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.

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.

Nov 082013
 

In this 6-minute film, two leading scientists combatting aflatoxins in the food chains of developing countries describe some of the risks these toxins pose and new options for their better control. Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic byproduct of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts, as well as in the milk and meat of livestock that have consumed feeds contaminated with aflatoxins. These toxins threaten public health in many poor countries.

In this short film, Delia Grace and John McDermott discuss on-going research to control aflatoxins in developing countries and why this research matters so much.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist who leads research on both ‘food safety and zoonoses’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, a flagship project of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). John McDermott, another veterinary epidemiologist by training, who formerly served as ILRI’s deputy director general for research and now works for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is director of A4NH (Agriculture for Nutrition and Health), a multi-centre program led by IFPRI.

Earlier this week (4 Nov 2013), IFPRI and its 2020 Vision initiative jointly with the CGIAR Research Program on A4NH released a series of 19 briefs on the state of efforts to combat aflatoxins. ILRI’s Grace co-edited the series with IFPRI’s Laurian Unnevehr: ‘Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety’. Grace and Unnevehr themselves developed 2 of the 19 briefs: ‘Tackling aflatoxins: An overview of challenges and solutions’  and The role of risk assessment in guiding aflatoxin policy’. In another of the briefs, Grace zeroes in on the dangers of aflatoxins in animal-source foods: ‘Animals and aflatoxins’. Jagger Harvey and Benoit Gnonlonfin, two scientists with ILRI’s Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, along with colleagues in Australia and Cornell University, wrote the last brief in the series: ‘Improving diagnostics for aflatoxin detection‘.

Aflatoxins grow naturally on many farms, infesting grains and groundnuts, particularly after drought or insect damage and are a particularly common problem in developing countries, where aflatoxins not only pose a significant public health risk but also create a barrier to trade in agricultural commodities.

‘These toxins have a range of effects on human and animal health,’ says Grace. ‘High doses are lethal to both humans and animals and chronic consumption of lower levels of aflatoxins is associated with liver cancer and immunosuppression in children.’

Researchers have known about the problem of aflatoxins in developing countries for several decades but because these countries have largely informal markets and minimal trade, people have tended to minimize or ignore the problem.

‘But this is changing’, says McDermott. ‘Recent cases of aflatoxin-related deaths in Africa widened appreciation that this problem is important; there’s been a recent increase in investment in different control methods’, he says.

The series of briefs released this week brings together the experiences of researchers both within and outside CGIAR and contributes to efforts to help smallholder farmers better manage aflatoxins on their farms.

The briefs describe health risks from aflatoxins and the state of research on aflatoxins, including new methods of detection, crop breeding and food storage and handling, as well as ways to overcome the market constraints imposed by aflatoxins.

‘We’ve assembled for policy- and other decision-makers the current state of knowledge on what we need to do about aflatoxins in tropical countries,’ says McDermott.

Read more about the briefs released this week:

http://www.ifpri.org/publication/aflatoxins-finding-solutions-improved-food-safety

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

Download

Table of Contents and Introduction

1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions
by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

2. Aflatoxicosis: Evidence from Kenya
by Abigael Obura

3. Aflatoxin Exposure and Chronic Human Diseases: Estimates of Burden of Disease
by Felicia Wu

4. Child Stunting and Aflatoxins
by Jef L Leroy

5. Animals and Aflatoxins
by Delia Grace

6. Managing Mycotoxin Risks in the Food Industry: The Global Food Security Link
by David Crean

7. Farmer Perceptions of Aflatoxins: Implications for Intervention in Kenya
by Sophie Walker and Bryn Davies

8. Market-led Aflatoxin Interventions: Smallholder Groundnut Value Chains in Malawi
by Andrew Emmott

9. Aflatoxin Management in the World Food Programme through P4P Local Procurement
by Stéphane Méaux, Eleni Pantiora and Sheryl Schneider

