East Africa News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niall MacHugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Gaelic Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find other resources on ILRI research work in Uganda.

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.

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
Email: mbaumwangi@gmail.com

APA Insurance
Jackie Tonui
Head of Corporate Communications
Mobile: +254 722 415 619
Tel : +254 020 286 2000
Email: jackie.tonui@apollo.co.ke

World Bank
Keziah Muthembwa
Email: kmuthembwa@worldbank.org

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Nancy Moss
Mobile: +254 729 991 028
Email : nmoss@burness.com

Takaful Insurance of Africa
Amina Farah
Mobile: +254 723 131 405
Email: Amina.farah@takafulafrica.com

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

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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2016.10.005. The following link provides free access to this article until 28 Dec 2016: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1U0dT_anFkJ2W~

Read about a related scientific paper:
Kenya’s wildlife populations are in ‘widespread’ and ‘catastrophic’ decline—New study, 1 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 https://ibli.ilri.org/


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
africasciencenews.org | 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
clippings.ilri.org | 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
http://www.news.cornell.edu | 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
clippings.ilri.org | 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
http://www.busiweek.com | 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
http://www.sciencemag.org | 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
clippings.ilri.org | 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
http://www.the-star.co.ke | 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
clippings.ilri.org | 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
sde.co.ke 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
http://www.newsghana.com.gh | 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
news.ilri.org | 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 )
http://www.isaaa.org | 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)
ntv.nation.co.ke | 08/31/2016
Video news clip

Pastoralists received Sh15M compensation following last year’s drought – CS
http://www.hivisasa.com — 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
http://www.agrimarketing.com | 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
http://www.potentash.com | 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
nairobi.usembassy.gov | 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
http://www.reuters.com | Katy Migiro | 08/30/2016

How NASA satellites save Kenya’s nomads from bankruptcy during drought (seriously)
http://www.jinamoore.com | 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
http://www.nation.co.ke | 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
citizentv.co.ke | 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
http://www.businessdailyafrica.com | 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
http://www.desmoinesregister.com | 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
uk.businessinsider.com | 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
http://www.worldfoodprize.org | Nicole Barreca | 08/30/2016
08/30/2016 Press Contact: Nicole Barreca, Director of Communications and Events nbarreca@worldfoodprize.org
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
http://www.worldfoodprize.org | 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
http://www.modernghana.com | 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)
clippings.ilri.org | 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
clippings.ilri.org | 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
news.trust.org | 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
http://www.worldbank.org | 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)
http://www.youtube.com | 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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

From the abstract to the paper

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

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

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

From the introduction to the paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the paper, published on PLOS ONE, Extreme wildlife declines and concurrent increase in livestock numbers in Kenya: What are the causes?, by Joseph Ogutu (University of Hohenheim, formerly of ILRI), Hans-Peter Piepho (University of Hohenheim), Mohamed Said (ILRI), Gordon Ojwang (Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing [DRSRS]), Lucy Njino (DRSRS), Shem Kifugo (ILRI) and Patrick Wargute (DRSRS), 27 Sep 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163249

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media contact
Michelle Geis | Director of Africa Burness, ILRI | mgeis@burness.com | +254 711 326 770

More information
More information will be posted here soon. To view a film of the whole event, go to http://www.ilri.org/livestream

Photographs of the event are on ILRI’s Flickr album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilri/albums/72157669992212163

View the original press release, by Nicole Barreca, from the World Food Prize Foundation, here: http://www.worldfoodprize.org/index.cfm/24667/39777/the_world_food_prize_recognizes_kenyan_economist

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

KALRO-ILRI MoU signing ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download a brief on ILRI activities in Kenya

Kenyan cattle found to have much smaller faecal carbon footprints than those used in climate change inventories


A visitor (left) tours an ILRI Mazingira Centre lab (left),
Mazingira scientist David Pelster (right)
(photo credit: CCAFS/Vivian Atakos).

Greenhouse gases emitted
by Kenyan cattle excreta
are found to be much lower
than estimates derived from
models in industrialized countries. African cattle nitrous oxide (N2O) faecal emissions are 10–20 times lower—
and their faecal methane (CH4) emissions two times lower—
than IPCC estimates now being used to determine
the carbon footprints of African livestock agriculture.
§ § § ‘The diets used in this study were consistent with those used
in smallholder farms in the region and similar in digestible energy
to the low-quality fodder category used
by the IPCC to estimate livestock emissions,
suggesting that emission factors used for
GHG inventories in this region may need to be revised.’
—From the conclusions to the paper
More studies—performed under different climatic seasons,
linked with measurements of enteric fermentation
and with measurements performed over extended periods—
will be needed to confirm these results. § § §

The following is excerpted from ILRI’s Livestock Systems and Environment blog site:
‘For a long time, African countries have relied on default emission factors provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to develop strategies on reductions of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. This is because there are very limited GHG measurements from cropping and livestock systems in most developing countries. However, there has been a growing concern on the applicability (or lack thereof) of data from IPCC to sub-Saharan African agricultural systems, and the subsequent development of mitigation interventions that may not be tailored to these systems. . . .

‘Part of the research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) focuses on understanding and managing the environmental footprint of livestock. At ILRI’s Mazingira Centre, this research aims to provide accurate context-specific information on the environmental impacts, particularly on nutrient cycles and GHG emissions of current livestock production systems, to enable predictions of intensification in these systems, and opportunities to mitigate GHG emissions. . . .’

In an important first for Kenya,
research from ILRI’s Mazingira Centre
has generated greenhouse gas data
measured and analyzed for Kenya, in Kenya.

