News from ILRI

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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

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


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


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



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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sustainable Agricultural Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Livestock Production Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much, Madame Chair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow the discussions with the tag #CFS43.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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

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

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

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




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


slide12 Exciting new science


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

IPM 2016 agenda

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

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

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


The objectives of the Livestock Genetics program are the following.

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

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

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

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



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




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

Kenya’s wildlife populations are in ‘widespread’ and ‘catastrophic’ decline—New study


Cattle and Maasai herders and zebra share grazing land in Kenya (Photo credit: Rob Pringle/Harvard University).

Here’s a wake up call for all those who care about Kenya’s rich heritage of wild animals, rangelands and pastoral peoples. A new study reporting on the period from 1977 to 2016 says wildlife on the rangelands of Kenya, which still support some of the richest herds of mammals on earth, is in precipitous decline while populations of goats and sheep are increasingly sharply.

These results are published in a new paper, Extreme wildlife declines and concurrent increase in livestock numbers in Kenya: What are the causes?, written by Joe Ogutu, a Kenyan scientist formerly working at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and now at the University of Hohenheim, and Hans-Peter Piepho (University of Hohenheim), Mohamed Said (ILRI), Gordon Ojwang (Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing [DRSRS]), Lucy Njino (DRSRS), Shem Kifugo (ILRI) and Patrick Wargute (DRSRS).

One of the solutions advanced is strengthening community-based wildlife conservancies:

With the right incentives and support wildlife conservancies can and have been an avenue for addressing wildlife loss.
—Dickson Ole Kaelo, CEO, Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association From the results section of the paper The most salient features of the trends
were a striking increase in numbers of sheep and goats and camels
and concurrent
extreme declines in numbers of 14 of the 18 common wildlife species
throughout Kenya’s rangelands between 1977 and 2016.

‘The numbers of sheep and goats aggregated across all the 21 rangeland counties (“national” trend) increased markedly by 76.3%, followed by 13.1% for camels (Camelus dromedarius) and 6.7% for donkeys (Equus asinus) while the number of cattle (Bos indicus) dropped by 25.2%. In sharp contrast to the increasing trends or moderate declines in livestock numbers, the aggregated numbers of the common wildlife species declined precipitously, and for certain species catastrophically, in the same period in the Kenyan rangelands.’

From the abstract to the paper

‘There is growing evidence of escalating wildlife losses worldwide. Extreme wildlife losses have recently been documented for large parts of Africa, including western, Central and Eastern Africa. Here, we report extreme declines in wildlife and contemporaneous increase in livestock numbers in Kenya rangelands between 1977 and 2016. Our analysis uses systematic aerial monitoring survey data collected in rangelands that collectively cover 88% of Kenya’s land surface. Our results show that wildlife numbers declined on average by 68% between 1977 and 2016. The magnitude of decline varied among species but was most extreme (72–88%) and now severely threatens the population viability and persistence of warthog, lesser kudu, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, oryx, topi, hartebeest, impala, Grevy’s zebra and waterbuck in Kenya’s rangelands.

‘The declines were widespread and occurred in most of the 21 rangeland counties. Likewise to wildlife, cattle numbers decreased (25.2%) but numbers of sheep and goats (76.3%), camels (13.1%) and donkeys (6.7%) evidently increased in the same period. As a result, livestock biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011–2013 compared to 3.5 times in 1977–1980. Most of Kenya’s wildlife (ca. 30%) occurred in Narok County alone. The proportion of the total “national” wildlife population found in each county increased between 1977 and 2016 substantially only in Taita Taveta and Laikipia but marginally in Garissa and Wajir counties, largely reflecting greater wildlife losses elsewhere.

‘The declines raise very grave concerns about the future of wildlife, the effectiveness of wildlife conservation policies, strategies and practices in Kenya. Causes of the wildlife declines include exponential human population growth, increasing livestock numbers, declining rainfall and a striking rise in temperatures but the fundamental cause seems to be policy, institutional and market failures. Accordingly, we thoroughly evaluate wildlife conservation policy in Kenya. We suggest policy, institutional and management interventions likely to succeed in reducing the declines and restoring rangeland health, most notably through strengthening and investing in community and private wildlife conservancies in the rangelands.’

From the introduction to the paper

‘Rapid human population growth is driving wildlife population declines in Africa through its influence on expansion of agriculture, settlements and development of infrastructure. Deterioration in wildlife and livestock habitats caused by major land use and cover changes is exacerbated by climate change and variability, piling enormous pressures on pastoralism, ranching and wildlife conservation in African rangelands and protected areas. . . .

‘Rangelands cover about 512586.8 km2, representing 88% of the 582,646 km2 land surface of Kenya. They are hot, semiarid or arid with highly variable rainfall, often averaging less than 600 mm per year and thus are drought-prone and less suitable for sustainable crop production. The rangelands are currently home to 32.6% of the Kenyan population (12,582,028 of 38,610,097 people in 2009), principally pastoral communities and are crucially important for extensive livestock production and wildlife conservation in Kenya. More than half of the Kenyan livestock populations are found on these rangelands’

From the main section of the paper What should be done to stop the wildlife declines?

‘Since policy, institutional and market failures are at the heart of wildlife declines in Kenya, we examine important gaps in the current wildlife conservation and management policy which need to be addressed to stem the wildlife losses.

To be successful, efforts aiming to slow down or halt the declines and restore the depleted wildlife populations and the degraded rangelands must address the twin crux issues: what is wildlife beneficial for and who mainly benefits?

‘Such efforts must also account for the possibility that large areas of East Africa will inevitably pass over to more lucrative activities, as has happened, for example, in South Africa, which no longer has any counterpart of subsistence pastoralism. Counteracting this progression will require that some pastoral lands retaining wildlife should be buffered against such changes to ensure that they deliver the multiple benefits that they provide sustainably.

This demands a far-sighted land-use plan to secure wildlife habitats from the impacts of the rapidly expanding human and livestock populations.

‘Such a plan would benefit from incorporating the biosphere concept of a protected core area enlarged by a multi-use buffer zone with compatible activities.

‘As the future role of wildlife has become a leading issue globally it is not surprising that different countries are following different routes in search for solutions, including (1) laissez-faire as traditionally prevalent in Kenya, (2) multiple economic uses including hunting, as in Tanzania and earlier in Botswana, (3) devolvement of full financial control to local communities, as in Namibia, (4) fenced protected areas as tourist attractions or living museums, as in South Africa, (5) private ownership in fenced ranches or conservancies, as in South Africa, and (6) transfrontier protected areas, consisting of a mosaic of wildlands and settlements. Despite the diversity of these approaches, the basic issues confronting all countries with wildlife are primarily those of land ownership and devolvement of financial benefits.

A crucial need is thus for part of the benefits of protected areas and conservancies to filter down to impoverished neighbours.

‘Although East Africa still supports the richest herds of wildlife on earth, our analysis shows that the future of Kenyan wildlife is in serious jeopardy without urgent, far-reaching and far-sighted changes to their current conservation and management. The new Act therefore not only restores some badly needed hope but also recognizes that for much of Kenya, environmental imperatives have progressed far beyond “conservation” to “recovery” and “restoration”. . . .

‘One of the hallmarks of the new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 is that it promotes private and community conservation and transition from open-access to private property regimes. It thus provides a framework within which communities can be empowered to use, manage and receive expanded economic benefits from wildlife. Greater benefits enhance the importance of wildlife as a component of livelihoods and development, help pay the costs of conservation and reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Yet, widespread poverty and inequality still deny many landowners the opportunity to benefit from wildlife. This reduces interest and investment in conservation because, understandably, attitudes of people towards conservation on private or communal lands are often shaped by the amount and distribution of financial benefits from supporting wildlife on their lands. Communities getting no benefits from wildlife and having little say in national policy, as most pastoralists are, are more likely to be more intolerant to wildlife.

‘Although initially started by individuals and communities in a policy vacuum, wildlife conservancies have had some tangible success in Kenya, associated with direct economic benefits to poor landowner households, poverty alleviation, rising land values and increasing wildlife numbers within the conservancies.

As a result, conservancies are fast emerging as the centrepiece of natural resource conservation on the rangelands and broader development institutions for championing community development projects around the conservancies and ensuring sustainability through land use planning, managing wildlife, livestock, rangelands, and forests, trading in conservation beef, organic products or carbon—because traditional institutions have collapsed in the pastoral lands.

‘Community conservation in conservancies is also important in complementing limited capacity and skills of state agencies and dwindling state resources for conservation in the wake of mounting conservation challenges.