10. Reducing Aflatoxins in Africa’s Crops: Experiences from the Aflacontrol Project
by Clare Narrod

11. Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Reduce Aflatoxin Risk
by Felicia Wu

12. Trade Impacts of Aflatoxin Standards
by Devesh Roy

13. Codex Standards: A Global Tool for Aflatoxin Management
by Renata Clarke and Vittorio Fattori

14. The Role of Risk Assessment in Guiding Aflatoxin Policy
by Delia Grace and Laurian Unnevehr

15. Mobilizing Political Support: Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
by Amare Ayalew, Wezi Chunga and Winta Sintayehu

16. Biological Controls for Aflatoxin Reduction
by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay and Peter J Cotty

17. Managing Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize: Developing Host Resistance
by George Mahuku, Marilyn L Warburton, Dan Makumbi and Felix San Vicente

18. Reducing Aflatoxins in Groundnuts through Integrated Management and Biocontrol
by Farid Waliyar, Moses Osiru, Hari Kishan Sudini and Samuel Njoroge

19. Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection
by Jagger Harvey, Benoit Gnonlonfin, Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell

References

 

Nov 042013
 

 

Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Two major recent World Bank agricultural summits in Mauritania and Senegal recently urged African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods.

‘. . . African agriculture employs a massive 65–70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30–40 percent of GDP. It represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region’, said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, who opened the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on 29 Oct 2013.

The statement that follow are by John McIntire, deputy director-general—integrated sciences, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who gave his thoughts at one of these summits on ‘The future of West African pastoralism’.

From ILRI deputy director general John McIntire

Sustainability
• West African pastoralism is biologically and economically sustainable at current levels of animal productivity and personal incomes

• By ‘sustainable’, I mean roughly constant annual average stocking rates (in tropical livestock units [TLU]) and roughly constant rates of personal income growth from animal production

• Beyond current levels of real per capita incomes, the biological facts of pastoralism – heat, aridity, low soil fertility, sharp seasonality – make it difficult to raise productivity and incomes at current shares of livestock in total incomes

• Income can be expected to grow more rapidly among herding peoples who have moved out of pastoralism (into industry, services, and government) and this income will contribute indirectly to the viability of pastoralism per se by providing finance for growth and insurance against calamity

Why pastoralism is sustainable only at roughly constant levels
Adaptation to marginal areas
• In West Africa, pastoralism thrives in marginal areas just as it does in Australia, in the western United States, in Mongolia, in parts of Latin America and even in the Arctic Circle, because it is adapted to such areas and other sectors (arable farming) are not

• The adaptation of pastoralism to marginal areas is, unfortunately, what traps it in a low-productivity equilibrium and subjects it to catastrophic risks that are difficult to insure against

Pasture productivity
• Pasture productivity is low in pastoral areas because of heat, aridity, low soil fertility, and unusually sharp seasonality

• An important system constraint to pastoral growth is that the chief limiting resource – wet season pastures – cannot be expanded easily without inducing conflicts with arable farming

• Sown forages do not complement pastures in pastoralism, as they often do in mixed farming systems, because heat, low soil fertility and aridity make it costly to raise forage yields in pastoral areas without irrigation

• Irrigation is usually too expensive for sown forages in pastoral areas unless used for commercial dairying, which is not common in remote areas because markets are thin

• Sown forages are not a complement to wet season pastures because that is when pastures are cheapest anyway

Risks
• Associated with low-growth sustainability are high risks caused by rainfall variability, animal disease, and markets

• Periodic droughts disturb long-term growth of herds, destroying animal capital and forcing herders to restock

• However, the risks of pastoralism now appear to be less of a threat to pastoral livelihoods today than in even the recent past because of higher non-pastoral incomes (which provide diversification), better communications and cheaper transport

• Animal health is better than in the past (less trypanosomiasis because of more intensive land use; elimination of rinderpest, more veterinary services) but gains from better animal health are (partly) self-limiting because they are partly consumed by forage costs; that is, healthy animals consume more feed, causing the price of feed to rise

