldFish

Need support for meetings? How ILRI’s engagement and collaboration team can assist

Knowledge and Information blog News -

“We spend millions on IT systems to capture, store and disseminate ‘stuff’. We endlessly attempt to codify “what we know” into different forms of media for those who might benefit from it, so they can completely ignore it. We set up communities of practice to connect the unconnected and link our structural silos. We endlessly promote the virtues of Web 2.0 and social media as the panacea of all our knowledge ills. We do all sorts of things in the name of knowledge management it seems – except tackle potentially the most productive and lowest hanging of all our fruits, our meetings.” (Cognitive Edge)

This quote reminds us that while we often organize and attend meetings, we often do not put enough effort into how to make them really efficient and more importantly effective.

An ideal meeting or event?

Depending on its precise focus, a great meeting features all or most of these characteristics: It…

E&C / CKM team member facilitating the ILRI Annual Planning Meeting 2013 (Photo credit: ILRI  / J. Cadilhon)

Facilitating ILRI Annual Planning Meeting 2013 (Photo: ILRI / J. Cadilhon)

  • Has very clear objectives which it achieves or modifies in the interest of the whole group;
  • Brings together a variety of participants that are energized by the agenda;
  • Has a well balanced agenda mixing the sharing of information and the way participants are digesting it and adding their own experience;
  • Invites, gathers and values perspectives of everyone in the room;
  • Leads to concrete actionable insights or  recommendations that are co-created by the group;
  • Offers a variety of work forms (inside, outside, individual/group/plenary etc.) to achieve the micro-objectives of each session and keep the energy of participants high;
  • Generates strong relationships among participants through joint conversations and activities;
  • Is connected with the wider world through social media engagement and social reporting and extends the conversation beyond the meeting room;
  • Is documented properly, during and quickly after the event, involving various formats and channels for different purposes and audiences;
  • Invites everyone in the room to play a role;
  • Has an inspiring venue, strong logistical support, and perhaps even music.
The reality?

Often, not always, the events we attend don’t match these aspirations. They are frequently:

A conference with high-level objectives, un-facilitated, chaired by ‘experts’ that use all their talking time – and usually more – to show how much they know. Then a series of presentations (three, five, ten) follow each other, often poorly-timed and delaying the entire program. Any question and answer session is monopolized by two or three vocal (often senior) participants allowing no time for group discussion and reflection.

It becomes difficult for participants to remain awake through these strings of presentations. So the coffee break buzz is really welcome – it is really the only moment in the day when participants are full of energy as they get a chance to talk.

Sometime, for a change, a panel discussion is organized, frequently all men and ‘usual suspects’ and the discussion does not electrify the audience. The meeting continues and closes with some rather vague conclusions. Since there was little time for group work, these have often been developed by an organizing committee and have not really been validated by the participants.

Meanwhile, no one really paid attention to capturing the few conversations that took place, and the presentations are all scattered on individual presenters’ personal computers and USB sticks.

Finally, participants depart, glad the event is over, not entirely sure what they gained or what it was really about. But they enjoyed the few informal networking moments where they could share their frustrations on the short coffee breaks, delayed sessions and missed opportunities to meet the colleague they always wanted to talk to. They do have some new business cards to follow up by email when they get back to their hotel room.

Sounds familiar? Of course this is a caricature, but we believe there are lots of recognizable features.


Even without expert advice, anyone organizing a meeting can tackle some of this. For ILRI staff and partners however, the engagement and collaboration team of the ILRI communication and knowledge management (CKM) unit can help turn meetings into more successful, productive, and long-lasting milestones.

 ILRI / A. Habtamu)

Drawing a river of life session (Photo credit: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

Here’s how we help – as a full package or on a ‘pick-and-choose’ basis:

  • Co-design for results: We help you think through your objectives, expected learning, outputs and outcomes to maximize the results of the meeting taking into account the amount and profile of participants, duration of the meeting, objectives of each session etc. Our co-design – every step is discussed and agreed with you – ensures that the event is made to measure.
  • Facilitate engagement: We can ensure that all participants are engaged in interactive ways to ensure maximum energy, learning, ownership, commitment and results. More on the role of facilitators.
  • Document for follow-up: We help document conversations from plenary and group sessions so the dispersed knowledge and insights are captured, can be shared and participants can see where their contributions feed into the results and decisions.
  • Harvest, store and re-use: We help participants and organizers create, harvest and curate (archive, format and tag properly) all materials generated during the meeting: pictures, presentations, audio recordings, videos. These can be the basis for rapid dissemination of messages and and they serve as a multimedia record. As well as livening up an event report, ILRI’s communications and KM teams ensure they are properly published and archived for future use.
  • Spread the word: As desired, social reporting during and after the event helps your event connect with the wider world through, for example, Twitter, Yammer, LinkedIn, Facebook (or any social network). This ‘push’ is matched by online event pages that ‘pull’ in other viewers so they can follow and sometime contribute to the conversations. If you want to more actively engage virtual audiences, that’s also possible. Finally, we can hep generate attention by writing web stories, conducting interviews, and bringing in media. All accessible in one place. Nice and neat.
  • Rapporteuring: Depending on the issue or topic, we can also draft a timely ‘report’ of the event, in Word, PowerPoint, Prezi or Storify.
  • Co-organize: Occasionally we can also help with logistics to ensure a total support. This is usually available only in Addis Ababa or Nairobi.
Keys to success?  ILRI / Z. Sewunet)

Livestock and Fish eEhiopia value chain sharefair (Photo credit: ILRI / Z. Sewunet)

Often we are contacted after an event is conceptualized and someone feels a ‘facilitator’ would be helpful. This is always better than nothing. The real game changer is to involve us from the start. Before the agenda of the meeting is set. Before participants are invited for inputs. And certainly before presenters have been promised 30-minute slots.

Contact us when you have an idea about organizing a meeting or an event, and let’s work together to better achieve your objectives.


We have supported a number of ILRI and partners’ events and workshops. Click here to see this comprehensive list.

These are but a few testimonies that we received in the past about our event support services…

You are both skilled facilitators (i.e. great herders of cats!) and this ability was integral to the success of the conference. (Mike Nunn, ACIAR, about the Conference on Policies for competitive smallholder livestock production in March 2015)

Hello la Dream Team,  Félicitations à tous les trois pour l’organisation du séminaire ! C’était très riche, très professionnel, très convivial, et très participatif. Bref, un séminaire qui donne du tonus et des idées pour l’avenir ! (Guillaume Duteurtre, CIRAD, about the African Dairy Value Chain Seminar in September 2014)

Having observed your work and skills during the Africa RISING workshop meetings over the years, I really was of the opinion that you are the best person for our forthcoming MIRA launch country meetings. (Joseph Rusike, AGRA, about Africa RISING review and planning meetings in 2014)

Thanks for the great job that you did, Ewen and Peter, with the facilitation. Speaking with the “left-over” people here this weekend, I found unanimous enthusiasm about the way you handled the workshop and created spaces for so much enriching interaction. Also the living keynote idea shows a lot of possibilities in generating a product out of all the discussions and gaining group ownership of the product. (Ann Waters-Bayer, PROLINNOVA, about the AISA conference in May 2013)

Contact us now!

For further information please contact us (before you start designing the event or committing people):

Ewen Le Borgne
Team leader, knowledge, engagement and collaboration, ILRI Addis Ababa

Muthoni Njiru
Knowledge sharing and engagement officer, ILRI Nairobi

Tsehay Gashaw
Knowledge sharing and web communications officer, ILRI Addis Ababa


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