Jan 242014
 

Cow, tree, hut

Declan McKeever,a former scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and its predecessor, the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), brilliant immunologist, great friend, Irish wit and agent provocateur for all things unashamedly intelligent, has died.

ILRI staff last saw Declan end of last November, when he came to the ILRI Christmas party in Nairobi, where he was looking good, telling old and new stories, many about his sickness and his ongoing recovery, and things and people and insights that had moved him in his battle against cancer. His focus at that Christmas party was on other people’s trials, old friends, things that matter. He was tender as well as smart. His heart was open, his wit still dry.

He was looking forward to coming out to ILRI and Kenya again this weekend, to participate in a newly formed consortium to beat back an old foe of his and ILRI’s and ILRAD’s, East Coast fever, a cattle killing disease devastating the livelihoods of the poor in Africa.

He will be badly missed. We will not be the same without him.

An age-mate of his, Brian Perry, another illustrious former ILRAD/ILRI scientist, has written the following personal tribute.

‘We learnt with immense sadness that Declan McKeever died last night [23 Jan 2014]. He was diagnosed with myeloma in December 2012, underwent chemotherapy followed by an autologous stem cell graft in April 2013, had been recovering well, and was back at work full time later in the year. We send our sincerest condolences to his widow Christine, to Luke and Saoirse, and to Aoife and Leo.

‘Declan has been the closest of friends and confidants for the last 27 years, and I will miss him immensely. In the vibrant days of the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), Declan epitomised the dedication to scientific discovery and innovation which consumed the institute at the time, in the search for an understanding of the immune responses to Theileria parva, and how these could be captured and deployed in disease prevention through vaccines. In its mission to tackle two of the most intractable and complicated African livestock diseases, ILRAD bred and nurtured many scientists and thinkers, almost all of whom had different views and approaches to tackling vaccine development, in a funding environment impatient for results, a scenario captured in the Science article of April 1992 entitled ‘Nairobi laboratory fights more than disease’.

‘Declan rose to the occasion, thriving on scientific debate, and complementing his acute intelligence with a subtle, penetrating, wit that epitomised his multiple contributions. ILRAD became ILRI in 1995, and Declan left ILRI in 1999 after 13 years with the CGIAR, taking a chair in Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Edinburgh University, and joining a cluster of former ILRAD scientists continuing on their search for a vaccine against East Coast fever, this time in colder climes. Having separated from wife Mary Lou, he remarried former ILRI scientist Christine Thuranira, and in 2007 they moved on to positions at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), University of London. Declan was Chair of Immunoparasitology, and Head of the Pathology and Infectious Diseases department, and had recently been appointed Vice Principal of RVC. A sudden and untimely end to a successful career. . . .

‘Declan was also an artist, well known for his cartoons of various staff members during the ILRAD days, and for his Christmas cards; while he lived in Kenya he donated the humorous artwork in the Christmas cards to various charities every year. There are some classics, such as the one on the left!

McKeever_Cartoon

‘From the cartoons, perhaps my favourite is that of the ILRAD Director General, Ross Gray, taking one of his unannounced trips to the labs in 1994 and encountering Jed Lamb skateboarding towards him (below left)!

ILRAD director general Ross Gray

He also drew a cartoon of Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty (below centre)

ILRAD board member Peter Doherty

and one of ILRAD director of research Jack Doyle

ILRAD director of research Jack Doyle

and one for my 50th birthday present (below right), which hangs with pride in our house.

McKeever_Carton_Perry

‘Despite the impression on occasions of being quite irreligious, Declan had a strong belief, and a committed faith, which he drew on regularly. He was a devoted family man, exuding pride in his elder children, and taking on with ease the new roles and responsibilities of a father with young Luke and Saoirse. The reunion of all his children over Christmas 2012 gave him immense joy. . . .

‘When Declan became ill, he called me on skype to tell me of his condition. My wife Helena wrote to him and thanked him for letting us know. He replied: “Helena I was very touched by your message – it really brought home to me how important old friendships are. Niall MacHugh told me that I should tell my old friends because they will have something to contribute, and he was so right”.’

Brian Perry, Gilgil, Kenya, 23 Jan 2014

All drawings by Declan McKeever.

Jan 132014
 

Watch the following playlist of climate change films produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

These films describe how climate change is affecting millions of poor livestock herders and mixed crop-and-livestock farmers in Africa. Unpredictable and often extreme climatic events mean that overall, most of these livestock keepers struggle as droughts and floods devastate their increasingly fragile agricultural lands.

The first 8-minute film, ‘Heat, Rain and Livestock: Impact of climate change on Africa’s livestock herders’, shows how research-based interventions carried out by ILRI and its partners are helping livestock herders in northern Kenya cope with climate change.

Increasingly overcrowded lands and increasing competition for resources are contributing to more conflict between pastoral communities in many parts of Africa, but ‘scientific research, through projects such as ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) and a shift to raising animals that produce more (and more efficiently) and that are better adapted to climatic changes is making a difference.’