• The long-term shift from cattle to small ruminants will continue and this will tend to reduce income risks aggregated over time by shortening the periods in which flocks recover compared to the recovery periods of cattle

Competition in market for animal proteins
• West African price trends will be unfavourable to red meat because of faster technical changes in non-ruminant meats, so the value of ruminant sales cannot be expected to grow in real terms relative to other animal-source proteins; the constant pressure of imports harms the economic viability of pastoralism by limiting its traditional markets

A likely future
• From this reasoning – constraints to the asset base of pasture and animal capital, persistent risks and the costs of managing them, competition from other sources of protein – the quantity, quality and productivity of pastoral assets can only grow slowly in real per capita terms

• As long as population growth is vigorous, real per capita income growth is limited by growth of the capital stock in a way that is not typical of the industrial and service sectors

What can be done?
Build pastoral assets
• Defend pasture corridors against crops and towns; corridors maintain mobility and reduce risk of conflict between farmers and herders

• Build roads – roads reduce marketing costs, promote social capital, and insure against distress sales

• Make irrigation more compatible with pastoralism – one idea is to subsidize modest areas dedicated to forage reserves; another is to see that irrigation projects do not deprive pastoralists of access to dry-season water; ensure that irrigation does not aggravate vector-borne diseases of people or animals (such as Rift Valley fever)

Create social capital for pastoral peoples
• Provide free social services – education, health, social protection; they give additional incomes to pastoralists and reduce their income risks and improve life prospects for pastoral peoples outside herding …

• Give pastoralists legal entitlements to rent income (minerals, wildlife, tourism) in their regions; this is controversial and I do not wish to minimize the political problems but we know that the mechanisms for income transfers today are cheaper than ever before and those mechanisms should not be adduced as a pretext not to distribute resources regularly and transparently

• Give legal pasture land entitlements to pastoral associations but do not make them individually tradable because of the risk of land grabs

• Sell commercial index-based insurance products and link the use of those products to participatory disease surveillance via the cellular phone networks market information …

• Invest in public research – especially in veterinary epidemiology, disease surveillance, in diseases related to animal confinement and production intensification

Promote complementary private investments
• Some complementary private investments might be lightly subsidized on the grounds that subsidies contribute to maintenance of a unique livelihood and culture

• Target productive investments – in industrial feedlots, animal waste management, in peri-urban dairying – to the finishing stage of animals’ lives; such investments are crucial for expanding pastoral markets because they offer growth possibilities that other investments at earlier stages do not offer

• Ease resource flows between pastoral and non-pastoral sectors – Remittances of money and knowledge from pastoral peoples working in cities or on arable farms, or return of those people as vets, well diggers, road builders, irrigated farmers, teachers and health workers, are beneficial to total pastoral income, not by direct effects on pastoral incomes but by adapting to risks and by improving resilience

More information from John McIntire: j [dot] mcintire [at] cgiar [dot] org

Read the whole World Bank press release: West Africa: The Sahel—New push to transform agriculture with more support for pastoralism and irrigation, 27 Oct 2013.

Oct 232013
 

INTERNEWS_NAIROBI

Most Kenyan farmers listen to the radio to learn how to farm better but are not receiving the information they need (photo credit: Flickr/Internews Network).

Radio is still the dominant media channel used by Kenya’s small-scale farmers wanting to learn new techniques to improve their farming methods. But farmers say they’re still not receiving most of the agricultural information they badly need.

Findings of a 2012 study of over 600 small-scale farm households spread across high- to low-yield agricultural regions of Kenya in Nakuru, Nyanza, Nyeri, Machakos, Makueni and Webuye show that farmers receive mostly basic ‘how to’ and technical information; despite its modest usefulness, this kind of information is not enough to enable these Kenyan farmers to improve their food production levels or practices.

