News from ILRI

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

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A livestock carcass in northern Kenya, which has suffered prolonged drought (photo via Flickr by CIAT/Neil Palmer).

Widespread drought conditions in the Horn of Africa have intensified since the failure of the Oct–Dec 2016 rains. Areas of greatest concern cover much of Somalia, northeast and coastal Kenya, southeast Ethiopia and the Afar region, and South Sudan, which faces a serious food crisis due to protracted insecurity. One focus of the East African-headquartered International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is to help developing-country livestock communities enhance their resilience in the face of recurring droughts. ILRI belongs to CGIAR—a global research partnership of 15 centres and their partners working yo reduce poverty, enhance food and nutrition security and improve natural resources and ecosystem services.

Below are some livestock examples of what CGIAR/ILRI have done to help ameliorate the impacts of the on-going drought in the Horn.

Pastoral livestock insurance
A high-profile example of ILRI’s work to help the Horn’s dryland communities better cope with drought is an ‘index-based livestock insurance (IBLI)’ scheme, for which the Kenya government made a recent announcement (21 Feb 2017): Record payouts being made by Kenya Government and insurers to protect herders facing historic drought. This novel livestock insurance approach has been applied in the drylands of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia but not yet in South Sudan or Somalia, which are bearing the brunt of the impacts of the current on-going drought in the Horn of Africa.

Livestock master plan
Over the last 20 years, the Ethiopian government has prioritized the transformation of the agricultural sector, yet the absence of a livestock roadmap has hindered implementation. The potential benefits of a comprehensive Livestock Master Plan are large. With a relatively modest sum, less than USD400 million over five years, a plan developed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture with the support of ILRI aims to reduce poverty among 2.36 million livestock-keeping households, helping family farms move to market-oriented commercial operations. Beyond the direct benefits it provides rural families, implementation of the Livestock Master Plan should lower food prices for poor urban dwellers. Development of Ethiopia’s Livestock Master Plan was overseen by a high-level technical advisory committee comprising directors of key Ministry of Agriculture—Livestock State Ministry departments and institutes as well as representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production and the Ethiopian Veterinary Association.

Developing livestock markets
Livestock are central to livelihoods as well as national economies in this heavily livestock-dependent region.

Mitigating drought disasters must factor in the development of the livestock sector, including protecting stock from starvation and disease.
—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI assistant director general

In Somaliland, for example, where livestock form the backbone of the economy (livestock production accounts for about 60% of the Somaliland’s gross domestic product, 70% of its employment opportunities, 85% of its export earnings and 15% of its total government revenue), ILRI has a project investigating ways to grow livestock markets (Saudi livestock market requirements, implications for Somaliland) and a livestock marketing information system developed by Terra Nuova and ILRI improved access to animal marketing information and increased trading in livestock in Somaliland.

Targeting resilience investments
A former CGIAR initiative, the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa, provided support to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in developing regional and national investment programs for the long-term development and resilience of populations living in the Horn of Africa. Hosted by CGIAR (ILRI, World AgroForestry Centre and the International Food Policy Research Institute) and housed at ILRI, the Technical Consortium was established in 2011 as a knowledge management and research platform that combined science and development best practices to serve IGAD and its seven member states—Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda—as well as development partners and donors. The consortium helped align the work of research and knowledge institutions with country development priorities. It harnessed CGIAR research and other knowledge on interventions to enhance drought resilience. And it provided IGAD and its member states with evidence and technical support for planning investments aiming to enhance the resilience of communities in arid and semi-arid lands.

Livestock feeds and forages – highlights from ILRI’s corporate report 2015–2016

 ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)

The highly nutritious Brachiaria grass (situated in the centre of the photo) thrives all year round, providing a constant supply of animal feed. Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)

The experience of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner scientists in 2015–2016 shows the positive benefits of implementing pioneering research and development interventions that increase the overall quantity and nutritional quality of feed biomass and help smooth seasonal feed variability, creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for smallholder livestock keepers. But the real scope for spreading the knowledge in this research lies in the development of on- and off-line tools that can be used by isolated smallholder farmers to access approaches for assessing feed constraints and developing effective feed and forage improvement interventions.

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

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

Science into practice

Environmental constraints and market opportunities continue to drive the use of crop residues as sources of animal feed which do not require the exclusive allocation of land and water. Research by ILRI, partner CGIAR and national scientists in India has produced the first predictive model based on the association of DNA information in maize with high fodder quality traits and grain yields. This enables rapid and inexpensive selection of improved maize varieties with both higher grain yields and enhancements in biomass quality for fodder, and offers the possibility of expanding this work to climate-tolerant maize in the future.

Evidence-based decision-making

Between 2014 and 2016, more than 25,000 crop-livestock farmers in 30 districts in Ethiopia adopted legume production technologies designed to close yield gaps and prevent soil nutrition depletion; this number is expected to rise to more than 60,000 by 2018. The consequent enhancement of biomass (for feed) and grain (for food) yields, in addition to improvement in nutrition quality, have contributed to higher household incomes. Sample analysis found that more than 80% of smallholder farmers applying these technologies to chickpea cultivation increased their grain and biomass yields, as well as the nutrition content of the crop. The business-led approach has helped ensure effective and efficient supply of inputs (such as improved seeds and bio-fertilizers), the transfer of knowledge and technology, and better access to feed markets.

Capacity development

The ILRI Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) has enabled development agents and smallholder farmers to make better use of naturally available feed resources. Responding to growing demand, a FEAST e-learning course was produced in 2015. It includes lessons on engaging rural communities, and analysing and overcoming feed constraints. Demand for the tool has risen steeply across Africa and Asia with nearly 250 users of the new tool in the first year; most of whom participate in a combination of on- and off-line blended training.

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

Record payouts being made by Kenya Government and insurers to protect herders facing historic drought


From left to right: Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary in Kenya’s State Department of Livestock; and Willy Bett, cabinet secretary for the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries during a press conference held on 20 Feb 2017 announcing payments to more than 12,000 pastoral households under the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) (photo credit: ILRI/Dorine Odongo).

More than Ksh214 million is on tap for 12,000 pastoral households in six counties of northern Kenya through innovative policies that use satellite imagery to trigger payments for feed, veterinary supplies and water.

As an epic drought desiccates fields and forages in the Horn of Africa, Government of Kenya officials, in partnership with Kenyan insurers, today announced payments to over 12,000 pastoral households under a breakthrough livestock insurance plan—one that uses satellites to monitor vegetation available to livestock and triggers assistance for feed, veterinary medicines and even water trucks when animal deaths are imminent.