The second 4-minute film, ‘Climate, food and developing-country livestock farming’, describes many of the challenges experienced by small-scale livestock farmers in African countries, which remain under-appreciated by policymakers and the media in rich countries.

According to the ILRI film, ‘research can provide these farmers with the means to increase their production to meet growing demand for food in many countries while at the same time managing their environments.’

View the full climate change playlist on YouTube.

Read recent ILRI news articles on climate change:

Storming the ivory towers: Time for scientists to get out, ‘get social’, to learn better, faster–Nature commentary

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

Climate change–Wholesale reconfiguration of diets, livelihoods, farming will be required in some regions

Read research outputs from ILRI’s climate change research.

Jan 092014
 

Framework for building an evidence base on impacts of social learning

An evaluative framework for assembling an evidence base on the impacts of social learning. Figure 1 in Social learning and sustainable development, article by Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey, Marissa Van Epp and Philip Thornton, published in Nature Climate Change 4, 5–7 (2014) (first published online 20 Dec 2013).

Most of us like learning new things. But while learning alone is no fun, it’s hard to convince scientists, who spend their professional lives attempting to learn new things, to adopt ‘social learning’ approaches. These could help bring about new understandings, and help transform such understandings into development benefits, by helping scientists learn with, and from, a diverse group of stakeholders, including non-scientists, holding common purpose.

Those assumptions are held by social learning advocates, who include Patti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist at the World Agroforestry Centre and lead author of a commentary on social learning published in the 20 Dec 2013 online edition of Nature Climate Change. Kristjanson gives a main reason for the reluctance of her agricultural research colleagues to take up social learning. ‘First and foremost’, she says, ‘is the worry of scientists about the large transactions costs of the “many conversations and messy partnerships” such joint learning necessarily entails.’

‘Yet many of the same scientists also worry about the slow pace of agricultural development in many parts of the world’, Kristjanson says.

Those of us attempting to use science to help solve complex agriculturally related development problems—like how to help hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers adapt to harsher, more erratic, climates while producing more food and lifting themselves out of poverty—need to try new approaches. If we keep doing science the way we’ve always been doing it, we’re going to run out of time.’

This Nature Climate Change commentary includes a ‘call to action’.

Kristjanson and her colleagues say it’s time for climate change scientists to step up—to help effect a step change. ‘We need the “social engagement” of many, many more scientists working on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. We need them to help us build a solid body of evidence on the benefits—and the costs—of applying social learning approaches.’

The commentary provides a framework that can be used to assess when social learning is likely to be ‘really worth it’ and begins with an introduction, summarized here:

Agricultural research-for-development bodies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, CGIAR and their partners are under mounting pressure from their funders to link their research knowledge to actions that achieve faster and more substantive and long-lasting ‘development outcomes’, such as CGIAR’s four ‘system-level outcomes’ of reduced rural poverty, increased food security, better nutrition and health, and sustainable management of natural resources. To bring about the many changes in behaviour, policies and institutions as well as agricultural practices needed to achieve such broad benefits, the authors argue that researchers and their projects need to be continuously informed by, and engaged with, many others, including the individuals and societies they are working to benefit, so as to better understand, and more effectively use, the processes by which people and communities, and policymakers and government officials, learn and adapt their behaviour in the face of climate and other changes and pressures.

Among the many advantages the authors cite of agricultural scientists employing social learning approaches are the following:

  • joint learning and knowledge sharing and co-creation are enhanced among diverse stakeholders around a common purpose
  • the established traditions of participatory development are built on, with learning and collective change placed at the heart of such engagement
  • diverse knowledge and value systems are integrated in ways that help us tackle so-called ‘wicked’ (highly complex) socio-agro-ecological problems

The Nature Climate Change commentary provides a table of examples of agricultural development projects and programs that are already using social learning approaches.

On the face of it, the authors says, social learning approaches should help research-for-development institutions become smarter and more effective. But while iterative learning processes appear to be critical to adapting to environmental and other big changes, it’s difficult to apply ‘learning tools’ in many developing-country situations, they say, where there is high uncertainty and great poverty. ‘And we have as yet little evidence of the impacts of social learning approaches on “hard” development outcomes’, says Kristjanson. Scientists are also concerned, she says, about a lack of demonstrated ability to replicate and scale out the benefits of localized social learning.

The authors of this commentary include Philip Thornton, an agricultural systems analyst and climate change specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Thornton says that the authors are embarking on a ‘systematic evidence-gathering initiative, using a common evaluative framework to track new initiatives from a range of institutional settings that incorporate social learning approaches’.

‘The practical guidelines we provide’, he says, ‘should help those interested in applying social learning approaches to use the best available knowledge, information and tools to implement and document their initiatives’.

Acknowledgements
Patti Kristjanson and Philip Thornton both lead work of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Program (CCAFS), where Kristjanson leads its Linking Knowledge to Action Theme and Thornton its Data & Tools ThemeCCAFS is funded by the CGIAR Fund, AusAid, Danish International Development Agency, Environment Canada, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (Portugal), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UK Aid, and the European Union, with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Read
An authors’ version of this article is available for all to read on Cgspace.

