Jun 242013
 

Integrated Dairy Goat and Root Crop in Tanzania workshop

A meeting to review research results from a dairy goat and root crop project in Tanzania was held in Nairobi last week (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Last week (18-20 Jun 2013) the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted partners in a crop and goat project working to improve food security in Tanzania. The meeting reviewed research results from the two-year-old project.

This project is helping Tanzanian farmers integrate their dairy goat production with growing root crops. It’s raising incomes by improving the milk production potential of dairy goats, introducing improved sweet potato and cassava varieties and improving marketing options for goats and crops in Tanzania’s Kongwa and Mvomero districts.

Led by Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture and the University of Alberta in Canada, the project also involves collaboration with an agricultural research institute in Kibaha, the Kongwa and Mvomero district councils and the Foundation for Sustainable Rural Development, a non-governmental organization in the country. ILRI is serving as knowledge-support partner for the project and is providing expertise on goat production, gender issues and monitoring and evaluation.

Started in March 2011, the project is funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency. The project brings together farmers and scientists in setting up community-managed breeding programs for dairy goats and introducing improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato in agro-pastoral area of the two districts. Previously, dairy goat keeping was restricted to wetter areas of the districts.

‘This is one of few projects whose achievements so far the IDRC is proud of and it stands a good chance for being considered for funding for scaling-up under the Food Security Research Fund,’ said Pascal Sanginga, of IDRC.

The program’s interventions have focused on understanding women’s roles in livestock activities such as feeding and milking, getting more women involved in livestock keeping and increasing women’s access to, and control over, benefits from livestock rearing and farming.

‘This project highlights the central role of partnerships in ILRI’s work in Tanzania, which is a focus country for the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish,’ says Amos Omore, the project’s coordinator at ILRI.

ILRI's Okeyo Mwai and Amos Omore with Immaculate Maina (KARI)

Participants in the meeting, who included graduate students and faculty from Sokoine and Alberta universities and researchers from ILRI, shared 16 research presentations, which will now be reworked as papers for submission to scientific journals. Feedback from these presentations guided a project evaluation and planning session that followed the workshop.

‘We’re learning about the challenges in establishing root crops and dairy goat production in marginal environments where there is a high variability in rainfall and stiff competition from pastoralism,’ said John Parkins, of Alberta University.

The project, which is reaching more than 100 farmers, has conducted a baseline study and has developed gender and monitoring & evaluation strategies.

Findings from this workshop, which included determination of specific environmental constraints and the costs and benefits of adopting new varieties of sweet potatoes and cassava, guided preparation of a proposal to scale up the project’s interventions. This proposal will be used to implement the final phase of the project, which ends in August 2014.

‘This meeting revealed a need to focus on doing a few things well—like facilitating fodder production, animal health and disease control,’ said Parkins.

View presentations from the meeting:

Read more about the project, ‘Integrating dairy goats and root crop production for increasing food, nutrition and income security of smallholder farmers in Tanzania’, http://ilri.org/node/1177 and https://sites.google.com/a/ualberta.ca/diary-goats-and-root-crops-tanzania/home. Download a project brochure

Read an ILRI news article about the project: Cassava and sweet potato may improve dairy goat production in Tanzania’s drylands, but will women benefit?

 

Jan 222013
 

LIVES project logo

A new research for development project was launched today by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), both members of the CGIAR Consortium. Entitled ‘Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders – LIVES’, it will directly support of the Government of Ethiopia’s effort to transform smallholder agriculture to be more market-oriented.

Supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the LIVES project is jointly implemented by ILRI, IWMI, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and regional Bureaus of Agriculture, Livestock Development Agencies, Agricultural Research Institutes and other development projects.

LIVES project manager, Azage Tegegne emphasized that this project is unique in that it integrates livestock with irrigated agriculture development. The project is designed to support the commercialization of smallholder agriculture by testing and scaling lessons to other parts of Ethiopia. “It is also excellent opportunity for CGIAR centres to work hand in hand with Ethiopian research and development institutions.”

Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture H.E. Wondirad Mandefro welcomed the project, asserting that it will directly contribute to both the Growth Transformation Plan (GTP) and the Agricultural Growth Program (AGP) of the Ethiopian Government. Canadian Head of Aid, Amy Baker expects this investment to generate technologies, practices and results that can be implemented at larger scales and ultimately benefit millions of Ethiopian smallholder producers as well as the consumers of their products. Canadian Ambassador David Usher noted that the project will contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to drive agricultural transformation, improve nutritional status and unlock sustainable economic growth. LIVES is also a reflection of Canada’s commitment to the 2012 G-8 New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security which will allow Ethiopia, donors and the private sector create new and innovative partnerships that will drive agricultural growth.