Selected findings from this study were shared in a presentation, ‘Shortcomings in communications on agricultural knowledge transfer’, made by Christoph Spurk, a media researcher, at a seminar on 17 Oct 2013 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘Over 75 per cent of the households we reviewed practised mixed crop-and-livestock farming, with an average of 4–6 people in each household occupying 1–3 acres of land. Over half of those we interviewed were women’, said Spurk, who is also an agricultural economist and a professor at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Applied Media Studies.

‘One of our key findings’, says Spurk, ‘was that government extension services are still the “most trusted source” of agricultural information for most farmers, even though many of these services are “difficult to reach and less available than expected”.’

At the same time, the study found significant gaps between the agricultural information farmers would like to receive and what they actually get through different communication channels.

‘The farmers are receiving mostly technical agricultural information even though they prefer information on markets, improving incomes and fighting farm-related diseases’, said Spurk. ‘They also said most of the information they get is presented in simplified top-down “how-to” formats rather than in detailed formats that lay out the different options available to them.’

According to the study’s findings, radio is used by 95% of the households. Even though two-thirds of the households also have access to mobile phones, only 11% of mobile phone owners use these devices to access to agricultural applications such as ‘iCow’, which registered farmers use to receive information on, for example, optimal feeding regimes and gestation cycles for their particular cows.

Although most of the farmers interviewed reported that they regularly listen to vernacular radio stations, nearly all them said their favourite source of information is other farmers and family members. Just under half of the farmers (44%) said government extension services were their most trusted source of information. In terms of sources of detailed farming information, farmers reported preferring first to listen to other farmers, second to take part in field visits and only third to listen to radio programs.

Spurk believes findings from this study highlight a need for greater integration between radio and extension services to better reach small-scale farmers and a need to provide farmers with the kind of information that empowers them in their own decision-making.

Note: In October 2012, this blog reported on a study by Farm Radio International in Africa, which showed that participatory radio campaigns that use local languages, allow farmer participation and highlight tested and available technologies help in hastening the adoption of new technologies by small-scale farmers in Africa.

Download a PDF version of the study report:
http://www.zhaw.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/linguistik/_Institute_und_Zentren/IAM/PDFS/News/final_report_Kenya_agri_communication_IAM_MMU_01.pdf

 

Oct 182013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read notes from the event

View pictures of the event

View posters featured at the conference

Read a report on the workshop storytelling process

Oct 172013
 

Global food security

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) gave a keynote presentation this morning (17 Oct 2013) at the opening of the Global Animal Health Conference, ‘Developing global animal health products to support food security and sustainability’, in Arlington, Virginia.

Smith began his presentation, ‘Global health and sustainable food security: Why the livestock sectors of developing countries matter’, by setting out the state of global food security and questioning how the world will manage to feed itself as the human population grows before stabilizing at about mid-century. Some 60% more food than is produced now will be needed by then, he said. And, somehow, some 75% of that increase will have to come from increases in productivity rather than from increases in land under cultivation. This higher production, he said, must be achieved while at the same time reducing poverty and hunger and addressing environmental, social and health concerns. In addition, the greater food production will have to be achieved in the face of temperatures 2−4 degrees C warmer than today’s.

He pointed out the great nutritional divides in today’s world, and warned of malnutrition’s huge financial as well as public health costs.

Nutritional divides among 7 billion people today

He noted that gains in consumption of meat in poor and emerging economies are greatly outpacing those of the industrialized countries.

Gains in meat consunmption in developing countries outpace those of developed countries

Smith then pointed out how much of the world’s food comes not from large-scale farmers but rather from hundreds of millions of very small-scale farmers in developing countries.

Global food production: From where?