Journal subscribers can read the whole article, Social learning and sustainable development, by Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey (International Development Research Centre, Canada), Marissa Van Epp (International Institute for Environment and Development, UK)) and Philip K Thornton, in Nature Climate Change 4, 5–7 (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2080 (first published online 20 Dec 2013).

A lively article about this Nature commentary was published by CCAFS yesterday (8 Jan 2014): Want sustainable development? Then it’s time to get social.

CCAFS, ILRI and their many partners invite you to join our efforts to create an evidence base on the impacts of social learning approaches. Leave your comments and ideas in the commentary section below or on the CCAFS website.

This Nature commentary article was produced as part of a continuing social learning process — see their wiki here: Climate Change and Social Learning initiative — in which knowledge is being co-constructed through many different channels. We are grateful and indebted to all who have participated in this process.

Dec 312013
 

Goat shelter by night

Improved goat shelter (illustration by ILRI/Birgit Boogaard).

Thanks for your readership of, and participation in, ILRI’s News Blog in 2013. Before jumping full tilt into 2014, you might want to check out these top posts in 2013 you might have missed.

A Happy New Year to you all!
May 2014 bring you peace, prosperity and joy.

20 top ILRI News Blog posts

LIVESTOCK FEEDS

29 Dec: Further unlocking the potential of maize: Dual-purpose is the new purpose of the world’s most important cereal

LIVESTOCK AND THE ENVIRONMENT

17 Dec: As livestock eat, so they emit: Highly variable diets drive highly variable climate change ‘hoofprints’–BIG new study

30 Sep: Improving the environmental sustainability of livestock systems in the developing world–ILRI’s Jimmy Smith

LIVESTOCK GOODS AND BADS

17 Sep: Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 2

16 Sep: Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1

04 Apr: Livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’: What are the published facts?

03 Apr: Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act–and a balanced account

LIVESTOCK AND FOOD SECURITY

17 Oct: ILRI’s Jimmy Smith on global health and food security: Why developing-country livestock matter so much

LIVESTOCK AND FOOD SAFETY

16 Oct: ‘The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor’: A little film for a big World Food Day and World Food Prize

GLOBAL ALLIANCES FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION

15 Oct: The IPCC of the livestock sector? Global Agenda of Action on building a sustainable livestock sector

17 Jun: Working together for viable livestock futures: Stakeholders at the Global Agenda of Action speak out

ILRI AND THE GLOBAL LIVESTOCK AGENDA

18 Jun: Jimmy Smith on the global development agenda, and livestock’s role in it — 13-minute film

12 Jun: Launching ILRI’s new long-term strategy for livestock research for development–15-minute film

31 May: Three presentations on livestock for–and in–development by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith

23 Jan: Taking the long livestock view

LIVESTOCK OPPORTUNITIES IN (FOR) AFRICA

27 Jun: Livestock present Africa with huge – ‘right now!’ – opportunities for food, prosperity, environment

LIVESTOCK VALUE CHAINS IN POOR COUNTRIES

21 Jun: More meat, milk and fish — Big interventions for ‘farm-to-table’ livestock value chains in poor countries

LIVESTOCK AND GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH

17 May: Dialing back on the drivers of global disease outbreaks: A look inside the ‘black box’

LIVESTOCK DISEASE IN AFRICA

01 May: New advances in the battle against a major disease threat to cattle and people in Africa

LIVESTOCK AND SOCIAL LEARNING

30 Mar: Cultivate the future! How learning together can mean learning better and faster–speeding research into use

Dec 292013
 

In the field: Kenya

Maize field at Kampi ya Moto, Kenya (photo on Flickr by C Schubert/CCAFS).

September 2013 special issue of the scientific journal Field Crops Research describes research to improve, and make wider use of, dual-purpose maize (or corn) varieties, which are used for their stover — the stalk, leaves and other residue of the plant after the grain has been harvested — as well as for their grain. Among smallholder farmers in Africa and other developing regions, maize stover is a common, and critically important, supplementary feed for ruminant livestock.

The special journal issue was edited by edited by Elaine Grings, of South Dakota State University (and formerly of ILRI); Olaf Erenstein, of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center; and Michael Blümmel, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The following statements are excerpted from a synthesis paper written by the editors, which presents key findings in 12 papers about the potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands.

This special issue substantiates that dual-purpose maize varieties are technically feasible and have a large potential market, particularly in many emerging markets. The reported findings argue the case for continued investments in maize stover R&D and thus reigniting earlier dual-purpose crop research in general.

WatotoWeeding4A-74

Children weed a maize plot at Kampi ya Moto, Kenya (photo on Flickr by C Schubert /CCAFS).

Among the findings are the following.

‘Maize — or corn (Zea mays L.) — now is the most important global cereal in terms of production reflecting its versatility in use, including human food, animal feed and fodder, industrial products and biofuel.’

‘Despite being a versatile crop, maize production and maize breeding efforts over time have typically had a single-purpose orientation [on improving grain yields]. . . . Even smallholders within mixed maize-livestock systems typically focus on maize grain yield . . . , with maize stover as additional byproduct and benefit.’

