CRP 3.7 News

Uganda pig value chain project partners with private sector to boost access to advisory services

Pig farmers training in Matugga_farm visit
Pig farmers’ training course participants visiting a pig farm (photo credit: ILRI/Danilo Pezo).

Advisory services are an important inputs in livestock production. In Uganda, these services were in the past provided mostly by government through the local government extension departments in districts and through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). Structural bottlenecks and inadequate funding of the sector, however, have created gaps in extension and advisory service delivery as many smallholder farmers have little or no access to information on production and marketing. Though available in some areas of the country, private extension services are expensive and beyond the reach of many small-scale pig producers.

Although private players and NGOs such as Volunteer Efforts for Development Concern (VEDCO) and World Vision have made interventions in extension service delivery in order to increase productivity, control disease risks and mitigate negative environmental impacts, particularly in water sources, there still remains an unmet need for advisory services among pig farmers at the grass roots.

To address this information gap, the Smallholder Pig Value Chain Development (SPVCD) in Uganda project, which is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), has established partnerships with private sector organizations to offer advisory services through trainings for pig farmers and persons interested in taking up piggery as a business.

Since 2012, Pig Production and Marketing (PPM) Uganda, Limited has cut a niche in the promotion of pig production and marketing through building the capacity of pig farmers engaged in both small and medium-scale production. The training courses offered by PPM are demand driven and farmers willingly pay a small fee for the two-day training.

Recently, ILRI collaborated with PPM on a training course on piggery management for small and medium-scale farmers. The training, which was held in Matugga in Wakiso District, central Uganda on 27-28 February 2015, attracted 93 participants (17 females and 76 males) who were mainly pig farmers and people interested in starting up piggeries as an enterprise.

The ILRI-Uganda team contributed to the training program, and three staff (Danilo Pezo, Peter Lule and Joseph Kungu) made presentations based on the recently developed SPVCD training modules.

Pig farmers training in Matugga_Kees Van der Braak
Kees Van der Braak  explaining how to assess business efficiency in pig farming (photo credit: ILRI/Danilo Pezo).

In his opening remarks, Pezo, the SPVCD project leader, described the efforts ILRI and partners are making towards improving the livelihoods, incomes and assets of smallholder pig producers, particularly women, in a sustainable manner, through increased productivity, reduced risk and enhanced access in pig value chains. He also gave a presentation on ‘The strategic use of local feed resources in pig feeding’.

Joseph Kungu, an ILRI graduate fellow and researcher at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) discussed topics related to pig herd health management and pork safety while Peter Lule, a research technician at ILRI, facilitated the event. Other speakers at the training included consultants Kees van de Braak (the Netherlands) and Marc Thyssen (Belgium) who are both affiliated to Breeds, Feeds and Meat Limited, Uganda.

In a related development, the Daily Monitor, a leading newspaper in Uganda, is partnering with Pig Production and Marketing Uganda Ltd to offer a pig farming clinic on 30 May 2015 in Matuga (Wakiso). In the past two years the newspaper has organized clinics on dairy and goat production, and has, this year, decided to organize a clinic focused on new techniques to improve pig production, including the preparation of sweet potato silage for pig feeding, control of parasites and biosecurity measures to control African Swine fever. These topics are part of the ILRI training modules on pig production.

ILRI staff and partners have been invited to make presentations on feeding, animal health and management in this year’s clinic. The event offers an opportunity for making use of training materials developed by the SPVCD in collaboration with national partners and to get feedback from farmers on their relevance.

The set of pig production manuals includes modules on:

Filed under: ASSP, Capacity Development, Capacity Strengthening, CRP37, East Africa, Extension, ILRI, Livestock-Fish, Partnership, Pigs, Uganda, Value Chains

Standards for collecting sex-disaggregated data for gender analysis: A guide for CGIAR researchers

Developed by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), the ‘Standards for collecting sex-disaggregated data for gender analysis: A guide for CGIAR researchers’ spells out ways to collect relevant sex-disaggregated data for five broad research areas:

1.Baseline or descriptive research: What crops are being grown and traded? Who is growing them? Who is trading them? What technologies are being used? What natural resources do they use, and in what ways? What are the policies and institutions that shape the environment in which farmers and consumers make decisions? What are the returns to different forms of production, trade, or livelihood activities?

2.What are the constraints facing farmers? In particular, what are the binding constraints that do not allow farmers to produce and trade more and earn better livelihoods?

3.Where are the opportunities for increased production and livelihoods? Where are the potential areas in which CGIAR could make an impact, whether through technological, institutional, or policy change?

4.How do farmers respond to living in a risky environment? These risks may be environmental such as climate change, economic through markets for both buying and selling goods, political, or personal such as health. How does the risk shape their decisions? Which people are particularly vulnerable?

5.What is the impact of projects, programs, and policies? How can projects be designed and monitored to be gender transformative? How does agricultural innovation affect women’s economic empowerment? Are gender gaps in farm productivity, income, asset ownership, or sustainable intensification changing and why?

Filed under: Components, CRP2, Gender, Women

Feeding hungry, growing animal populations a priority for Livestock and Fish program


Composite of parts of two paintings: Goat’s head in profile (painted and partially glazed on white plate) by Pablo Picasso, and A Fish, by Jean David (both via WikiArt).

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

The feeds and forages flagship is designing superior feed and forage strategies for smallholders to meet current and evolving demands for more meat, milk and fish as well as agile feed value chains with lighter ecological footprints.

All aspects of feed—its production, processing and trading—are of special import in developing countries, where these activities generate scarce jobs and cash, significantly increase the benefits smallholders get from their mixed crop, fish and livestock systems, and allow many people with few other options to escape poverty by participating in an on-going ‘livestock revolution’ by meeting the fast-rising demand in emerging economies for meat, milk, fish and eggs. Moreover, the work of resourcing feeds and feeding animal stock in developing countries is often a female responsibility, with interventions able to empower women and youth directly.

Feed activities also sit squarely at the interface of both the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ of animal production; this is where many hard trade-offs, such as water and land use, levels of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity conservation or losses, are negotiated and decided on a daily basis.

Feed activities sit squarely at the interface of both the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ of animal production—an interface where many hard trade offs are negotiated daily.

The flagship in a nutshell
Challenges: Lack of affordable and adequate quantities of good-quality animal feed is a major problem for the world’s smallholder producers, reducing their competitiveness in livestock markets and their earnings from their livestock and fish enterprises. Choice of feeds and feeding strategies can have major impacts on natural resources (growing feed can significantly deplete water sources) and gender equity (the largest proportion of women time’s spent in livestock production is sourcing feed and/or feeding livestock). Use of ‘crop residues’—the stalks and other remains of crops after their grain has been harvested—for livestock feed can compete with mulching and other soil enhancements. And the type of feed given ruminant animals influences the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, that they emit.

Options: Improving smallholder access to feed of higher quality (chemically, biologically and physically) as well as to breeds better suited to their environments is the main entry point for intensifying smallholder livestock production, which essentially involves shifting feed used for an animal’s maintenance (where the animal neither gains nor loses body tissues) to its production of meat and other animal-source foods. An animal’s consumption of improved feeds raises its productivity while reducing the greenhouse gases it emits per unit of livestock product. Appropriate feed choices need to be linked to efficient management and use of feed and forage production. Well managed forage plants are one of the best agricultural ways of storing carbon and improved forages can grow in stressed environments unsuitable for food crops, thus obviating the need to displace food production.


