News from ILRI

Lifetime performance of West African dwarf goats under different feeding systems

West African dwarf goat in Ghana (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

new paper by scientists at in the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR) compared the lifetime performance of West African Dwarf goats (WAD) kept under various feeding systems. They conclude that West African smallholders can best enhance their goat production systems by supplementing the diets of their grazing goats with farm-generated feeds.

Comparisons of the lifetime productivity of individual animals raised by farmers using alternative livestock interventions allowed the research team to assess, reliably and over the long term,  the investment opportunities for smallholder farmers.

A dynamic modelling approach was used to explore the effects of different feeding strategies on the lifetime productivity of West African Dwarf goats in southwestern Nigeria. These goats, which are markedly stunted, with typical heights of 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 in), are more disease resistant than other breeds of domestic goat and are important in the rural village economy of West Africa.

The research team modified the current version of ‘Livestock Simulator’ (LIVSIM), an individual-based livestock production model that simulates animal production (meat, milk, progeny and manure) and maintenance requirements. Different livestock units can be taken into account, each characterized by production objectives, animal species and breeds. The research team used LIVSIM to test the impacts of changes in inputs such as the quality of feed in West African Dwarf goat raising, which confirmed the sensitivity of the modelled weight development and reproductive performance. The values of simulated model outputs corresponded well with observed values for most of the variables, except for the pre-weaning mortality rate in cut-and-carry feeding systems, where a wide discrepancy between simulated (2.1%) and observed (23%) data was found.

A scenario analysis showed that simulated goats raised in a free-grazing system attained sexual maturity and kidded much later than those raised in grazing plus feed supplementation and in cut-and-carry feed systems. The simulated results indicate that supplementing goat feed with protein and energy sources enhances the lifetime productivity of these goats, as seen in their early sexual maturity and higher birth weights. In terms of economic returns based on feed costs alone, the ‘moderately intense’ feed system produced the greatest profits over the lifetime of the goats.

Read the limited-access article: Assessment of lifetime performance of small ruminants under different feeding systems, by Tunde Amole (ILRI), Mink Zijlstra (Wageningen University and Research), Katrien Descheemaeker (Wageningen University and Research), Augustine Ayantunde (ILRI) and Alan Duncan (ILRI), in Animal, 29 Dec 2016.

On what (and how and when) to measure when measuring impacts of agricultural research for development

Photo by FAO/Riccardo Gangale.

The following article is written by Iain Wright, deputy director general for research at ILRI.

On 6–8 Jul 2017, I attended a conference at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) on Impacts of International Agricultural Research: Rigorous Evidence for Policy organized jointly by the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM). I welcomed the delegates at this meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on behalf of ICRAF and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the two CGIAR centres headquartered in Nairobi. A modified version of my address and personal reflections on impact assessment in CGIAR follows.

Iain Wright, ILRI.

We in CGIAR have committed ourselves to tackling some of the greatest challenges that the human population has ever faced.

How do we feed a growing population not only with calories but also with nutrients essential for good health, and do so in the face of climate change? We know that proteins, vitamins and minerals are essential not only for growth in children but also for children’s intellectual development, their cognitive and learning ability. We know that malnutrition can not only stunt children permanently but also damage a nation’s long-term economic development.

Agriculture forms, and will continue to form, the basis of economic development in many part of Africa. Agriculture is the route by which millions of people will escape poverty, not just through improvements to the livelihoods of individual farmers but also through commercialization of smallholder agriculture, which generates employment in farm input services and in the production of value-added products along agricultural value chains.

Although agriculture is often viewed in industrialized countries as harmful to the environment, farming holds the key to effective natural resource management and the provision of essential environmental services, such as reduced intensities of greenhouse gas emissions achieved via well-managed rangelands and trees that store significant amounts of carbon, or absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emission levels achieved through increased agricultural productivity and more efficient use of farm inputs.

While those of us who work in agricultural research recognize its importance, we must persuade the rest of the world of the case because agricultural research can deliver benefits such as these only if there is sufficient investment in this research. A few decades ago, agriculture received about 15% of official development assistance (ODA). Today, agriculture receives just 4% of total ODA (and of that 4%, agriculture’s livestock subsector receives just 4%, despite the fact that the livestock subsector contributes an average of 40% of the agricultural gross domestic product of developing countries).

Many studies show high rates of return to agricultural research but we need more specific evidence on what investment in agricultural research actually delivers. As donor organizations are under increasing political pressure to change their investment priorities, to better address, for example, domestic issues or the refugee crisis, it is timely to consider the role of impact assessment in CGIAR.

Agricultural research for development deals with complex agro-socio-ecological systems generating complex problems as well as benefits. We use complex research methodologies to solve the complex problems.

A major challenge in assessing the impacts of our research is having sufficiently robust methods to generate robust evidence. While we have methods to assess rates of uptake of a given technology or the welfare benefits of adoption of that technology, not all research is focused on a single technology. How do we assess the impact of research that delivers a mix of new technologies that are likely to be adopted and adapted in different ways by different farmers? In the livestock sector, for example, improved livestock genetics will have little impact if not accompanied by better livestock feeding strategies and health services, which themselves will require new institutional and marketing arrangements, which in turn will be effective only where there are policy environments conducive to such novel arrangements. In such cases, how do we discern what impacts our research is having?

Where CGIAR research focuses on influencing decision-making, the effects of such research on the complex political processes involved are often difficult to assess. Twelve years ago, I was at a workshop on the interface between research and policy organized by the chief scientist at the Scottish Government Rural Affairs Department, who at that time was Maggie Gill, now chair of the CGIAR ISPC. One participant presented a list of things a minister has to consider when devising a new policy. Technical or scientific evidence was only 1 of 23 things on that list. How do we know what impact our research is having on the other 22 factors being taken into account?

As we consider here impact assessment work in CGIAR, let us also continually ask ourselves how we can best deal with complex questions about impact. This will help us avoid focusing only on things easy to measure.

To meet the global challenges that CGIAR is researching, we will need not incremental but rather transformational change in smallholder agriculture.

If we focus on things that are easily measured, we will fail to provoke those transformational changes.

Do we have the tools and methods needed to measure the impacts of complex solutions to complex problems? I believe we need more methodological development of quantitative and qualitative impact assessments. I believe we have much to learn from other sectors, including public health and education.

So as we delve into impact assessment work this week, let us look not only at what we have achieved in the past but also at how we will demonstrate our achievements in the future.

Below are excerpts from selected conference presentations at the three-day Jul 2017 conference on Impacts of International Agricultural Research: Rigorous Evidence for Policy.

Doug Gollin, University of Oxford.

(1) The following comes from a presentation titled The rigour revolution in impact assessment written by Doug Gollin, professor of development economics at the University of Oxford and chair of the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) of the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC).

The CGIAR model of ex-post impact assessment arguably no longer provides the most useful information:

  • Study of shift from ‘traditional’ to ‘improved’ varieties in aggregate no longer the most important question
  • Model mute on distributional and other outcomes, e.g., poverty, inequality, environment, nutrition
  • Difficulty of translating the model to NRM [natural resource management] / policy research areas
  • Cherry-picking of winners limits potential for learning.

And the empirical practice lacks scientific credibility.

A rigor revolution is both a challenge to CGIAR and a huge opportunity.

CGIAR should aspire to help shape the direction of the methods/approaches for agriculture and natural resource management.

Need to develop core competence in data integration (Big Data platform a good start) to avail full range of possibilities.

Stronger partnerships with outside economics expertise remains necessary, as well as remote sensing, national statistics agencies, etc.

Role for SPIA in facilitating provision of system-wide public goods:

  • High-quality, large-scale, open-access datasets on technology use for a few key geographies (provides basis for crowding impact evaluations to the same places)
  • Development and validation of new tools and methods
  • Continued need for capacity-building/networking role in CGIAR system.

Rigor is not limited to impact evaluation‚ and not limited to a single method, such as randomized controlled trials:

  • SPIA has funded impact studies that rely on a range of methods, including observational data, qualitative methods, and large-scale models
  • The challenge is to find the appropriate methods for the question that is posed.
The point is to bring a challenging and inquisitive mindset to evidence on impact:
Often at odds with pressures to produce evidence of success at the project level.

We need better evidence for the system to learn and to achieve greater impacts.

We should not confuse evidence with advocacy; learning requires that we not hide failure. We know that not every research project will lead to success, and both theory and history tell us that a handful of successes will more than pay for all the failures.

Creating a culture of impact involves accepting these principles and pursuing good practices without fear, in the belief that the institution will be stronger with better evidence.

Phil Pardey, University of Minnesota.

(2) The following comes from a presentation titled Recalibrating and reassessing the global  returns to agricultural R&D evidence written by Phil Pardey, professor of science and technology policy in the department of applied economics at the University of Minnesota and director of the university’s International Science and Technology Practice and Policy (InSTePP) centre.