There are prospects within the range of stover quality to increase fodder quality without compromising grain yield.

‘It is this potential of dual-purpose varieties that has reignited research interest and some of the research underlying this special issue. Indeed, despite earlier skepticism only a decade ago, substantial progress has been made in developing dual-purpose maize options for both grain and fodder purposes . . . .’

‘Maize germplasm differences in fodder quality can be exploited without compromising on grain yield.’

‘Confirmation of the relatively favorable feed value of maize stover vis-à-vis other coarse cereal residues — having at least par if not better feed quality traits compared to sorghum and millet, which have been the focus of prior dual-purpose crop improvement research and have been reported to contribute substantially to gross crop production values.’

‘Confirmation of being able to rely on a few key laboratory indicators . . .  as good proxies for feed quality . . . as this enhances the ease of screening for feed quality traits.’

‘From a livestock nutrition viewpoint, an increase in stover quantity is only useful (unless making stover cheaper) if livestock can respond with increased intake, which is stover quality dependent.’

Dairy cow on a Kenyan smallholding

 A dairy cow on one of Kenya’s many smallholder farms consumes maize stover, an important supplementary feed in East Africa (photo credit: ILRI).

Read the synthesis paper, as well as other papers, in this special issue of Field Crops Research 153 (2013) 107–112, edited by Elaine Grings, Olaf Erenstein and Michael Blümmel. The papers authored by ILRI scientists include the following.

Blümmel M, Grings E and Erenstein O 2013:
Potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands: Synthesis

Erenstein O, Blümmel M and Grings E 2013:
Potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands: Overview

Homann Kee-Tui S, Blümmel M, Valbuena D, Chirima A, Masikati P, Rooyen AF van and Kassie GT 2013:
Assessing the potential of dual-purpose maize in southern Africa: A multi-level approach

Anandan S, Khan AA, Ravi D, Sai Butcha Rao M, Reddy YR and Blümmel M 2013:
Identification of a superior dual purpose maize hybrid among widely grown hybrids in South Asia
and value addition to its stover through feed supplementation and feed processing

Ravi D, Khan AA, Sai Butcha Rao M and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on suitable laboratory stover quality traits for multidimensional maize improvement

Ramana Reddy Y, Ravi D, Ramakrishna Reddy C, Prasad KVSV, Zaidi PH, Vinayan MT and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on the correlations between maize grain and maize stover quantitative and qualitative traits
and the implications for whole maize plant optimization

Lukuyu BA, Murdoch AJ, Romney D, Mwangi DM, Njuguna JGM, McLeod A and Jama AN 2013:
Integrated maize management options to improve forage yield and quality on smallholder farms in Kenya

Ertiro BT, Twumasi-Afriyie S, Blummel M, Friesen D, Negera D, Worku M, Abakemal D and Kitenge K 2013:
Genetic variability of maize stover quality and the potential for genetic improvement of fodder value

Ertiro BT, Zeleke H, Friesen D, Blümmel M and Twumasi-Afriyie, S 2013:
Relationship between the performance of parental inbred lines and hybrids for food-feed traits in maize (Zea mays L.) in Ethiopia

Zaidi PH, Vinayan MT and Blümmel M 2012:
Genetic variability of tropical maize stover quality and the potential for genetic improvement of food-feed value in India

Vinayan MT, Babu R, Jyothsna T, Zaidi PH and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on potential candidate genomic regions with implications for maize stover fodder quality

Read about this special issue in the ILRI Clippings Blog:
Field Crops Research special issue on dual-purpose maize for food and feed, 15 Nov 2013.

Dec 192013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on biological control to reduce aflatoxins.

Read more on strengthening regional research capacity to deal with aflatoxins.

Dec 182013
 

Tanzanian Maasai helping to treat cattle against East Coast fever

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

Dec 172013
 

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia

Cattle being watered in Ethiopia’s Ghibe Valley (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The most detailed livestock analysis to date, published yesterday, shows vast differences in animal diets and emissions.

The resources required to raise livestock and the impacts of farm animals on environments vary dramatically depending on the animal, the type of food it provides, the kind of feed it consumes and where it lives, according to a new study that offers the most detailed portrait to date of ‘livestock ecosystems’ in different parts of the world.

The study, published yesterday (16 Dec 2013) in an early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the newest comprehensive assessment assembled of what cows, sheep, pigs, poultry and other farm animals are eating in different parts of the world; how efficiently they convert that feed into milk, eggs and meat; and the amount of greenhouse gases they produce.

The study, produced by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), shows that animals in many parts of the developing world require far more food to produce a kilo of protein than animals in wealthy countries. It also shows that pork and poultry are being produced far more efficiently than milk and beef, and greenhouse gas emissions vary widely depending on the animal involved and the quality of its diet.

There’s been a lot of research focused on the challenges livestock present at the global level, but if the problems are global, the solutions are almost all local and very situation-specific’, says Mario Herrero, lead author of the study who earlier this year left ILRI to take up the position of chief research scientist at CSIRO in Australia.

