East Africa News

ILRI’s Kapiti livestock research station—and Kenyan and global public goods—imperiled by land grabs in Kenya

Over the past several weeks,
illegal attempts to grab land
have escalated at Kapiti Plains Estate
(now known as Kapiti research station),
located about 60 km southeast
of Nairobi along Mombasa Road,
in Kenya’s Machakos County.
Members of groups involved in the
illegal sales have started trespassing
and building illegal structures
on Kapiti research station. No land at Kapiti is for sale.

Who owns Kapiti?

Kapiti has been wholly owned, managed and operated by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for three decades. ILRI is a not-for-profit international research centre headquartered in Kenya. It is a member of the CGIAR system of 15 global agricultural research centres and their partners conducting research for a food-secure future. For several decades, ILRI has been working closely with national governments and ministries in conducting research to improve the livelihoods and lives of small-scale livestock keepers in Africa and Asia.

What is Kapiti used for?

Kapiti is an ILRI research station located on 32,000 acres of semi-arid rangeland in southeastern Kenya. Kapiti land and facilities are operated solely for public good research; this is not a commercial ranch and ILRI makes no profit from it.

The 80 ILRI staff working at Kapiti maintain for research purposes about 2,500 head of Kenya’s native and popular Boran beef cattle, 1,200 native Kenyan red Maasai and exotic Dorper sheep, and 250 Galla goats, which are native to northern Kenya.

The different breeds and types of livestock are kept at Kapiti to conduct research on animal health and productivity for the benefit of millions of farmers, herders and pastoralists in Kenya and across Africa and Asia.

As one of the few as yet unfragmented rangelands in the region, Kapiti also is a safe haven for large numbers of wildlife. Serving as a critical wildlife corridor for migratory mammals, Kapiti helps to maintain the fragile and unique Athi-Kapiti-Kaputei ecosystem of Kenya’s Southern Conservancy Area, with the internationally acclaimed Nairobi National Park being a centrepiece of this ecosystem.1 This park’s wildlife regularly disperses throughout the ecosystem, with more wildlife on any given day found on pastoral grazing land outside the park. Indeed, some 12,000 head of wild mammals were counted on ILRI’s Kapiti research station in a recent aerial survey—man more wildlife than were in the park itself at that time.

The main reason for ILRI’s acquisition of Kapiti was to produce ‘clean’ (disease-free) animals for controlled livestock vaccine trials. Most of East Africa’s ruminant livestock are raised on tropical drylands. Because the number of animals needed for vaccine trials is large and the number of animals that drylands such as Kapiti can support (called a ‘stocking rate’ or ‘carrying capacity’) is low, large tracts of land are required for this kind of animal health research. Kapiti’s size is in line with that of other drylands research stations, such as Kenya’s Kiboko Research Station, which is larger than Kapiti.

Kapiti is essentially a living laboratory for studying and improving livestock production in Africa’s tropical drylands. It’s a place where ILRI and its Kenyan and other research partners can develop better breeds and feeds and find new ways to treat devastating animal diseases in the confidence that what works at Kapiti will work for millions of livestock keepers tending animals in similar environments.

After ILRI bought Kapiti in the 1980s, most of the animals raised there were used in intensive, long-term research to develop vaccines against tropical livestock diseases. Later, innovative livestock genetics and breeding work was added to this animal health research. Over the last 15 years or so, research at Kapiti has continued to expand in both volume and scope and now includes livestock feeding trials and environmental assessments of African livestock production systems. The latter investigations are determining the first-ever reliable estimations of greenhouse gas emissions from African livestock and ways for livestock keepers to better cope with, and mitigate, climate change.

How is Kapiti benefiting Kenyans?

Kenya’s livestock sector is primed for growth. Demand for meat and milk is rising rapidly in Kenya and is estimated to nearly double by mid-century. The livestock sector today contributes more than 40% to Kenya’s agricultural gross domestic product, at a total value of KES515 billion, and employs 50% of the country’s agricultural labour force.

But because climate change is expected to make much of Kenya’s climate drier and harsher in years to come, it is critical that Kenya, some 83% of which consists of arid and semi-arid lands, prepares itself with research that reveals new ‘climate-smart’ approaches for using its extensive dryland pastoral grazing systems to support livestock-dependent communities. Kapiti is serving as a major centre for this type of research.

Smallholder Kenyan dairy incomes: Past work at Kapiti Research Station helped increase incomes for Kenya’s small-scale milk producers, processors and sellers and now generates KES3.3 billion in related benefits to Kenya annually as well as providing thousands of jobs for Kenyan youth and labourers.

