News from ILRI

Medicine Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty is patron of the International Livestock Research Institute


Peter Doherty, Australian Nobel Laureate, at the adoption of the FAO Declaration on Global Freedom from Rinderpest (photo credit: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti).

When Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, died in 1895, he gave away most of his fortune to fund prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace—the Nobel Prizes. This year, the prize for physiology or medicine was awarded on 3 Oct (2016) to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms controlling autophagy.

For what? you may well ask.

Autophagy, literally, ‘self-eating’, is the process by which cells degrade and recycle their contents, disposing unwanted parts by enclosing them in a membrane neatly sent to be degraded by the cell. Yoshinori Ohsumi identified the set of genes responsible for its control. Cellular self-degradation goes on continuously, maintaining cellular well-being and allowing us to fight off invading bacteria and viruses (by eliminating invading bacteria or viruses), survive starvation and make way for new cells. Autophagy also helpfully rids the cell of extra and unwanted material. Ohsumi’s discoveries are allowing medical researchers to investigate links in variations of the genes controlling autophagy and Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers and conditions associated with ageing.

Exactly two decades ago, in 1996, this Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Peter Doherty, an Australian veterinary surgeon and medical researchers, and Rolf Zinkernagel (Swiss), both then working in Australia, for their discoveries of how the immune system distinguishes virus-infected cells from normal cells.

Killer T-cells are part of the mammalian defence system; they destroy virus-infected cells so that the viruses can’t reproduce. Doherty and Zinkernagel discovered that for a body’s killer T-cells to recognize virus-infected cells, they had to recognize two molecules sitting together on the surface of an infected cell—a molecule of the infecting virus plus a molecule of the infected cell called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).

This discovery had important significance for medical operations, as the MHC molecule was already known to be responsible for patients’ rejection of foreign tissues in operations involving transplanted tissues or organs. Their discovery laid foundations for both strengthening immune responses against invading microorganisms and forms of cancer and for diminishing the effects of autoimmune reactions in inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatic conditions, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Peter Doherty is today patron of two institutes: the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital researching infectious diseases in humans that became operational in 2014, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), for whose predecessor, the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), Doherty served for several years as a board member overseeing the science program.

Doherty recently recorded six short video interviews about different dimensions of ILRI’s research:

  • International livestock research and ILRI
  • The role of science supporting Africa’s food production
  • Zoonotic plagues
  • Genomics, trypanosomosis disease resistance, and increased yields
  • Poultry genetics and the importance of eggs in African diets
  • Challenges and opportunities of pig production in Southeast Asia

Watch the videos:

Facilitating innovation platforms – now available as a mobile ‘serious game’

Serious games, seriously?

The two words don’t seem comfortable together, like original copy, or civil war. But games are not as childish as some think, and game based learning have a definite place in the learning landscape. As well as that, you would be surprised by how much learning science actually goes into games, have a look at this 5 minute video about the classic game “Mario Bros” if you want an example.

The intersection of work on Innovation Platforms, instructional design and learning technologies culminated in a blended course on “Understanding, Facilitating and Monitoring Agricultural Innovation Platforms”. The purpose of this course, originally run as a face to face workshop in 2014, and gradually developed into a fully-fledged online and blended learning course, is to harvest this learning into a cost-effective and time-efficient training program that can be used by organizations interested in using the partnership approach to confront complex agricultural problems.

ip_game ILRI has now taken this a step further, and created a mobile game for android users using game mechanics such as points and badges aiming to help innovation platform facilitators become more familiar with case studies.

You are tasked with building an innovation platform, each element is tested through quizzes that earn you badges. When you have shown knowledge and judgement another area will be convinced to join your innovation platform. Add to that the variability of the story where things don’t always go according to plan and the app provides an engaging medium for IP facilitators to sharpen their skills and knowledge.

The app is live on the android play store , so go and check it out.

Although this is ILRI’s first game on the Google Play store, there is little doubt that it won’t be the end of the story of game based learning for ILRI. If you want more information about serious games or just want to give some feedback, which is always appreciated, please contact or

The game based learning initiative was developed as part of ILRI’s contribution to the Humidtropics CGIAR research program. We thank the CRP, as well as all donors that globally support the work of ILRI and its partners through their contributions to the CGIAR system.

Find out more about game based learning by following these links:

More about innovation platforms

Post by Phil Sambati, ILRI

Tom Randolph, director of the new CGIAR Research Program on Livestock Agri-food Systems


Tom Randolph, who has served as director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish for the last five years, has been newly appointed director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock Agri-food Systems, which begins operations in Jan 2017 (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. It conducts agricultural research to reduce world poverty, hunger and environmental degradation.  The 15 research centres of CGIAR are working to meet the estimated 20% rise in food demand over the next 15 years, especially in Africa and East and South Asia, and to do so in sustainable as well as equitable ways.

Last Sep (2016), CGIAR announced approval of a new research portfolio to boost farmer incomes, food and resilience in low-income countries. A strong set of 11 CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) and 3 CGIAR Research Platforms will start in Jan 2017. An Independent Science and Partnership Council of CGIAR assessed the research proposals submitted for their relevance to reducing poverty, hunger and environmental degradation in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

One of the programs approved to start operations next year is a six-year  CGIAR Research Program on Livestock Agri-food Systems. This new multi-disciplinary and multi-centre program will build on the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, which is ending its fifth year of operations at the end of this year. Tom Randolph, who has led the Livestock and Fish CRP for the last five years, has been appointed director of the Livestock CRP.

An American from upstate New York, Randolph received an undergraduate degree in Chinese studies in 1976, after which he spent six years teaching English in Zaire with the Peace Corps. On his return to the United States, Randolph pursued an MSc and PhD in agricultural economics from Cornell University. His doctoral dissertation was based on field work he conducted in Malawi with the Harvard Institute for International Development, looking at the impact of agricultural commercialization on child nutrition in smallholder households. His thesis earned the American Agricultural Economics Association’s Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award. He subsequently joined the West African Rice Development Association (WARDA, now Africa Rice Center), in Senegal, as a Rockefeller-funded post-doctoral social science fellow (affectionately known as ‘Rocky Docs’), later becoming WARDA’s policy economist and policy support program leader at the centre’s Côte d’Ivoire headquarters.

Randolph joined ILRI 18 years ago, in 1998. Before his appointment in 2011 as director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, he led an ILRI team conducting research on smallholder competitiveness in changing markets. His other research interests and contributions at ILRI were varied, including studies at the interface of animal and human health and assessments of the impacts of agricultural problems and the research conducted to address them, including evaluations of the impacts of tick and tick-borne diseases, animal health delivery systems, ILRI’s East Coast fever vaccine development research, the contributions economics and epidemiology can make to animal disease control and the control of bird flu in sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the projects Randolph led at ILRI helped to reduce parasite resistance to drugs used to control trypanosomosis (animal sleeping sickness) in the cotton belt of West Africa. This project established a clear picture of the distribution of potential resistance across a zone from eastern Guinea to western Burkina Faso, highlighting the importance of tsetse ecology, farming systems, accessibility to veterinary services and pharmaceutical products, and cattle breed in influencing drug use and misuse. Under Randolph’s leadership, this project evolved from a primary focus on the biological issue to a holistic understanding of the complex epidemiological and socioeconomic factors at farm, local, national and regional levels that influence the problem and determine the ability to address it. He also led an ILRI assessment of the relations between dairy intensification, gender and child nutrition among smallholder farmers in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya to help determine the pathways between dairy intensification and child nutrition.

Randolph is passionate about innovating ways to make agricultural science make a bigger difference in reducing absolute poverty in low-income countries. He focuses on what he calls ‘the missing middle’ in research-to-development—that is, what’s likely to help turn a product of agriculture-for-development research into an intervention adopted widely by small-scale food producers and related workers. Unusual for researchers of any kind, he keeps his eye equally on development impacts and scientific strengths. He’s committed to demonstrating how livestock research can lead to ‘smart’ development—that is, he’s committed to making livestock research both relevant to, and urgent about, translating good science into practical options for the poor.

The five-year Livestock and Fish program ending this year has worked to help poor people in developing countries, and women and children in particular, to transform their health, livelihoods and prospects in two main ways: first, by ensuring that they have sufficient, if very modest, amounts of meat, milk and fish in their diets to lead healthy and productive lives, and, second, by helping them to enhance their incomes and livelihoods through improved activities all along the livestock value chains, from farm production of livestock and fish through processing, marketing and consumption of livestock and fish foods. While working with partners to translate research- and livestock-based interventions into development benefits, the program has also conducted long-term research in support of the sustainable growth of smallholder livestock value chains.

The Livestock and Fish CRP set out to test the hypothesis that increased access to animal-source foods by the poor, especially women and children, can be achieved at scale by strengthening carefully selected meat, milk and fish value chains in which the poor can capture a significant share of the benefits.

Among the specific livestock value chains that this program has worked to enhance are: small ruminants in Ethiopia, pigs in Uganda, dual-purpose cattle in Nicaragua, aquaculture in Bangladesh and dairy in Tanzania. Among the topics it addressed are: exploiting ‘climate-smart’ Brachiaria grasses; moving from ‘dual-purpose’ to ‘full-purpose’ crops, which feed people, livestock and soils; tools (FEAST, SoFT, TechFit) to help livestock keepers source better feeds for their animal stock; improved control of African swine fever (in pigs) and East Coast fever (in cattle); continued genetic refinement of improved strains of tilapia fish, (called GIFT); and initiation of community-based sheep and goat breeding programs in Ethiopia.

The new Livestock CRP is seizing the opportunity presented by the rapid increase in demand for animal-source food in developing countries. The current suppliers of these foods are mostly millions of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, together with the value chain actors who trade, process and deliver products to consumers. The program will provide research-based solutions leading to sustainable, resilient livelihoods and to productive small-scale enterprises that will help feed future generations.

The Livestock and Fish CRP hypothesis will continue to be tested in both the new Livestock CRP and the new CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-food Systems. The Livestock CRP consolidates CGIAR research on livestock systems and will now also test the hypothesis that livestock can strengthen the resilience of livelihoods of the poor who rely on livestock as part of their farming or market systems. The new Livestock CRP will be led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and build on the strong partnerships established with the International Centre for Research on Tropical Agiculture (CIAT), the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas (ICARDA), the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), and the German International Development Agency (GIZ).

Randolph will remain based at ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters as he directs the new multi-country and multi-institutional CGIAR Research Program on Livestock Agri-food Systems.

Livestock opportunities for responsible, inclusive and sustainable business-for-development partnerships

Jimmy Smith says livestock matters are big opportunities for public-private partnerships

Jimmy Smith led an ILRI delegation to the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (HLM2 GPEDC), which was held in Nairobi, Kenya 28 Nov–2 Dec 2016 (photo credit for this and all pictures in this article: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

This week, Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), led a delegation from ILRI to the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC HLM2), held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28 Nov to 2 Dec 2016. On 30 Nov, Smith participated in a panel discussion highlighting the essential role of business in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and providing guidance for how governments and development partners can support responsible, inclusive and sustainable business.

The following are among Smith’s messages and interventions at the meeting highlighting the big opportunities small-scale livestock enterprises offer the business and other communities.

Jimmy Smith and his fellow panelists

Jimmy Smith, left, takes part in a panel discussion chaired by Eric Postel, of USAID.

Livestock remain central assets of people worldwide

Underlying the many reasons livestock can play central roles in sustainable global development are three large facts. First, farm animals—cattle, goats, sheep, buffaloes, pigs, poultry—are among the most economically important and readily available assets of the poor throughout the developing world. Second, demand for livestock products is growing rapidly in low- and middle-income countries, where development of all kinds remains paramount. And three, in these countries, at least 70% of livestock production remains in the hands of some of the world’s most marginalized people—including mobile livestock herders and mixed smallholder farmers keeping a handful of animals and growing a few staple crops on small plots of land.

Jimmy Smith listens to audience remarks

Jimmy Smith listens to audience remarks.

Livestock are critical for a creating an equitable as well as sustainable world

Livestock are powerful, if as yet underutilized, instruments for leveraging the systemic changes we need to meet all of the the world’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The livestock sector contributes directly to 7 of the SDGs and is particularly central to ending poverty and hunger while creating sustainable food systems globally. Livestock contribute 40–60% to the agricultural gross domestic product of the world’s poorest, and most agriculturally dependent, economies. And that large contribution is only growing. With demand for animal-source foods rising fast in the developing world, livestock present rare and growing pathways for employment, livelihoods and better socioeconomic futures for hundreds of millions of people, including herders, women, girls and youth. Some one billion people currently rely on livestock for their livelihoods. Food-producing animals play especially big roles in the lives of the developing world’s women, who, while not able to own land or other major household assets, often own, tend and benefit from keeping some household stock. Livestock also offer jobless youth many ways to begin earning a living. Livestock also matter to food and nutritional security: Globally, about 15% of human calories and 25% of protein come from milk, meat and eggs, foods that play crucial roles in providing the poor with balanced diets, which both prevent stunting and enhance the cognitive ability of children who would otherwise subsist largely on starchy diets. And livestock enterprises in low- and middle-income countries are also critical for protecting our environment and public health: Livestock present particularly large opportunities both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly and to prevent the spread of emerging diseases and foodborne diseases.

Eric Postel, chair of Smith GPEDC panel and Assistant Administrator for USAID's Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment

Eric Postel, chair of Smith’s GPEDC panel and Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment.