We conclude that the contemporary returns to agricultural R&D investments appear as high as ever.

Chris Barrett, Cornell University.

(3) The following comes from a presentation titled Comments on Papers on ‘From productivity increases to aggregate, long-run impacts’ written by Chris Barrett, the Stephen B and Janice G Ashley Professor of Applied Economics and Management and international professor of agriculture at Cornell University.

CGIAR mission: Science for a food-secure future
Primary impact pathway has always been farmer productivity increases through adoption of improved crop varieties. Critically important, as much now as ever, to rigorously estimate and document these impacts. With ever-improving [impact assessment] methods, more credible, and inclusive impact estimates increasingly feasible. This is exciting (and overdue)!

InSTePP data on agricultural R&D worldwide 1960–2011
Returns come 6–37 years after investments begin . . . Be patient!

Whether measured as commonplace (but inappropriate) IRR [internal rate of return] (median = 39%) or better MIRR [modified internal rate of return]/BCR [benefit-cost ratio] (median = 17%, BCR = 7.5), so returns are high . . . Patience pays!

But IRR-MIRR rankings correspondence decreases with discount rate . . . In present low [resource] environment, errors are easy!

Yet, MIRR mutes differences . . . So errors less costly.

Rates of return have not fallen over time . . . Keep investing!

Rates of return are no lower in LIC/MICs [low- and middle-income countries] than HICs [high-income countries] . . . Invest in developing world agriculture for high returns!

Key lessons from InSTePP studies
Choose Right Measure: MIRR/BCR over IRR to have credible estimates of returns to agricultural R&D (or any other sort!).

Shifting Patterns: Agricultural R&D increasingly led by MICs:

  • Private sector plays a big role . . . And food not just agricultural firms
  • Per capita agricultural R&D falling in LICs . . . Looming disaster.

Implications: Growing importance of private-sector partnerships for CGIAR (and [advanced agricultural research institutions]):

  • Discoveries protectable by [intellectual property] increasingly firm-led, CGIAR space increasingly in NRM, policy and other traits with big externalities (e.g., pesticide resistance).
  • The agricultural R&D investment gap growing in poorest countries.

Key lessons from Alwang et al. study
1. Importance of studying uptake reasonably promptly, especially if successful! 20 years is too long.

2. Which measure of variety to use? Is the true biophysical impact what we are after? What if management changes with variety? Won’t both measures underestimate gains (due to technical inefficiency)?

3. Still not capturing gains from consumer traits. The literature on gains from early childhood nutrition suggests that could mean BIG underestimates of aggregate, [long-run] impacts.

Cheryl Doss, University of Oxford.

(4) The following comes from a presentation titled Measuring gendered impacts written by Cheryl Doss, of the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM).

On Challenges & Pitfalls
Research questions and data analysis plan need to be developed before collecting the data.

Collect data to test your assumptions—on men’s and women’s roles, preferences, etc.

Many of the terms are used interchangeably:

  • Bargaining power
  • Empowerment
  • Decision-making

Research needed to understand what ‘joint’ means in terms of asset ownership, decision-making, agricultural production, etc.

Have not discussed broader gender issues of how to analyze whether including women affects the impacts.

Alain de Janvry, University of California at Berkeley.

(5) The following comes from the conclusion to an invited paper titled The adoption puzzle—what can the CGIAR learn from field experiments of new agricultural technologies? written by Alain de Janvry, professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Seven observations for discussion in addressing the adoption puzzle

Observation 1: Technology adoption in rainfed agriculture remains a first-order challenge
‘In spite of dispersed progress (LSMS-ISA), low technology adoption in SSA [sub-Saharan Africa] and rainfed SA [South Asia] (aggregate data) remains pervasive and important.

Reality is that supplying massively adoptable and profitable technologies to smallholder farmers under rainfed (risky and heterogeneous) conditions in SSA and Eastern SA is exceptionally difficult, yet essential for growth of agriculture-led countries/regions and to meet the [Sustainable Development Goals] 1 & 2.

Observation 2: Field experiments in the social sciences help better understand and support adoption
Field experiments allow greater precision in identification of:

  • Causal determinants of adoption
  • Impact of adoption
  • Design of institutional innovations to help remove constraints

but progress still needed with methods to analyze the dynamics and scale of adoption:

  • Design the complementarities of interventions
  • Combine with natural experiments.

Observation 3: Rural poverty reduction needs more than a [Green Revolution]: also an Agricultural and a Rural Transformation
Technology adoption to achieve a [Green Revolution] is necessary but not sufficient to make a dent in rural poverty. Essential for this is to smooth labor calendars in agriculture through an [Agricultural Transformation] and to complement agricultural with agricultural-driven non-agricultural incomes in local [Rural Transformations].

Striving to achieve [Green Revolution] + [Agricultural Transformation] + [Rural Transformation] gives a useful conceptual framework in using technology adoption for development.

Observation 4: The presumed widespread existence of adoptable technology for smallholder farmers needs revisiting
In spite of some spectacular successes, the presumption of extensive existence of profitable technologies when adoption constraints have been lifted by institutional innovations needs to be revisited in view of the great degree of heterogeneity of circumstances: need to ascertain that technologies offered for adoption are indeed profitable in expected value and with low risk in local contexts.

It also suggests moving out of the difficult conditions of rainfed agriculture and investing more into water control.

Observation 5: There has been much progress with institutional innovations in removing adoption constraints on the demand and contextual sides
While research is incomplete due to heterogeneity of conditions and changing states of nature, much progress (by ATAI/SPIA/AMA-Basis and other research) has been made with removal of constraints on:

  • The demand side: assets/property rights, behavior
  • The contextual side: credit, insurance, market access, subsidies.

Observation 6: Improvement still needed on access to information for [smallholder farmers] and learning for adoption
To achieve adoption of available technologies, better access to information and learning options is still lagging, especially through demand-driven social learning, extension services, and motivated agents in value chains.

Extension services remain the poor child of development assistance.

Motivated agents in value chains as sources of information in interlinked transactions are also incipient (Neuchatel Initiative).

Observation 7: Also need increased local availability of technology for adoption under heterogeneous conditions
Secure the local availability of technology under adoptable conditions for smallholder farmers principally through commercial channels in value chains, especially accounting for heterogeneity of circumstances that can be characterized and managed (e.g., Mahajan et al.).

All presentations from the conference are listed and available here.

Pig farmers to earn more through new genetics project in Uganda

Improved sow

An improved sow in Hoima District in Uganda (photo credit: ILRI/Karen Marshall).

Research conducted in Uganda’s smallholder pig value chains by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners in the past five years has revealed that pig production is constrained by poor pig genetics, a challenge that requires urgent addressing through institutional, research and farmer level action.

The desire for genetically improved pigs in Uganda has been repeatedly expressed by a range of stakeholders including women and men smallholder pig keepers and other value chain actors (through previous projects by ILRI on the pig value chain in Uganda, and via local and national-level multi-stakeholder platforms established to support the pig sector).

A newly launched Uganda pig genetics project seeks to increase the productivity and profitability of the country’s smallholder pig enterprises. It will do this through: identifying the most appropriate pig breed type(s); developing a genetic improvement strategy to ensure the availability and accessibility of genetically superior pigs; and supporting the uptake and optimal management of the genetically superior pigs by women and men smallholder pig keepers.

The project focuses on:

  • Evaluating the profitability and productivity of different pig production systems in Uganda, including contributions and benefits from an intrahousehold perspective, and identifying the most appropriate system for households with different risk profiles
  • Designing, with stakeholders, a genetic improvement strategy for the smallholder pig sector of Uganda, that produces pigs which meet the needs and preferences of their women and men pig keepers and other value chain actors, as well as market demand.
  • Developing, with stakeholders, a scheme for registration of suppliers of pigs of known breed type/genetic quality and pilot-testing it.
  • Building capacity of women and men pig keepers, as well as other stakeholders, on productivity and profitability of different household pig production systems and the identified genetic improvement strategy.

Speaking at the launch of the project in July 2017, Karen Marshall, a researcher at ILRI and the project leader, said the project will enable farmers produce pigs which meet their needs and preferences as well as the market demand.

‘Attaining the most appropriate pig genetics for improved productivity and profitability of the Ugandan smallholder pig enterprises will be a good measure of success’, Marshall said.

The three-year project is funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and will be led by ILRI in partnership with the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre & Databank (NAGRC&DB), Uganda and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Austria.

From 10–14 July 2017, staff of ILRI, BOKU, NAGRC&DB and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) met with stakeholders of the pig value chains in Hoima and Lira districts. The meetings introduced the project and identified the specific sites where it will be implemented. The team also visited the Makerere University pig farm in Kabanyolo and the NAGRC&DB offices in Entebbe.

