Nov 222012
 

 

‘Fewer but better fed animals can make livestock production more efficient.’ This was said by Mario Herrero at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi. Herrero was speaking on 13 November 2012 in the fourth of a series of science seminars organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food security (CCAFS). The presentation was live-streamed to an online audience of 220 people.

Herrero, an agricultural systems analyst at ILRI, gave an up-to-date overview of ways the livestock sector in developing countries can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing global warming. `We face the challenge of feeding an increasing human population, estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, and doing so in ways that are socially just, economically profitable and environmental friendly,’ he said.

This matters a lot. There are about 17 billion domestic animals in the world, with most of these in developing countries. The raising of these animals generates greenhouse gases such as methane (emitted through enteric fermentation and some manure management practices). And the number of livestock in the developing world will only increase in future decades.

Mitigating potentials of the livestock sector

Livestock benefit many of the world’s poorest people, with at least 1 billion of them depending either directly or indirectly on livestock for nourishment and income and livelihoods. But most of the inefficiencies in livestock production occur in developing countries, where people lack the resources to refine their production practices.

The good news is that livestock production in poor countries can be improved dramatically to close big yield gaps there. Herrero gave some examples:

  • Discourage and reduce over-consumption of animal-source foods in communities where this occurs,
  • Encourage and provide incentives to small-scale farmers to keep fewer but better fed and higher producing animals, and
  • Promote ways of managing manure from domestic animals that reduce methane emissions.

Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector

Herrero leads ILRI’s climate change research and a Sustainable Livestock Futures group, which reviews interactions between livestock systems, poverty and the environment. He says,  `In the coming decades, the livestock sector will require as much grain as people. That’s why there’s great need to keep fewer but more productive farm animals. We need to find ways to produce enough food for the world’s growing human population while reducing global warming and sustaining livelihoods of the poor.’

That, says Herrero, will involve some hard thinking about hard trade-offs.

For instance, while reducing the number of animals kept by poor food producers, and intensifying livestock production systems, could reduce global methane emissions by livestock, we’ll have to find efficient and sustainable ways for small-scale farmers and herders to better feed their animal stock. And while raising pigs and poultry generates lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than raising cattle and other ruminant animals, pigs and poultry cannot, like ruminants, convert grass to meat.

‘There’s no single option that’s best,’ cautions Herrero. ‘Any solution will need to meet a triple bottom line: building livelihoods while feeding more people and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.’

Click on this link to view Mario Herrero’s full presentation: Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector, http://www.slideshare.net/cgiarclimate/livestock-mitigation-mario-herrero-nov-2012

 

Oct 092012
 

Tanzania Dairy Goats and Root Crops Project: M&E training

Harrison Rware, an ILRI researcher, listens to Sinayo Taigo, a farmer in Mvomero District, Tanzania during a review of 3-year work plans developed by women in a program that is setting up community-managed breeding programs for dairy goats and introducing improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato in the country (photo credit: ILRI/Deo Gratias Shayo).

Researchers in Tanzania are exploring how small-scale farmers might better integrate production of root and tuber crops, such as cassava and sweet potatoes, with rearing dairy goats to improve the food and nutritional security of their households.

Surprisingly, few programs in Tanzania have yet focused on integrating these crops with small ruminants, such as goats. This is despite the fact that sweet potato and cassava are among the most important root and tuber crops grown by the country’s farmers, most of whom keep goats. Cassava and sweet potato provide human food in periods of hunger, provide feed for ruminant animals (leaf meal from cassava and vines from the sweet potato plant), and can be grown in semi-arid areas.

With farmers, the scientists are setting up community-managed breeding programs for dairy goats and introducing improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato. Both dairy goats and root crops are new to the study region, the Mvomero and Kongwa districts of Morogoro and Dodoma regions, respectively, where project staff distributed Toggenburg and Norwegian improved breeds of dairy goats to 107 farmers in February 2012.

Drought-tolerant varieties of cassava and sweet potato have never before been farmed at large scale in the region and dairy goat keeping has previously been restricted to the wetter areas of the districts. ‘This is changing now,’ says Faustin Lekule, a professor with Sokoine University of Agriculture, ‘because with the use of these crops, we can now introduce dairy goats in dry agro-pastoral areas.’