The Mazingira Centre is a state-of-the-art environmental research and education centre established at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The goal of the Mazingira Centre (mazingira is the Kiswahili word for ‘environment’) is to enhance the infrastructure and capacity for environmental research in East Africa with a focus on livestock systems and land use change. It has capacity to measure and analyze environmental parameters brought about by agricultural and livestock production. Established in 2014 and now fully operational, the centre promises a step change in Africa’s environmental research infrastructure and capacity.

Read the full ILRI article about this new paper on ILRI’s Livestock Systems and Environment blog: Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock waste in East Africa are significantly lower than global estimates: New study reveals, 16 Jun 2016.

Access the ILRI paper here: Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from cattle excreta on an East African grassland, by David Pelster, Betty Gisore, John Goopy, Daniel Korir, James Koske, Mariana Rufino and Klaus Butterbach-Bahl.

For further information about the study and Mazingira Centre, contact Lutz Merbold (L.Merbold[at]cgiar.org) or David Pelster (D.Pelster [at] cgiar.org).

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) project on ‘In situ assessment of GHG emissions from two livestock systems in East Africa’ provided technical and financial support for this ILRI project.

Vaccine research on Africa’s cattle-killing East Coast fever: A short (somewhat potted but handsomely illustrated) history

PowerPoint Presentation

Life-cycle of Theileria parva. This figure illustrates the different life cycle stages of the single-celled tick-transmitted Theileria parva parasite, which causes East Coast fever in cattle. The parasite undergoes transformations into different forms as it cycles through its mammalian and tick hosts. The figure, created by ILRI scientist Nicholas Svitek, was inspired by fluorescence and electron micrograph images of the parasite life cycle (Fawcett et al., 1982a, Norval et al., 1992von Schubert et al., 2010). 

Here’s what’s going on in this complicated, and complex, parasite life cycle: Within minutes of their injection by an infected tick into a cow, parasite forms known as ‘sporozoites’ zip open the membrane of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) of the cow to gain entry. Once safely inside, where the parasite is out of reach of attack by the cow’s immune system, the parasites develop to a ‘schizont’ stage, a process that results in genetic ‘transformation’ of the bovine cell, in which it acquires the properties of cancer and begins to divide, along with the parasites inside of it, endlessly. (T. parva is the only eukaryotic organism known to transform lymphocytes.) Some of the schizont parasite forms then undergo merogony, giving rise to yet another form of the parasite, called merozoites, which cause their host’s white cells to rupture, after which the parasites further mature into ‘piroplasm’ forms, which invade the cow’s red blood cells, where they are then ready for uptake by ticks taking their next bloodmeal from the cow.

Tick larvae and nymphs acquire an infection by feeding on infected cattle or buffalo, and transmit the parasite as the next tick instar, nymphs and adults. Kinete forms, the final products of the parasite’s sexual cycle, invade the tick salivary glands where sporogony occurs. Mature merozoites (Mz) and sporozoites (Sz) originate from a multinucleated residual body.

Notes: Stages of the life cycles are not drawn to scale. The vertebrate host cell nucleus is coloured in purple and the parasite nucleus is in orange. Microspheres in sporozoites and micronemes in merozoites are depicted as small dark green dots inside the parasite. Host cell microtubules in the dividing schizont-infected cell are drawn in green. Drawings and artistic creation by ILRI scientist Nicholas Svitek. (This drawing illustrates a new ILRI paper, published by Elsevier under a Creative Commons licence, in Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases on 26 Feb 2016: doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2016.02.001).

Article by Susan MacMillan and Vish Nene, illustration by Nicholas Svitek

Tremendous research progress has been made over the last ten years to better control the deadly African disease of cattle known as East Coast fever. This disease is caused by a single-celled organism, Theileria parva, which is carried by some tick species. Cattle become infected when a tick carrying the parasite takes a blood-meal from the animal over several days.

The disease was named for its importation into southern Africa by cattle that originated from the East Coast of Africa at the start of the 20th century. The parasite was named after Arnold Theiler, a Swiss veterinary researcher who had emigrated to South Africa, where he became famous for co-developing the first safe vaccine against the rinderpest cattle plague, an accomplishment that ushered in systematic, mission-orientated veterinary research in that country. Theiler, whose youngest son Max would later win the Nobel Prize for developing the yellow fever vaccine, was first to distinguish East Coast fever, then entirely unknown to science, in 1903.

Cattle infected with the T. parva parasite develop a cancer-like disease manifested by high fever, swollen lymph nodes and lungs filled with excess fluid, which eventually literally drowns the animals, typically within just three weeks of infection. This remarkable protozoan has genes that enable it—within minutes of being injected into an animal—to attach itself to the surface of a cow’s white blood cell, ‘unzip’ the cell membrane and slip into the cell. Once inside the bovine cell, the parasite is unseen and safe from attack by the cow’s antibodies. T. parva then proceeds to take over the cell machinery. Activating the cow’s cell division pathway, it multiplies along with its host cell, causing the cancer-like state.

Those animals that do not succumb to East Coast fever are thereafter immune to subsequent infections with the same strain of parasite. Such natural full recovery and immunity is what first piqued the interests of scientists, who reasoned that it must be possible to develop a vaccine that would provoke similar immune processes, thus providing cattle with life-long protection against the disease.

The sequencing of the genome of the T. parva parasite, completed in 2005, and its publication in the scientific literature enabled scientists to thoroughly characterize the protozoan’s genetic makeup, including the diversity of the parasite’s antigenic molecules that provoke the cow’s immune system to generate protective antibodies and killer T cells that attack and clear the parasite from the host. This is the basis of an effective ‘infection-and-treatment’ (ITM) immunization method, in which live parasites are inoculated into cattle along with a long-acting antibiotic. A ‘Muguga cocktail’ ITM vaccine combining several parasite strains and providing broad-spectrum immunity to East Coast fever is now a registered product in three countries in eastern Africa. Effort today is being directed at improving and scaling up the production of this ‘live vaccine’ to make it more widely and cheaply available to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on livestock in the twelve countries of eastern, central and southern Africa where the disease remains endemic.