These small-scale food producers, he said, are more competitive than most people think. He cited two examples. In East Africa, one million smallholders keep Africa’s largest dairy herd, Ugandans produce milk at the lowest cost in the world, and Kenya’s small- and large-scale poultry and diary producers have the same levels of efficiency and profits. In Vietnam, 50% of the country’s pig production is done by farmers with less than 100 pigs, and producers keeping just 1 or 2 sows have lower unit costs than those with more than 4 sows. Scientists estimate that Vietnam’s industrial pig production could grow to meet no more than 12% of the national pig supply in the next 10 years, so small-scale farmers will continue to supply most of the country’s pork for the foreseeable future.

Global livestock markets

In a series of graphs, ILRI’s director general presented figures for livestock commodities being global leaders, for the huge global trade in livestock products and for the fast-rising demand for meat, milk and eggs in developing countries.

4 out of 5 of the highest value global commodities are livestock

Percentage increase in demand for livestock products

Global trade of livestock products (milk excluded)

Global trade in livestock products (milk included)

Global animal health

Smith said that the developing world’s smallholder livestock producers can continue to produce most of the world’s milk, meat and eggs only if we can find ways to improve livestock health, especially by reducing food safety problems that reduce market participation by smallholders, by reducing the endemic livestock diseases that greatly lower livestock productivity in developing countries, and by lowering zoonotic disease transmissions that threaten small-scale livestock production in poor countries—as well as human health in all countries.

Food safety in developing countries, where most milk, meat and eggs are sold in informal or ‘wet’ markets, is a bigger problem than most people recognize, the ILRI director general said. He said we need to manage the risks of illness while retaining the benefits—to livelihoods and food and nutritional security—of informally sold livestock foods. And, he said, we have to educate people about the various risks of these informal markets, where common perceptions can be misleading; eating vegetables sold in these markets, for example, can be as risky to health as handling cattle or drinking raw milk.

Gender is an important determinant of food safety in developing countries, Smith said, with evidence indicating that Africa’s women butchers sell safer meat than their male counterparts. Women and children and farm workers are also at greater risking in contracting food-borne diseases.

Regarding health advice, Smith argued that it is most useful when it is tailored for specific circumstances, when it is based on evidence, and when it is developed in and with local communities. It’s also been found that what works best for increasing food safety are social incentives (e.g., ‘good parents do X rather than Y with their milk cows’), and risk- rather than rule-based approaches. Finally, he said, relatively simple and cheap interventions can lead to substantial improvements in food safety.

The big livestock productivity gaps between rich and poor countries, Smith explained, are due largely to poor animal health in these countries.

Big productivity gaps, largely due to poor animal health, persist between rich and poor countries

Livestock diseases take a huge toll . . .

Annual losses from selected diseases--Africa and South Asia

. . . especially in Africa.

Animal disease is a key constraint in Africa

And the toll from ‘zoonotic’ diseases, which are transmitted from animals to people, is especially devastating.

A deadly dozen zoonotic diseases each year kill 2.2 million people and sicken 2.4 billion

These zoonotic infections harm poor people the most.

Greatest burden of zoonoses falls on one billion poor livestock keepers

Incidences of zoonotic events are worringly on the increase . . .

Emerging zoonotic disease events, 1940-2012

. . . and can have enormous costs . . .

Costs of emerging zoonotic disease outbreaks

. . . as they spread, just as African swine fever is now spreading.

Africa swine fever threatens US$150-billion global pig industry

Global animal health markets

The animal health markets in developing countries are already significant and are growing rapidly. The global animal health market is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The global human health market amounts to US$1000 million and the global animal health market, including livestock, pets and other animals, some $20 billion. The global livestock health market is worth about $13 billion, with the livestock health market in Africa now experiencing a 15.7% year-on-year growth (the second fastest growth after Latin America).

Just 15 countries make up more than 85% of the global animal health market today; demand for animal health markets in developing and emerging economies is increasingly important.

Take India, for example.