Small-scale livestock systems are ripe for partnerships and private-sector engagement

Only a wealth of thoughtful, equitable and productive partnerships with today’s rapidly expanding and evolving small-scale livestock producers—partnerships made by publically funded not-for-profit organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, charitable foundations, and private companies in all related fields and across all scales, from backyard family farming to enterprising start-ups to major commercial outfits—will create livestock food systems that are profitable as well as sustainable, safe as well as nutritious, inclusive as well as productive, and business- as well as climate-smart.

Princess Abzeita Djigma, of Burkina Faso, CEO of AbzeSolar, which produces 'MAMA-light' solar lamps

Smith’s fellow panelist Princess Abzeita Djigma, of Burkina Faso, CEO of AbzeSolar, which produces ‘MAMA-light’ solar lamps.

Earlier this year, Smith gave a keynote presentation on the need to balance livestock consumption, messaging and partnerships to build sustainable and equitable livestock systems worldwide (see: Balancing the plate: Jimmy Smith opens ‘Private Sector Mechanism Partnerships Forum on Livestock’, 7 Jun 2016). At that meeting, Smith spoke of the large role the private sector can play in meeting the growing demand of the developing-world’s populations for meat, milk and eggs. This, he said, ‘will require big on-going changes in how today’s smallholders produce and market their livestock products. The private sector can help guide these transitions so that they not only become profitable for all but also serve to enhance livelihoods and food and nutritional security; to ensure food is safe to consume; to provide employment for women, youth and other unskilled labour; and to protect the natural resource base.’ Smith explained that ‘what the public sector offers the private sector are the initial research and development investments, such as the development of new vaccines or diagnostics, that lay the groundwork for further investment and engagement by private companies.’ And he warned that that ‘the small-scale livestock systems so ubiquitous in the developing world are very different “beasts” from the large-scale livestock operations private companies are accustomed to dealing with in the developed world . . . . New business models suiting smallholders need to be jointly innovated, tested, refined and applied.’

At my institute, we’ve found that working closely with people and organizations with very different mindsets and modus operandi, while often challenging, can also be highly productive and rewarding. Having to learn the language of different organizations, and to modify our thinking and behaviour accordingly, has stretched us, encouraged us to think big and outside the box, to take risks we wouldn’t normally take.
—Jimmy Smith

Isabella Lovin, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation

Isabella Lovin, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, speaks at GPEDC.

In his statements and discussions with participants at this week’s GPEDC meeting in Nairobi, Smith had opportunities to provide examples of the wealth of different kinds of partnerships that ILRI is undertaking with others to build better livestock systems for all. Short descriptions of these follow.

Jimmy Smith with Princess Abzeita Djigma, of Burkina Faso (in green), and Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, of Nigeria (in yellow)

Jimmy Smith with Princess Abzeita Djigma, of Burkina Faso (in green), and Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, of Nigeria (in yellow), and another GPEDC participant.

GPEFC signage and branding     Scene at the presidential opening of HLM2 GPEDC

Livestock partnerships at work Partnering business/the private sector

Seizing the many business opportunities generated by the on-going ‘livestock revolution’
The market value of Africa’s animal-source foods in 2050 has been estimated at USD151 billion, presenting big opportunities for private-sector investment, whether that be investing in production of livestock products in Europe, North America or Australasia for export to Africa and Asia or investing in new ventures to establish major livestock production units in the developing regions. Another major opportunity for the private sector is to provide livestock inputs and services for the plethora of small- to medium-scale livestock operations that characterize livestock systems in today’s developing and emerging economies and that will be growing to meet the rising demand for meat, milk and eggs. However, the agricultural business models employed today in the North cannot be directly transferred to the South. New business models suiting smallholders need to be jointly innovated, tested, refined and applied. Working together and combining our different areas of expertise, those of us in local, public and private organizations have the chance to build new models of great practical use by small-scale livestock-related enterprises ambitious to build viable livestock businesses. At the same time, we also have the chance to help steer the rapidly evolving smallholder livestock systems of developing countries towards healthy, equitable and sustainable practices and outcomes.

Partnering with private companies to transform veterinary vaccine production in Africa
ILRI is working with Harris Vaccines Inc to test its proprietary vaccine technology to protect cattle against lethal East Coast fever and with Senova GmbH to develop a lateral flow diagnostic test for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. ILRI is working with Hester Biosciences Ltd to improve development of a thermostable vaccine against peste des petits ruminants (PPR), commonly known as sheep and goat plague. The latter veterinary vaccine company, with research and development units, production sites, distributors and diagnostic labs in India, is interested in market opportunities in Africa for small-scale poultry and other livestock vaccines. The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub is in advanced planning stages with a private company, the Botswana Vaccine Initiative, to produce 100,000 doses of the PPR vaccine for testing, and other potential producers of the vaccine are being sought in West Africa. New livestock vaccines should help reduce the need for drug treatments, whose mis- or overuse is augmenting the rise of antimicrobial resistance that threatens both veterinary and medical therapeutics. Disease reduces global livestock productivity by 25%—valued at USD300 billion per year—and costs Africa up to USD35 billion a year. ILRI researchers have estimated that an annual global investment of USD25 billion in One Health approaches could save as much as USD100 billion annually in disease costs.

Partnering private companies to provide safe and affordable feeds for small-scale livestock keepers
Production and sales of combined and processed feeds is emerging as a small- to medium-scale industry in some parts of the developing world, such as in India, where smallholder producers dominate the dairy sector. Better livestock feeding not only improves the productivity of livestock but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases livestock emit as they digest their feed. ILRI has worked with the animal feed company Novus International to develop livestock feed supplements (starter pellets and molasses blocks) designed specifically for use by African smallholders. And the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub is working with the Kenya Cereal Millers Association, which has over ten million customers, to reduce the risk of Kenya’s consumers to exposure to high levels of carcinogenic aflatoxins in maize flour; a related group is investigating the use of contaminated cereals used as livestock feeds.

Engaging insurance companies to provide remote livestock herders with novel insurance products
ILRI and its research partners are working with private insurance companies (such as APA and Takaful in Kenya and Oromia Insurance in Ethiopia) and with reassurance companies to provide index-based livestock insurance to poor and never-before-insured remote livestock herders in Africa to protect them against catastrophic losses of their livestock due to drought. Because insuring animals moving across vast landscapes is impossible, the team uses satellite data to assess the health of rangeland vegetation. When feed availability falls below a certain level, it triggers an insurance pay out. Insurance policies can be bought for any number of animals. Aid agencies can invest in (or subsidize) this insurance rather than investing in more costly and unpredictable emergency responses to severe drought. Preliminary results indicate that those insured are less likely to cope with drought by selling their animals at rock-bottom prices in distress sales (36%), or by reducing their meal intakes (25%) or by depending on food aid (33%).

Developing profitable and sustainable public-private partnerships for forage seed production
To build a public-private partnership to help create a sustainable forage seed supply system in Ethiopia, ILRI and its partners are working with interested and qualified entrepreneurs to start forage seed businesses. Project staff are also creating a public business incubator that provides training and mentoring to entrepreneurs as they set up and build private seed businesses. The incubator includes a seed processing unit used to provide technical training on seed threshing, cleaning and sorting to the entrepreneurs who will invest in and build their own seed businesses. This successful BMZ/GIZ-funded pilot project incubated 30 profitable private companies whose annual seed sales started at US$20,000 and increased to $400,000 by the end of the 2.5-year project. Moreover, these enterprises have come together to form a seed producers’ association to better brand and sell seed to agreed quality standards.

EmergingAg's Robynne Anderson withLouise Kantrow, International Chamber of Commerce Permanent Representative to the UN

Robynne Anderson (left), President of EmergingAg, with Louise Kantrow, International Chamber of Commerce Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Partnering non-governmental organizations

Supporting NGOs to take dairy solutions to scale
As part of an East Africa Dairy Development Consortium led by Heifer International, a livestock-centred NGO based in the USA, ILRI is supporting about 40 dairy producer organizations in identifying useful dairy technologies, accessing dairy markets and better serving the small-scale dairy farmers who are the members of these producer organizations. By supporting the monitoring and evaluation of this project with its specialized technical expertise, ILRI is helping to ensure that this large-scale project achieves its objectives, which include reaching 136,000 farmers and empowering many women dairy producers.

Adil El Youssefi, Airtel Kenya CEO

A final speaker for Jimmy’s panel was Adil El Youssefi, CEO of Airtel Kenya.

Partnering charitable foundations

Supporting a novel and unusual partnership for livestock development
ILRI is engaged in an unusual partnership for livestock development known as the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the centre works to ensure that world-class field- and lab-based livestock genetics and health work is fully integrated, keeps ‘discovery pipelines’ full and responds to both the challenges and opportunities of developing-country agriculture. The centre links field work conducted with farmers to improve their poultry and cattle productivity with cutting-edge laboratory science conducted in Edinburgh University. It exposes both lab- and field-based staff to new ideas and training in new methods. The centre is ambitious to establish a full range of livestock science skills, talents and expertise in developing countries, without which they will be unable to transform their agricultural sector and achieve food security.

Developing public-private solutions for the provision of chicken genetics to smallholders
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also supports an ILRI-led African Chicken Genetic Gains project that is helping backyard chicken farmers in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria to engage profitably in smallholder poultry value chains. While farmers participating in this project test various tropically adapted chicken strains, researchers are working with them to develop a public-private partnership to achieve long-term genetic gains in African chickens. The latter involves development of a robust private-sector-driven chicken genetics multiplication and delivery system and building greater individual and institutional capacities in both the private and public sectors to improve Africa’s chicken breeding, multiplication and delivery. Some 61 private companies are currently involved in this project.

Partnering a development foundation to create new small-scale livestock production options
Working with one of the oldest philanthropic institutions in India, the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, has enabled ILRI scientists to focus on researchable issues of high relevance to South Asia, to obtain full commitment from development partners, and to provide appropriate technical and scientific support as needed. Among the research solutions being applied through this partnership are a national vaccination strategy for controlling classical swine fever, cultivating dual-purpose cereals to provide food for people and feed for cattle, and improving animal health services for farmers in remote locations.

Partnership for building better partnership models and biosciences capacities in Africa
ILRI receives partnership with and support from the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture to further develop the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub to serve as a partnership model for a wide range of research and development organizations and universities and as well as building human and institutional biosciences capacities within Africa’s national agricultural research systems.

Gwen Hines, DFID's Director for International Relations

Gwen Hines, Director for International Relations at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Partnering small and medium livestock enterprise development

Developing market-oriented solutions and agribusinesses for dairy enterprises in Tanzania
ILRI is working to extend the benefits of commercial dairying to eastern Tanzania and western Kenya, where such livestock enterprises are yet to take hold. In Tanzania, ILRI leads a Maziwa Zaidi (‘More Milk’) project; In Kenya, the centre leads an Accelerated Dairy Value Chain Development project. In both countries, ILRI works with partners to pilot ways to overcome barriers to markets faced by small-scale milk producers; to support the growth of agribusinesses and farmer groups; and to facilitate co-learning and policy discussions in ‘innovation platforms’.

Working with an NGO to improve pork safety and pork businesses in Uganda
ILRI is working with various partners in Uganda to upgrade the smallholder pig value chain by addressing constraints and opportunities through research for development. ILRI scientists work closely with Veterinarians Without Borders to train small-scale butchers in pig slaughter and pork handling practices. Such training is helping the butchers to grow their businesses while also reducing the public health hazards that are associated with poor pork handling and unregulated pig slaughter and are common in Uganda. Other business-enhancing interventions include improving access by smallholder pig farmers to commercial markets and good-quality feed from private company franchises.

Creating community-based breeding programs for better sheep and goat production in Ethiopia
ILRI and its sister CGIAR centre the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics have helped to pilot community-based breeding programs and cooperatives for sheep and goats in partnership with Ethiopia’s national research and extension systems. Such local breeding programs appear to be an attractive option in low-input sheep and goat production systems and the establishment of cooperatives appears to be critical to the success of the breeding programs. With the evidence produced by this project, the South Regional Government of Ethiopia allocated USD2 million to upscale community-based breeding programs in the region. In another region of the country, 16 breeder cooperatives were established and grew into a vibrant business in sales of breeding rams and meat animals. A recent evaluation of the impacts of this research project found that the benefits included increased sheep and goat productivity (more births, better growth and fewer deaths), increased incomes from sheep production and increased consumption of mutton. In addition, the cooperatives have managed to build the capital they need to buy bucks and rams and to make needed investments.

Smith Jimmy thanks Lillianne Ploumen, GPEDC-Co-Chair and Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation

Smith Jimmy thanks Lillianne Ploumen, GPEDC-Co-Chair and Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.

Go to ILRI’s Flickr site for these and more photos.

Jimmy Smith in a panel discussionGPEDC participants

What stops greater consumption of meat, milk and eggs in low-income areas of Nairobi? Price, mostly

Kenya farm boy drinking milk

Kenyan boy drinking milk (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

A new research paper by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner organizations confirms that milk, meat and eggs are widely consumed by poor people in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi: these animal-source goods make up nearly 40% of the food budget and half of this is spent on dairy products. Economic analysis revealed a high propensity to consume animal-source foods and elasticities showed that, if their prices could be lowered, consumption of animal-source foods would rocket, benefiting both the nutritional status of poor consumers and the livelihoods of small-scale livestock producers.