LIVES actions will take place over six years in 31 districts of ten zones in Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples and Tigray regions, where 8% of the country’s human population resides. LIVES will improve the incomes of smallholder farmers through value chains development in livestock (dairy, beef, sheep and goats, poultry and apiculture) and irrigated agriculture (fruits, vegetables and fodder).

The project, with a total investment of CAD 19.26 million, aims to directly and indirectly benefit more than 200,000 households engaged in livestock and irrigated agriculture, improve the skills of over 5,000 public service staff, and work with 2,100 value chain input and service suppliers at district, zone and federal levels.

“Projects that support local farmers can help a community in so many ways; not only by providing food and the most appropriate crops, but also by teaching long term skills that can have an impact for years to come,” said Canada Minister of International Cooperation the Honourable Julian Fantino. “The Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains project teaches smallholder farmers new agricultural techniques and provides technical assistance, training, and mentoring to government specialists. They in turn will provide production and marketing assistance to local farmers. This is a project that helps all areas of farming and agriculture development.”

The project will focus on clusters of districts, developing and improving livestock production systems and technologies in animal breeding, feed resources, animal nutrition and management, sustainable forage seed systems, sanitation and animal health, and higher market competitiveness. Potential irrigated agriculture interventions include provision of new genetic materials, development of private seedling nurseries, work on seed systems, irrigation management, water use efficiency, water management options, crop cycle management, and pump repair and maintenance.

The main components of the project are capacity development, knowledge management, promotion, commodity value chain development, and documentation of tested and successful interventions. Gender and the environment will be integrated and mainstreamed in all components of the project.

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.

Oct 012012
 

This very brief photofilm (1:41 minutes) shares the story of Misku Abafaris, a woman farmer in Ethiopia, who was interviewed in 2010 about the changes in her life as a result of interventions by an ILRI-led Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project. Since 2006, ILRI has been working closely with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

When asked what life was like a decade ago, Misku Abafaris immediately says: ‘In those days I was never exposed to any new ideas, any new approaches.’ Then, after more consideration, the 40-year old mother of six turns to practical matters. ‘I used to spend most of my time caring for my children and preparing food. And I’d look after our cow and help my husband when the crops needed weeding.’

In short, her daily routine in Gudeta, a small village some 30 minutes’ walk from a tarmac road, was little different from that of earlier generations of women in Ethiopia’s Oromiya Region. There were good years, when the coffee harvest was plentiful, and bad years, when the coffee failed or drought shrivelled their food crops.

Five of Misku’s children still live at home, chickens still wander in and out of their mud-walled, tin-roofed dwelling, and it’s still a long walk to the nearest well to get drinking water. But new ideas and new approaches, so lacking in the past, have recently helped to transform their lives. Their most obvious manifestation can be seen in the fields below the village, where half a dozen handsome sheep are being fattened for the market.

‘With the profits I’ve made from my sheep, I’ve been able to buy a Boran heifer, which will yield much more milk than our local breed of cow’, says Misku, ‘and last year, when we didn’t get a coffee harvest, we still made enough money from the sheep to pay all our household expenses.’ She’s particularly proud of the fact that her sheep-fattening business has paid for her eldest daughter, now 21 years old, to live and study in the nearby town of Agora.

Misku’s forgotten to tell you about the chairs we’re sitting on’, says Abafaris Abamaliky, her husband. ‘It was the money from the sheep that paid for the timber and the carpentry. And it paid for the wooden box where I now keep my clothes and my private things.’ The pride he takes in his wife’s achievement is plain to see.

The power of knowledge
Misku and her husband are among tens of thousands of farmers to benefit from a project which has helped them to improve the productivity of their livestock and crops and—crucially—market their produce more effectively. Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project was launched in 2006.

Goma, where Misku and her family live, is one of 10 districts where the project operates. The early stages involved the identification of crops and livestock which could benefit from activities to improve production and marketing. This followed lengthy consultations with farmers and local government staff. In Goma the focus has been on improving ‘value chains’—linking production, the supply of farm inputs and the markets—for coffee, poultry, honey, fruit and sheep.

‘Many farmers were keen to develop sheep fattening, but they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to improve production’, explains Yisehak Baredo, the project’s research and development officer in Goma. ‘Their sheep were in poor health, and it took them up to a year to fatten them.’ Misku’s experience was typical: she used to keep just one sheep, whose only food supplement was kitchen scraps, and she made hardly any money fattening its lambs.

