CRP 3.7 News

Livestock and Fish getting to grips with small ruminant diseases in Ethiopia

Taking sheep for disease testing in Bako, Ethiopia

Mrs Diriba and her family live in a small village in the Horro woreda, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Like many other highland sheep farmers, they worry a lot about the poor growth, particularly about losing animals to infectious diseases. Poor reproductive performance and high lamb mortality are huge problems for sheep farmers.

Reducing the prevalence of diseases would greatly improve their lives. Enough to encourage Mrs Diriba and her daughter to walk their sheep to a meeting point where they would be met by researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Herd Health team, the Bako Agricultural Research Center, and a University of Addis Ababa MSc student funded by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).

After waiting for the researchers to take blood samples from two rams and two ewes, Mrs Diriba patiently answered questions on a range of issues, including animal husbandry, feeding, clinical signs in animals, and health problems of family members.

To understand which pathogens affect productivity, particularly reproduction, and to determine how common these are in sheep, the researchers have collected serum samples from sheep from 120 households in three districts in Ethiopia, Horro, Bonga and Menz. Approximately half of these households have been participating in community-based breeding programs managed by ICARDA/ILRI in the Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program.

Testing sheep for diseases in Bako, Ethiopia

Clinical assessments undertaken during sample collections showed high prevalence of respiratory diseases and diarrhea in young animals, including acute cases typical of Pasteurellosis, and severe cases of liver fluke. The collected samples are now being tested for a range of pathogens. As farmers regularly handle breeding animals, the laboratory analysis also includes testing for a range of zoonotic diseases such as brucellosis, toxoplasmosis and chlamydia.

The findings of this study will help develop a health program for breeding animals and target future interventions in sites of Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program in Ethiopia. This will help ensure the sheep and goats of famers like Mrs Diriba are in better health in the future and contribute to better lives through livestock.

Post by Barbara Wieland with Mourad Rekik, Barbara Rischkowsky, Aynalem Haile, Azeb Gebretensay

Filed under: Africa, Animal Diseases, Animal Health, ASSP, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, ICARDA, ILRI, Sheep, Small Ruminants, Value Chains

Forages, sustainable intensification, and food security in the tropics

Improved forages in Vietnam, for boosted beef production. Image: CIAT

Small-scale livestock farming in the tropics can become more intensive yet sustainable if more and better forage is used to feed the animals being reared.

This could benefit farming endeavours in rural South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, and see a move away from the increased reliance on grain-based feeds, say scientists at CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) and Thomas Rudel of Rutgers University in Springer’s journal Ambio.

Rudel and his associates at CIAT argue that the “LivestockPlus” program could be a way forward by increasing the use of forages to feed livestock, which is often reared on small farms, in the tropics. Its agricultural research and extension efforts help to intensify in sustainable ways the management of forage grasses and legumes, shrubs, trees, and animals.


News item: Food for thought: Use more forages in livestock farming

Full article: LivestockPlus: Forages, sustainable intensification, and food security in the tropics

Filed under: Animal Feeding, Article, CIAT, CRP37, Feeds, Forages

ILRI review assesses dairy development successes and failures in Tanzania

Delivering milk to a collection centre in Tanga, Tanzania.
A farmer delivers milk at a collection centre in Tanga, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Despite having 22 million cattle and having the second largest cattle population in Africa, most of the milk in Tanzania is sold and consumed with limited or no value addition because of high production, processing costs and poor infrastructure.

The most outstanding characterization of the dairy sector in the country is that most milk is sold in informal markets which are highly fragmented. Currently, there are about 70 privately owned milk processing units utilizing only about 30% of their processing capacity with less than a thousand litres a day on average.

In 2014, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) carried out a ‘Review of successes and failures of dairy value chain development interventions in Tanzania’, to identify the best interventions and strategies to pilot that are pro-poor, gender-sensitive and environmentally sustainable.

Dairy stakeholders including experts, policy makers, researchers, farmers and processors were interviewed to determine the successes or failures of past dairy development in terms of inclusiveness, timeframe of innovative interventions and other measures aimed at poverty reduction.

Overall, the review concludes that dairy interventions in the country so far have been successful but there is still a long way to go in ensuring competitiveness and inclusiveness.