Led by Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture and the University of Alberta, in Canada, the project also involves collaboration with the agricultural research institute in Kibaha, the Kongwa and Mvomero district councils and the Foundation for Sustainable Rural Development, a non-governmental organization. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is serving as knowledge-support partner for the project and is providing expertise on goat production, gender integration, monitoring and evaluation, and assessing food and nutritional security.

‘We’re combining project- and community-based indicators to ensure that farmer decisions guide the project’s implementation,’ said Pamela Pali, a scientist at ILRI who is leading the monitoring and evaluation component of the project. The project is using a web-based monitoring and evaluation system, set up by ILRI’s Research Methods Group, to collect and share information on how farmers are responding to the project’s interventions.

A gender analysis has been applied from the start of the project, including in its research design. ‘We analyzed gender roles, time use, labour allocation and other gender-related factors associated with raising dairy goats and cultivating root crops,’ said Pali. This information was used to refine the distribution of goats and planting materials to households.

Tanzania Dairy Goats and Root Crops Project: M&E Training

ILRI scientist Pamela Pali leads a session on community-based monitoring and evaluation to train farmers in Kongwa District, Tanzania on creating project objectives and indicators (photo credit: ILRI/Deo Gratias Shayo). 

Results from the study sites show that few women own goats or have control over the milk produced and sold from dairy goats. As the demand for milk and milk products increases in cities and milk points, men’s role in milk marketing has taken centre stage. ‘But we also know that livestock activities for women in Africa increase with intensification of production’, says Pali. ‘Seasonal and gender differences in livestock activities such as feeding, watering and milking must be well understood so that we avoid the extra work load on women but ensure that their control over the benefits is increased.’

A key input of the project has been capacity building. Both Sokoine University of Agriculture and the agricultural research institute in Kibaha are training farmers how to raise dairy goats.

‘I received a goat in February this year. As a result of the training, I now understand how to feed the animal, construct a better goat house and identify signs of diseases for my goat. This project has improved my farming skills,’ said Subeida Zaidi, a woman farmer in Kongwa District.

Farmers like Zaidi, who keep goats and grow root crops on small plots typically about one-quarter of an acre, both consume the milk produced by their animals at home and will start to sell it to meet their cash needs. Sustainability is built into this project: once a goat produces offspring, its owner gives a female kid to another farmer, thus ‘passing on the gift’, to use the term made popular by the American non-governmental organization Heifer International.

The project’s monitoring and evaluation trainings have helped farmers clarify their objectives, which include increasing the number of goats they keep, the amount of milk their goats produce and the amount of dual-purpose food-fodder root crops they cultivate. The farmers keep records of their milk production, and this information is supposed to be regularly fed into the web-based monitoring and evaluation system. The researchers are using the information generated to put checks against interventions that are likely to impact women and men, especially those that will narrow the gender, nutrition, income and asset gaps between men and women. The information is also helping project staff and the community members to better understand, and make better use of, the informal markets and ‘value chains’ in the region that the farmers use.

In particular, the University of Alberta is using the project to assess the economic impacts of informal markets, trading and gift giving between households at the village level. Knowing how these informal markets for root crops and goats work will broaden understanding of, and inform, ongoing initiatives in the project.

This project, ‘Integrating Dairy Goats and Root Crops Production for Increasing Food, Nutrition and Income Security of Smallholder Farmers in Tanzania’, is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Read more about the project http://ilri.org/node/1177 and https://sites.google.com/a/ualberta.ca/diary-goats-and-root-crops-tanzania/home

For more information, read a working paper about this project published earlier this year: Integrating improved goat breeds with new varieties of sweet potatoes and cassava in the agro-pastoral systems in Tanzania: A gendered analysis, by Petra Saghir, Jemimah Njuki, Elizabeth Waithanji, Juliet Kariuki and Anna Sikira, 2012, ILRI Discussion Paper No. 21, International Livestock Research Institute.

Jul 122012
 

Communal cattle in China

New technologies and innovation systems need to take into account, and allow poor people to manage effectively, the many and increasingly hard tradeoffs resulting from increasing global demand for livestock products (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and elsewhere say increases in income and urbanization in developing countries are increasing demand for nutrient-rich foods, particularly food from livestock. This demand is projected to more than double meat and milk consumption in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia from the turn of the century to 2050.