See the project overview in the presentation below;

Why livestock are essential for Agenda 2030—Jimmy Smith at the High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development


Ram-bearer, Cypriot, 6th century BC,
said to be from the temple of Apollo Hylates at Kourion
(photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City).

United Nations High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development
Special Event:
The Role of Livestock in Achieving the SDGs

Friday, 14 July, 2017
Institute of International Education (IIE)
Kaufman Conference Room

Opening remarks by Jimmy Smith
director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Why livestock are essential for Agenda 2030

Ending poverty
Because of livestock’s central contributions to both individual livelihoods and national development, we’re not going to end world poverty (SDG1) if we undervalue the major roles livestock play in the economies of developing countries and their peoples.

In low- and middle-income countries, up to three-quarters of a billion of the poorest people rely on small-scale livestock farming and products to make a living.

Such small-scale livestock production contributes greatly to the agricultural gross domestic product of these agriculturally based countries (40% and growing), with at least 70% of the milk in countries such as India and Kenya coming from small-scale production.

But things must change to respond to an on-going ‘livestock revolution’ due to global demand for livestock products being set to increase by 70 per cent over the next 30 years.

Small-scale livestock enterprises need to make rapid transitions if they are to respond to the growing demand and become thriving, efficient and sustainable enterprises.

If we neglect this short window of opportunity to help people meet their countries’ rising (mostly urban) demand for livestock-derived foods, we will do more than fail to eradicate world poverty once and for all. We will also miss a singular opportunity to guide a positive, equitable and sustainable transition that will impact national economies and the livelihoods of three-quarters of a billion people.

Ending hunger
Because of livestock’s major roles in sustainable agriculture and food production, we’re not going to end hunger, achieve food security and make agriculture sustainable (SDG2) without paying greater attention to the animal agriculture that makes small-scale food production viable and renewable on every continent.

Little known is that the ubiquitous small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farms of developing countries are responsible for putting more than half the grain, milk and meat on the tables of the poor and better-off alike.

Fully half the staple cereal food could not be produced without the inputs from animal manure, traction or sales.

Perhaps even less apparent are the multiple roles that animal agriculture in the hands of such small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers play in ensuring food security and sustaining agricultural production. For example:

a) providing 18% of global calorie (kcal) consumption and 25% of global protein consumption
b) providing a source of regular income with which to buy diverse and nutritious foods
c) providing via animal manure one-quarter of the nitrogen used to grow crops in mixed crop-livestock systems worldwide

The rapid transition that these livestock production enterprises will undergo in the coming decades means they also present the biggest (and perhaps only) opportunity to address the three interlinked high-level recommendations made in the recent livestock report by the UN Committee on World Food Security. These are: (1) improve resource-use efficiency, (2) strengthen resilience and (3) improve social equity/responsibility outcomes.

Healthy lives
Because of the lifelong difference that animal-source foods make to the world’s most vulnerable people, including the growth and cognitive development of children, healthy lives and the well-being of people of all ages (SDG3) will be unachievable without actions to ensure that healthy and safe animal-source foods are available to all.

Animal-source foods provide humans with vital micronutrients (particularly B12) and make other essential nutrients much more ‘bioavailable’ than plant foods. A regular glass of milk, or a little meat or an egg can prevent stunting in the 158 million children currently affected by it as well as improve the cognitive development of children, ultimately great benefiting the economies of their nations.

Eminent nutritional scientists studying the roles of animal-source foods in the first 1000 days of life warn that it will be impossible to reach the 1000-day SDG targets without including animal-source foods.

Because of their perishability, milk, meat and eggs do present particular food safety challenges, especially as up to 90% of these foods are sold in the so-called ‘informal’ markets of the developing world. This again is an opportunity: novel training and hygiene approaches suited to these traditional markets can make an immense difference to the safety of their products.

In East Africa’s Kenya and India’s state of Assam, over 6 million people have access to safer milk today not because stricter rules and regulations were applied but rather because informal milk processors and sellers were given the training and tools to do so much more safely.

Gender equity
Because of the unique roles livestock play in women’s lives, we’re not going to achieve gender equity and empowerment of all women and girls (SDG5) without deliberate efforts to build upon the multiple and enabling roles that livestock play in female livelihoods worldwide.

Women, who make up a significant portion of the world’s poor livestock keepers, play critical (if under-expressed, under-reported and under-valued) roles in livestock systems.

Women who cannot own land, capital or other major productive resources often can own farm animals, particularly small stock such as goats, chickens and cavies.

And what benefits women in developing countries do get from their livestock enterprises they tend to invest back into feeding their families and educating their children, with a woman’s regular income from dairy or poultry often paying for the education of her daughters.

Because evidence indicates that women’s empowerment is hurt rather than helped if men are left out of the picture, gender-sensitive and -transformative approaches to livestock development need to focus on men as well as women while supporting women in building their social as well as economic capital.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals—the roles of livestock

Today, the role of livestock in achieving the SDGs is the focus of a special event at the High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development. Organized by the International Livestock Research Institute, Heifer International, the Livestock Global Alliance and the Global Agenda on Sustainable Livestock, the session explores why livestock are essential for Agenda 2030.

Friday, 14 July, 2017

Institute of International Education (IIE)
Kaufman Conference Room
809 United Nations Plaza (First Avenue opposite UN Visitors’ Entrance)

The discussion builds from these ststements on the role of livestock in achieving the SDGs:

  • Because of livestock’s contribution to individual livelihoods and national economies, we’re not going to end world poverty (SDG1) if we undervalue the major roles livestock play in the economies of developing countries and their peoples.
  • Because of livestock’s role in sustainable agriculture and food production, we’re not going to end hunger, achieve food security and make agriculture sustainable (SDG2) without paying greater attention to the animal agriculture that makes small-scale food production viable and renewable on every continent.
  • Because of the difference to growth and cognitive development that animal-source foods make for the World’s most vulnerable, healthy lives and the well-being of people of all ages (SDG3) will be unachievable without actions to ensure healthy and safe animal source foods are available for all.
  • Because of the unique roles of livestock in women’s lives we’re not going to achieve gender equity and empowerment of all women and girls (SDG5) without deliberate efforts to build upon the multiple and enabling roles that livestock play in female livelihoods worldwide.

08:30-08:45 Opening Session
– Welcome and remarks by Chair/Moderator Mr. Jimmy Smith, director general, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
– Remarks by H.E. Ms. Amira Gornass, Ambassador of Sudan to Italy, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the Rome Based Agencies & Chairperson, UN Committee on Food Security (CFS)
– Remarks by Deirdre McGrenra, Chief, Americas Liaison Office, Partnership and Resource Mobilization
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

08:45-09:30 Panel Discussion – “Livestock and its critical intersection with achieving Agenda 2030”
– Franck C. J. Berthe, World Bank and Livestock Global Alliance
– Akoto Osei, Nutrition Director, Heifer International
– Laura Sommer, Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture

09:30-09:45 Discussion/Question and Answer Period

09:45-10:00 Summary and Wrap-up
– Closing remarks by Chair/Moderator, Mr. Jimmy Smith (ILRI)

Follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag  SustLivestock

This post will be updated during the day


Coming up 13 Jul: ‘Agriculture and Food Day’ at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Delegates gather for the first day of HLPF 2017 (photo credit: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth).

The fifth High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), convening under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is taking place 10–19 Jul 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York City. This year’s theme is ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’,

At the forum this Thur (13 Jul 2017) the director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Jimmy Smith, will moderate a day-long ‘Agriculture and Food Day’. The second week of the forum includes a three-day ministerial meeting (17–19 Jul), during which 44 countries will present their voluntary national reviews on implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The program and list of distinguished speakers and participants of the Agriculture and Food Day follows. Follow the discussions with the hashtag #HLPF2017.

Photo credit: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth.