Animal health markets: India

To take advantage of the increasing opportunities in developing countries will require an understanding of smallholder livestock systems and customers, who will need tailored packaging and marketing (e.g., drugs in small packets), delivery systems appropriate for widely dispersed farms, surveillance systems for development of drug resistance, and ‘One Health’ approaches and ‘Rational Drug Use’ used for both people and their animals. Among the ‘game-changing’ livestock health products urgently needed in poor countries and communities are appropriate vaccines for Newcastle disease in poultry and East Coast fever in cattle and quality assurance for all veterinary medicines.

Jimmy Smith ended his presentation with four key messages:

Global health and sustainable food security: Key messages

And he closed his presentation the following thoughts.

The risks of ignoring pressing animal health issues in the developing world are huge:

  • Lost livelihoods in poor countries
  • Greater global food insecurity
  • Increased risk of human illness in all countries

The opportunities for improving animal health in developing countries are just as big. With appropriate approaches, this significant animal health market should grow rapidly, for the good of all.

View the presentation.

See other recent presentations by Jimmy Smith:

Improving the environmental sustainability of livestock systems in the developing world–ILRI’s Jimmy Smith, 30 Sep 2013

Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1, 16 Sep 2013

Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 2, 16 Sep 2013

More presentations by Jimmy Smith.

Oct 092013
 

Vish Nene and new ILRI Board Member

Director of ILRI’s vaccine development program Vish Nene (left) with Canadian vaccinologist and ILRI board member Lorne Babiuk (right) at morning tea with ILRI staff (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Canadian Lorne Babiuk, an internationally recognized leader in vaccine research, visited the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa yesterday (8 Oct 2013) to deliver a live webcast talk on exciting breakthroughs in the development of animal vaccines, which, he argued, can both improve global food security and reduce the global impacts of infectious diseases.

Babiuk is vice-president of research at the University of Alberta and the recipient of two recent distinguished awards for his outstanding career in vaccinology — the Gairdner Wightman Award in 2012 and the Killam Prize in Health Sciences in 2013. He serves on the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

For all his illustrious awards, Babiuk talked not like a scientist but rather like ‘a regular guy’, preferring to speak of  ’scissors’ and ‘crazy glue’ to describe molecular advances in vaccinology rather than use scientific jargon.

Here’s some of what he said.

ON POVERTY
One billion people go to bed hungry every night. Not hungry like you and me when we miss a meal. But hungry, really hungry, every day, day in and day out. By 2050, we’ll have another 2 billion people to feed. The last time I checked, they were not making more land. So we’re going to have to do more with the land (and livestock) that we have. We have an opportunity to develop new approaches to increase food supplies or to have a lot more hungry people.

The developing world is looking for more and more protein; those of us in the developed world should not deny them that.

Livestock are a critical component of smallholder farming, which supports about two billion people, some two-thirds of them women

ON DISEASE
I’ve spent my career in infectious diseases. They matter partly because they cost so much. Alberta has still not recovered from BSE. And SARS cost a staggering USD100 billion—USD2 billion in Ontario alone.

Some 74% of new or emerging diseases are ‘zoonotic’, which means they’re transmitted from animals to humans, or from humans to animals. The economic impacts of zoonoses are huge for farmers, for producers, for international traders . . .

ON DISEASES OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD
I have concerns about Rift Valley fever spreading to North America. The West Nile virus, which has the same kind of vector, has already arrived here.

ON BIOTECH
Technology and biotechnology can be a saviour, but it’s a challenge because we have a large number of people against genetically modified food. We have to work with social scientists to make sure we have healthy animals for healthy people

ON RESEARCH
Basic research and applied research are two sides of the same coin—the two of them need each other.
We no longer train our biologists in broad biology but rather in narrower molecular biology studies. That’s a mistake.
We biological scientists must get smarter at engaging social science and scientists.

ON VACCINES
Vaccination has saved more lives than all other treatments and prophylactics combined.
The traditional types of vaccines, live or killed, have given way to really interesting new types.
We eradicated smallpox with a vaccine; that research would never be approved today because the vaccine has too many side effects.
What can we do to change perceptions of vaccines and biotechnology?
It costs something in the order of one billion dollars to get a vaccine approved.