Feeds and forages flagship snapshots

Click to view slideshow.

Virtual discussion

In his short overview of the flagship, flagship leader Michael Blümmel, an ILRI scientist, gave a short overview of where things stand. Watch and listen to his audio-enhanced presentation below.



Blümmel explained some of the important changes in this field:

  • Increasing realization that the anticipated and projected increasing production of livestock and fish will not materialize without significant increases in feed resources and feeding strategies.
  • More and more difficulty making such feed increases as competition for biomass increases and the natural resources available for feed production decrease
  • Wider understanding that feed resourcing and feeding have decisive effects on the economy, quality and environmental footprint of producing milk, meat, fish and eggs
  • Confirmation that engagement in feed and forage value chains offers critically important  livelihood options for smallholder and landless farmers, particularly when the latter actively participate in the design and development of these value chains.

He argued that responding to these requires that we match feed biomass with demand for animal-source food under different scenarios and mobilize new biological and social sciences to improve feed resources and feeding strategies.



Progress so far …

According to Blümmel, the flagship has already contributed to:

  • Creation and use of a technology platform and participatory toolkit that helps define feed constraints and opportunities
  • Formation of diverse partnerships needed needed to make better use of existing biomass
  • Development of new forage options (selections and breeding lines) and their desirable traits (biological nitrification inhibition, endophytes)
  • Development of ways to increase biomass quantity as well as fodder and forage quality while reducing the environmental footprints of their production
  • Capitalizing on forage ability to improve carbon balances and natural resource management

It has produced:

  • Tools to estimate feed resources, prioritize feed interventions and refine near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) platforms have been adopted and taken up by several of the system-oriented CGIAR research programs
  • New approaches make better use of existing feed resources on- and off-farm, such as feed processing and supplementation options
  • New options to increase feed and forage biomass quantities with reduced environmental harm, such as newly developed multi-purpose forage and food-feed cultivars, with demonstration of the general absence of trade-offs between genetic traits for high yields of grain and residues in several crop varieties that can feed livestock as well as people
  • Awareness has been raised of the crucial inter-relationships among feed resourcing and strategies, natural resource uses and environmental footprints, and ways to enhance these links for multiple benefits.
  • On the ground, there now exist much more structured, targeted and interactive approaches to feed resourcing and interventions.
  • Superior food-feed crop cultivars have been adopted and further upgraded through feed processing and supplementation options.

Responding to these points, participants pointed to some key notions important to the flagship:

  • Genetic diversity: Genetic diversity can be used not only to generate new forage cultivars – either from grass or legume species – that meet consumer demands but also to replace cultivars that have become sensitive to biotic and abiotic stresses and other constraints. Genetic diversity is essential for addressing new and unpredictable climates resulting from global warming.  Among the existing cultivars of cereal and other food crops (sweet potato, cassava), and probably forages, there remains plenty of existing germplasm diversity controlling feed quality—before we need to think about breeding new cultivars. The links between what fish eat and their nutritional value for humans are very strong.
  • Useful tools: Tools to assess the increased quantity and quality of feed required by genetically improved stock and how these changed feed requirements can be best met with few (or positive) environmental impacts are now being used in a scoping study of yield gap assessments ILRI is conducting with CSIRO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Ethiopia and India. TechFit and FEAST are two such tools, which would benefit from more thoughtful and comprehensive integration of gender issues
  • Paradigm shift in crop breeding: Straw and stover quantity and fodder quality have become additional criteria in the release of new crop cultivars because of the rising monetary value of crop residues (sorghum stover is now being sold in local markets for about 50% of the price of sorghum grain) and the general absence of genetic trade-offs between grain and crop residue traits (we can develop crops with an abundance of both).
  • Environmental goods: Some species of Brachiaria, a tropical grass, are cultivated as forages. Originally from Africa, Brachiaria today is the most widely used tropical grass supporting livestock production in Central and South America. The ability of its deep and vigorous root systems to inhibit nitrification in soils and to reduce nitrous oxide emissions makes it a ‘climate-smart’ grass able to enhance the environment as well as improve milk and meat production yields.
  • Integration: Coordinated work on the health, genetics and nutritional status of animals was underscored as critical because each of these influences the other, with much illness due to poor nutritional status, for example, and under-nutrition causing much illness and death of livestock, such as during prolonged droughts. What unlocks the most important productivity constraint in one region may be improved genetics, in another improved feeds, and in another improved health. Development of tools to help determine what is most important where is the aim of a pilot research project Livestock and Fish is conducting with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Wageningen University and Research Centre.
  • Feed quality: ILRI is already involved in helping livestock value chains in Uganda and other countries to improve the quality of their commercial feeds, whose poor quality (and huge quality variations) is partly due to poor regulation of the feed industry and partly due to lack of capacity of feed compounders to develop nutritionally balanced feed rations. Needed is research on feed safety and hazards and the testing of feed training and certification schemes. Ideas for implementing feed certification programs in Tanzania and Ethiopia could be revived


A paradigm shift in crop improvement is happening: Crop aspects of livestock and fish production are getting due attention at last.

Proof-of-concept projects on feed and fodder value chains show that sustainable and environmentally friendly livestock and fish production is feasible.

More from this flagship

Filed under: Animal Feeding, CRP37, Feeds, Forages, Livestock-Fish, Research

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Genetics flagship snapshots

Click to view slideshow.

Virtual discussion

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



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

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



Matching and delivering …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Participants in the virtual discussion

 Animal Genetics Flagship

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


More from this flagship


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

Improved reproductive techniques enable effective use of superior rams in Ethiopia’s community-based sheep breeding programs

Farmer assessing the integrity of a ram’s external reproductive organs

Farmer assessing the integrity of a ram’s external reproductive organs. Photo: SARI/Zelalem Abate

Zelalem Abate

Genetic improvement of small ruminants has been identified as a “best bet” in Ethiopia’s highland areas. As part of the Livestock and Fish small ruminant value chain development activities in Ethiopias, community-based breeding programs established through an earlier project (located in Horro, Menz, Bonga and Abergelle) were strengthened and new ones were established in Atsbi and Doyogena.

Community-based breeding ensures farmer participation in selection and breeding processes, from inception through to implementation. Community-based goat and sheep breeding programs (CBBP) in Ethiopia have been promoted and implemented jointly by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), and partners from the national agricultural research system.

The breeding objectives are to accomplish (i) accurate control of the timing of reproductive events; (ii) maximize the number of females giving birth; and (iii) ensure the survival of newborn kids, and their ability to grow and mature into productive animals. In the context of genetic improvement, reproduction should also be a successful vehicle to effectively disseminate improved genetics in the base population.