Important wildlife policy gaps that should be addressed to stop the declines

‘Here, we highlight some root causes of wildlife declines that are not adequately addressed by the current wildlife conservation policy and hence need to be urgently addressed. It is crucial to regulate livestock stocking levels to limit the number of livestock that can be reared on the available rangelands in conservancies, or ranches to minimize rangeland degradation through overgrazing. Reducing livestock stocking levels is also important to ensuring economic viability and sustainability of wildlife conservation on the human and livestock dominated pastoral lands. High livestock stocking levels are associated with declines in large mammalian species richness, abundance and distribution. Regulating livestock stocking levels will also help ensure that pastoralists do not regularly move increasingly large livestock herds to conservancies, parks and reserves, as currently happens.

As most ordinary pastoralists still earn more from livestock than wildlife, it is crucial to maintain some balance between conservancies and livestock, make and enforce rules that control livestock grazing in conservancies. These measures will ensure that communities benefit from wildlife without necessarily having to sacrifice all their current major livelihood—livestock.

‘However, policies that can guide the development of models for optimally integrating livestock and wildlife in conservancies to ensure economically viable conservancies on pastoral lands rather than completely separating pastoral livestock and wildlife, especially in areas with low tourism potential, are still lacking. Although there are some benefits to be gained by not completely separating wildlife from livestock in conservancies, including mutually beneficial long-term modifications of rangeland habitats, livestock grazing and herd size in conservancies should be regulated and monitored. This is especially important because a major problem for conservancies currently is that some pastoral land owners benefitting from conservancies use their incomes to buy more livestock that then compete with wildlife and degrade rangeland habitats. Equally important to regulate and monitor to stem widespread destruction of woodland habitats is clear felling of woodlands for charcoal trade, fuel wood, fencing, and construction materials in pastoral lands.

‘. . . There is . . .  need to build community capacity in wildlife conservation, management and protection, conservation planning, effective leadership, security operations, conservation business enterprises, technical and negotiation skills, access to information, democratic and effective collective or collaborative action. . . . [T]he participation and support of pastoral land owners is critical to the success of conservancies because they have to vacate their lands for conservancies, refrain from erecting fences and other developments. Wildlife conservation policy should also recognize that wildlife is not just a Kenyan heritage but a global heritage, conferring upon Kenya both global and local responsibilities that need funding for conservation and habitat restoration. . . .

Wildlife policy should embrace a strong paradigm shift away from the past and current bureaucratic uncertainty, crippling restrictions on use, and extracting most wildlife revenues from community areas. Wildlife policy should also do away with state nationalization, monopolization and centralization of wildlife and grant local communities responsibility and authority over local conservation decisions within a wider and carefully crafted framework of accountability, regulation and governance.

Read the paper, published on PLOS ONE, Extreme wildlife declines and concurrent increase in livestock numbers in Kenya: What are the causes?, by Joseph Ogutu (University of Hohenheim, formerly of ILRI), Hans-Peter Piepho (University of Hohenheim), Mohamed Said (ILRI), Gordon Ojwang (Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing [DRSRS]), Lucy Njino (DRSRS), Shem Kifugo (ILRI) and Patrick Wargute (DRSRS), 27 Sep 2016.

The following excerpts of a related and earlier policy paper provide more context: ‘More than half of the wildlife habitat in Kenya is located outside protected areas, dispersed in private and community grazing lands. The traditional pastoral approach to livestock husbandry is considered compatible with and complementary to wildlife. However, these areas have undergone increasing land use pressure within the past decades, leading to land degradation largely due to climatic factors, notably recurrent droughts and low and declining amounts of rainfall, increasing human and livestock population and unsustainable land uses. Pastoralists range has become too restricted for traditional livestock grazing practices forcing them to diversify livestock-based economies and agriculture. As the pressure on land intensifies, there is potential for conflict between wildlife and people over grazing land, characterised by competition for key resources, predation on domestic livestock, and disease transmission. Wildlife populations and their habitats have been adversely affected by these changes. Restoration of degraded arid environments is critically needed as a mitigation measure against land degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change (Lal, 2009) and for enhancing the adaptive capacity of the local agro-pastoral communities. . . .

‘One of the key ecological constraints in the coexistence of livestock and wildlife at the livestock-wildlife interface environments is pasture scarcity. Since the pastoral economy is pinned on livestock keeping, land degradation has led to depletion of livelihoods base, leading to poverty, food insecurity and resource conflicts which pose a serious conservation challenge. Implementation of NRM plans including land use zoning within the community wildlife conservancies is a step towards finding the right solution. . . .’ (Taken from: Range Rehabilitation for Wildlife Conservation and Pastoral Livestock Production, Policy Brief 1, Feb 2013, USAID and Higher Education for Development).

And further, and on a more hopeful note, you can watch American Robin Reid, an ecologist formerly with ILRI and a colleague of the paper’s authors Joe Ogutu, Mohamed Said, Shem Kifugo and also Dickson Ole Kaelo, and, since 2008, founding director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University, describe how collaboration can change pastoral lands and lives:

Robin Reid gave the eighth ‘President’s Community Lecture’ hosted by Colorado State University in Fort Collins on 27 Sep 2016:

Walking with Herders (and Others):
Bringing Different People Together to Work with Nature

‘Dr. Robin Reid has found ways to bring together businesses, government, citizens, and scientists to work out solutions for complicated conservation problems.’ In this public lecture, Reid tells the story of her unexpected discovery of just how much ‘collaboration’ among East Africa’s wildlife populations, savannah landscapes and pastoral peoples has benefitted all three.

Improving food safety and human health through agricultural research: CGIAR future plans


Tanzanian boy with large jug of fresh milk (photo credit: East African Dairy Development project).

A useful summary of the future plans of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, DC, has been published. Two of the five flagships of this multi-institutional research program are led or co-led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya. Future work of these two flagships is described below.

‘Beginning in 2012, the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has provided an innovative perspective on the relationships between agriculture, nutrition, and health through research that strengthens the knowledge base and through new partnerships that lead to outcomes. . . . Led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, D.C., A4NH’s research activities are carried out through five flagship research programs and three cross-cutting units based across the globe working with partners on projects in at least 30 countries. This brief provides A4NH stakeholders with a summary of the full proposal we submitted in March 2016 to the Consortium Board for the next generation of the CRPs. . . .’

‘Food safety is moving rapidly up the development agenda as major new studies reveal its severely under-estimated importance. Solutions that are effective in developed countries and export systems have not translated well to informal or formalizing markets. There is an urgent need for technical and institutional solutions to food safety challenges, and broader policy and regulatory approaches to manage food safety risks in dynamic, developing markets.

‘Food Safety (Flagship 3) addresses these challenges through targeted research on technological and institutional solutions and appropriate policy and regulatory options that align public health goals with country priorities to ensure that food is both safe and equitable for the poor. Primarily, this flagship focuses on mitigating aflatoxin contamination in key staples and on managing risks in informal markets for nutrient-rich perishables like meat, milk, fish, and vegetables. In close collaboration with value chain research in other CRPs and with partners, this flagship will reach tens of millions of consumers, millions of farmers, and thousands of market agents working in priority countries in Africa and Asia.

The Flagship 3 topics are consolidated into three main clusters of activities
‘1) Evidence that Counts generates evidence on questions at the interface of agriculture and foodborne diseases so that key food safety evidence users (donors, academics, INGOs, national policymakers, civil society, and industry) are aware of and use evidence in the support, formulation and/or implementation of pro-poor and risk-based food safety approaches.

‘2) Safe Fresh Foods conducts research on how an institutional innovation known as training & certification (T&C) can improve the quality and safety of fresh foods (initially limited to dairy and meat), in order that market-based food safety innovations, like T&C, are delivered at scale in key countries along with understanding of their impact and appropriate use.

‘3) Aflatoxin Mitigation looks at how use of farm-level mitigation technologies and practices, like good agricultural practices, resistant varieties, and/or biocontrol (aflasafe™), could reduce aflatoxin exposure among consumers with the goal of seeing biocontrol and good agricultural practices delivered at scale in key countries along with understanding of their impact and appropriate use. . . .

‘Research that bridges disciplinary divisions and enhances links between agriculture and health provides a largely untapped opportunity to improve the health and livelihoods of poor people, especially in rural areas where ill health may be the most critical pathway for staying or becoming poor, and undermines the benefits of agricultural development. Improving Human Health (Flagship 5) is an innovative collaboration between public health and agriculture researchers aimed at mitigating health risks and optimizing benefits in agricultural systems.