‘Malnutrition, including undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, is a chronic problem in most developing countries. Animal-source foods (ASFs) provide essential sources of proteins and micronutrients, yet little is known about ASF consumption patterns or household preferences towards animal-source products among low-income populations. This is particularly critical for malnourished children for whom even small increases in consumption could help improve nutrition and health outcomes. This study analysed both the demand as well as the drivers and barriers for ASF consumption among households in two low-income areas in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘On average households purchased 48 grams of ASFs, including fresh milk, per week per household member. Expenditure on ASFs counted for 38% (520 Kenyan Schillings) of the overall food expenditure of which, on average, 48% was spent on fresh milk. Price was the most commonly self-reported barrier for consumption, while taste was reported as the main driver for consumption. The perceived nutritional value was an important driver for consuming more commonly purchased ASFs (beef, eggs, fish and milk). For less commonly purchased ASFs (pork, sausages, sheep and goat meat, offal) taste, access and tradition were given as main reasons for not consuming. Estimated demand elasticities indicated that increases in total food expenditure would lead to greatest increase in the demand for beef meat. Price reductions would increase the demand relatively more for fish, other meats and dairy.

‘For most ASFs better affordability would be a clear driver to increase the consumption. However, to increase the variety and quantity of ASFs eaten, other policies targeting improvements in physical access, food safety and consumer education on nutritional values and cooking methods should be considered.

‘Despite improvements in child malnutrition in Kenya since the early 1990’s, the rate of undernourished children remains high. Nationally 35% of under 5 year olds are stunted, 16% underweight and 7% wasted. In urban informal settlements, prevalence of stunting among under 5-year-old children can be even higher, and has been reported to exceed 40%.

Elsewhere, it has been suggested that nearly half (48%) of Nairobi’s households living in informal settlements are food-insecure with both adult and child hunger. Historically, diets in Kenya have been cereal based, with additions of a variety of vegetables, fruits and tubers, when available, but containing very little animal-source foods (ASFs).

‘According to the World Food Program consumption score, 16% of households in Nairobi were classified into the borderline or poor food consumption groups, indicating food insecurity, and were, in general found to have low intake of milk and animal-source foods (ASFs).

‘While the supply of ASFs, including meat, milk and eggs has been steadily growing in African countries since the early 1990s, including in Kenya, consumption inequalities are high. Based on the 2005–06 Kenyan household survey data, the poorest tercile consumed 35 g of protein (from all sources) per capita/day, whereas households in the wealthiest tercile consumed 81 g. In Nairobi, households in the highest income quintile consumed annually nearly three times more of beef, chicken and eggs (46 kg per capita) as the households in the lowest quintile (16 kg per capita).

Micronutrient intake from ASFs is critical for vulnerable populations, and in particular for undernourished children. ASFs are relatively expensive sources of energy but provide high quality, readily digested protein, and essential micronutrients for normal development and good health. Bioavailable micronutrients found in ASFs, and in meat specifically, are difficult to obtain in adequate quantities from plant source foods alone.

‘Recent reviews of literature in low-income countries in general, and observational and interventional studies from Kenya, have concluded that increased consumption of milk and other ASFs by undernourished children improved anthropometric indices, cognitive function and school performance, while reducing also morbidity and mortality. In addition, ASF consumption has also been found to have a positive impact on the quality of diets for women, and specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

‘Poverty is often cited as the most prominent reason for the lack of ASFs in the diet in developing countries. Most recent and comprehensive study examining the demand sensitivity to prices and income changes in Nairobi, found that poor households spent a greater share of the total food expenditure on staples such as maize, sugar and also vegetables while non-poor households spent more on wheat, rice, and ASFs (dairy and dairy products, beef, poultry). They also found more sensitive demand with respect to changes in prices and incomes among poor households for dairy, vegetables, fruits, sugar, poultry, beef, wheat and rice. Another study looked at the demand for small ruminant meat specifically focusing on areas (including in Nairobi) near a slaughterhouse of sheep and goats. They found that the price of meat, income and perception of the quality of the meat were important factors influencing the probability of the demand for such meat.

‘. . . Understanding these broad range of drivers in ASF choices is even more critical, but little studied, among poor and vulnerable populations because of their relatively lower food budgets and thus limited possibilities for diversifying food consumption.

This study is part of a comprehensive pilot project ‘Investigation of the relationship between livestock value chains and nutritional status of women and children: a pilot study in Kenya’. The aim of the project was to inform research and design of interventions in livestock value chain to address the low consumption of ASFs among vulnerable populations, and in particular, the large share of chronically malnourished young children. . . .

Read the science paper: Cross-sectional study of drivers of animal-source food consumption in low-income urban areas of Nairobi, Kenya, by Laura Cornelsen (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine [LSHTM] and the Leverhulme Centre for Integrated Research on Agriculture and Health [LCIRAH]), Pablo Alarcon (LCIRAH and Royal Veterinary College [RVC]), Barbara Häsler (LCIRAH and RVC), Djesika Amendah (African Population and Health Research Center [APHRC]), Elaine Ferguson (LSHTM), Eric Fèvre (ILRI and University of Liverpool), Delia Grace (ILRI), Paula Dominguez-Salas (ILRI and RVC) and Jonathan Rushton (RVC and the University of New England), in BMC Nutrition, 25 Nov 2016.

Fragmentation of the Athi-Kaputiei plains, outside Nairobi, has caused rapid declines in both pastoralism and wildlife


Rangelands outside Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

A new paper on the consequences of land fragmentation and fencing on rangelands outside Nairobi, Kenya, formerly rich with wildlife and critical for the functioning of Nairobi’s famed national park, has been published. All of the authors are former staff, and one former partner, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where this research work was conducted.

‘. . . [R]elative to other systems, the effects of fragmentation in pastoral savanna ecosystems are still poorly understood (Galvin & Reid, 2007), and little is currently known about the forces driving habitat loss and fragmentation and their ecological and economic consequences to pastoral communities.

Understanding the principal underlying causes and consequences of fragmentation and habitat loss is fundamental to the effective management and conservation of human-dominated ecosystems, including the savannas of East Africa . . . .

‘The arid and semi-arid savannas of East Africa are important areas for pastoralism and are also key areas holding large and diverse populations of wild ungulates. However, most of the areas are now faced with increasing land-use changes, fragmentation and habitat loss due to increasing human population, land tenure changes, land subdivisions, agricultural expansion, urbanization and inappropriate land use policies.

‘The Athi-Kaputiei Plains of Kenya (AKP) represent an extreme case where changes in land tenure, proximity to a major city, urbanization and immigration are causing rapid land use changes in a pastoral savanna and may well represent the future of other, currently less intensely used, pastoral ecosystems in East Africa (Ogutu et al., 2013 and Reid et al., 2008). . . .

The AKP epitomises the type and extent of land use changes occurring across most pastoral lands of East Africa and may, unfortunately, well represent the future state of many pastoral savanna ecosystems in the absence of urgent and effective remedial interventions.

‘Changing land tenure arrangements, lasses-faire land use policies, increasing human population and the associated fences and settlements, urbanization and sedentarization of the formerly semi-nomadic Maasai are adversely impacting wildlife and livestock populations and pastoral wellbeing in AKP, as in other pastoral rangelands of East Africa. . . .

The total wildebeest population exceeded 30,000 animals in the 1970s but had dropped to about 509 animals by 2014. The migratory wildebeest population was virtually exterminated from Triangles I and III where their density dropped by 99–100% in both the sparsely and densely fenced areas between 1977 and 1987 and 1999–2014.

‘Wildebeest populations collapsed to a small fraction of their former abundance due to obstruction of their movements by the fences between Triangles I and II, poaching, habitat degradation and loss to roads, settlements and other developments; exemplified by the rapid expansion of Kitengela town. . . .

‘In conclusion, the Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem of Kenya exemplifies an ecosystem experiencing extreme landscape fragmentation due to expansion of fences, settlements, roads, farms and other developments. The location of this ecosystem so close to a rapidly expanding major city where undeveloped land is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, has made it a strong magnet for those seeking relatively cheap land for settlement, industrial and other developments. Correspondingly, there is massive expansion in infrastructure supporting the expanding developments and human population.

Wildlife and pastoral livestock are being displaced by these changes and their remaining habitats degraded. The corridors for migratory wildebeest, zebra and eland populations in this ecosystem have either become severely restricted or completely blocked. As a result, the range and population size of the once spectacular wildlife populations in this ecosystem have been dramatically reduced.

‘These processes will continue to endanger both the ecological integrity of the ecosystem and the wildlife and livestock populations that it supports, if no appropriate interventions are instituted immediately. Interventions currently being undertaken to counteract the range contractions and population losses are disjointed, underfunded or too limited in their spatial extents to even save the few remaining critical parts of the ecosystem still supporting wildlife and livestock in the long-term. Establishing a community wildlife conservancy whose status is secured by law would be one potential option for protecting parts of the ecosystem still supporting wildlife. Far-sighted land use plans and faithful implementation of such plans are thus necessary to steer other similar ecosystems away from the trajectory followed by the Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem resulting in its current extreme fragmentation and imminent collapse of its functional integrity.’

The Belgian Government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the mapping of fences in the Athi-Kaputiei Plains through grants to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).

Read the whole paper: Effects of extreme land fragmentation on wildlife and livestock population abundance and distribution, by Mohammed Said, Joseph Ogutu, Shem Kifugo, Ogeli Makui, Robin Reid and Jan de Leeuw, Journal for Nature Conservation, Vol 34, Dec 2016, available online 22 Oct 2016.

On selling insurance (not lottery tickets) to Africa’s struggling (stargazing) livestock herders–New York Times



Andrew Mude, a Kenyan economist at ILRI who leads a multi-centre Index-Based Livestock Insurance project (IBLI) in the Horn of Africa, is this year’s Norman Borlaug Field Award winner (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

This has been a good—and relatively big—season for work to support the world’s arid lands and peoples. Drylands tend to be overlooked in agricultural discussions. (That world leaders and climate negotiators are convening this week and next at the COP22 UN climate change summit in Marrakech, an economic and tourist oasis rising amid lemon, orange and olive groves some 15–20 miles away from North Africa’s Atlas Mountains and a day’s drive from the Sahara Desert proper, also can’t be bad for dryland peoples, researchers and ambassadors.)

While making up some 40 per cent of the world’s total land area (excluding the hyperarid ‘true deserts’) and including areas in some of the world’s poorest countries (Africa’s drylands cover 43 per cent of the continent), drylands aren’t talked about much when concerns are raised about the world’s warming climate and the toll this could take on our ability to feed the world’s growing population. With drylands providing much of the world’s grain as well as livestock while suffering increasingly from highly variable rainfall amounts and intensities as well as recurrent and prolonged droughts, this omission is more than ‘passing strange’. For details of when and where livestock issues related to climate change took (near) centre stage this fall, please scroll down to the next section.

To cap off this season’s most public of public communications on dryland issues, this week New York Times editorial writer Tina Rosenberg took a good long look at ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme being piloted in the Horn of Africa and published her thoughts in an opinion piece, Up in the sky, help to keep Africans from starving (8 Nov 2016).

While grateful that Rosenberg has helped raise awareness of an important neglected topic—food production in water-constrained ecosystems—ILRI and its partners in this pastoral insurance scheme, known by its acronym, ‘IBLI’, are most gratified that this journalist chose to highlight a solution rather than a problem. This is a welcome counter to much Western media coverage of pastoral life in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, which tends to focus on the fate of the wildlife sharing these lands at the expense of the people, or to recycle worn narratives lamenting either the ‘backwardness’ of herding cultures or the passing of ‘pastoral ways of life’.

The fact is that pastoralism is a robust and enduring food production system. It is very much alive and well in the 21st century. It is able to play major roles in feeding and nourishing a warming world—in providing livelihoods in remote regions and critical ecosystem services—all while making productive and sustainable use of what are typically termed ‘marginal lands’. It is thus a welcome change to see media coverage that focuses on practical solutions for helping dryland peoples to grow ever more resilient and innovative in the face of recurring droughts and other big global changes.

Here are some excerpts from Rosenberg’s article.

‘Andrew Mude, a Kenyan economist, has a way of explaining satellites.
‘When he’s talking to pastoralists in his country’s north—people who roam the earth with a dozen head of cattle and very little else—he talks about the stars that don’t act like other stars. ‘“They’re actually taking pictures of the ground,” Mude says. Herders, a stargazing people, understand. Mude has figured out a way those fake stars can help.
‘They can make it easier to assure rural Africans
that they can survive a drought. ‘Wherever land cannot grow crops—it is too cold, too dry, too mountainous—people keep animals. More than 100 million of the world’s poorest live this way. ‘Among the 50 million pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa, the average income is $2 per day and dropping.

‘. . . Satellites can tell us how much vegetation is on the ground. And we know how to use the density of ground cover to predict whether animals will starve. And that now allows herders to buy pre-emptive health insurance for their animals: At the end of a rainy season, they get a payment in time to buy fodder, water or veterinary services that will keep their cattle alive when a catastrophically bad dry season is foreseen. That’s cheaper and better than life insurance, which pays them after the cattle die.

Insurance that pays out when forage coverage drops—
known as index-based livestock insurance—is an elegant idea.

‘. . . [Andrew] Mude, who earned his doctorate at Cornell, is an economist and principal scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. Last month, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. The award, a major prize in agricultural research, is given by the World Food Prize Foundation and financed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

‘Mude’s program began in one Kenyan county in 2010. Today, about 16,000 families are insured; most are in Kenya, and some are in southern Ethiopia.