‘Our goal is to provide the data needed so that the debate over the role of livestock in our diets and our environments and the search for solutions to the challenges they present can be informed by the vastly different ways people around the world raise animals’, said Herrero.

‘This very important research should provide a new foundation for addressing the sustainable development of livestock in a very resource-challenged and hungry world, where, in many areas, livestock can be crucial to food security’, said Harvard University’s William C. Clark, editorial board member of the Sustainability Science section at PNAS.

For the last four years, Herrero has been working with scientists at ILRI and the lIASA in Austria to deconstruct livestock impacts beyond what they view as broad and incomplete representations of the livestock sector. Their findings—supplemented with 50 illustrative maps and more than 100 pages of additional data—anchor a special edition of PNAS devoted to exploring livestock-related issues and global change. Scientists say the new data fill a critical gap in research on the interactions between livestock and natural resources region by region.

The initial work was funded by ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

By the numbers

Livestock production and diets
The study breaks down livestock production into nine global regions—the more developed regions of Europe and Russia (1), North America (2) and Oceania (3), along with the developing regions of Southeast Asia (4), Eastern Asia (5, including China), South Asia (6), Latin America and the Caribbean (7), sub-Saharan Africa (8) and the Middle East and North Africa (9).

The data reveal sharp contrasts in overall livestock production and diets. For example:

Of the 59 million tons of beef produced in the world in 2000, the vast majority came from cattle in Latin America, Europe and North America. All of sub-Saharan Africa produced only about 3 million tons of beef.

Highly intensive industrial-scale production accounts for almost all of the poultry and pork produced in Europe, North America and China. In stark contrast, between 40 to 70 per cent of all poultry and pork production in South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa is produced by small-scale farmers.

Almost all of the 1.3 billion tons of grain consumed by livestock each year are fed to farm animals in Europe, North America, Eastern China and Latin America, with pork and poultry hogging the feed trough. All of the livestock in sub-Saharan Africa combined eat only about 50 million tons of grain each year, relying more on grasses and ‘stovers’, the leaf and stalk residues of crops left in the field after harvest.

Greenhouse gas emissions
Scientists also sought to calculate the amount of greenhouse gases livestock are releasing into the atmosphere and to examine emissions by region, animal type and animal product. They modelled only the emissions linked directly to animals—the gases released through their digestion and manure production.

Some important findings include:
South Asia, Latin America, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest total regional emissions from livestock. Between the developed and developing worlds, the developing world accounts for the most emissions from livestock, including 75 per cent of emissions from cattle and other ruminants and 56 per cent from poultry and pigs.

The study found that cattle (for beef or dairy) are the biggest source of greenhouse emissions from livestock globally, accounting for 77 per cent of the total. Pork and poultry account for only 10 per cent of emissions.

Analyzing efficiency and intensity
Scientists note that the most important insights and questions emerging from the new data relate to the amount of feed livestock consume to produce a kilo of protein, something known as ‘feed efficiency’, and the amount of greenhouse gases released for every kilo of protein produced, something known as ‘emission intensity’.

Meat v. dairy, grazing animals v. poultry and pork
The study shows that ruminant animals (cows, sheep, and goats) require up to five times more feed to produce a kilo of protein in the form of meat than a kilo of protein in the form of milk.

The large differences in efficiencies in the production of different livestock foods warrant considerable attention’, the authors note. ‘Knowing these differences can help us define sustainable and culturally appropriate levels of consumption of milk, meat and eggs.’

The researchers also caution that livestock production in many parts of the developing world must be evaluated in the context of its ‘vital importance for nutritional security and incomes’.

The study confirmed that pigs and poultry (monogastrics) are more efficient at converting feed into protein than are cattle, sheep and goats (ruminants), and it further found that this is the case regardless of the product involved or where the animals are raised. Globally, pork produced 24 kilos of carbon per kilo of edible protein, and poultry produced only 3.7 kilos of carbon per kilo of protein—compared with anywhere from 58 to 1,000 kilos of carbon per kilo of protein from ruminant meat.

The authors caution that the lower emission intensities in the pig and poultry sectors are driven largely by industrial systems, ‘which provide high-quality, balanced concentrate diets for animals of high genetic potential’. But these systems also pose significant public health risks (with the transmission of zoonotic diseases from these animals to people) and environmental risks, notably greenhouse gases produced by the energy and transport services needed for industrial livestock production and the felling of forests to grow crops for animal feed.

Feed quality in the developing world

The study shows that the quality of an animal’s diet makes a major difference in both feed efficiency and emission intensity. In arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where the fodder available to grazing animals is of much lower quality than that in many other regions, a cow can consume up to ten times more feed—mainly in the form of rangeland grasses—to produce a kilo of protein than a cow kept in more favourable conditions.

Similarly, cattle scrounging for food in the arid lands of Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan can, in the worst cases, release the equivalent of 1,000 kilos of carbon for every kilo of protein they produce. By comparison, in many parts of the US and Europe, the emission intensity is around 10 kilos of carbon per kilo of protein. Other areas with moderately high emission intensities include parts of the Amazon, Mongolia, the Andean region and South Asia.