Vaccines for Kenyan livestock: The research by local and international scientists also contributed to development, production and dissemination of a widely used and highly effective vaccine against East Coast fever in cattle, which kills an unvaccinated African animal every 30 seconds. Today, researchers at Kapiti are conducting safety trials of vaccines against other animal diseases such as Rift Valley fever, which is vital for both livestock and the 50 million East Africans also threatened by this disease; the last outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Kenya, in 2006–7, killed more than 100 people and cost the country KES3.1 billion. The researchers are also testing a promising new vaccine against malignant catarrhal fever, a herpes virus occurring in Kenya’s Kapiti and Masai Mara regions that is transmitted from wildebeest to sheep and cattle grazing locations where wildebeest have recently calved, depositing the virus. The experimental vaccine, based on a viral isolate from Kenya, induced immunity in 80 per cent of animals vaccinated at Kapiti in 2016; data from further studies at Kapiti will support the commercialization of this vaccine.

The 2011 eradication from the world of rinderpest, a cattle plague that has devastated the economies of whole regions, is an example of just how important animal health research is to reducing the huge burden livestock diseases continue to place on Kenya and other tropical developing countries. With the last reported outbreak of rinderpest anywhere in the world occurring in Kenya’s Meru National Park in 2001, the Africa Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources estimates the total benefits of eradicating rinderpest from Kenya to be KES44.7 billion.

Kenyan livestock breed improvements: Having recently discovered that a Kenyan Boran animal is resistant to East Coast fever, ILRI researchers are working to ensure the selection of that desirable trait in the country’s Boran breeding programs. And the researchers are working with local communities to cross-breed high-yielding exotic Dorper sheep with drought- and disease-resistant local red Maasai sheep2 to help Kenyan farmers deal with climate change.

Kenyan livestock-wildlife ecosystems: The traditional co-existence of livestock and wildlife at Kapiti has also enabled ILRI scientists working closely for many years with a local Maasai community at Kitengela, in neighbouring Kajiado County, to find ways to reduce wildlife-human conflicts and to increase the benefits wildlife provide livestock herders. Besides wildlife tourism, such benefits include an ambitious Wildlife Conservation Lease program paying pastoral land owners not to fence, develop or sell their land. The latter program depended on the work of a highly participatory ILRI-led research project improving livestock production in the Kitengela region and producing maps showing which lands were fenced and which remained open, maps that were subsequently used by the local Maasai council to develop a ‘master land-use plan’ for better managing this region’s unique land, livestock and wildlife resources.3, 4, 5

Livestock insurance for Kenyan pastoralists: Among many other research projects benefiting Kenya and Kenyans directly, ILRI has been pioneering jointly with the Government of Kenya and its ministries innovative insurance schemes protecting poor pastoralists in northern Kenya against livestock losses due to drought. A recently initiated government-run Kenya Livestock Insurance Program based on ILRI’s pilot insurance project has so far paid out about KES547 million to over 20,000 pastoralists in the region.

Kenyan livestock and climate change: Researchers are also using Kapiti to determine the greenhouse gas emissions generated by Kenyan livestock. This, the first study of its kind conducted anywhere in Africa, found African cattle are less responsible for some forms of global warming than previously believed. ILRI researchers at Kapiti are also testing new ways to feed and manage African livestock that can both increase livestock and farm yields and reduce livestock impacts on the environment.

Just who and what is the land grabbing putting at risk? As to who, and what, is most at risk from the land grabbing at Kapiti, which has been escalating since November 2017, consider the following. First are the people of Machakos County and elsewhere in Kenya who have been duped into thinking this land is available for purchase and stand to lose substantial amounts of money. Second are the 80 ILRI workers who live with their families at Kapiti and the Kenyan and international scientists who conduct their experiments at Kapiti, many of whom have now been threatened with violence by the trespassers. Third, these illegal incursions also threaten the wildlife-rich Athi-Kapiti Plains ecosystem, which is essential to the health of Nairobi National Park and other pre-eminent conservation areas in southern Kenya. And fourth, the ongoing lawlessness risks disrupting or stopping important long-term livestock research, thereby threatening the futures of hundreds of millions of livestock producers—as well as the processors, sellers and consumers of milk and meat—across Kenya, Africa and Asia. In brief, Kenyan people and livestock-wildlife ecosystems, as well as critical livestock research for the poor, are all now imperilled by the greedy actions of a few.