‘The insurance works. ‘It is associated with fewer distress sales of livestock, more milk production and household income from milk, better child nutrition and less stress. ‘Compared with Kenya’s standard anti-poverty program, which is based on cash transfers, insurance is much more cost effective to scale up.

‘. . . Commercial insurers sell the livestock insurance. But the government is trying to spread this approach by beginning to shoulder some of the cost of premiums. Kenya expects to cover 80,000 households by 2019 in the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program. But that’s a tiny percentage of households that need it, and the program will cover only five cows per household.

On other problems that still need to be solved

‘What’s [hard] is helping [herders] understand that they should buy an invisible product that is likely to produce no financial benefit—and they should do it season after season. . . . ‘Shariah, or Islamic law, objects to the selling of risk, which can be considered the foundation of insurance. . . . Hassan Bashir, the founder and chief executive of Takaful Group . . . insures against every kind of loss, but livestock insurance is close to Bashir’s heart. . . . ‘“There can be rain in one area and none a kilometer away,” said [Chris] Barrett. “If it’s uncorrelated, it’s a lottery ticket, not an insurance policy. Andrew and I for half a dozen years have had the conversation: how do we make sure we’re selling insurance and not lottery tickets?” ‘Richard Kyuma, coordinator of Kenya’s government program, said . . . “There are areas where some locals are saying you should be paying, but the model is saying ‘no, it’s not the time to pay’. . . . If people are stressed and yet this product is not responding, then we can be in a terrible fix.” . . . ‘If livestock insurance spreads to new regions of the world, each will have to begin from scratch to gather data. . . . “Trying to meet demand for scale without reducing the rigor of careful design—this is a particular challenge for us,” said [Andrew] Mude. . . .’

On benefits already provided

[E]ven a flawed model has created real improvements for policy holders.
“It doesn’t do away with drought risk, but it still works . . .
to keep children better nourished and alive,
to improve the well-being of families.
—Chris Barrett

The solution, then, would appear to be in our stars, yes—and also in ourselves. Read the whole article by Tina Rosenberg in the New York TimesUp in the sky, help to keep Africans from starving, 8 Nov 2016.

Tina Rosenberg, a journalist and editorial writer for the New York Times, is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning book author (her most recent book is Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World) and co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems, particularly by supporting journalists doing high-impact ‘solutions reporting’.

About Index-Based Livestock Insurance
Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) is a project developed in partnership by ILRI (Andrew Mude), Cornell University (Chris Barrett) and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access (BASIS) at the University of California at Davis (Michael Carter), and involving a whole range of other important stakeholders. The IBLI project has been funded by the World Bank Group, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Union (EU) and the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Further information on the wider program agenda is available at


Where livestock issues took centre stage at major fora this fall

The World Food Prize Foundation honours a Kenyan leader of the
Index-Based Livestock Insurance project with an award

Andrew Mude, a scientist leading an ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ (IBLI) project offering the first drought-related livestock insurance to Africa’s pastoral dryland herders, received this year’s Norman E Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. The announcement of this award, which is endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, was made by Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, and celebrated at a special event hosted by Mude’s institute, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), at ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters, on 30 Aug 2016. The award itself was bestowed on Mude some six weeks later, at a ceremony held on 12 Oct 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa, during this year’s annual Borlaug Dialogue and International Symposium and 30th anniversary of Norman Borlaug’s establishment of the World Food Prize.

USAID-BIFAD honours three leaders of the
Index-Based Livestock Insurance project with an award

The same day (12 Oct 2016) and venue, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) gave its 2016 Award for Scientific Excellence to Chris Barrett, the Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor of Applied Economics and Management at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University; Andrew Mude, PhD 2006, principal economist at ILRI; and Michael Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

The UN Committee on World Food Security highlights
the central role of livestock in global food and nutrition security

A week later, at the 43rd session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS43), held at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organzation of the United Nations (FAO), 17–21 Oct 2016, agreement was reached regarding a High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition Report on Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition: What Roles for Livestock? and a set of recommendations building on the report and a related policy convergence process was endorsed. (The recommendations are listed in an ILRI News blog article here.) Delia Grace, an ILRI scientist and program leader, served as a member of the High-Level Panel of Experts that produced the livestock report that was finalized and agreed at the Rome CFS43 meeting and other ILRI researchers made other substantive contributions.This CFS43 session was attended by delegates from 116 member states and 8 non-member states of the United Nations committee plus representatives from 10 UN agencies and bodies, 123 civil society organizations, 2 international agricultural research organizations (ILRI was one of these), 2 international and regional financial institutions, 86 private-sector associations and private philanthropic foundations (including 831 companies under the umbrella of the Private Sector Mechanism [PSM]), and 45 observers, all of whom were given opportunities to express their views on the report (ILRI’s remarks are here.)

This year’s UN climate change summit in Marrakech
includes livestock emissions in its discussions

Livestock greenhouse gas emissions and related topics are at long last being included in UN climate change discussions. The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) of theUN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) , and the 1st session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1)—which was adopted in late 2015 and marks a turning point in work to build a zero-carbon world and went into effect on 4 Nov 2016—is  taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, this week and next (7–18 Nov 2016). At this week’s opening, on 8 Nov 2016, ILRI and partner organizations facilitated a science-policy dialogue on monitoring, reporting, and verification work to detect mitigation impacts in livestock production systems. Country experiences were shared to identify practical innovations for the collection and coordination of activity data and improved emission factors. This special side event was co-moderated by ILRI Livestock Systems and Environment program leader Polly Ericksen and by Lini Wollenberg, of the University of Vermont and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). (More news of that session will be published on this blog at a later date.)

The New York Times covers the story of
Index-Based Livestock Insurance

New York Times
editorial writer Tina Rosenberg took a good long look at ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme in a New York Times opinion piece, Up in the sky, help to keep Africans from starving, published 8 Nov 2016.

More selected IBLI | Mude | Borlaug Field Award
news clippings in 2016

Kenyan Bags 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research, Application at World Food Prize Event | Eric Akasa | 10/12/2016
The accolade, named to honor the legendary crop scientist and Nobel Prize Winner, was presented to Mude by Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin at a special ceremony that included hundreds of agriculture experts from around the world attending the 2016 World Food Prize symposium in Iowa.

USAID BIFAD 2016 Award for Scientific Excellence goes to Cornell–ILRI–UC Davis team for developing novel livestock insurance for pastoral herders in East Africa | Susan MacMillan | 10/06/2016
‘A Cornell development economist and his partners won an international award for developing a form of livestock insurance that has already proved itself in pilot testing. Now that it is scaling up, the insurance could help hundreds of thousands of African herders stave off poverty in times of drought.

Economist, partners clinch USAID award for drought insurance | Susan Kelley | 10/05/2016
A Cornell development economist and his partners won an international award for developing a form of livestock insurance that has already proved itself in pilot testing.

The journal ‘Science’ publishes Q&A with Borlaug Field Award winner Andrew Mude | Susan MacMillan | 09/05/2016
‘Andrew Mude, a senior economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), created a program that protects pastoralists against losses from drought, an increasing scourge for nomadic communities in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.

Kenyan wins Rockerfeller award for work in dry areas | Samuel Nabwiiso | 09/04/2016
Dr. Andrew Mude was last week declared the winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Q&A: Livestock insurance helps African herders survive droughts | Sophie Mbugua | 09/02/2016
A Kenyan economist has won the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award from the World Food Prize for an innovative program that provides pastoralists with livestock insurance.

Food prize puts Kenyan researcher on global map—Kenya’s ‘Business Daily’ newspaper | Susan MacMillan | 09/02/2016
‘When he was named winner of the 2016 World Food Prize’s Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application this week, he could barely hold back his emotions, as the reality of his achievement hit home.

Kenyan scientist wins world top prize for food research | Agatha Ngotho | 09/01/2016
A Kenyan scientist was yesterday awarded a world prize for food research. Dr Andrew Mude (pictured) was announced the winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application at the International Livestock Research Institute headquarters, Nairobi. He will receive Sh1 million next month during the World Food Prize international symposium in Iowa

Breaking the devastating impacts of drought in the Horn of Africa—Kenyan wins global agricultural research award | Susan MacMillan | 08/31/2016
”I am confident that with insurance and the related complementary services, the boom and bust cycle will come to an end,” said Mude, principal economist at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research.

Kenya close to ending drought crises, says local scientist award winner Standard Digital | 08/31/2016
Kenya is on its way to breaking the devastating cycle of drought, poverty and hunger over the next decade, a leading scientist said as he was named winner of a prestigious award. Kenyan scientist Andrew Mude won the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application on Tuesday for developing livestock insurance . . . .

Kenyan Adjudged Winner of 2016 Norman Borlaug Award | Samuel Hinneh | 08/31/2016
Dr Andrew Mude developed insurance for never-before-insured communities whose livelihoods depend on herding cattle, goats, sheep and camels in the remote, arid and drought-prone lowlands of the Horn of Africa.

Kenyan economist Andrew Mude wins the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application | Susan MacMillan | 08/31/2016
It was announced yesterday (30 Aug 2016) in Nairobi, Kenya, that Andrew Mude has won the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. Mude’s is developing insurance for never-before-insured communities whose livelihoods depend on herding cattle, goats, sheep and camels in the remote, arid and drought-prone lowlands of the Horn of Africa.

Kenyan Scientist Receives the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award- Crop Biotech Update ( 8/31/2016 ) | 08/31/2016
Dr. Andrew Mude, a young Kenyan scientist, is the winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation. The award recognizes exceptional, science-based achievement in agriculture and food production by individuals under 40 who demonstrate intellectual courage, stamina, and determination in the fight to eliminate global hunger.

Kenyan wins global award for livestock innovation (video) | 08/31/2016
Video news clip

Pastoralists received Sh15M compensation following last year’s drought – CS — Garissa News | Joshua Khisa | 08/31/2016
Close to 12,000 households in the arid and semi-arid areas across the country have insured their livestock.  Those who insured their livestock are already enjoying the benefits of the product as according to Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu, 5,012 pastoralists who insured their animals last year received Sh15 million compensation after their region suffered drought leading…

Kenyan Researcher Receives Named 2016 Borlaug Field Award Winner | 08/31/2016
Dr. Andrew Mude was announced today as the winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, for his work in developing insurance for never-before-insured communities whose livelihoods depend on herding cattle, goats, sheep and camels in the remote, arid and drought-prone lowlands of the Horn…

Kenyan scientist Dr. Andrew Mude wins the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research—Potentash | Susan Mukami | 08/31/2016
In most parts of the Horn of Africa, drought, crop and livestock disease threaten food production; and the fact that livestock provides an essential source of protein and is an irreplaceable income to almost 1 billion poor people, more needs to be done to protect this precious resource.

Speeches | Nairobi, Kenya – Embassy of the United States | Robert Godec | 08/30/2016
Thank you for inviting me here today. It’s always rewarding to spend time talking with and learning from researchers who are passionate about their disciplines.

Kenya close to ending drought crises, says local scientist award winner | Katy Migiro | 08/30/2016

How NASA satellites save Kenya’s nomads from bankruptcy during drought (seriously) | Jina Moore | 08/30/2016
Brenda Wandera’s iPhone buzzes in her lap. A text message has made its way through the blurry heat of Kenya’s Chalbi Desert, and it changes her next move. “As soon as we get to Kalacha, we have to go to Network,” she says.

Kenya to extend livestock insurance to 14 counties | James Kariuki | 08/30/2016
The government will roll out a livestock insurance to all fourteen arid and semi-arid counties to help safeguard cattle during drought. Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu said the uptake of the product had hit 11,800 households with an insured premium of Sh 5.3 billion since the beginning of the year.

Kenya close to ending drought – scientist | 08/30/2016
Kenya is on its way to breaking the devastating cycle of drought, poverty and hunger over the next decade, a leading scientist said as he was named winner of a prestigious award.

Kenya to extend livestock insurance to 14 counties | James Kariuki | 08/30/2016
The government will roll out livestock insurance to all 14 arid and semi-arid counties to help safeguard cattle during drought.

Kenyan economist wins World Food Prize’s Borlaug award | Kelly McGowan | 08/30/2016
Andrew Mude, a researcher and economist dealing in international livestock, was named winner of the World Food Prize’s Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application.

Kenya close to ending drought crises, says local scientist award winner | Katy Migiro | 08/30/2016
A Kenyan soldier from the Rapid Deployment Unit looks at a cow which is dying from hunger, a few hundred meters from the official boundary of the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya

The World Food Prize Recognizes Kenyan Economist as Winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation | Nicole Barreca | 08/30/2016
08/30/2016 Press Contact: Nicole Barreca, Director of Communications and Events
The World Food Prize Recognizes Kenyan Economist as Winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application….

Andrew Mude: 2016 recipient of the Borlaug Field Award | 08/30/2016
Andrew Mude, a senior economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, was named the 2016 recipient of the “Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation.”  The announcement of his selection was made by Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation.

Kenyan Wins 2016 Norman Borlaug Award For Field Research And Application | Samuel Hinneh | 08/30/2016
A Kenyan research scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute based in Nairobi has won the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application for his work in providing insurance to livestock herders in East Africa’s drylands through innovative, state-of-the art technologies.

African livestock and agriculture departments promote new Kenya Livestock Insurance Programme (KLIP) | Susan MacMillan | 06/13/2016
Vincent Ngari and Richard Githaiga of the Departments of Livestock and Agriculture, while making presentations during the Technical Workshop on Agriculture Index Insurance at the College of Insurance, Nairobi, on Friday, advised farmers to take up the new Kenya Livestock Insurance…

Insurance helps Kenyan livestock herders cope with drought | Susan MacMillan | 04/15/2016
‘The index-based insurance program is run by the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and funded by the British, U.S. and Australian governments and the European Union. The donors subsidize the cover to make it affordable for pastoralists.

Subsidised insurance bolsters Kenyan herders against drought | Anthony Langat | 04/13/2016
At 7am, the Kubi-Qallo borehole near Goro Rukesa village in northern Kenya is already a hive of activity, as dozens of herders line up for their animals’ turn to drink at the watering trough.

Kenyan Farmers to Benefit from Innovative Insurance Program | World Bank press release | 03/12/2016
The Government of Kenya today launched the Kenya National Agricultural Insurance Program, which is designed to address the challenges that agricultural producers face when there are large production shocks, such as droughts and floods.

Bringing insurance innovation to the pastoral areas of southern Ethiopia (ILRI 7.5-min video) | International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) | 01/05/2016
In the Borana region of Southern Ethiopia, drought has always been the greatest hazard faced by livestock herding families, but climate change and the increased frequency and intensity of drought are straining the viability of traditional coping methods.

Unpacking the tensions between the nutritional and economic goals of pro-poor livestock development


ILRI’s Delia Grace (left) and Shirley Tarawali (right), made two of the three presentations at the second of a four-part series of meetings-cum-webinars on enhancing nutrition through market-led livestock development in developing countries. This series is being organized by Land O’Lakes International Development and ILRI (photo credits: left, ILRI/Susan MacMillan, and right, ILRI).

On 17 Oct 2016, Land O’Lakes International Development and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted a one-day meeting and webinar in Washington, DC, on the challenges of increasing consumption of meat, milk and eggs in poor rural and producer households in low-income countries through improved development of local, and largely informal, livestock markets.

While donors and implementing agencies continue to promote economic gains though market-led livestock programs, less is known about how these programs can maximize the potential for animal-source foods to improve nutrition and health while also contributing to sustainable and nutritious food systems.

Bearing in mind the many ways livestock enhance household food and nutrition, as well as the livelihoods, resilience and cultures of low-income communities, discussants at this event unpacked the tensions inherent between developing livestock markets to meet the economic goals of the poor and meeting the nutritional needs of poor households raising livestock.

Leaders from public, private and research institutions explored private-sector led investments in communications to change nutritional behaviour and to market food products. They discussed how markets can help enhance food safety, quality, nutrition and health for the poor while maintaining equitable access to animal-source foods and avoiding harming livestock development programs. ILRI staff made two of the three presentations.

Presentation by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali
Carmen Jaquez, practice area manager for livestock and environment for Land O’Lakes International Development, introduced Shirley Tarawali, ILRI’s assistant director general, who gave an overview of livestock and nutrition issues. Tarawali focused on the conflicting perspectives and messages in the media and other public fora about the livestock sector; the huge demand for meat, milk and eggs growing in developing countries; and the fact that that demand will be met one way or another and with private-sector engagement.

Tarawali then described three probable scenarios for how the rising demand for livestock-source foods will be met—by importing livestock foods, by importing industrial livestock production know-how, and by transforming smallholder livestock production systems. She explained the different ways these different scenarios would likely affect people in low- and middle-income countries and outlined some of the great opportunities available to transform the smallholder livestock sector.

Click the arrow above to listen and watch Wealth, Health and Culture: Complementarity and Competition in Livestock Pathways to Meeting Demand for Animal-Source Foods, a 22-minute audio slide presentation by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali.

Presentation by ILRI’s Delia Grace
Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert who leads ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses Program, then spoke on balancing need for household nutrition and safe livestock products. Below are excerpts of her presentation.

Animal-source foods are full of promise for improving both the nutrition and livelihoods of some one billion poor people. But the challenges facing this ‘sunrise sector’ are big and include the dual burden of over- and underweight people; the environmental harm livestock production can cause, such as its contributions to the greenhouse gases causing global warming; and the human diseases caused by livestock, either directly through the transmission of pathogens infectious to both people and animals or though the emergence of new diseases originating in animals and jumping species to infect people.

Some 75% of all new human infectious diseases originate
in animal populations, with livestock being a stepping stone
in 90% of the most important of those new human diseases,
such as HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu),
MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome),
SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and
BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease).

The ways I’m going to outline here for managing food safety in developing countries can serve as templates for managing these other ‘negative externalities’ of livestock systems.

ILRI has been working for the last ten years to enhance livestock food safety in the traditional so-called ‘wet’ markets on which poor people heavily depend for their livelihoods as well as their nutrition. As demand and consumption of meat, milk and eggs continue to rise rapidly among the growing populations of the developing world, we have to manage this, to make this ‘livestock revolution’ work.

Do no harm
A recent ILRI review in 20 countries revealed that poor women play particularly large roles in smallholder production and marketing of pigs, poultry, goats and sheep. There is a risk that as these livestock value chains professionalize and become more formal and profitable, women will be forced out. Because almost all processing and household food decisions in low- and middle-income countries are made by women, unless we apply a smart and intentional gender lens to our work in these value chains, we’re likely to get things wrong and to make things worse.

‘Do no harm’ is a big motive behind this presentation.
In our desire and rush to get things done, to make things happen,
we can make things worse. Our experience at ILRI is that when we do that,
we don’t make things worse for rich urban men
but rather for poor rural women. So being intentional about doing no harm is crucial.

The huge foodborne disease burden
We’ve only recently begun to become aware of the enormous burden posed by foodborne diseases. A 2015 seminal report from the World Health Organization showed that this burden is similar to that of malaria, HIV-AIDS or tuberculosis. That finding surprised many people, as did the finding that the greatest harm, by far, in foodborne disease is caused by biological organisms and not by pesticides, chemicals, GMOs or other factors feared most by the general public.

What is sickening and killing most people
are microbes and worms—
not toxins and pesticides. And most of those microbes and worms are zoonotic—
that is, they are transmitted to humans from animals.

Why should people who care about nutrition care about food safety?
For starters, meat, milk and eggs as well as fresh vegetables are the main sources of foodborne diseases. Which is troubling as we’re meeting here to help more people consume more animal-source foods! Diarrhoea is a major factor in stunting; much of the food consumed in developing countries contains high levels of faecal bacteria; food allergies, often to eggs and milk, may affect up to 10 per cent of children; there are strong associations (plausibly causal) between aflatoxins and stunting; some regulations implemented to improve food safety have been shown to reduce the availability and accessibility of foods for the poor (e.g., requiring all milk sold to be pasteurized although pasteurized milk can cost double that of raw milk, or supporting supermarket retailing over informal markets); and, finally, food fears, which can provoke disease control and other measures that have unintended consequences, putting poor people’s nutrition at greater risk (e.g., culling chicken populations to control bird flu can reduce dietary diversity and lead to household substitutions with sugary foods and increased stunting).

Can we regulate our way to food safety?
While it’s clear that we need good regulations, regulations by themselves do not make food safer, and in some cases actually make food less safe (e.g., by criminalizing certain behaviours). We need to address a major disconnect in food safety policies based on ‘hazards’—the things in food that can cause harm—rather than being based on ‘risks’, which are the actual harms to human health.

Can we modernize our way to food safety?
Government experts tend to think that a move away from wet markets to supermarkets will make food safer. While supermarket foods in Europe and North America are pretty safe, this is not the case in many developing countries, where low governance and poor infrastructure can make foods sold in supermarkets no safer, and sometimes less safe, than those sold in informal markets.

The good news
Things can be improved. Capacity building, for example, can be very successful at improving food safety if the right incentives are put in place. Just telling people to change their behaviour doesn’t work. But when rewarded for doing so, people will change their behaviour to make food safer. At ILRI we have been working on what we describe as ‘incentive-based’, ‘market-based’, ‘light-touch’ interventions in the informal sector to see what is already working and what we can do to help improve that, step by step. ILRI has found, for example, that milk traders in Kenya and India are willing to be trained and certified if they can see the advantages to themselves in doing so, although this is not likely to be the whole answer to making milk safer for the poor.

Take home messages
1 Livestock food can contribute to growth and good outcomes.
But we have to remember that one of the challenges in working in multidisciplinary partnerships is that the focus of many food safety experts, who often come from medical backgrounds, is that food must be completely safe. They’re not trained to also consider food prices or nutrition or gender or people’s participation in value chains. So although I’m trying to frighten you about foodborne disease, my underlying message, which we must not forget, is that while many people are having too much livestock products, many other people are having too little.

2 Foodborne disease is important for health and nutrition.

3 Most foodborne disease is due to microbes and worms in fresh foods.

4 Efforts to reduce foodborne disease can be more harmful than the foodborne disease itself.

5 Command and control approaches don’t work.
Top-down regulations will never get you food safety—not in America and not in Nigeria. Approaches and solutions that work with the informal or traditional food sectors are more promising.

Click the arrow above to listen and watch Household Nutrition and Safe Livestock Products: Livestock Markets, Animal-Source Foods, and Human Nutrition—Considering Tensions, Maximizing Impact and Avoiding Harm, a 22-minute audio slide presentation by ILRI’s Delia Grace.

To read more about food safety in developing countries, see:
Grace, Delia 2015. Food safety in developing countries: An overview. Hemel Hempstead, UK: Evidence on Demand.

Roesel, Kristina and Grace, Delia. 2014. Food safety and informal markets: Animal products in sub-Saharan Africa. London, UK: Routledge.

To learn more this event, visit the Livestock and Household Nutrition Learning Series event page.

Read an announcement of this event on ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender and Impact blog: Livestock markets, animal-source foods and human nutrition: Considering program tensions, maximizing impact and avoiding harm, 3 Oct 2016.

Don’t miss the third of this four-part learning series around livestock and household nutrition:

Food safety in animal-source foods for better nutrition outcomes
Date: Tentatively scheduled for 25 Jan 2017
Venue: Webinar
Sponsors: Land O’Lakes International Development, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Technical and Operational Performance Support Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID-TOPS).
Description: Two-hour webinar outlining issues related to food safety, livestock production, animal-source foods, human health and nutrition. We will look at approaches to improving food safety and quality through livestock production methods, processing and storage technologies, reducing waste and spoilage costs, policy impacts, opportunities for the private sector and consumer education. Look for details on how to sign up for the webinar in Dec 2016 on this Land O’Lakes webpage.

‘Meating’ in the middle on the ‘meat vs vegetarian’ diet debate at the climate change summit this week

Farmer leads his sheep and goat to market

A farmer leads his sheep and goats to market in Menz, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

The contribution of animal-source foods
to global warming cannot be ignored.
But encouraging everyone
to become vegetarian or even vegan
isn’t the silver bullet solution envisioned by some.

Written by Polly Ericksen, program leader at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This opinion piece was first published on on 4 Nov 2016.

If we want to fight climate change and contribute to global development, is the solution really as simple as becoming vegetarian or even vegan as is sometimes suggested?

The answer depends greatly on where we live, and the truth is that the global consumption of meat, milk and eggs is much more complex than it may first appear.

For those of us in the developed world the actions we take may need to be quite different from those in the developing world who face a very different reality when it comes to dietary choice, health, livelihood and even experience of climate change.

In other words, what might seem like a silver bullet
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
risks undermining other development goals
such as ending hunger and poverty and improving health.

We cannot ignore the important role that animal-source foods play, especially in developing countries, when we talk about tackling climate change. Instead we need to find a middle ground.

Livestock for sustainable development
The benefits of meat and dairy are often under-appreciated by those in affluent countries where there is a plethora of choice. But animal produce offers key sources of high-quality protein and some fats and micronutrients—especially vitamin B12—many of which are more bioavailable than they are in plants and which are often lacking in the diets of those in developing countries.

Eliminating the consumption of animal-source foods would have an untold impact on those already most vulnerable in the world. As it stands, 800 million people go hungry each year because they do not produce enough or earn enough to satisfy even their basic food needs. Two billion people around the world suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, including 161 million children under five whose growth and cognitive functions are stunted as a result. A diet including just 20g of animal protein a day can combat this.

In addition, a billion people earning less than US$2 a day around the world depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The sector represents 40% of the agricultural GDP of developing nations—and as much as 60% in some poor countries.

In semi-arid or arid environments, livestock commodities are often the only viable agricultural products that can thrive. In these cases, livestock graze on rangelands fed by rainfall and can be much less carbon intensive than in industrial systems more common in the developed world. Medium levels of livestock grazing have actually been shown to be more sustainable for the management of rangelands than none at all. And when properly managed, livestock grazing can also help sequester large amounts of carbon in soils.

Livestock also provide farmers, particularly those in poor countries, with an important safety net in adapting to the impacts of climate change.  Increased incidents of extreme and unpredictable weather can make cropping less reliable, and animals tend to be more portable and resilient in the short term.

Thus, in the developing world,
livestock are an essential component
to broad sustainable development.

The developed world response
However, at the other end of the spectrum, consumers in developed countries have a different set of experiences.

Here, animal-source foods are much more widely available.  Meat consumption, for instance, was essentially double that in developing countries at the turn of the century.

Those consumers in the developed world who have access to a diverse set of food options may be able to source some of their calories and nutrients from alternative sources and have less impact on the climate as a result. If, for instance, consumers in the United Kingdom reduced their meat consumption to be in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, then greenhouse gas emissions would fall by 17% in Britain alone.

Consumers in the developed world can also work to reduce the amount of food they waste. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of both meat and milk is wasted globally; in Europe, around half of this happens at the “consumption” stage, in other words after these foods have already been produced, processed and distributed. This means consumers can play a big role in reducing livestock’s overall carbon footprint by simply lowering the amount of this food that they waste.

And even more, governments, the private sector and researchers in the developed world can invest in innovations that could make the livestock sector more climate friendly globally. For example, the German government helps fund the Kenya-based Mazingira Centre, a state-of-the-art livestock research facility housed at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters. And the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Oxford, does research on the importance of animal-source foods and how to produce such foods more efficiently in a European context, for instance through better animal feeds and feeding techniques.

Nuancing the debate
To date, the benefits and impacts of livestock have been borne in an unbalanced and unequal way.

But recent estimates predict that meat consumption in the developing world is set to expand significantly in the coming decades—growing at a rate of 2.2%  per year from 2005-7 to 2030 versus growth of 0.6% per year in developed countries—as a result of a growing population, urbanisation and incomes, although this varies greatly by country.

Much of this should be applauded for the potential it offers in closing these regions’ development gaps. There is a middle ground that can be found in balancing these needs alongside tackling climate change.

The solutions are largely dependent on
what options we have and where we live. It is entirely possible
for us to ‘meat’ in the middle.

Polly Ericksen leads ILRI’s research program on Livestock Systems and Environment. Ericksen has over 18 years of experience working on agricultural development, natural resource management and global environmental change in developing countries. She has a PhD in soil science and an MSc in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BS in history from Swarthmore College.

Read Ericksen’s opinion piece as it was originally published on the website: Let’s ‘meat’ in the middle on climate change, 4 Nov 2016.

You can follow the 22nd Convention of the Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which opens Mon, 7 Nov 2016, in Marrakech, Morocco, on Twitter: @COP22.

See from below that ILRI is jointly hosting on the afternoon of the opening day (Mon 7 Nov 2016) with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) a special COP22 side session describing practical innovations for establishing more accurate livestock greenhouse emissions factors for the world’s diverse livestock systems and regions.


Honouring One Health Day–short video statement from Nobel Laureate and ILRI Patron Peter Doherty


Today, 3 Nov 2016, is ‘One Health Day’.

One Health Day, an international campaign co-coordinated by the One Health Commission, the One Health Initiative Autonomous pro bono Team and the One Health Platform Foundation, brings attention to the need for One Health interactions and for the world to ‘see them in action’.

The scientists and directors of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is based in Africa and works for ‘better lives through livestock’ throughout the developing world, are strong supporters of One Health approaches to healthier people, animals and environments.

Peter Doherty, an Australian veterinarian surgeon and researcher working in the field of medicine, who with his colleague Rolf Zinkernagel won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1996 and who today serves as a patron of ILRI, also supports the integrated work—and the tearing down of disciplinary silos—that One Health approaches demand.

Listen, for example, to what Doherty has to say about zoonotic disease plagues and the need for veterinary as well as medical research to control them in this 2-minute video clip he made for ILRI:


Go here to view ILRI’s One Health publications.

About Peter Doherty
Peter Doherty received the 1996 Nobel Prize, and the 1995 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, for his immunological work that showed how T cells help protect a body against viral infections. Doherty now spends three months of the year conducting research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he is a faculty member at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center through the College of Medicine. For the other nine months of the year, he works in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Victoria. A former member of the Board of Trustees of ILRI’s predecessor, the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), where he served as chair of the science program committee, Doherty graciously accepted becoming ILRI’s patron in 2016.

Doherty’s semi-autobiographical book, The Beginner’s Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize, was published by The Miegunyah Press, an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing Ltd, Melbourne in 2005. A Light History of Hot Air was published in 2007 by Melbourne University Press. In 2012 he published the book Sentinel Chickens. His fourth book, The Knowledge Wars, was published in 2015.

Follow Peter Doherty on Twitter: @ProfPCDoherty

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Policy, Value Chains and Livelihoods

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the seventh of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

Steve Staal and Isabelle Baltenweck presented
the Policy, Value Chains and Livelihoods program.
Its goal is to maximize livestock-mediated livelihoods.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016


The Policy, Value Chains and Livelihoods program has five teams: The ‘Foresight and Policy’ team pulls together
livestock sector planning from across the institute
and works closely with national partners and supports them. The ‘M&E and Impact Assessment’ team helps set priorities
better understand likely impacts and outcomes.
It leads and supports the ‘theory of change’ approach.
This team works closely with the technology teams. ‘Gender and Equity’ is an area we want to strengthen.
This team aims for more equitable control of livestock.
A new important focus is youth. ‘Human Nutrition’ adopts a whole diet and food systems
approach to improve nutrition in livestock-keeping communities. ‘Value Chains’ is the largest and most established of the teams.
Extension services are increasingly becoming important to their work.
Private-sector partners are central to their theory of change. —ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 The program is active in India, Vietnam, Senegal and Burkina Faso
as well as in East and Southern Africa.


Dolapo Enahoro and her team assessed the role of livestock
in eight developing countries undergoing rapid change.
They looked at national food supply, food self-sufficiency
and nutrition and developed projections for future scenarios. Results conclude that these countries will face major imports.
Livestock is growing in importance for nutrient supply.
In this lies also a chance for small-scale livestock keepers
to be part of the ‘livestock revolution’. —ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016


Immaculate Omondi spoke about linking
small-scale farmers to larger enterprises.
Dairy hubs act as links between processors and farmers.
Omondi’s team analyzed nearly one thousand
dairy households in Kenya and Uganda. Participation in dairy hubs was found to be linked to higher incomes.
But while linking to large enterprises does increase income,
there is no evidence that it trickles down to farm level. —ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact ILRI’s Policy, Value Chains and Livelihoods program leader Steve Staal: s.staal [at]

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Sustainable Livestock Systems

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the sixth of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

A central question for ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Systems program is:
‘What does “sustainable intensification” mean in different contexts?’
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 ILRI Sustainable
Livestock Systems Program

Polly Ericksen introduced the Sustainable Livestock Systems program by saying that the group of 28 ILRI scientists and some 40 research and other support staff provide data on the environmental footprint of livestock production (e.g. African greenhouse gas emissions data), help partners to design incentives to take up strategies for better environmental management of livestock production, inform international climate finance initiatives and build capacity.


ILRI’s new Sustainable Livestock Systems program works for a future in which livestock are productive in the face of uncertain trajectories, help poor people to manage risks and shocks and provide environmental benefits.


This program works to characterize and understand the environmental risks and benefits, as well as the broader constraints to increasing livestock productivity, that livestock keepers need to address. The program uses this knowledge to develop strategies to overcome these constraints and to catalyze an enabling environment that ensures the dissemination of these strategies through partners, leading to their uptake by ILRI’s target beneficiaries.



Under the first theme above, the program will conduct research both to mitigate livestock greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts and to help livestock keepers adapt to climate change.

Under the second theme listed above, the program will work with partners to get a clearer understanding of what sustainable intensification means in different contexts and to determine what conducive market, policy and other environments are needed to support sustainable livestock intensification. Program staff will also actively help develop capacity within institutions to do and promote sustainable development and support uptake of interventions by stakeholder groups.

Under the third them listed above, promoting resilient livestock systems, the program will support groups on many levels, including: (1) national and local governments to adopt and conduct evidenced-based policies and programs, (2) private-sector actors to invest in options that help build resilient livestock systems, (3) donor and development agencies to pursue investments and programs that help build resilient livestock systems, and (4) households to adopt livestock-based practices and technologies that work to build resilience.

The program staff have taken a first crack at mapping an impact pathway, which looks like the figure below. What’s most clear to the staff at the moment are the three high-level impacts they’re aiming for: (1) productive livestock in the face of future change, (2) poor people profiting in the face of risks and shocks and (3) enhanced environmental benefits from livestock.


We want to turn the messaging around:
Livestock as a generator of environmental goods.
To conduct this kind of advocacy work,
we have a bit of seed money from the Gates Foundation.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 Exciting science!


ILRI’s Lance Robinson, a specialist in community-based
environmental governance, said that the kinds of interventions
appropriate for drylands are largely social and institutional
rather than plot-level, technological or physical. Those in my field are ready now to ask,
‘What works best in which contexts?’ With our growing body of case studies,
we can now start testing hypotheses. Taken downstream, our research can provide
specific guidance to governments, NGOs and donor agencies,
about how they can best support community approaches
to rangeland management, which we think suit
intensification in rangeland settings.




View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Systems program leader Polly Ericksen, p.ericksen [at]

UN endorses recommendations on sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition, including the role of livestock


The Policy Round Table of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), meeting in Rome on 17 Oct 2016, discussed the report on Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition: What Roles for Livestock? The report had been launched on 1 July in Rome and is now available in all of the UN languages.

Delia Grace, a scientist and program leader at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), served as a member of the High-Level Panel of Experts that produced the livestock report that was finalized this week at the Rome CFS meeting; other ILRI researchers made other substantive contributions.

The Plenary Session of the Committee endorsed a set of recommendations, drafted during preliminary negotiations led by Ambassador Yaya Olaniran (Nigeria).

Proposed draft recommendations
on sustainable agricultural development
for food security and nutrition,
including the role of livestock

1. The following recommendations have been elaborated building upon the main findings of the CFS High Level Panel of Expert’s report on ‘Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: What roles for livestock?’ The sustainable development of agriculture, including livestock, is essential for poverty reduction and the achievement of food security and nutrition. The recommendations aim to strengthen the contribution of the livestock sector1 to sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition (FSN) and contribute to the progressive realization of the right to adequate food, in the overall context of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognizing the essential role of smallholders in achieving food security and nutrition.

2. These recommendations draw upon the pathways towards sustainable livestock development identified by the HLPE report, which are based on the three principles of improving resource efficiency, strengthening resilience and improving social equity/responsibility outcomes.

3. The Recommendations are primarily addressed to governments for public policies, but are also addressed to all stakeholders with a role in achieving food security and nutrition. The recommendations are voluntary and non-binding. The recommendations aim to complement and not restate recommendations and related guidance previously provided in other CFS products.


4. The recommendations included under Sustainable Agricultural Development apply to all agricultural systems including livestock systems. The specific recommendations under Livestock Production Systems are addressing particular challenges for that sector.

Sustainable Agricultural Development

I. Foster policy coherence for food security and nutrition
a) Promote integration of food security and nutrition (FSN) into related policies to maximize the positive role that sustainable agricultural development and particularly livestock have in improving the economic, social and environmental sustainability of food systems, and strengthen coherence between sectoral policies and programs;

b) Build on guidance from relevant international and regional intergovernmental organizations and agreements, and take into account, as appropriate, the work of multistakeholder platforms and partnerships, which are dedicated to sustainable agricultural development and livestock specific issues;

c) Promote a fair and market-oriented world agricultural trading system in accordance with multilateral trade rules, in acknowledgment of the role of trade as an important element in support of sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition.

II. Address nutrition, food safety, working conditions and services
a) Encourage the appropriate intake of animal sourced foods, that is culturally acceptable, for healthy diets and improved nutrition, including through awareness-raising and education in the context of promoting sustainable agriculture and livestock production in accordance with SDG12;

b) Recognize the important role that animal sourced food, including dairy products, can play for children, pregnant and lactating women, and elderly people;

c) Develop capacity to meet national and international food safety and quality standards, frameworks, and schemes, ensuring that they are appropriate for different scales, contexts and modes of production and marketing, in particular CODEX Alimentarius standards;

d) Ensure that the working and living conditions of all workers at all stages of production, transformation and distribution comply with ILO conventions, and are protected by domestic laws, and provide adequate living wages;

e) Develop and implement policies and tools to facilitate farmers’ access to markets and credit to help improve their livelihoods;

f) Encourage responsible public and private investment, including foreign direct investment consistent with national regulations, and provide other forms of adequate financing, including official development assistance, that supports implementation of sustainable agricultural development, including livestock, particularly for smallholders, including those that are family farmers, and pastoralists;

g) Facilitate inclusive access to quality social services, safety nets, extension, and breeding and veterinary services, particularly for smallholders, including those that are family farmers, and pastoralists.

III. Foster gender equality and women’s empowerment
a) Respect, protect and fulfill the rights of women working in agriculture, including the livestock sector;

b) Promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, ensuring equal access to livestock productive resources, capacity building and education for women and foster women’s equal participation in decision-making.

IV. Foster empowerment of youth
a) Promote youth initiatives, including education, training, rural advisory services and inclusive finance, to develop their capacity and facilitate access to land and resources, in order to enable them to be drivers of improvement in sustainable agriculture development, and involved in all levels of food systems.