Our data allow us to see more clearly where we can work with livestock keepers to improve animal diets so they can produce more protein with better feed while simultaneously reducing emissions’, said Petr Havlik, a research scholar at IIASA and a co-author of the study.

No absolute indicators of sustainability
While the new data will greatly help to assess the sustainability of different livestock production systems, the authors cautioned against using any single measurement as an absolute indicator of sustainability. For example, the low livestock feed efficiencies and high greenhouse gas emission intensities in sub-Saharan Africa are determined largely by the fact that most animals in this region continue to subsist largely on vegetation inedible by humans, especially by grazing on marginal lands unfit for crop production and the stovers and other residues of plants left on croplands after harvesting.

‘While our measurements may make a certain type of livestock production appear inefficient, that production system may be the most environmentally sustainable, as well as the most equitable way of using that particular land’, said Philip Thornton, another co-author and an ILRI researcher at CCAFS.

That’s why this research is so important. We’re providing a set of detailed, highly location-specific analyses so we can get a fuller picture of how livestock in all these different regions interact with their ecosystems and what the real trade-offs are in changing these livestock production systems in future.’

Read the full paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systems, by Mario Herrero (ILRI), Petr Havlík (ILRI and IIASA), Hugo Valin (IIASA), An Notenbaert (ILRI), Mariana Rufino (ILRI), Philip Thornton (ILRI), Michael Blümmel (ILRI), Franz Weiss (IIASA), Delia Grace (ILRI) and Michael Obersteiner (IIASA), in a Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change, early online edition of 16 Dec 2013.

119 pages of supporting online information, including 50 maps, is available at PNAS here.

Read the introduction to this Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change: Livestock and global change: Emerging issues for sustainable food systems, by Mario Herrero and Philip Thornton, in the early online edition of 16 Dec 2013.

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

Nov 132013
 

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Burkina Faso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries in Burkina Faso, attended a Regional Capacity Development Workshop in Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in the capital of Ouagadougou, 4 to 6 November, 2013.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only a handful of qualified livestock breeders and geneticists. Regional collaboration among scientists and institutions in this area provides rare opportunities to exchange information, pull together resources, network with other professionals, and partner strategic organizations.

Addressing more than 75 representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries before meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon on 6 November, Minister Ouedraogo highlighted the need for regional cooperation among individuals and institutions given the region’s scarcity of qualified livestock breeders. He pointed out the urgent need for more appropriate breeding strategies and schemes that will ease access by poor farmers herding livestock in harsh environments to superior livestock germplasm. He thanked ILRI and its partners for supporting Africa’s Global Action Plan on Animal Genetic Resources, which was endorsed by African governments in 2007.

The minister referred to collaboration between ILRI and partners that has effectively built investments, programs and capacity in this area. Best practices must be captured for replication and scaling up, he said. While research should benefit local communities, he said, the scale of the impacts of research depend largely on whether national policies, national budget allocations and national development plans reflect the importance of better use of native livestock resources and allocate funds for developing national capacity in this area.

The minister encouraged the workshop participants to engage actively with those developing a second State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources report, due to be published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014.

APM 2013: How can we unlock the genetic potentials of local livestock breeds?

The workshop was organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). In partnership with FAO, the African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism for Africa (TEAM-Africa), ILRI and SLU are holding regional back-to-back workshops this November in Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Botswana. The purpose is to strengthen regional platforms boosting knowledge exchange, collaboration and capacity in improved conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources.

CGIAR and ILRI have worked together with SLU for a decade to develop capacity in animal genetic resources work. Groups of selected ‘champions’ of this work have been given training in their home institutions by the ILRI/SLU project to advance animal genetic resources teaching in higher education and research work within and outside the university.

Abdou Fall

Abdou Fall, ILRI representative for Burkina Faso and West Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan)

In an opening address to the workshop, Abdou Fall, ILRI’s country and West Africa’s regional representative, commended the strong representation from 22 countries in the region: from Senegal to Congo and from Benin to Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

This geographic breadth’, Fall said, ‘should help provoke dynamic discussions on better and more sustainable use of Africa’s livestock breeds and genes and the capacity development programs that underpin this.

Training has long been a central element in the capacity development approaches ILRI and SLU have taken to strengthen Africa’s use of animal genetic resources; indeed, for many partners and donor organizations, Fall said, this training has been a hallmark of the project’s achievements over the past decade. But Fall highlighted that capacity development work in CGIAR/ILRI goes beyond training and transferring knowledge and skills to individuals, and now embraces work effecting change in organizations, institutions, cultures and sectors.

Fall said capacity development activities can serve sustainable use and appropriate management of the continent’s diminishing livestock genetic resources only if they are embedded within broader policies, strategies and frameworks. ILRI takes a systems approach to capacity development, he said, which addresses up front institutional and organizational shortcomings and regulatory and cultural barriers to sustainable development.

