ILRI PLE Theme: Clippings

New World Bank funds target Ethiopian pastoralists in IGAD project

A women pastoralist milks her goat

A Borana pastoralist milks her goat in Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

‘The World Bank has proved an additional credit of 75 million U.S. dollars to improve the livelihoods and resilience of pastoralists in the Horn of Africa.

‘The . . . funds will . . . help to strengthen the organizational capacity of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) . . . .

‘According to the WB, the latest financing for the Regional Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project will benefit Ethiopia which will join Kenya and Uganda in the ongoing project.

‘”The additional financing will directly help 132,000 Ethiopian households, which mainly rely on pastoral activities, including livestock activities,” the WB said in the statement.

‘”This number will add to the 135,000 households (93,000 in Kenya, 42,000 in Uganda) included in the first phase, to make a total of 267,000 households in the three countries.”

According to researchers from International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), pastoral systems are critical for the survival of livelihoods and offer the most efficient way of managing the region’s large arid and semi-arid lands.

They say a strong African response to increasing demand for livestock foods will require long-term investment in sustainable intensification of African livestock systems, including year-round access to high-quality animal feeds, careful land-use planning and increased support for applied research.

‘. . . Stephane Forman, World Bank Co-Task Team Leader for the project, said access to natural resources is critical to the livelihoods of pastoralists in the Horn of Africa.

‘”Given the nature of the ecosystem, pastoralists need to move their livestock across wide areas and depend on intermittent access to water and grazing in areas where they do not have established settlements and this often happens across national borders,” said Forman.’

Read the whole article at GlobalPost/Xinhua News Agency: Africa Economy: World Bank approves 75 mln USD to help pastoralists in Horn of Africa, 26 Oct 2014.

Filed under: Article, CRP11, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, Kenya, Pastoralism, PLE, Resilience, Uganda, Vulnerability Tagged: GlobalPost, Horn of Africa, IGAD, World Bank, Xinhua News Agency

Next steps for climate change social learning initiative – implementation, incubation, partnering, testing, scaling…

Climate change is a wicked problem, it requires wicked solutions, not business-as-usual.

The CGIAR research program on climate change, agriculture and food security (CCAFS) recognised this when they joined up with International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners to look at the potential of social learning and communication approaches to support decision-making on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The growing body of work has been referred to as ‘CCSL’ (climate change and and social learning) since the foundation workshop in May 2012. See related ILRI news items and these blog posts.

One year later, a small CCSL group sat together in a ‘plan-and-write-shop’ to review progress made and outputs developed and to bring this work to the next level. The focus was on implementation and testing of social learning hypotheses and approaches or tools at scale.

Since the start of this work, the CCSL team has developed a body of work which encompasses a number of projects which has led to a growing collection of resources dedicated to social learning in climate change and agriculture.

Much has been done and produced, however the team has worked in a rather opportunistic manner. The priority was to explore the five priority areas identified in May 2012 and to understand social learning approaches looking at past literature and experiences (i.e. desk-based work). When that body of work was presented to the wider CCAFS team during their annual science meeting, the feedback was clear: ‘make this practical and help us try it out in vivo’.

Results of the plan-and-writeshop

From 25 to 27 June, the CCSL group systematically reviewed all projects and publications produced and planned (resulting in this updated table of CCSL resources). The team will systematically review case studies and develop them into a well-structured database, including clear examples of successes and failures with social learning and associated experiences.

The team also developed a very initial vision and a strategy for a second phase of CCSL, focused on implementing social learning in CCAFS and elsewhere and engaging other institutions and individuals interested in this work. For the second phase, ambitions are stepping up, as CCAFS is ready to test CCSL ideas in its activities, but also other players, among which the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and partners in the Food Systems Innovation for Food Security (FSIFS) programme in Australia.

The new vision and strategy elaborated in late June are the following:

The vision – and overarching hypothesis – is that social learning helps institutions and individuals involved get smarter by combining their perspectives and capacities, and as a result they achiever smarter, more sustainable and collectively supported development outcomes.