1 ‘Livestock and a large number of wild herbivores dominate the Kitengela ecosystem, with wildebeest and zebra constituting over half the total wildlife population. Other wildlife species include: Maasai giraffe, Coke’s hartebeest, black rhino, African buffalo, Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, impala and waterbuck and predators such as lions, cheetahs and leopards as well as a high diversity of bird life. The ecosystem forms an important part of the wet season dispersal area for wildlife that lives part of the year in Nairobi National Park.’
—From Valuing alternative land-use options in the Kitengela wildlife dispersal area of Kenya: A joint International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the African Conservation Centre (ACC) report undertaken for the Kitengela community, by Patti Kristjanson, Maren Radeny, David Nkedianye, Russ Kruska, Robin Reid, Helen Gichohi, Fred Atieno and Robert Sanford, ILRI Impact Assessment Series, ILRI, 2002.

2 ‘Red Maasai sheep is a fat-tailed indigenous sheep breed in Kenya. It is renowned for its resistance to . . . gastrointestinal parasites and drought tolerance. It is, however, poorly ranked in terms of body weight. Until the mid-1970s, purebred Red Maasai sheep was the main type of sheep kept in the southern pastoral lands of Kenya, probably numbering several million head. In the 1970s, however, a population of the synthetic meat breed Dorper was imported to Kenya from South Africa for research and multiplication purposes, to increase weight gain. No instruction was provided to farmers about how to maintain a continuous crossbreeding programme and many farmers continued crossing their flocks with Dorpers. This indiscriminate crossbreeding was subsequently proven unsuitable in many production areas. Crossbreeding or upgrading to Dorper may be appropriate if the environmental conditions are good. In semi-arid regions, and when there is adequate feed, Dorper sheep has a larger body size and produces well compared with Red Maasai. However, in more harsh conditions, for example in arid or humid areas or under high parasite challenge, Red Maasai are of about the same size as Dorper and survive better . . . . Farmers . . . show interest in both breeds: Red Maasai for its drought and disease tolerance and Dorper for its body size and growth, so in order for a breeding programme to be accepted, it should consider using both breeds.
—From Purebreeding of Red Maasai and crossbreeding with Dorper sheep in different environments in Kenya, Journal of  Animal Breeding and Genetics, by E Zonabend König, E Strandberg, JMK Ojango, T Mirkena, AM Okeyo and J Philipsson, Dec 2017.

3 See Participatory mapping helps community save wildlife-rich pastoral lands, Geneflow Magazine, 2006, and Can the lion lie down with the lamb?, Msafiri Magazine, 2004.

4 Between 1977 and 2002, the wildlife populations in the plains to the south of Nairobi National Park fell by over 70%. Particularly hard hit were migratory animals such as wildebeest, which traditionally graze in the national park during the dry season and move south in search of new pasture during the wet season. From nearly 40,000 migrating animals in the 1970s, wildebeest numbers have fallen to about 1000 [in 2012]. . . . This is one of the few places in the world where you can see major wildlife populations, including 24 species of large mammals, grazing and hunting against the jagged backdrop of a populous city, often in the company of Maasai cattle. Little wonder, then, that there are conflicts between conservation and development, and sometimes between wildlife and the Maasai. . . . [T]he master plan provides the local council, for the first time, with the means to control development.—From Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, ILRI News blog, Jun 2012.

5 Read the award-winning science paper: ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, by R S Reid, D Nkedianye, M Y Said, D Kaelo, M Neselle, O Makui, L Onetu, S Kiruswa, N Ole Kamuaroa, P Kristjanson, J Ogutu, S B BurnSilver, M J Golman, R B Boone, K A Galvin, N M Dickson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 Nov 2009.

Where can I get more information?

Who can I contact for further information?
For ILRI matters
Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general: j.smith [at] cgiar.org
Dieter Schillinger, ILRI assistant director general for biosciences: d.schillinger [at] cgiar.org
Romano Kiome, chief of party of a collaborative, ILRI-led agricultural development project in Kenya: r.kiome [at] cgiar.org

For technical or legal matters
Linda Opati, ILRI legal counsel: l.opati [at] cgiar.org
Ilona Gluecks, ILRI research facilities manager (on 3 weeks leave abroad starting 18 December 2017): i.gluecks [at] cgiar.org

For media enquiries
Susan MacMillan, ILRI communications, awareness, advocacy: s.macmillan [at] cgiar.org, cell: 0725 473 248

Gates Foundation grants Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems USD8.7 million to improve human nutrition in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia

Drying and storing animal fodder, and feeding and milking cattle, in West Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

The University of Florida has been awarded USD8.7 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund livestock research over the next five years to tackle high rates of food insecurity and undernutrition in two of Africa’s landlocked nations—Burkina Faso, in the west, and Ethiopia, in the east.