Progress in this kind of capacity development work is measured at the following three levels:
Environment: The policies, rules, legislation, regulations, power relations and social norms that help bring about an enabling or disabling environment for sustainable development;
Organization: The internal policies, arrangements, procedures and frameworks that enable or disable an organization to deliver on its mandate and individuals to work together to achieve common goals
Individual: The skills, experience, knowledge and motivation of people.

Taking such a systems perspective, Fall explained, requires finding the right balance between, on the one hand, responding to expressed demand for agricultural research-based knowledge and interventions, and, on the other, jumping on emerging opportunities and innovations with potential for accelerating agricultural development.

This workshop should help AU-IBAR increase its animal genetics work through a 5-year project funded by the European Union and through strengthened collaboration with FAO in this area. Outcomes of the 4-day Burkina Faso workshop — including lessons learned from the past, a prioritized list of new topics/problems for new MSc and PhD students to take on, a list of key messages, and action plans for animal genetic resources work in Western Africa — will help lay the foundations of the West African Platform on Animal Genetic Resources.

More information on ILRI’s contribution to capacity development for animal genetic resource work can be found here: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/16393 and here http://agtr.ilri.cgiar.org

About ILRI
ILRI is one of 15 CGIAR research centres and 16 multi-centre research programs located around the world and dedicated to reducing poverty and improving food security, health and nutrition, and natural resource management. Like other CGIAR centres, ILRI leads, co-leads or supports cutting-edge research on sustainable agriculture and designs, conducts and monitors in-country research-for-development programs and projects with the aim of producing international public goods at scales that make significant difference in the lives of the world’s poorest populations. ILRI does this work in collaboration with many public and private partners, which combine upstream ‘solution-driven’ research with downstream adaptive science, often in high-potential livestock value chains engaging small- and medium-sized agri-businesses and suppliers. In this work, ILRI and its partners are explicitly supporting work to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and their successor (now being formulated), the Sustainable Development Goals.

ILRI envisions a world where all people have access to enough food and livelihood options to fulfill their potential. ILRI’s mission is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock, ‘ensuring better lives through livestock’.

Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.

 
Nov 122013
 

Close up: Oromo jewelerys

If discussions at a recent research for development meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are to be believed, transformations are afoot at the intersection of gender equity and capacity development work in the strategies and approaches, if not (fully) yet on the ground, of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

By Dorine Odongo and Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Development experts these days will, to a man and woman, insist that we need to do more to empower (poor) women in developing countries. A particularly popular target are the women who grow most of the food their families and communities, and their cities and nations, are consuming. Such ‘gender focus’ is all the rage in agricultural research for development circles.

So far, so good, but just what does a ‘gender focus’ look like that actually makes a difference in the lives of some half a billion women producing food in the face of severe material and resource poverty?

Scientists working on gender issues in a new(ish) research program aiming to make more milk, meat and fish available to the poor and to improve food safety in informal markets think they may have a handle on this.

They call their approach ‘gender transformative’. Basically, that means they’re ambitious to increase women’s income from, and employment in, livestock and fish ‘value chains’ in ways that transform, rather than merely incrementally improve, those livelihoods.

Can that work?
The gender experts working with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish think so. They met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 14–18 Oct 2013 to look at how much their ‘transformative’ strategy has succeeded and to define new strategies and entry points for interventions for 2014–2015. They’re looking in particular at how far they’ve managed to do four things:

(1) develop capacity (in individuals, groups, organizations, institutions) to do productive research and development work in relevant livestock-, fish- and gender-related fields

(2) empower women in their work in livestock and fish ‘value chains’ (these involve all the steps and processes from on-farm production of livestock and fish through the marketing, processing, selling and final consumption of livestock and fish products)

(3) improve the nutrition of poor households in selected communities targeted by the Livestock and Fish research program

(4) encourage others to apply gender transformative approaches to this research-for-development work

At the Addis meeting, presentations were made and discussions held on results made so far by gender scientists and country partners from Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), Southeast Asia (Malaysia) and Central America (Nicaragua) involved in the Livestock and Fish research program. Participants heard about an extensive ‘in-depth women-retailer only analysis’ conducted in five Egyptian governorates that support the formation of women retailer committees. The Livestock and Fish program helped members of these committees improve their links to markets and supported them in engaging in public-private partnerships with local governments to construct marketplaces tailored for small- to medium-sized fish sellers.

In another example, members of a project on Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) developed guidelines for mainstreaming gendered approaches to development for the project’s partners at both national and local levels and in both the public and private sectors. In addition, research on food safety and health in Ethiopia led to a research summary report of gender-related consumption practices, as presented here. The issue of food safety and health is crucial in livestock products and as described in this ILRI Livestock Exchange issue brief, safer food can generate both health and wealth for the poor. If women are supported in this area, they have better chances of competing in the markets with higher quality products.