Agriculture and Food Day
at the
High-Level Political Forum
on Sustainable Development

13 July 2017 | 09:00–17:00 | Yale Club (50 Vanderbilt Ave, New York City)

Moderator: Jimmy Smith
Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

9:00–10:15 Opening Session: Achieving Goal 2—End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

  • Peter Thomson, president, UN General Assembly
  • Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, president, United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
  • Mary Mubi, senior principal director, Department of Public Affairs and Knowledge in the office of the President and Cabinet, Government of Zimbabwe
  • Jaine Chisholm Caunt, director general, Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA), UK
  • Maria Beatriz Giraudo, Global Farmer Network, Argentina
  • Robin Buruchara, director, Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kenya
  • Yemi Akinbamijo, executive director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Ghana
  • Steve Ngunyi, farmer, Kenya

10:15–10:30 Coffee Break

10:30–11:00 Interlinkages between the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Amira Gornass, permanent representative of Sudan to Italy & chairperson, UN Committee on Food Security
  • Thomas Gass, assistant secretary general for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)
  • Juan Carlos Mendoza-Garcia, ambassador/permanent representative of Costa Rica to the UN

11:00–12:55 Breakout Sessions on Interlinkages: Goals 1, 3, 5, 9, 14

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Moderator: Necton Mhura, ambassador/permanent representative of Malawi to the UN

  • Stefano Prato, managing director and editor, Society for International Development, Italy
  • Govind Venuprasad, coordinator, Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA), International Trade Centre (ITC), Switzerland
  • Martha Hirpa, managing senior director, Heifer International, USA

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Moderator: Carla Mucavi, director, FAO Liaison Office to the UN (TBC)

  • Franck C.J. Berthe, senior livestock specialist, World Bank, and coordinator of the Livestock Global Alliance, France
  • Marcelo Eduardo Lüders, president, Brazilian Dry Beans Institute (IBRAFE), Brazil
  • Chavanne Hanson, deputy head, Global Public Affairs, Nestlé S.A., Switzerland
  • Vish Govindasamy, group managing director, Sunshine Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Moderator: Venge Nyirongo, policy specialist in sustainable development, UN Women, USA

  • Margaret Munene, co-founder and general manager, Palmhouse Dairies Limited Kenya
  • Stephanie Hanson, senior vice-president, Policy and Partnerships, One Acre Fund, USA
  • Salah Goss, vice-president, International Development, MasterCard Worldwide, USA

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Moderator: Zak Bleicher, partnership officer, International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), USA

  • Scott Angle, director general of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), USA
  • Will Galvin, executive vice-president, Self Help Africa, Ireland
  • Sabrina Meharali, co-founder and managing director, Quality Pulses, Tanzania
  • Cristino (Tito) Panlilio, president, Balibago Waterworks, Philippines

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

  • Tiare Boyes, fisher person, Arbegar Fishing Co., Canada
  • Paul Holthus, chief executive officer, World Ocean Council, USA
  • Wanjiru Mukoma, executive director, LVCT Health, Kenya (TBC)
  • John Mimikakis, vice-president, Oceans, Environmental Defense Fund, Singapore

13:00–14:45 Luncheon: Youth in Agriculture

  • Tiare Boyes, fisher person, Arbegar Fishing Co., Canada
  • Murilo Martins Ferreira Bettarello, Nuffield 2017 Scholarship Winner, Brazil
  • Michelle DeFreese, Leland International Hunger Fellow, 2015–17, USA
  • Thato Moagi, Nuffield 2017 Scholarship Winner, South Africa
  • Katrina Sasse, Nuffield 2017 Scholarship Winner, Australia

15:00–16:30 Putting Farming First: Partnerships to Achieve Goal 2

  • Antonio Tete, ambassador and permanent observer of the African Union to the United Nations
  • Farming First Video
  • Speakers on:
    Safeguard Natural Resources: Katia Araujo, director of advocacy, Landesa, USA
    Share Knowledge: David Nielson, co-chair, Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), USA

Ethiopia’s ‘livestock roadmaps’ for growth and transformation to a middle-income nation


Ethiopian Boran cattle (photo credit: ILRI/Camille Hanotte).

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is in New York City this week to attend the High-Level Policy Forum on Sustainable Development at the UN Headquarters.

Smith is a panel member in a special session occurring today (10 Jul 2017, 1:15–2:30pm, Conference Room A) organized by the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture—Sustainable livestock and the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development: From science-based evidence to action through multi-stakeholder partnerships. In this session, Smith provides a concrete example of livestock advancing Agenda 2030 in the form of an Ethiopian ‘livestock master plan’ developed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries with ILRI’s technical support and project funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as in-kind resources invested by the Ethiopian Government and ILRI.

Recognizing the livestock sector as one of the drivers of Ethiopia’s economy, the government has made a huge investment to develop the livestock sector as well as to create a conducive investment environment for the private sector. The government has established four integrated agro-industry parks to provide the private sector with incentives to invest in ago-processing, thereby speeding transformation of the country’s livestock sector.
—Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopian State Minister for Livestock and Fishery

How science and policy on sustainable livestock affect action on the ground in Ethiopia
Although the Ethiopian government had prioritized development of agriculture as part of its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTPII 2015–2020), until recently priorities for the country’s livestock sector were lacking. Addressing this led to development of Ethiopia’s livestock master plan.

Multistakeholder partnerships
A technical advisory committee provided oversight of the project. This committee brought together the skills and perspectives of directors of key departments and institutes in the Livestock State Ministry and Ministry of Agriculture as well as representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and the presidents of relevant professional associations of livestock experts, including the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production (ESAP) and the Ethiopian Veterinary Association (EVA).

More than 50 stakeholders across the country were consulted to provide the parameters for, and data inputs to, the assessment. These experts subsequently validated, refined and strengthened the results generated by quantitative analyses made using the tool.

Development of the plan was made possible by many previous years of work that led to development and use of a livestock sector analysis tool, known as the ‘Livestock Sector Investment and Policy Toolkit’, by ALive (African Partnership for Livestock Development) of AU-IBAR (African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources), as well as the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the World Bank, with the latter providing support to implement the toolkit and to train livestock specialists in its use. The livestock sector analysis implemented using this tool then formed the basis for developing targets for GTPII and the livestock master plan.

Sustainable development goals
Assessing the livestock sector analysis against the GTPII objectives and indicators required the assessment to go well beyond plans for producing more meat, milk and eggs; it had to consider the wider implications of livestock development for poverty reduction, food security, economic growth, livestock exports (foreign exchange) and climate change.

The plan articulates priorities for small- to large-scale livestock value chains for poultry, red meat, milk and cross-bred dairy cows. The plan estimates that such investments will significantly reduce poverty, improve food security, increase exports and raise national incomes.

Multi-stakeholder engagement will continue to be critical to implementing the livestock master plan. It’s foreseen, for example, that such partnerships will be needed:

  • to apply science-based technical solutions to cattle breeding interventions, genetic selection, vaccination and parasite control, and feed interventions
  • to build conducive policy environments for public and private veterinary service provision, regulatory and quality controls for veterinary and feed inputs, private-sector agribusiness development, livestock traceability systems, and livestock disease surveillance.
  • to build new public-private partnerships for importing and disseminating poultry breeds and livestock vaccines.

Financial Times article on Ethiopia’s livestock master plan
Published today (10 July 2017) in the Financial Times of the UK is an opinion piece about the value of this livestock master plan. It is written by Barry Shapiro, senior livestock development advisor who helped develop the plan.

What follows are some of Shapiro’s key messages in his opinion piece.

Often dubbed an ‘African tiger’ after a decade of economic growth averaging 10 per cent a year between 2004 and 2014, Ethiopia is in a state of transformation.

‘In an ambitious bid to achieve the status of a middle-income country by 2025, the government has developed an extensive blueprint for progress—its Growth and Transformation Plan 2015–2020—which has prioritised the development of agriculture.

‘More specifically, the plan identifies the role of the livestock sector in helping to achieve some of the most critical sustainable development goals: reducing poverty by almost 20 per cent, raising national incomes, increasing exports and greatly improving the food and nutritional security of rural and urban people.

‘Sounds too good to be true? When carefully researched and mapped out in a do-able plan, the many benefits of the country’s growing livestock sector promise just such a revolution. . . .

‘Last year, ILRI scientists began working with Tanzanian and Rwandan scientists and government officials to develop livestock master plans in those countries. It is our hope that successful implementation of Ethiopia’s plan will lead to a “chain reaction” across the continent. . . .’

The Ethiopia livestock master plan makes the case for targeted investments in livestock both clear and compelling. What remains is to find the best ways for the plan to be realised to help give this African tiger its roar.

Read the whole opinion piece by ILRI’s Barry Shapiro in the Financial Times: Ethiopia livestock plan offers route to middle-income, 10 Jul 2017.

Capitalizing on women in livestock development—ILRI’s Jimmy Smith and Isabelle Baltenweck speak out

Ethiopian woman holding one of her chickens (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Opening at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York City, today (10 Jul 2017) and running until 19 Jul is this year’s meeting of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, convened under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

This year for the first time the High-Level Political Forum is featuring events exploring the essential contributions of the livestock sector to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith is at the UN this week to offer evidence-based insights into the close relationship between livestock and sustainable development.

The theme of this year’s forum is ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’. Four of the SDGs being reviewed in depth are:

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Throughout the week, the ILRI director general will speak on the ways livestock livelihoods in developing countries can help achieve these goals. About latter goal, Smith warns:

Because of the unique roles of livestock in women’s lives, we’re not going to achieve gender equity and empowerment of all women and girls (SDG5) without deliberate efforts to build upon the multiple and enabling roles that livestock play in female livelihoods worldwide.
—ILRI’s Jimmy Smith

A recent opinion piece on this subject was written by Isabelle Baltenweck, an agricultural economist and deputy leader of ILRI’s Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods program. Her piece was published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation News. What follows are some of Baltenweck’s key messages.