Meanwhile, research to develop a ‘subunit’ vaccine, which is based on bits of parasites rather than whole parasites, with the bits eliciting production of neutralizing antibodies and killer T cells, has been revived by a research consortium that is developing proof-of-concept for a next-generation East Coast fever vaccine. The pioneering genomic, molecular and immunological advances that are making this subunit vaccine work possible promise to finally and fully control this devastating disease within the next decade or so.

See the recent science article on which this article is developed:
The biology of Theileria parva and control of East Coast fever—Current status and future trends, by Vish Nene, Henry Kiara, Anne Lacasta, Rogé Pelle, Nicholas Svitek and Lucilla Steinaa, 2016, in Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 26 Feb 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2016.02.001

Read other articles about this publication on ILRI’s ILVAC blog site:

Susan MacMillan leads ILRI’s Awareness and Advocacy communications work. Vish Nene leads ILRI’s Vaccine Biosciences program (ILVAC). Nicholas Svitek is a cellular immunologist within ILRI’s Vaccine Biosciences program.

Serious rain: East Africa’s annual Easter resurrection

Story by Susan MacMillan.


Boys with their goats in the rain in Kenya (ILRI/Stevie Mann).

3 April 2016: Loresho, Nairobi suburb
Exactly four days following Easter Sunday this year, the ‘long rains’ arrived in Nairobi, watering the earth, flooding the streets, pounding the rooftops. All night that night, and all night the following nights, the kusi monsoon, blowing inland from across the Indian Ocean, has delivered the beating rain. People dutifully acknowledge this annual East African event, one that seven of every ten East Africans relies on to feed themselves and their families. One that, memorably, on occasion fails to transpire.


A livestock carcass in Kenya, following prolonged drought (Neil Palmer/CIAT).

One year the long rains failed. That is a terrible tremendous experience, and the farmer who has lived through it will never forget it. Years afterwards, away from Africa, in the wet climate of a Northern country, he will start up at night, at the sound of a sudden shower of rain, and cry, ‘At last, at last!’
— Isak Dineson, Out of Africa

15 March 1997: Kinangop, Kenya

Three million people living in areas of the northern, coastal and other low lands of Kenya have been affected by a failure of the annual short rains last October/November, which follow­ed two consecu­tive failures of the annual long (March–May) rains—FAO, 1997

The air is thick, polluted with a haze of smoke from fires burning out of con­trol for the last several weeks in the Aberdares and on Mount Kenya. Zebra stand motionless under thorn trees. Unusual. We are in a dry season in Kenya. Some are calling it a drought. For some it’s been a famine. In the back-country of Machakos District and the remote north­ern frontier, people have died for lack of food. Two boys in Ukambani were reported to have dug up a bur­­ied dog, eaten it and then died themselves. Old people and children are, as always, most vulner­able to calamity. And animals. Across the country, tens of thousands of them have lain down on the hard­pan to die for lack of water and grass.

In the vast drylands of Kenya, the food disappeared soon after the grass. Nairobi shops begin to run out of milk and butter in January. In March, a sand dune is born on either side of the main road west of the capital. Cars on dirt roads plough through dust a foot thick. An abandoned truck lies buried to its axles in a dust drift. People walking along the road are entirely obscured by fine dust our vehicle spins into the air as we make our way to Lake Nai­vasha for the weekend. A Thompson’s gazelle running across the powdered surface of the earth kicks up a cloud of haze that hangs for minutes in the air.

In the meantime, clouds in the sky are moving eastwards from the great lakes of Central Africa and massing over the Rift Valley. The clouds turn dark early mornings and late after­noons. Big winds rise suddenly. To people like me, this spells an end to the dry season. To the farmers in this part of the world, the changed skyscape tells little. Clouds don’t mean rain above the grasslands of the Rift. Rain here doesn’t necessarily mean rain, either. A driz­zle, a few showers, some rainy days — these go unmentioned. As though they never happened.

On a cattle ranch at the foot of the Kinangop Escarp­ment, above Naivasha, a few drops of rain fall. I look up, close my eyes, spread my arms and call out to the others. RAIN! An old-timer looks down at her feet and turns away.

What these farmers are waiting for — what their ways of life depend on — is serious rain. Tropical rain that rains through the night, that hammers the iron-corrugated roofs of home­steads, that splashes into tin gutters and pours out onto the cracked earth. Sheets of rain that turn dirt streets into mud, that bring cattle into still huddles, heads down. Noisy rain that drowns out the world for hours at a time. Such liberation doesn’t come from displays like mine at the fall of a few rain drops.

Serious rain here is called the rains. Every tribe and culture that inhabits the East Afri­ca savannas treats the arrival of the rains as a blessing. Children born in the rains and young couples married in the rains are doubly blessed. With the arrival of the rains, the voices of people on country roads rise. The forms of everything in nature — people, cows, birds, dik-dik, thorn scrub — stiffen a little. Alert, expectant. Listen when the rain stops, when the birds begin to chirp and the sun reappears, and you’ll hear the sound of dormant seeds germin­ating, of grasses sprouting and sap rising — of a vast store of energy being released. A great moment is in the making: the food cycle is about to begin again.


Kenya schoolboy enjoying the rain (Flickr/Viktor Dobai).

29–30 March 1997: Karen, Nairobi suburb
9:30 PM: A window is open. We’re watching a video. We smell wet on pavement before we hear it fall. The splats of fat drops hitting leaves and tree trunks and the sides of the house. Then the unspeakably sweet sound of steady rain. A wetting rain. A rain that will penetrate the ground, soften the earth, prepare it for the heavier rains to follow.