In 2008, the project provided training on sheep fattening for Misku and 119 other farmers. They learned, among other things, about the importance of providing their animals with protein-rich food supplements and how to keep them in good health. Such was the success of the first training program that the project repeated the exercise for 92 farmers a year later.

None of this would have been possible without access to credit, which was provided through a local microfinance institution. Talk to any of the farmers who benefited and they’ll tell you in great detail precisely how they spent their first loans.

Misku borrowed 1500 birr (USD115). With this she bought five young sheep, a supply of cotton-seed meal, life insurance for herself and insurance for her five sheep, and de-wormers and other veterinary medicines. Three months later, she sold the fattened sheep and paid back the loan, leaving her a net profit of 1200 birr (USD90)—a considerable sum of money in one of the poorest countries in the world. Subsequent fattening cycles have provided her with similar profit margins.

So is her story unusual? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that she is a strong and respected leader, and the group of 30 smallholders which she chairs was immediately able to repay its loans in full—something several other groups failed to achieve. As a result, the microfinance institution has been happy to provide further loans. And no, in the sense that many other farmers have made a success of fattening their sheep and increasing their income. Over four out of five who received training shortened the fattening period to just three months.

‘With the profits I’ve made from the sheep, we’ve built an extension to our house and bought a high-yielding Boran cow’, says Suchare Abamaliky, one of Misku’s neighbours. Musa Kadir, who belongs to the same peasant association, has used the profits from his sheep to pay school fees for his children. ‘I’m now earning as much money in three months as I used to make in a year from the sale of coffee beans’, he says. He has ambitious plans to expand the number of sheep he fattens, and he’s also begun to raise avocado and mango seedlings, having observed the activities of one of his neighbours. Shito Nasir had received training on how to graft superior varieties of fruit tree. ‘I could see she was making such a good business that I decided to do the same’, explains Musa Kadir. This is the way new ideas are beginning to spread, across hedges and fields from farmer to farmer.

A rural revolution?
Abafaris Abamaliky is some 20 years older than his wife, Misku, and he has lived, as he puts it, through three governments. Life is now better than it ever was in the past, he says. ‘We now have electric light in the village and better health care.’ Just as importantly, he and his neighbours now feel they can talk openly to government officials. Indeed, the success of the IPMS project owes much to the close relationship between villagers and the staff at the district offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Besides introducing new technologies to Ethiopian farmers, the project has begun to change the way government staff approach agricultural development. ‘Before the project began, we used to focus on increasing the production of particular commodities, but we knew nothing about value chains’, explains Tanashe Eyasu at the local Office of Agriculture and Rural Development. ‘Now, we’re changing the way we work, and we’re linking producers with suppliers of inputs like fertilizers and feed, and sometimes even linking them with buyers as far away as Addis Ababa.’

Although the IPMS project will come to an end at the end of this year (2012), its impact is assured. ‘You can already see the knowledge being transmitted from farmer to farmer’, says Tsegaye Umeta, Goma’s district administrator, ‘and local government staff will continue to promote the knowledge and practices introduced by IPMS to new areas.’ It shouldn’t be a hard sell: when farmers are making good money, others will follow where they lead. And already, new businesses have sprung up to provide feed, fertilisers, medicines, beehives and other equipment.

If you ask Misku about her hopes for the future, she lists her priorities without hesitation. ‘My first desire is to support my children, so they can go to college’, she says. ‘Then, if God is willing, I would like a better house, with a cement floor, not a mud floor like this one, and with brick walls painted a nice colour. I’d also like a well.’ A while ago, she went on a farmers’ study trip to the capital, where she saw a small pump for drawing well water. ‘I’d like that too’, she says.

But is this a dream too far for a family which has just three hectares of land, a pair of oxen, two cows, ten chickens and a small flock of sheep? ‘No’, she replies. ‘If we continue to work hard, I’m sure this will happen.’ Her husband nods in agreement.

As we leave the village, we are accompanied by a chattering crowd of children, including Misku’s eight-year-old boy. When Ariso is not at school, he helps to look after the family’s sheep, but he also has a lamb of his own, which he recently bought with money he earned picking coffee.

‘Once I have fattened it up’, he says, ‘I will make a good profit.’ He probably hasn’t heard of ‘value chains’, but he is very much his mother’s son: he understands the importance of the market.

Story and photofilm by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

Read and view other stories/photofilms by Charlie Pye-Smith:

Gebremichael’s story: Changing the fortunes of farmers in Ethiopia through better livestock feed, 28 May 2012 (story and photofilm).

Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012 (story).

The connection between animal disease and human health, 13 Jan 2012 (photofilm).

 

 

May 282012
 

This very brief photofilm (1:23 minutes) shares the memorable and powerful story of Gebremichael Desta, an Ethiopian farmer whose life has changed by the use of improved livestock feed. 