To avert future losses, nearly Ksh215 million  (nearly USD2.1 million) in insurance payouts across six counties will be made by the end of Feb 2017 through the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP). Payments are pegged to measurements of forage conditions made via satellite for each area, and will range from Ksh1,450 (USD14) per pastoral household in areas that have suffered modest losses to Ksh29,400 (USD284) in areas where drought is particularly severe. The average payment is around Ksh17,800 (USD172) per pastoral household, directly reaching about 100,000 people. Pilot projects that preceded the program established payment levels linked to the state of grazing lands, with the goal of providing enough money to help pastoralists keep their animals alive until rains returns.

‘This is the biggest livestock insurance payout ever made under Kenya’s agricultural risk management program and the most important as well, because without their livestock, pastoralist communities would be devastated’, said Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. ‘This insurance program is not just an effective component of our national drought relief effort. It’s also a way to ensure that pastoralists can continue to thrive and contribute to our collective future as a nation.’


Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general, and Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary in Kenya’s State Department of Livestock, confer during the KLIP press conference yesterday (photo credit: ILRI/Dorine Odongo).

Livestock are a major component of the Kenyan economy. Between 2008 and 2011, livestock losses in Kenya accounted for 70 per cent of the USD12.1 billion in damages caused by drought.

In response to these major droughts, Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has developed KLIP with technical assistance from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the World Bank Group, and Financial Sector Development (FSD) Kenya, as part of their national strategy to end drought emergencies. KLIP is administered as a public-private partnership with APA Insurance, which leads a consortium of seven Kenyan insurers—UAP, CIC, Jubilee, Heritage, Amaco and Kenya Orient, with backing from Swiss Re, a widely respected international reinsurer for agriculture.

KLIP is intended to provide a safety net for Kenyan herders, who for centuries have grazed their animals across vast stretches of arid and semi-arid lands. KLIP began with two counties in the short-rains season of 2015, Turkana and Wajir, and now covers pastoralists in an additional four counties: Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo and Tana River.

KLIP is based on the internationally recognized ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ model, which was developed several years ago by a team of agricultural economists from ILRI, Cornell University, the University of California at Davis and the World Bank Group, working in close cooperation with pastoralist communities. The signature feature of this novel insurance scheme is the use of satellite data to generate an index for grazing conditions, so that payments are triggered when conditions degrade below a certain critical level. The index eliminates the need for insurance agents to be out in the field monitoring forage and animals, which, given the remote regions involved, would make livestock insurance logistically and financially impossible to provide.

In Feb 2017, APA Insurance, on behalf of the insurance consortium, will disburse most payments directly to pastoralists’ bank accounts or to accounts accessed via mobile phones—an increasingly popular and convenient way to conduct financial transactions in Kenya, especially in the country’s most remote areas. For those without accounts, cheques
will be issued.

‘It’s important to make payments quickly and efficiently and before conditions deteriorate further, because we want these livestock-dependent communities to see index insurance as something they can trust to sustain their way of life’, said Ashok Shah, Group CEO of APA Insurance. ‘Now, it’s critical that others in the market also move quickly to supply pastoralists with livestock feed, water and veterinary medicines they can now afford.’

Lovemore Forichi, Head of Agriculture Reinsurance Africa said, ‘This program is a role model for the rest of Africa and beyond. The government and its partners have brought together the latest technological and financial tools from a group of committed and innovative private sector players. The payouts prove that this program is delivering a financial safety net where it is needed. Having worked in this field across the globe, KLIP highlights Kenya’s pioneering role in providing drought protection for its people.’


Kenya Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett addresses a press conference announcing payments to more than 12,000 pastoral households under the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) (photo credit: ILRI/Dorine Odongo).

Currently, the Government of Kenya purchases cover on behalf of approximately 2,500 of the most vulnerable pastoral households in each of the six counties.

Kenyan officials are now working with colleagues in county governments to scale up the program and make KLIP coverage available to a wider range of pastoralists across all income levels.

‘These payouts demonstrate that KLIP works, and we now urge all pastoralists to make use of livestock insurance to cover themselves against drought. The government will look at ways to make this insurance accessible to all pastoralists’, said Dr Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary in the State Department of Livestock in the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock
and Fisheries.

The counties in Kenya targeted for KLIP payments are enduring one of the worst droughts to hit the Horn of Africa in a quarter century. The payments being dispatched this month are intended to help herders recover from the lack of precipitation during the so-called ‘short-rains’ period that ran from October to December 2016. If the drought continues during the ‘long-rains’ season, which usually runs from March to June, additional large payouts are likely.

In addition to the government-led consortium, other organizations have also been involved in delivering index-based livestock insurance for pastoralists. For example, Takaful Insurance of Africa, which launched the provision of a similar product in 2013, will this season be making payouts to over 2,000 households across six counties to the tune of close to Ksh10.5 million.

‘We are hopeful that we are writing a new chapter in the long and challenging history of one of the oldest forms of agriculture still practiced in the world today’, said Andrew Mude, a principal research scientist at ILRI whose contribution to the development of index-based livestock insurance earned him the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. ‘It’s been a team effort’, Mude added. ‘This day would never have arrived without the partnership between the Government of Kenya, the KLIP Implementation Unit led by Richard Kyuma, private-sector players and a range of technical and development partners.‘


ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith (left) gives an interview to a journalist from The People Daily Newspaper at the KLIP press conference (photo credit: ILRI/Dorine Odongo).

Read more
The Standard (Kenya): Sh215m insurance payout offers relief to drought-hit pastoralists, 21 Feb 2017
Capital FM (Kenya): Pastoralists to receive Sh215mn in drought insurance payout, 20 Feb 2017
BBC News: In pictures: Kenyans share their dinner to save livestock, 19 Feb 2017
New York Times: On selling insurance (not lottery tickets) to Africa’s struggling (stargazing) livestock herders, 11 Nov 2016
Daily Nation (Kenya): Kenya to extend livestock insurance to 14 counties, 30 Aug 2016

More information
To request interviews with specific organizations or spokespeople, please reach out to the appropriate media contact below:

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries
John Mwangi
Mobile: +254 722 582 248

APA Insurance
Jackie Tonui
Head of Corporate Communications
Mobile: +254 722 415 619
Tel : +254 020 286 2000

World Bank
Keziah Muthembwa

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Nancy Moss
Mobile: +254 729 991 028
Email :

Takaful Insurance of Africa
Amina Farah
Mobile: +254 723 131 405

More about KLIP
KLIP, the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program, is a Government of Kenya-funded drought insurance program for vulnerable pastoralists located in the arid and semi-arid (ASAL) counties of Kenya. KLIP is insured by a pool of seven leading Kenyan insurance companies. It is a world leading insurance scheme that utilizes technology and innovative insurance technical to bring livestock insurance to those who need it the most.