In a presentation made at a Farm Animal Integrated Research Conference in Washington DC in March 2012, Nancy Johnson, an ILRI agricultural economist with expertise in assessing the impacts of agricultural interventions, warned that the growth opportunities for the world’s poor livestock keepers offered by this rising demand for livestock products also pose ‘threats that will require context-specific decisions’ for effectively managing the livestock sector. ‘Institutional and technological innovations will play critical roles in the sustainable growth of the sector and in successfully addressing some major challenges,’ said Johnson.

Among those challenges, Johnson named the following:

  • Better managing the risks from the many diseases livestock and livestock products transmit to people
  • Better managing livestock so that they help conserve rather than harm land, water,  biodiversity resources, and global climate
  • Ensuring that livestock development empowers women
  • Helping pastoral herders and other livestock keepers transition to non-agricultural livelihoods
  • Stemming overconsumption of fatty red meat and other livestock foods in richer communities and countries, while increasing consumption among undernourished people.

Meeting these challenges, Johnson said, will require much more integrated cross-sectoral attention and work. More efficient livestock value chains and markets, for example, and greater access by the poor to those chains and markets, will be crucial in coming years to develop of smallholder livestock enterprises. But markets alone will not be sufficient to balance the tradeoffs.  Smart policies support by efforts to raise knowledge and awareness will also be needed.  Together,  improvements in livestock livelihoods can provide pathways to better lives for hundreds of millions of livestock keepers now living in severe poverty and chronic hunger. With the appropriate interventions and support, the ILRI scientist said, we can also significantly improve the resilience of pastoral communities now living in the world’s great drylands and facing greater climate threats due to climate change.

What will be key to the success or failure of livestock development projects, Johnson said, is whether we can come up with innovations and technologies that take into account—and allow poor people to manage effectively—the many and increasingly hard tradeoffs faced by the poor but with consequences for society and the planet. Should farmers use their crop residues for mulch on their croplands or for feed for their farm animals? Should households intensify livestock production to earn more income, even though health risks may increase in the short term? Should communities deforest an area for cattle grazing or attempt to improve common degraded pastureland? Should landowners put fences to keep out wild animals or keep their lands unfenced to protect diminishing wildlife populations? Should countries formalize marketing systems to increase production and gain access to new markets at risk of marginalizing poor women producers and sellers?

These are hard choices, Johnson emphasizes, without quick and easy answers. We’re going to need new technologies, new innovation systems and new incentive structures, she says, to help developing countries and their many livestock keepers make the best decisions—decisions that wherever possible serve several ‘goods’, from poverty reduction to better nutrition to environmental protection. What that will demand, Johnson concludes, is the very best scientific knowledge available.

Download the presentation, ‘The production and consumption of livestock products in developing countries: Issues facing the world’s poor’, by Nancy Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Mario Herrero, Shirley Tarawali, Susan MacMillan and Delia Grace.

Jun 062012
 

Strategic research themes of CRP on Dryland Systems

A new CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is being planned to find ways to help dryland communities climb out of poverty while enhancing their food security and protecting their natural resources. This program will conduct four strategic research themes in five regions. Two of the research themes—reducing vulnerability/managing risk and sustainably intensifying production—make up the ‘meat’ of what has come to be called ‘the hamburger’ diagram. The top and bottom ‘buns’ represent the other two research themes:  strengthening innovations systems and measuring impacts/synthesizing knowledge across regions, respectively (figure by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems).

This week in Nairobi, Kenya, opening on a morning as grey and cold as London’s weekend Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the Thames, a Regional Inception Workshop of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems for East and Southern Africa is being held. The 3-day workshop (5–7 Jun) is organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This inception workshop brings together more than 50 experts working in the drylands of eastern and southern Africa to identify key hypotheses and research questions for the research program, to agree on initial sites for its activities and to develop impact pathways and implementation plans. See the introductory slide presentation by Maarten Van Ginkel, deputy director general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA): The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems: Scientific content and progress in the inception phase.

The planners of this CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (the full mouthful of a title of which is ‘Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas’) say this large, multi-institutional, multi-stakeholder and multi-diciplinary research program aims to develop a series of complementary technologies, policies and institutional innovations that will help very poor and highly vulnerable dryland populations improve their livelihoods—and do so over the longer term.

As its full name suggests, this CGIAR research program will apply ‘integrated systems’ approaches, which focus less on technical fixes for discrete problems and more on how interventions can be combined to meet the many needs of a profitable, equitable and sustainable agricultural production system. And the program will use large, so-called ‘landscape level’ frameworks to help scientists think through the links between farm or community practices and the broader ecosystem in which they are located; such analyses should allow, for example, more comprehensive assessments of the increasingly hard trade-offs in use of natural resources.