The strategy is still in the making but some of its main pointers are:

  • To rapidly collect evidence of benefits and limitations of social learning by supporting incubation mechanisms for networks of local innovators (and social learners).
  • To document experiences using social learning approaches that primarily test two assumptions: 1) that social learning positively influence institutions and their effectiveness (led through IDRC’s CARIAA [Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia] programme); and 2: that social learning helps achieve better development outcomes (led through CCAFS and FSIFS).
  • To work around these initiatives following a robust and replicable ‘framework for action’ that involves assessing and choosing social learning approaches, ensuring proper process facilitation, documenting and collecting evidence, feeding evidence into planning, and disseminating results.
  • To continue using the CCSL sandbox as a mechanism to incubate and validate ideas and possible joint activities with an interested group of people that connects around various events and other initiatives.

The three days were very intensive and productive. The next step is to turn these words into action …

Notes from the plan-and-writeshop

Next steps

Social learning resources

Take a peek at upcoming and past events involving CCSL members

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Climate Change, CRP7, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Innovation Systems, Kenya, KMIS, Knowledge & Information, PLE, Research, South Asia, Southern Africa, West Africa Tagged: CCAFS, CCSL, sandbox, social learning

Drylands of the developing world: New livestock and crop research program launched

Samburu livestock

A herd of sheep and goats in northern Kenya (photo on Flickr by gordontour).

The dry areas of the developing world occupy over 40% of the earth’s surface and are home to some 2.5 billion people. Many in these regions struggle to provide sufficient food for their growing populations and face a series of daunting physical and demographic challenges: high poverty levels and unemployment, rapid urbanization, severe water scarcity, and land degradation. Many of these problems and constraints are expected to worsen as a result of climate change.

An ambitious new science program launched in Jordan in mid-May 2013—the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems—aims to raise agricultural productivity and strengthen food security in the driest areas of the developing world. This USD120 million initiative, covering an initial three years, is the latest ‘research for development’ initiative of CGIAR, the world’s leading agricultural research partnership.

The Dryland Systems program is a new partnership of more than 60 research and development organizations. It proposes a ‘holistic’ approach to improving the food security and income of rural communities that live on tropical and non-tropical dry areas. Following an intense consultation and planning phase among a wide range of stakeholders in 2012, including scientists, civil society partners and policymakers, the program is now being implemented in five regions: the West African Sahel and the Dry Savannas, East and Southern Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and South Asia.

Livestock production is among the main strategies this program is employing to improve agricultural productivity in these dryland areas. This includes integrating dryland crops with the keeping of goats, sheep and other animal stock to increase the resilience of communities in marginal areas through the production and sale of milk, cheese, yoghurt, meat and wool.

Goats drinking water at an Oxfam funded borehole

Goats being watered at in Dilmanyale Village, Kenya; once the animals have finished drinking, they must be herded over 10 km to get to pasture (photo on Flickr by Anna Ridout/Oxfam).

Work of this drylands agricultural research program in East and Southern Africa
In the coming six years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over 600,000 square kilometres in East and Southern Africa.

This regional component of the program is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen.

Over 70% of marginal land in East and Southern Africa is categorized as arid, Ericksen says, with most of the rest semi-arid and the whole region subject to frequent drought.

Droughts, which lead to heavy livestock losses, are becoming more common in this region, which doesn’t allow time for the animal herds to recover between long dry spells. Many of the marginal rangelands in this region are degraded, commonly due to increasing human populations (much of them non-pastoral) and the resulting fragmentation of former rangelands, which is reducing the (critically important) mobility of livestock herders and their animal stock and leading to conflicts.

Levels of poverty, vulnerability and central government neglect in these drylands are all high. Increases in basic services and infrastructure would help promote diversification of livelihoods and market engagement (only 22% of households can reach the nearest market in less than three hours; nearly one quarter require more than 12 hours to get to the market), as well as reduce vulnerability, among communities in the region.