‘This flagship is led by a joint partnership arrangement co-convened by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), thus bridging agriculture and public health research to deliver high-quality scientific outputs and to identify new key opportunities for integrated actions that improve human health. Flagship 5 will also host a Platform for Public Health and Agriculture Research Collaboration, convened by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which will serve as a resource for other CRPs looking to collaborate on agriculture and health.

Priorities for cross-sectoral research fall into three clusters of activities
‘1) Diseases in Agricultural Landscapes concentrates on understanding the health effects of agricultural intensification, including changes in water use, so that agricultural research initiatives, including those in farming communities, are more aware of how and why it is important to measure health risks and benefits.

‘2) Emerging and Neglected Zoonotic Diseases studies shared human and animal disease risks and explores the impacts of co-locating and aligning health and agricultural interventions for effective management so that agricultural and public health policymakers and implementers deliver coordinated and effective solutions to cysticercosis, in particular, and other zoonotic threats; and public and private sector policymakers.

‘3) Global Challenges on Agriculture and Health coordinates research on tackling emerging, common problems for health and agriculture, such as antimicrobial resistance and pesticide resistance, in order for public and private sector policymakers to implement measures to reduce health risks from antimicrobial resistance in hotspot livestock systems. . . .’

Read the whole brief: A4NH—Plans for phase II (2017–2022), IFPRI, 2016.

For more information, contact Delia Grace, the ILRI scientist who leads this A4NH work, at d.grace [at], or Tezira Lore, the ILRI communications officer covering this work, at t.lore [at] Lore manages a blogsite for this work at: AgHealth. And you’ll find all of this CRP’s five flagships covered at the A4NH website.


India and Vietnam in South-South collaboration on shared pig breeds, production systems and cultures


Wild Boar by Rajendra Singh Shyam, Gond art of India (via Pinterest).

This article is written by Jules Mateo, ILRI communications specialist for East and Southeast Asia.

A new state breeding policy for Nagaland’s pig sector
Nagaland launches a comprehensive
state pig-breeding policy,
the first of its kind in India,
developed through participatory
and consultative processes.

A new pig breeding policy for the state of Nagaland in northeastern India aimed at conserving indigenous breeds, improving productivity and promoting livelihoods and pig enterprises among all sectors of society, including the rural poor, ethnic minorities and women in the state, has been formally launched.

The launch was officiated by Shri Radha Mohan Singh, union minister for agriculture of the Government of India, at a public meeting in Kohima, the state’s capital, in the presence of the chief minister of the state on 6 Aug 2016.

The new breeding policy is the offshoot of several stakeholder consultation workshops held in 2015–2016, where government officials, scientists and community workers generated recommendations to develop pig breeds/cross-breeds that are adaptable, productive and appropriate for smallholder farmers in Nagaland.

A study of breeding practices and policies in Nagaland, commissioned by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and led by a Vietnamese scientist from the National Institute of Animal Sciences (NIAS), an ILRI partner, in collaboration with Nagaland livestock sector scientists and officials, found haphazard breeding within and between various pig breeds was a problem and that the ill-defined pig populations were caused by lack of systematic and scientifically based breeding programs.

To redress this, the scientists and officials participating in the workshops developed a series of recommendations that are comprehensive in scope but also carefully tailored for specific regions, taking into consideration such important local factors as the available feed resources and farmer preferences, demand levels, climatic conditions and altitudes.

Different policy recommendations were made for different circumstances.

For example, for remote rural farmers raising indigenous breeds or poor-quality cross-bred pigs in open range, tethered or pen systems, with the animals maintained on locally available feeds and raised for household consumption, the breeding policy focuses on conserving meritorious indigenous germplasm in their native pig breeding tracts by establishing nucleus breeding herds.

For rural farmers raising cross-bred pigs in intensive or semi-intensive and low-input–low-output production systems that generate main sources of household income, the breeding policy promotes cross-breeding local female stock with Hampshire or Large Black males of 50% exotic genotypes, with the breed of choice depending on farmer preference and consumer demand.

And for urban and peri-urban producers raising good-quality cross-bred pigs or poor-quality exotic pigs in intensive, high-input–high-output systems for commercial purposes, the breeding policy promotes the keeping of pure Large Black/Hampshire pigs or their crosses.

This Nagaland pig breeding policy was made possible by bringing together relevant research and development organizations, including the Department of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry (V&AH), the governments of Nagaland and India, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fishery (DAHDF), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-National Research Center on Pig (NRCP), ICAR-National Bureau of Animal Genetics Resources (NBAGR), Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Nagaland University North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA) and ILRI. Discussions to develop the new breeding policy ensured that it does not conflict with prevailing policies of the state or central governments.

The participatory, consultative processes employed to develop this comprehensive state pig breeding policy, which is the first of its kind in India, can serve as a model for developing breeding policies in other states where pig-keeping is important.


Vietnamese warty pig, by Trousset Encyclopedia via Shutterstock.

The highland pig breeds, production systems, climates and cultures of northeastern India and East and Southeast Asia share similar pig breeds, production systems, climates and cultures. The smallholder pig production systems that characterize India’s far northeastern state of Nagaland continue to occur in a band reaching more than one thousand kilometres across southwestern China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Lao and Vietnam, with cultural ties among these pig-keeping cultures that go back centuries. This pig policy work in Nagaland is making excellent use of the unique role ILRI can play in mediating South-South agricultural exchanges bridging South, East and Southeast Asia. —Steve Staal, leader of ILRI’s Policies, Trade and Value Chains program HampshirePig_MeyersKonversations-Lexikon

Hampshire Pig, from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon via Shutterstock.

Native pig production in India and Vietnam:
A cross-regional research cooperation

Study tour for delegation from India’s
northeastern state of Nagaland to
northern Vietnam advances understanding
of community-level pig breeding
and smallholder pig value chains.

In June 2016, ILRI East and Southeast Asia regional staff based in Hanoi held a study tour for a delegation of Nagaland officials and scientists working on native pigs. The goal of the study tour was for the Indian delegation to learn more about pig value chains in Vietnam and for participants from both countries to share experiences in community-level pig breeding and service delivery systems.

The Nagaland, India, team, led by Mesetshulo Kezienuo Mero, V&AH commissioner and secretary, visited small-scale native pig farms, small- and medium-scale exotic pig farms, slaughterhouses and fresh markets in the northern Vietnam provinces of Lao Cai (northwest border) and Hung Yen (Red River Delta).

In Hanoi, the Nagaland team also met with key ILRI Vietnamese partners, including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), Hanoi School of Public Health (HSPH) and National Institute of Animal Sciences (NIAS). They discussed the successes of Vietnam’s pig sub-sector as well as the limitations of Vietnam’s current production methods and food safety problems that remain big challenges to smallholder and large-scale pig producers alike.

It was noteworthy that the India delegation had a particular interest in small- and medium-scale exotic pig farms of Vietnam when they visited Hung Yen, a study site of an ILRI PigRisk project. The Indian officials and scientists see this production system as a way forward for Nagaland’s pig sector.

This knowledge exchange was particularly productive because northeastern India and northern Vietnam are geographically close and share similar highland regions, climates and cultures as well as native pig breeds and  production systems.

The two regions can mutually benefit from partnerships and collaborations, not just on pig breeding policies but also on ways to improve smallholder pig production and increase the incomes of small-scale pig producers. Making use of its years of work on smallholder pig systems in both northeast India and northern Vietnam, ILRI is helping to facilitate this South–South research cooperation, particularly in ensuring that it is inclusive and participatory.


Large White Pig, from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon via Shutterstock.


Read an article about ILRI’s inter-region (Vietnam and India) collaboration on native pig research.

See why pig production is important to agricultural communities in northeast India.

Know more about a pig research partnership between Tata Trusts and ILRI.

Cloned bull could contribute to development of disease-resistant African cattle

Cloned Boran bull and his offspring

Tumaini, ILRI’s cloned bull, and his offspring (photo credit: ILRI).

A new note in a scientific journal gives an update on long-term research to develop African cattle resistant to the African animal disease known as trypanosomiasis. The aim of this research is to help reduce widespread poverty and hunger on the continent by improving livestock livelihoods. This research is being conducted by an alliance of international partners, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) of the University of Edinburgh (The Roslin Institute), ILRI and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC); and the City University of New York.

The research described in this publication is part of a collaborative project led by Jayne Raper, of the City University of New York, and was funded by the Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program of the US National Science Foundation.

Excerpts from the science note follow.