Areas that require attention include creation of a supportive regulatory framework for business to thrive, research on feeds especially to overcome scarcity in dry seasons and establishing a suitable model for improving access to inputs and services especially for breeding and health and credit services. Building farmer groups to work together to exploit economies of scale and learn from each other will help cut production costs and enable them to access services.

The review also called for interventions that can be used to grow the dairy sector which includes formulation of a dairy development master plan with a long term vision to guide the sector.

The review was carried out as part of the ‘More Milk in Tanzania’ project funded by Irish Aid and delivered in close collaboration with Sokoine University of Agriculture, Heifer International, Faida Mali and the Tanzania Dairy Board.

Filed under: Africa, CRP37, East Africa, ILRI, LGI, Livestock, Markets, Research, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Value Chains

A progress review of the smallholder pig value chain project in Uganda

Pig in Mukono, Uganda
The Livestock and Fish program in Uganda targets smallholder pig value chains in five districts (photo: ILRI/Danilo Pezo).

When the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish set out to transform the pig value chain in Uganda in early 2012, it was hard to conceive how much could be achieved within five years.

For a start, the policy environment in the country was not very favourable: The national Livestock Development Strategy and Implementation Plan drawn by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries did not consider the pig industry as a priority. The social landscape was quite prejudicial against pork consumption and the media often reported half-truths relating pork consumption to disease, psychological disorders and other undesirable health conditions.

Three years on, after much dedicated research, public and private-sector partner engagement and practical interventions along the pig value chain, the program’s initiatives have started to bear fruit. The Smallholder Pig Value Chain Development (SPVCD) project helped producers address feed constraints by formulating pig feeds using locally available feed resources and improving pig health by designing protocols to control Africa Swine Fever. The associated Safe Food, Fair Food project improved pork safety through research on prevalence and control of the Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) and training of farmers, slaughterers and pork inspectors.

To improve market access for farmers, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its local partners have championed the formation and registration of seven pig farmers’ cooperative societies that help farmers to collectively market their pigs and jointly access inputs and services. A feasibility study on the set up of a pig business hub in Kabonera-Kyanamukaaka sub county of Masaka District was carried out to find ways to improve access to affordable pig business inputs and services for the smallholder producers and enhance business opportunities for other value chain actors like input service providers, transporters and pig traders.

At the slaughter node of the value chain, the SPVCD project has undertaken a feasibility study for the setup of a centralized pig abattoir in Masaka District and a business plan for this facility. Elsewhere, the Irish Aid-funded More Pork project has facilitated the setup of a biogas plant at Wambizzi Pig Cooperative, the only formal centralized pig abattoir in the country, as a pilot study on waste management at the slaughter node.

The multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) initiated in 2014 by ILRI in partnership with SNV continue to gather momentum. Having identified feed constraints as the major impediment to pig production across the country, the interim committee of the national MSP has engaged the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industy and Fisheries to advocate revision of the feeds policy to strengthen the enforcement of quality standards of pig feeds.

To extend local capacities, ILRI and its local partners have developed a series of training manuals for the pig value chain that addresses information and knowledge gaps on different aspects of pig husbandry. The seven modules cover:

  • pig feeding
  • parasite control
  • boar management
  • African swine fever control
  • pig management
  • marketing and institutional strengthening, and
  • pig business planning and financial management.

Both the public and private sectors in Uganda are gradually embracing the pig value chain as a vehicle for social and economic transformation. At a recent value chain strategic implementation and planning meeting, held 14-15 May 2015, it was revealed that Fresh Cuts, a commercial meat processor, is to set up a separate pork production and processing line to meet the growing demand for pork products in the country.

The Uganda government is reviewing its development strategy to incorporate piggery among it priority enterprises for investment. The National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) for instance, has included pig husbandry among its research priorities and at the district level, pigs are now considered among the top priority livestock species alongside cattle and poultry. In Masaka District, the local government has partnered with the Chinese government and 55 entrepreneurs to boost livestock value addition particularly in pork processing.

The College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University has restructured its curriculum to ensure that all agriculture students are taught livestock (including pigs) for the entire four-year degree course. Development organizations like ADINA Foundation in Lira and Devenish Nutrition in Hoima are implementing piggery projects with the latter setting up a pig breeding centre to supply smallholder farmers with proven breeding animals.

All this effort came together at the recent planning meeting where stakeholder envisioned their joint efforts leading to ‘an efficient, all inclusive and sustainable pig value chain for safe and affordable products, contributing equitably to improved livelihoods in Uganda’.