The new project focuses on food-producing farm animals that help poor families nourish themselves by providing them not only with milk, meat and eggs to consume but also, through sales of those high-value foods and animals, with livelihoods and means to escape poverty. In 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences USD49 million to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems over five years. This initiative, which received the new Gates grant, is led by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in partnership with the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The grant will help poor farmers feed their animals better diets, which in turn will help them better nourish their families. Lack of good-quality, year-round feed for livestock is one of the greatest constraints to livestock production in the developing world. With access to better feeds, these small-scale African livestock keepers can help meet an increasing demand for livestock-derived foods, escaping poverty in the process.

Raising chickens in Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

In Ethiopia, this project will also focus on finding ways to limit children’s exposure to chicken droppings with the aim of preventing their developing chronic gut inflammation. The inflammation, officially known as environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) and as yet poorly defined, is a widespread syndrome associated with micronutrient deficiencies and stunting in poor countries.

The new Gates Foundation-funded livestock project will be carried out by the University of Florida in collaboration with the Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA), based in the USA; the Environmental Institute for Agricultural Research (INERA), in Burkina Faso; the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Haramaya and Hawassa universities, in Ethiopia; the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), headquartered in Ethiopia and Kenya; and Ohio State, UC Davis and Washington universities, in the USA.

Read the press release from the University of Florida, on which this article is based: UF gets $8.7 million grant to improve nutritional quality and food safety in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, 2 Jan 2018.

About the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county extension offices and award-winning students and faculty in the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries and all Florida residents. http://ifas.ufl.edu/

About the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
The US Government Global Food Security Strategy guides the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, which is one of 24 Feed the Future innovation labs drawing on the expertise of top US universities and developing-country research institutions in long-term, multi-disciplinary and competitively funded applied research and capacity development. http://livestocklab.ifas.ufl.edu/

About the International Livestock Research Institute
The International Livestock Research Institute is a not-for-profit member of the CGIAR system of 15 global agricultural research centres and partners conducting research for a food-secure future. ILRI works with partners to improve the livelihoods of small-scale livestock keepers, sellers and consumers in Africa and Asia, creating better lives through livestock. https://www.ilri.org/

A 360-degree ‘immersive dive’ into Uganda’s smallholder pig sector

This article is written by Brian Kawuma, communications officer for ILRI in Uganda and for ILRI’s Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods program.

Lindsay Falvey, chair of the ILRI Board of Trustees, watches ILRI’s first 360-degree video, which showcases the work of its Smallholder Pig Value Chains Development Project in Uganda (photo credit: ILRI).

As part of a quest by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to pilot new technologies for better communication of its work, the institute’s Capacity Development Unit recently worked with scientific and staff based in Uganda to produce CGIAR’s first-ever 360-degree video, which offers glimpses into an ordinary day in the life of a Ugandan pig farmer, trader and consumer.

‘We’re always looking at how new technologies can enhance our work. We saw an opportunity to use 360-degree videos to provide visitors to our campuses in Kenya and Ethiopia with “immersive virtual visits” to other regions where ILRI works,´ said Iddo Dror, head of ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.

360-degree filming
Three-sixty–degree videos record views in every direction at the same time. During playback, viewers have control over what they look at in the panoramas they find before them. In the words of CGIAR communications officer Manon Koningstein, ‘Our audience can experience a story straight from the field, to better understand it and, we hope, to be provoked to act on the experience. The idea is to involve the audience more to make them feel more.’

Mr Okurut, a pork trader from Mukono district, attended a participatory butcher training conducted by ILRI in Mukono, Uganda in 2016 (photo credit: Manon Koningstein).

Pig value chain development project in Uganda
Pig production is a major and increasing source of livelihoods for more than 1.1 million households in Uganda, where consumption of pork meat is rising rapidly. The explosion in small-scale pig keeping and the (largely informal) processing and selling of pork products in Uganda is considered by experts to have high potential for raising both incomes and nutrition in households across country. With funding from an International Fund for Agricultural Development and European Commission partnership as well as Irish Aid, the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock, an ILRI-led joint program of five research and development organizations, has implemented a Smallholder Pig Value Chains Development project in five districts of Uganda.

A 360-degree short video shot in Masaka and Mukono, two of the five districts, includes interviews with pig farmers and pork butchers as well as district government officers.

Beatrice Nabitiri, a pig farmer, tries out the 360-degree camera using a gimbal, a pivoted support that allows the camera to rotate about a single axis, at her farm in Masaka, Uganda (photo credit: Manon Koningstein).

Taking ILRI communications to a new level
The first showing of this video, to the ILRI Board of Trustees in October 2017, was well received.