‘Kenyan Boran, an indigenous East African zebu (Bos indicus) breed, is kept mostly for beef production in semi-arid areas of Kenya. The breed is well adapted to high ambient temperature, poor quality feed and high disease challenges compared to European exotic Bos taurus breeds.

‘However, they are susceptible to African tsetse fly-transmitted trypanosomiasis (ATT) caused by parasites (Trypanosoma spp.), which are also the cause of human African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness. The ATT is a major constraint to livestock production in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘It is known that serum from baboons kills both animal- and human-infective African trypanosomes through serum trypanosome lytic factors (TLFs).

The generation of trypanosomiasis-resistant transgenic cattle carrying baboon-derived TLFs may have the potential to improve livestock productivity in Kenya and Africa.

‘As a precursor to such a study, we cloned a Kenyan Boran bull by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) using primary embryonic fibroblasts. This successful cloning represents an important first step towards the establishment of genetically modified Kenyan Boran through SCNT with genome-modified fibroblasts. . . .

‘Two calves were born after introducing the cloned bull to a female Boran herd. . . .

With the boom of genome editing tools, for example transcription activator-like effector nucleases and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9, there are unprecedented opportunities for improving livestock genetics efficiently through the introduction of superior traits between breeds by precise genome modification. The successful cloning of a Kenyan Boran bull has opened the possibility of making genetically modified Kenyan Boran with foreign genes or desired traits through genome editing at the fibroblast level followed by SCNT.

Download the open access article
Mingyan Yu (ILRI and the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) of the University of Edinburgh, ILRI and Scotland’s Rural College), Charity Muteti (ILRI and CTLGH), M Ogugo (ILRI and CTLGH), WA Ritchie (Roslin Embryology), J Raper (City University of New York) and Stephen Kemp (ILRI and CTLGH), Cloning of the African indigenous cattle breed Kenyan Boran, Animal Genetics, 2016.

More about this project

Re-engineering cattle to fight disease, by Jayne Raper, TEDxCUNY, 14 Mar 2016

ILRI News blog
New advances in the battle against a major disease threat to cattle and people in Africa, 1 May 2013

ILRI Clippings blog
DID YOU MISS IT? Who’s developing African cattle resistant to sleeping sickness—and why it matters—by Tamar Haspel, 26 Dec 2015

ILRI website

National Science Foundation

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) on original breakthrough in this research project (2009 paper)

Kenyan economist Andrew Mude wins the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application


Andrew Mude, a principal research scientist
at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya,
was yesterday named the 5th recipient of a prestigious award
for his work in providing insurance to livestock herders
in East Africa’s drylands through innovative, state-of-the-art technologies.

It was announced yesterday (30 Aug 2016) in Nairobi, Kenya, that Andrew Mude has won the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. Mude’s is developing insurance for never-before-insured communities whose livelihoods depend on herding cattle, goats, sheep and camels in the remote, arid and drought-prone lowlands of the Horn of Africa. He and his colleagues have made novel use of satellite data to achieve an innovative and highly effective solution that helps pastoral livestock herders reduce the considerable and costly drought-risk they face in this region.

At an event hosted by Director General Jimmy Smith of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, Mude’s selection as the winner of the 2016 Borlaug Field Award for individuals under the age of 40 was made by Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, which is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. The field award is endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

¶ Dr Mude reflects Borlaug-like persistence in his science-based, community-mediated and innovative approach to providing financial protection, through insurance, to millions of poor herders and their families who care for and depend upon their livestock as they move across the vast rangelands of East Africa. It should be a matter of great pride for Kenya that two of the first five Borlaug Field Award recipients are Kenyans. —Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation ¶

Charity Mutegi, a food scientist and also of Kenya, received the award in 2013. Mutegi coordinates an Aflasafe project in Kenya protecting consumers from aflatoxin contamination of foodstuffs; Aflasafe is led by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

ILRI’s Andrew Mude will be formally presented with USD10,000 and the ‘Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation’, in a special ceremony on 12 Oct 2016, in which Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin will participate, in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, as part of the 2016 World Food Prize international symposium.

A Kenyan native who received his PhD from Cornell University, 39-year-old Mude is a principal economist at ILRI, a CGIAR research centre. He spearheads a program called ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ (IBLI), which is greatly reducing the vulnerability of East Africa’s livestock herding families to recurring droughts, which kill great numbers of livestock, sending many hungry households in remote regions into deep and lasting poverty.

Since launching IBLI in 2008, Mude and his team have engaged local herders and leaders in building and delivering extension education programs—employing, in addition to traditional communications and training materials, videos, cartoons, radio broadcasts as well as e-learning platforms and ‘gamifications’ for insurance sales agents—to increase understanding of the principles, coverage and marketing of the insurance plans.

Before Mude’s innovative approach was implemented, African herders had no access to livestock insurance. It was highly impractical and costly for insurance claim adjusters to travel through East Africa to confirm dead animals and pay claims. IBLI eliminates the need for such visual confirmation of stock losses by using satellite data to monitor grazing conditions. When these conditions are seen to fall below a certain threshold, these data serve as a proxy for dead animals and insurance payouts are made.

By early 2016, 11,800 IBLI contracts had been sold (representing an insured livestock value of USD5,350,000) and USD149,007 indemnity payments made to insured pastoralists. In future, more than 50 million pastoralists across Africa are expected to have an opportunity to benefit from this financial technology.

¶ Dr Mude represents the type of citizen-servant we as a government are proud to partner with. He is a citizen dedicated to helping grow the productivity and welfare of the Kenyan people. It’s because of Andrew Mude’s passion, commitment and technical competence that we’re now planning to replicate this novel insurance scheme across all of northern Kenya, where some 4 million pastoralists depend primarily on livestock. —Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary in the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries ¶  Dr Mude’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance program is a remarkable example of the innovative, market-driven solutions that develop when countries invest in quality education for young people. —Robert Godec, United States Ambassador to Kenya ¶ With today’s changing climate, weather-based insurance has become a critical tool in building the resilience of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. By utilizing the most current technology, Dr Mude’s innovation is helping pastoralist livestock herders to protect their livelihoods. We can provide farmers with no better form of food security than by empowering them to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change. —Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa Regional Office ¶ We have the satellite technology needed to monitor grazing conditions in the remotest of regions. We should be using it to ensure that Africa’s remote livestock herders have access to basic insurance farmers around the world take for granted. We draw inspiration from Norman Borlaug’s lifelong commitment to make his agricultural research make a difference. Together with many partners and the herders themselves—and only together—we’re determined to find new ways to help millions of people continue to practice the oldest form of sustainable food production the world has ever seen. —Andrew Mude, ILRI economist and award winner ¶

A new Kenya Government ‘Kenya Livestock Insurance Program’ (KLIP), based on IBLI, has already provided 5,012 households with livestock insurance coverage. Just last week (24 Aug 2016), the Kenya Government’s KLIP made indemnity payments to 290 herders in Kenya’s huge and arid northern county of Wajir, which has suffered prolonged drought.

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

¶ ‘Take it to the farmer’ are reported to be the last words uttered by Norman Borlaug before he died. Andrew Mude and his team, working with the Kenya and Ethiopian governments, insurance agencies and others, have taken Borlaug’s injunction to heart, and are taking it even further—to thousands of individual pastoralists raising and herding their animal stock across the vast, remote and generally inhospitable drylands of the Horn of Africa. —Jimmy Smith, Director General of ILRI ¶

About the Norman Borlaug award for Field Research and Application
An independent jury of experts chaired by Dr Ronnie Coffman selected Dr Mude from an impressive group of candidates who were evaluated based on the attributes and accomplishments that reflect those demonstrated by Dr Norman Borlaug during his work at the Rockefeller Foundation and as a scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in developing high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat in Mexico and introducing adaptable wheat varieties into India and Pakistan during the 1950s and 60s, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. More details at

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

Media contact
Michelle Geis | Director of Africa Burness, ILRI | | +254 711 326 770

More information
More information will be posted here soon. To view a film of the whole event, go to

Photographs of the event are on ILRI’s Flickr album here:

View the original press release, by Nicole Barreca, from the World Food Prize Foundation, here:

KALRO–ILRI agreement to deepen cooperation in livestock research in Kenya

KALRO-ILRI MoU signing ceremony

Jimmy Smith (left) director general of ILRI, and Eliud Kireger, director general of KALRO signing the MoU (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu). 

On 29 August 2016, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the International Livestock Research Institute signed a memorandum of agreement that will pave way to deepen their collaboration in agricultural research for development.