Currently, improved rams and bucks produced by the CBBP’s are shared to serve the ewes and does in the communities. There is compelling evidence that improved rams and bucks are bringing genetic progress where they are used. Features inherent to the production systems,in particular the small flock sizes, means that the reproductive impact of the improved sires is limited. To scale out the genetic progress made and expand the use of improved rams and bucks, the Ethiopia Small Ruminant value chain is explore additional options to deliver improved genetics to communities:

  • Assessing improved males for their breeding soundness. Ram and buck examination for mating ability is an important step towards improving fertility at the flock level. Improving the male’s reproductive performance is significant as each male may mate 20 to 40 females per year. This activity works eth farmers to help them understand the mating ability of their males and how to recognize a good male whn obtaining a new one. In 2014, NARS staff based in the different locations (Bonga, Menz and Horro) were trained and subsequently implemented breeding soundness examinations of 123 rams. Each of the breeding rams was examined for the integrity of its reproductive organs, apparent clinical signs, with an estimation of the age and the overall health condition.
  • Disseminating healthy improved males. This step is curently implemented through development of a disease management program for breeding rams which includes, among other measures targeted at vaccination against major diseases (FMD, PPR and Brucellosis). This would prevent rams and bucks spreading diseases. The team has engaged an MSc student from Addis Ababa University to work on this topic.
  • Development of efficient, affordable synchronization protocols. This is an important step towards improving the delivery system of improved rams either through natural mating or artificial insemination (AI). There is an increasing interest in synchronization protocols that avoid the use of synthetic progestogens, which are reputed to lead to ‘non clean oestrus’ and generate high levels of residues in the end products. Ethiopian sheep breeds, because of their non-seasonal character, may be highly responsive to protocols associating prostaglandins and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) coupled to timed nutritional inputs. The resulting oestrus is more natural and may promote higher conception rates and litter size. This step is in its discovery phase with an on-station protocol (led by Debre Birhan Sheep Research Centre) where promising protocols have been tested alongiside conventional protocols based on the use of intra-vaginal progestogen sponges and exogenous gonadotropins. Data and results being analysed should inform on novel oestrous synchronization protocols that would enhance community use of superior rams.
  • Response of Ethiopian sheep and goat breeds to artificial insemination. None of the laboratories in Ethiopia is equipped to undertake all the steps of small ruminant AI, resulting in a research void. AI research is an important component to support genetics and enhance the efficiency of CBBP’s. The ICARDA team is working with national researchers to develop the capacity of two AI laboratories (Debre Birhan and Bonga) to support genetic improvement schemes of Menz and Bonga sheep. First trials with fresh semen will be carried out in the second half of 2015.

Through advances in reproductive technology, a small number of top rams and bucks can be used to serve a large small ruminant population. In addition, each ram or buck is able to produce a larger number of offspring in a given time, thus enhancing the efficiency of progeny testing. The high intensity and accuracy of selection arising from these technologies can also lead to a fast rate of genetic improvement. Furthermore, producing and then disseminating healthy rams is a precondition for a longer-term certification process of the improved genetics generated from CBBP’s.

Read a related story

Story contributed by Mourad Rekik, small ruminant reproduction scientist, ICARDA



Filed under: CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, Genetics, Goats, ICARDA, Research, Sheep, Small Ruminants, Value Chains

Uganda pig feed trials shows benefits of local feed solutions

Pig feed trials - diet formulationPig feed trials _ animal weighing
Research assistants chopping jackfruit (left) and weighing a feed trial pig (right) at Kamuzinda Farm, Uganda (photo credit: ILRI/Natalie Carter).

Pig production in Uganda is on the rise. The number of pigs in the country stood at 3.2 million in 2011 (based on a livestock census) from about 200,000 thirty years ago. A rise in the country’s population and incomes has triggered an upsurge in pork consumption. The per capita pork consumption of Uganda was 3.4 kg per person per annum in 2011, the highest in the East Africa region. Most of the pork consumed in the country is supplied by smallholder producers in over 1 million households, with women playing a central role in pig farming.

These figures, however, disguise challenges in the sector including diseases and parasites, unreliable markets, inadequate extension services and most importantly, poor quality and unavailability of pig feeds.

A 2013 value chain assessment conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) showed that irrespective of the pig system practiced, feed accounts for 60-80% of the total cost of production. Farmers frequently use crop residues, green fodder and kitchen leftovers to reduce feeding costs and in many cases supplement these with commercial or home-mixed concentrates.

Worse still, many pig farmers operate independently and are not organized into collective associations which lowers their bargaining power when purchasing feeds and when selling live animals. Additionally, the currently unregulated feed processing sector has given rise to a number of unscrupulous feed traders who produce substandard feed and use either extraneous bulking material (such as sawdust) or sell infested feed at prohibitive prices.

As part of a research intervention aimed to alleviate the feed crunch for smallholder pig producers, the University of Guelph’s Department of Population Medicine, in partnership with ILRI, started a feed trial in Kamuzinda Farm in Uganda’s Masaka District.

Led by Natalie Carter, a PhD candidate and an ILRI/University Guelph joint appointee, the six-month study tested novel pig diets using locally available crop residues and feedstuffs to determine the difference (if any) in the average daily gain (ADG) in weight of pigs fed on a silage-based ration, or a ration using local feedstuffs and if these differ from ADG of pigs fed commercial feed. Furthermore, the pilot sought to:

  • determine if feed efficiency differs by diet type
  • determine if ADG differs by breed
  • determine if ADG differs by sex
  • determine the volume of water consumed per day by local and crossbreed pigs

Pig feed trials, Kamuzinda
Natalie Carter with Joseph Serwadda and a pig trader (photo credit: ILRI).

Feed formulation
Uganda has two main rain seasons (March to June) and (September to December) during which food crops are grown and fodder for livestock is more readily available. For the rest of the year, farmers’ reliance on locally available fodder and crop residue for their pigs leaves them vulnerable.

To cater for the seasonal variation, Carter and the project team formulated two diets, a diet based on locally available resources and a silage-based diet. The local diet was based on fresh locally available ingredients (forages, fruit) and purchased feeds (fish, cottonseed, maize bran) developed with nutrient requirements suitable for crossbred pigs (implying that the local breeds would be fed higher nutrient levels than they require). These ingredients are readily available during the rainy/wet seasons.

The second diet was based on ensiled sweet potato vines and tubers (ratio 70% vines to 30% tubers to reflect work done in Kenya by ILRI’s Ben Lukuyu with nutrient requirements suitable for crossbred pigs. The vines and tubers were purchased from the local growers in Masaka and Luwero districts.

The two feed diets were then tested on 90 pigs, half of which were the local pig breed and the other half, crossbreed pigs.

Preliminary results revealed that though pigs fed on commercial feeds (off-the shelf, pre-packaged feed) performed better, there was considerable weight gain among the pigs fed on the locally formulated diets (local and silage diets). The feed trial further confirmed that low-cost balanced diets can be developed to meet the nutrient requirements of pigs on smallholder farms. The findings will help many Ugandan smallholder farmers who struggle with finding the right quantity and quality of feed for their pigs.

More information:

Filed under: Animal Feeding, CGIAR, CRP37, East Africa, Feeds, Intensification, Pigs, Uganda, Value Chains

A review of environmental impact assessment frameworks for livestock production systems

This study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reviews the currently available tools for and approaches to assessing the environmental impacts of livestock production systems.

The demand for food from animal sources is expected to double by 2050, driven by population growth, urbanization and rising incomes. Demand in developing countries will account for the major part of the increase in both production and consumption of animal products.

As a result, competition for land and water is likely to be fierce, with potentially profound outcomes for both the environment and food security. Furthermore, it will be imperative to limit agricultural expansion into vulnerable ecosystems to avoid irreversible changes in the resilience of agroecosystems. Thus, a large part of the demand must be met by the “sustainable intensification” of agriculture.

There are many frameworks and methods for evaluating the environmental sustainability of farm systems. However, few of these initiatives are concerned solely with livestock systems, and these tend to focus on one or two areas rather than address all potential livestock-related environmental impacts.

Hence, to fully capture these impacts, a multidimensional framework is needed to underpin environmental impact assessments of livestock production, and of livestock value chains.