10:30 PM: We open sliding doors in the living room, step onto the veranda and breath in. The rain has stopped. Lightening flashes. Between claps of thunder, a chorus of amphibian and insect life, outrageously loud, rises and falls in rhythmic succession. ‘A bit of rain sure stirs things up,’ my husband says.

11:30 PM: Later, in bed, a steady rain starts up again. The frogs and insects must have known this (how do they know this?) — that that first fall of rain was the beginning of serious rain. That it will rain tonight all night long. We fall asleep in a cool room, as fresh as the breeze on our faces.

6:30 AM: We awake as the rain finally stops, just before light. Somewhere in the night the frogs and cicada ended their revelry. Excited birds now make their own racket in the garden. Well under way by dawn on this Easter Sunday morning is the resurrection that occurs every year in this country with the arrival of the long rains.

But when the earth answered like a sounding-board in a deep fertile roar, and the world sang round you in all dimensions — all above and below — that was the rain. It was like coming back to the sea, when you have been a long time away from it, like a lover’s embrace.
— Isak Dineson, Out of Africa


Head of sandstone buddha in the bodhi tree roots at Mahathat temple, Ayutthaya, Thailand (Kat Nienartowicz).

20 April 1997: Karen, Nairobi suburb
I work in an upstairs study, at a desk facing a window that looks onto a fig tree. In this last month of rains, the tree has sprout­ed shiny leathery leaves the colour of lime-green. At the bases of the leaves, figs the size and shape of big peas grow in tight clusters.

A dozen yellow-vented bulbuls, a streaky mix of black and yellow green, are sitting in the tree this morning, at my eye level. I watch as the birds peck at the ripe figs, breaking a hole through the outer skin, then working the hole until it becomes a slit that unhinges to reveal a brownish nutty-looking pulp within. From somewhere in the tree a black-headed (bright yellow) oriole produces a melodi­ous liquid whistle. A pair of paradise fly-catchers, long-tailed and chestnut-coloured, swoop through the branches to catch insects gorging on the newly exposed pulp. Dropped and disembowelled fruits lie scattered across the driveway. Bats will feed on these wild figs tonight. So will vervet monkeys, baboons, hyrax and other small animals I never see.

The fig tree is still common in Nairobi gardens. The ‘strangler fig’, which begins its life in the fork of a host tree, which it embraces and ultimately kills with its aerial roots in their downward stretch for earth, provides shade even in the middle of the dry season. Known as Mugumu in Kikuyu, this fig tree is a gathering point for communities and is widely regarded in East Africa as the sacred home of ancestral spirits. Five centuries before the birth of Jesus, Gautama Buddha is reported to have been sitting under a fig tree — I imagine an enormous Indian Banyan of the strang­ler type — when he attained enlightenment, entering that state of perfect illumination that reportedly exists beyond passion, suffering and existence itself.

This story was originally published originally on Medium, 3 Apr 2016:
View story at Medium.com

CGIAR Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project launches today, #WorldMetDay

CezarieMukabanda, Dairy farmer, Bishweshwe village, Rwamagana district in the Eastern Province, Rwanda

Cezarie Mukabanda, a dairy farmer in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, is participating in a project on ‘Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses for improved livestock production in East Africa’  led by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Ethel Makila).

A new project will make use of reconstructed meteorological data from Rwanda in cutting-edge climate science. The project will develop climate information products and services based on the expressed needs of the country’s farmers and other end users. The data will be translated into forecasts relevant to farmers and government capacity will be built to deliver this service.

‘The work is carried out by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and Meteo Rwanda, in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

‘The missing data traces its origins in tragedy. The 1994 civil war and genocide in Rwanda led to a catastrophic disruption of Rwanda’s meteorological observation network. Most of the country’s weather stations had been wrecked, looted or rendered inoperable by the violence. A decade later, only few stations had been brought back online. It was not until 2010 that Rwanda’s National Meteorological Agency restored its pre-1994 number of stations. . . .

‘[Tufa] Dinku lists a number of questions that are difficult to answer without solid historical data: How is climate change unfolding in the country? Are there certain areas seeing more impacts than others? What is the year-to-year variability in rainfall and how has that changed? What has been the trend between climate and agricultural productivity? Even the impacts of El Niño would be poorly known.

Agriculture contributes to one-third of Rwanda’s gross domestic production and remains the main source of subsistence for the majority of the country’s population. Farming employs eight out of ten Rwandans. Despite its importance, the sector remains highly vulnerable to current and projected climate and weather variability. Severe flooding in 2007, for example, caused an estimated USD 22 million in two districts alone. Recurrent hail and wind storms, heavy rains and prolonged droughts take frequent tolls on agricultural productivity. Such weather events are expected to become more frequent and intensive with climate change, posing a threat to food security.

‘With ENACTS, Meteo-Rwanda has filled in the missing data by blending whatever on-the-ground measurements existed with global satellite and climate model products. As a result, Rwanda now has more than 30 years of rainfall and temperature data every 5 km across the whole country. . . .

‘“Rebuilding the data sets the foundation for developing the kinds of information products we know are useful to farmers and other decision makers,” explained James Hansen, Program Leader for the CCAFS flagship on managing climate risk. “These include forecasts by SMS and radio, which now reach millions of rural people in countries such as Senegal,” he said.

‘The new Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project will build on the ENACTS innovations to improve agricultural planning and food security management in the country at all levels. . . .

“Rwanda is showcasing what can be done with climate services, even when you have an enormous gap in observational records,” said Hansen. “It’s the only country in Africa as far as we know with an official ‘open data’ policy and it’s poised to lead the continent in making not just forecasts but data a public good and a resource for development.”