If you climb up the rickety ladder on to the roof of the stone dwelling where Gebremichael Desta lives with his family and livestock—he keeps his hay on the roof—you can gaze across a world which looks much as it must have done many centuries ago. Ploughmen shout encouragement to their oxen, women urge pack animals over the stony ground and buzzards wheel above the terraced fields. There is not a machine in sight; nothing to indicate that this is the 21st century.

But appearances can deceive. ‘The difference between the past and present?’ muses Desta. ‘It’s like the distance between the sky and the earth.’ Today, the families living in these remote highlands—much of Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, is over 2000 metres above sea level—learn about the importance of family planning and good nutrition. Older generations never did. ‘When I was young, we were entirely dependent on traditional medicines if we fell sick, but now we have access to modern health care,’ says Desta.

Recent years have also witnessed dramatic changes in the way he and his neighbours manage their land and livestock. A few years ago, at this time of day, his animals—two oxen, a dairy cow and calf, a donkey, 10 sheep—would have been grazing in the valley below, watched over by one of his five children. Now they remain at the homestead, and the fodder is brought to them, rather than the other way around.

These changes have been inspired by a five-year project, Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers or IPMS, in short, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  In 10 districts across Ethiopia, the project has helped to improve the value chains—the links between producers, the suppliers of farm inputs and markets—for a range of crops and livestock products.

The project began with a lengthy series of consultations with farmers and local government staff. Together, they identified which farm commodities had the potential to improve local incomes and livelihoods. ‘The main candidates were milk and butter, sheep for fattening and beekeeping,’ recalls Gebremedhin Woldewahid, the project’s research and development officer in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘But the more we talked, the more we realised there was a major limiting factor for all these commodities—a lack of nutritious fodder.’ Much of the district suffered from overgrazing and heavily degraded soils. Tackling this was to be a priority.

A fairer, greener world

‘In 2006, before the project really got under way, this valley would have been parched and dusty and full of livestock at this time of year,’ explains Kidan Kindeya, a young woman who works as a development agent for Habes Peasant Association, of which Desta is vice-chairman. Today, there is not a grazing animal in sight and the vegetation is green and lush. Here and there, the grass has been harvested with a scythe; elsewhere it is almost knee-high, despite the fact that there has been little rain recently.

It is now three years since the peasant association agreed to ban grazing in the valley bottom, an area of some 280 hectares, and allow the land to regenerate naturally. ‘Before we enclosed the area, the ground was very compacted, especially by horses, and the grass was sparse and unpalatable for our sheep and cows,’ recalls Desta. ‘Now we can harvest our plots three times a year, and the quality of the fodder is excellent.’

There are numerous benefits to the ‘cut and carry’ system now operating in many valleys in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘My milk yields have risen and my animals are much healthier,’ says Desta. He also believes that by keeping animals at the homesteads, there is less risk of infectious diseases passing from one to another. The restoration of grazing lands has also led to an increase in flowers, providing a rich supply of pollen for honey bees. As a result, farmers practicing apiculture have benefited greatly from the new methods of pasture management.

In the past, children used to watch over the grazing livestock, which meant they did not go to school. Now they are attending classes. Farmers also used to spend a lot of time travelling long distances to buy fresh grass and hay. Now many have a surplus. This has proved especially important for the poorer households without livestock, which are often headed by widows. ‘They received no benefit in the past from areas like this, before the enclosures,’ explains Kidan Kindeya. ‘They had no livestock to graze, and there was nothing for them to harvest.’ Now, every family is allocated the same amount of land in the valley and those without livestock can harvest their grass and sell it. Two harvests a year yield fodder worth around 10,000 Ethiopian birr (USD740) per hectare.

Besides helping farmers to improve the supply of natural fodder, the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the peasant associations have encouraged farmers to grow their own supplies. Training centres, many with colourful murals depicting the new ways of farming, have provided the know-how and materials to establish Napier grass, tree lucerne and other fodder crops. Now you see them growing around almost every homestead, besides plots of fruit and vegetables.

Spreading the word

‘When I was young,’ says an old priest outside the Orthodox church in Cherkos Haremere, ‘there was thick forest all over this hillside.’ All that remains is a fine stand of African olive trees around the church, the site’s sanctity protecting them from axe and fire. Over the years, a rapidly rising population and the ever-increasing demand for fuelwood, cropland and pasture transformed the rest of the landscape, much of which suffers from erosion and overgrazing.  It is a scene repeated across the district, but gradually, thanks to the efforts of the peasant associations and the introduction of new management techniques, degraded land is being brought back to life.