The authors aim to identify the key parameters included in sustainability or impact assessment methods, and whether these parameters differ between different sectors and objectives. The study concludes with recommendations on what features are necessary for developing a successful and comprehensive environmental assessment framework for livestock production.

Download the report

Filed under: Cattle, CRP37, Dairying, East Africa, Environment, ILRI, Livestock, LSE, Research, Systems Analysis, Tanzania, Targeting

Stakeholders meet to develop Forages for Africa program

Participants of the Forages for Africa meeting

On 26-29 Jan 2015, a “Forages for Africa” meeting was held at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in the UK. The meeting, organised by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and IBERS brought together partners around the Forages for Africa initiative. Participants included researchers from Colombia, the UK, and Central and East African countries, and key sponsors and donors.

The Forages for Africa program responds to the increasing demand for meat and dairy produce in East Africa by enhancing livestock productivity. It aims to introduce well-adapted tropical forages into crop-livestock farming systems and thereby enhance the quality, volume and availability of livestock feeds. It will ensure that the introduction of new farming methods is culturally sensitive and adaptable, particularly in respect to the role of women in small-holder farming.

The long-term impacts of these activities include:

  • increasing smallholder farm incomes by offering farmers enhanced productivity and competitive products at market
  • improving environmental health through both animal and human consumption of enhanced products
  • regeneration of degraded land by means of progressive and sensitive introduction of forage species

The development of the Forages for Africa program has been well-received in principle by a range of national and international organisations but until now, no formal request for funding has been made.

Feeds and forages are important and have a direct impact in the entire livestock production system. They can increase the quality and quantity of meat and dairy produce and affect the amount of methane emitted from ruminants. The Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program feeds and forages flagship aims to address the various animal feed and forages challenges in specific target countries.

From the Livestock and Fish Program, Tom Randolph, program director, Amos Omore, value chain coordinator for Tanzania, Michael Peters, CIAT representative for the Livestock and Fish program whose mandate is on forage research and An Notenbaert, Systems Analysis for Sustainable Innovations Flagship leader as well as one of the workshop organizers, participated at the event. ILRI’s Jean Hanson and Sita Ghimire (ILRI-BecA) also participated at the event.

Filed under: Africa, Animal Feeding, CIAT, CRP37, Feeds, ILRI

Linking farmers to value chains in Uganda

Originally written by Jo Cadilhon in the Humidtropics blog:

Mukono pig farmer Regina Nasamba and her children

Last week (3-6 March 2015) the Humidtropics, Dryland Systems and Aquatic Agricultural Systems CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) met in Ibadan, Nigeria for the International Conference on Integrated Systems Research. The purpose of these three ‘systems’ CRPs is to identify and make the most of the complex intertwined nature of the agricultural production, marketing, and natural resources management systems to contribute to reducing poverty, improving incomes, nutrition and the status of women and other marginalized groups in humid tropical, drylands and aquatic ecosystems.

The preliminary results from my own systems research in the humid tropics of Uganda came out too late to be submitted to the conference but they also demonstrate the integrated nature of the agrifood system. Together with my agricultural economist colleague Emily Ouma from the Uganda office of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and local partners from Shoreline Services Limited, we have been undertaking research into the factors influencing the successful inclusion of small farmers in modern value chains around the Lake Victoria Basin area in Uganda. This research is being funded by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) as part of a research grant on inclusive value chains.

Taking a marketing perspective to the problem, we surveyed a total of 300 farmers in the Lake Victoria Basin of Uganda producing either cooking banana (the staple food for that part of the country), pigs (Ugandans are the biggest consumers of pork meat in all Sub-saharan Africa as measured by quantity eaten per person per year) or aquaculture fish (a growing enterprise for smallholder farmers with appropriate land and water resources).

The farmers’ sample was divided equally into farmers who are producing for an identified customer on the one hand and farmers who try to sell their produce whenever they need to and to whomever they find willing to purchase it on the other hand. Our preliminary findings identify the factors that have an impact on whether farmers are linked to an identified value chain or not.

Read the full article

Filed under: CGIAR, CRP12, CRP37, East Africa, Livestock-Fish, Pigs, Systems Analysis, Uganda, Value Chains

Livestock and Fish Program 2015 review and planning meeting goes virtual

This week, the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish is holding a virtual review and planning workshop. Initially conceived as a single conference, this has been rendered into an online format that will operate across time zones.

Part 1 happens this week deals with a review of the Livestock and Fish program work, of the context within which it operates, of opinions relating to key design features, and recommendations for research questions, approaches, model changes and theories of change.

Part 2 will happen later, and will deal with the first stage generation of ideas for Phase 2 of the program, and specific planning for the completion of the proposal preparation and submission.

Tom Randolph introduces the meeting:


Filed under: CRP37

Influencing policy on the pig sector and broader livestock sector policies in Vietnam

The International Livestock Research Institute’s projects in Vietnam are contributing to influencing policy on the pig sector and broader livestock sector policies in Vietnam in a number of ways. Below are some examples:

  1. Recommendations contributed to the draft ntional strategy on animal breeding development (PM’s Decree 10/2008 QD-TTg)

In the first draft of the strategy, the Department of Livestock Production (DLP) paid most attention to large scale farms and considered that as the only solution to develop the livestock sector with higher productivity and better disease control. The Center for Agricultural Policy/Institute for Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (CAP/IPSARD) together with ILRI, in the project Improving the Competitiveness of Pig Producers in an Adjusting Vietnam Market, developed a Vietnam pig sector modeling (VPM) showing that smallholder pig producers still play important roles in domestic supply of pigs in the next 10 years. Based on evidence generated by the project, such as income elasticity and market share, as well as the consumer demand and preference of products from the traditional and small-scale pig production, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development leaders paid greater attention on smallholder pig producers. The latest Decision 50/2014/QD-TTg issued by the Prime Minister on 4 September 2014 expressed government support to strengthen the efficiency of smallholder pig producers during 2015-2020.

  1. Contributions to the annual ‘Agricultural Outlook’ conference organized by CAP/IPSARD

Various ILRI products have been used in the annual Agricultural Outlook Conference, organized by CAP/IPSARD since 2007. The Outlook Conference gathers policy makers, researchers, international donors and representatives of agribusiness, farmers and local authorities. In the Outlook Conference, CAP/IPSARD and ILRI provided research results on the forecast of per capita demand of pork, income elasticity and consumer preference, especially in case of animal disease and their policy implications to improve efficiency and quality of the pig value chain in Vietnam.

  1. Improving the Competitiveness of Pig Producers in an Adjusting Vietnam Market policy brief

The policy brief provided policy guidance based on empirical evidence on the key strengths and weaknesses of Vietnam pig production, with details on two main types of production systems i.e. modern and traditional. Policy recommendations from the project results focused on three key aspects: efficient and bio-secured production system, “cluster” model for distribution and marketing system, and upgrading value chain to improve market accessibility of smallholder pig producers in Vietnam.

  1. Restructuring plan of the livestock sector toward 2030 (Decision No 984/QD-BNN-CN)

The CAP/IPSARD’s team contributed to the preparation of the restructuring plan of Vietnam’s livestock sector. Key findings of the updated Vietnam pig sector modeling (VPM) contributed significantly in the proposed policy in the plan, specifically the main finding on smallholder pig producers still being an important supply source in the pig sector and would receive policies (such as in food safety and pork quality issues) the policies to reduce animal feed price (e.g. increase planned area of maize, prompt to spread GMO maize species) would also help to improve efficiency of pig production of both large and small farms. Supporting policy to create the technological changes in the traditional and small-scale pig sector will also help to reduce prices, maintain market shares, and have pro-poor impacts.