Further information
Project factsheet: Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture
Website: Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS) webpage
Video: ENACTS Explained by lead researcher Tufa Dinku
Video: Cimate Data Matters for Development

Read more about today’s launch—Building climate services capacity in Rwanda—on the website of the CGIAR Research Program for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), 23 Mar 2016, and on the site of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI): New climate services program in Rwanda aims to reach one million farmers, 23 Mar 2016

Tanzania ‘Livestock Master Plan’ project launched

Iain Wright

Iain Wright, ILRI deputy director general, at the Tanzania LMP project launch (photo credit: ILRI/Mercy Becon).

Tanzania’s livestock sector will benefit from a recently started project to transform it by guiding investments in the four main value chains comprising red meat, milk and products; poultry, eggs and pig meat.

The project will contribute to reducing poverty, raising the country’s GDP, increasing food and nutrition security and creating additional employment. Hon William Ole Nasha, the deputy minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF) launched the Tanzania Livestock Master Plan project (LMP), which is being formulated by the ministry with technical support from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

A livestock master plan is a vision-driven well-constructed road map with action plans that seeks to improve animal productivity and production, as well as the value addition of key livestock value chains. The Tanzania LMP will be developed with consultations of livestock experts and stakeholders to come up with relevant and realistic interventions to address challenges they are facing and take advantage of available opportunities. In Tanzania, the master plan will converge with and complement the Agricultural Sector Development Programme II (ASDP II), the Tanzania Livestock Modernization Initiative and influence formulation of future indicators in the livestock sector. Other countries interested in developing a Livestock Mater Plan include Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and India. Ethiopia has already done one for the period 2015–2020.

The kick-start meeting for the project was held in Dar es Salaam on 23 Feb 2016 and was attended by about 100 delegates including researchers, scholars, development partners, livestock experts, livestock keepers and representatives of government agencies, academia, civil society and the media.

Livestock stakeholders have welcomed the project, saying it is timely and they appreciate being involved in the LMPs development.

During the kick-start, Hon Ole Nasha lauded the project saying ‘the master plan is being prepared by Tanzanian experts and it envisages a modernized, highly productive livestock sector that will attract investment’. He assured the government’s full support to the preparation of the Master Plan and its implementation once it is ready and thanked ILRI and the BMGF for their support and cooperation.

Permanent secretaries for Livestock and Fisheries (Maria Mashingo and Yohana Budeba respectively) and the director of policy and planning Catherine Dangat also attended and facilitated the kick-start.

When welcoming the deputy minister, Iain Wright represented ILRI’s director general to thank the ministry and BMGF for giving ILRI the opportunity ‘to provide livestock planning, training, technical backstopping and mentoring to senior MALF staff to build institutional capacity for evidence-based investment planning. Wright also noted that besides contributing to national development goals, the LMP would also support the protection of the environment by helping farmers to adapt to climate change. Barry Shapiro, the ILRI project adviser shared the experience in developing a similar master plan in Ethiopia and Stephen Michael, a staff and member of the LMP team from MALF presented the roles of various stakeholders in the process of preparing the Tanzania LMP.

Read a related ILRI News article: Tanzania’s ‘Livestock Master Plan’ kicks off with a one-year training program for government officials

More information on livestock master plan development in Tanzania and Ethiopia

This post is by Mercy Becon, communications officer with ILRI in Tanzania.


MERS-CoV antibodies found in two people in eastern Kenya


Transmission electron micrograph of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, MERS-CoV (image credit: NIAID). MERS-CoV belongs to the coronavirus family. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s; MERS-CoV was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Coronaviruses can also infect animals. Named for the crown-like spikes on their surface, coronaviruses are common in people, usually causing mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses. Two exceptions are the MERS-CoV and the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)-CoV.

A new study published in the science journal Emerging Infectious Diseases reports that two individuals in Kenya have tested positive for the presence of antibodies to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Neither person is ill or recalls having any symptoms associated with MERS.

There is no evidence of a public health threat and scientists concluded that the infections caused little or no clinical signs of illness. But they plan follow-up studies, as this is the first indication of a MERS-CoV infection that is not connected to primary infections in the Middle East.

The antibodies were discovered in serum samples taken as part of a broader household disease surveillance survey conducted in 2013 and 2014 in eastern Kenya in Garissa and Tana River counties. The two samples that tested positive for MERS-CoV antibodies were taken from a 26-year old woman and a 58-year old man in Tana River County.

The authors of the study include scientists from the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Kenya Ministry of Health, the University of Bonn Medical Center.

About MERS
MERS-CoV is a virus that, for some individuals, causes severe acute respiratory illness that can be fatal. Most of the known infections and deaths from the disease have occurred in Saudi Arabia and all previous infections and deaths from the disease have been linked to the Middle East.

While most of the human cases have involved human-to-human transmission in hospital settings, dromedary camels—the single-humped camel that is common in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa—are considered a major reservoir for the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, about 36% of reported patients with MERS-CoV have died, with the most severe cases occurring in older people, people with weakened immune systems and patients already suffering from cancer, chronic lung disease or diabetes.

While most of the discussion of MERS-CoV has rightfully focused on infections that caused severe illness or death, scientists have confirmed that people can become infected with MERS-CoV and suffer either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

‘The absence of autochthonous human MERS-CoV infections in Africa has triggered hypotheses regarding differences in disease transmission between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and has raised doubts regarding the role of camels as a source of infection. Our study provides evidence for unrecorded human MERS-CoV infections in Kenya. The proportion of seropositive specimens that we found is comparable to previously reported proportions of unrecorded infections in the general population in Saudi Arabia. . . . Because of an apparently low infection rate and a bias toward reporting severe cases, the discovery of unreported MERS cases requires testing of large sample sizes with well-validated serologic methods. . . .

‘The lack of a well-developed public health system in parts of Africa could lead to underdiagnosis of clinical cases and would therefore prevent case notification. Moreover, less accessible hospital care might preclude large nosocomial outbreaks as have been observed in countries on the Arabian Peninsula and in South Korea. Other possible explanations for the absence of confirmed and reported clinical cases of MERS-CoV infection in Africa include lesser virulence of strains from Africa and cultural differences that might cause persons of different age ranges to be exposed to the virus. . . .’