Four years ago, farmers in Baati-ero agreed to establish enclosures on the sloping land between the valley bottom and the village itself. They kept their animals out, planted fast-growing grasses and leguminous trees, and dug long ditches to harvest and retain rainwater. ‘We hardly used to get any fodder here at all,’ says a local farmer, Tadele Teklay, ‘but this year I’ve been able to get about five donkey loads.’

The farmers are so impressed by what they have achieved that they recently decided to establish enclosures in the valley bottom – something they originally resisted. Many, like Teklay, have also decided to reduce the number of livestock they keep.  ‘Now, we don’t talk about how many animals we have, but how much money we can make from each of them,’ he says.  ‘It’s the quality that matters, not the quantity, and the better the feed, as well as the breed, the more money we’ll make.’

Much of the technical advice that has enabled farmers to improve their productivity and gain access to better markets has been provided by Gebremedhin Woldewahid and the IPMS project, but most of the training has been carried out by the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development and by development agents like Kidan Kindeya. ‘That means that when the project comes to an end, hardly anybody will notice we’ve left,’ says Woldewahid with satisfaction.

One of the reasons why many of the activities encouraged by IPMS are spreading swiftly is because they make good financial, as well as environmental, sense. ‘You can see that with the fodder enclosures,’ says Berhe Fiseha, who chairs the project’s regional advisory and learning committee in Tigray. ‘They began establishing them in one peasant association, then they spread to four others, and now you’ll see enclosures being used to restore grassland all over the district.’

When asked what he has gained in recent years, Gebremichael Desta responds with one word: knowledge. He still regrets that he left school at the age of 17. He was a bright child, but his parents, traditional peasant farmers, had little appreciation of the value of education. Desta is justly proud that his eldest son has a diploma in agriculture and now works as a development agent, and his eldest daughter is studying at university.

‘If you want to survive, and you want to improve your life, then you must take advantage of the opportunities that come your way,’ he says. ‘There are many things which we now do differently, and we have many technologies that our parents never had or knew about. For me, knowledge is the key to everything.’

Story by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

 

Dec 192011
 

Last week (13 Dec 2011), aid agencies that have funded Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub (BecA Hub), a shared state-of-the-art research and capacity building platform hosted and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for the region, convened an all-day meeting at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters. The purpose of the meeting was to harmonize support being provided to BecA and African biosciences and to explore sustainable models for building on the momentum that BecA and its supporters have created.

BecA’s main donors and stakeholders represented at this meeting were the:

  • Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA, which funded BecA in its beginnings)
  • New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
  • Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

This donor alignment meeting came appropriately on the heels of a recent first meeting of the CEOs of both NEPAD, a program of the Africa Union celebrating its tenth anniversary, and ILRI, one of 16 centres belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), now celebrating 40 years of operation.

NEPAD’s Luke Mumba, who participated in the meeting, brought warm greetings from his CEO, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, who had paid a recent first visit to ILRI and BecA and reported that NEPAD views BecA ‘as strategically important for affordable and accessible biosciences.’

‘BecA and NEPAD have a common vision to improve livelihoods of the poor,’ Mayaki said. ‘And NEPAD is now interested to play a bigger role in BecA’s programs, helping it to have even greater impact.’

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith thanked Mumba for his message and then framed the ensuing discussion in a talk and slide presentation. The following are excerpts from his talk.

Opening remarks by ILRI’s Jimmy Smith
‘The idea for a Biosciences eastern and Central Africa platform started when I worked for CIDA. It is an initiative I’ve supported since its inception. And I’ve been thinking about BecA since before I rejoined ILRI this November.

‘I liked BecA’s business plan but thought it lacked the “demand side”. I discussed this with Syngenta’s Marco Ferroni, and told him that it’s possible that different donors have different expectations of BecA. I want these to be aligned so that I can fulfill on them.

‘I’d like to frame our discussions today by providing first a bit of context.

Up until 2008 we all believed that food came from supermarkets. Then the world food market went topsy turvy. Prices rose and 100 million people were sent into poverty. Because prices for food were good for some poor farmers, 40 million people also rose out of poverty.

‘Since then, people are once again raising the old Malthusian theory—that massive geometric population growth in the face of arithmetic food growth is bound to lead to great social upheavals.

Here’s what we’re facing. There’ll be 2.5 billion more people by mid-century. We’ll need 70% more food produced to feed the additional population. Specifically, for example, we’ll need 1 billion more tonnes of cereal grains by 2050 for food, feed and biofuels. Most of the additional food will have to come from land already farmed.

‘And we are not starting from zero. There are already 1 billion people in the world who are hungry!