Ethiopian woman with the day’s eggs her chickens produced (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

It’s a well-known adage that teaching a man to fish will feed him for a lifetime. But give a woman a cow, and she might still have to ask her husband’s permission to milk it.

‘While women in developing countries assume much of the burden of raising household chickens, sheep and other farm animals, they receive relatively few of the benefits.

‘It is typically men rather than women who own the family stock as well as land, men who control the income that the animals generate, and men who have the better access to financial credit and new technologies.

‘The frequent exclusion of women from livestock ownership, resources and decision-making— an inequality that remains all-too-common in low- and middle-income countries—is a major factor in hindering households from escaping poverty.

‘But given the same resources and opportunities, women would be in position to equal men in transforming their family farms into profitable and environmentally sustainable enterprises. . . .

At the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), we call this a ‘WILD’ (‘Women In Livestock Development’) opportunity.

‘. . . And as women are typically closely involved in all aspects of animal husbandry—from feeding, milking and mating animals to caring for the young, sick or injured—technologies and resources that make livestock farming more efficient and productive should be made readily available to women. This might include market information, animal disease diagnostic kits and vaccines, land for planting fodder crops, and labour-saving chaff cutters for cutting up straw for feed. . . .

‘What we have then seen is that oftentimes, when women gain greater control over their livestock-derived incomes, the whole family benefits. This is because women in the developing world traditionally prioritise their spending on food for the household and education for their children. . . .

‘Tackling culturally embedded gender inequality is, of course, no simple task anywhere, and some would argue is a particularly complex issue among traditional livestock-keeping communities. But we know that livestock are among the most important assets of poor households, and among the most potent instruments of development. And we know that, given adequate resources, women can be formidable engineers of—as well as entrepreneurs in—livestock-based development.

If teaching a man to fish will feed him for a lifetime, imagine what enabling a woman to profit fully from her livestock enterprises would do: it could feed whole families, communities and nations—for a lifetime. . . .
—ILRI’s Isabelle Baltenweck

Read the whole opinion piece by ILRI’s Isabelle Baltenweck on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation News: Capitalising on the potential of women in livestock development, 6 Jul 2017.

Following the vaccine that wiped out rinderpest, a new vaccine against sheep and goat plague proves promising

A Tunisian man carries a sheep suffering from peste des petits ruminants (PPR), also known as sheep and goat plague, a highly contagious animal disease affecting small ruminants. Once introduced, the virus can infect up to 90% of an animal heard and the disease kills anywhere from 30 to 70% of infected animals (photo credit: AgriMaroc [Marrakech]–DR).

Vaccines can lose their potency and become ineffective when being stored or transported. This problem adds to the cost of vaccines and limits their availability. What’s needed, particularly in tropical regions with poor infrastructure and hot and variable climates, are vaccines that can withstand storage or shipment at changing and/or high temperatures.

Keeping vaccines in a narrow band of acceptable temperatures during shipment is challenging and expensive—the ‘cold chain’ consumes about 80 percent of the total cost of vaccination programs according to the U.S. National Sciences Foundation (NSF). . . .

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 50% of lyophilized (freeze-dried) and 25% of liquid vaccines are wasted each year. One of the biggest contributors to this wastage is disruption of the cold chain. . . .

Large public health organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have long advocated for innovations that will enable the development of more stable vaccines. However, the challenges of developing thermostable vaccines have been greater than expected.

VBI Vaccines

A new paper, A thermostable presentation of the live, attenuated peste des petits ruminants vaccine in use in Africa and Asia, by researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) describes development of an effective experimental and thermostable vaccine against ‘peste des petits ruminants’, or PPR for short, a disease more commonly known as sheep and goat plague.

From the Abstract
‘The research objective was to develop a thermostable vaccine against peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a morbilliviral disease of small ruminants targeted for eradication that is a major constraint on the livelihoods of the rural poor throughout much of Africa and Asia. Although existing PPR vaccines provide life-long immunity, they require continuous refrigeration. This limits their utility in developing countries.

‘Methods for the lyophilization of a related morbillivirus, rinderpest (RP), resulted in vaccine that could be used in the field for up to 30 days without refrigeration which was a major contribution to the global eradication of RP completed in 2011. The present research applied the rinderpest lyophilization method to the attenuated Nigeria 75/1 PPR vaccine strain, and measured thermostability in accelerated stability tests (AST) at 37 °C. . . .

‘Vaccines produced using LS and the rinderpest method of lyophilization were the most stable . . ., [possessing] sufficient thermostability for use without a cold chain for up to 30 days which will greatly facilitate the delivery of vaccination in the global eradication of PPR.’

From the Introduction

Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is a highly contagious, acute viral disease that primarily affects domestic small ruminants associated with high mortality and severe socio-economic impact.

‘The disease is caused by the virus of the genus Morbillivirus, which includes rinderpest (RP), measles, and canine distemper and the phocid distemper viruses. The clinical symptoms associated with the disease in small ruminants are pyrexia, oculo-nasal discharge, stomatitis, pneumonia and diarrhoea. The apparent range of PPR has expanded in recent years to include parts of North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa as far south as Zambia, the Middle East, Central and South Asia. In late 2013, the disease entered China for the second time with 244 outbreaks from across China reported to the World Animal Health Organization by June 2014.

‘Small ruminants play an important role in the livelihoods of many livestock economies. They play a greater role in household food security than large ruminants and are more easily marketed to meet immediate cash needs.

PPR is often ranked as one of the top two or three disease constraints to small ruminant production. International recognition of the pivotal role of PPR in the livelihoods of the poor has led to increasing recognition of the need for a globally coordinated eradication program. Lessons from the global eradication of RP completed in 2011, a close relative of PPR, suggest that PPR eradication is an achievable and appropriate goal.

From the Discussion
‘This goal of this work was to compare different approaches to thermostabilizing PPR vaccine and document PPR vaccines that were suitable for commercialization and use without a cold chain. Thermostability is a relative term referring the rate of degradation as a function of temperature. Virtually all substances degrade and degradation or change is accelerated by increased temperature. For the purposes of this discussion we define thermostability as the ability of the product to retain the required minimum dose at ambient temperatures for a period of time that facilitates practical fieldwork without a cold chain. In the case of rinderpest, 30 days was found to be sufficient for teams to work on the field without a cold chain. . . . The product must be able to resist average ambient temperature and temperature fluctuations for a defined period with a wide margin of safety. . . .

‘The rinderpest method of thermostabilization stabilized the PPR vaccine virus to practical levels equivalent to those obtained with rinderpest. This was to be expected given that thermostabilization in physico-chemical process and that all the morbillivirus are essentially identical at the structural level. The vaccine has suitable stability for use without a cold chain for up to 30 days. As with rinderpest, this is sufficient stability for vaccination teams to travel in the field without refrigeration or ice. . . .

‘In addition to reducing the need for cold chain infrastructure, this level of stability frees vaccination programs from the requirement for vehicles, which together with per diem is the principal cost of vaccine delivery and vaccination as a whole. It also facilitates the integration of community-based vaccination programs that are critical to obtaining good herd immunity levels and extending the reach of livestock health and disease eradication programs to remote and politically unstable areas. . . .

As with rinderpest, the next step for PPR should be to adapt production to commercial scale lots and pilot the use of the vaccine in practical field programs.

From the Conclusion
‘The method used in the lyophilization of thermostable RP vaccine and a lactalbumin and sucrose stabilizer when applied to PPR vaccine resulted in a vaccine with levels of thermostability that were comparable to those obtained with RP and superior to the other options tested with PPR vaccine virus. This level of thermostability is sufficient for use in the field without a cold chain for up to one month, as was done in the global eradication of RP.’

The rinderpest method of thermostabilization has been successfully commercialized in the past indicating that the commercialization of thermostable PPR vaccine using the rinderpest method is feasible and can greatly facilitate the eradication of PPR.

This work was supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through a collaboration between the BecA-ILRI Hub and Australia’s Commonwealth, Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The work also received support from the ILRI-led CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish and the CGIAR Fund Donors.

More information
Read the whole paper in Vaccine: A thermostable presentation of the live, attenuated peste des petits ruminants vaccine in use in Africa and Asia, by Jeffrey Mariner, James Gachanja, Sheltone Tindih and Philip Toye, International Livestock Research Institute, 27 Jun 2017.

Read previous ILRI articles on the eradication of rinderpest and development of a thermostable PPR and other livestock vaccines.



Six new papers on the ancient, complex and everlasting farm animal–zoonotic disease–human well-being nexus

A Maasai man takes his goats out in the early morning for a day’s grazing in northern Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

This new publications notice is made by Delia Grace, joint program leader for the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and flagship leader in the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

Six new high-level publications by scientists and partners of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) on zoonoses, livestock and well-being. Happy reading!