About CGIAR and the CGIAR Dryland Systems Research Program
CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is a global research partnership led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), with nine CGIAR research centres, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and some 60 partners worldwide. This dryland systems research program is conducted in the West African Sahel and the Dry Savannas, East and Southern Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and South Asia.

Filed under: CRP11, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Goats, ILRI, Launch, Pastoralism, PLE, Sheep, Small Ruminants, Southern Africa, Vulnerability Tagged: ICARDA, Polly Ericksen

(Formerly) strange bedfellows in Zimbabwe: Crop and livestock researchers unite to improve smallholder agricultural in the country

CPWF exchange visit 21

The ultimate test: Do livestock eat this feed? Yes. (Photo on Flickr by Swathi Sridharan/ICRISAT).

In 2012, three CGIAR centres — the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Africa; the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico; and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in India — launched a joint project called ‘Integrating crops and livestock for improved food security and livelihoods in Zimbabwe, or ‘ZimCLIFS’ for short.

‘The goal of the project is to develop ways to increase agricultural production, improve household food security, alleviate poverty, and thereby reduce food-aid dependency in rural Zimbabwe through better integration of crop and livestock production and market participation. The inception workshop, held 17–19 October 2012, was attended by international project managers and local stakeholders, including research, extension, private-sector, and NGO personnel, and farmers, totaling 41 participants.’

This project has three big objectives:
(1) Increase the productivity of Zimbabwe’s many smallholder ‘mixed’ crop-and-livestock farmers in four districts and two very different regions, one with high potential for agriculture, the other with low potential.
(2) Increase access by these farmers to resources, technologies, information and markets by strengthening the value chains for cattle, goats, maize, sorghum and legumes in these two districts.
(3) Increase the knowledge and skills of Zimbabwe’s research, extension and agribusiness staff.

Godfrey Manyawu

The ILRI coordinator for this multi-centre project on ‘Integrating crops and livestock for improved food security and livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe’ is Godfrey Manyawu (photo credit: ILRI).

Since its launch in late 2012, the project has established field trials on 102 farm sites and, in January of this year, conducted a data collection training workshop run by staff from ILRI and CIMMYT.

Also in January, project manager John Dixon, of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and a consultant visited ZimCLIFS the CIMMYT office in Harare and project sites to see how far the project had progressed.

They witnessed conservation agriculture trials in which maize is grown along with livestock-palatable and unpalatable legume species, with the palatable species used to feed livestock and the unpalatable species used to generate biomass for soil cover in the subsequent season, given that livestock graze communally in the area. . . . Dixon also visited a local abattoir and a goat market as part of appreciating the value chain in livestock production.’

The project runs until July 2015.

Read more about this project on the ILRI website, and on the CIMMYT Blog: ZimCLIFS integrate crop and livestock production research in Zimbabwe, 9 Apr 2013.

Filed under: Crop-Livestock, ILRI, PA, PLE, Project, Southern Africa Tagged: ACIAR, Cowpea, ICRISAT, Maize, Mucuna, Zimbabwe, ZimCLIFS

Corralling cattle to improve the productivity of pasture lands affected by termites

Typical degradation of rangelands in Uganda’s cattle corridor

Researchers from the Department of Animal Science in Makerere University were excited, and with good reason, as
they surveyed pasture land that had been corralled off in Nakosongala in the cattle corridor of Uganda. The team had been looking at options to improve livestock water productivity (LWP) in the Nile Basin. To their surprise, a carpet of solid vegetation now covered the expanse of land, affirming their Ethiopian colleague’s suggestion that corralling cattle every night over a two-week period would allow the desertified grassland to recover.

This simple solution was a breakthrough on a problem that had eluded ecologists and put livestock keepers under scrutiny for their role in accelerating land degradation. The completely degraded and desertified pasture land in Nakosongala had been the subject of repeated rehabilitation efforts, which failed when large termite populations destroyed young grass seedlings. Soil erosion resulting from this degradation caused nearby water sources to become heavily silted and impaired.