Contributed by Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, vice director of IPSARD (IPSARD has partnered with ILRI on various projects).

Filed under: CRP37, ILRI, Pigs, Southeast Asia, Value Chains, Vietnam

Linking small dairy producers to dynamic markets: Three business models from Kenya

In November last year, the Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program commissioned an external evaluation of its value chain approach. One of the evaluators’ main concerns was that Livestock and Fish researchers had spent their time analysing how the livestock and fish value chains were working from an economics perspective but little work had been done on characterizing successful business models for farmer’s group organization and value chain governance, which are more likely to lead to more meat, milk and fish by and for the poor.

Livestock and Fish has started taking this business development angle with research on existing dairy hubs in the Tanzania value chains. This post aims to keep the ball rolling on this topic of business models for linking smallholder livestock farmers to dynamic markets by an overview of three dairy marketing business models that I visited last year in Kenya.

There was a flurry of dairy knowledge sharing events in Kenya late last year. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) organized the African Dairy Value Chain Seminar from 21 to 23 September. This was followed by the Annual dairy conference of the East and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA) from 24 to 26 September. And from 27 to 29 October, more dairy experiences were shared at the 6th All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture.

All three events also involved field trips to meet stakeholders in the Kenyan dairy value chains. So in the course of one month, I was able to hear about three different dairy business models linking smallholder dairy farmers to dynamic markets. I felt all three were successful to foster market access. This blog post summarizes the lessons I have learned from these three quick field visits in terms of 1) models for smallholder inclusion into value chains, 2) encouraging investment into dairy value chains, and 3) gender roles and empowerment in African dairy value chains.

Lower Eastern Dairy Association

Youth milking on a dairy farm in Machakos, Kenya

Youth milking on a dairy farm in Machakos, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Brad Collis)

This is an alliance of 18 dairy cooperatives and farmers’ associations covering the three Southeastern Kenyan counties of Machakos, Kitui and Makueni. The alliance was initiated in 2013 and represents around 2500 individual dairy farmers in Machakos and Makueni counties. They wanted to develop a network of milk collection and processing centres closer to their farms and a market outlet which they could control, rather than relying only on the collection networks of the large dairies to distribute the 10000 litres of milk they currently produce every day. The County Government of Machakos is supporting this initiative and helping the farmers to organize themselves, get trained on technical and managerial skills, and facilitating a multi-stakeholder dairy innovation platform to connect them with input suppliers and other interested parties of the dairy value chains. By recruiting more producers in the three counties, the Association has the potential to supply 40000 litres of milk per day, thus becoming an important institutional player in the region’s dairy market.

Eldoville Dairies Ltd

African Dairy Value Chain Seminar field visit

Lucy Karuga (left) the proprietor of Eldoville farm (photo credit: ILRI/Dorine Odongo)

Founded in 1985 in the Karen District of Nairobi by Mrs Lucy Karuga to add value to the milk produced on the family farm, Eldoville Dairies Ltd has now focused its business on the processing of milk. It transforms up to 5000 litres of milk per day into high-value individual-portion size butter, cheese and yoghurts for international-standard hotels and airline catering service providers. The fresh milk is sourced from 1000 smallholder dairy farmers rearing three to four Friesian or Ayrshire cows per farm, mainly located in Nyandarua, 160 km from Nairobi. At the time of the field visit, the farmers deliver the milk to the Ol Joro Orok collection centre where it is chilled before being transported to the Karen processing plant. Because the focus of the company is on processed products, it takes great care to make sure its suppliers deliver milk with above-average protein and fat content.

Ol Kalou Dairy Public Limited Company

 Ol Kalou Dairy Plant

The main building at the Ol Kalou Dairy Plant (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu)

After an initial investment in 2005 by Heifer International, this dairy collection enterprise located in Nyandarua District has been funded by the investments of private shareholders. The Ol Kalou dairy currently operates two collection centres (capacities 27000 and 35000L/day) and chills the milk of 6000 suppliers, mosty smallholders. The dairy also provides technical support and services to its farmer-suppliers to maintain milk quality. Its main customer is the large-scale Daima dairy located 150 km away in Nairobi. Milk prices paid to suppliers vary with market rate but are on average 38 Kenyan shillings per litre. Farmers pay milk transporters KES 3/L for the transport service to the dairy.

Lessons learned linking Kenyan smallholder dairy farmers to dynamic markets

  Lower Eastern Dairy Association Eldoville Dairies Ltd Ol Kalou Dairy PLC Smallholder inclusion Members of the Association are 18 primary dairy cooperatives and farmers’ associations, thus including smallholder dairy farmers who are the majority of the 2 500 individual cooperative members. Supplies milk from a network of 1 000 carefully selected farmers who raise their dairy cows on pastures, thus increasing the fat and protein content of the milk.Pays premium price of KES 43/L of milk.Provides training on feed and farm management to maintain suppliers’ milk quality. Majority of 6 000 suppliers are smallholder farmers.Provides technical support and training to suppliers to help maintain milk quality.The company is investing into more collection centres so as to source milk from more smallholders. Encouraging investment The Association’s business plan has attracted funding from the Machakos County Government who has bought a pasteurizer for the Association and is encouraging farmers to invest collectively with the help of private banks to materialize their business plan. Continued demand in the niche market of high-value processed milk products for hotels and catering services has led Eldoville Dairies Ltd to invest in a processing factory located in the dairy production area 160 km away from Nairobi and due to start operating in 2015. Some shareholders of the company are suppliers but there are also non-farming investors who come from the local community around Ol Kalou. Although the latter now live in Nairobi or even abroad, they have invested in the dairy to help develop their local community.The customer Daima Dairy has helped the Ol Kalou dairy invest in refrigeration tanks. Gender roles and empowerment 1/3 of the seats on the Association’s executive committee are reserved for women. The company’s general manager is a woman who pays specific attention to the gender balance in her workforce. At the start of the venture, men were the official suppliers of the dairy although women were tending to the cows on the farms.Now half of suppliers are women, four board members out of 13 are women and many women in the community are self-employed as milk collectors. Contact for further information Mr Joshua Wambua, Manager, Lower Eastern Dairy Cooperative Association jshwambua [a] Mrs Lucy Karuga, Founder and General Manager, Eldoville Dairies Ltd lucy [a] Mr John Kamau, Extension Manager, Ol Kalou Dairy kimkamaa [a]

I constructed this table from the information gathered from very rapid field visits. Further research is needed to gather more evidence of the performance of these three models.

Which model is best adapted to which configuration of farmers’ groups, distance to market, agro-ecological zone? Which model would be the strongest in the face of possible fluctuations in fodder availability and market prices? Which model is easier to set up and operate for the smallholders and their value chain partners? How can women and other marginalized groups be given a more prominent role in decision making in these models?

This is the type of research that scientists involved in the Livestock and Fish dairy value chains of India and Tanzania could be implementing to address the recommendation from the external evaluation on its value chain approach. Collaboration on this with researchers working in the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets is likely to be fruitful to help groups of dairy farmers and their value chain partners choose the most appropriate business model for their operations.