About the special issue
By Andrew Cunningham, Ian Scoones and James Wood

From the abstract to the introduction
One Health for a changing world: new perspectives from Africa
‘The concept of One Health, which aims to drive improvements in human, animal and ecological health through an holistic approach, has been gaining increasing support and attention in recent years. While this concept has much appeal, there are few examples where it has been successfully put into practice.

‘This Special Issue explores the challenges in African contexts, with papers looking at the complex interactions between ecosystems, diseases and poverty dynamics; at underlying social and political dimensions; at the potentials for integrative modelling; and at the changes in policy and practice required to realise a One Health approach. This introductory paper offers an overview of the 11 papers, coming from diverse disciplinary perspectives, that each explore how a One Health approach can work in a world of social, economic and environmental change.’

From the introduction (references removed)
‘Over the past 25 years, a succession of disease outbreaks has threatened global public health, animal health and biodiversity conservation. From Nipah to SARS to avian and swine flu, and from Ebola to Zika and MERS, diseases of animal origin have caused alarm, both locally and in relation to their global threats. These episodes have shone a spotlight on human–animal interactions, and how they affect the potential for novel disease emergence [1] and spread. The vast majority of newly emerging human infectious diseases originate in animals, with the rate of novel disease emergence accelerating. Meanwhile, the majority of previously unknown diseases affecting wildlife have emerged consequent to human activities. Increasingly, questions are being raised about the underlying environmental and socio-economic processes of disease emergence—including globalization, climate change, land use change and urbanization.

‘Despite their prominence, the impacts of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are overshadowed by the massive burdens of endemic zoonoses, which tend to be neglected compared with EIDs. Trypanosomiasis, leptospirosis and brucellosis, for example, undermine the well-being of millions of people, yet do not get the attention of those diseases associated with potential global outbreaks. The burdens of such neglected zoonotic diseases are concentrated in poorer parts of the world, where health and veterinary services are inadequate, and the toll of such diseases is undiagnosed and hidden from view.

‘The intersections of human, animal and ecosystem health lie at the heart of these public and policy concerns, yet these interactions are poorly understood and little researched. As a result, concerns and responses to them are too often driven by conjecture or faulty assumptions, or by generalizations that fail to fit real-world contexts. This Special Issue helps to redress this situation. The papers in this Special Issue have a particular emphasis on the impacts of zoonotic disease on human poverty and well-being. Many address the way that disciplinary specialisms, sectoral mandates, divided policy efforts and compartmentalized funding flows have limited, particularly in the developing world, attention on why zoonotic diseases emerge, how they affect different groups of people and the identification of appropriate responses. . . .’

Odisha State funds ILRI-India project to improve livestock feeding systems and mechanization


Rural dairy pictures from India’s Odisha State (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan and Jules Mateo).

The following article is written by Iain Wright, deputy director general for research at ILRI.

I made a flying visit to India over the Easter weekend in April. We have been in discussion for some time with the government of India’s Odisha State (formerly known as ‘Orissa’), on the eastern coast (Bay of Bengal), about a new project to improve livestock feeding systems.

Odisha is India’s 9th largest state by area, 11th largest by total population and 3rd largest by tribal population. Three-quarters of the state is covered in mountain ranges, with deep, broad, fertile and densely populated river valleys, as well as plateaus and rolling uplands. Nearly a third of the state is covered in forests.

Poverty levels have reduced sharply in the state since 2005 but are still very high. Growth is higher than in some low-income states but has recently slipped below the national average (World Bank, 2016).

More than half of the 42 million people in this major agricultural state depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has previously participated in a project in this state conducted by several CGIAR centres and state organizations and called Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). CSISA was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith (left) paid a courtesy call on Odisha Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Secretary Bishnupada Sethi in Mar 2016 (photo credits: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

In that earlier Odisha project (2012–2015), ILRI scientists addressed the state’s insufficient feed and fodder supply by promoting use of abundant, locally available and underutilized feeds, such as crop residues (rice and wheat straw and maize stover) and by introducing interventions in processing feeds, particularly mechanical chopping. ILRI’s work in CSISA also helped improved use of concentrate feeding and mineral mixtures by dairy farmers. And ILRI work identified maize and rice cultivars with potentially superior straw feed quality for dissemination.

Rural animal husbandry pictures from Odisha (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan and Jules Mateo and [bottom right] Creative Odisha).

On 15 Apr 2017, with the negotiations for the new Odisha project complete, I signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of ILRI with the government of Odisha in the presence of Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik and senior officials of the state government, including Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment and Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Pradeep Kumar Maharathy, Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, Development Commissioner-cum-Additional Chief Secretary & Secretary Planning & Convergence Department R Balakrishnan, Agriculture Production Commissioner Gagan Bihari Dhal, Principal Secretary of Finance Department Tuhin Kant Pande and Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Secretary Bishnupada Sethi.

ILRI Deputy Director General for Research Iain Wright (left) and Odisha Veterinary Services Director Pratap Chandra Dash sign an ILRI-Odisha Government memorandum of understanding initiating in Apr 2017 a new livestock feeds project in that eastern Indian state (photo credit: ILRI).

This is the first time a state government in India has invested its own money directly in ILRI. The three-year project, ‘Feed and Fodder Production in Different Agro-Climatic Zones and its Utilization for Livestock of Odisha,’ which is worth USD1.1 million (INR7.74 crore), will map feed and fodder supply and demand, improve feeding practices and build capacity of key players in the feed value chain in the state. ILRI will play the central role in improving the production of quality feed and fodder along with introducing the latest feeding technology through training and demonstration for specific small-scale livestock farming systems. The state’s farmers will be encouraged to grow superior dual-purpose (food and feed) crops to boost fodder availability for livestock as well as grain for people.

I was surprised to arrive at the state capital’s Bhubaneswar Airport to red carpets, flower garlands and police and army security. Alas, it was not for me—the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, was due to arrive a few hours later for a big rally!—ILRI’s Iain Wright

For more information, please contact Habibar Rahman, ILRI Representative in South Asia (h.rahman [at], or Braja Swain, the manager of this ILRI Odisha project (b.swain [at]

News clippings
MoUs inked for growth of fisheries, animal husbandry sector in Odisha, The Times of India, 15 Apr 2017.
Fodder plan to boost livestock in Odisha, The New Indian Express, 2 Nov 2016.
The Odisha Government and ILRI join forces to better resource livestock feeds in this eastern Indian state, ILRI News Clippings blog, 2 Nov 2016.
ILRI to pact with Odisha, Tathya, 31 Oct 2016.

Read about ILRI’s past work in Odisha in a blog series
‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’
Part 5: Wonder women of Bhubaneswar, 12 Apr 2016.
Part 6: Odisha Odyssey: The Arcadian landscapes and tribal goat keepers of Mayurbhanj, 9 May 2016.
Part 7: Odisha Odyssey: A look at the emerging commercial dairy value chains in eastern India, 12 May 2016.
Part 12: The hand that cares and feeds: India’s unnatural ‘natural’ caretakers of livestock, 1 Aug 2016.

Livestock-wildlife trade-offs for pastoral livelihoods in the conservancies of the Masai Mara

Photo adapted from Walking with the Maasai by Make It Kenya/Stuart Butler.

A new research paper, Trade-offs for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods in wildlife conservancies in the Mara ecosystem, Kenya, was recently published in Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice, May 2017. The paper is co-authored by Claire Bedelian, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and University College London (UCL), and Joseph Ogutu, of ILRI and the University of Hohenheim.

‘Pastoralists in the wildlife-rich East African rangelands use diversification into conservation and tourism as a strategy to supplement livestock-based livelihoods and to spread risk. Tourism incomes are an important alternative source during drought, when livestock incomes decline. However, tourism may also reduce access to rangeland resources, and an abundant wildlife may destroy crops and injure, kill or transmit disease to livestock or people.

‘This paper investigates the ability of wildlife conservancies in the Mara, Kenya, to act as an alternative for pastoralists that mitigates risks and maintains resilience in a changing climate. It analyses data to examine how conservancies contribute to and integrate with pastoral livelihoods, and to understand how pastoralists are managing their livestock herds in response to conservancies.

‘It finds conservancy payments can provide an important, reliable, all-year-round source of income and prevent households from selling their animals during stress and for cash needs. Conservancies also retain grass banks during the dry season and provide opportunities for pastoralists to access good-quality forage. However, they reduce access to large areas of former grazing land and impose restrictions on livestock mobility. This affects the ability of pastoralists to remain flexible and able to access seasonally variable resources. Conflicts between grazing and conservancies may also heighten during drought times. Furthermore, income from land leases is not more than the contribution of livestock, meaning conservancy land leases create trade-offs for livestock-based livelihoods. Also, income is based on land ownership, which has inequity implications: women and other marginalised groups are left out. . . .’