´We’re delighted to have produced CGIAR’s first 360-degree video, which introduces viewers to Uganda’s vibrant smallholder pig sector´, says Dror. ‘We’d like to produce a few more such videos to capture the breadth of ILRI’s pro-poor livestock-research-for-development field and lab work. As the technology advances, we may look into virtual reality and augmented reality add-ons as well.’

Watch the short 360-degree video: Step into the Uganda Pig Value Chain Project (run-time is 4 minutes 30 seconds). Once the video starts running, click and hold the arrows in the grey-coloured circle at top left to view different parts of the panorama.

Tanzania livestock master plan projects the creation of nearly two million jobs

Faustina Akyoo, dairy farmer in Tanga, Tanzania.

Faustina Akyoo is a dairy farmer in Tanga, Tanzania. Her five dairy cows are an important livelihood asset for her family (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Development assistance has long since slipped down in the agenda of African officials. With rapid economic growth forecast, priorities now focus on increasing productivity and investment. And in Tanzania, where approximately 37% of the rural households possess cattle, chicken, goats, pigs and sheep, livestock is officially at the centre of that debate.

Despite accounting for 11% of the African cattle population, livestock-related activities contribute only 7.4% to Tanzania’s GDP and growth at 2.6% is low. In recent years, the government of Tanzania has prioritized the transformation of the agricultural sector, yet the absence of a livestock roadmap has hindered implementation. However, detailed inter-disciplinary research by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF) reveals the potential benefits of a comprehensive livestock master plan (LMP) in Tanzania.

With relative small levels of investment in the livestock sector, USD 621 million over five years, the joint MALF/ILRI plan aims to create 1.8 million full-time jobs—80% going to family members within traditional farms and another 20% to hired employees. Beyond the direct impact on the livelihoods of rural people, the anticipated transformation of the sector has the potential to lower foods prices to the benefit of urban consumers and generate foreign exchange earnings through increased exports. The success of the LMP is also critical to the achievement of food and nutrition security at household, sectorial and national levels.

In the LMP, contributions from the three pillars of livestock development—breeds, feeds, health and institutional policies—are assessed on key livestock value chains (crossbred dairy cow, red meat, pig and poultry for the long-run development of the sector. The plan suggests that investment in crossbred dairy cow development would produce a surplus of milk production over domestic demand by 35%, offering opportunities to enhance nutritional security, industrial output (e.g. in the baking industry) and export earnings.

These gains, however, are unlikely to meet the rising demand for red meat in Tanzania. Without substitutions away from red meat, the country is likely to face a 17% deficit by 2022. With a rising population, this is likely to put upward pressure on red meat prices. Since goat meat and mutton account for less than 20% of 20% of red meat production, small ruminant meat is unlikely to significantly help close the projected meat production/consumption gap.

Successful poultry interventions—largely in the areas of breed selection, disease control and feed production—would allow the subsector to move to improved family poultry production. This could massively expand the share of poultry in the economy by 182% to USD 323 million. Interventions in the pork sector—operating in more sustainable and climate-smart ways, and supplying consumers with high-quality and safe pig meat/pork—would significantly contribute to increased household income, food and nutrition security and poverty alleviation. The contribution of pork to GDP would be expected to rise by 83% to 36 million by 2022.

Perhaps most importantly, the growth of the poultry and pig subsectors would enable Tanzania to close the projected total national meat production-consumption gap, increasing the share of white meat to total meat consumption from the current 9% to 41% by 2032. There are, however, some caveats. The benefits from the LMP will require investment in changing tastes away from red meat. The substitution would also put downward pressure on domestic meat prices and enable an increase in the export of live animals and meat, potentially raising foreign exchange earnings.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the development of the Tanzania LMP was overseen by a high-level technical advisory committee (TAC) convened under the auspices of the MALF Livestock Permanent Secretary, Maria Mashingo, and chaired by Catherine Dangat, the Director for Policy and Planning. The TAC comprised the directors of key MALF livestock-related departments and other government agencies, and representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations and development partner agencies.

Data collection and quantitative diagnostics were supported by the ongoing involvement of key national livestock experts and consultation with a wide range of key stakeholders. The quantitative sector analysis was undertaken using the Livestock Sector Investment and Policy Toolkit developed by the World Bank, the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations working under the auspices of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources.

Read the key findings of the Tanzania livestock master plan policy brief. Specific briefs on value chain development and on breeding, health, feed and policy development can be found here:

The full document will be available shortly.

Livestock in the city: A look at the East African capital of Nairobi, with its 1.3m ‘farm animals’ and 3.4m human inhabitants

Francis Wajira raises chickens and goats in downtown Nairobi. He also teaches other residents how to raise livestock in the city (photo by Public Radio International).