’75% of people who are poor live in rural areas, but they are at the receiving end of investments of only 4% of official development assistance for agriculture.

‘Donor support to agriculture has fallen from 1980 to 2009. The trendline is inching upwards, but very slowly—and it is not matching the need.

‘In Africa, food production has been increasing but it still lags behind population growth. Africa has been meeting its food needs largely from importation, US$14-billion-worth of cereals each year. This is not sustainable. The continent cannot continue to spend so much on food if it is also going to invest sufficiently in other sectors, such as health and education.

‘The Ford and Rockefeller foundations together financed research that led to the ‘Green Revolution’. This was a group of donors, around a table, with a big vision, which was transformative. My question is, will the creation of BecA be as transformative as that of the Ford and Rockefeller vision was in the sixties? I think it could be.

What are the opportunities for BecA?
‘Every expert who has studied the food situation has said our best possibilities lie in the biotech sciences. People see biotech as a new frontier that has helped us in the past and can continue to do so in the future. We can now do things faster and with more precision. Look how quickly genomes can now be mapped.

This opportunity could be seized and be transformative again. Think if we could produce maize as efficiently as sorghum. What would happen to the maize belt in Africa? Can we create plants whose photosynthesis is more efficient? Can the native African Boran cow produce as much milk as the exotic Jersey?

‘The facility to conduct such science is brought to Africa through the BecA Hub at a scale that could have great impact. It is also here at a size that can greatly help build biosciences capacity on the continent. BecA Hub capacity can leverage the expertise of ILRI and the other centres of the CGIAR. It can catalyze and add value to the agenda of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.

‘Challenges and questions remain. Can we, for example, develop an explicit agenda setting process that CAADP members will own and invest in? Can we transform our funding base to do transformative science working with CADPP, NARS, universities? Can we put in place an accountability framework that inspires confidence in our donors and partners? Can we bring about more harmonious relationships internally?’

View the slide presentation Jimmy Smith made: The BecA-ILRI Hub: Realizing the promise, 13 Dec 2011.

View a presentation ‘BecA hub research, facilities, and capacity building‘ by Jagger Harvey, Appolinaire Djikeng, and Rob Skilton

 

Apr 162011
 

Jimmy Smith

New director general designate of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Jimmy Smith (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Jimmy Smith has been appointed the new director general designate of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

ILRI board chair Knut Hove made the announcement at the 35th meeting of the ILRI Board of Trustees, on 13 April 2011, to an afternoon gathering of ILRI staff, management and board.

In his announcement, Hove said, ‘We are facing challenges to make livestock more beneficial to the poor and less harmful to the environments of the poor. We think Jimmy Smith is a strong leader for ILRI, one who will open up new partnerships for pro-poor livestock research.’

Born in Guyana, in the Caribbean, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm, Smith holds dual nationalities with Canada. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois, at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed hid PhD in animal sciences. Now based at the headquarters of the World Bank, in Washington, DC, he currently leads the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio.

Earlier in his career, Smith served for ten years at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) (1991–2001). At ILCA and then ILRI, Smith was the institute’s regional representative for West Africa, where he led development of integrated research promoting smallholder livelihoods through animal agriculture and built effective partnerships among stakeholders in the region. At ILRI, Smith spent three years leading the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of 10 CGIAR centres working on issues at the crop-livestock interface. Since leaving his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI and the CGIAR, Smith has continued playing a major role in supporting international livestock for development in terms of both funding and strategizing.

Before joining the World Bank, where he has served for five years, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (2001-2006) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) (1986–1991).

Smith will take over from Carlos Seré, ILRI’s current director general. The actual date of change-over will be announced in the near future and is expected to take place in the next 6 months.

Smith said, ‘I congratulate Carlos Seré, John McDermott [ILRI deputy director geneneral-research] and all ILRI staff for their work in making this institute such a strong player in livestock for development. Every member of staff has a contribution to make. My commitment is to take ILRI to even higher heights. I am excited about coming here and look forward to working with all of you. I hope I can demonstrate that I earn your trust and hard work.’

Seré commented, ‘I have known Jimmy for ten years and have learned to appreciate his many talents. He is familiar with important constituencies of livestock research and understands our partners well. We appreciate how strongly he has promoted the global livestock agenda in his work for CIDA and the World Bank and we believe he brings a number of important assets to the family. We will support him completely.’

ILRI Board Chair Hove said: ‘Jimmy Smith has an impeccable track record in developing extensive networks in the livestock sector globally and with development partners around the world. He is familiar with the CGIAR reform process and the international agricultural research agenda. We have full confidence that Jimmy Smith will build upon the strong ILRI foundation and provide the leadership and vision to propel ILRI to greater heights.’