Pastoralism in Kenya
Most people in the drylands of Eastern Africa (often referred to as the ‘Horn of Africa[) live in pastoral communities where life revolves around herding livestock such as goats, cattle and sheep across vast and remote grazing areas (or ‘rangelands’) in search of forage and water. Pastoralists regularly move hundreds of kilometers with their stock, and this model of food production enables communities in the Horn of Africa to produce food in an otherwise unyielding environment. Over 50 million pastoralists live across sub-Saharan Africa, and an estimated 20 million of these live in the Horn of Africa. Pastoralism is important also to national economies. About 90 per cent of the meat consumed and 40 per cent of the entire livestock economy in Kenya and Ethiopia is generated by pastoral communities. The value of exports of livestock and livestock products from the Horn of Africa now exceeds US$1 billion annually, with most of these exports sourced from pastoralists. But every three to five years, severe droughts in northern Kenya result in huge numbers of livestock dying, mainly because of starvation and lack of water. Between 2008 and 2011, Kenya’s economy suffered USD12.1 billion in damages due to drought, over 70 per cent of which was due to livestock losses. About 10 per cent of Kenya’s national livestock herd died over this period, leading to a loss of livelihoods for thousands of pastoralists who had to rely on government and donor relief programs. With the impacts of climate change, droughts in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) of Kenya have in recent decades become more frequent, prolonged and severe, and pastoralists can no longer keep their animals alive by using traditional management practices centred around migration.

The case for livestock insurance
In northern Kenya, the average herding household holds 100 per cent of its productive assets in the form of livestock. On average, sales from livestock and livestock products constitute over 40 per cent of total household income. In comparison, close to 15 per cent of household income comes from food or cash aid. Drought-related livestock losses—caused by animals either starving to death or being sold-off for fear that they would otherwise perish—are the primary threat to pastoralists’ existence. Severe to catastrophic droughts, which account for 75 per cent of livestock deaths in the region, routinely leave pastoral communities destitute. During severe droughts in northern Kenya, starvation is the major cause of death of animals because of depletion of forage/grazing resources followed by lack of drinking water and diseases. During the 2011 drought, for example, herders in East Africa experienced livestock losses as high as 40 to 60 per cent. Livestock insurance can provide an incredibly valuable safety net by limiting drought-related livestock losses through early compensation that allows pastoralists to protect their assets before they start to die in large numbers. For livestock and agriculture in general, insurance is recognized across the globe as an essential hedge against the risks inherent to all forms of farming. Livestock keepers and farmers in the US, Europe, Latin America and India have access to various forms of insurance as a way to manage weather-related losses.

KLIP: Social protection through livestock insurance
In 2013 the incoming Jubilee government made a commitment to fund a drought insurance program for vulnerable pastoralists in the ASALs. The Government of Kenya (GoK) charged the State Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (SDL-MALF) with developing the program and requested technical assistance from the World Bank Group (WBG) and its technical partners, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD).

KLIP is a public-private partnership between the GoK (through SDL-MALF) and a pool of seven Kenyan insurance companies, backed by expertise and financial support for a reinsurance partner and technical partners. KLIP builds on the experience of the ILRI designed Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) program which is a voluntary retail forage availability drought index insurance policy underwritten by several insurers in the ASALs since 2010. KLIP is designed as a drought ‘Asset Protection’ cover which aims to make early payouts when natural grazing/forage resources are severely depleted to enable vulnerable pastoralists to purchase fodder and animal feed supplements to keep their core breeding animals alive until the drought has passed and grazing conditions return to normal. KLIP has two components:
1. Macro-level social protection cover for the most vulnerable pastoralist who are provided free insurance protection funded by government for five Tropical Livestock Units (TLUs) per pastoralist (termed a beneficiary), and
2. Voluntary retail sales to any pastoralist wishing to purchase KLIP drought cover. In order to make cover more affordable to pastoralists, the GoK is considering providing partial premium subsidies.

KLIP Component 1 is intended to complement the government’s other social protection programs such as the Hunger Safety Net Program in four counties (Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir) and to contribute to the National Drought Management Agency’s drought risk management programs in the northern counties of Kenya.

KLIP: Progress to Date
KLIP’s first component was launched during the 2015 short rainy season (October–December) in Turkana and Wajir, covering a total of 5,013 pastoralists divided equally between both counties. During the 2016 short rainy season 2016, four additional counties (Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo and Tana River) were added to the program with an average of between 2,000 and 2,500 pastoralists per county. KLIP has insured a total of 14,010 pastoralists across these six counties.

In 2015/16, KLIP incurred very small drought claims in two Insured Units in Wajir County. In the 2016/17 short rainy season, a very severe drought has affected much of northern Kenya and the KLIP policy has triggered drought payouts in 62 (88%) of the 70 Insured Units across the six counties, with total payouts valued at nearly KSh. 215 million being due to 12,064 pastoralists (86% of all insured pastoralists).

Frequently Asked Questions
Is livestock insurance a new concept?
Pasture drought satellite index insurance has been implemented for commercial cattle ranching in Spain, the USA, and Canada since the turn of the century. Based on these principles, ILRI designed the first satellite forage-drought index insurance cover for semi-nomadic pastoralists in northern Kenya in 2009 and then in Ethiopia starting in 2012. Both programs are voluntary retail sales to individual pastoralists. KLIP has built on the IBLI experience.

KLIP Component 1, however, represents a new approach to providing drought livelihood protection and drought resilience building to large numbers of vulnerable pastoralists who are too poor to buy insurance. It is a macro-level insurance cover purchased by the GoK which is the Insured policy holder and which has agreed to fund 100% of the component 1 premiums. Component 1 protects large numbers of vulnerable pastoralists (termed beneficiaries) in each county who are targeted and selected by the County Administrations and departments of livestock in collaboration with community leaders.

What does KLIP cover?
The sum insured is calculated on the basis of the costs of supplementary feed requirements to maintain one TLU for 12 months and is currently valued at KSh. 14,000 per TLU. Therefore, for each pastoralist who has protection for five TLU, the maximum value they will receive in the event that the policy triggers a 100% payout in an insurance year is 5 x KSh. 14,000 or KSh. 70,000 per beneficiary.

KLIP provides drought protection over two cover periods, the long rainy season from March to June, with 58% of the sum insured or Ksh. 40,600 per pastoralist allocated to this season, and the short rainy season from October to December, with 42% of the sum insured or KSh. 29,400 allocated to this second season. KLIP does not insure against the death of livestock. However, by making timely payouts during droughts it can help pastoralists to reduce mortality levels in their herds.