More on Uganda pig value chain development

Filed under: CRP37, East Africa, Livestock, Pigs, Uganda, Value Chains

Improved small ruminant value chains in Ethiopia focus of new Livestock and Fish project

Smallholder family with sheep in Doyogena

In April this year, the International Agricultural Research for Development agreed to co-finance a three year project to improve the performance of pro-poor sheep and goat value chains for enhanced livelihoods, food and nutrition security in Ethiopia.

The project is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) partnering with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).

The project emerged from recent work by ICARDA and partners to identify the key opportunities to transform small ruminant value chains in the country.

The project will improve livelihoods and assets, particularly of women, through increased incomes, reduced risk and improved market access in selected sheep and goat meat value chains. It will do this by testing appropriate approaches and strategies to increase herd productivity, producers’ income, and meat production.

The four project components are:

  1. Analysis of sheep and goat value chain performance, governance and institutional frameworks.
  2. Design, implementation and evaluation of technology and institutional intervention and integrated intervention packages to improve value chain performance.
  3. Facilitation of an enabling environment for value chain transformation and for upscaling interventions.
  4. Design and implementation of data and knowledge management systems and a communication strategy to document and share evidence, outputs and lessons as a basis for upscaling.

By the end of the three year period, the project will have produced the following outcomes:

  • Sheep and goat value chain performance, governance and institutional frameworks in Ethiopia understood and policy-makers made aware of constraints for sectoral growth and of gaps in institutional support
  • First set of interventions adopted by target producers, both women and men, and ready for up-scaling through a network of development partners developed by the project.
  • Dissemination of evidence and lessons learned and feasibility study on the possibility of up-scaling the interventions.

The project will be launched with partners on 8 June 2015.

More information

Barbara Rischkowsky, ICARDA, b.rischkowsky [AT]

Updates from the program in Ethiopia

Program updates on small ruminant value chain development


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

Setting priorities and plans for the Livestock and Fish smallholder pig value chain program in Uganda

ILRI Uganda Strategic Implementation and Planning Meeting

Participants discuss ideas and plans to improve the value chain project

Last week (14 and 15 May), key actors and stakeholders working in the smallholder pig value chain value chain met up in Kampala to review progress and set out plans and priorities.  Discussions were organized around the program’s five flagship activities.

The introductions revealed a good mix of participants from national and local government, research, academia, the private sector, extension and service delivery groups, advisory and training institutes, NGOs, slaughterhouse and processing as well as farmer organizations.

Self-review session at the ILRI Uganda pig value chain planning meeting

Contributing to the collective review process

A participatory self-review of the past 15 months generated a graphic representation of the program’s various activities, results and products in the past year.

Some of the highlights included:

  • Implementation of the Irish Aid support ‘more pork in Uganda’ project, expanding the existing project to two new districts.
  • Completion of the IFAD-supported Uganda smallholder pig value chain development project.
  • Launch of a new project on silage from sweetpotato to overcome seasonal feed shortages (with the CGIAR research program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas).
  • Development and production of 7 pig production training manuals (with various public and private partners).
  • Animal health diagnosis and biosecurity work, especially on ASF
  • Carried out feed assessments in four districts and associated forage trials.
  • Published various reports and articles on the insights gained by project staff and partners.
  • Supported Masaka district develop a business plan for a new slaughterhouse to be owned by local farmer associations (see a presentation).
  • Set up and facilitated the operations of 3 district and one national multi-stakeholder pig platforms.
  • Carried out a gender capacity assessment of local implementing partners.

Before moving into planning, outgoing ILRI country representative Danilo Pezo gave an update on the conclusions and recommendations of the external review team that visited the country last year (see presentation). No major changes of course were called for but several specific recommendations around capacity development and entrepreneurship, partner capacities and policy linkages, among others, are being addressed. Participants identified several very promising country-level developments in terms of new projects and greater attention by (local) government and research to the sector.

The planning itself took up much of the remaining time and involved all participants in a rapid ‘visioning’ of the whole program in 2023 followed by in-depth planning of the coming few years work. As the pig and pork sector grows and as the program and other partners attract attention to the sector, it is clear that several very urgent interventions need to be made to 1) ensure year-round feed-security for pigs, 2) deliver appropriate genetic support and artificial insemination services to farmers, 3) upgrade slaughter facilities, 4) address the wider pig health challenges (beyond ASF), 5) address potential health, waste and environment risks in the sector, 6) reinforce the fod security, nutritional and income generation potential of pig rearing for women, and 7) upgrade business and other capacities in the pig innovation system.