This outcome story from research supported by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) explains how this intervention demonstrates the importance of taking an ecosystems approach to understanding ecological shifts. Upon seeing the results, pastoralists were inspired to take collective action to restore grassland, and this collective action has spilled over to other initiatives that require community engagement and cooperation.

Download the story

More CPWF outcome stories

Filed under: Animal Production, Cattle, CRP5, Livestock, Livestock Systems, Nile Basin, Pastoralism, PLE, Uganda Tagged: CPWF, termites

‘Green land grabs’: Livestock herders access to rangelands is being lost for conservation purposes


Serengeti tree (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).

‘In the great plains of northern Tanzania, close to the world-famous Serengeti National Park, a bitter row has broken out over an attempt to designate 1,500sqkm of Loliondo District as a game-controlled area.

‘The Maasai herdsmen in the area say their cattle cannot survive without access to traditional dry-season grazing in the area. The government says the land is needed as a wildlife corridor between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Besides, the Minister for Natural Resources told the press, 2,500sqkm had already been, as he put it, “released to the local population”; the rest would be used for conservation purposes for the benefit of the nation.

‘Typical of recent land-grab controversies, this row involves the use of rangelands rather than farmlands. While farmers can show quite clearly that their lands are being used, semi-arid grasslands in areas like Loliondo cannot support animals year-round, so surveys often show the areas lying apparently empty.

‘Such tracts of land are often attractive for commercial agriculture — in Ethiopia, for instance, a number of controversial large-scale agricultural concessions have been granted along the Awash River. But the Loliondo dispute is not about commercial agriculture; it’s a so-called “green grab”, where access to land is lost for conservation purposes. . . .

‘Here, one widely accepted good — the right of people to continue using their traditional lands — has collided with another — the need to conserve nature and biodiversity. . . .

‘Kenya’s new constitution, adopted in 2010 . . . offers what is to be called “community land” to any group formed on the basis of ethnicity, culture or shared interest.

Stephen Moiko, of the International Livestock Research Institute, told IRIN that a key difference this time is that the initiative will come from the group. “It’s possible for communities to come up together and, through a legal process, obtain ownership of key resources which they depend on for their livelihoods, and it has legal mechanisms to protect that land from alienation. I think the nice thing about this new provision is that it recognizes the role of communities as owners and protectors and users of local resources.”. . .’

Read the whole article at IRIN: Balancing conservation and people’s access to land, 4 Apr 2013.

Filed under: Biodiversity, Drylands, East Africa, Environment, Ethiopia, ILRI, Kenya, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Tanzania, Vulnerability, Wildlife Tagged: IRIN, Maasai, Serengeti, Stephen Moiko

ILRI in the Humidtropics research program: Interview with Alan Duncan

Alan Duncan Humidtropics program focal point at ILRI

The Humidtropics research program held a Strategic Research Theme (SRT) Meeting from 5 to 8 February, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.  The main objective of this meeting was to develop a research framework for each of the SRTs. After the meeting, the five SRT Leaders were interviewed. We asked Alan Duncan, ILRI focal point for the program and leader of the SRT on systems analysis and synthesis to share some insights about the workshop, its overall added value and how ILRI and Humidtropics are linkedr.

What did you expect to achieve with this workshop and how far have you managed to get?

We’ve talked a lot about the proposal development in an abstract sense. It’s time to get to implementation. That is much harder because we need to think carefully about what needs to be done where, by whom etc. My expectations for this workshop were to translate these considerations into practical ways. We have gone a long way. In strategic research theme 1, we have had a very good group, we have defined six major elements to that SRT. We did some good brainstorming about methods to use, contributions from different centres to that situational analysis and we have clearer ideas on the purpose of this situation analysis, which will guide other SRTs in the early phase of this program.

What have been the main decisions made or insights gathered throughout this workshop?

Despite the many conversations we haven’t yet reached the level of clarity needed.