How are the KLIP Component 1 beneficiaries chosen?
Selection criteria include: 1) the pastoralist must own a minimum of 5 TLUs and depend upon livestock for their primary source of income; 2) they must not be a beneficiary of the HSNP cash transfer program; and 3) they should be chosen because they are identified in their communities as being vulnerable pastoralists.

Targeting and selection of pastoralists is a task which is carried out by the County Governments, their departments of livestock extension, and the local community leaders. SDL does not have the staff or resources to be able to monitor the quality of the selection process. Every attempt is made to ensure that pastoralists are selected from communities throughout the county and that equal weighting is given to the numbers of pastoralists selected in each ward and village.

What ‘index’ does KLIP measure and why?
KLIP uses satellite data of vegetation cover to assemble an index of seasonal forage availability/scarcity, called the Normalized Differenced Vegetative Index (NDVI). NDVI was a natural choice for the KLIP product given that livestock in pastoral production systems depend almost entirely on available forage for their nutrition, and given that NDVI serves as a strong indicator of the vegetation available in the area for the livestock to consume.

NDVI also fits a number of the prerequisites required for a data source to serve as an insurable index: it is cheap (in this case free) to procure; neither the insurer nor the insured can feasibly manipulate it; it is an objective measure; and it is auditable. NDVI readings over an insurance unit and across a season are averaged, aggregated and standardized across time to derive the index.

How does KLIP know when to payout?
When the index signals that forage conditions have deteriorated to the point where animals are becoming malnourished, KLIP triggers payouts to enable the pastoralists to purchase supplementary feeds to protect their livestock assets against starvation. The ‘trigger level’ for the index—the threshold at which payouts must be made—is determined according to the degree of risk exposure coverage provided. At the GoK’s request, they are purchasing cover with the KLIP Trigger which opens the policy for a payout set at the 20th percentile of seasonal total forage availability; essentially this means that the contract pays out on average once every five seasons or once every two and a half years.

What payouts have been made by KLIP since launch in 2015/16
In 2015/16 KLIP precipitation levels in Turkana and Wajir were average in the short rains and there were no forage scarcity drought related payouts in that season. In the subsequent 2016 long rains, a small number of drought payouts were triggered in two Insured Units in Wajir, valued at KSh. 4.1 million.

In 2016/17, the short rainy season has experienced the worst droughts in the past 16 years as measured by the NDVI index. Claims payouts will be due to 12,064 pastoralists or 86% of the total of 14, 010 pastoralists who are protected under the Component 1 cover purchased by government. The total calculated payouts amount to KSh. 214,700.00 or an average of Ksh. 17,800 per beneficiary. The range in payouts is from a low of KSh. 1,400 per pastoralist to the maximum payout of KSh. 29,400 per beneficiary.

The APA-led pool of coinsurers will be settling these payouts in February 2017 to the 12,064 pastoralists, about two thirds of whom have individual bank accounts, or M-Pesa accounts thereby facilitating direct electronic transfer to their accounts. For the remaining one third, payments will be made by cheque in the name of the beneficiary. For these pastoralists, SDL is seeking the help of the county administrations in delivering the cheques to the pastoralists as quickly as possible.

Who are the key partners?
State Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries
Insurance companies:
APA Insurance Ltd.
UAP Insurance
CIC Insurance
Jubilee Insurance
Amaco Insurance
Heritage Insurance
Kenya Orient
Reinsurance partner:
Swiss Re
Technical Assistance partners:
World Bank Group
International Livestock Research Institute
Financial Sector Deepening

Livestock genetics and breeding – highlights from ILRI’s corporate report 2015–2016

Cattle stand in the crush ready for bleeding and weighing

The adoption of new technologies that speed up genetic gains are leading to further improvements in livestock productivity. Ghibe valley, southwest Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

The experience of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner geneticists in 2015–2016 clearly demonstrates the positive benefits to smallholder farmers of the application of new breeding and genomic approaches, leading to more productive and climate- and disease resilient livestock. However, it is when these new technologies are combined with improved management practices that they are translated into enhanced food security and higher incomes for smallholder farmers. These are the findings from the genetics research and interventions, presented in the ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016: highlights on Livestock genetics and breeding.

The findings in the report are presented in line with the three objectives set out in the ILRI strategy 2013–2022:

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

Science into practice

As recent disease outbreaks have shown, avian flu can be costly and a serious risk to human health. Using new genomic tools, ILRI and partner scientists in China pioneered the development of special chicken lines that advance understanding of the genetic basis of disease resistance and that will inform future research in discovering more effective vaccines to avian pathogens.

Evidence-based decision-making

New technologies and approaches to the mass artificial insemination of cows were tested in Ethiopia and scaled out by national partners resulting in marked increase in the efficiency of the process. About 600,000 cows were inseminated over a four-year period in four regions. Initially, conception rates were much lower than those achieved in the research trials. Working closely with the authorities, ILRI has recently produced more efficient protocols, identified improved technologies and promoted their uptake together with improved husbandry, resulting in a 50% increase in conception rates.

Capacity development

A range of multimedia tools, including the Animal Genetics Training Resource also boosted the skills base of geneticists, addressing opportunities to improve livestock breeding in tropical regions. This resource has recently been adapted in several African and European universities to train masters students on issues related to animal genetic resources in tropical production systems.

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

Sustainable livestock systems – highlights from ILRI’s corporate report 2015–2016

Making technologies available to smallholder mixed crop–livestock farmers

Making technologies available to smallholder mixed crop–livestock farmers to grow fodder can increase milk yields and quality in an environmentally sustainable manner. Hyderabad, India. (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

In 2015–2016, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners revealed extraordinary findings that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cattle in Kenya maybe up to 10 times lower than previous estimates, clearly making the case for improving Africa-specific understanding of GHG emissions to develop better-targeted climate change mitigation and adaption strategies. Taking this research one step further, working with governments and other civil society partners, offers opportunities to bring about change in international policies benefitting smallholder farmers, as was shown with the passing of the United Nations Environment Assembly resolution on combatting climate change. Moreover, translating research in a favourable policy environment paves the way for capacity building that can translate into the mass scaling of the sustainable intensification of farming.

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

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

Science into practice

The importance of livestock to livelihoods and environmental sustainability highlights the need to develop an Africa-specific body of evidence on GHG emissions, according to a preliminary study led by scientists at the ILRI Mazingira Centre—the first research institution of its kind in Africa. It found GHG emissions from livestock manure in Kenya were up to 10 times lower than global estimates based on available data from industrialized nations as currently used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The study suggests that improving understanding of GHG emissions in Africa will help to develop much better-targeted mitigation and adaption strategies.