The workshop concluded with installation of a national steering committee for the pig value chain program and launch of the seven training manuals.

The steering committee members are:  Nicholas Kauta (Ministry of Agriculture), Loyce Okedi (NaLIRRI), Henry Nsereko (VEDCO), Lawrence Mayega (Masaka Local government) and Denis Mpaire (Makerere University). This team will be expected to help push the the policy agenda for the pig value chain at the national level and work hand in glove with the pig Multistakeholder platforms in elevating the visibility and voice of the pig value chain and its actors.

Finally, Brian Kawuma introduced the training modules; they are:


This work has been anchored around two value chain transformation projects funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (2012-2014) and Irish Aid (2014-2016), a dedicated food safety project funded by the German government and various other specialized projects looking at animal feeds and forages and animal diseases – especially African swine fever (ASF). See more updates.

Filed under: Africa, ASSP, CGIAR, CRP37, East Africa, ILRI, LGI, Livestock, Pigs, Uganda, Value Chains

Livestock and Fish pays tribute to the gender transformative work of Paula Kantor

Paula Kantor (Worldfish) planning Livestock and Fish flagship research

Paula Kantor at the 2014 Livestock and Fish program review meeting

The tragic loss of Paul Kantor during a terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday 13 May have left many of her colleagues in the development world and friends with great sadness.

Paula who joined CIMMYT in February 2015 as a senior scientist (gender and development specialist), was leading CIMMYT’s ambitious new project to empower and improve the livelihoods of women, men and youth in wheat-based systems of Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan.

Prior to joining CIMMYT, she worked with WorldFish from 2012 and was the WorldFish gender flagship focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish. Paula passionately supported the Livestock and Fish gender strategy on gender transformative approaches. Her passion and commitment to integrate gender and positively transform the aquaculture value chains to benefit poor men and women in these value chains will be remembered by all who interacted and worked with her.

Paula was absolutely the epitome of a CGIAR scientist through her commitment to excellence in her science and her commitment and patience to improving the quality and meaningfulness of the work done with her colleagues and partners. And what a delightful person. This is a huge loss for us, and I can’t begin to imagine what it is for her circle of family and friends. Tom Randolph, Livestock and Fish Program director.

Her commitment to improving the livelihoods of women in some of the world’s most impoverished regions will be her legacy. Paula’s passing is a loss to the whole development community. Stephen Hall, WorldFish director general.

Energy, commitment and integrity are words that only begin to describe the astute gender and development expert and colleague that Paula was. She was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by those who were fortunate enough to have known her. Maureen Miruka, CARE USA and Livestock and Fish Science and Partnership Advisory Committee member.

Paula brought to the Livestock and Fish gender team the excitement and wisdom of a versed scholar committed to researching gender issues with and for poor farmers. She was committed to improving rural livelihoods while enhancing social and gender equity, dignity, and justice. She practiced these principles in her daily interactions with colleagues. She listened and appreciated opinions, discussed and advanced them to co-create new spaces for social transformation. To those of us who worked with her, Paula provided inspiration, mentorship and friendship. We miss her greatly in our work and life. Alessandra Galie, ILRI social scientist.

Our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues on the loss of a great person.

Filed under: CRP37, Gender, Livestock-Fish, Women, WorldFish

New Livestock and Fish project focuses on chickens in Africa

This week, chick geneticists and researchers are meeting in Addis Ababa to set out plans and deliverables for the African Chicken Genetic Gains project. ACGG is a research-for-development partnership project working in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

It aims to develop public-private partnerships that will contribute improve chicken productivity to benefit smallholders. The project will test and disseminate improved breeds of chickens likely to suit the needs of farmers in low-input systems.

More …

Filed under: ABS, Africa, Animal Breeding, Chickens, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, Genetics, ILRI, Indigenous breeds, Nigeria, Poultry, Southern Africa, Tanzania, West Africa

Value chain development entry points for Tanzania’s dairy sector


Zero grazing farming in Magore village, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI).