V. Protect the environment and promote sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
a) Promote sustainability and improvement of all systems of production, including organic approaches, agro-ecological approaches, and sustainable intensification, so as to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems, minimize environmental degradation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product;

b) Promote integrated agricultural systems making better use of natural resources, halting deforestation, restoring degraded lands, improving soil quality, and fostering the sustainable management of water resources;

c) Strengthen the development, conservation, sustainable use and management of livestock genetic resources in line with the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, stressing the importance of the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS), and promote access and benefit-sharing for animal genetic resources for food and agriculture, in line with relevant internationally agreed treaties;

d) Recognize, respect and protect those traditional production systems, including pastoral systems and their mobility strategies, that use ecosystems sustainably and contribute significantly to the FSN of their communities and associated ways of life;

e) Identify options for improving efficiency throughout food systems, while minimizing negative environmental impacts and optimize the efficient use of energy, water, nitrogen and other natural resources;

f) Reduce food loss and waste including by supporting the improvement of infrastructure and cold chain development, through consumer education, the dissemination of best practices, information, capacity development, and the transfer of technology as mutually agreed, including for smallholders and pastoralists, considering the most appropriate local technologies.

VI. Enhance resilience against risks and variability
a) Strengthen the security of tenure rights in line with the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, including in all cases of conflict;

b) Facilitate the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change in agricultural systems in line with the Paris Agreement, and with particular support for smallholders and pastoralists, and women’s role in food systems;

c) Develop policies and tools, and improve capacity, to assess, mitigate, and manage risks, and reduce excessive price volatility, and their impacts on the most vulnerable;

d) Enhance access to livestock insurance for all systems, including index-based insurance;

e) Improve disease prevention, control, and surveillance, including through cross border cooperation on transboundary diseases, in order to foster early-warning and early action on disease control, spread and eradication, with emphasis on the Global Eradication Program for Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR).

VII. Promote cooperation and collaboration in innovation, research and development, and address data needs`
a) Enhance North-South, South-South and Triangular and international cooperation particularly for capacity building, transfer of technology as mutually agreed, sharing of knowledge, and to leverage additional financial resources;

b) Promote global collaboration for collection and dissemination of relevant and disaggregated data, especially by sex;

c) Develop and foster innovation that addresses challenges in achieving sustainable agricultural development in livestock systems, including through collaborative and participatory research, transfer of knowledge and capacity building;

d) Support the protection and strengthening of traditional knowledge systems which promote sustainability and the use of experiential knowledge in research and development;

e) Promote access to and the use of digital technologies, including for precision agriculture, and foster their appropriate application for sustainable agricultural development.

Livestock Production Systems

All Systems
VIII. Improve animal health and welfare
a) Enable access to veterinary and extension services, vaccinations, medications, including antimicrobials, adapted to the specific livestock production systems;

b) Improve animal health management including biosafety and biosecurity, particularly focusing on infectious diseases, zoonoses, and reducing exposure to environmental hazards, by following OIE standards, and the One Health approach;

c) In accordance with the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on AMR (September/2016), the WHO Global Action Plan on AMR, FAO Resolution 4/2015, and OIE, CODEX Alimentarius and WHO guidelines and standards, in respect of the One Health approach and in the spirit of FAO, OIE, WHO collaboration, promote the prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in agriculture and prevent their unnecessary use, including the phasing out of use of antibiotics for animal growth promotion in the absence of risk analysis;

d) Improve animal welfare delivering on the five freedoms and related OIE standards and principles, including through capacity building programs, and supporting voluntary actions in the livestock sector to improve animal welfare;

e) Promote access to good quality feed, and facilitate training on sustainable feeding practices.

Specific Systems
IX. Recognize, protect, and support pastoral systems for livelihoods and sustainable resource management
a) Enhance the effectiveness, sustainability, and resilience of pastoral systems for food security and nutrition;

b) Enable pastoralists’ mobility, including transboundary passage as appropriate; securing access to land, water, markets and services, adaptive land management, and facilitate responsible governance of common resources, in accordance with national and international laws;

c) Enhance the role of pastoralist organizations and strengthen public policies and investments for the provision of services adapted to the needs and ways of life of pastoralists and their mobility, including promoting gender equality and addressing the specific needs and roles of women within pastoralist communities.

X. Promote and support sustainable grazing systems
a) Enhance the role of grazing systems in the provision of ecosystem services, including carbon storage, by improving the sustainable management of biodiversity, soil, and water;

b) Restore degraded land and reduce deforestation by promoting sustainable grazing management, such as agro-silvopastoral systems, aiming at improved soil quality, carbon storage, pasture productivity, and conservation and storage of forages.

XI. Promote and support mixed systems
a) Strengthen integration of livestock with crops, including by more integration of legumes in crop rotation and inter-cropping, and forests—agro-silvopastoral systems—at different scales, including on farm, across watersheds and ecosystems, and provide benefits in terms of addressing input and energy needs in a sustainable manner, including through the use of draught power and the use of manure as fertilizer;

b) Leverage the potential of livestock as a means for sustainable livelihoods for smallholders, through enabling collective organizations and actions, investing in infrastructure, facilitating access to markets, and implementing measures to manage risks and address challenges;

c) Promote manure management and the use of byproducts and reuse and recycling of waste, as appropriate, while protecting water and air quality, and improving soil health.

The full report is here: Proposed Draft Recommendations on Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition, Including the Role of Livestock, UN Committee on World Food Security, Oct 2016.

Read a related article on the ILRI News Blog: ILRI remarks to UN Committee on Food Security commending newly agreed livestock recommendations, 18 Oct 2016.

Follow the discussions the week of 17–21 Oct 2016 with the tag #CFS43.

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Impact at Scale

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the fifth of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

ILRI Impact at Scale
Iain Wright and Boni Moyo introduced
ILRI’s completely new program, Impact at Scale. The program sits at the end of the R2D continuum.
Its research component would be the learning process. —ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 In terms of skill gaps, we have some who understand
the R2D continuum. We need more of that. We also need to learn working in partnership
with development organizations. Some of these gaps we will fill in-house;
others we can contract. —ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 Case study 1 Case study 2

View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact ILRI’s Impact at Scale program leader Iain Wright: i.wright [at]

ILRI remarks to UN Committee on Food Security commending newly agreed livestock recommendations


The following statement and question were delivered by Susan MacMillan on behalf of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at the 43rd session of the Committee on World Food Security, held at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in Rome, 17–21 Oct 2016.

Plenary session on 17 Oct 2016 entitled: ‘The Policy Convergence: Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition, Including the Role of Livestock (Discussion)’.

I’m honoured to speak today on behalf of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

ILRI welcomes these Committee on Food Security (CFS43) negotiations and supports the remarks made today by Kenya, Switzerland and many others.

My colleague Delia Grace was honoured to be a member of the High-Level Panel of Experts that produced the livestock report that has just been finalized; other ILRI researchers were grateful for the opportunity to make other substantive contributions.

ILRI is thankful that the Committee on Food Security has taken up global livestock issues, which impinge so heavily and on so many global challenges—from food security to poverty reduction to human health to environmental protection; from the education of girls to the employment of youth to the empowerment of women to the livelihoods of men.

We’re particularly pleased by these negotiations as livestock issues have so often been neglected in fora such as this one in the past.

That neglect has been more than strange. Rather than neglect, ILRI believes the diverse livestock systems of the world need more attention and greater

Some one billion people depend on farm animals—on cows, goats, sheep, camels, buffaloes, chickens and pigs—for their livelihoods.

For some one billion people, animal husbandry is a main pathway out of poverty and a major way to better household nutrition and health, particularly for mothers and infants.

Consumption of even very modest amounts of meat, milk and eggs can stop the physical and cognitive stunting of children and the pernicious anemia that afflicts their mothers.

We have a window of opportunity right now, in the midst of big changes driven by a fast-rising demand for livestock products occurring across the developing world, to help shape the trajectories of livestock futures so that they are both sustainable and equitable.

If we fail to act now, markets will fill the void. This demand for livestock foods is not going to go away.

Doing little to nothing is not an option. Too much is at stake—not only eradicating poverty and hunger, but also restoring degraded lands, protecting the safety of our food supplies, and preventing potentially catastrophic future infectious diseases such as Ebola and HIV-AIDS from emerging and jumping species, from animals to people.

With so much at stake, it’s unnerving to recall that while the livestock sector makes up nearly half of the agricultural gross domestic product of developing countries—with an average of 40%—it receives just 4% of agricultural official development assistance. 4%!

‘Do no harm’, we say. And ‘Do some good’. If we mean what we say, with this report, we’ll start paying immaculate attention to the livestock sector.

Thank you very much, Madame Chair.

Side session on 18 Oct 2016 entitled: The Role of Livestock in Sustainable Agriculture: Delivering for People, Animals and Planet, organized by Senegal, Kenya, University of Winchester and The Brooke.

I’m representing here the International Livestock Research Institute, or ILRI, based in Africa.

My question regards not one but two elephants in the (livestock) room (or should I say, ‘cows’?).

I refer to the two major challenges in making good on the huge—and as yet largely underexploited—opportunity that livestock present as instruments of sustainable development.

The first challenge is the low level of investments in livestock development compared to agricultural and other forms of development assistance.

While the livestock sector provides an average of 40% of the agricultural gross domestic product of developing countries, it receives just 4% of agricultural official development assistance. That must change.

The second challenge is the low level of understanding of livestock issues, represented most dramatically in the on-going negative press statements about livestock.

We find ourselves in public debates as to whether the world should give up all meat, or all meat and milk, or even all meat, milk and eggs, so as to reduce the environmental ‘hoofprints’ of our farm animals.

If one were to propose that the world give up all motorized means of transport, from cars to trains and airplanes, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, that would give us pause. If one were to propose planting no more rice fields so as to reduce the substantial greenhouse gases that those fields emit, that would give us pause. We would immediately see how difficult, how complex, effecting such transitions would be.

How, then, can we encourage the same level of understanding when it comes to livestock? Those proposing that all farm animals be removed from the earth are proposing not only something improbable for the near future given our current socio-political constructs, but also something that would devastate crop and vegetable production as well as meat and dairy, since most of the grains grown that feed the world are grown on mixed crop-and-livestock farms.

And, of course, removing all livestock from the earth would be catastrophic for the more than one billion of the world’s poorest people who rely on farm animals for their farm production, for their food, for their nutrition, for their incomes, for their savings, for their children’s educations, for their ability to cope with climate change, for their livelihoods—in short, for their lives.

In brief, it seems that we are losing the messaging battle.

My question is, How can we do a much better job of educating the public on the world’s diverse livestock systems and people and issues?

The report is here: Proposed Draft Recommendations on Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition, Including the Role of Livestock, UN Committee on World Food Security, Oct 2016.

Follow the discussions with the tag #CFS43.

Kenyan accepts 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application at World Food Prize Event in Iowa

d8_mudeandrew_speaking8 Andrew Mude, speaking at an event announcing his award held at ILRI
in Nairobi, Kenya, 30 Aug 2016 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Researcher Andrew Mude and colleagues are also receiving
today a USAID ‘Award for Scientific Excellence’. Both awards honour innovative use of
satellite technology and community outreach
to develop livestock insurance for
vulnerable herding communities in the Horn of Africa.

Andrew Mude, an economist and principal scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is being presented with the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application today, 12 Oct 2016, for his work leading an innovative livestock insurance program that employs satellite data to help protect livestock herding communities in the Horn of Africa from the devastating effects of drought.

The accolade, named to honour the legendary crop scientist and Nobel Prize winner, will be presented to Mude by Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin at a special ceremony that includes hundreds of agriculture experts from around the world attending the 2016 World Food Prize Borlaug Symposium in Iowa. The Rockefeller Foundation provides the endowment for the Borlaug field Award, which includes USD10,000 for the winner.

‘Borlaug’s footprint and legacy are immense and it’s humbling to be honoured in association with him’, Mude says. ‘When the World Food Prize committee selected me, I think they were celebrating a scientist who aims to emulate Borlaug’s relentless commitment to following through on his research to ensure it makes an impact in communities still struggling to achieve food security.’

At a separate World Food Prize/Borlaug Symposium event today in Des Moines, Mude and his colleagues from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and Cornell University will receive an Award for Scientific Excellence from the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD), which is part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The BIFAD award recognizes significant achievements originating from work performed through a USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab, which has provided support for the livestock insurance project since its inception via the BASIS Assets and Market Access Innovation Lab team, now based at UC Davis.

‘More than a decade of research into the conditions that contribute to poverty among pastoralist communities produced a strong set of solutions that Andrew and the rest of the BASIS team skillfully implemented in the field’, said Michael Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics at the UC Davis. ‘It’s exactly the kind of work Borlaug envisioned when he urged agriculture researchers to take their solutions directly to farmers and food producers, particularly in places whether they face a daily struggle to survive.’

Mixing technology and innovation with grassroots outreach
A Kenyan native who received his PhD from Cornell University, 39-year-old Mude leads a project called Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), which is greatly reducing the vulnerability of East Africa’s livestock herding families to recurring droughts.

‘With today’s changing climate, and the increasing frequency of droughts, weather-based insurance has become a critical tool in building the resilience of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations’, said Mamadou Biteye, managing director of The Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office. ‘By utilizing the most current technology, Dr Mude’s innovation is helping livestock herders protect their livelihoods. We can provide herders with no better form of food security than by empowering them to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change.’

A key feature of the program is its use of satellite data gathered every ten days by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and then processed by NASA to create a ‘vegetation index’ that allows Mude and his colleagues to track the density of vegetation available to pastoralists in the Horn of Africa. Payouts are made to policy holders when the index shows that forage availability has declined below an agreed threshold. That’s a signal that rains have failed and drought—responsible for 75 per cent of livestock deaths in the region—is at hand.