Evidence-based decision-making

Supported by a group of organizations working on livestock- and environment-related issues, including ILRI and International Land Coalition, the governments of Ethiopia, Namibia and Sudan led the adoption of a resolution, ‘Combating desertification, land degradation and drought and promoting sustainable pastoralism and rangelands’, at the United Nations Environment Assembly in May 2016. The issues addressed include: investment in drylands, access to markets, and incentives for environmental stewardship.

Capacity development

The Africa RISING Ethiopia project incorporates a whole systems approach, taking factors such as profitability, production and the environment into its capacity development initiatives. Since 2012, the project has supported 30 research fellows and involved more than 11,000 participants in workshops, farmer field days and exchange visits. Interim evaluations found that farmers who participated in training on landscape management, resource conservation and crop–livestock intensification activities incorporated this knowledge into their own practices and increased collective action, with positive consequences for partnerships and scaling approaches. Africa RISING Ethiopia expects beneficiary numbers to rise from less than 21,000 in 2016 to more than 700,000 by 2021.

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

Policies, value chains and livelihoods – highlights from ILRI’s corporate report 2015–2016


Livestock are critical to the livelihoods of 900 million of the world’s poor, for whom the sale of animal products also serves as a major source of employment and income. Central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

The experience of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partner scientists in 2015–2016 highlights how research and policy analysis guide prioritization of livestock investments and interventions that transform livestock value chains enabling men and women smallholder farmers to improve their lives. However, building on solid research, it is the training of key stakeholders and research support which delivers direct benefits to value chains actors and poor consumers of animal-source foods.

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

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

Science into practice

Research in Botswana revealed the importance of reducing input prices to increasing technical efficiency rates and profit margins of smallholder livestock and crop–livestock farmers, with current levels below 60% of potential. Recommendations include helping livestock keepers gain greater access to croplands so their animals can feed on crop residues and to off-farm employment as a way of acquiring investment capital. For instance, a 1% decrease in feed costs would help boost technical efficiency and profit margins by 20% and 26%, respectively.

Evidence-based decision-making

Preliminary evidence from a dairy market hub approach undertaken in four districts in northern and eastern Tanzania indicates a 20% rise in milk revenues for the farmers involved, as well as long-term national effects on policy development. Substantial increases, up to 47%, in the percentage of smallholder farmers involved in dairy groups were recorded, where training on cattle husbandry and dairy business management was provided. In addition, the MoreMilkiT project played a central role in setting up Tanzania’s Dairy Development Forum, which has been taken over by local stakeholders and has catalysed the establishment of several local and regional public-private dairy platforms.

Capacity development

Since 2013, the Livestock and irrigation value chains for Ethiopian smallholders (LIVES) project has provided research and mentoring support and short-term training to nearly 25,000 public sector staff and value chain actors in adopting market-oriented interventions, of which nearly 25% were women. As a result, the number of households involved in livestock value chains, the number of animals and land under improved production, and the volume of outputs sold have risen by 95%, 160% and 190%, respectively.

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

Confronting the rising threat of antibiotic resistance in livestock


Image via

The article, originally published on Cambridge Core blog, was written by Tim Robinson of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Resistance to antimicrobials is developing faster than ever before due to decades of abusing these important drugs. A ‘post-antibiotic’ world looms as a result, the consequences of which would be many people and farm animals sickening and dying of what, until now, have been preventable or treatable infections.

The good news is that the world is taking notice. On 21 September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly addressed this global challenge. At the UN headquarters in New York, member states reaffirmed their commitment to develop national action plans to stem and reduce the continuing rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR). These action plans will be based on a Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance developed in 2015 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)—the so called ‘Tripartite’. The aims of the Tripartite are first, to ensure that antimicrobial agents continue to be effective and useful to cure diseases in humans and animals; second, to promote prudent and responsible use of antimicrobial agents; and last, to ensure global access to medicines of good quality. Countries will be required to report on their progress in September 2018.

Addressing the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance requires a holistic and multisectoral ‘One Health’ approach, because of the interconnected roles played by animals, people and the environment in the evolution and spread of AMR. The potential role of the livestock sector in mitigating AMR in pathogens of medical as well as veterinary importance is critical. Livestock consume at least half of all antibiotics produced globally and there is a substantial and growing body of evidence linking antibiotic use in livestock production to the development of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria that pose major threats to public health.

It is widely held that the use of antibiotics in livestock production—in particular, to promote livestock growth and prevent disease, but also to treat disease—could be reduced considerably through improved production practices and other interventions. Robinson and colleagues propose interventions that can be made directly on farms; those that can help create enabling environments; and others that can raise awareness of the problem and ways to solve it.

The potential to reduce use of antibiotic drugs is particularly large in low- and middle-income countries where the use of antibiotics in livestock production is already high and is predicted to grow massively—if mitigation measures are not taken—in line with projected livestock sector growth. It is critical that this unique window of opportunity, with heightened public awareness and across-the-board political will so recently expressed, is harnessed to guide research and policy in AMR, and so to exploit fully the potential of livestock sector development to mitigate antibiotic resistance. The lives, health and well-being of people and livestock depend on our conserving these precious drugs as part of our arsenal against microbial infections.

The open access opinion paper is published in Animal: Antibiotic resistance: mitigation opportunities in livestock sector development, and written by Tim Robinson (International Livestock Research Institute [ILRI]), Dengpan Bu, J Carrique-Mas, Eric Fèvre (ILRI), Marius Gilbert, Delia Grace (ILRI), SI Hay, J Jiwakanon, Manish Kakkar, Samuel Kariuki, Ramanan Laxminarayan, Juan Lubroth, Ulf Magnusson, P Thi Ngoc, Thomas Van Boeckel and Mark Woolhouse.

(1) WHO 2015. Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance, June 2015. Geneva: World Health Organization

(2) Tim Robinson, Dengpan Bu, Carrique-Mas, J., Eric Fèvre, Marius Gilbert, Delia Grace, Hay, S.I., Jiwakanon, J., Manish Kakkar, Samuel Kariuki, Ramanan Laxminarayan, Lubroth, J., Ulf Magnusson, Thi Ngoc, P., Thomas Van Boeckel and Mark Woolhouse (2016) Antibiotic resistance is the quintessential One Health issue. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 110(7), 377-380. doi:10.1093/trstmh/trw048

(3) Thomas Van Boeckel, C Brower,, Marius Gilbert, BT Grenfell, SA Levin, Tim Robinson, A Teillant and Ramanan Laxminarayan (2015), Global trends in antimicrobial use in food animals, PNAS 18, 5649–5654

(4) Tim Robinson, HFL Wertheim, Manish Kakkar, Sam Kariuki, Dengpan Bu and LB Price (2016), Animal production and antimicrobial resistance in the clinic, The Lancet 387, (10014) e1-e3. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00730-8

This article was originally published on the Cambridge Core blog: Confronting the rising threat of antibiotic resistance in livestock, 24 Jan 2017.

ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016 is now available: capitalizing on the livestock revolution


ILRI Corporate Report 2015-2016

The Board of Trustees, management and staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) take great pleasure in announcing the publication of the ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016.

With a brief introduction by Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, and Lindsay Falvey, chair of the ILRI Board of Trustees, the report concisely outlines the many opportunities and challenges facing the livestock sector. The two ILRI leaders underline the importance that the world seek to capitalize on these transformational opportunities by paying greater attention to livestock, recognizing its potential for harm as well as good, and making commensurate investments in livestock research and development work.

The chapter on ‘Influencing global agendas’ defines specifically what getting the world to pay greater attention to livestock would mean in concrete terms: raising the prominence of livestock in the global development agenda; recognizing the role of the smallholder livestock sector for sustainable food and nutritional security and poverty reduction; and pursuing interventions to make livestock systems more environmentally sustainable.

In line with the ILRI strategy 2013–2022, the report provides examples of specific results of ILRI’s work in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders putting science into practice, facilitating evidence-based decision-making and developing the capacities of its partners in five interlinked areas: livestock genetics and breeding; livestock feeds and forages; livestock and human health; policies, value chains and livelihoods; and sustainable livestock systems. These include better smallholder livestock production systems; improved human nutrition and health; more quality food; higher household incomes; climate-smart livestock; fewer human and livestock diseases; environmental protection; gender equity and inclusive growth; and enabling policies and institutions.

Over the course of the next month, each chapter—genetics, feeds and forages, health, livelihoods and the environment—of the report will be published on the ILRI News blog, with links to articles for the reader to dig further into each specific issue. So, delve into the full report now or wait to read the individual chapters in the coming weeks.

ILRI acknowledges all of those who have partnered in its work, invested in its projects, used its research and publicized its findings. None of our achievements would be possible without this broader community of gifted and dedicated livestock-for-development workers. The collective achievements outlined in this report are a testimony to all those who have invested their resources in helping capitalize from the ‘livestock revolution’, ensuring sustainable livestock development can do much more than produce more food, it can nourish the world’s populations and drive equitable and broad-based economic growth.

Read online or download the full ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016

A ‘theory of change’ for agricultural research for development


Theory of change diagram produced in 2014 by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The following are highlights of a new CGIAR paper advancing ways to make agricultural science make a bigger difference to development outcomes.
• We describe a theory-of-change approach to an agricultural research for development program.
• The approach builds on understanding how engagement and learning can enable change.
• The approach has implications for resourcing and assessing outcomes and impacts.
• The approach has potential to better link knowledge generation and development outcomes.

The paper’s abstract
‘Agricultural research for development has made important contributions to poverty reduction and food security over the last 40 years. Nevertheless, it is likely that both the speed of global change and its impacts on natural and socio-economic systems are being under-estimated.

Coupled with the moral imperative to justify the use of public resources for which there are multiple, competing claims, research for development needs to become more effective and efficient in terms of contributing towards longer-term development goals.

‘Currently there is considerable debate about the ways in which this may be achieved. Here we describe an approach based on theory of change. This includes a monitoring, evaluation and learning system that combines indicators of progress in research along with indicators of change aimed at understanding the factors that enable or inhibit the behavioural changes that can bring about development impacts.

‘Theory of change represents our best understanding of how engagement and learning can enable change as well as how progress towards outcomes might be measured. We describe the application of this approach and highlight some key lessons learned.

‘Although robust evidence is currently lacking, a theory of change approach appears to have considerable potential to achieve impacts that balance the drive to generate new knowledge in agricultural research with the priorities and urgency of the users and beneficiaries of research results, helping to bridge the gap between knowledge generation and development outcomes.’

From the paper’s introduction

The last 25 years have seen substantial improvements in human wellbeing. Between 1990–92 and 2012–14, there was a 42% reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people in developing regions.

‘Considerable regional differences exist in the progress that has been made against poverty and hunger in the time span, however: in South Asia progress has been limited, and in sub-Saharan Africa the situation regarding poverty and hunger has become worse. There were still 805 million people who were chronically undernourished in 2012–2014, almost all in developing countries.

‘Clearly, there is much to be done to reach the targets for 2030 as articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.

With an expected extra 2–3 billion people to feed over the next 40 years, this will require targeted efforts to achieve making 70% more food available to keep up with rapidly rising demand. At the same time, climate change is already affecting agriculture in many developing countries, and the effects will become increasingly challenging in the future.

‘Several approaches are being used to address poverty, and in developing countries agricultural development is one. The role of agriculture in reducing poverty is relatively well studied; enhancing agriculture is often seen as a critical entry-point in designing effective poverty reduction strategies, with agricultural research for development (AR4D) a key mechanism. The adoption of improved agricultural practices, technologies and policies, such as high-yielding rice and wheat varieties, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and enabling policies, has had strong and positive impacts relative to research investment.

‘Nevertheless, the world food system continues to face challenges of persistent food insecurity and rural poverty in places. The adoption of improved agricultural technologies and practices by farmers has often been less than expected, despite demonstrated benefits. . . .

Considerable behavioural shifts will be needed on the part of all stakeholders if food security is to be achieved for the more than 9 billion people on the planet by 2050.

‘AR4D has huge challenges ahead, and ways are needed to do it more effectively and efficiently. Here we outline one approach to AR4D that may have some potential for addressing issues of effectiveness and efficiency—an approach based on theory of change and impact pathway thinking. This approach is illustrated with reference to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), a global partnership that unites organisations engaged in research and capacity development for a food secure future. This is among the first examples of a large AR4D program being orientated this way. . . .’

From the paper’s ‘Background’ section

Project implementation in CCAFS aspires to a ‘three-thirds principle’ in relation to engagement effort:
1 a third working with next-users to build relationships and define their needs from research,
2 a third on the research itself, and
3 a third on enhancing next-users’ capacity to improve the uptake of research outputs.

Read the whole science paper:
Phil Thornton, Tonya Schuetz, Wiebke Förch, Laura Cramer, David Abreu , Sonja Vermeulen and Bruce Campbell: Responding to global change: A theory of change approach to making agricultural research for development outcome-based. Agricultural Systems 152:145–153, 10 Jan 2017.

Lead author Phil Thornton is a senior scientist (sustainable livestock systems) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a flagship leader (policies and institutions) at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

References in the text excerpted above from the science paper were omitted in the interests of readability; please go to the original paper to see the references.