The MoU is the culmination of a series of previous meetings between KALRO and ILRI senior management that explored areas of mutual interest in supporting livestock sector development in Kenya.

‘This MoU marks the renewal of a historical relationship between our two organizations and will forge a new partnership that will make our joint activities more effective and efficient,’ said Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI.

Eliud Kireger, the director general of KALRO said the agreement was a ‘milestone in regularizing a relationship that has existed between the two organization for many years’. ILRI and KALRO have previously worked in the smallholder dairy development and East Coast fever vaccines development among other projects.

Kireger said the two organizations would share their experiences to create programs that will better benefit the livestock sub-sector in Kenya and the people who depend on livestock. ‘The new agreement will also provide a platform for feedback from end users of livestock research,’ he said.

Following the signing, KALRO and ILRI will now set up a framework for the implementation and monitoring joint programs and activities. They will also work together to support partners, capacity development initiatives and staff exchange programs.

The signing took place at the ILRI campus in Nairobi, Kenya and was attended by senior staff from the two organizations.

Download a brief on ILRI activities in Kenya

No one dietary choice is the answer to sustainable development—ILRI in ‘The Guardian’


Illustration via Twitter.

The following opinion piece, by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was first published in The Guardian on 16 Aug 2016, in response to an opinion piece published by environmental reporter George Monbiot in the same paper on 9 Aug 2016 (I’ve converted to veganism to reduce my impact on the living world).

Below is Jimmy Smith’s response, copied in full.

‘Veganism is not the simple solution to sustainability that some have recently argued. I wish it were that easy.

While I commend those taking steps to change their diets to reduce their environmental footprints, a vegan world—where no one consumes any animal-derived meat, milk and eggs—is not how we will achieve sustainable global development.

‘Let me explain.

‘First, while some argue that veganism is the best dietary choice to feed the world’s growing population because of its low environmental footprint, research suggests otherwise. Only last month, research in the US compared ten different eating patterns and concluded that diets incorporating some animal-source foods (especially milk and eggs) use less land than their vegan alternative. This is because more inclusive diets make optimal use of all existing land to feed people, such as croplands and rangelands for growing grain and hay to feed livestock. A lot of meat and milk is produced on these marginal rangelands that would otherwise remain unproductive in a vegan context. For example, sixty per cent of sub-Saharan Africa is covered by drylands where livestock raising is the main—and often only—land use option available.

‘Furthermore, decades of research has shown that medium levels of livestock grazing are better for the health, productivity and biodiversity of these rangelands than no livestock at all. And when managed well, these lands also sequester large amounts of carbon in their soils.

‘Secondly, those living in high-income countries have many other actions they could prioritise to reduce their dietary impacts on the world. These include moderating their intake of all foods and reducing the amount of food they waste, the latter of which accounts for up to 50 per cent of total production globally and for 7 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Thirdly, and most importantly, livestock are too essential to many of the world’s poorest people to simply cast them aside. In low- and middle-income economies, where livestock account for 40 to 60 per cent of agricultural GDP, farm animals are a main source of livelihoods for almost one billion people, many of whom are women. Here, cows, goats, sheep, pigs and poultry are scarce assets that bring in regular household income and can be sold in emergencies to pay for school or medical fees. Here, where malnutrition is rife and stunted children still common, livestock can provide an energy-dense and micronutrient-rich source of food for people otherwise subsisting largely on cheap grains and tubers. Animal-source foods are especially important for pregnant women, babies in their first 1000 days of life, and young children.

When so many lives and livelihoods depend on these animals, could we really envision depriving an African household from raising a few chickens or a couple of stall-fed dairy cows? Or an Asian family from keeping a dozen pigs on a tiny plot? Or pastoralists from herding goats, sheep and cattle across drylands?

‘As any other sector, livestock production has challenges that it must tackle. The sector is a big user of water and other natural resources, for example, and its greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change. Overconsumption of animal-source foods can lead to obesity and ill health. Many human infectious diseases originate in livestock and other animals. And then there is the overuse of antibiotics in intensified livestock production systems and the welfare of animals themselves.

‘These challenges, all of which are being addressed today in multi-institutional initiatives, should not encourage us to turn away from livestock. Rather, they should encourage us to pay much greater attention to this sector, enabling it through scientific advances and enlightened policymaking to provide the greatest benefits for all the world’s people at the least environmental and social costs.

Many of those in the developed world advocating for veganism, or indeed any other single kind of diet, are doing so in a context of food excess. Let’s remember the many, many other people who are not so fortunate. It would be a tragedy if some of these good intentions were to end up hurting many of the most vulnerable of us on the planet.

‘Whatever our passions and whatever “side” of the vegan debate we fall on, we must all work to overcome the temptation to find simple answers to the complex and context-specific sustainability challenges we face. Demonizing livestock is one such misguided simple response.’

To achieve true sustainable development, we are going to have to make good use of livestock—and all the other natural resource assets we have at our disposal.

Read this opinion piece by Jimmy Smith as published in The Guardian: Veganism is not the key to sustainable development—natural resources are vital (Lives and livelihoods the world over hinge on livestock, and efforts to reduce our dietary impact can still include some meat, milk and eggs), 16 Aug 2016.

And, below, read Jimmy Smith’s full follow-up comment in The Guardian, made in response to the many comments his opinion piece generated (441 comments were posted in the day following publication of his op-ed).

‘First, to respond to those who think my organisation may be a livestock lobby or industry PR group of some kind. It is not. My organisation, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is a centre of CGIAR, a global, public and non-profit partnership working for a food-secure future. For the last four decades, CGIAR has helped reduce global poverty, hunger and environmental degradation through agricultural research in and for poor countries. All of the work of ILRI and the other CGIAR centres and programmes is focused on producing and using the best scientific evidence available. 

ILRI specifically conducts research to bring about ‘better lives through livestock’. ILRI and its many partner organisations focus on developing-world livestock issues not because we’re pro-livestock but rather because smallholder animal agriculture matters so greatly to so many.

‘Raising cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, poultry and other animals provides milk, meat and eggs and a wealth of other services to family farmers—e.g., household incomes from daily sales of milk and eggs (to pay for school, medical and other essentials), manure to fertilize croplands, traction to pull ploughs, and to serve as four-legged savings accounts and insurance for  some billion people who remain unbanked and uninsured.

‘In short, animal agriculture remains the mainstay of smallholder livelihoods and food production across the developing world. It is often the only livelihood option available and one of the few ways out of poverty for urban and well as rural low-income populations. It has equally strong links to nutritional, public and environmental health.

‘My argument is that trying to force one-size solutions for more sustainable food production, whether that be veganism or any other food choices, will not work. Livestock systems vary drastically around the world, depending on the animal species kept and the region in which it is raised, on the production system used and the wealth or poverty levels of the producers, on the particular culture and traditions of the producers, traders and consumers, and so on.

‘The implications of these great disparities are big.

While some people may find a rational response to be a reduction in their consumption/overconsumption of meat or all animal-source foods, or complete removal of these foods from their diets, other people, just as rational if often malnourished, will come to the opposite conclusion and try to consume a little more of these foods to improve their diets and health.

As mentioned, such energy- and micronutrient-dense foods are critical for the cognitive and physical development of the young, with this more nourishing start in life conferring on them lifelong benefits.

The context, in other words, is decisive.

A particular context my institute is focusing on is the emerging economies where the livestock ‘hotspots’ are. While livestock production and consumption levels in the UK and other high-income countries have levelled off, those levels are increasing in many low- and middle-income countries. We should be putting much of our efforts here, helping to shape the fast-transforming livestock sectors of these emerging economies in ways that benefit all the world’s people and health and environments. Fortunately, many organisations in addition to ILRI are now working to help bring about just such sustainable livestock futures.

(At ILRI, we’re also working to enhance livestock ‘cold spots’, where production remains stubbornly at subsistence levels. But I’ll save that topic for a future communication.)

‘I take heart in the great number of responses the livestock articles by Mr Monbiot and myself and others have generated, as well as in the diverse passions and viewpoints on display in these conversations. I see these as pointing to a desire in most of us to make a lasting difference in the world—and conversations like these to be the foundation of a more sustainable and equitable  future for all of us.’

Apocalyptic numbers: Antibiotic resistance as the classic ‘One Health’ (and classic ‘One World’) planetary issue


Depicted in this watercoloured etching, The Ancient of Days, by William Blake,
is Urizen, a  figure that for Blake embodied reason and law.
Urizen’s outstretched hand holds a compass over the darker void below,
representing an event in the Book of Proverbs,
‘when he set a compass upon the face of the earth’
(image via the British Museum).