See consultant John Lynam’s slide presentation (below), which gives a comprehensive overview of ‘systems thinking’. Lynam argued that we need to change our research designs and methods if we’re going to serve the expanding agendas for international agricultural research. In his presentation he asked asked some provocative questions, such as, ‘How do we (should we) understand system performance? Is it by productivity, profitability, or income? Is it levels of vulnerability or food security? Or is it resource efficiency or resilience?. . . . Why do we have plantain (matoke) systems in Uganda while beer banana systems dominate in Burundi and Rwanda? . . . Why are many more people exiting agriculture in Africa than they are in Asia?’

The dry areas of the developing world occupy some 3 billion hectares, which represent 41% of the earth’s land area. These drylands are home to 2.5 billion people, who make up about a third of the population in developing countries. At least 16% of this population lives in chronic poverty.

These people make a living from the drylands by growing and managing a mix of food, fodder and fibre crops; vegetables; rangeland and pasture grasses, shrubs and trees; fruit and fuel-wood trees; medicinal plants; livestock; and fish. These dryland people face enormous environmental challenges, which in many regions are likely only to worsen with climate change.

This program targets two kinds of drylands. The first are those with the deepest endemic poverty and the most marginalized and vulnerable people, the most extreme environmental variability, and often the greatest natural resource degradation as well. The second are those with the greatest potential to increase food security and reduce poverty over the short to medium terms.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI

Table discussions at an ILRI-hosted inception workshop for eastern and southern Africa component of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems, 5-7 Jun 2012 (photo by ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The future of dryland farming communities, the research planners assume, depends largely on their ability to more effectively manage  risk as well as to diversify and intensify their agricultural production systems. The integrated approach the program will take should help people better manage their natural resources and improve their crop, vegetable, livestock, tree and fish production. The approach should also help facilitate for dryland communities the establishment of enabling policy environments; the provision of greater institutional support; and a more equitable distribution of, and control over, resources, access to information, livelihood opportunities and decision-making.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Agenda

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Outcomes

More specifically, this dryland research program aims to:

  • prioritize agricultural systems for impact
  • identify key researchable issues
  • increase the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use
  • develop more resilient agricultural systems to manage risk and production variability
  • promote in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity
  • improve the productivity and profitability of dryland agricultural systems through sustainable intensification, diversification, and creation of value-added products and market links
  • identify niches of importance to the most vulnerable livelihoods (even if they appear to have low marketing potential)
  • address constraints faced by the most marginal farmers
  • develop new partnerships and models of working together.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF

Dryland Systems inception workshop for East and southern Africa organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI (left) and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The structure and process of this workshop, which is focused on eastern and southern Africa, have been developed by an interdisciplinary research team headed by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen, with participants from the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Water Management Institute and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, as well as agricultural research consultants John Lynam and Brian Keating. The lead centre for this CGIAR research program is the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.

In this region, the drylands program plans to work to reduce vulnerability in three areas of three East Africa countries:
Northern Kenya/southeastern Ethiopia: the triangle from Garissa in Kenya to Borana in south-central Ethiopia to Somali Region in southeast Ethiopia
Central Kenya: Baringo District
Southern Kenya/northern Tanzania: Kajiado and Narok districts and Serengeti National Park and Monduli and Samanjiro districts.

The program plans work to intensify agricultural production in three areas of three eastern and southern African countries:
Zambia-Malawi-Mozambique: the Chinyanja Triangle
Northeast Tanzania: from Kahama through Shinyanga to Babati districts
Ethiopia: the Oromia zones of East Shoa, West Shoa, Horogudru and the Amhara zone of North Shoa

For more information, visit the website for this CGIAR Research Program.

See previous blogs about this workshop:

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

A set of images of this workshop are on ILRI’s Flickr site.

 

Jan 312012
 

Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands: Project Design Workshop—Project Outline and concepts

Watch and listen to a 17-minute (audio-enhanced) slide presentation made by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali on the ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands,’ 30 Jan 2012.

Can scientists make the whole of agricultural research for development greater than the sum of its parts? That’s the aim of a new initiative starting this year in three regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of an American ‘Feed the Future’ initiative to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three agricultural research projects aiming to help Africa’s smallholders intensify their production systems and do so in ways that are sustainable.