Top 10 viewed ILRI News blog articles of 2016

Livestock for sustainable and equitable development—Selected top advocacy communications of 2016


Visit this Pinterest page maintained by ILRI for 102 advocacy communications: Livestock—Opinions.

This year, with a pilot project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation starting in Sep 2016, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) stepped up its advocacy work supporting livestock development for a more sustainable and equitable world.

The following are among ILRI’s top advocacy communications of 2016.

Woman herding his goat enclosure.a in their goat enclosure.

By Shirley Tarawali
Plant scientist and crop-livestock and pastoral systems specialist/ILRI assistant director general
Harnessing livestock for the Sustainable Development Goals, 21 Mar 2016



By Shirley Tarawali
DID YOU KNOW? ILRI in the Livestock Global Alliance, 1 Jun 2016


By Delia Grace
Veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert/ILRI program leader/A4NH flagship leader
Pandemic proofing the world—An epidemiologist in Nairobi on the next Zika virus, 28 Jun 2016


By Jimmy Smith
Animal scientist and leader/ILRI director general
Jimmy Smith’s address to UK parliamentary group on the potential of livestock for development, 4 Jul 2016


By Jimmy Smith
Balancing the plate: Jimmy Smith opens ‘Private Sector Mechanism Partnerships Forum on Livestock’, 6 Jul 2016


By Shirley Tarawali
No one left behind: Livestock at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, 21 Jul 2016


By Tim Robinson
Spatial analyst/ILRI principal scientist
Apocalyptic numbers: Antibiotic resistance as the classic ‘One Health’ (and classic ‘One World’) planetary issue, 4 Aug 201


By Jimmy Smith
Veganism is not the key to sustainable development–natural resources are vital, 16 Aug 2016


By Susan MacMillan
Writer/ILRI public awareness and advocacy leader
ILRI remarks to UN Committee on Food Security commending newly agreed livestock recommendations, 18 Oct 2016

 ILRIZerihun Sewunet)

By Polly Ericksen
Environmental and global change scientist/ILRI program leader
Let’s ‘meat’ in the middle on climate change, 4 Nov 2016


By Polly Ericksen
Animals must play a part in meeting Paris climate goals, 4 Nov 2016


By Delia Grace and Shirley Tarawali
Unpacking the tensions between the nutritional and economic goals of pro-poor livestock development, 10 Nov 2016


By Phil Thornton
Agricultural systems and climate change scientist/ILRI principal scientist/CCAFS flagship leader
Fighting climate change in a post-modernist world of pop art politics—Opinion by Phil Thornton, 1 Dec 2016


By Jimmy Smith
Livestock opportunities for responsible, inclusive and sustainable business-for-development partnerships, 2 Dec 2016

16 February 2016, Rome, Italy - Delia Grace. FAO International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition”. 2.2 Post production value addition and food safety, FAO headquarters (Red room).

By Delia Grace
Opinion: Can the livestock sector find the elusive ‘win-win’ on drug resistance? 16 Dec 2016

For links to more such advocacy pieces, visit this Pinterest page maintained by ILRI: Livestock—Opinions.

Livestock environmental ‘hoofprints’: Five fast facts to remember—Shirley Tarawali at ‘Farming First’

Farmer Noor Ali ploughs his field in West Bengal, India (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

This article, written by Shirley Tarawali, assistant director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was originally published on the Farming First site: Five fast facts about meat & the environment, 21 Dec 2016.

In this guest post, Shirley Tarawali, Assistant Director General of the
 International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) takes a closer look at livestock’s impact on the environment, and what is being done to manage its environmental ‘hoofprint’.

Some have called it a ‘cowspiracy’. Some go as far to say that meat eaters are committing ‘climate murder’. But is livestock production always as bad for the planet as some would argue, or are there any arguments that would support eating meat, milk and eggs with a good conscience?

Livestock’s impact on the environment can be managed. The sector is addressing its carbon and environmental footprints at the same time as it helps reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty around the world. Let us explore five facts that you may not know about livestock production.

1. Meat and milk are produced in vastly different ways around the world.

Many assume that livestock production is the same the world over but raising sheep and cattle in American feedlots is wildly different from raising those animals in sub-Saharan Africa. The many different production systems have been classified in a number of ways according to climate, grazing systems, feed and herd sizes. Each has various challenges and benefits, and within each, there are best practices that can and should inform the others. There are some farming systems in the developing world that have a very low environmental impact and even contribute to efficient and beneficial nutrient cycling.

So making generalisations about livestock based on systems used only in developed countries leads to misconceptions about the sector’s environmental impact. The crux is how to extend best practices to make livestock farming more efficient while allowing more people to benefit and respond to the rising global demand.

2. Livestock and animal-source foods can be both good for the environment and ‘climate-smart’.

Livestock are often either forgotten or unduly vilified when it comes to climate change and the environment. While the sector as a whole contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, most developing countries currently rely on estimates generated for systems in North America, Europe or Australia. But there are significant differences in livestock production in those countries that affect greenhouse gas emissions, including how livestock are fed.

Given such regional variations in production systems, we need to be prepared to recognise that livestock’s carbon footprint also varies from region to region.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. A third of the world’s land is only viable for animal agriculture and where it is carefully managed, medium levels of grazing is actually better than none at all. A recent study also found that diets incorporating some animal-source foods were actually more land efficient than vegan diets. It is important then that we always look at any given environment impact within its particular context, and there are a number of initiatives organised to do just that.

3. Eating a moderate amount of meat, milk and eggs can be good for our health.

While many people in industrialised countries can be said to eat too much, meat is actually a key source of protein, iron and vitamin B12 among other nutrients, especially in the developing world. Similarly, milk and dairy products play an important role in early years nutrition and development. Many of those who get insufficient animal-source foods face malnutrition and associated illnesses. But this can be prevented if sufficient animal-source foods are included in the diet.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommends 20g of animal protein per person per day to combat malnutrition.

In developed countries, eating 70g of meat a day is considered part of a healthy diet, and simply by limiting meat consumption to the World Health Organisation guidelines (which does not recommend cutting out meat), it’s still possible to get the benefits but with a reduced environmental impact.

4. Livestock production is mostly locally produced, not part of a vast global value chain. 

The assumption that livestock products are part of one homogenous supply chain is unfounded.

The majority of the 1.3 billion people whose livelihoods depend on livestock around the world work within quite localised value chains, especially those in developing countries.

Solutions for greater efficiency and productivity, then, must be integrated from the bottom up and tailor-made for national and regional contexts. The diversity of the sector calls for targeted investment and knowledge-sharing to address the various challenges that affect smallholders in different ways.

5. Livestock and crop growing depend on one another.

There is a misconception that crop and livestock production are distinctive systems.