Results are a scientific first
This study is a scientific first and opens the door for additional and important research into MERS—a disease we don’t know very much about.

This is the first time MERS-CoV antibodies have been detected in humans in Africa who had no known connection to the Middle East. The presence of these antibodies could mean one or more of the following, but we need to do more research to determine the circumstances.

The authors of the study believe the two individuals from Tana River who harbour antibodies to the disease were probably infected with MERS-CoV ‘a considerable time’ before the blood samples were collected and the infections likely were ‘mild or subclinical’, meaning there was no obvious evidence of illness.

Primary MERS-CoV infections are possible in Africa, but they could involve a less virulent form of the virus that does not cause the severe illness seen in patients in the Middle East.

No public health concern in Kenya
All the scientific evidence tells us that the findings do not represent a public health concern for Kenya or the Horn of Africa.

While the presence of antibodies indicates that the two individual were exposed to some form of the MERS-CoV, neither individual is currently contagious and there is no evidence that they ever infected anyone else with MERS-CoV. Also, the tests returned evidence of antibodies to MERS-CoV, not evidence individuals were currently harbouring the virus itself.

There is no evidence of a MERS-CoV outbreak in Kenya or elsewhere in the region, nor does the study indicate an immediate risk of MERS-CoV in Kenya or anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa.

ILRI experts say there does not appear to be an immediate threat to humans in the region given that there is no evidence of widespread infection or serious illness from the MERS-CoV occurring in East African camel country.

One-Health approach employed
The findings pave the way for better surveillance of the disease in Africa that may be passed from animals to humans. MERS-CoV infections in the Middle East may have originally come from camels. The tests that uncovered the Kenya infections are part of a broader effort by ILRI and Kenyan health officials to identify ‘zoonotic’ threats—diseases that pass from animals to humans—before they become a serious problem for humans.

Scientists note that their ‘One Health’ approach—which looks at how human health is affected by interactions with animals and the environment—draws from lessons learned in the fight against Ebola and HIV/AIDS, two zoonotic diseases whose impact on human health would have been greatly reduced if they had been identified early in their transition from animals.

The samples collected in Tana River and Garissa counties were tested for MERS-CoV as part of a broader effort led by ILRI to look for any signs of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases being passed between animals and humans, before they become a more widespread problem.

MERS-CoV antibodies in Kenyan individuals: Links to camels uncertain
MERS-CoV antibodies have been found in camels in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, but it’s unclear whether the MERS-CoV antibodies isolated in the two Kenyan individuals are linked to camels.

Some 75% of the world’s dromedary camels live in Africa, with large concentrations of the animals found in Kenya and Somalia. Previous studies have isolated MERS-CoV antibodies in dromedaries in Africa. Some of the samples testing positive were collected 30 years ago but were only recently tested for MERS-CoV.

There are considerable populations of camels in the Tana River, but the man and woman who had antibodies indicating a previous MERS-CoV infection did not own camels of any kind and could not recall specific contact with the animals.

Camels roam widely in the regions and there are many opportunities for people to have contact with the animals, and many people in the region consume camel products, including camel meat and milk. But thus far, scientists studying the disease have not been able to pinpoint how camels might be passing along the virus to humans.

Read the science paper
Published in Emerging Infectious Diseases: MERS-CoV Antibodies in Humans, Africa, 2013–2014, by Anne Liljander (ILRI), Benjamin Meyer (University of Bonn Medical Center), Joerg Jores (ILRI), Marcel Müller (U of Bonn Medical Center), Erik Lattwein (EUROIMMUN AG), Ian Njeru (Kenya Ministry of Health), Bernard Bett (ILRI), Christian Drosten (German Center for Infection Research) and Victor Max Corman (German Center for Infection Research), Vol 22, No 6–June 2016, Ahead of Print.

Read previous reports of ILRI studies on MERS
UK chief scientific adviser visits Kenya: Part 4—Development of a field-friendly diagnostic test for MERS, 24 Jul 2015
New studies on MERS coronavirus and camels in eastern Africa published, 28 Aug 2014

Protecting crop and feed diversity enhances food security while reducing greenhouse gases

 a major centre of crop diversity High level seminar in Addis Ababa on 23 February 2016

Marie Haga, executive director, Global Crop Diversity Trust

Crop diversity can be conserved and shared. Scientists know how to do it and at a very limited cost to the world community. It requires global leadership and stronger partnerships and the building of capacities of scientists in the developing world. No country is self-sufficient; successful breeding is highly dependent on functioning multilateralism, according to Marie Haga, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, speaking at a high-level seminar held 23 Feb 2016 at the Addis Ababa campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Participants at the seminar—Celebrating biodiversity in Ethiopia: a major centre of crop diversity—heard four Ethiopian and international experts outline the enormous potential of Ethiopia’s biodiversity and the importance of conserving global biodiversity: Eleni Shiferaw representing Gemedo Dalle, director general of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute; Marie Haga, Gebisa Ejeta, genetics professor at Purdue University and World Food Prize laureate; and Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI.

‘Agriculture is probably facing one of its biggest challenges ever in its 13,000 years history… .’, said Haga.

Jimmy Smith underlined the linkages between livestock and crop diversity, and international partnership and cooperation. He said the ILRI Forage Genebank has 18,000 collections and 1,400 species from 149 countries. In line with its international obligations under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, ILRI holds this crop diversity in trust to share it with those involved in producing food and agriculture. Over the years, ILRI has given out 13,000 samples to Ethiopians and thousands to other countries.