These projects will be conducted in three regions of Africa: Sustainable intensification of cereal-based farming systems (1) in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa and (2) in East and Southern Africa, both led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria; and (3) Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands, led by the International Livestock Research Institue (ILRI).

These three African agricultural intensification projects were all launched this year (2012) with design workshops. A wiki has information on the three workshops, including their agendas and outputs.

The design workshop for the project in the Ethiopian highlands has just started at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. ILRI’s director for its People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, agronomist Shirley Tarawali, who will soon take up a new position as ILRI’s director of institutional planning, gave a 17-minute slide presentation on the project (above).

Tarawali said in her presentation that the project is ambitious to fix the disconnect between separate research projects on separate agricultural topics (livestock, cereals, water, and so on) by identifying and then pulling together the best research outputs from the separate research projects. Such outputs include, for example, the identification of legumes and cereals that will better feed livestock as well as people (and sometimes soils as well); ways to make more strategic use of scarce fertilizers and optimal combinations of organic (manure) and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers; and more efficient ways to use water resources.

Add these kinds of useful products together and we could benefit whole farming systems,’ says Tarawali.

To learn more, or to contribute to the discussions, visit a blog about this Feed the Future initiative in the Ethiopian highlands.

Read an ILRI Clippings Blog about this initiative: Experts meet in Addis Ababa to design new agricultural research project for Ethiopian highlands, 30 Jan 2012.

Read more about the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems in the developing world:

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection, 7 Dec 2011.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system, 23 Jun 2011.

 

 

Dec 072011
 

Watch the whole of this filmed slide presentation by ILRI’s Mario Herrero on ILRI’s film channel: The future of livestock in feeding the world (duration: 28 minutes, 25 Nov 2011).

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2‐day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. ILRI systems analyst Mario Herrero gave a keynote presentation titled ‘Global Livestock: Drivers, Trends and Futures’. What follows are highlights of the first half of his talk.

We need to feed 9–10 billion people by 2050 and we need to do so at a far lower environmental cost, basically with the same amount of land and less greenhouse gas emissions and water and nutrient use and at the same time in socially and economically acceptable ways.

Food systems have been changing and they’re likely to change even more as our population increases. So the target is moving.

Livestock systems are in transition
The drivers and trends playing key roles in these changes include: the increasing human population, the ‘livestock revolution (as people get richer in emerging economies, they consume more animal products), and an unprecedented movement of people to cities.

The demand for livestock products to 2050 is going to be enormous. Total consumption is likely to be 2.5 times more than what we’ve experienced in the last decades. Just image the resource-use implications of producing all this meat and milk.

What are people eating and how are we going to produce all the new feed and food needed?
People want chicken, pork and milk; these are the livestock foods growing at the fastest rates across the world. We need to see how we can increase our efficiencies in use of fresh water, 70% of which is used for agriculture. How do we increase efficiency gains of water use in the livestock sector?

Climate change
To complicate the picture even further, we have climate change. Recent assessments are telling us that the costs of the agricultural sector adapting to climate change go as high as USD145 billion per year. That figure represents 3% of global agricultural costs per year. The $145 billion represents the cost of the added technological change that we are going to need to produce food and counteract the impacts of climate change. This is no small sum of money! Remember that the G20 committed to give USD20 billion for agricultural development. This is simply not enough.

Reality check
Food prices have been decreasing until recently. It’s likely that the increasing food prices, which severely affcct the poor, will keep on increasing. We need to be able to plan how to adjust our agricultural systems to produce more food and dampen those prices and do this without incurring a big environmental cost.

The livestock ‘balancing act’
We know that keeping livestock has many advantages—they are an important source of nutrition, especially for poor people; they generate great incomes (the value of production of livestock is in many cases far higher than that for crops); and they help poor people to manage risks; they help maintain productive landscapes; and they are raised on many lands unsuitable for other kinds of food production.

Of course, on the other hand, livestock are inherently inefficient users of land; they are large users of natural resources; they are polluters in places; they produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases; and they are an important vector for human diseases.

What is key is realizing that livestock systems differ greatly by region and circumstance. We need a nuanced understanding of how this livestock ‘balancing act’ plays out in different parts of the world. . . .

Watch the whole of this filmed slide presentation by ILRI’s Mario Herrero on ILRI’s film channel: The future of livestock in feeding the world, duration: 28 minutes, 25 Nov 2011.