Click on the slide presentation below to watch Smith’s presentation to the ILRI community.

Mar 102011
 

ILRI Film Page on the web

Selection of filmed interviews of women on gender research for agricultural development, available on the ILRI Film page n the web (blip.tv screen capture).

To celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2011, ILRI produced and web-posted on 8 March the following eight very short filmed interviews of four women on where we are in gender-related research for agricultural development in poor countries.

The interviews were made at a recent conference, ‘Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ (31 January–2 February 2011), held at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and organized by ILRI and a project conducted by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian government: Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS).

Can complex gender issues be translated into enabling policies for women?
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that if we do not manage to find ways to place our understanding of gender issues in the context of environment, economy, agriculture, education and health, our well-meaning research might end up doing more harm than good. While gender is now on the agenda of every government and every big development project in the world, we don’t yet know what policies manage to empower women or how to implement them.

Evidence is needed to improve women’s development
Seblewongel Deneke (Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA]) says there are still misconceptions about rural women in developing countries, such as the idea that most farmers are men. The evidence that ILRI is providing will help to address these misconceptions.

Gender mainstreaming is just beginning
Seblewongel Deneke (CIDA) says that although many people are now talking about mainstreaming gender by including gender issues in research and policymaking, new laws around gender in Ethiopia are rarely enforced and research projects find it hard to expand capacity within extension workers and trainers and so meet the complex needs of women.

Rural women miss opportunities due to heavy household duties
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation (ETC) Netherlands) argues that gender research still struggles to help women manage their household and childraising work. Without targeting training in these areas, women will continue to miss out.

Women farmers held back by traditions
Jemimah Njuki (ILRI) explains that two facts have hindered women’s development in agriculture: lack of ability to inherit land and other rules stemming from traditional cultures and the fact that most policymakers are men; changes are now occurring in both areas.

Training men and women farmers together could help both make more money
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that when businesses become profitable, they tend to be taken over by men. This is one reason why women find it hard to make money from agriculture. Training male and female household members together may allow both to see that it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce gender inequities so that households can improve their income and nutrition.

30 Years of gender research—Are the conversations still the same?
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation [ETC] Netherlands) says the gender challenges faced by agricultural scientists in the 1980s are, unfortunately, similar to those we face today. Many women are still living in material want, struggling to send their children to school, to get good health care and to generate and control an income from their agricultural work.

For more information, visit ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture blog or IPMS blog.

AgriGender 2011 logo

Jan 302011
 

AgriGender 2011 logo

A three-day international workshop opens tomorrow (Monday 31 January 2011) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focusing on women’s place in market-oriented agriculture in developing countries.

The workshop is being convened by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of a project of the Ethiopian Government implemented by ILRI called ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS). It is being held at ILRI’s principal, Ethiopian, campus.

The workshop organizers hope to identify the most useful products of gender research for the commercialization of smallholder agriculture—and to get these into wider practice.

Most development experts agree that gender is arguably the biggest ‘missing link’ holding back agricultural development in poor countries. But as Madeleine Bunting argued recently in the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog:

‘It’s odd. There is now a powerful consensus about the central role of women in development. They are the key agents of change given their impact on the health and education of the next generation. Everyone is agreed that women’s empowerment is vital, and it crops up in countless speeches by politicians all over the world. And yet change is achingly slow—embarrassingly so. . . . Women’s rights are in danger of becoming a wordfest.’

The participants at this week’s workshop in Addis Ababa are aware of the danger of saying too much and doing too little. The workshop participants include scientists, development experts, donor representatives and policymakers already working in Africa and other regions to give women greater access to markets and agricultural ‘value chains’.

They will present and discuss research-based evidence on promising strategies for addressing this missing link and hope to begin work to develop a new paradigm for market-oriented research and funding that directly serves women’s interests.

The workshop will draw heavily on experiences of the IPMS project, which started six years ago with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.

IPMS published a full report of its gender research in a working paper that appeared in December 2010, ‘Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture’, and yesterday released a 13-page brief for the general public, ‘Empowering women through value chain development’, that highlights findings and lessons the project learned, and the good practices it supported, in its four years of implementing projects in ten pilot learning woredas (districts) in four regions of the country. In this work, an IPMS gender research team set out to ‘mainstream’ best gender practices, specifically by increasing access by rural Ethiopian women to market-oriented agricultural resources, technologies and knowledge.

The IPMS gender working paper adds significantly to the literature available on women and agricultural development, which despite demonstrable need, remains thin. Few studies have ever been conducted on women’s role in Ethiopian agriculture, for example. This is despite the fact that 85% of Ethiopian women live in rural areas where virtually all households are engaged in small-scale farming of one kind or another, and despite the fact that most Ethiopian women continue to have far fewer opportunities than men for personal growth, education and employment.