The livestock sector in Tanzania contributed about 6% of the country’s total GDP in 2006. But despite its importance in the country’s economy, the sector faces a myriad of constraints. The dairy market is poorly organized and is characterized by individual small-scale farmers who sell milk directly to market in small quantities and many of them lack the bargaining power associated with economies of scale.

Low access to inputs and services including breeding, feed and animal health are also key constraints. Additionally, the dairy market is unpredictable due to price fluctuations associated with seasonality of milk supply. Most farmers prefer to sell their milk to restaurants and neighbouring households which offer higher prices while the several milk collection centres in the country operate below installed capacities averaging only 30% utilization annually.

Attempts to improve dairy development in the country have fail to address these constraints because most of the approaches used are not pro-poor and do not target pre-commercial producers due to lack of evidence on the most efficient approach. Appropriate organizational models are needed to improve access to inputs and services and market access for farmers to improve their income and achieve food and nutritional security both for the producer households and for poor consumers.

The More Milk in Tanzania (MoreMilkiT) project that is funded by Irish Aid in support of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish (locally referred to as ‘Maziwa Zaidi’) is helping to address these knowledge gaps. The project is implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Sokoine University of Agriculture, Faida Mali, the Tanzania Dairy Board and Heifer International.

A ‘Rapid appraisal of dairy value chains in Morogoro and Tanga regions in Tanzania’ has identified key entry points for beginning to address the above constraints through focus group discussions. It was conducted across eight villages in Kilosa and Mvomero districts in Morogoro region and in Mvomero and Lushoto districts in Tanga region.

According to the study, in extensive systems, livestock keeping is the most important source of livelihood for farmers followed by crop production and vice versa for intensive and semi-intensive systems. Pastoralists in extensive production systems have relatively good knowledge of animal diseases from oral tradition unlike their counterparts in semi-intensive and intensive systems. In the intensive and semi-intensive systems, gender roles are shared between men and women, whereas in the extensive system there is a clear division of gender roles with women spending many hours managing livestock.

Feed shortage was a common complaint as a result of scarcity of land and water and also because farmers lack knowledge in feed conservation. The study revealed that lack of knowledge on the farmers’ part is a major hindrance to the success of the dairy sector. For example, farmers need training on fodder production and using concentrates by-products of sugarcane (molasses) and rice milling (husks) which are currently not being fully utilized as animal feed.

Also, there is little knowledge on human diseases sourced from animals. Some farmers thought drinking raw milk is safe and could not link consuming raw milk to any zoonotic diseases. The study also found that women make decisions on spending income from milk sales but important decisions related to livestock are jointly made. Most farmers use bulls for breeding and there is need for training on artificial insemination (AI) to improve the quality of livestock.

The report also calls for more awareness to enlighten farmers on the benefits of collective action as a mechanism for enjoying improved access to credit services, inputs and output markets.

These constraints are now being pursued through more in-depth studies under the MoreMilkIT and other Maziwa Zaidi projects including piloting of best-bet interventions and monitoring of related outcomes.

Download the report

Filed under: Africa, ASSP, Cattle, CRP37, Dairying, East Africa, ILRI, Livestock, Livestock-Fish, Markets, Report, Research, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Value Chains, Women

Livestock and Fish introduction to environmental risk analysis in aquaculture report

The report provides a brief and generalized introduction to the specific steps of an environmental risk analysis. This publication is based on materials covered and outputs generated during the workshop on Risk Assessment Methodologies and Tools for Aquaculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was jointly held by WorldFish and FAO in Siavonga, Zambia on 28 June–2 July 2010 with funding from FOA and the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

The workshop was delivered as a training exercise to 17 participants from seven sub-Saharan countries and was designed to highlight current methodologies and tools available for environmental risk analysis in aquaculture development.

A key focus of the workshop was to encourage participants to consider hypothetical but realistic scenarios and to discuss issues relevant to evaluating the environmental risks of a given activity or scenario.

Read the WorldFish post and download the report: Risk analysis in aquaculture: A step-by-step introduction with worked examples

Filed under: Aquaculture, WorldFish

Planning for Livestock and Fish Phase 2: A virtual review and discussion

In March, a CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish phase 2 planning workshop was conducted through a two part process. Initially conceived as a single event, it was rendered into an online format that operated across wide ranging time zones. Download the full report.