On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General.  See all posts in this seriesSign up for email alerts

Jun 232011
 

Extensive farming in central Malawi

An extensive agricultural landscape typical of central rural Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero, who leads a Sustainable Livestock Futures group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, gave a slide presentation last November at an invitation-only US National Academy of Sciences’ scoping meeting on The role of animal agriculture in a sustainable 21st century global food system, held in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle.

Among the conclusions Herrero makes in his slide presentation, Food security, livelihoods and livestock in the developing world, is the need to change our agricultural investment paradigms so that we invest not only in the high-potential agricultural lands of the past (many of which, he says, are already ‘maxed out’), but also in the agricultural lands of the future.

What are these ‘agricultural lands of the future’? Well, those on which relatively extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems are being practiced, for one.

For more on this topic, see ILRI’s current corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010, the foreword of which, by ILRI director general Carlos Seré and ILRI board chair Knut Hove, follows.

ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2011: Cover

ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Knut Hove say it’s ‘mixed farms’,
more than breadbaskets or ricebowls,
that will feed the world over the next two decades.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

This year’s corporate report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

Scientists at ILRI and seven other leading international agricultural research organizations around the world recently looked at the future of this form of farming and determined that it is ‘mixed farms’—not breadbaskets or ricebowls—that will feed most people over the next two decades.

Their report shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today. This same group, the report indicates, is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Remarkably, this is the first study ever to investigate the state of the world’s most prevalent kind of farmers—those who keep animals as well as grow crops. A major implication of the new report is that governments and researchers are mistaken to continue looking to high-potential lands and single-commodity farming systems as the answer to world hunger. As the study shows, many highly intensive agricultural systems are reaching their peak capacity to produce food and should now focus on sustaining rather than increasing yields.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

The authors of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary study, most belonging to centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agree with many other experts that we need to bring our focus back to small-scale farms. But this report goes further, distinguishing one particular kind of small-scale farmer that should be our focus: this is the mixed farmer growing crops and raising animals in the world’s more extensive agricultural systems, which are described in detail on the next page.

These ‘mixed extensive’ farms make up the biggest, poorest and most environmentally sustainable agricultural system in the world. It is time we invested heavily in this particular kind of farming system. Here is where there remain the biggest yield gaps. Here is where we can make the biggest difference.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale farming in developing countries are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards this particular, most ubiquitous, and till now most neglected, form of agriculture. What this ‘extensive frontier’ needs are the most basic forms of infrastructure and services. With these at hand, the world’s extensive mixed farmers will be in good position to scale up their food production to meet future needs.

Read ILRI’s corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010.

Watch a 4-minute ILRI photofilm (audio with still pictures) illustrating the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers: Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Small-scale Food Production, 2011.

Those wanting more detail on the future of mixed farming should consult the research report by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme: Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030, 2009.

Jun 162011
 

Watch ILRI’s new 4-minute photofilm, A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those who farm both crops and livestock—hold the key to feeding the world in coming years. Most of the world’s ‘mixed’ farmers are smallholders tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few animals. A research report led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) indicates that this group is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades (see ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2010, ‘Back to the Future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems’). This photofilm celebrates these ‘unsung heroes’—both the mixed farmers themselves and their farm animals.

 

Some of our readers will remember that last year a perspective piece by ILRI was published in a special February 2010 issue of Science on food security, “Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems”, focused on the importance of the same smallholder mixed farmers.

This article was based on results of a study by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR Consortium.

Small farms that combine crop and livestock production supply much of the food staples (41 percent of maize, 86 percent of rice, and 74 percent of millet), as well as most of the meat and dairy products consumed in these countries.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale agriculture farming are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards these ‘mixed’ farmers.

The pressures of climate change and finite resources, as well as the increasing demand for milk, meat and eggs across the developing world, will require proper planning, looking beyond ‘business as usual investments,’ and a greater ‘intellectual commitment’ to understanding food systems in the developing world.

Read more on this topic in ILRI’s Corporate Report 2009–2010: Back to the Future: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems, 2009.

Or visit the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme website.

May 072011
 

Pathways of evolution to increase the sustainability of livestock production

Graphic showing pathways of livestock systems evolution to increase the sustainability of livestock production in selected systems, published in a paper by John McDermott et al, ‘Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems in the tropics, Livestock Science (2010) (illustration credit: ILRI/McDermott).