According to Gebisa Ejeta, Ethiopia and Ethiopians had given and received a lot from the international community; few other African countries have benefited more from international assistance. The quality of the ILRI Forage Genebank, one of the best in the world, is down to the help from CGIAR, and past and present Ethiopian governments. Ethiopia has been home to 38 important crop species, many unique. This diversity offers the potential to adapt to the conditions facing us now and in the future. While there is the technology to adapt the genes, developing countries, Ethiopia included, need the institutions, capacity development, and effective partnerships.

The Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute has collected and conserved more than 80,000 accessions of cultivated crops, forage and forest species in its genebank. However, it is not just a question of conservation for conservation’s sake, more than 160,000 accessions have been distributed to users to be utilized for crop improvement, Shiferaw said, eventually ensuring farmers gain access to these important crops.

These days many argue we should reduce the number of livestock in the world to protect humans, the ILRI director general said. But using the forages in new ways, and managing the world’s rangelands better could contribute to huge carbon stocks, mitigating climate change. This sort of approach will help us make better animal systems.

‘Agriculture is probably facing one of its biggest challenges ever in its 13,000 years history. There are several reasons, but the main is the dual challenge of population growth and climate change. Producing sufficient, nutritious food can never be taken for granted, but it will be even harder in the years ahead’, said Haga.

If food security were easy, we would have it by now, Haga continued. The complexities are all well understood. But no matter how you look at it, no matter what the complexities, one fact is certain, simple, and clear: crop diversity is a prerequisite for a sustainable food system which provides more, and more nutritious, food in spite of climate change.

Read more about the high-level seminar at ILRI.

Vaccine development breakthrough for Rift Valley fever—new Nature Scientific Reports paper

Trade-related Vector-borne Animal Disease in Ethiopia with Particular Reference to Rift Valley Fever (TCP/ETH/0168) - Awash Veterinary Services

Trade-related ‘Vector-borne Animal Disease in Ethiopia with Particular Reference to Rift Valley Fever’,  Awash Veterinary Services, Ethiopia (photo via Flickr by Marc Bleich).

With colleagues from the Jenner and Pirbright institutes in the UK, Nairobi’s Strathmore University and institutions in Saudi Arabia and Spain, scientists and technicians in a vaccine biosciences program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, have recently published a paper in Nature Scientific Reports announcing a breakthrough in development of a ‘One Health’ vaccine that could protect both people and livestock from Rift Valley fever.

One of ILRI’s co-authors of the paper, Vish Nene, who leads the institute’s Vaccine Biosciences program, explains the significance of the study: ‘This study demonstrated that a single-dose immunization in several species mediated protection against Rift Valley fever, with no presence of the virus in the blood. We still have additional questions that need to be answered, such as will the vaccine also be efficacious under field conditions. And a pressing issue that regulatory authorities will need to address relate to registration requirements for recombinant vaccines.’ 

Our findings add value to the ChAdOx1 vaccine platform and support its application in developing experimental vaccines against other viral diseases, especially where candidate viral vaccine antigens are known. The platform provides a rapid ability to respond to new viral threats and to archive them in a vaccine bank. The ChAdOX1 platform is also being used in human vaccine trials. The ability to demonstrate safety and efficacy in animals to protect against zoonotic diseases, which are transmitted from animals to people, and to use the same experimental vaccine in human trials has obvious advantages.
—Vish Nene, ILRI

‘Rift Valley Fever virus (RVFV) causes recurrent outbreaks of acute life-threatening human and livestock illness in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. No licensed vaccines are currently available for humans and those widely used in livestock have major safety concerns. A ‘One Health’ vaccine development approach, in which the same vaccine is co-developed for multiple susceptible species, is an attractive strategy for RVFV. Here, we utilized a replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine platform with an established human and livestock safety profile, ChAdOx1, to develop a vaccine for use against RVFV in both livestock and humans. We show that single-dose immunization with ChAdOx1-GnGc vaccine, encoding RVFV envelope glycoproteins, elicits high-titre RVFV-neutralizing antibody and provides solid protection against RVFV challenge in the most susceptible natural target species of the virus-sheep, goats and cattle. In addition we demonstrate induction of RVFV-neutralizing antibody by ChAdOx1-GnGc vaccination in dromedary camels, further illustrating the potency of replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine platforms. Thus, ChAdOx1-GnGc warrants evaluation in human clinical trials and could potentially address the unmet human and livestock vaccine needs.

‘RVFV, a negative-stranded RNA virus in the Bunyaviridae family, is listed as an emerging zoonotic Category A viral pathogen in the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) list of priority pathogens for biodefense research. The disease, Rift Valley Fever, has serious implications for livestock agriculture and trade and is also listed as a notifiable disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Although primarily restricted to Africa, the virus can be transmitted by at least ten mosquito species that are more widely distributed than RVFV leading to concerns of disease spread, as has occurred in the Arabian Peninsula and Madagascar. Humans can also get infected through contact with virus-contaminated tissues and fluid.

‘Due to its epizootic nature related to heavy rainfall and flooding, Rift Valley Fever is a difficult disease to study. It is thought that successive and overlapping swarms of different mosquitos infect and amplify infection rates in ruminants with subsequent transmission to humans, resulting in epidemics. The high levels of human morbidity and mortality during the last major outbreak in 2006/7 in eastern Africa underscores the urgency of developing comprehensive surveillance, response and control programs, especially since there is growing evidence for inter-epidemic transmission of RVFV.

‘Rift Valley Fever causes high rates (>90%) of mortality in young ruminants, primarily sheep, goats and cattle. Although older animals are more resistant to disease, high rates of abortion (so-called “abortion storms”) are observed following RVFV infection in pregnant animals and this is often used as a warning sign of imminent human disease epidemics. Unlike other domestic ruminants, RVFV infection in dromedary camels tends to be mild or inapparent, with abortion among pregnant animals being the only clinical sign. However, severe clinical signs, including haemorrhagic septicaemia and sudden death, have been observed among infected dromedary camels in Mauritania. In humans RVFV infection presents as an acute self-limiting febrile illness, but severe manifestations, including haemorrhagic fever and encephalitis, also occur, with case fatality rates >30% reported in some outbreaks, and long-term sequelae (e.g. impaired vision) in some survivors. Live and inactivated RVFV vaccines are available for livestock, but no licensed vaccines or anti-viral therapies are currently available for humans. . . .