The field trip
On one day, the workshop participants travelled to central Ethiopia’s West Shoa Zone to visit the Biruh Tesfa Dairy Cooperative, the Hunde Hajebatu Small-scale Irrigation Women’s Group, the LIVES Knowledge Centre in the Zonal Office of Agriculture and a model farmer engaging in a traditional mix of livestock keeping, crop farming and beekeeping. The field trip gave the workshop participants an opportunity to observe at firsthand issues affecting small-scale Ethiopian food producers regarding capacity development, ‘gender transformative’ approaches in that capacity development work, agricultural value chains, and gender-related impacts on household nutrition. These field visits served to underscore a need to apply a gender focus to capacity development work.

Reality checks
The Biruh Tesfa Dairy Cooperative was established in 2004. Of 40 founding members, 15 were women. While the membership has grown to 70 in the last 9 years, the number of women remains unchanged at 15, and no woman yet serves on the cooperative’s board. The cooperative has just two basic kinds of equipment for value addition and they do not have information on how to maintain milk quality and safety standards. Despite being registered as a cooperative, the representatives we spoke to appeared to have no knowledge of how to set up a savings scheme from the profits earned by the cooperative. The members of this cooperative are thus not taking full advantage of the benefits accruing to membership in a co-operative, such as access to loans, which they could use to buy equipment and further upgrade their dairy operations. These observations triggered questions from the gender working group on the constraints these farmers face in accessing:

  • credit facilities
  • dairy information, e.g., via agricultural extension and advisory services
  • technical support
  • dairy markets
  • government support

A similar lack of knowledge about technological options available for Ethiopia’s many small-scale farmers was observed in the gender group’s visit to the Hunde Hajebatu Small-scale Irrigation Women’s Group, which is growing and selling potatoes. After receiving a government loan, this group had a hard time identifying technological options they could use to improve their irrigated potato production. They have not been able to improve their production levels over the three years they have been in existence. Although various options exist for improving small-scale irrigation technologies such as those used by this group, Abebeu Gutema, the group’s leader, says the women do not know where to get hold of this information.

The chicken or the egg?
Later in the tour, the gender group visited Gadisa Gobena, a farmer active in dairy production, livestock rearing, beekeeping and crop farming. Over 50 and well past retirement age, this former schoolteacher is now pursuing his passion for agriculture. Gobena keeps more than one hundred dairy cows on his farm. And though he is at times challenged to market all of his milk, he plans both to increase his stock and to invest in improved dairy technologies for making greater efficiencies and profits. Gobena now employs some 40 people.

Accessing knowledge, getting exposure
While the previous groups visited had little information about, or exposure to, latest technologies that could boost their production and diversify their products, Gobena is looking to acquire milking machines and other technologies to enhance his operations. One likely reason for his outward-looking approach is his travel to other countries, where he saw and learned about emerging trends and technologies in small-scale agriculture and its potential. He recently successfully applied for a business loan. Understanding the importance of sharing his knowledge with other farmers and exposing them to new ideas, Gobena gives back to his community through a farmer extension training centre that he has established. His centre provides 50 to 70 farmers with free training, agricultural information, and seeds, insecticides, livestock drugs and other farm inputs at minimal cost. The centre includes demonstration plots where the farmers can observe different farming practices.

Gobena is clearly a ‘change maker’ for his farm community. The LIVES project and gender visitors have a job now to try to determine what has most encouraged Gobena in his development of his own capacity and that of his community. What came first? Did his confidence push him to take the first step in farm improvements? Or did his farm success build his confidence? Was it business sense that set him apart? Or did he acquire that along the way?

At the end of the field tour, the gender group concluded that three major issues were key to capacity development:

  • leadership
  • access to knowledge
  • exposure to emerging trends and technological advances

While effectiveness of the previous groups in maximizing their agricultural production is limited by lack of access to knowledge about the available technological options and leadership ability, Gobena’ s success in his farming activities can be attributed to having been influenced by these three issues.

The time is now
Following the gender workshop in Addis Ababa, ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit hosted a CGIAR capacity development workshop in Nairobi 21–25 Oct 2013. Participants were experts in organizational development, training design and facilitation, social learning, institutional change, ICT innovations and related fields. ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit is looking to influence change at the following three levels.

  • Institutional change: The policies, legislations and power relations that govern the mandates, priorities, modes of operation and civic engagement across different parts of society
  • Organizational change: Formal and informal arrangements, internal policies, procedures and frameworks that encourage and enable individuals and organizations to work together towards mutual goals
  • Individual change: Developing leadership, experience, knowledge and technical skills in people

ILRI’s lead scientist for gender research, Kathleen Colverson, who organized the ‘transformative gender’ workshop in Addis Ababa, participated in the CGIAR-wide capacity development workshop in Nairobi, which was organized by Iddo Dror, head of capacity development at ILRI. At this second workshop, Colverson again emphasized the central role of capacity development in addressing gender issues, an example of which is her recently produced training manual for use in facilitating gender workshops and closing the gender gap in agriculture.

Will these transformative gender and capacity development strategies turn out to be truly transformative? Watch this (ILRI, CGIAR) space. . . .

Gender workshop posters and presentations

Dorine Odongo is a communications consultant with ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender, Impacts and Innovation Program; Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a new staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.