This Part 1 event reviewed the program’s work, of the context within which it operates, of opinions relating to key design features, and offered recommendations for research questions, program approaches, model changes and modifications to the theories of change. It worked around two scenario possibilities, namely that Livestock and Fish would continue in much the same form as phase 1, or that it would expand to assume a global animal science agenda. Part 2 will generate first stage ideas for Phase 2 CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, and make specific plans for the completion of the proposal preparation and submission.

Over 4 days, a series of presentations were made and discussed by participants. Comments from each day’s discussions were summarized and made available as a contribution to the next days’ discussions. As such then, conversations seeded new conversations. The figure below shows the workshop flow.
CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish phase2 planning workshop process flow
For each stage of the process, a summary document was prepared to capture the findings of discussions.

 Review of findings
Following presentations on the Livestock and Fish program work in phase 1, a review of global
development livestock trends and an examination of some key questions, the following observations about the program were made.

Participation: For interventions to be effective, they must be relevant and resonate well with the people Livestock and Fish program are trying to work for and with. The program is not adequately engaging value chain actors or the poor and does need to work better with the poor to understand their demands. The program must better engage with issues of power, inclusivity and governance; use participatory research approaches that build on experiential learning, and engage with relationship networks.

Impact: There is not much impact data so far and it is not clear whether the program is having any impact. The program needs to better measure progress and results. A decent monitoring, evaluation and learning framework is imperative, bearing in mind that it takes considerable time to generate interventions, let alone assess them.

Capacity: For any change intervention to persist, the value chain system must be capable of sustaining such change. At the start of any intervention process, it is important to assess the capacity that is present, where it lies in the system, and the extent to which change is thus enabled or constrained.

Collaboration: Future program design must structure closer linkages between flagships, and between flagships and value chains. Some excellent results have been seen through collaboration with other CRPs, and this needs to be expanded particularly with system CRPs. In value chains, private sector actors play important roles and L&F should be deliberate in seeking common agendas and synergy with them.

Holistic approaches: Research needs to more holistic. Starting from analysis and foresight, our practice must cut across disciplines across flagships.

Technology: There is an imperative to produce more food and biomass. The program is well positioned to support this. Good examples of our technological success so far include B. Humidicola, a tropical grass, O. Niloticus L. Abassa, CLEANED and a range of tools. We must not only seek to invent new technology but research ways to improve access to existing technology.

Policy: Research must better engage with policy processes. Currently, this is not happening.

Nutrition: The nutritional impact of the program’s research should be better understood and deliberate. Work to understand nutrition should use demographic and consumption data, and explore how ASFs are prepared in homes.

Scale: Systems transformation is much more than optimizing production and efficiency. The program needs to think about scale from the beginning of the technology generation process, look for scaling potential early on, and build knowledge alliances with development partners to foster scale.

Value chains – A systems approach: Research through value chains has been effective, and should continue. However the program’s research has not sufficiently explored system wide issues.

Theories of change: Livestock and Fish will need different change pathways for intensification and resilience. However there is concern that such pathways assume predictability and linearity.

Comparative analysis: The way that Systems Analysis for Sustainable Innovations (SASI) and Value Chain Transformation and Scaling (VCTS) are structured does not enable comparison and learning across value chains, and this is not happening. A coherent agenda should be defined.

Demand orientation: Livestock and Fish research needs to be more demand driven. There is considerable demand for quick solutions, yet our centre supply driven focus is mainly on long term solutions. While both are important, we need to find a better balance. One way to better meet demand is to research ways of quickly using existing solutions for quick wins.

Knowledge and data: ICT offers great opportunity to get better real time data, build two-way communication between data sources and users, and access the insight of other people.

Business models: Livestock and Fish research needs to be better embedded within business models if it is to be sustainable. Business cases are needed to show how impact is achieved, to better sell research work to donors and to engage private sector interest.

Critical mass: The program has achieved it best results in value chains where it has leveraged bilateral resources. It some places, it has been difficult to secure bilateral funds.

Research versus development: The boundary between development and our research is not as clear as it should be, and this has had implications on the way in which we have related and set priorities.

By the poor; for the poor: When considering the poor, we must include value chain actors who are not producers, recognize the considerable diversity between poor groups, and that men and women have very different needs. While smallholders remain important, benefits vary across both access to better food and income.

The bigger agenda: There is more that Livestock and Fish can do beyond value chain development. It needs to consider work to improve resilience, minimize loss, improve the environment and promote social equity. For resilience programming, Livestock and Fish will need different frameworks beyond value chains that encompass environmental risk and ecological scarcity.

Power: Dialogue processes for change happen through existing structures and power relationships, and power holders sanction those that break norms. The program should research ways of changing power relationships so that development interventions intervene with a consciousness of power, and be empowering.

The environment: Livestock and Fish needs a robust response to criticism that livestock has a bad effect on environment. The program can engage as an honest broker without being negative or defensive, and frame discussion around planetary boundaries. Its work should address and mitigate negative environmental impacts and convert these into positive impacts.

Intensification: has been a good driver for the program, and the value chain approach has been a good way to do this; but this needs to be better balanced with improved environmental sustainability. What is the right measurement for intensification – by land area, by livestock unit or by the unit of other input?

Focus: The nature and level focus and its contribution to results is an assumption that needs to be researched. In this regard, the program should consider focusing on several species in some countries. There is argument to reduce levels of focus, for too much focus could lead to delivery of results for only a few people. Rather than limiting the number of countries, the program could engage on the basis of ability to work in them, perhaps indicated by the availability of bilateral funding.

Two scenarios were considered for phase 2. For the first scenario, Livestock and Fish would continue in much the same form as it has done in phase 1, with a strong focus on smallholder intensification in a limited number of value chains. For the second scenario, Livestock and Fish would expand to assume a global animal science agenda. For each scenario, four sets of recommendations were made for:

  • Key research areas
  • Promising research to development approaches
  • Proposed changes to the research program model, and
  • Adjustments to the theory of change.

Read more from the workshop report (insert link) that covers part 1 of the process. We anticipate that part 2 will occur after the Consortium Office release of guidelines for Phase 2 planning for all CRPs.

Article contributed by Stuart Worsley

Filed under: CRP37, Livestock-Fish

Livestock and Fish program leadership changes

Animal Health

The Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program will be changing its Animal Health Flagship leadership assignment this August. Phil Toye, the current Animal Health Flagship leader will be retiring in August and Barbara Wieland, ILRI team leader herd health,  will take up the leadership assignment.

In this capacity wieland will also take on the role of internal focal point for ILRI’s Livestock and Fish Animal Health Flagship work. Phil will remain as leader and focal point until his retirement, with Barbara acting as leader-designate until then and so will be actively involved in helping to lead the planning process for the future research agenda under the Flagship. Barbara will be responsible for leading strategy development, activity planning and reporting across the centers. She will help to identify and lead partnership and proposal development at the program level.


In the Genetics Flagship, Okeyo Mwai has handed over the ILRI focal point leadership responsibility to Karen Marshall. Mwai, will be giving his full attention to ensuring successful implementation of ILRI’s new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)-funded project work. Marshall will be providing the program’s perspective to researchers and program leaders responsible for developing work plans and budget, monitors implementation, compiles program reporting, helps identify and lead partnership and proposal development.

Phil and Okeyo have played an important role in initiating and leading the Livestock and Fish Animal Health and Genetics agenda respectively.

Filed under: Animal Health, Components, CRP37, Genetics

Livestock and Fish value chain flagship: Achieving transformation and scale


Artworks by Piet Mondrian: (left) Composition in Blue, Gray and Pink, 1913, and (right) Composition VII, 1913.

In late-March, the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish 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 Value Chain Transformation and Scaling Flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish works to works to enable innovations for the transformation and scaling of selected livestock value chains in developing countries

What does that transformation look like?

New and enduring forms of inclusive participation, governance and power relations and efficient resource use allow pre-commercial actors and poor consumers to generate, and benefit from, more and better-quality milk, meat, fish and eggs.

New and existing knowledge, used in new ways, says this flagship’s leader, Acho Okike, can help communities and countries upgrade their pig, dairy, small ruminant and fish value chains. ‘Generating this new knowledge is at the business end of this flagship’s work.’

This flagship work is based on learning. As smallholder-oriented innovations in feeds and forages, animal health and animal genetics are deployed within the Livestock and Fish value chains, this flagship explores who uses these innovations and how and how much and to what effect, as well as what constrains adoption of the innovations. The flagship provides ‘safe spaces’ for innovation — idea incubators and small grants — that support entrepreneurs as they test their innovations. Capacity development and gender mainstreaming work hand in hand.

This flagship has ambitions to build a new ‘learning’ model. In a rapidly changing world, where new knowledge, understanding and skills are continuously required, what does a forward-looking learning model look like?