The unequal power relations in Ethiopia, as elsewhere, are maintained by policies, programs and information systems that reman directed primarily at men. A recent paper published by Agnes Quisumbing and Lauren Pandolfelli, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), demonstrates how dysfunctional it is to ignore or marginalize women in development interventions: reviewing 271 World Bank projects, the authors found that by addressing the needs of both men and women, projects increased by 16% the long-lasting value of the benefits the projects generated.

Across four major regions and ten pilot learning communities, the IPMS gender researchers worked with Ethiopian research and development officers to strengthen women’s leadership and negotiating skills not only in farmer groups and local associations but also in their own households. The specific aim was to increase the women’s participation in market-oriented agricultural production. The project and government staff encouraged women to organize themselves into producer groups for various agricultural commodities and into marketing groups that could collectively demand and get higher market prices than individuals could get.

Women throughout the developing world suffer from unequal access to agricultural training and other resources, despite recent World Bank estimates that they carry out 40–60% of all agricultural labour in the world. The lead author of the IPMS working paper, Ethiopian scientist Lemlem Aregu, says: ‘Having only second-hand information passed on by their husbands and other men greatly reduces women’s ability to innovate and fulfil their productive potential. And this, of course, holds back commercial agriculture in these countries.’

Ranjitha Puskur, an Indian scientist who has led a gender research team in the IPMS project and now leads an Innovations and Livestock Systems project in ILRI’s Markets Theme, says that one way to start to change this situation is to scale up women’s work in agricultural commodities that have traditionally been the province of women.

‘Women posses animal-raising skills honed by years of living in rural areas,’ Puskur says. ‘A good entry point for helping them to better market those skills is to focus on poultry raising and other agricultural work that is often left to women to oversee. These enterprises then become sources of self-reliance, providing women with the means of generating a daily small income, with which they can meet their household expenses. With this experience, women are encouraged to move further up the ‘livestock ladder’ and to begin participating in other, traditionally male-dominated, kinds of livestock production.’

Follow discussions at this workshop on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011′ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read the full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read the 13-page general brief: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

Read more of what Madeleine Bunting has to say on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog: Women’s rights are in danger of becoming a wordfest, 27 January 2011.

Jan 042011
 

10BecA_Opening

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki receives flowers from Renee Njunge on his arrival at ILRI for the official opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub on 5 November 2010. Looking on is Beth Mugo, the minister for public health and sanitation (photo credit: ILRI/Masi).

On 5 November 2010, Kenya President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, a world-class biosciences research facility based in Africa and working for Africa.

Located at, and managed by, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, the BecA Hub provides a common biosciences research platform and related services and capacity-building to the science community in Africa and beyond.

The laboratory facility at the Hub brings to par Africa’s research capability with that of the world’s most developed countries. Africa’s scientists, students and global partners can now conduct advanced biosciences research, and get advanced training in biosciences, without leaving the continent. The Hub is a focal point for the African agricultural research community and its global partners.

The BecA Hub began in 2004 as part of an African Biosciences Initiative of the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development. This initiative was part of a framework of Centres of Excellence for Science and Technology in Africa and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme.

The Hub is supported by many partners and donors. The Canadian International Development Agency funded renovation of laboratories already existing at ILRI’s Nairobi campus as well as construction of new facilities. The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is helping to fund the BecA Hub’s operations through 2014. Other investors are supporting specific research and training projects at the Hub.

The official opening at ILRI brought together government officials, donor representatives, researchers and the local community in a colourful celebration of the contributions agricultural research is making in addressing some of Africa’s most pressing problems.

For more information about the BecA Hub, visit hub.africabiosciences.org and www.ilri.org or email BecA-Hub@cgiar.org.

Watch a short video film about what young students and scientists think about working at the Hub: ‘The BecA Hub at ILRI—A new research facility in Africa and for Africa’.

Watch a 5-minute photofilm that captures the main messages and spirit of the opening ceremony last November (2010): ‘Opening ceremony – Biosciences eastern and central Africa research facilities’

See photographs of the opening ceremony on ILRI’s Flickr page: ‘2010 BecA Hub Opening’.

Read articles that appeared in the media about the opening:
Highlights from speeches at the opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub at ILRI
New law to promote agricultural development, says Kibaki
New laws key in war on hunger: Kibaki

Listen to three of the speeches made at the opening ceremony:
Carlos Seré on the opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub
NEPAD welcomes opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub
Canadian High Commissioner celebrates birth of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub