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Livestock for food security and nutrition—Committee on World Food Security policy recommendations

Tana River watershed, Kenya

Rachael Njeri has started growing forage strips on her farm in the Kenya’s Tana River watershed. The forage plants help prevent soil erosion and provide feed for her cattle (photo credit: CIAT/Georgina Smith).

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Oct 2016 endorsed recommendations on Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: What roles for livestock?

The following policy recommendations build on the main findings of the CFS High Level Panel of Expert’s Jul 2016 report #10, 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 sector to sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition 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.

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.

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 re-state recommendations and related guidance previously provided in other CFS products.


The recommendations listed below under ‘Part I:  Sustainable Agricultural Development’ apply to all agricultural systems including livestock systems; specific references to livestock are coloured in burgundy. The specific recommendations listed under ‘Part II: Livestock Production Systems’ address particular challenges for the livestock sector. In the list below, both the burgundy highlights and the headings in ALL CAPS have been added to the original list of policy recommendations, found here.

Part I: Sustainable Agricultural Development I. Foster policy coherence for food security and nutrition a. INTEGRATED FOOD/AGRICULTURE/LIVESTOCK POLICIES

Promote integration of food security and nutrition 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 programmes.


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


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. ANIMAL SOURCED FOOD FOR HEALTHY DIETS/NUTRITION

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 SDG 12.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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. RIGHTS OF WOMEN

Respect, protect and fulfil the rights of women working in agriculture, including the livestock sector.


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. YOUTH INITIATIVES

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. AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY

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.


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.


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.


Recognize, respect and protect those traditional production systems, including pastoral systems and their mobility strategies, that use ecosystems sustainably and contribute significantly to the food security and nutrition of their communities and associated ways of life.


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.


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. TENURE RIGHTS

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.


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.


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.


Enhance access to livestock insurance for all systems, including index-based insurance.


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 Peste des Petits Ruminants Global Eradication Programme.

VII. Promote cooperation and collaboration in innovation, research and development and address data needs a. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

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.


Promote global collaboration for collection and dissemination of relevant and disaggregated data, especially by sex.


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.


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


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

Part II: Livestock Production Systems All Systems VIII. Improve animal health and welfare a. VETERINARY SERVICES

Enable access to veterinary and extension services, vaccinations, medications, including antimicrobials, adapted to the specific livestock production systems.


Improve animal health management including biosafety and biosecurity, particularly focusing on infectious diseases, zoonosis, and reducing exposure to environmental hazards, by following OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) standards, and the One Health approach.


In accordance with the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) (September/2016), the WHO7 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.


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


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. PASTORAL SYSTEMS

Enhance the effectiveness, sustainability, and resilience of pastoral systems for food security and nutrition.


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.


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. ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

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.


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. CROP-LIVESTOCK INTEGRATION

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.


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.


Promote manure management and the use of by-products and re-use and recycling of waste, as appropriate, while protecting water and air quality, and improving soil health.

XII. Promote the sustainability of intensive systems a. FEED PRODUCTION/USE
Reduce pressure on resources by promoting the efficiency of feed crop production and feed use and the sustainable use of appropriate by-products for feed. b. PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY/ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Improve production efficiency and protect the environment, including by improving the management of waste and the use of by-products, and through the use and sharing of innovative and appropriate technologies and practices.


Ensure that working and living conditions meet national and internationally agreed labour standards and reduce occupational hazards and other harmful effects on workers across the value chain.


Promote a physical environment and genetic selection that ensures compliance with the OIE welfare standards, including the Five Freedoms.

About the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
CFS is the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way to ensure food security and nutrition for all. CFS endorses policy recommendations on a wide range of food security and nutrition topics.

CFS is the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all. The Committee reports to the UN General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and to FAO Conference.

Using a multi-stakeholder, inclusive approach, CFS develops and endorses policy recommendations and guidance on a wide range of food security and nutrition topics.  These are developed starting from scientific and evidence-based reports produced by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) and/or through work supported technically by The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP) and representatives of theCFS Advisory Group. CFS holds an annual Plenary session every October in FAO, Rome.

About the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE)
The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) was established in 2010 as the science-policy interface of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The HLPE aims to improve the robustness of policy making by providing independent, evidence-based analysis and advice at the request of CFS.

About ILRI’s involvement in the CFS report on livestock
The ten HPLE project team members who prepared the CFS Report #10 on sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition, including the role of livestock, which was presented at the 43rd CFS Plenary Session in Oct 2016, was led by Wilfred Legg (UK), an agricultural economist, and included among its team members Delia Grace (Ireland), a veterinary epidemiologist and zoonotic disease and food safety expert leading a research program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and two flagships of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In addition to Grace, the other team members included Khaled Abbas (Algeria), Daniela Alfaro (Uruguay), Botir Dosov (Uzbekistan), Neil Fraser (New Zealand) Robert Habib (France), Claudia Job Schmitt (Brazil), Langa Simela (Zimbabwe) and Funing Zhong (China).

The multiple benefits of livestock are in focus this week as experts meet in Ethiopia

Fritz Schneider, GASL chair

Fritz Schneider, chair of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

By Paul Karaimu

More than 250 livestock experts from over 50 countries are exploring ways of ensuring that the long-term benefits of livestock contribute to sustainable development. They’re participating in the 7th Multi-Stakeholder Partnership meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL), in Ethiopia, this week.

The 8–12 May 2017 meeting was officially opened by His Excellency Professor Fekadu Beyene, Ethiopia’s minister for livestock and fisheries, on Monday in the capital, Addis Ababa.

‘This meeting will enable us to share the multiple benefits we’re deriving from sustainable livestock initiatives, including those supported by the Ethiopia Livestock Master Plan (2015) and Growth and Transformation Plan Two (GTP 2)’, said Beyene.

The minister highlighted the Ethiopian government’s ambitious steps to efficiently utilize its vast livestock resources and make the sector a driver of the transformation of the country’s agriculture-based economy. These measures include providing good-quality farm inputs at affordable prices, boosting small-scale irrigation schemes, minimizing post-harvest losses and controlling and eradicating major livestock and livestock-transmitted human diseases.

‘Ethiopia is keen to learn from others’ knowledge and experiences to enhance the country’s capacity to practice sustainable livestock to reduce poverty and increase food security,’ the minister said.

Beyene highlighted drought resilience initiatives supported by the Ethiopian government and development partners, which he said helped the country better manage the impacts of the severe drought Ethiopia and other countries of the Horn of Africa have experienced in recent months. Other measures boosting livestock production in the country include irrigating pasture lands, creating fodder banks and improving livestock husbandry practices and market access by the poor.

Representatives of organizations co-hosting the event also spoke during the opening.

Her Excellency Misrak Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s state minister for livestock and fisheries, said that participants in the meeting will discuss how livestock-based solutions can contribute to sustainable development.

Fritz Schneider, chair of GASL, said the partnership is based on the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. ‘The Global Agenda provides a platform, regionally and locally rooted, to comprehensively address the multiple opportunities the livestock sector presents for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).’

‘Participants will discuss tools to facilitate sustainable livestock sector development and cases of practice change will be demonstrated. Learning tours will also show successful local efforts towards sustainable sector development,’ Schneider added.

Ren Wang, assistant director general for agriculture and consumer protection at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said the Global Agenda is ‘uniquely positioned to promote the livestock sector, which generates widespread benefits for people and the planet’.

‘Agriculture, which includes livestock, lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and both sectors seek to address the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development simultaneously,’ Wang said. ‘FAO is committed to ensuring the livestock sector contributes to food security and the elimination of poverty while reducing the sector’s environmental footprint and resource use.’

FAO is actively involved in and hosts the secretariats of GASL and the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) partnership. It is also supports Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 and other initiatives that are developing tools and models, such as the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM), and guidelines to monitor the development of the sector.

‘This week’s dialogue will help ensure that livestock continue to yield long-term benefits. Our goal is to work toward that for the long-term and ultimately reach a zero-hunger world,’ Wang said.

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said the meeting was special for ILRI, one of the founder members of the partnership.

The Global Agenda provides a forum for ILRI to move from theory to practice at the interface of livestock and development.
—Jimmy Smith

Smith said this year’s meeting, which is taking place in Ethiopia, ‘one of ILRI’s homes’, involves more ILRI scientists than ever before and comes at an opportune time when the institute is seeking to ensure its livestock research solutions get taken to scale.

The year’s meeting will share and discuss progress in the development of tools and models to monitor sustainable livestock sector development. It will articulate lessons from successful tool application and practice change. It will also identify opportunities that GASL and its members can exploit to ensure multiple benefits accrue from sustainable livestock development.

See more at:

Milk consumption project to tackle child malnutrition in Rwanda

Feed the Future Livestock Systems Innovations Lab (LSIL) project inception workshop in Rwanda

Participants at an inception workshop for a project on enhancing milk quality and consumption in Rwanda (photo credit: ILRI/Emily Ouma).

Increasing dairy production and consumption of quality milk is key to eradicating child malnutrition in Rwanda, where 38% of children under the age of five are stunted.

This was stressed at an inception workshop for a new International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)-led Feed the Future Livestock Systems Innovations Lab (LSIL) project on ‘Enhancing milk quality and consumption for improved income and nutrition in Rwanda’ on 7 March 2017 in Kigali.

Designed to contribute to efforts towards enhancing milk quality and consumption for improved incomes and nutrition in the country, the three-year project builds on the work and lessons of a previous Government of Rwanda program known as ‘One cow per poor family’ or ‘Girinka’; and a recently ended United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Rwanda Dairy Competitiveness Program (RDCP II).

The new project will focus on:

  • Evaluating the impact of a nutrition education intervention on the consumption and nutrition outcomes from animal-source foods for children aged 12–23 months, and pregnant and lactating women.
  • Assessing and enhancing performance and capacity of dairy cooperatives to improve market access for smallholder milk producers.
  • Evaluating the costs and benefits to value chain agents for supplying milk that meets the seal of quality standards.

Despite commendable economic growth, Rwanda is still plagued by poverty and chronic child malnutrition. Increasing consumption of animal-source foods is, however, expected to improve incomes, dietary diversity and child health.

The project will be implemented in two–four districts, covering up to two milk sheds in the country. Project sites will be selected based on the levels of child malnutrition and milk production as well as previous links with RDCP II.

This project is jointly implemented by ILRI, RTI International, University of Rwanda and TechnoServe. The Livestock Systems Innovations Lab is funded by Feed the Future and implemented by University of Florida.

Read the workshop report here

Creating a science hub in Ethiopia

 ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Jimmy Smith briefs journalist from Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtabmu).

With the opening of the latest high-tech forage genebank and bioscience research facilities, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Ethiopia is well on the way to realizing it dream of becoming a major science and agricultural research hub in eastern Africa. Speaking at the beginning of the launch of the new facilities yesterday, Siboniso Moyo, representative in Ethiopia to the ILRI director general, spoke of the new facilities as the beginning of a drive to upscale facilities on the campus.

‘We have identified accessions held in the ILRI genebank which are both tolerant to drought and resistant to the main diseases affecting Napier grass. Having improved forages that perform well in the face of drought stress would be particularly significant for Ethiopia at this moment. We are currently establishing a drought trial with that in mind. These are the sorts of challenges—relevant to the lives of millions of smallholder farmers—which will guide our future research priorities’.

On 24 April 2017, ILRI officially opened state-of-the-art facilities for genebank and bioscience research. The facilities will help protect a crucial component of the planet’s biodiversity—the diverse grasses and legumes that feed the world’s food animals. Research conducted here on livestock feed materials improves the sustainability and productivity of the livestock sector in many low-income countries across the world.

Addressing an audience of government, embassy, donor and civil society officials, ILRI director general, Jimmy Smith, highlighted the potential importance of the role of the new facilities in the future collection, conservation, multiplication, distribution and quality control of forage seeds, crucial to promoting higher productivity of livestock.

‘Adequate year-round feeding of livestock is widely accepted as one of the key constraints in livestock production systems in the tropics. ILRI has recognized this by establishing the Feed and Forage Development Program led from the ILRI Ethiopia campus’, Smith added.

The ILRI Forage Genebank is one of 11 genebanks within CGIAR, a global partnership of 15 international research centres working with national and other partners for a food-secure future. The CGIAR genebanks are located in countries that are ‘centres of origin’ of key food crops so as to make optimal use of the natural diversity of indigenous plants. Researchers use the tens of thousands of diverse crop materials stored and conserved in these genebanks to discover and develop high-yielding crop varieties well adapted to diverse tropical agro-ecologies. All the germplasm stored in the CGIAR genebanks, including ILRI’s, is held in trust under an International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This germplasm, safely stored for use by researchers today and by those in future generations, is made freely available to all.

Feed constraints were also high on the agenda of the government of Ethiopia. Representing the Minister of Livestock and Fishery, Fekadu Beyene, his state minister for livestock, Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, stressed the crucial need to increase productivity in the sector. If the targets set by the government for increasing meat, milk and egg production are to be met, a secure supply of high quality year-round feed is a prerequisite.

Genebank facilities at the ILRI Addis Ababa campus

The new genebank at the ILRI Addis Ababa campus, 24 April 2017 (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

State minister Gebregziabher welcomed the opening of the centre and the opportunities available to build the capacity of Ethiopian scientists and research facilities. But we should not stop at feed development, he said, there are also needs in the areas of animal health and genetics. Advances in all these areas are crucial to building the capacity of the country to guarantee the food security needs of its growing population.

‘The task is made more difficult by the frequent droughts which are causing loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation, especially in lowland rangelands’, according to the director of the Ethiopian Bioversity Institute, Melesse Maryo, speaking on behalf of Gemedo Dale, minister for the environment, forest and climate change.

Even in good years, livestock feed is in short supply leading to overdependence on natural pastures and overgrazing of rangelands. ILRI has a large collection of dryland forages with many grasses from the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa. Developing these resources offers Ethiopia and other countries in similar circumstances huge opportunities.

Accessing quality forage seeds is critical and the time is right to enhance the support provided to the national agricultural system, the director of the livestock directorate of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, Getnet Assefa, said, reiterating the state minister’s call for capacity building.

One low hanging fruit, said Chris Jones, ILRI leader of the Feeds and forages development program, is the work of Napier grasses being undertaken at the institute.

‘We have identified accessions held in the ILRI genebank which are both tolerant to drought and resistant to the main diseases affecting Napier grass. Having improved forages that perform well in the face of drought stress would be particularly significant for Ethiopia at this moment. We are currently establishing a drought trial with that in mind. These are the sorts of challenges—relevant to the lives of millions of smallholder farmers—which will guide our future research priorities’.


ILRI gratefully acknowledges the donor organizations that have contributed to the construction of ILRI’s new genebank and bioscience facilities and those donor organizations that have generously supported ILRI’s Forage Genebank in the past. These organizations are: Bioversity International, Bundesministerium für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), CGIAR Genebanks Platform, CGIAR Research Program for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, European Union, Global Crop Diversity Trust, UK Department for International Development, World Bank and World Vision. ILRI also thanks the countries, organizations and individuals that support its other livestock-research-for-development work and all the investors that globally support its work through their contributions to the CGIAR system. Without this intellectual and financial support, ILRI could not make a difference in helping people make better lives through livestock.

ILRI opens state-of-the-art genebank and bioscience facilities in Ethiopia


ILRI’s new Forage Genebank and Bioscience facility, located on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Jean Hanson).

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) officially opens state-of-the-art facilities for genebank and bioscience research today, 24 April 2017. The facilities will help protect a crucial component of the planet’s biodiversity—the diverse grasses and legumes that feed the world’s food animals. Research conducted here on livestock feed materials improves the sustainability and productivity of the livestock sector in many low-income countries across the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa, and Ethiopia in particular, is the ‘centre of origin’ of most of the world’s common forage grasses. With Ethiopia’s unique highland flora, including indigenous clovers and tropical highland grasses, it is highly appropriate that ILRI has located its forage genebank at its principal campus in Ethiopia. For many decades, ILRI has been entrusted with responsibility for conserving and managing a unique global collection of 19,000 forage plant accessions. Of particular note in the collection is germplasm of tropical highland forages from East Africa and drought-tolerant grasses from the Sahel and the drylands of southern Africa.

The ILRI Forage Genebank is one of 11 genebanks within CGIAR, a global partnership of 15 international research centres working with national and other partners for a food-secure future. The CGIAR genebanks are located in countries that are ‘centres of origin’ of key food crops so as to make optimal use of the natural diversity of indigenous plants. Researchers use the tens of thousands of diverse crop materials stored and conserved in these genebanks to discover and develop high-yielding crop varieties well adapted to diverse tropical agro-ecologies. All the germplasm storied in the CGIAR genebanks, including ILRI’s, is held in trust under an International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This germplasm, safely stored for use by researchers today and by those in future generations, is made freely available to all.

Explaining why the new facilities are so important for Ethiopia and the region, Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, said: ‘ILRI’s expanded laboratory facility, and users’ applications of its advanced biotechnologies, will help develop the ways and means to feed livestock better. This launch is happening as the Horn of Africa copes with the effects of one of the severest droughts to hit this region in decades.’

As Ethiopians well know, forages matter to people as well as animals. By conserving and genetically improving its forage plants, Ethiopia not only feeds and sustains its large livestock population but also, through those efforts, nourishes its human population. —Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general

The formal opening of the new facilities, starting at 15.30 on 24 April 2017, will take place at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa at the end of the 47th ILRI Board of Trustees Meeting.

Short presentations will be made by several dignitaries, including HE Gemedo Dale, minister for the environment, forest and climate change; HE Fekadu Beyene, minister of livestock and fishery; Lindsay Falvey, chair of the ILRI Board of Trustees; Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI; and Siboniso Moyo, the ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia. HE Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, state minister for livestock and fishery, will also attend.

‘With Ethiopia’s pasture lands diminishing in size, year-round access to good-quality forages is becoming crucial to the common practice of supplementing low-quality crop residue feeds’, Smith continued. ‘Research conducted here by Ethiopian and international scientists on the natural diversity of forages will identify plant genotypes with desired traits—those that have the potential to increase milk and meat production, for example, and those that enable plant survival under a harsh and changing climate.

‘Importantly’, Smith concluded, ‘these new laboratory facilities will improve the ability of researchers to diagnose diseases of forage plants and to identify pathogens that can contaminate meat, milk and eggs, putting food safety at risk.’

Shared and used by ILRI’s national partners in Ethiopia and abroad, the new laboratories are an investment in the future, in building the capacity of the next generation of young scientists.
—Jimmy Smith

ILRI’s new Forage Genebank, on the ILRI Addis Ababa campus (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Further information
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.

ILRI is an international research institute co-hosted by the Government of Kenya in Nairobi and the Government of Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa. It works through a network of regional and country offices and projects in East, South and Southeast Asia and Central, East, Southern and West Africa.

ILRI leads the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock, leads a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health on the prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases, and contributes to several other CGIAR research programs and platforms. Staff members work in integrated programs that develop and deliver science-based practices, provide scientific evidence for decision-making and develop capacities of livestock-sector stakeholders. ILRI is the co-founder, with the AU-NEPAD, of the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub) on its Nairobi campus where world-class facilities for biotechnology research are in use by ILRI, other international centres and many national partners. The platform increases access to advanced laboratories for African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges.

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security and improving natural resources and ecosystem services. Its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR centres in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.

ILRI gratefully acknowledges the donors which have contributed to the construction of this new facilities and to those which have generously supported the genebank in the past, including Bioversity International, CGIAR genebanks platform, CGIAR research program for managing and sustaining crop collections, the UK Department for International Development, European Union, German Bundesminister für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit (BMZ), German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Global Crop Diversity Trust, The World Bank and World Vision. It also thanks the countries, organizations and individuals which support its livestock-research-for-development work and all the investors that globally support its work through their contributions to the CGIAR system. Without this intellectual and financial support, ILRI could not make a difference in helping people make better lives through livestock.

Brachiaria grass can help Kenya’s dryland food producers improve their soils and yields under a changing climate

BecA-ILRI Hub scientist Sita Ghimire explains a point to Claes Kjellström

BecA-ILRI Hub scientist Sita Ghimire describes the advantages of Brachiaria grass to Claes Kjellström, senior policy specialist at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), in Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Marvin Wasonga).

The original article on which this is based was written by Ethel Makila, communications specialist for the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Results of a recent study by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub) and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), both based in Nairobi, indicate that the many people farming in Kenya’s semi-arid regions would profit in many ways from planting drought-tolerant Brachiaria grass.

The study shows that Brachiaria grass improves not only the productivity of dairy and other livestock but also the health of soils. With Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands making up 83 per cent of the country’s land area, the planting of Brachiaria grass in dry areas could have great impacts. Kenya’s drylands have marginal to low potential for crop production, not only because of lack of sufficient or regular rainfall, but also because the soils of these drylands are low in plant nutrients and prone to erosion.

This collaborative research of the BecA-ILI Hub and KALRO demonstrates that cultivation of Brachiaria grass improves soil quality by increasing the amount of plant available carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.

The study, Effects of Brachiaria grass cultivars on soil microbial biomass carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous in soils of the semi arid eastern Kenyais one of 24 papers recently published by KALRO on how Brachiaria grass helps farmers better cope with drought, the increases in milk and meat yields in animals fed Brachiaria grass, the central role this grass plays in improving soil quality, and the importance of establishing seed production systems to make Brachiaria seeds more available to farmers and profitable for farmers to grow.

Sita Ghimire, a co-author and co-editor of the study and a senior scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub leading its Brachiaria research, says this study is a culmination of pioneering research on the forage in East Africa.

‘Brachiaria has been used to transform livestock production in South America,’ says Ghimire; ‘however, despite the immense benefits it demonstrated in that region, the true potential of this grass is yet to be realized in its motherland, Africa.’

Livestock production already accounts for 10 per cent of the gross domestic product of Kenya, where a growing human population, increasing affluence and concomitant changes in food habits are increasing demand for livestock products. With more than 70 per cent of all the livestock in Kenya being raised in the country’s vast arid and semi-arid lands, research like this, to develop forage options that will increase and sustain livestock productivity in the face of climate change, is badly needed.

Sita Ghimire is a senior scientist at the BecA-ILRI Hub, which gratefully acknowledges Swedish funding of its project on Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses for improving livestock production in East Africa.

Read the paper: EM Gichangi, DMG Njarui, M Gatheru, KW Ndungu-Magiroi and Sita Ghimire, 2016. Effects of Brachiaria grass cultivars on soil microbial biomass carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in soils of the semi arid eastern Kenya. In: DMG Njarui, EM Gichangi, Sita Ghimire and RW Muinga (eds.), 2016. Climate Smart Brachiaria Grasses for Improving Livestock Production in East Africa—Kenya Experience: Proceedings of a Workshop Held in Naivasha, Kenya, 14–15 Sep 2016. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization: 179–193.

Read the original article written by Ethel Makila and posted on the BecA-ILRI Hub blog site: Climate-smart Brachiaria grass to help Kenyan farmers withstand global warming effects, 20 Apr 2017.

Simplistic livestock solutions no help for poor people in transition from smallholders to ‘smartholders’


Australian Nobel laureate Peter Doherty (left), former chair of the program committee of the ILRI Board of Trustees, and Australian Lindsay Falvey, current chair of the ILRI Board of Trustees. 

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who previously led the World Bank’s global livestock portfolio, was in Australia last week, talking to ILRI’s scientific colleagues and donor representatives in Canberra and Melbourne. ILRI is chaired by Australian Lindsay Falvey and its patron is Australian Nobel Prize laureate Peter Doherty.

Smith was in Australia for public addresses and meetings on the critical role of livestock in global food and nutrition security. In his talks, he countered some of the simplistic solutions to sustainability and health suggested for the livestock sector. Here’s some of what he had to say.

There is no moral equivalence between those who make bad food choices and consume too much animal-source food, and those many hungry people who, with no food choice at all, consume far too little. The livestock sector is under pressure from those in rich countries and communities who say that to save our planet we must get rid of livestock, or that to save our health, we must stop eating meat. Some of us probably do consume too much meat as well as sugars, fats and highly processed foods and I have no argument with those advocating not over-consuming such foods. I do argue strongly against those who say that those who eat so little meat should eat even less.

What will help raise livestock productivity by smallholder farmers and herders in low-income countries, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental harms, are today’s many scientific advances in such fields as livestock genetics, breeding, feeding and nutrition. Many of these come from Australia, which shares much of the sub-humid and semi-arid agro-ecologies of the developing nations of the world.

The central importance of livestock in the developing world is going to continue because per capita consumption of animal-source foods there is still low.

Consumption of meat in Africa, for example, is just 13 kg per person per year, while in Australia, it’s closer to 100 or more kg.

Livestock contribute not only by ensuring that enough food is produced, but also by helping to balance nutrient consumption and to diversify diets. There is also the income, manure and ploughing that animals provide, which contribute directly to crop production and form part of the income, food and nutritional equation for the poor.

Employment in the livestock sector—through opportunities in producing, processing and selling animals and their products, as well as in the provision of inputs and services that will underpin sectoral transformation—also offers major opportunities for addressing the ‘youth bulge’ in poor countries. Africa’s 19–25-year-olds, for example, are a large percentage of the continent’s total population and how they will all find employment is very important for national peace and prosperity.

Despite the varied and significant role that livestock play in development, the percentage of official development assistance (ODA) that agriculture gets is less than 5%, and the share that livestock gets of that agricultural ODA is again less than 5%.

The livestock sub-sector of agriculture gets a minuscule amount of ODA, despite the fact that the livestock sub-sector makes up 40% of agricultural GDP in developing countries. ILRI and our partners in Australia and around the world believe we must do more to help men, women and young people to grasp opportunities to help meet the rising demand for animal-source foods and to encourage the transition of nearly a billion people from being smallholders to ‘smartholders’.

View two slide presentations that Jimmy smith made last week in Australia.

Watch these 2-min video interviews of Peter Doherty:
Peter Doherty on international livestock research and ILRI
Peter Doherty on the role of science supporting Africa’s food production
Peter Doherty on zoonotic plagues
Peter Doherty on genomics, trypanosomosis disease resistance, and increased yields
Peter Doherty on challenges and opportunities of pig production in Southeast Asia
Peter Doherty on poultry genetics and the importance of eggs in African diets

Read news clippings about Jimmy Smith’s visit to Australia:
Farm Online (Australia) and Queensland Country Life: Simplistic anti-meat mantra hurts third world, 17 Apr 2017.
Devex: Q&A: Calls for greater investment of ODA into livestock sectors, 18 Apr 2017, reported on in an ILRI Clippings blog article: Jimmy Smith in Australia makes the case for greater investments in pro-poor livestock development, 19 Apr 2017.

From livestock smallholders to ‘smartholders’: Nurturing development with animal-source foods


Scientists from across the globe gathered at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences on 29–30 Mar 2017 to discuss ways to improve nutrition through animal-source foods in some of the most impoverished regions in the world.

Chronically affecting 24 per cent of the world’s children, roughly 159 million in 2014, malnutrition is responsible for almost half of all child deaths worldwide.

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, was one of the keynote speakers at the opening of the Global Nutrition Symposium, the theme of which was ‘Nurturing development: Improving human nutrition with animal-source foods’.

Download Smith’s whole presentation
(scientific references for the facts stated here appear in the notes):
The role of livestock in food and nutrition security

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, whose project coordinator is former ILRI scientist Saskia Hendrickx, convened at this conference the best and brightest minds tackling malnutrition through animal-source foods. The purpose: To find ways to better integrate science and field experiences to create more effective intervention strategies.

Speakers at the conference included eminent researchers at leading US and UK universities and international research organizations, as well as representatives of donor and development organizations such as the United Stages Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the World Bank and Heifer International.

The keynote presentation by Jimmy Smith of ILRI, on the role of livestock in food and nutrition security, begins with a review of livestock and global food security issues. I—LIVESTOCK AND GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY

Five of the six highest-value agricultural commodities, Smith noted, are produced by livestock. If economic growth and development is around value creation, he said, livestock must play a central role.

The central importance of livestock in the developing world is going to continue, Smith explained, because per capita consumption of animal-source foods there is still low. Consumption of meat in Africa, for example, is just 13 kg per person per year, while here in North America, it’s closer to 100 or more kg.

Even so, as incomes rise, people diversify their diets and include more animal-source foods. The figure above, with data projected to 2050, shows the difference between changing levels of consumption of animal-source foods in high-income countries, where demand for these foods has mostly stabilized, and in low- and middle-income countries, where the blue line here denotes rising egg consumption; the green line, rising milk consumption; the red line, rising pork consumption; and the orange line, rising consumption of poultry.

So we see that as incomes rise, as they are in developing countries, demand for animal-source foods is rising steeply.

The opportunity here is not only for animal-source foods to contribute to food and nutritional security but also to enhance incomes. That’s because, as the figure above indicates, most of the production in the developing world remains in the hands of smallholders. This means that we have a great opportunity to link work on food and nutritional security with poverty reduction.

The livestock sector contributes about 40 per cent of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) in low- and middle-income countries. The figure above shows the percentage of ODA disbursements that agriculture gets—4.5 per cent, and the share that livestock gets of that agricultural ODA—again just 4.5 per cent. So the livestock sub-sector of agriculture gets a minuscule amount of ODA, despite the fact that the livestock sub-sector makes up 40 per cent of agricultural GDP in developing countries.


Someone has already said that less than a third of the world are well fed and nourished. The slide below shows that another third of the world’s people are either hungry (about 850 million people) or stunted, or subsisting on insufficient nutrients to lead a healthy and productive life. And another third of the world’s people are overweight or obese and face the health challenges that attend overconsumption of food.

So less than a third of us are well fed and nourished.

The figure above shows income levels in low-, middle- and high-income countries in relation to micronutrients and energy deficiencies. Note that as incomes rise, malnutrition and energy deficiencies are reduced but obesity and its attendant health problems increase. These nutritional disparities are related to income disparities not only across countries but also within countries. The solutions to these very different nutritional problems differ as well, as noted in the three bubbles.


Livestock play many different roles in contributing to the many different aspects of food and nutritional security. Livestock contribute much to global food and nutritional security not only by ensuring that enough food (crops as well as meat, milk and eggs) is produced, but also by helping to balance nutrient consumption and to diversify diets. Here’s some of what we know.

  • We know that animal-source foods provide high-density levels of macro- and micro-nutrients.
  • We know that animal-source foods contain a wide range of essential micro-nutrients, such as iron and zinc, that are difficult to obtain from other foods in sufficient quantities for good nutrition.
  • We know that animal-source foods are a rich source of vitamins, including vitamin A, whose deficiency leads to blindness.
  • We know that animal-source foods are the only natural food source of vitamin B12, whose deficiency can lead to anaemia and permanent nerve damage.
  • We know that animal-source foods provide micronutrients in highly ‘bioavailable’ forms that encourage absorption by the body and thus have active effect.
  • We know that animal-source proteins are more digestible and have higher ‘biological value’ than plant proteins, with their amino acid profile better matching human needs.
  • We know that animal-source foods contain lower levels of anti-nutritional compounds that interfere with the body’s absorption of nutrients.
  • We know that lack of animal-source foods can lead to all the dangers of ‘hidden hunger’.

We know also that livestock-derived foods greatly particularly enhance the nutrition of mothers and of infants in the first one thousand days of their lives.

  • We know that milk improves child growth and that lack of milk in the diets of children can irreversibly stunt their growth.
  • We know that including meat in children’s diets improves their long-term cognitive ability.

These are just some of the many nutritional virtues of animal-source foods.

But although livestock interventions in poor countries can—through improved livestock-based production, incomes and expenditures—improve human diets and nutrition, particularly the overall nutritional status of women and children, we must also be aware that the global burden of food-borne diseases caused by consuming contaminated meat, milk and eggs is heaviest among children under five and pregnant women.

Farm animals also bring about more indirect benefits to the food and nutritional security of the poor. There is, of course, the income as well as manure and traction for ploughing that animals provide, all of which contribute directly to crop production, which of course is also part of the food and nutritional equation in poor countries.

It’s little known or appreciated that today’s developing-country mixed crop-and-livestock farmers, most of them small in scale, supply a large proportion of the world’s production of both cereal and livestock foods. At least half of the cereals in the world, for example, are produced in these mixed crop-plus-animal farming systems. And there are many co-benefits for food and nutritional security that accrue from livestock production being intimately integrated with crop production. These so-called ‘mixed farming systems’ still dominate developing-country agriculture worldwide. (Some 23 to 38 per cent of the soil nitrogen necessary for crop production comes from livestock manure, the higher figure being for Europe.)

So we must remember that crop and livestock production are closely intertwined in the global food security equation.

Income, as I’ve said, is important for helping low-income households to ensure their food and nutritional security. Income from animal enterprises is paying huge dividends for poor households, which spend some of that livestock income on buying food. By 2050, the value of animal-source foods in Africa alone is estimated to reach USD151 billion. We’re working to help ensure that much of the benefits derived from this growth will accrue to small-scale agents in transition to medium-sized livestock enterprises. And we should not forget the important role livestock play in employment, with some 700,000 poor people employed in the dairy sector of Kenya alone.

The livestock sector also offers major opportunities for addressing the ‘youth bulge’ in poor countries, with Africa’s 19–25-year-olds, for example, comprising a large percentage of the continent’s total population. How they will all find employment is very important.

I remind you of Ernst Engel’s economics law of 1857, which is, ‘As income rises, the proportion of income spent on food falls, even if absolute expenditure on food rises’. Great disparities still exists between those of us living in eight countries spending less that 10 per cent of our household incomes on food (Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and USA) and others living in nine other countries spending more than 40 per cent of their household incomes just to try to meet their basic food and nutritional needs (Algeria, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Guatemala, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines). The options for each group are very different.

The above graphic from Washington State University makes this point well. The colours of the circle represent the extent of malnutrition: the darker the colour the greater the level of malnutrition. The malnutrition levels are correlated with the percentage of annual income spent on food. We can see in the darker coloured countries a high correlation between people who spend a large proportion of their incomes on food and those that suffer from malnourishment.


We at ILRI are proud champions of today’s more than 750 million smallholder livestock producers, who comprise a large part of the world’s private sector. But we are very aware that many of these smallholders are in transition and that all will not (and should not) continue to be in this sector in future. It’s been estimated that about a third of today’s small-scale livestock producers will begin to transition out of livestock livelihoods in the coming years. Another third are doing pretty well now and will do even better over time. And the future of the final third is up for grabs—these people will either leave the sector or become more market-focused.

At ILRI,  we believe we must do more to help men, women and young people in particular to grasp opportunities to help meet the rising demand for animal-source foods. We believe must do more to encourage the ‘middle third’ to transition from smallholders to ‘smartholders’, running thriving as well as more sustainable and equitable livestock enterprises and operating as part of a more vibrant, productive and resilient global food system.

We hear over and over that it takes hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and many thousands of kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef. Take note: Those figures are taken from feedlot systems, most of which are located in rich, industrialized  countries. And furthermore, feedlot systems make up just 17 per cent of the total livestock systems of the world. The vast rest of the world’s livestock systems represent very different forms of livestock production.

I draw your attention to the circle on the left in the figure above. Just 14 per cent of material fed to livestock could also have been eaten by people. The rest of the world’s livestock feed comes from such human inedible biomass as pasture grasses and cereal stover and other crop residues after the grain has been harvested for human consumption.

On the right, we see that of the entire area put to agriculture, just over half is used for livestock, and of that 51 percent of land used for livestock and livestock feed production, most comprises land unsuitable for growing crops for human consumption.

What this tells us is that high opportunity costs are not incurred by producing livestock over crops.

When we sum the more accurate global figures researchers have recently produced, we find that the amount of human-edible food fed to animals to produce 1 kilogram of boneless meat is just 2.8 kg for ruminants and 3.2 kg for pigs and poultry.

So the two bottom lines are, first, that production of livestock and animal-source foods in the developing world right now is not in serious competition with production of food crops. And, second, that much of the world’s animal-source food comes from converting grasses, crop residues and other materials inedible by humans into high-quality protein for humans.

But we must start by raising smallholder livestock productivity and efficiency in the developing world, where production levels are still very low. When African cows now producing 2–3 litres of milk per day start producing 10 litres a day, the level of greenhouse emissions they generate per unit of milk they produce will drop significantly. What will help raise livestock productivity while reducing emissions are today’s many scientific advances in such fields as livestock genetics, breeding, feeding and nutrition.

Let me end with a moral point.

The livestock sector is under pressure at the moment from those in the North who say that to that save our planet we must get rid of livestock, and/or that to save our health, we must stop eating meat. Some of us probably do consume too much meat as well as sugars, fats and highly processed foods. I have no argument with those advocating not over-consuming such foods in rich countries and communities. I do argue strongly against those who say that those who eat so little meat should eat even less. I believe there is no moral equivalence between those who make bad food choices, and consume too much animal-source food, and those many hungry people who, with no food choice at all, consume far too little.

View the whole of Smith’s presentation on ILRI Slideshare here: The role of livestock in food and nutrition security.

For context, read the whole article: University of Florida hosts international symposium for Global Child Nutrition Month, 29 Mar 2017.

Watch the conference presentation by Jimmy Smith (Smith’s starts at 1:38:43) and others here.

Read a Jul 2016 report from a UN high-level panel of experts—Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition: What Roles for Livestock—which recommends the following three areas for urgent action.

  1. Improve resource-use efficiency in small-scale livestock production systems
  2. Strengthen the resilience of poor and vulnerable livestock-keeping communities
  3. Improve livestock development outcomes that enhance social equity

Vietnam launches report on better managing risks to food safety


Cover of the new World Bank food safety in Vietnam report: Please check back here in another three days to get a link to the report online.

This post is written by Chi Nguyen, communications officer for ILRI in East and Southeast Asia (c.nguyen [at]

A report launched this week on managing risks to food safety in Vietnam was prepared by the World Bank and other research and development partners at the request of the Government of Vietnam. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was the lead technical partner in development of the report.

Food Safety Risk Management in Vietnam: Challenges and opportunities, launched on 27 Mar 2017, includes an urgent call for better management of food safety issues in Vietnam and more effective communications to raise public awareness of food safety issues. The report found that the primary cause of food-borne illness in Vietnam comes from bacterial rather than chemical contamination and that both kinds of contamination can be prevented by effecting higher levels of food hygiene throughout the country’s food value chains.

Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam (standing) speaks at the launch of a World Bank food safety report (photo credit: Pham Duc Phuc/HUPH; Tran Thi Tuyet Hanh/HUPH; Chi Nguyen/ILRI Vietnam).

The launch of the report was attended by Vietnam’s deputy prime minister, Vu Duc Dam; vice minister of health, Truong Quoc Cuong; vice minister of industry and trade, Tran Quoc Khanh; vice chairman of the government office, Nguyen Van Tung; World Bank country director, Ousmane Dione; Work Bank practice manager, Nathan Belete; and representatives from research and development agencies and the media.

I was impressed by the report. It is important that we have key findings in hand and that we translate them into specific actions. The report starts a new page for the government and international organizations to cooperate with one another to deal with food safety issues in Vietnam. —Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, who heads the Central Intersectoral Steering Committee on Food Safety

The report names food safety a pressing concern of the public and says that high use of agricultural inputs such as antibiotics, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, as well as lack of traceability and cross-contaminations, are among key factors in threatening safe food in the country. Among the biggest challenges to ensuring safe food are the changing the practices of millions of small food producers throughout the country. The authors stress that although Vietnam has a modern food safety regulatory framework in place, more results-focused and risked-based approaches are required for further improving the country’s food safety.

The main recommendation of the report is to develop a risk-based system for managing food safety.

Such a system involves risk assessment, management and communication alike. In terms of risk assessment, the report emphasizes strengthening national food safety monitoring and surveillance systems and improving the management of food safety data. Regarding risk management, the report recommends establishing a performance management system within ministries involved in food safety issues and working with food consumers to promote better practices by food producers. Risk communication includes development of a food safety communication strategy and enhancing collaboration among relevant state agencies and other actors to deliver practical and coherent food safety messages to the public.

Nguyen Viet Hung (left) made a presentation at Vietnam’s food safety report launch (photo credit: Pham Duc Phuc/HUPH; Tran Thi Tuyet Hanh/HUPH; Chi Nguyen/ILRI Vietnam).

There is no single way to address food safety issues, but international experience provides us with quite a few tested ideas that should be considered to improve food safety in Vietnam. —Nguyen Viet Hung, regional representative of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in East and Southeast Asia

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Duc Dam and World Bank Country Director Ousmane Dione thanked all the partners that worked on the report for the past year. This partnership effort was made possible by the Vietnam Food Safety Working Group, which includes representatives from the Australian Government; the Canadian Embassy in Vietnam; CIRAD, the French agricultural research and international cooperation organization; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH); ILRI; and the World Bank.

News reports
Vietnam Breaking News: World Bank releases report on food safety in Vietnam, 27 Mar 2017.
Vietnam Plus: World Bank releases report on food safety in Vietnam, 27 Mar 2017.

Niall MacHugh

In sadness, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) reports that Niall MacHugh, a long-term former scientist at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), died 21 Mar 2017.

Niall MacHugh was quiet about all his accomplishments. He was an expert in invisible, hard, life sciency stuff—cell biology, immunology, cellular immunology, cell culture, adaptive immunity, monoclonal antibodies, T lymphocytes, bovine surface antigens, cloning, flow cytometry, hybridoma. He published more than 70 papers on these abstruse, all-important, topics for better controlling tropical livestock diseases challenging the world’s poorest people.

Besides his fine science, Niall MacHugh was passionate about his family, about Kenya and sailing, He was an unparalleled BS detector, a loyal friend. He was Irish to his bones and a daily reminder of tact and modesty and courage. Behind an ironic, at times crusty, facade, Niall MacHugh tried, and did not manage, to hide the kindheartedness at his core.

The following note is from his daughter and son, Fiona Aisling and Conor MacHugh:

We are so sorry to communicate to all friends that our father Niall MacHugh passed away on Tuesday night after a short final battle with a long illness,bravely fought. There will be a celebration of his life this coming Friday 31st March at 12.00 at the Seafield Crematorium in Edinburgh. All are welcome, family flowers only but anyone wishing to make a donation to the cancer charity of their choice or to the Margaret Kerr Unit on the day in his memory should consider this the alternative. Though we regret this form of communicating this news we hope that it will serve its purpose of reaching those we have not been able to contact personally.

That so many of ILRAD and ILRI’s leading ‘Celtic Tiger’ researchers (a group referred to in jest as ‘ILRI North’ after they returned to take up posts at leading universities in Britain, Ireland and Scotland)—have died before their time—including Jack Doyle in 1999, Tom Dolan in 2007, Declan McKeever in 2014, Noel Murphy in 2015, and now Niall MacHugh in 2017—is heartbreaking.

Perhaps it is helpful to remember this, which former ILRI scientist Brian Perry wrote on the death of Declan McKeever:

When Declan became ill, he called me on skype to tell me of his condition. My wife Helena wrote to him and thanked him for letting us know. He replied: ‘Helena, I was very touched by your message—it really brought home to me how important old friendships are. Niall MacHugh told me that I should tell my old friends because they will have something to contribute, and he was so right.

ILRI, which works to create better lives through livestock, remains indebted to the enduring contributions to science and development made by all of them.

Donations to the Margaret Kerr Unit can be made through the link on their Facebook page.

Traditional Gaelic Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Research to help secure rangelands for users presented at ongoing World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

Joint village land-use planning

Pastoralists in Tanzania engaging in participatory mapping of rangeland resources (photo credit: ILRI/Fiona Flintan).

Managing interactions between environmental change and livestock systems through interventions such as sustainable rangeland use and improved land governance is a key focus of the Sustainable Livestock Systems program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The aim is to develop and promote research-based interventions that will protect and promote rational resource allocation and use, thereby improving livestock keepers’ livelihoods and resilience.

Through the International Land Coalition (ILC) Rangelands Initiative, the global component of which ILRI coordinates and supports, ILRI is taking its research agenda on adaptation and resilience a notch higher at the ongoing Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty conference, the theme of which this year is ‘Responsible Land Governance—Towards an Evidence-Based Approach’. ILRI is one of the major partners supporting this premier global forum on land governance.

Fiona Flintan, a rangelands governance scientist at ILRI, is an author of three presentations at the conference and today, 24 Mar 2017, is leading a masterclass on the following topic: ‘Towards sustainable pastoralism through improving governance of pastoral lands: Implementation of the FAO VGGT Governance of Pastoral Lands’. Also today, Flintan is leading a meeting to deliberate on a call for an ‘International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists’. These deliberations are being done in collaboration with other ILC members and partners including: Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern African Pastoralism (CELEP), FAO-Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism, Rangelands Partnership, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Bank and others.

ILRI has made considerable strides in facilitating inclusive participation of stakeholders to achieve sustainable rangeland use and to build rangeland resilience. For example, through the Sustainable Rangeland Management Project in Tanzania, ILRI has assisted nine villages to carry out village land-use planning and successfully pilot implementation of joint village planning across three of these villages, leading to the protection through certification of a shared grazing area called OLENGAPA, found in Kiteto district, Manyara region. Read more about this here.

Among other initiatives, ILRI’s research agenda in this area focuses on pro-poor land policy development and implementation. This includes institutional and governance dimensions for which partnerships with national governments and agencies as well as with non-governmental organizations are fundamental. Most recently, government–government dialogues have been facilitated between Ethiopia and Tanzania to promote and strengthen peer-to-peer sharing and learning among states.

This World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty has provided a much-needed forum to share lessons and identify opportunities for scaling up experiences for extensive adoption. The ILC Rangelands Initiative provided technical and financial support to eight other papers for the conference. ILRI and the World Bank will produce a joint proceedings of the rangeland papers delivered at the conference.

For more information on the Sustainable Rangeland Management Project, contact Fiona Flintan: f.flintan [at]

Download reports from the ILC Rangelands Initiative here

Uganda research-for-development work is helping to transform the country’s growing smallholder pig sector

Above: Pius Kasajja, permanent secretary in the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, makes remarks at a livestock stakeholders’ meeting in Kampala (photo: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

Left and  below: Participants at a livestock stakeholder workshop held in Kampala in Mar 2017 (photo: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).

Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) last week commended the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for its research to enhance livestock value chains in Uganda. These government remarks were made at a meeting of stakeholders in Uganda’s livestock sector organized by ILRI’s Uganda office on 14 Mar 2017 in the capital, Kampala. Participants at the meeting jointly identified opportunities for further ILRI-supported research in Uganda.

Remarks by Joy Kabatsi, minister of state for animal resources, which were read by Pius Kasajja, permanent secretary in MAAIF, acknowledged that ILRI’s research work fits well with the Uganda government’s broader strategy for its agricultural sector.

‘The focus of the government of Uganda is to transform agriculture from subsistence to commercially oriented systems. The work being done by ILRI resonates with the government’s objectives’, the minister reported.

Kabatsi lauded ILRI for its interventions to help transform Uganda’s smallholder pig value chain and its recent research-for-development efforts in the country’s northeastern semi-arid Karamoja region, where poverty rates are high and a drought is currently ravaging pastoral livelihoods.

In a subsequent address, Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, described ILRI’s research work in Uganda, emphasizing the advantages to Uganda of making use of ILRI’s multidisciplinary research staff and global reach.

‘ILRI uses knowledge acquired from working in different parts of the world to help bring about change locally’, Smith said.

Also present at the meeting was Peter Ndemere, representing Elioda Tumwesigye, Uganda’s cabinet minister of science, technology and innovation, who reiterated his government’s commitment to research for development in Uganda.

The meeting’s participants listened to presentations by ILRI’s partners in Uganda, who shared their experiences working with the smallholder pig value chain development projects that ILRI has been implementing in the country since 2011 with funds from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Commission (EC) and Irish Aid. The case stories presented included partnership with the local government of Masaka district on biosecurity measures against African swine fever. This district is ambitious to construct a centralized pig abattoir that will serve not only to reduce disease spread but also to catalyze business links between pig producers and marketers, ensuring that the farmers get a better return from their pig production.

Another case presented involved ILRI’s collaboration with PPM Uganda Ltd, a private company providing Uganda’s many small-scale pig farmers with links to markets and business development services using training manuals developed by ILRI. Also highlighted was an ILRI-initiated multi-stakeholder platform for actors all along the pig value chain in Uganda.

The consultative meeting was attended by Ugandan government officials, academics, and representatives of private-sector companies and development agencies. Members of ILRI’s most senior management team, who had travelled to Kampala to hold one of their monthly meetings, as well as several ILRI scientists based in Uganda and Kenya also attended this stakeholder workshop.

Find other resources on ILRI research work in Uganda.

The legacy of Norman Borlaug: Alive and well at the International Livestock Research Institute

Collage_Julie and Jeannie Borlaug

ILRI was honoured by a visit this week to ILRI by Julie Borlaug (left) and Jeanie Borlaug Laube, granddaugher and daughter of Norman Borlaug, respectively (credit for this and all photos in this article: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) were delighted that the Borlaug family managed to include a visit to ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters this week (Wed 15 Mar 2017) during a trip they are making to Kenya.

Three generations of Borlaugs were in Kenya

Julie and Luke Borlaug

Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Norman Borlaug, associate director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M AgriLife Research, with her son Luke.

Julie Borlaug

Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Iowa native, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution Norman Borlaug, is associate director for external relations at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Since the passing of her grandfather in 2009, Julie Borlaug has worked to continue his legacy through developing agricultural partnerships between public, private and philanthropic groups to further the Borlaug legacy and expand upon his mission to feed the world’s hungry. Julie received her BA from Texas A&M in international studies and political science in 1997 and her MBA in nonprofit management from the University of Dallas in 2004. She has spent her career in the nonprofit sector, championing her grandfather’s legacy, particularly his desire to see more successful collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors to ensure a continued stream of breakthroughs in international agriculture and in the international research that is its foundation.

The work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative have helped raise the profile of agriculture once again. Over the past two years, U.S. leadership has mobilized the world to focus on these issues and bring science and innovation to bear to solve them. My grandfather believed that everyone has the moral right to food and an education. Business as usual won’t adequately address the challenges we face in feeding the world or get us to this reality. We need fresh ideas and open minds. Fear of change is one of our greatest obstacles to ensuring there is enough food to feed 9 billion. The next generation of ‘hunger fighters’—as my grandfather called them—doesn’t have this fear nor do they believe that these issues are unsolvable. They are optimistic, compassionate, driven, creative and concerned about international issues. . . . It is their families, incomes, livelihoods and world that will be directly affected by the looming challenges of food security in the future. —Julie Borlaug, guest Feed the Future blog post

Jeannie Borlaug Laube

Philanthropist and teacher Jeanie Borlaug Laube, mother of Julie Borlaug and daughter of Norman Borlaug.

Jeanie Borlaug Laube

Jeanie Borlaug Laube, daughter of Norman Borlaug, is a philanthropist and teacher in Dallas, Texas. Since 2009, she has served as chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, an international consortium of over 1,000 scientists from hundreds of institutions working together to stem the threat of wheat rusts.

Just before departing ILRI, Jeanie Borlaug Laube reminded her hosts that in the last days of her father’s life, Norman Borlaug was consumed with worry about Africa. He told everyone who would listen that they must ensure a green revolution occurs in Africa as well as Asia and Latin America.

Dr. Borlaug’s last words were ‘Take it to the farmer’. Just before that, he said, ‘I have a problem: Africa’, referring to his unfulfilled goal of bringing enhanced agricultural production to that continent.
—Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn, President of The World Food Prize Foundation

Someone who has taken both of these injunctions of Norman Borlaug—to take it to the farmer, and to take it to Africa—to heart is Andrew Mude, an ILRI economist who leads an index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) project for the never-before-insured pastoral livestock herders living in the vast and remote drylands of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. This novel insurance is today helping to protect the livestock herding communities in the Horn of Africa from the devastating effects of an on-going drought.

Mude won the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, which was presented to him in Des Moines, Iowa, on 12 Oct 2016, during the World Food Prize/Borlaug Symposium events.

Like Norman Borlaug’s pioneering work, Mude’s pubic-private pastoral livestock insurance scheme combines scientific research, policy, community outreach and education—all with a willingness to embrace unconventional solutions. This comprehensive approach was launched in 2008 by Mude and his team at ILRI, who were joined by colleagues from Cornell University and the BASIS Assets and Market Access Collaborative Research Support Program, based at the University of California at Davis and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

 Julie and Luke Borlaug

Eight-year-old Luke Borlaug, son of Julie Borlaug, grandson of Jeanie Borlaug Laube and great-grandson of Norman Borlaug.

Luke Borlaug

Luke Borlaug, the eight-year-old great-grandson of Norman Borlaug, was paying his second visit to a CGIAR centre on this East Africa trip.

Susan Johnson, program director of Borlaug LEAP

Susan Johnson, program director of Borlaug LEAP.

Susan Johnson

Accompanying the Borlaug family on this visit to ILRI was Susan Johnson, program director for Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP), based at the University of California at Davis.

 Lab Tour 1

Top: Vish Nene, co-leader of ILRI’s program on Animal and Human Health, gave ILRI’s Borlaug visitors an overview of the program while Luke Borlaug took photographs. Bottom: Josephine Birungi (centre back), technology manager of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, took the visitors on a tour of the Hub.

Borlaug family with Josephine Birungi

Luke, Julie and Jeanie Borlaug, accompanied by Susan Johnson (back left), of Borlaug LEAP and UC Davis, are given a tour of ILRI’s state of the art biosciences facilities by Josephine Birungi (right), technology manager of the BecA-ILRI Hub.

About Borlaug LEAP

The Norman E Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP) awards fellowships to outstanding graduate students who show strong promise as leaders in the field of agriculture and related disciplines.  The Borlaug LEAP Fellowship honours Norman Borlaug, who felt strongly that mentoring by a US university faculty member and a CGIAR scientist offered differing perspectives that have a positive impact on a person’s career.

Borlaug LEAP is managed by the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provides funding support for Borlaug LEAP through the US Government’s Feed the Future Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program.

The Borlaug LEAP offers fellowships to enhance the quality of thesis research of graduate students from developing countries who show strong promise as leaders in the field of agriculture and related disciplines. The program supports engaging a mentor at a US university and a CGIAR centre.

Awards are made on a competitive basis to students who show strong scientific and leadership potential, have a well coordinated proposal between their home university, a US university mentor and the CGIAR mentor, and whose research has relevance to the national development of the student’s home country or region. The award level is USD20,000 for a maximum of one year.

For more information about Borlaug LEAP, please email:

 Lab meeting with fellows

On their ILRI tour, the Borlaug family and Susan Johnson meet several research fellows working at the BecA-ILRI Hub, including (bottom, left) 2014 Borlaug LEAP fellow Blessing Odogwu, who in 2016 won an Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) Fellowship to conduct part of her research at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

The Borlaug legacy at ILRI
19 Borlaug LEAP Fellows have been mentored by ILRI scientists since 2006.

The 19 scientists listed below were selected as Borlaug LEAP Fellows to be mentored at ILRI over the past decade (2006–2016). ILRI’s Borlaug LEAP Fellows come from 12 countries—Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Thailand—and represent some 16 research fields—from anthropology (adaptation to climate change in Africa’s drylands) to virology (resistance to Newcastle disease in chickens), from animal nutrition (feed resources for scavenging chickens in southern Mozambique) to vaccine development (bacterial delivery systems for a vaccine against East Coast fever in cattle in Africa), from animal genetics (identifying heat stress in African cattle) to ecological economics (assessing water and disease impacts at the human-livestock-wildlife interface in Tanzania), and from plant pathology (aflatoxin contamination of maize) to natural resource management (determining agropastoral household reliance on livestock for food and income in Niger).

The ‘mentor universities’ of ILRI’s Borlaug LEAP Fellows include 12 of the finest agricultural institutions in the US—Colorado State, Cornell, Iowa State, Purdue, Texas A&M, and the universities of California at Davis, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vermont—and the home institutions of the Fellows are 9 of Africa’s leading universities—Addis Ababa and Hawassa in Ethiopia; Ahmadu Bello and the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria; Egerton, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Kenyatta University in Kenya; Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania; and the University of Kwasulu-Natal in South Africa.

Elisabeth Nebie, from Burkina Faso, is a 2016 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (her US mentor institution). Nebie’s work is identifying sustainable pathways to climate change adaptation in African drylands.

James Mushi, from Tanzania, is a 2016 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in virology at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania. His US mentor institution is the University of California at Davis. Mushi’s work is determining innate resistance to Newcastle disease in selected local free-range chickens

Temesgen Desalegn Darago, from Ethiopia, is a 2016 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal nutrition at Hawassa University, Ethiopia. His US mentor institution is Colorado State University. Darago’s research is improving the productivity of ruminants through proper nutrition in the lowlands of Ethiopia.

Taiwo Ayinde, from Nigeria, was a 2015 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in agricultural economics and rural sociology at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria. Her US mentor institution was Cornell University. Ayinde’s research assessed the economics of sustainable tree-crop-livestock intensification among smallholder farmers in northwestern Nigeria,

Tamrat Degefa, from Ethiopia, was a 2014 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in veterinary obstetrics and gynecology at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. His US mentor institution was Iowa State University. Degefa’s research studied improved reproduction among unimproved Boran and Boran X Friesian cattle in Ethiopia.

Akuffo Amankwah, from Ghana, was a 2013 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in agricultural economics at Purdue University (his US mentor institution). Amankwah conducted a comparative study of aquaculture best management practices and adoption in Kenya and Ghana.

Filomena Dos Anjos, from Mozambique, was a 2013 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal nutrition at the University of Kwasulu-Natal, South Africa. Her US mentor institution was the University of Missouri-Columbia. Dos Anjos’ research investigated feed resources for scavenging chickens in southern Mozambique.

George Tinega, from Kenya, was a 2013 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in bioinformatics and molecular biology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya. His US mentor institution was the University of Texas Health Science Center. Tinega researched the genetic diversity of Salmonella isolated from pigs.

Oyeyemi Ajayi, from Nigeria, was a 2012 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal genetics from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. His US mentor institution was Cornell University. Ajayi’s research investigated responses to climate change, specifically by identifying and analysing heat stress genes in Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle.

Lauretta Ngere, from Nigeria, was a 2012 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal breeding at Texas A&M University, AgriLife Research and Extension Center (her US mentor institution). Ngere researched genetic enhancement of ruminant resistance/tolerance to internal parasites.

Samuel Mutiga, from Kenya, was a 2012 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in plant pathology and plant microbe biology at Cornell University (his US mentor institution). Mutiga determined the prevalence and factors for aflatoxin and fumonisin accumulation in maize.

Lydia Gatere, from Kenya, was a 2009 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in soil and crop sciences at Cornell University (her US mentor institution). Gatere researched a socioeconomic model for biodiversity conservation in Zambia.

Caroline Wambui, from Kenya, was a 2007 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal sciences at Egerton University, Kenya. Her US mentor institution was Texas A&M University, AgriLife Research and Extension Center. Wambui’s research determined tree browse species that improve ruminant nutrition.

Michel Masozera, from Rwanda/Democratic Republic of Congo, was a 2007 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in ecological economics at the University of Vermont (his US mentor institution). Masozera’s research analysed the economic impact of water management and diseases on the livelihoods of agropastoralists and pastoralist communities at the human, livestock and wildlife interface in the Rungwa-Ruaha landscape of Tanzania.

Moses Okpeku, from Nigeria, was a 2007 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal breeding at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. His US mentor institution was the University of Connecticut. Okpeku studied the genetic diversity of southern Nigerian goats using microsatellite markers.

Sommarat Chantarat, from Thailand, was a 2007 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in economics at Cornell University (her US mentor institution). Chantarat’s research investigated the demand for ‘index-based livestock insurance’ among pastoralists in Kenya.

Daniel Kerage, from Kenya, was a 2006 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in biotechnology and biochemistry at Kenyatta University, Kenya. His US Mentor institution was the University of Iowa. Kerage’s research evaluated the potential of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes as a vaccine carrier to stimulate cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses against antigens of T. parva, the pathogen causing fatal East Coast fever in cattle in Africa.

Mamadou Chetima, from Niger, was a 2006 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in animal science, environmental information science and natural resources at Cornell University (his US mentor institution). Chetima’s research evaluated changes in how agropastoralist households rely on livestock for food and income generation in Niger.

Jeanne Coulibaly, from the Ivory Coast, was a 2006 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in agricultural economics at Purdue University (her US mentor institution). Coulibaly’s research determined the welfare effects of freer trade in dairy on the Ivorian economy and dairy sector.

Josephine Birungi with Julie and Luke Borlaug

Josephine Birungi (left) gives ILRI visitors Julie and Luke Borlaug, a quick tour of the BecA-ILRI Hub facilities.

In addition, the following Borlaug LEAP Fellows, mentored by scientists at other CGIAR centres, have conducted their research at the BecA-ILRI Hub.

Blessing Odogwu Nwokocha, from Nigeria, was a 2014 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in plant breeding and biotechnology at Makerere University, Uganda. Her US mentor institution was Michigan State University. Her CGIAR mentor institution was the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Odogwu’s research investigated resistance to rust (Uromyces appendiculatus [Pers.Pers.] Unger] in the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in Uganda.

Gerardine Mukeshimana, from Rwanda, was a 2011 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology at Michigan State University (her US mentor institution). Her CGIAR mentor institution was the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Mukeshimana’s research dissected the genetic complexity of drought-tolerance mechanisms in the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Mukeshimana went on in 2015 to become Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

Charity Mutegi, from Kenya, was a 2006 Borlaug LEAP Fellow in food safety and food security at the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Her US mentor institution was Pennsylvania State University. Her CGIAR mentor institution was the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Mutegi’s research determined the risk exposure to aflatoxin from consumption of groundnut among households in Kenya. Mutegi went on to receive the 2013 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application.

Read about Borlaug LEAP.

Read about the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub).

Read about ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project.

A deep dive inside Vietnam’s pork foodshed to determine food safety issues and their practical resolutions

Selling pork in a traditonal Vietnamese market

Selling pork at a traditional ‘wet’ market in Hung Yen province, northern Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/HUPH/Ngan Tran).

Pork meat sold in Vietnam has been found by researchers to commonly carry bacteria that could cause disease—but they also found that the risk of that meat sickening people is largely reduced due to the Vietnamese habit of buying very fresh meat and cooking it shortly thereafter. The research results indicate ways that the safety of pork meat can be even further improved in this fast-growing and -evolving market. The bottom line is that ensuring safe pork consumption in Vietnam is very important—and very doable. Conspicuous (pork) consumption

Pigs and pig keeping, and pork and pork eating, are ubiquitous in Vietnam, where pork remains the favoured meat—the food choice of both the poor and the rich, of the rural farm worker and the urban elite. Pork is consumed daily and widely in Vietnamese households, accounting on average for about 40% of household expenditures on meat.

With the country’s rising incomes boosting household expenditures on food, demand for pork has been increasing substantially in recent years, spurring increases in national pig populations and sales. There is a great scope for future increases in supply by the country’s millions of small-scale pig producers.

The typical Vietnamese food consumer is an exemplar of what might be called a ‘farmhouse fresh’ fetish, except that freshness is responsible for much of the safety as well as the deliciousness of Vietnamese dishes. Researchers have found freshness to be the most preferred attribute of pork for Vietnamese consumers, with pork meat typically being purchased very fresh every day.

Despite the expansion of modern retail outlets in big cities, traditional outlets ranging from temporary neighbourhood stalls to permanent open structures remain the preferred shopping channels for fresh pork for most consumers. While scenes of pigs being dispatched nearby these commonplace ‘wet’/traditional markets are not for the faint-hearted, the fact that the Vietnamese prefer their pork particularly fresh, and tend to cook it quickly after buying it, greatly increases the safety of consuming pork in this country. Furthermore, given this consumer preference for fresh meats and traditional outlets, Vietnam’s smallholder pig keepers can exploit the rising demand for pork to their advantage by increasing their participation in supply chains serving temporary and permanent open markets.

But there’s the rub. Food safety is a hot-button issue in Vietnam. Raising concerns over the safety of pork risks raising public alarm, which could in turn damage both the nutrition and livelihoods of many of the country’s poorest people.

Vietnamese pork dish

Pork is eaten daily by most people in Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/HUPH/Ngan Tran).

Pig and pork research Recent research evidence is helping Vietnamese officials to better understand and manage pork safety in the country.

Recent studies were made of the safety of pork sold in wet markets in the northern Red River Delta (Hung Yen) and north-central (Nghe An) provinces of Vietnam. Many pork products were found to contain Salmonella and other kinds of bacteria that can make people ill. Also commonly found in the meat products were residues of antibiotic drugs that should be reserved for medical use only. This indicates that the pigs were treated with antibiotics whose use in animal production is helping to speed the development of bacterial resistance to those drugs used to treat people and animals alike. On the positive side, the levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury—naturally occurring chemical compounds whose accumulation in the body can lead to harmful effects over time—found in the pork products were within acceptable limits.

The blurred boundaries between medical and veterinary affairs work to the consumer’s advantage here.

The further good news is that the human health risks posed by the presence of both harmful bacteria and antibiotic residues in Vietnamese pork can be managed. Happily, this means that the country’s many pork lovers need not curtail their pork consumption. That’s because (1) foodborne diseases are largely preventable and (2) the use of antibiotics of medical importance in the raising of pigs—a practice that risks making standard medical treatments obsolete, enabling common bacteria to once again become lethal weapons for people—can, and is being, curtailed. The research reported on here identifies several ways that both these risks to public health can be further minimized.

Pork is an affordable as well as favourite protein source, typically eaten daily with steamed rice and vegetables. The growing concern over unsafe pork sold in Vietnam’s markets could cause people to reduce their pork consumption, harming the nutritional status of the poor as well as the livelihoods of many small-scale pig producers, who supply 80% of the pork sold in the country.

In Vietnam as elsewhere, the future, as they say, may already be here but it is unevenly distributed.

For pork consumption to continue to benefit Vietnam’s many low- as well as middle–high-income pork consumers and pig producers alike, pork meat must be made safe—and, as important, must be perceived by consumers to be safe.

A major constraint to the creation of a safe and trusted pork supply is a dearth of reliable information on, and understanding of, the hazards present in pork and, most importantly, the risks that these hazards pose to human health. While consumers tend to worry most about the possible presence of chemicals in the pork they eat, they often under-estimate the risks posed by the presence of bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Scientists from the Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER) of the Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners have carried out research for the last four years within a PigRISK project (Reducing disease risks and improving food safety in smallholders pig value chains in Vietnam) funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). In Feb 2017, the researchers published two scientific articles describing this project’s results in Hung Yen and Nghe An provinces in a supplement of the International Journal of Public Health: Health and social determinants of health in Vietnam: Local evidence and international implications. These papers shed much-needed light on the public health risks of consuming pork and the practical actions needed to reduce them.

Selling pork in a traditonal Vietnamese market

Selling pork at a traditional ‘wet’ market in Hung Yen province, northern Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/HUPH/Ngan Tran).

Low chemical risk in pork consumption

One of these articles (Exposure assessment of chemical hazards in pork meat, liver, and kidney, and health impact implication in Hung Yen and Nghe An provinces, Vietnam) reports the results of analyzing 514 samples of pig feed, meat, liver and kidney for antibiotics and heavy metals collected from April 2014 to January 2015.

Chloramphenicol, however, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections in humans but banned for veterinary use in Vietnam, was found in 11% of packaged feed and 4% of pork samples. While chloramphenicol residues in pork are unlikely to make people ill, they are a concern because they indicate that some pigs are being treated with this antibiotic. As mentioned, using chloramphenicol in livestock production systems could hasten the development of drug resistance in bacteria, making treatment of bacterial infections in people more difficult and expensive in future.

In their paper, the food safety researchers noted that in Vietnam, as elsewhere, a common government response to the use of banned chemicals and antibiotics like chloramphenicol in feeds or other products is to recall those products and/or to fine their sellers and/or distributors. Use of such banned substances in feeds and foods was made a criminal act in Vietnam only recently, when use of such products in animal husbandry was made a punishable offence starting 1 Jul 2016. But draconian regulatory and criminal instruments are unlikely to succeed.

Experience from other countries indicates that blunt ‘command-and-control’ instruments that rely on detection and punishment are less effective than regulations and incentives that motivate the food industry to take greater responsibility for producing safe food.

In their paper, the researchers argued for employing effective risk communication strategies by publicizing the relatively low levels of chemicals they found in the pig feed and pork they sampled in this study while also emphasizing the need for pig producers to stop using antibiotics now banned by the Vietnamese government for use in animal husbandry and to stop using beta-agonist growth promoters, which are also banned.

Poor smallholders are unlikely to take up ‘best’ livestock management practices that reduce the need for antibiotics without being given adequate support and incentives to do so.

Key to risk communications, the researchers said, is to do a better job of educating the public about the real risk of consuming pork contaminated by Salmonella and other bacteria.

Pork being cooked in the home in Vietnam

Daily pork being cooked in the home in Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/HUPH/Ngan Tran).

Bacterial risk in pork consumption

The other research paper recently published (Quantitative risk assessment of human salmonellosis in the smallholder pig value chains in urban of Vietnam) provides results of a study to quantify the risk of people becoming infected with Salmonella from consuming boiled pork in Hung Yen Province, with a particular focus on smallholder pig value chains. This is the first quantitative assessment of microbial risk in food in Vietnam.

Salmonella is a common foodborne pathogen whose infection in humans can lead to diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and septicaemia. Some strains can cause death in as many as 3 in 100 infected people. From Apr 2014 to Feb 2015, the researchers analyzed 302 samples (swabs from the floors of pig pens, slaughterhouse carcasses and cut pork meat) using a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA).

The study found Salmonella in the samples collected as follows: 33% from swabs of pig pen floors, 42% from slaughterhouse carcasses and 44% from cut pork meat. From the QMRA results, the researchers estimated that pork eaters in Hung Yen Province face a 18% probability of acquiring salmonellosis from consuming boiled pork in a given year. This figure is much higher than that cited in a 2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimated a 1% prevalence in Asian countries, including Vietnam. However, the authors of the WHO report point out their estimate is very much on the low side (WHO’s estimate for North America is also low—at least five times lower than official North American figures).

The researchers who published the Hung Yen pork study recommend practical ways of improving pork-handling practices in both markets and households as well as other measures that can improve pork safety. Such measures are being addressed in a new research project (SafePORK) being developed by ILRI in close partnership with research institutions, private-sector companies and relevant authorities such as Task Force of Risk Assessment for Food Safety in Vietnam.
Selling pork in a traditonal Vietnamese market

Selling pork at a traditional ‘wet’ market in Hung Yen province, northern Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/HUPH/Ngan Tran).

Better risk communications for better food safety in Vietnam

The two recently published scientific studies described above, by demonstrating the differential importance of chemical and biological hazards in pork consumed in two provinces of Vietnam, serve as a cautionary tale about public misconceptions of food safety generally. While lay publics worldwide tend to worry more about chemical than about biological hazards, a mass of evidence from many countries shows that this is a mistake.

What people worry about and what makes them sick are not the same. What’s needed are approaches to food safety based on solid scientific evidence, not public anxieties alone.

Whereas the major concerns and focus of food safety experts are biological hazards (viruses, bacteria, parasites), policymakers and the general public are mostly concerned about chemicals found in foods as well as novel food processes such as irradiation and biotechnologies.

The pork safety research evidence described here confirms that in the study area sampled, the burden of the biological hazard (Salmonella) was orders of magnitude greater than that of the chemical hazards.

Researchers and research communicators and government officials obviously need to do a much better job of communicating to consumers, traders, farmers and policymakers the realities of food safety risks and how best to manage the real risks those realities pose.

Takeaways for Vietnam For Vietnam, where food safety matters are matters of big public concern and where government agencies are looking for the most rational investment of scarce resources to mitigate food risks to public health, this latest research evidence provides insights into how food-borne diseases in the country can be greatly reduced.

While ‘zero tolerance’ is not an option, practical and highly effective risk mitigation methods include maintaining or putting in place basic food safety practices along pig production and pork processing, selling, cooking and eating to minimize the risk of infection with Salmonella and ensuring that pig feeds are free of banned chemicals.

Read the research papers

Exposure assessment of chemical hazards in pork meat, liver, and kidney, and health impact implication in Hung Yen and Nghe An provinces, Vietnam, by Tran Thi Tuyet-Hanh (Hanoi University of Public Health, Hanoi), Dang Xuan Sinh (CENPHER, Hanoi), Pham Duc Phuc (CENPHER), Tran Thi Ngan (CENPHER), Chu Van Tuat (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hanoi), Delia Grace (ILRI), Fred Unger (ILRI) and Hung Nguyen-Viet (ILRI), International Journal of Public Health, Feb 2017, Volume 62, Supplement 1,  pp 75–82.

Quantitative risk assessment of human salmonellosis in the smallholder pig value chains in urban of Vietnam, by Sinh Dang-Xuan (CENPHER, Hanoi), Hung Nguyen-Viet (ILRI), Fred Unger (ILRI), Phuc Pham-Duc (CENPHER), Delia Grace (ILRI), Ngan Tran-Thi (CENPHER), Max Barot (ILRI), Ngoc Pham-Thi (National Institute of Veterinary Research, Hanoi) and Kohei Makita (ILRI and Rakuno Gakuen University, Japan), International Journal of Public Health, Feb 2017, Volume 62, Supplement 1,  pp 93–102.

Related materials

Read other materials about the PigRisk project (‘Reducing disease risks and improving food safety in smallholder pig value chains in Vietnam’).

Or visit the PigRisk wiki site.

For further information

Contact Fred Unger, ILRI senior scientist,

The story of Humidtropics agricultural innovation capacity development, 2014-2016

From 2012-2016, the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated System for the Humid Tropics, or Humidtropics, worked towards transforming the lives of the rural poor in several action sites in Asia, Africa and Tropical America. Initially, capacity development went on almost intuitively, as an integrated part of the implementation process. It soon become clear that such groundbreaking activities and ideas require a more organized and supervised approach.

In 2014 therefore, Humidtropics set up a Capacity Development team of experts to deliver the necessary training, supervise the development of new tools and think of new, innovative ideas to implement across the

Since then, many ‘disruptive activities’ were organized and delivered in ways they can be scaled up and adapted to the specific needs and requirements of different projects, organizations and contexts.

Innovation and technology were key in these processes – many communication, connectivity and location barriers were overcome to go beyond mere classroom delivered material and create a community of agriculture professionals who now have new knowledge to build on, new channels at their disposal to use to communicate with their peers and new sources of inspiration and information when trying to find the best solution for the issues they need to address.

A new report brings together all the stories behind this work, from building a learning management system to going beyond traditional on-site workshops, scaling up existing methodologies and tools, as well as developing new ones, introducing fun and exciting projects and activities the rural poor feel excited to use or participate in.

Download the report:

  • Dror, I. 2016. The story of Humidtropics Capacity Development 2014-2016. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Links to some of the products of this work:

For more information, contact Iddo Dror at ILRI.

More products and outputs from ILRI’s capacity development unit that led this work.



Beef value chain actors reap big gains from new financing in Southern Africa


Cattle at a small-scale fattening farm in the Siphofeneni area, Swaziland (photo credit: ILRI/Saskia Hendrickx).

Improving the livelihoods of livestock smallholders and other value chain actors through value addition and marketing is constrained by lack of finance, working capital, affordable high-quality inputs and well-structured value chains. Even with a high demand for agricultural financing in Africa, not more than 1% of commercial lending goes to agriculture, with even less availed for livestock enterprises.

But efforts by research and development partners are offering renewed hope for livestock financing in Southern Africa. This was revealed at an International Conference on Livestock Value Chain Finance and Access to Credit, organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in partnership with the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (SWADE) and Swaziland’s Micro Finance Unit (MFU) 21-23 Feb 2017.

The main objectives of the conference were to:

  • Demonstrate sound business case models for low-cost feeding regimes
  • Divide the value chain actors into segmented sub-groups linked together
  • Share experiences and research in helping smallholder livestock producers/actors access finance/credit
  • Support a productive dialogue among livestock value chain actors, financial institutions, scholars, private-sector companies and government institutions
  • Asses ways to replicate and scale success to more low-income countries/regions

The conference was organized following a successful pilot project titled ‘Innovative Beef Value Chain Development Schemes in Southern Africa’, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and led by ILRI under the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM). The project is implemented in the Lubombo and Manzini regions of Swaziland. The conference was attended by farmers and representatives of farmer groups; the Government of Swaziland; research, academic and financial institutions and IFAD.

In his keynote address, ILRI’s regional representative for Southern Africa, Sikhalazo Dube, announced that under the beef value chain finance initiative, farmers working as business entities are obtaining credit from Nedbank to cover the operational costs of fattening about 25 beef cattle by feeding them on forages grown on two-hectare plots using locally available water sources.

It is expected that farmers will earn at least USD15,000 per cycle if the cattle are sold at 15–18 months of age, Dube said.

Speaking at the event, Antonio Rota, the lead technical specialist of IFAD, reaffirmed his fund’s commitment to the program’s rollout across Southern Africa.

‘The beef value chain finance initiative complements our efforts towards reducing poverty, ensuring food security and creating opportunities for rural farmers, especially women and youths. We are ready to support farmers in the region, as it is our mandate to support rural areas in accessing such initiatives’, Rota said.

On his part, the Swazi Minister of agriculture, Moses Vilakati, acclaimed the project as an important step towards addressing the high cost of feed and limited access to finance, two major constraints afflicting smallholder livestock producers in the country. He further emphasized the ministry’s confidence that this public-private partnership would significantly contribute towards reducing the supply gap in Swaziland beef sold on the international market.

The beef value chain finance initiative is expected to ease access to credit for livestock farmers as well as provide a structured marketing scheme to farmers and buyers. In Swaziland, farmers are guaranteed a USD100,000-fund through Nedbank—Swaziland and can borrow up to USD15,000.

Visit the conference site.
Improving the livelihoods of livestock smallholders and other value chain actors through livestock value addition and marketing is constrained by the lack of access to finance, working capital, affordable quality inputs, and well-structured value chains.  To address this issue, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in partnership with the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (SWADE) and the Micro Finance Unit, Swaziland (MFU) organized an international conference on livestock value chain finance and access to credit. The forum was held in Swaziland on 21–23 Feb 2017.
The conference was organized with financial support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (@IFADnews) and as part of the research on value chains under the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) (CGIAR) (@PIM_CGIAR).

News clippings
Transforming pastoral pursuits into profitable livestock enterprises in southern Africa, ILRI News Clippings blog, 3 Mar 2017
Beef fattening ready for take-off in southern Africa with new financing made available to smallholders, ILRI News Clippings blog, 25 Feb 2017
MD happy with women in feedlot projectSwazi Observer, 24 Feb 2017.
Feed cost major constraint for feedlot farmersSwazi Observer, 23 Feb 2017.
Nedbank gets accolades for supporting feedlot projectSwazi Observer, 23 Feb 2017.
Swazi beef model boats six registered feedlotsSwazi Observer, 21 Feb 2017.

Livestock and human health – highlights from ILRI’s corporate report 2015–2016

Healthy pig

Research estimating the cost of diseases can help policymakers make food safer. Central Highlands, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Hanh Le Hanoi)

The experience of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner scientists in 2015–2016 unmistakably identifies the potential benefits to smallholder farmers and consumers of research into livestock and human health. Smallholder farmers could potentially save hundreds of millions of US dollars annually, following breakthroughs in the development of vaccines for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and Rift Valley fever, the latter posing a serious threat to human as well as animals. However, it was the participation in high-level fora and implementation strategies which are likely to deliver the rapid life changes for smallholder farmers on the ground.

These are some of the findings from the livestock and human health research and interventions, presented in the ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016: highlights on livestock and human health. The findings of the report are presented in line with the three objectives set out in the ILRI strategy 2013–2022:

  1. Develop, test, adapt and promote science-based practices that—being sustainable and scalable—achieve better lives through livestock.
  2. Provide compelling scientific evidence in ways that persuade decision-makers—from farms to boardrooms and parliaments—that smarter policies and bigger livestock investments can deliver significant socio-economic, health and environmental dividends to both poor nations and households.
  3. Increase capacity among ILRI’s key stakeholders and the institute itself so that they can make better use of livestock science and investments for better lives through livestock.

Science into practice

Better inexpensive husbandry practices were shown to be effective in reducing the transmission of Taenia spp., a tapeworm infection causing cysticercosis in people. Such tailored strategies, along with increased frequency and enhanced quality of routine meat inspection to prevent the infection entering the food chain, are expected to reduce the impact on human health. Research also highlighted the role of multiple socio-economic, behavioural and environmental factors in Taenia spp. transmission patterns in western Kenya, e.g. education levels and access to clean drinking water.

Evidence-based decision-making

With the University of Liverpool, ILRI participated in a major impact report by the World Health Organization (WHO) providing the first global cost estimates of food-borne diseases. It ensured that understanding of issues affecting poor consumers of animal-source foods were considered as part of the findings. While further research is needed, particularly to fill data gaps at national and sub-national levels, the WHO is actively involved in capacity building through national food-borne disease burden studies, and encouraging the use of these findings in setting evidence informed policies.

Capacity development

Developing One Health multi-disciplinary capacities is essential and ILRI provides both high-level support to research fellows (nearly 60 assisted from June 2015–2016) and downstream support to a range of field actors. For instance, nearly 1500 farmers, butchers, meat inspectors and food vendors received training on food hygiene in five African countries, including on diagnosis and containment of African swine fever in Uganda where follow up indicated participants had taken measures to prevent further outbreaks.

Download the highlights chapter or the full ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016

Making livestock foods safe—Lessons from Vietnam on what works—and what doesn’t


At the Sunday market in Sapa, northern Vietnam, women butcher hogs slaughtered outside of town but still steaming when they start working on them at the market (image via Flickr/Kurt Johnson).

From ‘Background’
‘Food-borne diseases and food poisonings are attracting a lot of attention in Vietnam due to repeated episodes of adulterated and unsafe food practices receiving widespread media attention. . . .

‘The Vietnamese media gives a lot of attention to food safety issues when famous people pass away at a young age from cancers, asking whether there is something wrong with our food. The countries’ top leaders, too, have discussed food safety issues at meetings of the national assembly. . . .

‘In this paper, we wish to present a perspective on food safety in Vietnam in the context of an international research institution working on food safety with partners in Vietnam and internationally. As we work more with animal-sourced food, we place more focus on these and discuss vegetables only to some extent.’

From ‘Main text’
Ethics: profiting despite of adverse health outcomes for consumers
‘The health of the public is put at risk when stakeholders along the food chain do not follow good practices of producing, processing, conserving, transporting and selling food. This leads to contamination of animal feeds by banned chemicals, sale of spoiled foods, using chemicals to make fake beef from lean pork meat etc., and other unethical behaviours.

Farmers are reported to produce safe or safer foods for their own consumption, while selling unsafe foods to the public. There is little trust among stakeholders, but this is not the fault of individual farmers and traders. Rather, it is the predicament of a food system that has developed in a way that provides little rewards for those who practice good safety, but high rewards for those who carry out bad and unsafe practices.

‘This high prevalence of poor practices was also very common in Europe and America during times of rapid development, and it is a problem that can be overcome.

‘A common response to the concerns over food safety is an attempt to strengthen regulations, and ramp up inspections and punishments. This has also been seen in Vietnam. . . .

‘Yet, the experiences of developed countries, which now have relatively safe food, is that command-and-control approaches to food safety, which rely mainly on inspection and punishment, are less effective than approaches in which stakeholders are empowered and encouraged to self-regulate, motivated by the realisation that this is more profitable in the long term.

‘With these approaches, the emphasis moves away from testing the safety of end products to assuring that the process of food production remains within safe limits at all times.’

From ‘Issues of risk communication’
‘To communicate risk effectively, it is important to understand the psychology of risk perception. People encounter information from different sources about chemicals detected in food. Consumers normally do not think about risk in the same way that risk assessors understand risk. People filter information through a variety of lenses that affect their perceptions of the risks and what they can actually do to minimise them. For example, as mentioned earlier, biological hazards in some foods may cause more sickness and death than chemical hazards, but consumers are usually more worried about chemical hazards. . . .

The marked difference in how experts and the public view food safety risks has real consequences: opportunities are lost and scarce resources are spent managing minor problems, while the major issues go to the back of the queue. . . . Governmental officials often see modernising retail as the way forward for improving food safety. However, this is challenged by high costs, consumer preference for warm fresh meat, resistance from retailers, as well as the inability to show improvements in safety.

From ‘Food safety solutions’
‘. . . The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, has been developing market-based approaches to improving food safety in informal markets. This was first developed for the informal milk sector in Kenya and has been subsequently extended to the dairy sector in Assam in India and Tanzania, and meat retail in a large Nigerian metropolis [25]. The central idea is light-touch interventions that are sustainable and scalable, changing practice through capacity building for food safety actors such as farmers, slaughtering workers, butchers and incentives, and providing an enabling policy environment. The approach has been positively reviewed by the Institute of Development Studies as an example of making markets work for the poor. . . .’

From ‘Conclusions’
‘. . . Regulations are important, but regulations alone will never compel everyone to respect food safety. Nor can a food system transform overnight, and there are many aspects of smallholder production and traditional retail that are beneficial to Vietnam’s current stage of development. As such, improving current systems is advised, while also allowing development and modernisation. . . .’

From ‘Acknowledgments’
‘This paper is part of food safety projects PigRISK funded by the ACIAR . . .  and the Taskforce for Food Safety Risk Assessment in Vietnam. The authors acknowledge funding from the CGIAR Research Program on A4NH and the IDRC through the FBLI in SEA.’


  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
  • CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH)
  • International Development Research Center (IDRC)
  • Ecohealth Field-building Leadership Initiative (FBLI) in South East Asia

Read the whole paper: Food safety in Vietnam: where we are at and what we can learn from international experiences, by Hung Nguyen-Viet (ILRI), Tran Thi Tuyet-Hanh (Hanoi University of Public Health), Fred Unger (ILRI), Sinh Dang-Xuan (Hanoi University of Public Health) and Delia Grace (ILRI), in Infectious diseases of Poverty, 16 Feb 2017.

New Nutrition Knowledge Bank gives direct access to expert nutritional advice via mobile phones

Visit to villages outside of Dodoma, Tanzania

Tanzanian woman on her cell phone (photo credit: CCAFS/Cecilia Schubert).

A new open-access Nutrition Knowledge Bank has been created as part of a GSMA mNutrition initiative to help tackle malnutrition in Africa and Asia. This collection of content on good nutritional practices includes factsheets and mobile messages for anyone to download and use. Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the mNutrition project aims to deliver nutrition information to 3 million people in 12 developing countries.

Adequate nutrition is critical to the physical and mental development of children and to long-term human health, but one out of three people in developing countries suffers from micronutrient deficiency. Experts consider poor access to agricultural and health information a major barrier to the uptake of improved nutritional practises, particularly by women and vulnerable groups in marginalized areas.

mNutrition delivers content to people at risk of malnutrition in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. An expert consortium on nutritional matters—BMJ, CABI, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Oxfam International—is partnering with local organizations in these countries to produce useful and reliable nutritional, agricultural and health information, which is then distributed through mobile phone networks in each country.

The Nutrition Knowledge Bank is searchable by country and subject. The messages and factsheets are available in several local languages and take into account the differing cultural contexts. The topics covered include breastfeeding advice for new mothers, practical tips for rearing dairy cows and growing healthier crops for human consumption.

The groups who can make most use of the Nutrition Knowledge Bank include mobile network operators, agriculture and health ministries, agricultural support workers, community organizations and development practitioners. More content will be uploaded over time, providing continuous improvement of this new practical resource for directly helping people make informed choices that improve their nutrition wellbeing.

Charlotte Jordan, Nutrition Project Manager at CABI, says: ‘The Nutrition Knowledge Bank is a great resource for showcasing the diverse scope of content produced by local partners throughout the mNutrition Initiative. We hope content is adapted for a range of future projects and communication needs within and beyond the countries it covers.’

For more information about the Nutrition Knowledge Bank, see

CGIAR livestock support is enhancing community resilience in the face of on-going drought in the Horn of Africa

NP Kenya 211011_30

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.

Mitigating drought disasters must factor in the development of the livestock sector, including protecting stock from starvation and disease.
—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.