But mixed crop and livestock farming is common around the world and offers great opportunities to combine resources, diversify incomes and expand the benefits of agriculture.

Crop residues can be fed to livestock while livestock draught power enables plowing and transport and livestock manure can be used as fertiliser, contributing to the reuse of energy and nutrients.One study found manure provides 12 per cent of the nitrogen used for crop production globally, rising to 23 per cent in mixed crop livestock systems. Mixed systems contribute not only to the global supply of animal-source foods but also to producing half of the world’s cereal, including more than 40 per cent of maize and almost three-quarters of millet, for example.

Animal rearing is inextricably linked to the environment as well as human health, income equality and food security. To malign livestock is to refute their role in the sustainable future of our planet.

To broaden and deepen the many benefits of the world’s livestock sector while reducing any of its environmental harms, we must begin to appreciate the vastly diverse forms the sector takes in different parts of the world, and to acknowledge just how much livestock continue to provide those living in severe poverty.

Read this article on the Farming First site: Five fast facts about meat & the environment, 21 Dec 2016.

Follow Farming First on Twitter: @farmingfirst

Access vs excess to antibiotics: The dual antimicrobial resistance issue facing the world

16 February 2016, Rome, Italy - Delia Grace. FAO International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition”. 2.2 Post production value addition and food safety, FAO headquarters (Red room).

ILRI veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace (photo via Flickr ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto).

This opinion piece, written by ILRI scientist and program leader Delia Grace, was originally published by Devex on 16 Dec 2016.

The numbers when it comes to drug resistance are apocalyptic. Already responsible for up to 700,000 deaths a year, the number of victims could reach 10 million by 2050, making superbugs a bigger killer than cancer is today if urgent action is not taken. There is great concern (although as yet limited evidence) that much of this growing global health threat is linked to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animals, especially livestock. This has accelerated the resistance of disease-causing bacteria and other microbes that also then infect people. But while such overuse and misuse of precious treatments in animal production is a ticking time bomb, millions are conversely affected today by poor access to effective antimicrobials, creating a dual dilemma. For the many people whose livelihoods depend on livestock, proper antimicrobial use can be the difference between survival and hardship, between feeding their family or going hungry. As such, antimicrobial use is a matter of access versus excess. Somehow, we must reduce the use of antimicrobial drugs in animals to tackle growing levels of drug resistance while ensuring that these life- and livelihood-saving treatments reach those who really need them.

One of the reasons antimicrobial use in livestock is so prolific is that these drugs help prevent livestock diseases and deaths. And in the developing world in particular, healthy livestock are crucial for sustainable development, offering increased productivity, reduced impact on the environment, lowered public health risks and improved livelihoods.

Yet there are some parts of the world where the livestock sector has not yet felt the benefit of antibiotics. Studies from Africa have found 10 per cent of adult livestock and 25 per cent of young livestock still die prematurely, most from infectious diseases. Others estimate the cost of livestock illness in Africa to be between USD9 billion and USD35 billion a year. Livestock losses are an often ignored factor when it comes to food deficits, but for many people, healthy livestock would help them escape poverty and malnutrition.

Improved availability of animal antibiotic treatments could be a lifeline for some of the world’s most vulnerable farmers. Yet growing levels of drug resistance around the world could instead see an extra 28 million people fall into poverty by 2050 and global livestock production fall by 7.5 percent.

The livestock sector can be instrumental in turning this around. In 2010, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE, formalized a tripartite agreement, listing antimicrobial resistance as one of their top three priorities. The tripartite has endorsed a Global Action Plan for tackling this issue, which in turn should be adapted by countries for implementation at national level.

One of these solutions would be to improve access among the poor to animal health services, including diagnostic information and registered medicinal products.

It is important to optimize the performance of veterinary services when managing disease threats and to prioritize the allocation of resources to improve animal health and welfare more effectively. OIE plays a central role in this endeavour by providing scientific information, ensuring transparency, setting standards and promoting veterinary services.

A World Bank analysis has also highlighted the differences in registering and labelling animal drug products in more than 60 countries worldwide. Given that up to 60 per cent of the antimicrobials used in Africa and Asia may be substandard, partly as a result of counterfeit drugs, it is imperative that we set international standards for the use of these treatments.

Where there is overuse of antimicrobials in animal agriculture, their consumption and contribution to drug resistance can both be reduced. In Europe, for instance, there has been a substantial decline in antimicrobial drug sales for food-producing animals. This suggests that former use was excessive and that other regions could adapt their animal production practices to depend on fewer antimicrobial treatments. But where antimicrobial drug availability is a constraint, we must ensure that the most vulnerable people are not left exposed to preventable animal disease. A complete restriction of access to antibiotics by the poor would be counterproductive and put at risk many other development goals.

We must also recognize that interventions to curb antimicrobial misuse in high-income countries may not be feasible or desirable for low- or middle-income countries. Our responsibility in the development community is to try to help countries to establish national action plans, ensuring tailor-made strategies, based on One Health principles, to better manage antimicrobial use, whether that is to lower such use or to ensure right and proper access to such drugs.

Above all, we should assess antimicrobial use in its differing contexts to be able to preserve the effectiveness of drugs and ensure they get to those who really need them. We have learned from the problem of “excess” by the rich; we now need to put those lessons in the service of quality access by the poor.

Delia Grace is an epidemiologist and veterinarian with more than 20 years experience in developing countries. She graduated from several leading universities and currently leads research on zoonoses and food-borne disease at the International Livestock Research Institute based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her research interests include food safety, emerging diseases, gender studies, and animal welfare.

Read this opinion piece by Delia Grace as originally published on the Devex site: Opinion: Can the livestock sector find the elusive ‘win-win’ on drug resistance?, 16 Dec 2016.

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


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

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

For what? you may well ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the videos:

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

Serious games, seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about innovation platforms

Post by Phil Sambati, ILRI

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Smith and his fellow panelists

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

Livestock remain central assets of people worldwide

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

Jimmy Smith listens to audience remarks

Jimmy Smith listens to audience remarks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isabella Lovin, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation

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

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

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

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

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

Livestock partnerships at work Partnering business/the private sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partnering non-governmental organizations

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

Adil El Youssefi, Airtel Kenya CEO

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

Partnering charitable foundations

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

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

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

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

Gwen Hines, DFID's Director for International Relations

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

Partnering small and medium livestock enterprise development

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Smith in a panel discussionGPEDC participants

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

Kenya farm boy drinking milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some excerpts from Rosenberg’s article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On other problems that still need to be solved

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

On benefits already provided

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

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

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

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


Where livestock issues took centre stage at major fora this fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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