‘Urban livestock keeping in developing cities have an important role in food security and livelihoods but can also pose a significant threat to the environment and health of urban dwellers. The aim of this study was to identify the different livestock systems in Nairobi, their supply chains, and their management and food safety risks. . . .

‘Results of the study show a large variability of livestock keeping in Nairobi. The majority were small scale with: <5 dairy cows, 1–6 dairy goats, <10 small ruminants, <20 pigs, 200–500 broilers, 300–500 layers, <10 indigenous chickens, or <20 rabbits. Beef keeping was mainly described as a “by the way” system or done by traders to fatten animals for 3 month.

‘Supply chain analysis indicated that most dairy farmers sold milk directly to consumers due to “lack of trust” of these in traders. Broiler and pig farmers sold mainly to traders but are dependent on few large dominating companies for their replacement or distribution of products. Selling directly to retailers or consumers (including own consumption), with backyard slaughtering, were important chains for small-scale pig, sheep and goat, and indigenous chicken keepers.

‘Important disease risk practices identified were associated with consumption of dead and sick animals, with underground network of brokers operating for ruminant products. Qualified trained health managers were used mainly by dairy farmers, and large commercial poultry and pig farmers, while use of unqualified health managers or no treatment were common in small-scale farming.

‘Control of urban livestock keepers was reported difficult due to their “feeling of being outlaws,” “lack of trust” in government, “inaccessibility” in informal settlements, “lack of government funding,” or “understaffing.” Findings are useful for designing policies to help to control urban livestock production and minimize its associated health and environment risks.

From the introduction
‘. . . [M]any urban farmers around the world operate without formal recognition of their main livelihood activity and lack the structural support of proper municipal policies and legislation. . . .

Nairobi, with 3.4 million inhabitants, is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa with increasing demand for land and animal source products. The conversion and encroachment of potential agricultural lands into urban and peri-urban residential uses is leading to rapid transformations of the agricultural production. Today, regardless of farming being prohibited within city boundaries, there is a significant population of livestock. According to the 2013 report produced by the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock and Development (MoLD), the livestock population in the city was around 1.3 million. Crude biomass estimations indicate that there was 0.22 kg of livestock biomass per 1 kg of human biomass (0.11 kg of pigs, 0.09 kg of dairy cattle, 0.2 kg of beef, sheep and goats, 0.01 kg of poultry). Poultry (with over 880,000 birds, half of them broilers) and pigs represented, however, the largest number of livestock in the city. In the period 2009–2012, the population of broilers in Nairobi has doubled, the population of layer birds has increased by 34% and the population of pigs has increased by 56%.

‘Urban dairy cattle produced almost 4.5 million kilogram of milk per year, with a 4 and 14% increase in production in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Dairy, broiler, and egg production represented the priority commercial enterprise among livestock keepers in most parts of the city. Rabbit and dairy goat are emerging urban productions, while the sheep population rose 15% in 2012.

‘Despite the overall increase in urban livestock population in Nairobi, there is a lack of comprehensive studies describing the type of livestock systems in the city, the value chains used, their role and their animal health and food safety management. . . .

[G]iven the large size of the city and the wide range of livestock species raised, focus group discussions (FGDs) with key informants represent the most efficient approach to capture an overview of urban livestock keeping that can then be used for more detailed and focused research studies. . . .

From the Discussion
‘. . . Urban livestock keeping is . . . a source of food security that can release pressure on poor households (that spend 60–80% of income in food) and provide essential micronutrients to avoid malnutrition.

In this study, LPOs estimated that up to 25% of milk or 20% of eggs consumed originate from these urban farmers. Urban livestock is also a source of employment and income, and frequently used to pay for children’s schools fees.

On the other hand, the high demand for animal source foods and increasing number of wealthy investors in the city generates livestock enterprises that employ low income people. All these factors explain the large diversity in profiles of livestock keepers in the city observed in this study. This diversity ranges from small scale with 1–2 animals mostly based on own consumption to large-scale commercial farms (with 10,000 broiler, over 2,000 layers, 300 dairy cows, 500 sheep, and goats) located in the peri-urban areas. . . .

‘Many livestock farmers in former rural areas have now become part of the city. Decrease in land size has also resulted in farmers being restricted on the type and size of livestock keeping. Consequently, farmers in the city are changing to intensive poultry and pig farming and to produce alternative species, such as rabbits. This is a pattern that is also being seen elsewhere in rapidly developing countries, which need to meet the food security needs of a growing population.