  • One that is agile, responding to changing demands, capacities and knowledge in real-time
  • One that allows learning-by-doing in short cycles
  • One that is transferable and scalable
  • One whose impacts are measurable
Partnership strategy

While scanning widely and engaging in numerous tactical collaborations, particular attention is being given to establishing the foundation for selected strategic partnerships, both globally and within the selected value chains.

Operational partnerships
ILRI and the three other CGIAR centres collaborating in the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish — the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the World Fish Center (WorldFish) — have worked in close partnership for two years to deploy appropriate research within nine country-level livestock value chains. In addition, these four CGIAR centres work with other CGIAR research programs, such as those on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS); Humidtropics (HT); Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM); and Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Research partnerships
Partnership negotiations are progressing with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR). This flagship also works directly with value chain actors and research partners in the program’s focus countries. For example, Livestock and Fish has established strategic partnerships in Tanzania with Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Tanzania Livestock Research Institute (TALIRI) and in Vietnam with Nong Lam University, in Ho Chi Minh City, and Tay Nguyen University, in Dak Lak.

Development partnerships
This flagship has also entered development partnerships with international non-governmental organizations such as the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and CARE International. Partnerships have also been formed with local development actors such as Volunteer Efforts for Development (VEDCO), SNV, the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), BRAC and the Africa Institute for Strategic Services and Development (AFRISA), in Uganda; SNV, Land O’Lakes and Heifer International in Tanzania; and CARE, in Egypt. Livestock and Fish works closely with the Tanzania Dairy Board to support it in its stewardship of the national Dairy Development Forum in Tanzania. In Bangladesh, collaboration with Save the Children provides nutrition training to households involved in aquaculture training. And the program will continue working with private-sector actors Skretting, Aller Aqua and MAKRO and local private hatcheries to improve business skills among commercial farmers in Egypt; and with DOW AgroSciences, in the USA, to support the breeding of improved Brachiaria grasses.

In the coming two years, the program will extend its development partnerships in value chain sites by establishing multi-stakeholder learning and action platforms that form the basis of joint action in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Mali and Nicaragua and will continue to form new tactical partnerships in Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam.

Virtual discussion

The virtual discussion held in late March 2015 focused on the following topics, as summarized by Stuart Worsley, head of development partnerships for the Livestock and Fish program.

Engaging policymakers and the private sector
Participants pointed to a need to document how they’re interacting with policymakers, what the lessons are, and at what levels they need to engage. All agreed on need to increase public-private partnerships, probably with the support of partner organizations.

Examples of scaling
Examples of scaling include the proposed transfer of fish value chain work going on in Egypt to Ghana. In Bangladesh, better nutritional security among the rural and urban poor has been linked to improved small-scale fish production. And in Tanzania, a Dairy Development Forum is supporting dairy innovations platforms by providing training and widely sharing information.

Is value chain thinking counter to entrepreneurship?
Discussants asked themselves if they needed to rethink the way they look at value chains — to think more ‘out of the box’ to transform systems. Perhaps there’s something about traditional value chain thinking that runs counter to entrepreneurial thinking? Perhaps more than designing steps within predetermined pathways, what’s needed is to learn how to deal better with unpredictability.

Cross learning
The genetics flagship team is helping to bring down disciplinary silos. For example, it has developed upstream technologies based on the needs of specific value chains (e.g. cold-chain-free artificial insemination) and is working directly in value chains, such as those in Vietnam and Uganda, to assess genetic issues and test interventions. One of the most important research contributions this flagship can make, it was noted, is to take a comparative approach to learning across value chains with the same commodity focus, such as pigs in Vietnam and Uganda. Such cross-learning not only helps to generate international public goods but also to avoid duplication of work. It was noted that it would be useful to compare the roles of the different livestock species targeted in Livestock and Fish value chains to determine which have most potential for empowering poor women or improving gender equity.

Expanding the value chains
The question was raised as to whether Livestock and Fish should consider expanding the systems portfolio to include smallholder beef cattle and poultry. This would require developing a convincing business case of (1) the potential for developing inclusive beef and poultry value chains that address national food security and (2) the opportunities for Livestock and Fish to make significant research contributions to these value chains.

More from this flagship

Reports and products from this flagship

Filed under: CRP37, Livestock-Fish, Value Chains, Women

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.

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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.

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