‘This paper has explored the opportunities and conflicts that emerge for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods for landowners who participate in wildlife conservancies in the Mara, Kenya. Results show that, though offering stable payments (based on a stable tourism in the Mara), conservancies cause trade-offs as livestock and other livelihood activities are restricted. This reduces the ability to access resources, remain mobile and maintain resilience. Also, because the income received from conservancy payments is not more than that received from livestock production, conservancies do not adequately compensate landowners for the restrictions placed on their other livelihood activities. Moreover, since conservancy payments are limited to those owning land inside a conservancy, a large portion of the community do not receive conservancy payments but still experience the cost of lost livestock-grazing space. This includes women and other groups not allocated land during subdivision.

‘However, community members also recognised the benefits of conservancies for livestock grazing and pastoralism. Conservancies retain good quality and quantity of grass and are important livestock-grazing areas if accessible during drought times. Conservancies also pool land and pre vent further subdivision and fragmentation. Thus, given the extent of land tenure changes in the Mara, conservancies and other similar schemes that maintain open rangelands could offer a potentially optimistic outlook for these areas, provided livestock are accommodated for. Conservancy effects may therefore be mixed and dependent on the policies and practices of individual conservancies and of the landowners’ continuing motivations to participate.

‘Conservancies are not fully integrative, and like other schemes in Maasailand (Homewood et al. 2012), they aim to replace livestock, rather than to fully integrate with livestock within the same landscape. Livestock support livelihoods and can con tribute to protecting biodiversity; livestock landscapes thus need to be part of the conservation agenda. There is a need for better-thought-out integrative livestock-grazing plans, for better integration of pastoralism and tourism within and beyond conservancies. These need to acknowledge the risk management benefits associated with livestock, transmission of diseases between wildlife and livestock and the cultural and social values attached to livestock by the whole family. These need to be taken into account beyond any simple economic appraisal of conservancies or similar livelihood activity.

‘Pastoralists have always had traditional strategies to regulate the access and use of resources and to cope with climatic variability. These include regulations on how many herds access a particular grazing area or when they move to dry season areas or access important resources, such as salt or water, ensuring there is adequate remaining for others. Conservancies could do well to draw on and mimic such traditional grazing strategies developing their livestock-grazing plans together with livestock keepers, including both conservancy members and non-members.

‘The Mara is a unique case study; it is the highest wildlife-earning site in Maasailand (Homewood et al. 2009), and its impressive wildlife abundance and diversity make it one of the top most visited tourist attractions in Kenya. Being at the top end of tourism revenue potential means conservancies are able to offer relatively large payments on a wide scale in the Mara. It is not certain that similar schemes in other areas would be able to offer pastoralists as much. However, conservancies are growing across Kenya and being widely adopted by local communities (Reid, RS, D Kaelo, KA Galvin, and R Harmon: Pastoral wildlife conservancies in Kenya: A bottom-up revolution in conservation, balancing livelihoods and conservation?, unpublished). Although they vary considerably in terms of their ownership and management arrangements, this Mara case study provides valuable lessons for what could potentially occur in other sites.’


  • Carefully formulated livestock-grazing plans are needed to allow for better integration of, and space for, livestock within and outside of conservancies. These should recognise the need to conserve good-quality rangeland for livestock, similar to how the conservancies expand and conserve habitat for wildlife. This should occur through a participatory process, not just with conservancy members but also with women, herders and other non-members who reside next to a conservancy.
  • It is important that grazing plans are holistic and encompass areas outside of conservancies. They should analyse their impact on the MMNR as well as focusing on land within the conservancy to avoid the problem of leakage and degradation to areas outside.
  • An increased focus on conservancies as areas managed for livestock as well as their current focus on tourism and wildlife conservation is needed. This should involve the identification of critical areas and periods where conflict between livestock and tourism is likely to increase and will need mitigation with appropriate strategies.
  • There is opportunity for better integration of livestock in conservancy marketing, so tourists are aware from the outset and expect to see livestock are integrated into conservancies.
  • Better inclusion of non-conservancy members in conservancy operations is necessary. This includes in livestock-grazing plans but also in conservancy management and in the distribution of conservancy payments.
  • Clear policy guidelines for the development of conservancies, adequate benefit sharing, participatory processes and sustainable land use are required.

Funding for this research was provided by ESRC/NERC (UK), the German National Research Foundation (Germany), and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (EU). Research for this journal article was carried out as part of the Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE) research project. The PRISE consortium comprises the Overseas Development Institute (ODI, UK), the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (UK); Innovations Environnement Développement en Afrique (Senegal); and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (Pakistan), with country research partners the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (Tajikistan), the University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Kenya Markets Trust (Kenya). This work was carried out under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), with financial support from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.

Read the whole 2017 research paper
Trade-offs for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods in wildlife conservancies in the Mara ecosystem, Kenya, published in Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice, May 2017, written by Claire Bedelian, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and University College London (UCL), and Joseph Ogutu, of ILRI and the University of Hohenheim.

Read the 2016 working paper
Claire Bedelian and Joseph Ogutu, 2016. Trade-offs for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods in wildlife conservancies in the Mara Ecosystem, Kenya: Small Grants Programme. United Kingdom: Overseas Development Institute.

Read related news on the ILRI Clippings blog
Lions and people and livestock (‘Oh, my!’): New research shows they can coexist within community conservancies, 24 Mar 2016.

Wildlife ‘crash’ reported in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara region, 1 Jun 2011.

Read related news on the ILRI News blog
Kenya’s wildlife populations are in ‘widespread’ and ‘catastrophic’ decline—New study, 1 Oct 2016.

Lessons learnt out of Africa: 19 factors not to underestimate in rural livestock/agricultural research for development

Robyn Alders at her poultry work with her village partners in central Tanzania (photo via The Canberra Times).

Robyn Alders, a veterinarian, village poultry expert and associate professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, gave a particularly candid and interesting presentation at a seminar/webinar held on 4 May 2017 at the headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya. The one-day seminar/webinar was on the subject of ‘Animal-source foods for nutrition impact: Evidence and good practices for informed project design‘. This was the fourth in a Livestock and Household Nutrition Learning Series of seminars/webinars organized jointly by Land O’Lakes International Development and ILRI and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

View, watch and listen to Alders’ half-hour slide presentation—‘Impact of poultry interventions on household nutrition in Tanzania and lessons learnt along the way’—on Slideshare and on Youtube (Alders filmed presentation on YouTube starts at the 2:19:02 timestamp and ends at 2:51:39; note that there is some noise contamination in parts of the audio.)

Alders described some of the positive associations between her project’s poultry interventions and household nutrition, particularly in Tanzania, and lessons her team has learnt along the way. Her five-year project, running from Feb 2014 to Jan 2019, is titled: ‘Strengthening food and nutrition security through family poultry and crop integration in Tanzania and Zambia’. The partners in her poultry project are the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); project partners in Tanzania and Zambia, the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in London; the KYEEMA Foundation, and the University of Sydney; and collaborative links with Land O’Lakes International Development (LOL-ID), of USA; and ILRI.

Alders began by describing the two main aims of her project. The first, she said, is to reduce childhood undernutrition by enhancing women’s capacity to strengthen household nutrition through improvements in the integration and efficiencies of smallholder chicken-plus-crop food production.

‘But my main aim’, Alders continued, ‘is to see if our research could convince ministers of finance that investments in the health of the chickens kept by these women can also help improve human health, thereby reducing the heavy burden on national health budgets.’

Alders next showed a schematic illustrating that once a year or so village chickens tend to die off in big numbers, typically due to Newcastle disease, which can be prevented by vaccination. ‘We also know that in rain-fed agriculture, supplies of foodstuffs vary throughout the year, with supplies high just after the crop harvest and decreasing after that, leading to a “hunger period” before the next crop is mature and ready to be harvested.’

‘My colleagues and I are interested in determining whether introduction of vaccination against Newcastle disease to stablize poultry numbers could significantly benefit household food and nutritional security in these two countries. We’re looking to see if Newcastle disease vaccination benefits women. We are a large team involving Tanzanian and Zambian frontline and research organizations, including universities, ministries and agencies; a London college; an Australian non-governmental organization; and three faculties within the University of Sydney —medical, agricultural and veterinary.’

Bringing the three academic faculties together in this project, Alders said, has been the most challenging aspect of her project. Her project staff at the university now come together within a new interdisciplinary centre based at the University of Sydney, called the Charles Perkins Centre, which works to break down disciplinary silos in areas of environment, food and health.

Alders said that her project site in central Tanzania is a particularly challenging area to work in (e.g., low rainfall, inhospitable climate, variable weather, poor soils). Her team is looking at the impact of selected poultry and crop interventions. On the animal side, the intervention chosen was vaccination against Newcastle disease. Interventions on the crop side were determined with the participating villagers. Project staff are looking to see if and how the interventions affect women’s roles in food production and the community, particularly regarding their impacts on childhood nutrition.