‘The increasing demand for poultry meat and dairy products combined with the lack of cold chain and rapidly perishable products are also the likely reasons for the large number of urban and peri-urban poultry and dairy farmers. Dairy farming was also reported to be sustained in Nairobi due to lack of trust of consumers to milk from traders. For this reason, and due to higher profitability . . ., almost 95% of their milk is sold directly to consumers.

‘The main reasons for the increase in pig farming has been related to increased urban pork consumption, proximity to established breeders from a large company and closeness to the feed manufactures. However, LPO perceived that the important population of pigs kept in informal scavenging systems creates consumer aversion to pork consumption (as these are perceived as dirty animals and consumer do not trust their meat), presenting therefore an important barrier for its commercialization. Nonetheless, scavenging pigs, and indigenous chickens, are relatively easy to sustain due to lack of cost on feed and housing (pigs fed and live in dumping site areas) and could represent an important source of income and/or food security to their owners living in these settlements. On the other hand, formal pig systems are hindered by the lack of pig abattoirs, feelings of being outlaws and the dominance of one large company. . . .

Nairobi was designed originally, in its master plan in 1964, as a green city, with large open spaces, to facilitate malaria control. This was reported as an important historical factor that explains the growth of urban agriculture and livestock keeping in the city.

‘However, urban livestock keeping is an activity that is usually unplanned and uncontrolled by the state. The role of urban livestock production in food security and livelihood presents, therefore, important tradeoffs with risks of pathogens transmission and environmental contamination, exacerbated with rapid informal urban growth. Human contact with livestock in Nairobi is potentially important based on informal systems that keep animals scavenging outdoors, living inside households or in close proximity to these, but also based on continuous movement of animals for grazing (especially by ruminant from terminal markets) or in transit within the city.

‘In addition, many of the farms kept in zero-grazed systems are fed with market waste, swirl from restaurants, and/or grass cut on road sides, and therefore increasing movement of pathogens throughout the city. Supply chain analysis indicates large numbers of animals being slaughtered in the households or retailer backyards, with little inspection and generating possible environment contamination to humans, wildlife, and other urban livestock. . . . There is, therefore, important scope to generate policies and city planning that can regulate these practices and minimize pathogens transmission.

‘As consequence of these risks, Nairobi by-laws (dating from 1961) declare that livestock production within city boundaries is an illegal activity, which can only be licensed under specific strict conditions. However, law enforcement has reported to be weak and contradictory. In this study, LPOs reported that livestock keepers are continuously “being harassed by the city council,” . . . .

‘This system dysfunctionality and conflicting structures have been described as a common pattern in developing urban cities, as “holistic solutions are not part of public administrators mandate nor these have been trained to do so”. Furthermore, urban livestock is often seen as a sign of “backwardness,” with authorities remaining hostile to these activities and few central government policies supporting it. . . .

‘In Nairobi, control of these livestock keepers was reported in this study to present an important challenge, due to their “outlaw” status in the city, that makes them to avoid contact with government officers and generate “lack of trust”; their “general lack of training”; the “farmers lack of financial capabilities,” especially those small scale and/or in informal settlements; and their “inaccessibility” due to “insecurity” of those located in informal settlements or because they are “temporal” or “transit” farmers and not always present or available. . . .

‘Since 2013, with the new constitution in Kenya and the devolution laws, Nairobi County has maintained the existing laws regarding urban livestock keeping and, hence, continue to be an illegal activity. However, LPO reported that attitude of the city council is currently changing as they “see them now as business and food security entities.” Currently, new policies that will designate “areas for livestock farming” were reported to be under consideration, but it is unsure if these would be effective. However, in the authors’ opinion, even though urban livestock could cause food safety and environmental risks, these could be taken care of through better management and educational programs.

The importance of urban livestock to food security and livelihoods means that an outright ban should not be considered. Instead, policies aiming to educate farmers on the importance on animal and environmental health management and that can facilitate enforcement and access of government officer could potentially help to minimize risk practices occurring in urban farms. . . .

‘The information generated in this study summarizes LPOs experiences, knowledge, and perception of the livestock situation in the city. This represents the main limitation of the study, as other peoples’ perceptions are not accounted for. . . . The results obtained here provide a powerful background that can be used as a basis to design future studies aiming to investigate in more details the different urban livestock systems and their disease risks. The information obtained here is also crucial for policies aiming to control urban livestock and their possible impact on zoonotic disease transmission, environmental pollution, and food security.’

This work was funded by the Medical Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council through the Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases Initiative). The work was also funded by the Leverhulme Center for Integrated Research in Agriculture and Health and by the CGIAR Research program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute. The authors also acknowledge the CGIAR funder donors.