John McDermott, who serves as deputy director general-research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and some of his ILRI colleagues published a paper in Livestock Science that sets out what will be needed to make livestock production a sustainable system for smallholders in the developing world, enhancing both the livelihoods and environmental resources of the poor. The abstract of this ILRI paper follows.

‘Smallholder livestock keepers represent almost 20% of the world population and steward most of the agricultural land in the tropics. Observed and expected increases in future demand for livestock products in developing countries provide unique opportunities for improving livelihoods and linked to that, improving stewardship of the environment.

‘This cannot be a passive process and needs to be supported by enabling policies and pro-poor investments in institutional capacities and technologies. Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems must take into account both social and environmental welfare and be targeted to sectors and areas of most probable positive social welfare returns and where natural resource conditions allow for intensification.

‘Smallholders are competitive in ruminant systems, particularly dairy, because of the availability of family labour and the ability of ruminants to exploit lower quality available roughage. Smallholders compete well in local markets which are important in agriculturally-based or transforming developing countries.

‘However, as production and marketing systems evolve, support to smallholders to provide efficient input services, links to output markets and risk mitigation measures will be important if they are to provide higher value products. Innovative public support and links to the private sector will be required for the poor to adapt and benefit as systems evolve. Likewise targeting is critical to choosing which systems with livestock can be intensified. Some intensive river basin systems have little scope for intensification. More extensive rain-fed systems, particularly in Africa, could intensify with enabling policies and appropriate investments. In more fragile environments, de-intensification is required to avoid irreversible damage to ecosystems.

‘Attention to both social and environmental sustainability are critical to understanding tradeoffs and incentives and to bridging important gaps in the perspectives on livestock production between rich and poor countries and peoples. Two specific examples in which important elements of sustainable intensification can be illustrated, smallholder dairy systems in East Africa and South Asia and small ruminant meat systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, are discussed.’

Read the whole paper, J.J. McDermott, S.J. Staal, H.A. Freeman, M. Herrero and J.A. Van de Steeg, Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems in the tropics, published in Livestock Science, 2010: doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2010.02.014

Apr 272011
 

Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

A boy tends cattle in Ethiopia. A new initiative supported by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program of the CGIAR will boost smallholder farmers’ resilience to drought in the Horn of Africa. (Photo credit: ILRI/Gerard)

A new initiative to help pastoralists and smallholder farmers cope with the twin pressures of drought and climate change was launched recently at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The initiative, ‘Climate change adaptation and mitigation for communities in dryland regions,’ is conducted by a group of development partners that include the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Vétérinaires San Frontières, Solidarites and Action Aid among others. The initiative will work towards securing the agro-pastoral livelihoods of poor livestock keepers in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The meeting, held on 22 March 2011, brought together donor representatives, regional research and development partners, national research and extension representatives and non-governmental agencies engaged in promoting dryland agriculture. The meeting aimed to create awareness of the challenges facing the drylands and to share information about existing technological and institutional innovations that can address some of their most pressing challenges.

The drylands and other marginal environments of eastern Africa have high population growth and climate variability and few livelihood options other than livestock keeping. Such marginal lands around the world, however, produce about 20% of the world’s food, have rich cultural and social diversity and are inhabited by people whose traditional ways of coping with climate change can be harnessed for improved small-scale agriculture and livelihoods.

The new regional drylands initiative will help increase crop and livestock productivity in the three countries as well as add value to supply chain processes and help build supportive institutional frameworks for enhancing food production and marketing.

The initiative hopes to boost food security and livelihoods by increasing the resilience of vulnerable livestock keepers and is expected to reach about 1.3 million people at a cost of USD15 million in its first phase, which starts this year and will go on until 2013.

‘As a key partner in the project,’ said James Kinyangi, a regional program leader of CCAFS, who is based at ILRI, ‘CCAFS will apply lessons from successful past CGIAR research to intensify agricultural production in marginal environments. This should help eastern Africa’s dryland communities to develop greater resilience to climate change.’

The drylands initiative follows a workshop on dryland farming practices held in 2008 to map strategies for improving farming in eastern Africa’s drylands and identify high-priority crops for adaptation.

For more information about the regional drylands initiative visit: http://typo3.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/drought/docs/Dryland%20Flyer_final.pdf

To find out more about CCAFS visit: http://www.ccafs.cgiar.org/