Lessons learnt
Alders spent much of her talk candidly detailing the lessons she and her team have learnt in this project. What follows are some of the examples she gave.

  • Do not underestimate the time it takes to obtain human ethic approvals for this kind of research from both the countries where your project is operating and the universities leading the project.
  • Do not underestimate the value of conducting cluster randomized controlled trials. While used sparsely before the 1980s, these trials, which reduce selection bias by randomizing groups of subjects (as opposed to individual subjects), are well suited and now commonly used to evaluate public health issues, policies and interventions.
I’ve spent 20 years working on the better control of Newcastle disease in village chickens. In all that time, while our projects have offered the vaccination to whole communities, we always ended up working most closely with the farmers who wanted to work with us. This project’s adoption of cluster-randomized controlled trials, which have us working in households, both extremely poor and better off, has taught me a lot. Not using this method in the past is part of the reason why it has been so hard to scale up earlier results where we had great results with early adopters of our interventions.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the need to combine qualitative with quantitative methods and to use interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral teams.
  • Do not underestimate the value of staggering implementation of the chosen interventions.
  • Do not underestimate the greater expense of working and spending time with people in rural rather than urban settings.
  • Do not underestimate the scarcity of food diversity and the huge seasonal variations in food availability in resource-scarce rural environments. These can render much well-intentioned advice from nutritional agencies, for example for breast-feeding women, impractical if not useless (and, adds Alders, ‘in some cases even insulting’).
  • Do not underestimate the importance of employing gender-sensitive (male and female) and participatory and nutrition-sensitive methods to agriculture, landscapes and value chains.
  • Do not underestimate the utility of using government ministries rather than research institutions as your frontline partners to have real impacts.
  • Do not underestimate the ‘fabulous contributions’ that can be made by graduate students and community assistants and vaccinators.
  • Do not underestimate the difficulty in getting good data on dietary diversity.
There are prejudices that eating certain foods is uncivilized or backward. Who wants to say that they ate an antelope or a field mouse the week before? It can be hard for people to answer dietary questions honestly, when we’ve spent a long time telling people what is and isn’t ‘good food’.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the lack of research understanding of the need to include animal-source foods in research questionnaires and projects promoting dietary diversity.
As researchers, we’ve all made mistakes, and we’re about to make more mistakes, but by sharing them as we are doing here, we can work to minimize them.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the work involved in getting an interdisciplinary team to work really well together.
I’m not sure five years is long enough to create an interdisciplinary team that functions well together, but we’re having a go.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the lack of real understanding of field conditions in low-income countries by university staff from high-income countries.
I apologize for those of us who come in to a field situation and think we know and then don’t hang around long enough to understand what we don’t know.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the disjunct between university calendars and the need for university staff to spend large amounts of time in the field, listening and learning from farmers.
Most university staff teach, and teach in blocks of time that cannot be changed and do not correspond well to agricultural calendars, so it means people are not on the ground in their field sites when they need to be to learn lessons and listen to farmers. It’s a real challenge and something donors do have to grapple with—about who should be on the scene, and how they learn and listen to the people who know the situation better than anyone else.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate disruptions to your research project due to significant and relatively frequent changes to political and administrative management in a single country.
  • Do not underestimate disruptions to your research project due to poor rains, or to flooding, or to poor harvests.
Such shocks can lead to severely malnourished or anaemic mothers and children being referred to the nearest health facility to treat their conditions, when they are of course then removed from a study as an enrolled household.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the barriers presented by some traditional food practices, for example beliefs relating to the consumption of eggs by pregnant women and children.
  • Do not underestimate the need for careful research design work, spelling out adequate and appropriate sample sizes, tools and timeframes.
It can be very hard to do these things. All you can do is do your best and do your best with the budget you have available. Public health projects tend to have more money than we in animal health have, so you have to be realistic about what you can achieve, or partner with those who have a bit more money.—Robyn Alders
  • Do not underestimate the importance of interdisciplinary research and its longer time requirements and financial costs.
True interdisciplinary science cannot be rushed. Not all research needs to be interdisciplinary, but think about when it is required and use it at the right times.—Robyn Alders

About Robyn Alders
Robyn Alders is an associate professor and principal research fellow with the faculty of veterinary science at the University of Sydney. For over 20 years, she has worked closely with smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia as a veterinarian, researcher and colleague, with an emphasis on the development of sustainable infectious disease control in animals in rural areas in support of food security and poverty alleviation.

Alders’ current research and development interests include domestic and global food and nutrition security/systems, One Health/EcoHealth/planetary health, gender equity and science communication. She leads the Charles Perkins Centre/Marie Bashir Institute Healthy Food Systems: Nutrition–Diversity–Safety research node.

In Jan 2011, Alders was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to veterinary science as a researcher and educator, particularly her work to enhance food security in developing countries through livestock management and disease control programs. In Feb 2017, Alders was the inaugural recipient of the Mitchell Global Humanitarian Award, which recognizes Australians and others supported by Australian aid who have made outstanding contributions to international development.

Twitter:  @RobynAlders   @SydneyUni    @ACIARAustralia
Flickr: 40 photos of the LOL–ILRI 4 May 2017 Nairobi seminar/webinar

ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance and Takaful Insurance of Africa win ‘2017 Insurance Innovation Award’

Duncan Khalai (left), of ILRI’s IBLI project, and Amina Farah, TIA’s director of communications (second left), receive the Insurance Innovations Award 2017 at the Africa Re’s Awards gala dinner held on 22 May 2017 in Kampala, Uganda (photo credit: ILRI).

This article is written by Duncan Khalai, market and capacity development specialist in ILRI’s IBLI project, and edited by ILRI communications officer Dorine Odongo.

ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project and Takaful Insurance of Africa (TIA) are bestowed the ‘2017 Insurance Innovation of the Year’ award at a prestigious African insurance awards ceremony.

The announcement was made at the African Reinsurance Corporation (Africa Re)’s Insurance Awards gala dinner held on 22 May 2017 at the Serena Kigo Hotel, in Kampala, Uganda. Together with its commercial partner, Takaful Insurance of Africa (TIA), the IBLI project of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) won in the ‘Insurance Innovations’ category.

The Africa Re’s innovation of the year prize is given to an insurance company that excels in the use of technology to launch a breakthrough product/service or a new and innovative distribution channel or method. ILRI and TIA featured among 36 other applicants from across Africa and was ranked top out of 5 nominees. The panel of judges considered several criteria, including: Innovative insurance products accessible to a large clientele, innovative value proposition to pressing or neglected community risks, innovative response to emerging risks, breakthrough in technological choices and innovative ways of communicating with clients.

IBLI has been in partnership with TIA since 2013, when they introduced, for the first time in Africa, an Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT) policy, which combines an Islamic-compliant financial instrument with innovative use of satellite imagery to determine forage availability.

In Mar 2014, TIA made its first payouts under IBLT to livestock-insurance-covered pastoralists in Wajir County, located in the drylands of northeastern Kenya, who had taken out insurance on their sheep, goats, cattle and camels and who had suffered a prolonged drought and loss of forage.

IBLT is now available in six counties found in the arid parts of Kenya: Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo and Tana River.

In Mar 2017, TIA paid out Ksh10.7 million (over USD100,000) in indemnities to 1,970 beneficiaries following a drought occasioned by failed rains in Kenya’s 2016 short rains season. To date, this insurance company has insured more than 12,000 livestock herder beneficiaries across Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands.

Venturing into Kenya’s vast arid and semi-arid lands—characterized by their poor infrastructure, harsh weather and scarce financial services—is uncommon for commercial entities looking to make profits. Amina Farah, TIA’s director of communications, while receiving the award from the speaker of Uganda’s national parliament, the Honorable Rebecca Kadaga, reiterated the company’s commitment to continuous efforts to innovate cost-effective ways to spread IBLI across the continent.

ILRI and TIA acknowledge the essential contributions of their partners—including Australia’s foreign aid agency (AusAID), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union (EU), the Government of Kenya, the Unites States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, along with many other technical and implementing collaborators—for their unstinting support in ensuring the sustainable commercial viability for this novel livestock insurance product, which is now protecting Kenya’s never-before insured herding communities.

There has been increasing momentum in the adoption and scale of the IBLI product by various partners, from private insurance companies to Kenya government departments. This award will go a long way in further catalyzing the product’s growth and partnerships so as to widen the reach of both IBLI’s generic and Sharia-compliant products.

African Insurance Awards was initiated in 2015 by Africa Re to foster best corporate management, leadership and governance as well as innovative and sustainable growth of the insurance sector in Africa by honouring distinguished companies and leaders of insurance companies that have raised exceptional standards of competence and achievement and demonstrated an unprecedented level of insurance industry leadership.

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.

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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.