A livestock carcass in northern Kenya, which has suffered prolonged drought (photo via Flickr by CIAT/Neil Palmer).
Widespread drought conditions in the Horn of Africa have intensified since the failure of the Oct–Dec 2016 rains. Areas of greatest concern cover much of Somalia, northeast and coastal Kenya, southeast Ethiopia and the Afar region, and South Sudan, which faces a serious food crisis due to protracted insecurity. One focus of the East African-headquartered International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is to help developing-country livestock communities enhance their resilience in the face of recurring droughts. ILRI belongs to CGIAR—a global research partnership of 15 centres and their partners working yo reduce poverty, enhance food and nutrition security and improve natural resources and ecosystem services.
Below are some livestock examples of what CGIAR/ILRI have done to help ameliorate the impacts of the on-going drought in the Horn.
Pastoral livestock insurance
A high-profile example of ILRI’s work to help the Horn’s dryland communities better cope with drought is an ‘index-based livestock insurance (IBLI)’ scheme, for which the Kenya government made a recent announcement (21 Feb 2017): Record payouts being made by Kenya Government and insurers to protect herders facing historic drought. This novel livestock insurance approach has been applied in the drylands of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia but not yet in South Sudan or Somalia, which are bearing the brunt of the impacts of the current on-going drought in the Horn of Africa.
Livestock master plan
Over the last 20 years, the Ethiopian government has prioritized the transformation of the agricultural sector, yet the absence of a livestock roadmap has hindered implementation. The potential benefits of a comprehensive Livestock Master Plan are large. With a relatively modest sum, less than USD400 million over five years, a plan developed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture with the support of ILRI aims to reduce poverty among 2.36 million livestock-keeping households, helping family farms move to market-oriented commercial operations. Beyond the direct benefits it provides rural families, implementation of the Livestock Master Plan should lower food prices for poor urban dwellers. Development of Ethiopia’s Livestock Master Plan was overseen by a high-level technical advisory committee comprising directors of key Ministry of Agriculture—Livestock State Ministry departments and institutes as well as representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production and the Ethiopian Veterinary Association.
Developing livestock markets
Livestock are central to livelihoods as well as national economies in this heavily livestock-dependent region.
—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI assistant director general
In Somaliland, for example, where livestock form the backbone of the economy (livestock production accounts for about 60% of the Somaliland’s gross domestic product, 70% of its employment opportunities, 85% of its export earnings and 15% of its total government revenue), ILRI has a project investigating ways to grow livestock markets (Saudi livestock market requirements, implications for Somaliland) and a livestock marketing information system developed by Terra Nuova and ILRI improved access to animal marketing information and increased trading in livestock in Somaliland.
Targeting resilience investments
A former CGIAR initiative, the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa, provided support to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in developing regional and national investment programs for the long-term development and resilience of populations living in the Horn of Africa. Hosted by CGIAR (ILRI, World AgroForestry Centre and the International Food Policy Research Institute) and housed at ILRI, the Technical Consortium was established in 2011 as a knowledge management and research platform that combined science and development best practices to serve IGAD and its seven member states—Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda—as well as development partners and donors. The consortium helped align the work of research and knowledge institutions with country development priorities. It harnessed CGIAR research and other knowledge on interventions to enhance drought resilience. And it provided IGAD and its member states with evidence and technical support for planning investments aiming to enhance the resilience of communities in arid and semi-arid lands.