This is the first in a series of articles being published by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the lead up to the High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance, which will be held in the margins of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, attended by heads of state and government at the UN’s New York City headquarters on 21 Sep 2016. Global leaders at the summit will commit to leading the fight against antimicrobial resistance, including the all-important resistance to antibiotics. Following statements from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), a declaration emphasizing the five strategic objectives of the World Health Assembly’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance will be submitted for adoption by the UN General Assembly.

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner organizations this week published a must-read article on the ‘One Health’ as well as ‘One World’ aspects of the rapid rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in pathogenic organisms.

The UN declaration on antimicrobial resistance, says ILRI’s Tim Robinson, lead author of the new scientific article, ‘should place national governments under pressure to take action towards reducing consumption of antibiotics in both human medicine and agriculture.’

Apocalyptic AMR numbers

In May this year, the long-awaited final report from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, which was commissioned by the UK Government and Wellcome Trust, was published. The report, Tackling drug-resistant infections globally, recommends four main actions: (1) conducting a global public awareness campaign, rewarding developers of (2) new antibiotics and (3) rapid diagnostic tests for microbial infections and (4) reducing overuse of antibiotics in agriculture.

The report presents some apocalyptic figures but the truth is that we really don’t know what the burden is, how it is likely to change or what contribution to that is made by antibiotic use by the livestock sector.
—Tim Robinson

But, Robinson adds, ‘The problem is already immense and is growing rapidly. We have been squandering our antibiotic resources for far too long and immediate action is needed on a very large scale if we are to reverse current trends.’

What follows are excerpts from the paper by Robinson and his colleagues, Antibiotic resistance is the quintessential One Health issue, published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene on 29 Jul 2016.


One Health diagram from the One Health Platform (

AMR is a ‘One Health’ (people-animals-environment) issue It is difficult to imagine an issue that epitomises the principles of One Health more than AMR does. The One Health approach . . . recognises that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment.
—Tim Robinson

Human health: Of the three domains, human health takes the spotlight, with multidrug-resistance genes now highly prevalent in many important and common pathogens like Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. Quite apart from the many infectious diseases for which we rely on antibiotics to combat, these drugs underpin modern medicine by allowing us to carry out common surgical procedures and treatments that depress the immune system, such as chemotherapy to treat cancer. . . .

Animal health: [T]he published estimates of the proportion of antibiotics consumed in animal agriculture—84% (for 36 antibiotics) in China and 70% in USA—suggest global agricultural consumption probably exceeds that of humans. A large part of this use is justified and valid on veterinary grounds, but there is much misuse in the agricultural sector. With such large consumption levels it seems likely that agricultural use contributes significantly to AMR. . . .

Environmental health: . . . Environmental bacteria, being quantitatively the most prevalent organisms, serve as sources for AMR genes that can become incorporated, over time, into pathogens of people and animals.

AMR is also a One World issue

‘As well as being a One Health issue, AMR is a One World issue. The globalisation of the food system, with increasing movement of livestock and agricultural produce, combined with increasing human travel, facilitates the rapid spread and mixing of AMR genes that emerge. . . .

Like . . .  carbon emissions, no matter how good a country’s programme of antimicrobial stewardship in health and agriculture, they are laid bare to the importation of AMR genes that have emerged and spread from other parts of the world.
—Tim Robinson

‘. . . The other factor making AMR a One World issue is that dealing with AMR is central to the long-term economic development of countries and to our global well-being. LMICs [low-to middle-income countries] face the greatest burden of AMR because of their disease-prone environments, poorer sanitary standards and, for the poorest, much reduced access to effective antibiotics. Poor access to competent veterinary and extension services leaves farmers in LMICs with antibiotics as their only resource to tackle endemic bacterial animal infections. Interventions must be based on an understanding of and respect for the different social and socio-economic contexts in which they are to be implemented.

AMR is a global problem calling for global solutions: but the solutions will not be the same in every country, or among different socio-economic groups. Some use antimicrobials too much, some too little and many use them unwisely: understanding patterns of use and incentives for changing these, and exploring alternative options, must underpin any reduction efforts.

‘. . . [AMR] is not a problem that HICs [high-income countries] will be able to solve alone. The important role that animal agriculture plays in livelihoods in LMICs is unknown or underestimated by many in HICs and needs to be an integral part of the thinking and negotiation if we want to avoid the pitfalls seen in climate negotiations, with LMICs often reluctant to take measures that may compromise their short-term economic development. . . .’

Integrated approaches to reduce selection pressure and disrupt AMR transmission cycles on a global scale must be sought that are founded not only on sound One Health principles, but also based on economic evidence and on principles of social equity and global access to effective healthcare for people and their animals. Acknowledgments

This work was made possible through a Wellcome Trust Our Planet, Our Health planning grant [201848/Z/16/Z] and was further supported by CGIAR Fund Donors under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

Read the whole scientific paper

Antibiotic resistance is the quintessential One Health issue in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, 29 Jul 2016, written by the following:
Timothy Robinson (ILRI)
Dengpan Bu (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences)
Juan Carrique-Mas (Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam)
Eric Fèvre (University of Liverpool and ILRI)
Marius Gilbert (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Delia Grace (ILRI)
Simon Hay (University of Washington, USA, and Oxford Big Data Institute at the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery of Oxford University)
Jatesada Jiwakanon (Khon Kaen University, Thailand)
Manish Kakkar (Public Health Foundation of India)
Sam Kariuki (Kenya Medical Research Institute)
Ramanan Laxminarayan (Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, USA)
Juan Lubroth (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
Ulf Magnusson (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
Pham Thi Ngoc (National Institute of Veterinary Research, Vietnam)
Thomas Van Boeckel (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
Mark Woolhouse (University of Edinburgh)

READ MORE The 21 Sep 2016 UN High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance

UN High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobials—what do we need?, commentary published in The Lancet by Ramanan Laxminarayan, Carlos Amábile-Cuevas, Otto Cars, Timothy Evans, David Heymann, Steven Hoffman, Alison Holmes, Marc Mendelson, Devi Sridhar, Mark Woolhouse and John-Arne Røttingen, 16 Jul 2016. Excerpt:

‘The UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting of Heads of State will discuss sustainable access to effective antimicrobials in September, 2016. The meeting must develop realistic goals, stimulate political will, mobilise resources, and agree on an accountability mechanism for global collective action on this issue. . . . We believe that the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting should establish a UN High-Level Coordinating Mechanism on Antimicrobial Resistance (HLCM) with four core functions’:
(1) Raise awareness about lack of access to antibiotics and drug resistance
(2) Establish, monitor and report on global and national enforceable targets
(3) Finance implementation of global and national level action plans and a global coordination and monitoring platform
(4) Support member states to pursue national level, multisectoral action for implementation of WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance alongside national efforts to improve access to effective antimicrobials.

United Nations prepares to tackle antibiotic resistance, commentary by Molly Miller-Petrie published on the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) blog, 26 Jul 2016. Excerpts:

‘On June 29 [2016], Ambassador Gómez Camacho, Mexican Permanent Representative to the U.N. and lead for the high-level meeting, invited CDDEP to speak to the U.N. Member States as a part of a civil society panel on antimicrobial resistance. . . . Each organization presented their view on what should be included in the final outcome document, after which member states were able to ask questions of the experts directly. A similar panel was conducted with members of industry the following week. As the only participating organization with a major focus on low- and middle-income countries, CDDEP was also invited to speak to the Group of 77 Member States plus China, representing 134 low- and middle-income member countries. On July 18, CDDEP Director Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan and Molly Miller-Petrie met with the group at the U.N. Headquarters to address the particular challenges of combatting resistance in low-resource settings. . . .’

Earlier research on antimicrobial use in food animals

Global trends in antimicrobial use in food animals, by Thomas Van Boeckel (Princeton University), Charles Brower (Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy [CDDEP]), Marius Gilbert (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Bryan Grenfell (Princeton University), Simon Levin (Princeton), Timothy Robinson (ILRI), Aude Teillant (Princeton) and Ramanan Laxminarayan (CDDEP), published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, early edition, 20 Mar 2015. See also a report of this PNAS paper on the ILRI News blog, First global map of the rising use of antimicrobial drugs in farm animals published in PNAS (25 Mar 2016), and also reports published on the ILRI Clippings blog, Reuters: Livestock in poor countries need drugs to stay alive and productive, but how to avoid the rise of ‘super bugs’? (23 Mar 2015) and  New publication warns of rising use of antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs in farm animals (30 Mar 2015).