Jo Cadilhon, Senior Agricultural Economist, Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program, ILRI

Filed under: Africa, CRP2, CRP37, Dairying, East Africa, Innovation Systems, Kenya, Markets, Opinion Piece, PTVC, Value Chains, Women

Capacity development for sustainable food security: Role of public private partnerships

Dairy farmer girl in Punjab, India

Capacity development and public private partnership are hailed as global policy priorities in the draft sustainable development goals outcome document and the UN secretary general’s synthesis report provides guidance on what sustainable development should look like and what world leaders must do over the next 15 years to achieve it. After two years of crafting the ‘what’, the year ahead must focus on how to get it done.

Feeding the world’s growing population in a sustainable and inclusive way with good quality food is one of the main goals of the value chains approach-based CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Malnutrition affects one in two people globally including 162 million children under the age of five who are stunted (i.e. have low height for age) and two billion people who are deficient in one or more micronutrients. The task of securing food and nutrition worldwide is multidisciplinary and access to food, food distribution and food production are equally important and cannot succeed independently.

In much of the world, investments in food security are mainly channeled through national policies and centralized negotiations, but priorities could be better set, and decisions made, within a more participatory democratic approach of public private dialogue between elected representatives, grassroots civil society, youth, women, farmers, herders and traders and other players.

Experiences from the corporate sector reveal that 50-70% of partnerships fail prematurely. While partners often have goals in common, they also have individual objectives that do not necessarily complement one another. In addition, partners may have a variety of capacity-related differences, conflicting priorities and interests that present obstacles to effective collaboration (The Broker Online, 2014).  This can result in ineffective or even failed interventions, which can be avoided and addressed by first carrying out pro-poor public private partnership assessments such as those being developed and tested by the Livestock and Fish program in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Integrating multiple perspectives early in the process of identifying context and priorities is essential for successful collaborative arrangements and interventions. Also, to extend services to the poor, governments and partners need to adopt pro-poor policies and put in place regulatory regimes to effectively and consistently coordinate and oversee the achievement of poverty alleviation targets, whether delivery is by the public or the private sector.

Governments, in close consultations with stakeholders should define these targets, make necessary regulatory changes and build them into contracts with appropriate incentives for private operators and other non-state providers to meet service delivery targets to improve value chains and enforce penalties for failure (UNDP/PPPSD, Visser and Brandes, 2011).

Another area for government engagement is in providing an enabling business environment for creating business incubators and networks. Governments should not only be a source of regulation and policy formation, but also encourage judicial reform and procedural justice in administrative processes (such as property rights).Where private institutions are weak, governments should encourage and assist businesses in preparing for complying with global accreditation standards. Investments should be geared towards improving financial literacy of entrepreneurs, their ability to draft business plans should complement business training and specific technical support to engineer growth in value chains and unreliable supply chains should be firstly assessed and supported.

Governments cannot deliver a sustainable future alone. The (corporate) private sector has an important role to play in accelerating innovation and diffusing technologies.

Private sector involvement should not focus exclusively on the big agribusinesses, but should also invest in smaller-scale, less sophisticated methods of delivering added value that suit small agricultural and women-led businesses (SMEs) such as storage, transport, tools, processing equipment, ICT services, micro-finance and knowledge transfers, and which focus on geographical integration processes to stimulate efficient food distribution.

According to the African Development Bank, the majority of SMEs in Africa operate informally, with nine out of 10 rural and urban workers in Africa engaged in informal businesses. While formalization can help weed out businesses with little growth prospects and the small firms that have the potential to raise their productivity and number of employees, the reality is complex. SMEs often face the choice between complying with high regulations and incurring costs,which threaten their viability or remaining informal, which in turn, prevents them from being eligible for credit and makes them vulnerable to corrupt public authorities.

Access to finance remains one of the biggest challenges for SME growth. More flexible finance models such as private equity, credit lines and collateral registries allow entrepreneurs to take risks and tap into new funding opportunities, in addition to traditional bank lending. Pairing business management capacity development interventions with designing investment plans is key to foster local enterprise growth. Investing in SMEs could lead to a giant leap for economies but much remains unclear about where to invest and how investments in SMEs (and to those with innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit) could be more effective in triggering increased productivity, better employment opportunities and higher skilled work. Linked to this also is data and information management to support decision-making for value chain sustainability and accountability that includes the citizenry and which clearly identifies commitments, roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders.

Improving value chains performance is high on the agenda of Livestock and Fish country value chain programs. public-private partnerships, as a collaborative interface, are (formalized) multi stakeholder approaches that identify stakeholders with a significant interest in value chain programing, allowing for mutual trust building and understanding to accommodate different roles, responsibilities, interests, joint design and co-delivery of research for development work.

Partnerships are not ends in themselves; they are parts of a chain leading to development of sustained capacity to deliver in and across five flagship projects of Livestock and Fish. In the longer term their success builds on the engagement and (capacity) strengthening of organizations and actors in education, training, consultancy and research who have a crucial role in sustainable development. This systemic, long-term perspective ensures focus not only on strengthening the transformational capacity today, but incorporates actions that seek to endow a capacity to continue to adapt, grow and innovate for tomorrow’s challenges.

Insufficient technical capacities to engineer growth in value chains and unreliable supply chains have been two key reasons for limited successes in SME promotion by (African) governments. Especially in the start-up phase of SMEs, public organizations can assist public private partnership arrangements in facilitating knowledge for the design of complementary production systems, adaptation and innovation of technologies and regulation of supply chains. Incorporating SMEs into large businesses, completely or in parts of their value and supply chains offers opportunities for them to benefit from corporate training by the parent company.

Business and capacity development services facilitate SMEs growth by:

  • Pairing of financial support, advice in drafting business plans, assessing market access and business operations is crucial to ensure that business growth is not hampered by a lack of expertise or resources;
  • Supporting cooperation between the private sector, research organizations and higher educational and training institutions in curriculum design and delivery and labour market placement to counteract mismatch of skills required.
  • Establishing cooperation with local institutions for technical vocational and educational training to stimulate more direct private sector engagement. Successful entrepreneurs can provide inputs to curricula, hold guest lecturer positions and offer internship opportunities to students;
  • Co-designing innovative educational practices, such as automated education services via mobile technology or massive open online courses (MOOCs) can bridge gaps in access to education and quality teaching. But MOOCs in particular have high entry barriers, ranging from insufficient Internet access to language barriers and lack of prior knowledge. A shift from broad-based training to targeted support for talented individuals (champions) with entrepreneurial spirit may be more useful (The Broker Online, 2014).
  • Innovative and cost-effective alternatives for SME learning and training can be barter systems or workers’ associations that provide trainings for informal businesses. Digital business networks can provide another low-cost option for SMEs to increase their capacities and establish relations with other businesses.

Follow me on twitter @DianaBrandes

Filed under: Capacity Development, Capacity Strengthening, CapDev, CRP37, Ethiopia, Food Security, ILRI, Partnership, Tanzania, Value Chains

Reviews highlight successes and challenges of Tanzania dairy innovation platforms

Dairy innovation platform members in Ubiri village, Lushoto

Dairy innovation platform members in Ubiri village, Lushoto, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Niels Teufel).

Recent reviews of capacity building training of dairy innovation platforms in Tanga and Morogoro in Tanzania highlight key opportunities and challenges in improving dairy production in the country.

The reports assess the outcomes of training programs held in December 2014 and January 2015, targeting dairy innovation platform leaders in the two regions to enhance their capacity and understanding of the functioning and usefulness of innovation platforms established by MilkIT, one of the projects under ‘Maziwa Zaidi’, the Tanzania dairy value chain development program.