Replication-defective chimpanzee adenoviruses (ChAd) are among the most promising human vaccine platforms available. . . . Their use as a common vaccine development platform has the advantage of allowing multiple vaccines to be biomanufactured rapidly with standardized processes and low cost of goods. . . . In summary we have demonstrated the utility of the replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus platform in induction of functional antibody and protective immunity against RVFV in multiple target livestock species in a disease-endemic setting.

Larger field efficacy and dose optimization studies of ChAdOx1-GnGc in animals of different age groups and physiological status will be required to underpin its future licensure and general use in livestock, and to explore potential inter-species differences in vaccine-elicited immune responses. . . .’

This work was conducted with the support from the University of Oxford, a Wellcome Trust fellowship and a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through its Grand Challenges Exploration Initiative.

Read the whole paper in Nature Scientific Reports: Chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine provides multispecies protection against Rift Valley Fever, 5 Feb 2016, doi:10.1038/srep20617, written by George M Warimwe, of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford (UK), the Centre for Research in Therapeutic Sciences and the Institute for Healthcare Management, Strathmore University (Kenya); Joseph Gesharisha (ILRI); B Veronica Carr, Pirbright Institute (UK); Simeon Otieno, ILRI; Kennedy Otingah, ILRI; Danny Wright, Jenner Institute; Bryan Charleston, Pirbright Institute; Edward Okoth, ILRI; Lopez-Gil Elena, Centro de Investigación en Sanidad Animal, Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA-CISA, Spain); Gema Lorenzo, INIA-CISA; El-Behiry Ayman, Qassim University (Saudi Arabia); Naif K Alharbi, King Abdullah International Research Center (Saudi Arabia); Musaad A Al-dubaib, Qassim University (Saudi Arabia); Alejandro Brun, INIA-CISA; Sarah C Gilbert, Jenner Institute; Vishvanath Nene, ILRI; and Adrian VS Hill, Jenner Institute.

Ethiopia-CGIAR country consultation meeting identifies five action areas got enhanced collaboration

Dr Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopia State Minister of Livestock and Fishery for Livestock opens the consultation meeting

HE Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopia State Minister of Livestock and Fishery, opens the consultation meeting (photo credit IWMI/D. Tadesse).

Five concrete areas of collaboration have been recommended in a meeting of CGIAR centres and national partners and key stakeholders in a move to better align CGIAR activities with the national Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP 2015-2020). The meeting was scheduled following a decision by the Consortium of CGIAR centres to strengthen the alignment of CGIAR research with the priorities of national governments.

Improved coordination and collaboration of the second generation CGIAR research programs (CRPs), it was argued, will largely take place at country level where research outcomes are more likely to be achieved at scale when they are closely linked to national agricultural and related nutrition and health development priorities and initiatives.

This 11 December 2015 meeting was part of a wider process of coordination and alignment between CGIAR centres and programs and their national partners in six countries—Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Vietnam. The process is intended to showcase what CGIAR centres and CRPs – and their partners – can achieve as a result of improved collective action (see http://gcard3.cgiar.org/national-consultations for more information on this process).

Opening the Ethiopia-CGIAR meeting, the State Minister of Livestock and Fishery, HE Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, underlined the importance of sustained investment in agricultural research to deliver poverty reduction, achieve food and nutrition security, boost raw material for industries, and push up export earnings. An increase in production and productivity and developing a drought resilient agriculture, he argued, cannot be sought without strong research support. Thus, national and global research institutions are expected to fill technological gaps and must position themselves to respond to emerging challenges, transforming the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Representatives from key semi-state organizations, ministries, national research partners and development partners in Ethiopia also outlined their activities. Highlighting priorities in the coming years, in line with the GTPII, they also suggested where they thought Ethiopia would most benefit from closer collaboration with CGIAR centres in the country.

Five action areas

One key action highlighted was to establish a joint CGIAR-national agriculture research system collaboration and communication mechanism. This mechanism, it was recommended, would establish a permanent secretariat for joint planning, sharing of findings, and monitoring and evaluation.

The four other areas of collaboration were: The development of joint research proposals, sharing of equipment and resources, streamlining policy engagement, and improving opportunities and modalities of capacity development.

In terms of capacity building opportunities and modalities, participants focused on the need for both more formal, short-term and on-site training (joint research) training for national partners, and support in out-scaling for CGIAR centres. They also highlighted the need to facilitate access to laboratory facilities. These goals could be achieved through enhanced joint research implementation and supervision, and publications, linkages with international universities and research institutes and staff exchanges.

The participants also recommended more joint proposal development and research, focusing on a systems, rather than sectorial approach, with common objectives linked to national goals. The last recommendation highlighted the need for the development of protocols on shared facilities, equipment and germplasm.

The meeting was introduced by the International Livestock Research Institute Director General’s representative in Ethiopia, Siboniso Moyo, who spoke on the CGIAR work globally and in Ethiopia. She was followed by Dereje Biruk of the Agricultural Transformation Agency, Fentahun Mengistu of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Garry Robbins of the United States Agency for International Development, on the Rural Economic Development and Food Security Sector Working Group.

Once the meeting report is finalised and reviewed, a country working group will move this agenda forward. In addition to feeding into the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3), the recommendations will guide mechanisms for better alignment, coordination, collaboration and strengthening of the Ethiopia-CGIAR partnership going forward.