Before the innovative IBLI approach was implemented, African herders had no access to livestock insurance to protect their most valuable assets, whose losses can lead to a lifetime of poverty. Yet it was highly impractical and costly for insurance claim adjusters to travel through the vast rangelands of East Africa to confirm dead animals and pay claims. The satellite data provides a solution to that problem: Its measurement of forage serve as a proxy for conditions on the ground that could imperil livestock.

‘This is a much-deserved recognition that does more than just honour Andrew; it also makes a powerful statement about the importance of livestock to the food security of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people’, said ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith. ‘For a billion people in the world today, livestock are their most valuable asset—an irreplaceable source of food, income and labor—and protecting them, as Andrew and his colleagues are doing, should be a high priority.’

Since launching IBLI in 2008, Mude and his team have engaged local herders and leaders in building and delivering education programs—employing videos, innovative games, cartoons, radio broadcasts and most recently mobile learning applications—to increase understanding of the principles and coverage of the insurance product. These learning tools help teach basic concepts of livestock insurance, like the fact that premiums must be paid even if grazing conditions stay healthy and no payout occurs.

‘Our engagement with the community has resulted in a number of important insights leading to continued improvement of the IBLI product and the efficiency of service-delivery. For example, where payouts were previously made to replace dead livestock, they are now made when rains fail and drought appears imminent, giving herders the means to purchase feed, medicine or other inputs that will help their animals survive the drought. This is proving more effective at providing a safety net for herding households than making payouts to help replace dead animals’, explained Mude.

From a pilot project to a country-wide initiative
Since 2010, when IBLI began offering insurance contracts in one county in Kenya, it has expanded across northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia; 11,750 herders in northern Kenya (Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera counties) and 3,905 herders in southern Ethiopia have purchased IBLI insurance contracts. Since 2011, more than USD200,000 in payouts—USD159,000 in Kenya and USD50,000 in Ethiopia—have been triggered by poor herding conditions.

The results from the project are encouraging. For example, evidence from the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa found that households insured with IBLI were less likely to sell off livestock or reduce meals as coping strategies. Overall, insured households are more likely to invest in veterinary services and to have greater milk productivity. And children in the insured households are more likely to be better nourished.

Governments have taken notice and are now adopting the model and partnering with the IBLI team. The Kenyan Government is now providing IBLI coverage to 9,000 households through the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) and expects to cover 80,000 to 100,000 households by 2019. Most recently, in late August 2016, KLIP made indemnity payments to a few hundred herders in Kenya’s huge and arid northern county of Wajir, which has suffered prolonged drought.

And in Ethiopia, a government pilot project spearheaded by Mude’s team is working to expand its insurance program, while the World Food Programme (WFP) is making IBLI-type insurance a key pillar of its food security strategy in Ethiopia’s pastoralist lowlands. Other governments and development agencies are seeking help in testing IBLI-type policies across West Africa’s Sahel and in the drylands of southern Africa.

We have the satellite technology needed
to monitor grazing conditions in the remotest of regions. We should be using it to ensure that Africa’s
remote livestock herders have access to the basic insurance
farmers around the world take for granted. We draw inspiration from Borlaug’s lifelong commitment
to ensure his research makes a difference. Together with many partners and the herders themselves—
and only together—we’re determined to find new ways
to help millions of people continue to practice
the oldest form of sustainable food production
the world has ever seen. —Andrew Mude

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to improve food and nutrition security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research on efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock. The products generated by ILRI and its partners help people in developing countries enhance their livestock-dependent livelihoods, health and environments. ILRI is a CGIAR research centre working for a food-secure future. ILRI is co-hosted by the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia, and has offices in 16 countries across southern and West Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia.

Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) is a project developed in partnership by ILRI, Cornell University and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access hosted by the University of California at Davis, and involving a whole range of other important stakeholders. The IBLI project has been funded by the World Bank Group, the UK’s DfID, USAID, the European Union and the Australian DFAT. Further information on the wider program agenda is available at

About the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application
An independent jury of experts chaired by Ronnie Coffman selected Mude from an impressive group of candidates who were evaluated based on the attributes and accomplishments that reflect those demonstrated by Norman Borlaug during his work at The Rockefeller Foundation in developing high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat in Mexico and introducing adaptable wheat varieties into India and Pakistan during the 1950s and 1960s, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. More details at

The World Food Prize was created in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Norman Borlaug. It is the foremost international award recognizing individuals whose achievements have advanced human development by increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The prize was endowed by the Ruan family of Des Moines, Iowa. Businessman John Ruan III now serves as chairman of the foundation and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, former US Ambassador to Cambodia, is president of the organization. A selection committee of experts from around the world oversees the nomination and selection process, and is chaired by MS Swaminathan, of India, who was the first World Food Prize Laureate. Other past prize winners include former president of Ghana, John Kufour; US senators Bob Dole and George McGovern; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus; Yuan Longping, of China, and former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Catherine Bertini.

An updated look at ILRI research programs: The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the fourth of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub) is a shared research platform that is a centre of excellence for biosciences in Africa. The Hub provides African scientists working to reduce major agricultural problems on the continent with advanced bioscience technologies, platforms, services and capacity building.

The two main objectives of the BecA-ILRI Hub are to (1) increase agricultural productivity and improve food and nutritional safety and security, largely through use of new technologies, and (2) educate and train the next generation of African agricultural research leaders and scientists.


Regarding exciting science, in this session we heard that Brachiaria, the ‘wonder’ grass of Africa that has transformed South American pastures, is finally coming home to make a difference to African animal husbandry.

Sita Ghimire, a scientist with the BecA-ILRI Hub,
is passionate about climate-smart Brachiaria grass. New cultivars of this grass are being developed
with small-scale farmers in participatory ways. With the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research
Organization, the Rwanda Agriculture Board,
and groups of small-scale farmers
in those two countries, Ghimire’s team,
working in a ‘climate-smart’ project,
has identified five Brachiaria cultivars
well-adapted to drought and low-fertility soils. About 5,000 farmers in Kenya and Rwanda
were provided with Brachiaria seeds and
training in how to cultivate this ‘wonder grass’. Some 5,000 farmers are participating in
this BecA-ILRI Hub Brachiaria project
from northwestern Kenya alone,
indicating involvement of more than
16,000 farmers in the project. The technology generated by this project
is being up scaled in Kenya and Mali
though the USAID-funded
Feed the Future Program. —ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact the BecA-ILRI Hub director Appolinaire Djikeng, a.djikeng [at]

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Feed and Forage Development

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the third of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

ILRI animal feed scientist Michael Blümmel says
mixed farmers can replace sorghum crops with maize
for dual food-feed use on their farms. At least one key
partner along a livestock value chain needs to have good
understanding of its science as well as context.
Collaborating with such experts is a strength of ILRI’s.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 ILRI Feed and Forage
Development Program Vision

The vision of ILRI’s Feed and Forage Development program is that (1) researchers and farmers are using diverse forage germplasm that is accessible and available from a global collection and (2) researchers and development agents are using a comprehensive knowledge base on forage diversity for their selection and development work.


Staff of ILRI’s Feed and Forage Development program are working to reduce feed costs and provide improved feeds, forages and feeding strategies to smallholder food producers in developing countries.


This program has three teams working on feeds and feeding strategies, conservation and use of forage diversity, and making better used of genetic variability in feeds and forages.

Exciting new science Chris Jones is excited about new AFEX technology
that helps to break down rice straw and increases
its digestibility. He sees large potential for productivity
gains among smallholder food producers.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

Among the exciting new science projects is one known as ‘ammonia fibre expansion’ (AFEX™), which is leveraging spin-off and game-changing technologies from second-generation biofuels for deconstructing ligno-cellulosic biomass for livestock feed. With the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, ILRI is conducting pilot studies on making rice and wheat straw and maize, sorghum and pearl millet stover more digestible by cattle and other ruminant animals.

Another exciting area of this program is making optimal use of the genetic diversity held in ILRI’s Forage Genebank in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of Napier (aka ‘elephant’) grass, an excellent fodder widely planted by smallholder dairy producers.

Yet another exciting area of this research is use of cassava peel as livestock feed.

ILRI post-doctoral fellow Tunde Amole,
who is based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso,
reported that cassava peels, an abundant food waste in
Nigeria, are being turned into nourishing animal feed,
with good processing ensuring a very low level of
aflatoxin contamination of this feed. There are
already signs of broad uptake of this feed,
with Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment now
establishing six new processing plants.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact ILRI’s Feed and Forage Development program leader Chris Jones: c.jones [at]

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Animal and Human Health

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the second of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

ILRI’s new Animal and Human Health program makes
use of ILRI’s strong scientific infrastructure—which
includes an animal farm and a large ranch in East Africa
as well as several first-rate biosciences laboratories in
Africa and Asia—a rarity in developing countries.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 ILRI Animal and Human Health Program Objectives

ILRI’s new Animal and Human Health program brings together all health-related research at ILRI into one program. The program incorporates four thematic research areas: livestock vaccines and diagnostics, herd health, zoonoses and emerging infectious diseases, and food safety.

The program promotes a trans-disciplinary approach to health to accomplish three main objectives:

  • Increase the productivity of tropical livestock through better animal health
  • Reduce the negative impacts of small-scale, developing-country agriculture on human health
  • Improve animal, human and ecosystem health through One Health approaches




Both the geographic spread and product lines
of ILRI’s new Animal and Human Health program
are extensive, reaching from sub-Saharan Africa to
East and Southeast Asia and from discovery to delivery.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016


slide12 Exciting new science


Eric Fèvre, on joint appointment at the University
of Liverpool and ILRI and leading an ‘Urban Zoo’ project,
says the next ‘super-bug’ is likely to emerge in an urban setting.
His interdisciplinary team will help determine effective
interventions to stop such emerging infectious diseases
transmitted among wildlife, livestock and people.
His team has just completed a study of 99 households
in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, conducted to map the spread
of pathogens and prevent the next pandemic.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

Watch a fascinating 2-minute video made by Steve Baragona of Voice of America about Fèvre’s Urban Zoo project being conducted in the slums and markets and wider environs of Nairobi, Kenya.


Bernard Bett’s downstream research and partnership
building has helped African governments to develop
more effective disease control policies.
A decision-support framework, for example,
is helping governments coordinate their responses to
outbreaks of Rift Valley fever. This project’s risk maps
and surveillance work help to refine target areas
for control efforts and the steps to take when an
outbreak has occurred or is likely to occur.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Bernard Bett described other exciting research that has made significant progress in better controlling Rift Valley fever, a mosquito-borne disease of both livestock and people, in East Africa, even though outbreaks of this ‘zoonotic’ disease occur rapidly but after long periods where no outbreaks occur, which presents two challenges: (1) disease control authorities have little lead time to prepare for an outbreak and (2) the capacity to respond to outbreaks of this disease diminishes greatly between outbreaks.


View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program leaders Vish Nene, v.nene [at], and Delia Grace, d.grace [at]

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Livestock Genetics

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the first of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

Do we need an African version of ‘Dolly the (Cloned) Sheep’?
ILRI geneticist Steve Kemp says, Yes, we do need a ‘poster child’
for this genetics research—even an ILRI breed.
But it’s hard to get funding for such long-term genetics work.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016 ILRI Livestock Genetics Program Vision

The vision of ILRI’s Livestock Genetics program is to be a valued and globally recognized partner that provides state-of-the art breeding technologies and data platforms as well as leadership in gene discovery, in genetic diversity and in continuous improvement, delivery and promotion of more productive and healthy livestock raised in tropical production systems.

Staff of this program are working towards the following outcomes: appropriate livestock breeds are readily available, affordable and widely used by poor livestock keepers (women and men both), resulting in increased livestock productivity leading to improved food and nutritional security, livelihoods and natural resources.


The objectives of the Livestock Genetics program are the following.

  • Determine the most appropriate genetic improvement strategies for different livestock production systems.
  • Discover the genes responsible for better productivity and resilience and develop or adapt technologies to incorporate these genes efficiently in local breeding programs.
  • Design and support implementation of sound breeding programs and delivery of the desired genetics to a range of livestock keepers.
  • Identify policy gaps and provide the evidence and need for policies and institutional arrangements that would enable improved access to, and sustainable use of, livestock genetic resources.

This program will work on dairy and dual-purpose cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry.

The short-term plans of the program are to apply existing ICT and genomic technologies to better understand existing livestock genetic diversity and to roll out systems for on-farm testing and models for delivery of promising existing genetics.  Over the medium term, the program will work to identify genes and gene networks underpinning important livestock traits and to incorporate these genes in breeding programs. The long-term plan of the program is to integrate breeding and molecular technologies in optimized livestock genetic programs.

Example of upstream research ILRI geneticist Steve Kemp on genome editing at ILRI: Using the new genome editing tools, virtually anyone can design any organism they want in their kitchen. Well, it may not be quite that simple—but it is relatively easy and cheap—and it’s definitely revolutionary. The key to the power in this work is the marriage of phenotype to genotype. We can now use genome editing tools to both validate and deliver desired genetic variants to an animal. We can now work with potential SNPs and start looking for further SNPs.



Example of applied research ILRI geneticist Karen Marshall on the Senegal Dairy Genetics project: We aimed to identify which breed or cross-breed dairy animal is most appropriate for smallholder pastoral and peri-urban farmers in Senegal to keep. We monitored more than 300 cattle and 200 households and collected lots of data.




View the whole presentation here. For more information, contact ILRI’s Livestock Genetics program leader Steve Kemp: s.kemp [at]