ON VACCINES FOR THE DEVELOPING WORLD
The major obstacle in Africa is to get a commercial company to invest in the regulatory component of a vaccine because there isn’t a financial incentive. You can’t sell a livestock vaccine for much more then 50 cents per dose in a developing countries. That’s why we have to work with African or Asian vaccine companies, which can produce vaccines much cheaper than industrial countries can.

Several diseases in the developing world are protozoan and those are, of course, much bigger challenges. But there have been new donors for protozoan vaccine research. We need to convince more donors that this research is needed.

ON THE ANTI-VACCINE LOBBY
I’m an evangelist for vaccination because I think we have lost the battle to the anti-vaccine lobby. In North Amercia there is a huge anti-tech group. They misquote or use data to push their own agenda at the expense of large numbers of lives lost. Look at the article published decades ago about a possible link between vaccination and autism. Despite decades of subsequent research showing no such links, we still haven’t managed to convince a lot of people that vaccines do not cause autism.

How do we encourage the scientific community to stand up and be more vocal about what they know? We have to continue to advocate and demonstrate what we can do using the new technology. We should promise less and deliver more. We have been our own worst enemies. We have to be realists and say what can be done in what time period. That will give us back some credibility.

People go into science because they like doing the science part of it. If they loved the podium, they would have gone into the social sciences. We need to encourage others to do this kind of communication.

ON TEAM DYNAMICS
Any successful researcher has to stimulate the team around him or her and make them all feel part of something big. Getting people excited about working together as a team, providing a vision, and saying how the team can achieve something, that’s what I’m good at. Get people passionate about something and get them to know it’s their idea. I’m a facilitator. I don’t tell people what to do. I create an environment that facilitates what they do. You have to accept different cultures, different ways of doing science. You have to have patience and go with the flow. I learned patience.

ON HIS SUCCESSFUL CAREER
I still get up in the morning and put one leg in my pants and then the other, just like everyone else.

About CIFSRF
Lorne Babiuk manages a grant funded by the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), among others. CIFSRF is a CA$124.5-million program of IDRC undertaken with financial support from the Government of Canada. CIFSRF supports applied research partnerships between Canadian and developing-country organizations to find lasting solutions to hunger and food insecurity. It is a core element of Canada’s Food Security Strategy.

For more information, see the IDRC website.

Oct 032013
 

Swedish University of Life Sciences Vice Chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith sign a Memorandum of Understanding (image: SLU/Jenny Svennås-Gillner)

On 26 September 2013, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) signed a memorandum of understanding. The MoU was signed by SLU vice chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI director general Jimmy Smith. The MoU signing took place in the margins of the ‘Agri4D annual conference on agricultural research for development’,  where Jimmy Smith gave a keynote address.

The main objective is to establish a long-term relationship to exploit complementary research, institutional development and capacity development skills.

It includes a specific objective to establish joint activities associated with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, including a role in the development and implementation of the program’s research-for-development agenda, which includes research and capacity building.

Some of the specific activities envisaged include:

  • Facilitating research and supervision for PhD students at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners, while course work and main supervision is provided by SLU (i.e., sandwich model)
  • Facilitating opportunities for MSc students to conduct minor field studies of 2–3 months at ILRI’s locations(s) or its partners.
  • Providing post-doc opportunities at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners.
  • Facilitating short-term exchanges and secondments of professional staff from one institute to the other.
  • Exchanging scientific literature and information
  • Facilitating dissemination of scientific information

News item on SLU website

Visit the Animal Genetics Training Resource, a product of SLU-ILRI collaboration

SLU researchers are working in the Livestock and Fish Uganda smallholder pigs value chain as part of the Assessing the Impact of African swine fever (ASF) in smallholder pig systems and the feasibility of potential interventions project