Executive committee members of eight village innovation platforms established under the project in four districts in Morogoro and Tanga regions were trained.

According to the review, challenges such as access to veterinary services and inputs can be addressed if innovation platforms are elevated beyond the village, to the district to make them attractive to a more diverse group of value chain actors. Most platforms consist mainly of producers because they are based at the village level, widening their scope could potentially help them incorporate more players such as researchers, extension officers, farmer organizations, private enterprises, NGOs and policymakers.

Successes were reported in Kilosa District where the platform in Mbwade has addressed water challenges by digging two wells after linking its work with an iWASH initiative. This platform has succeeded in creating ownership among members who contribute to meet costs of running the platform. Elsewhere, the Twatwatwa platform, also in Kilosa, has successfully worked with stakeholders to build wells and water troughs to provide household and livestock water needs. This platform has also included women in its operations and given them leadership positions and is improving extension services and reducing land conflicts between farmers and livestock keepers by being involved in grazing land demarcation initiatives.

To make the platforms sustainable, the reports say, members need to have access to financial services, which can be achieved by attracting actors in the finance sector and members should be trained as para-veterinary extensions to, in the short-term, address unavailability of veterinary services in most areas. The report also calls for support to the platforms to help them exploit existing markets to increase milk production through, for example, setting up of more milk collection centres.  Maziwa Zaidi projects should continue training and monitoring the platforms and ensuring clear exit strategies for long-term sustainability of the dairy platforms.

Read the full reports for Morogoro and Tanga.

Filed under: Africa, Animal Feeding, ASSP, Capacity Strengthening, Cattle, CRP37, Dairying, Feeds, ILRI, Innovation Systems, Livestock, Research, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Value Chains

Fish value chain assessment in Bangladesh paves the way for future interventions

A woman showing fish caught from pond in Khulna, Bangladesh. Photo by M. Yousuf Tushar. April 16, 2014 WorldFish scientists and partners have commenced a fish value chain assessment and social and gender analysis of some of Bangladesh’s most important farmed fish species for poor consumers and producers: tilapia, rohu carp, silver carp and mola.

The field assessment with smallholder fish farmers is being implemented in six communities across three districts in the southwest of Bangladesh, where aquaculture is a major source of livelihood, income, and food and nutrition security.

The project will use a new set of value chain assessment tools, which integrate in-depth gender and social analysis. This approach will enable the future design of potentially gender transformative “best-bet” interventions that enhance fish value chains and improve the participation of and benefits accruing to women.

During the first phase of the assessment, four-day focus group discussions will be held with separate groups of men and women fish producers. Later in the year other value chain actors, such as fish retailers, will be included in the assessment to gradually build a complete picture of the sector.

After the data collection stage, the focus group transcripts will be analyzed with the goal of identifying opportunities for improvement through gender integrated best-bet interventions in the tilapia, rohu, silver carp and mola value chains.

In addition a manual will be developed describing the tested tools as well as the process for data analysis and formulation of best-bets. The manual will be made publicly accessible as a tool for wider use outside the program.

The assessment is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish’s research for development interventions in Bangladesh to strengthen the aquaculture sector, increase incomes especially among poor value chain actors, and provide affordable, safe and nutritious fish for the country’s poor and vulnerable consumers.


Filed under: Aquaculture, Asia, Bangladesh, CRP37, Fish, Research, South Asia, Value Chains

Refining the Livestock and Fish Ethiopia small ruminants value chain change pathway

On 9-12 February 2015, the Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program organized a Theory of Change (ToC) training workshop in Nairobi in order to increase the understanding of the Theory of Change and start implementation of a pilot ToC-based Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) approach. Tanzania smallholder dairy and Ethiopia small ruminants value chains were selected to implement the pilot approach and change pathways for projects in these value chains.

After the Nairobi training workshop, a follow-up workshop was held in Ethiopia on 3-4 March 2015 and was facilitated by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team . The follow-up workshop objectives were to:

  1. Arrive at a common understanding of the Theory of Change approach, especially for scientists and partners who were not at the Nairobi workshop
  2. Revisit and review the change pathway developed for the Ethiopia small ruminants value chains
  3. Validate and refine the change pathway developed for the Ethiopia small ruminants value chains

Workshop participants included both value chains scientists and other actors/partners.

On the first day of the workshop, I gave a recap of the Theory of Change concept and approach, highlighting clear distinctions between ToC and several other MEL methods. I specifically stressed that Theory of Change was an approach and not a tool for monitoring and evaluation.

Barbara Rischkowsky, the Ethiopia small ruminant country coordinator then gave a brief background review of all stakeholder engagements that have been aimed at developing a value chain change pathway and how these previous actions had contributed to the current change pathway. She then guided participants through the current program change story highlighting what the program does with other actors/partners, the key short term changes and intermediate term changes needed to achieve the vision.

Workshop participants were then divided into 2 groups to review the change pathway developed in Nairobi. The review process required focusing on the value chain vision, re-examining the contextual factors associated with the change story, re-assessing the program’s sphere of influence, identifying important missing actors/partners and assessing how these actors will change for the vision to be achieved. The validation process also involved critical examinations of expected changes and eliminating gaps (“leaps of faith”). A lot of new information was generated in the process. The first day ended with a discussion on how generated ideas would be integrated in the change pathway.

The second day started with combining changes from the two working groups to develop a final and agreed upon value chains change pathway, identifying key assumptions associated with the change pathway and developing key evaluation questions associated with the changes. Michael Kidoido, M&E scientist with the MEL team provided a brief review of how to formulate assumptions. With the assumptions for short term changes in place, the team then focused on developing a template for designing evaluation questions and planning data collection methods and tools. A generic format for doing this was agreed upon. By the end of the second day, the change pathway below was agreed upon.

Livestock and Fish Ethiopia small ruminant value chain generic change pathway diagram

It was agreed that Michael and I should continue working on the change pathway, further developing and refining the assumptions and suggesting key evaluation questions. A meeting with a smaller group of the participants to discuss data collection methodologies associated with implementing the baselines was also scheduled.

Keith Child, MEL team impact assessment and learning scientists

Filed under: Africa, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, ICARDA, ILRI, Impact Assessment, LGI, Livestock, Small Ruminants, Targeting

New biogas plant improves waste management in Kampala pig abattoir

Danilo Pezo of ILRI engages project staff and partners at the handover of a biogas plant at Wambizzi (photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

Wambizzi, the only pig abattoir in Uganda is located in Nalukolongo, west of Kampala city and handles up to 150 pigs a day. It supplies a large proportion of the pork consumed in the city. But the facility has long been dogged by environmental issues stemming from poor waste management and excessive use of firewood for heating. Until recently, waste from the facility was dumped into a stream that flows through the neighbourhood or incinerated in a waste pit attracting the ire of neighbours and city authorities.

‘We have had a couple of run-ins with the Kampala Capital City authorities because of complaints about our waste disposal in the stream and the stench polluting the environment,’ says Justine Nabukeera, an executive committee member of the Wambizzi Pig Cooperative Society which manages the abattoir.

But things are changing. Projects led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners are improving waste management at the Wambizzi abattoir as part of wider efforts to improve pig production and pork marketing in the country.

On 25 February 2015, a newly-constructed biogas plant was handed over to the Wambizzi cooperative as one of the outputs of the smallholder pig value chain projects in Uganda. Construction of the plant was funded by Irish Aid through the ‘More Pork For and By the Poor’ project and by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) through the Safe Food, Fair Food project, both or which are implemented by ILRI in collaboration with Makerere University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity. The plant was constructed by Green Heat, a private contractor in Uganda.