Animal production and antimicrobial resistance in the clinic, a commentary published in The Lancet, by Timothy Robinson, Heiman Wertheim, Manish Kakkar, Samuel Kariuki, Dengpan Bu and Lance Price, published online 18 Nov 2015, DOI: See also a report of this Lancet commentary published on the ILRI News blog, Limiting use of antibiotics in livestock production to stem growing antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens (31 Dec 2015).

Review of evidence on antimicrobial resistance and animal agriculture in developing countries, by ILRI’s Delia Grace, published Jun 2015, DOI: This 44-page report was produced by ILRI with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development and its ‘Evidence on Demand’ hub. The report identifies key evidence gaps in our knowledge of livestock- and fisheries-linked antimicrobial resistance in the developing world and documents on-going or planned research initiatives on this topic by key stakeholders.

ILRI-Liverpool project tracking microbial flows in Nairobi

Slum farming and superbugs—An ‘Urban Zoo’ science project tracks bacterial routes in complex environments, 29 Dec 2015, a review posted on the ILRI Clippings blog about two news reports: Scientists study slums for signs of spreading superbugs, by Steve Baragona at Voice of America (23 Dec 2015), and Mapping for food safety: How and why communities in Nairobi’s informal settlements are creating and using maps to ensure their food and the people who sell it are safe, by Paolo Cravero on the International Institute for Environment and Development blog (21 Dec 2015).

All things zoonotic: An ‘Urban Zoo’ research project tracks livestock-based pathogen flows in and around Nairobi, 31 Mar 2015, a report published on the ILRI Clippings blog covering, among other publications, a news report about an ILRI-Liverpool project published in the New ScientistMapping the web of disease in Nairobi’s invisible city (30 Aug 2014).

Recent ILRI essay on emerging infectious diseases and disease plagues

Pandemic proofing the world: An epidemiologist in Nairobi on the next Zika virus, by ILRI’s Delia Grace, published in How We Get to Next, on Medium (29 Jun 2016), and on the ILRI News blog (26 Jul 2016).

The hand that cares and feeds: India’s unnatural ‘natural’ caretakers of livestock

Sanjiv's mother, who insisted in keeping the family cows in the family business

Indian women—unnatural ‘natural’ caretakers of livestock (photo credit: ILRI/Jules Mateo)

Note: This is the twelfth and final article in a twelve-part series on
‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—
A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’.
PART 12: The hand that cares and feeds:
India’s unnatural ‘natural’ caretakers of livestock
By Jules Mateo
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
To awaken the people,
it is the women who must be awakened.
Once she is on the move, the family moves,
the village moves, the nation moves.
—Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India

This quote above appears on signage above a doorway at the Central Institute for Women in Agriculture (CIWA), an organization operating under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and located in Bhubaneswar, the capital of India’s eastern state of Odisha. A delegation from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Africa, paid a visit to CIWA and took part in its celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2016.


The ILRI team and ICAR officials and staff at the 2016 International Women’s Day celebration at the Central Institute for Women in Agriculture, in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

After undertaking a multi-state, communications-related trip in India 3–14 Mar 2016, I could not help but wonder if Jawaharlal Nehru, as quoted above, had got it wrong. All the women farmers the ILRI team met in Delhi and the towns and villages and farms of Haryana and Odisha were on the move, tireless and persevering. Some may have appeared as unassuming as they were confident, but all appeared most definitely ‘awake’.

This opinion piece is based on my observations throughout this field trip. I cannot speak for Indian women (I’m a Filipino), but I found it admirable how many of the women farmers we met in the towns of Karnal, Mayurbhanj and Bhadrak take on the role of caretakers and nurturers of their animals and their families, how they have ‘a confident sense of [their] own purpose and usefulness’, as my communications colleague put it in an earlier article in this series.

I was impressed by how much India’s women food producers make the most out of their situations, how often they thrive in what they do despite constraints, how few view themselves as victims of their circumstances, how often, and with what assurance and purposefulness, they exercise agency.

Indian women farmers and the feminist concept of ‘ethic of care’
Women are often believed to be ‘natural’ caretakers and nurturers by nature. Expressions such as ‘maternal instincts’ and ‘mother hen’ are often associated with women who are demonstrably protective of the welfare of their families. Women are also commonly believed to be more empathic and responsive than men. While caring is often seen as a feminine rather than masculine trait, some feminist theorists claim that this is due largely to the feminization of labour, particularly of ‘care work’.

Carol Gilligan, for example, has found a way to reclaim caring as ‘ethic of care’—as a form of ‘resistance to injustices and inequality inherent in a patriarchal society’. Whether knowingly or not, the women livestock farmers we met in India appeared to me to be doing a fine job of putting such ethics into practice.

In a village in the outskirts of Karnal, in India’s northern Haryana state, we met Rita, mother of Sanjiv, owner of a dairy-based company, a mushroom farm and several other agricultural businesses. Years ago, Sanjiv told us, the dairy business was not doing well and he was ready to discontinue producing dairy products and concentrate on his more profitable ventures. But Rita convinced him to keep the buffaloes and promised she would take care of the animals herself.

Sanjiv's mother, who insisted in keeping the family cows in the family business

A woman in Haryana, India, tends to her family’s milk cows and buffaloes (ILRI/Jules Mateo).

True enough, when we went to their family home, we found Rita standing in a lot across from their house, watching over several large milk buffaloes, dutifully performing the task she promised to do to help the family business.

Some form of ‘ethic of care’ also appeared to be demonstrated by women goatkeepers of Mayurbhanj, in the eastern state of Odisha. Their caring attitude towards their goats while out herding the animals showed in the way they watched over them, never shouting at them but herding them gently, as though they were pets rather than livestock raised to be sold or slaughtered at a later date. Back home, the women fed and housed the goats right in their courtyards, enjoying their company, ensuring the animals’ comfort and seeing immediately to any animals that appeared to be ailing.

Goat lives and livelihoods in Mayurbhanj, Odisha, India

A woman in Odisha, India, herds goats near a forested area in Mayurbhanj (ILRI/Susan Macmillan).

Mayurbhanj goat farmers

The goat keepers of Mayurbhanj treat their farm animals like extended family (ILRI/Jules Mateo).

Agency as a feminist concept and the enterprising women farmers of Odisha
‘Agency’ refers to one’s ability to act for one’s self, a capacity for independent choice and action.

From a gender perspective, feminist writers Sonya Andermahr, Terry Lovell and Carol Wolkowitz define agency in their book A glossary of feminist theory (2000) as essentially involving self-determination, one’s ability to act in the world on one’s own terms—to be active, not passive. Female agency, they argue, often involves acting in accordance with one’s concerns, needs and wants despite restraints prevalent in a patriarchal and male-dominated society.

I saw what appeared to me to be this type of agency during our trip to Bhadrak, in northern Odisha, when we made several stops to visit dairy value chain actors in the town. First was a female paravet businesswoman running a milk collection and semen distribution centre. To become a paravet involves months of rigourous training, and for women like this one would mean juggling work and training needs with home and family duties. Whatever the hurdles she had to overcome, this paravet woman is today all business, appearing fully in command and running her centre like a ‘boss’.

Dairy producers and processors in Bhadrack, Odisha State, India

A woman paravet runs a milk collection and semen distribution centre on the outskirts of Bhadrak, Odisha (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Dairy producers and processors in Bhadrack, Odisha State, India

The Bhadrak businesswoman who trained to become a paravet (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Equally impressive was a woman running an integrated family farm just a block away from the milk collection centre. This matriarch businesswoman raises cattle and sells dairy products she makes every morning in her own house. She raises chickens and other poultry in her front yard. And she grows fish in a series of aquaculture ponds in her backyard.

Dairy producers and processors in Bhadrack, Odisha State, India

A woman who runs her family’s highly integrated crop-and-animal farm and associated successful small businesses on the outskirts of Bhadrak feeds her chickens (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

We were invited into her home to watch her cheesemaking process, assisted by her sons. In a country where men typically take over such successful home businesses, it was impressive to see this older woman demonstrably still at the helm of her growing business, exercising agency on many levels, and disregarding conventional constraints imposed by her gender and age. As we left her home, we told her how impressive we found her finely integrated farm. Her response was along the lines of: ‘Yes, it is successful. But I don’t sleep much keeping it all going.’

Dairy producers and processors in Bhadrack, Odisha State, India

The Bhadrak businesswoman with her grandson before one of her several fish ponds (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The late journalist and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens once said:

The cure for poverty has a name, in fact.
It is called empowerment of women.