Read the whole paper published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science: Urban livestock keeping in the city of Nairobi: Diversity of production systems, supply chains, and their disease management and risks, by Pablo Alarcon (Royal Veterinary College [RVC], University of London, and the Leverhulme Centre for Integrated Research in Agriculture and Health [LCIRAH], London), Eric Fèvre (International Livestock Research Institute [ILRI] and the Institute for Infection and Global Health [IGH] at the University of Liverpool), Patrick Muinde (ILRI), Maurice Murungi (ILRI), Stella Kiambi (ILRI and the University of Nairobi), James Akoko (ILRI) and Jonathan Rushton (RVC, LCIRAH and IGH), 25 Oct 2017.

Largest-ever micro-insurance payout made to Ethiopian pastoralists

Pastoralist receive an indemnity payment after livestock losses

More than 2,250 pastoralists received insurance payouts following the extremely poor rains this year in southern Ethiopia.

More than 2,250 pastoralists received insurance payouts following the extremely poor rains this year in southern Ethiopia. Low levels of rainfall have led to the loss of approximately 300,000 livestock in 2017 in the Borana zone of the southern Oromia region. The insurance payouts of more than ETB5.233 million (USD220,000) was the largest-ever micro-insurance indemnity made in Ethiopia. Each insured pastoralist received an average of ETB2,255 (USD96), which will allow the herders to purchase feeds for their surviving animals and to restock their herds.

Pastoralists in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia have been insured by an index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) scheme devised in 2008 by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its technical partners at Cornell University and the University of California at Davis. The Ethiopian component of this project was underwritten by the Oromia Insurance Company and introduced to eight districts of Borana in August 2012.

‘This project is protecting farmers in southern Ethiopia’, said Siboniso Moyo, the ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia. ‘Our evaluation conducted in Kenya and Ethiopia indicated that in times of drought households possessing livestock insurance are less likely than others to reduce their nutritional intake. We also found that insured households make fewer distress sales of livestock assets and rely less on food aid than non-insured households. This payment is proof that the index-based livestock insurance system works here in Ethiopia.’

Andrew Mude, ILRI’s IBLI project leader, stated that this year’s payout is the fifth, and largest, since the establishment of the project in Ethiopia in 2012. It took place on 5 September 2017 in Moyale town, the second largest in Borana. The number of insured farmers has steadily increased since the project’s inception. Since August 2012, more than 6,000 pastoralists from 10 districts throughout Borana have purchased the IBLI product.

IBLI-insured pastoralists receive a payout based on the numbers of livestock predicted to die when a season’s available forage falls below a certain level, as assessed by satellite imagery. Such insurance payouts protect pastoralists from having to make distress sales of livestock and to take other drastic measures to generate emergency cash for food and other essentials.

‘Insured households are seeing that for a relatively small investment, their livelihoods are much better protected’, said Masresha Taye, IBLI’s project coordinator in Ethiopia. ‘Insuring one small ruminant costs less than ETB56 a year, a head of cattle less than ETB333 and more expensive camels less than ETB560 per animal. In contrast, severe droughts—which in recent decades have become more frequent and more intense in the Horn of Africa—have caused catastrophic herd losses. This insurance payment helps herders invest both in their animals and in their families’.

These initial results suggest that IBLI provides Ethiopia’s pastoral livestock herders with a valuable safety net in times of drought. IBLI has managed to help Ethiopia’s herders raise their livestock productivity and income both. Households having purchased IBLI, for example, made higher veterinary expenditures than non-insured households to maintain their livestock productivity, thereby increasing the total and per head incomes they received from milk sales.

The ILRI-led IBLI project works closely with the Oromia Insurance Company, which is underwriting the insurance policies, with Kifiya Financial Technology Plc, which is providing digital financial service support, and with research partners at Cornell University and the University of California at Davis. IBLI is funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the Australian foreign aid organization AusAID. The UK Department for International Development funds a local IBLI partner, Community Initiative Facilitation and Assistance Ethiopia, to provide livestock insurance at discounted rates to pastoralists in two Borana districts.

Pig farmers to earn more through new genetics project in Uganda

Improved sow

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

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

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

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

The project focuses on:

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

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

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

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

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

See the project overview in the presentation below;

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter:  @RobynAlders   @SydneyUni    @ACIARAustralia
Website:  http://sydney.edu.au/science/people/robyn.alders.php
Flickr: 40 photos of the LOL–ILRI 4 May 2017 Nairobi seminar/webinar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milk consumption project to tackle child malnutrition in Rwanda

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

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

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

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

The new project will focus on:

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

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

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

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

Read the workshop report here

Creating a science hub in Ethiopia

 ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genebank facilities at the ILRI Addis Ababa campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

NP Kenya 211011_30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.