Newly constructed biogas digesters at Wambizzi Pig Cooperative society abattoir will produce gas for heating (photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

The biogas plant comprises three flexible balloon digesters with a capacity of 10 cubic metres each. These transform waste (blood, dung, water and animal parts) from the pig slaughterhouse into methane gas that is then used for heating the water required for scalding the pig carcasses. The effluent produced from the digesters is being assessed for its value as an organic fertilizer for crops like maize, rice and beans.

According to the managers of the abattoir, reduced use of firewood is one of the immediate benefits of having the biogas plant. The facility previously spent between UGS 10,000 and 20,000 (USD4 – 8) daily on firewood for heating water, which sometimes went higher in times of firewood scarcity or during crackdowns on illegal timber sales.

‘It is much easier to heat water now because we have this plant,’ says Thomas Kasule, a treasurer at the cooperative, ‘and the gas also heats water faster which saves time and costs almost nothing.’

Read about the process of constructing the abattoir in this related blog article.

More on City abattoir gets biogas plant.

Filed under: Agri-Health, Article, CRP37, East Africa, Food Safety, FSZ, ILRI, LGI, Livestock-Fish, Pigs, Uganda, Value Chains

Improving fish health management in Egypt

Hatchery workers harvest Abbassa nile tilapia from a hatchery in Egypt. Photo by Heba El-Begawi, 2013 Already the tenth largest aquaculture producer in the world, Egypt is striving to intensify the country’s production of farmed fish, particularly tilapia, to meet growing demand.

Tilapia currently represents more the 70% of the total aquaculture production in the country and is an affordable source of food and nutrition for Egypt’s poor.

Despite its rapid growth and success, over the last five years the aquaculture sector has experienced increasing challenges with competition for water. Reuse of agricultural water for fish culture, intensification and possibly changes in weather, have led to significant increases in the number of fish mortalities reported by farmers.

This has led to considerable economic losses and is in turn affecting the quantity, quality and prices of fish in the market.

Fish diseases are challenging to prevent and control, and the resulting poor performance of farms is having a negative impact on investment and expansion of the aquaculture sector. There is an urgent need to clearly understand the causative agents and risk factors for such unusual mortalities in order to develop risk reduction interventions in the form of better management practices.

To help address the issue, WorldFish hosted a seminar on “Fish Health Management”, organized in partnership with the feed company Skretting, on 16 December 2014 at WorldFish’s Abbassa Research Center in Sharkia, Egypt.

The meeting brought together more than one hundred participants including fish farmers, hatchery owners, aquaculture experts, researchers, consultants and equipment suppliers.

In his opening speech, WorldFish Egypt Country Director, Dr. Gamal el Naggar explained how since 1998 WorldFish research and training activities have played an important role in contributing to the success and development of the Egyptian aquaculture sector.

Around 1,600 scientists and development professionals have been trained at the Abbassa facility since 1998, and during 2012-2014 WorldFish facilitated the training of around 2,000 fish farmers on best management practices.

The training project also produced a series of Best Management Practice videos that teach farmers the importance of pond preparation, feed management, water management, fish health care, and postharvest treatments – all of which are essential for culturing productive and healthy fish.

Mr. Ayman Rostom, Skretting Egypt General Manager, presented the history of Skretting emerging as an international fish feed producer, while Dr. Arjen Roem, Skretting’s Technical Manager for Africa, gave two presentations emphasizing the importance of best management practices for fish health management, and the role of supplemented diets in reducing fish stress and enhancing performance in ponds.

Recognizing the importance of this emerging challenge, WorldFish is working together with public and private sector partners and increasing its research focus on fish health, not only in Egypt but across it’s program countries where fish is a staple source of food, nutrition and income.

The seminar was organized as part of the Improving Employment and Income through Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector project, which is part of the CGIAR Research Project on Livestock and Fish.

For more information on the technical presentations by Skretting, please contact: Arjen Roem (

Filed under: Africa, Animal Health, Aquaculture, CRP37, Egypt, Fish, Middle East, North Africa, Research, Value Chains, WorldFish

Guiding the Livestock and Fish gender capacity assessment and development process

 GenderIn 2014, the International Livestock Research Institution (ILRI) undertook a survey with partners in targeted Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program value chains in four countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nicaragua) to ascertain their gaps in gender capacity related to integrating gender into agricultural programming. In all four countries, the primary obstacles to integrating gender included lack of financial resources, lack of staff training and lack of appropriate gender tools. The results from the survey motivated the Livestock and Fish Program to commission a more systematic gender capacity assessment.

The  gender capacity assessment and development guide for the CGIAR research program on livestock and fish has now been published.

The objective of the gender capacity assessment and development guide is to guide the process of analyzing the current gender capacities against desired future gender capacities of the program’s partners in four value chain countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nicaragua), and to subsequently design tailor-made capacity development interventions per country.

Gender capacity assessment (CA) is a key step because it:

  1. Identifies gender capacity gaps along the value chain
  2. Fosters a discussion around priorities for actions in the context of specific impact pathways
  3. Identifies opportunities for investments and leveraging capacity development activities with partners
  4. Provides a starting point for the formulation of a gender capacity development responses
  5. Establishes baselines and indicators for capturing learning, measuring, monitoring, and evaluating progress in capacity development
  6. Supports comparative analyses of gender capacities across value chains and countries

The results of the assessments should lead to the formulation of capacity development responses so as to increase the ability of the different Livestock and Fish Program partners to effectively and efficiently perform functions, solve problems, and set and achieve objectives in a gender responsive manner.

The guide aims to facilitate gender capacity assessment and development of ILRI’s research and developmental partners who currently support joint delivery of outputs of the Livestock and Fish Program or who could be potentially involved.

The guide which has been developed with Transition International and the International Livestock Research Institution (ILRI).

Download the guide

Filed under: Capacity Development, Capacity Strengthening, CRP37, Gender, Value Chains

ILRI’s experience with the Crop and Goat Project in Tanzania from a gender perspective

This paper synthesises ILRI’s experience with the Crop and Goat Project (CGP) in Tanzania from a gender perspective.

Some findings were identified which are worthwhile pursuing in future similar projects. For example, access to and control over assets and the products and proceeds gained from them increased the independence of male and female household members as they can now make decisions with little dependence on resources of others.

The project has also been able to positively improve some of the key domains of gender empowerment, i.e. asset ownership, decisions-making ability and authority, independence, improved sense of worth, willingness and ability to question one’s status and capacity to negotiate relationships and change labour patterns.

Furthermore, the use of gender analysis in design, implementation and evaluation stages helped in providing an
understanding of the complexity of gender relations and labour organization and how they shape household strategies and power dynamics, and subsequently the differential impact of the project on different members of a household.

Finally, the various project activities have helped to clarify the need for new participatory approaches, i.e.
empowerment framework and pathway, to define a multi-level empowerment conceptual framework including a
carefully determined targeting strategy (like working with women’s and special interest groups and youth, but also
ensuring the engagement with men and boys), set empowerment goals, translate the framework and goals into a
pathway, identify indicators of change, and assess success of projects in enhancing change, all in a participatory fashion.

Download the paper

More outputs from this project

Filed under: Africa, Crop-Livestock, CRP37, Dairying, Gender, Goats, ILRI, LGI, Livestock, Research, Small Ruminants, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Value Chains, Women