In India, this cure appears to be readily at hand—one that, with modest encouragement, is ready to spread widely, for the benefit of all.

Read previous parts in this blog series
‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’
Part 1: Colourful convocation: Jimmy Smith addresses graduates of India’s prestigious National Dairy Research Institute, 30 Mar 2016.
Part 2: Elite buffaloes and other exemplars of advanced Indian dairy science at the National Dairy Research Institute, 31 Mar 2016.
Part 3: Culture of the cow: Curds in the city—Better living through smallholder dairying in northern India, 5 Apr 2016.
Part 4: Building better brands and lives through peri-urban dairying and smart crop-dairy farming, 6 Apr 2016
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 8: Getting the (science) word out: ILRI and ICAR share livestock communications and knowledge management practices, 25 May 2016
Part 9: Reaching stakeholders, influencing policies: ICAR–ILRI communications workshop, 11 Jul 2016.
Part 10: Leveling livestock information: Knowledge management at an ICAR–ILRI communications workshop, 12 Jul 2016.
Part 11: India’s addiction to milk as a diabetes pandemic moves to the villages, 29 Jul 2016.

Read an ILRI opinion piece by Susan MacMillan on evidence-based advocacy communications.

Visit ILRI News for a series of articles on ‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—
A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’.

View all photographs of the workshop in this ILRI Flickr photo album.

India’s addiction to milk as a diabetes pandemic moves to the villages


A ‘milk tree’ illustration at the National Dairy Research Institute, in Haryana, India
(photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Note: This is the eleventh in a series of articles on
‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—
A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’. PART 11: India’s addiction to milk
as a diabetes pandemic moves to the villages
By Susan MacMillan and Jules Mateo,
of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Addiction to milk in India, the biggest milk-drinking country in the world, is only getting bigger amid rising demand for food in this, the world’s second-most populous nation. As reported recently in Bloomberg, ‘Though eating beef is often taboo in India because the animal is revered in Hinduism, the country produces more than 160 million metric tons of milk a year as demand rises for cheese and other dairy products.’


One of endless branded advertisements for Indian dairy products (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

This love of milk was obvious to Jules Mateo, my communications colleague at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and I as we visited India capital and states of Haryana, in the north, and Odisha (formerly Orissa), on the east coast. Products made of milk are what we ate and were gifted with daily—for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner and for snacks. Always fresh and always delicious. But not an unmixed blessing, we discovered, in this country, where, we heard from scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), in Haryana, that diabetes could affect more than a quarter the population by mid-century. For that reason, NDRI researchers are developing dairy cows altered genetically to produce insulin in their milk.


A glass of fresh milk offered to guests in Haryana, India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

First, a bit of background on the growing dual problem of mal- and over-nutrition in low-income countries. Here’s how an influential science paper described this global phenomenon in 2012 (emphases added).

‘It is useful to understand how vastly diets have changed across the low- and medium-income world to converge on what we often term the “Western diet.” This is broadly defined by high intake of refined carbohydrates, added sugars, fats, and animal-source foods. Data available for low- and middle-income countries document this trend in all urban areas and increasingly in rural areas. Diets rich in legumes, other vegetables, and coarse grains are disappearing in all regions and countries. Some major global developments in technology have been behind this shift. . . .


A traditional, and nutritious, lunch in Odisha, India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

‘Most of the global increases in animal-source foods have been in low- and middle-income countries. For example, India has had a major increase in consumption of dairy products and China in pork and eggs, among others.

‘The increase in animal-source food products has both positive and adverse health effects. On the one hand, for poor individuals throughout the developing world a few extra grams of animal-source foods can significantly improve the micronutrient profile of food consumed. On the other hand, excessive consumption of animal-source foods is linked with excessive saturated fat intake and increased mortality. . . .

‘Despite substantial economic growth, large inequalities remain in many low- and middle-income countries, and it is common to see problems of underweight, stunting, and micronutrient deficiencies side by side with increasing rates of obesity. . . .

‘A challenge for programs and policies is the need to address food insecurity and hunger without adding to the burden of overweight and obesity.’

—Excerpted from ‘Now and then: The global nutrition transition—The pandemic of obesity in developing countries, by Barry Popkin, Linda Adair and Shu Wen Ng, in Nutrition Reviews, 2012, doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00456.x


Milk and other sweets for sale at a popular sweet shop in New Delhi (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

And here’s how a health organization recently described how this problem is manifesting itself in India (emphases added).

‘India has the largest number of people with diabetes in the world. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of diabetics rose from its already high 1995 rate of 19 million to over 62 million in 2011. An estimated 11% to 20% of India’s urban population has diabetes, and 3% to 5% of the adult rural population has the disease. Estimates from the World Health Organization say that the disease currently costs India about $250 billion per year, and that in the next ten years this figure will skyrocket to $335 billion.

‘Clearly, India has a diabetes problem. But the real issue is that it’s a predictor of a growing global problem. According to the International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries, the alarming increase in diabetes “has gone beyond epidemic form to a pandemic one.”

‘India is just the “canary in the coal mine,” warning miners of dangers they cannot see. The rise of diabetes in India is being seen by health experts as a precursor of what we can expect to see happen all over the world in coming years.’


One of many ice cream brands for sale in Haryana, India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

‘Because most of the newly-diagnosed cases in India are of Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-diabetes), the root causes there are the same as they are in America—poor diet overloaded with fat, sugar, and calories, obesity, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle, in which people don’t get enough exercise. . . .

‘It has also been triggered by the large-scale importation of a Western lifestyle. Everywhere you go in India, you see roadside stands and carts selling sweets and samosas and pakoras deep-fried in “bad fats.” These vendors compete with fast-food franchises selling Western-style hamburgers and french fries. . . .


Milk sweets, for those who can afford it, is a gift for daily occasions (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

‘The result of all of this is that the diseases related to diabetes—hypertension, kidney failure, retinal damage, and ulcers—have also skyrocketed. And it’s all because India’s base standard of living has improved. People who were considered poor a few years ago had a diet driven by necessity, but which was relatively healthy—beans, rice, and vegetables. Now most people can afford the fast foods and processed foods, and their diets have become the same as those in the upper middle class, containing far too much sugar, fats, and “empty calories.”. . .

‘In the West, the onset of Type 2 diabetes is most commonly seen in adults in their 40s and 50s. In India, it’s affecting people in their early to mid 20s.’

—Excerpted from, The diabetes epidemic in India: A vision of the world’s future, by Juliette Siegfried, a health communications professional.

Beyond milk, new meat dietary changes are also occurring in India:

‘Two years after Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) announced that it will sell more vegetarian burgers in India, it is looking back at chicken in a big way. As competition in India’s burger market heats up, fast-food chains are returning to what they know best—in KFC’s case, tubs of fried chicken—leaving the vegetarian menu as it is, for now. . . . In the last six months, the fast-food chain has already rolled out three big marketing campaigns for its new chicken launches, including the Chizza which is fried chicken slathered with cheese.’
—Quartz India: KFC is ditching Indian vegetarians to do what it does best: sell fried chicken (25 Jul 2016)

The Times of India and Public Health Foundation of India report that:

‘Contrary to popular belief, diabetes affects more people in rural India (34 million) than affluent urban Indians (28 million).’

The paper goes on to report that the number of diabetes cases in India is expected to reach 101 million by 2030. By the year 2050, it is estimated that every fourth Indian will be diabetic, with India becoming the diabetes capital of the world.

fried-chicken-690039_960_720Kentucky Fried chicken in India (via

Read previous parts in this blog series: Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—A dozen stories from northern and eastern India

Part 1: Colourful convocation: Jimmy Smith addresses graduates of India’s prestigious National Dairy Research Institute, 30 Mar 2016.
Part 2: Elite buffaloes and other exemplars of advanced Indian dairy science at the National Dairy Research Institute, 31 Mar 2016.
Part 3: Culture of the cow: Curds in the city—Better living through smallholder dairying in northern India, 5 Apr 2016.
Part 4: Building better brands and lives through peri-urban dairying and smart crop-dairy farming, 6 Apr 2015
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 dairy value chains in eastern India, 12 May 2016.
Part 8: Getting the (science) word out: ILRI and ICAR share livestock communications and knowledge management practices, 25 May 2016.
Part 9: Reaching stakeholders, influencing policies: ICAR–ILRI communications workshop, 11 Jul 2016.
Part 10: ‘Leveling’ livestock information: Knowledge management at an ICAR–ILRI communications workshop, 13 Jul 2016.