There is a matrix structure with SRTs as vertical pillars and action areas as horizontal rows of the Humidtropics program. The practicalities of how those two mesh has not been fully worked out yet.

We’ve realized that there’s strong integration among all SRTs and early on in the program it’s likely that most activities contribute to this situational analysis (i.e. across SRTs). Until that is done we can’t go too far on developing research for development (R4D) platforms and research activities.

What are the crucial challenges that you think this program will be grappling with next?

We have realized that there are structural problems with how the program is structured: Each centre gets a budget related to a specific block in the program. It immediately creates silos and discourages integration of activities between centres. It is a serious issue – and one that is inherited in all CGIAR research programs but it is particularly problematic in the system ones (Drylands, Humidtropics and Aquatic agricultural systems) since these have to bring centres together but work against financial structures that can seem to prevent this integration.

What do you think is the added value of this program?

The added value of this program is its integrating function. In some ways the three system programs are really the flagships that try to break down the commodity thinking of CGIAR, without which sustainable intensification is not going to happen. We need to think about different system components (crop, livestock, trees) about the linkages between commodities and markets or policies. It’s exceedingly challenging but it is the way forward.

What is the role of ILRI in this program?

Our main role is in leading SRT 1. However, being a livestock-focused centre, we have strong incentives to contribute to livestock issues and discussions across the program.

One of the things ILRI brings is its ‘systems’ thinking and approach. ILRI always had to take a systems perspective because of the embedded role of livestock in agricultural systems. Crop systems can develop new varieties but livestock production is always closely related to crop production (nutrition for livestock, contribution to draft power, manure etc.). In this sense ILRI always had to work in a systems mode. This history is valuable to the Humidtropics program.

In terms of opportunities for ILRI, Humidtropics provides a great laboratory for our thinking, for the application of innovation theory; it offers us a lot of opportunities to test our household modeling approaches and a lot of scope to bring in a market perspective to this CRP. It is a lab for a lot of different areas we are working on.

This is a very challenging program but there’s huge potential in this program to get away from the old component-focused approach of CGIAR and to work in a much more integrated manner.

Filed under: Crop-Livestock, CRP12, Diagnostics, Humid Tropics, ILRI, Innovation Systems, Intensification, Interview, Livelihoods, PLE, Research Tagged: Alan Duncan

New funding agreement to help maintain world’s genebanks–and save plant genetic diversity

Frank Rijsberman, CEO of CGIAR Consortium visits ILRI genebank

Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, is given a tour of the ILRI Forage Genebank, located in Addis Ababa, by its manager, Alexandra Jorge, in January 2013 (photo credit: ILRI\Zerihun Sewunet).

The Global Crop Diversity Trust and the CGIAR Consortium have announced a new agreement which will bring financial stability to 11 international genebanks of CGIAR. The agreement provides USD109 million (with more than 87% contribution from the CGIAR Fund) to support the maintenance of 706,000 samples of crop, forage and agroforestry resources held in ‘genebanks’ at 11 CGIAR research centres around the world.

One of those genebanks is maintained by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at its large campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This facility safely stores 18,000 seed and plant samples of livestock fodder and forages. Copies of its vast collections are safely stored in Norway’s Global Svalbard Seed Vault, deep in the Arctic Circle. ILRI’s collection of African livestock feed plants is the largest and most diverse in the world. Seeds from the ILRI Genebank contain genetic diversity that could help the world respond to problems in the future , such as drought or flooding caused by climate changes.

Watch a 4-minute video introducing the ILRI Forage Genebank.

[The CGIAR genebank] program underpins global agricultural research; it builds a foundation for all of our other research programs to succeed. Ultimately, the seeds and vegetative material stored and maintained in the genebanks are the lifeblood of the crop improvement research being carried out across the CGIAR Consortium. If our genebanks suffer, our research suffers,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. “That’s why we continue to work with the Trust, an organization dedicated solely to protecting crop diversity, to put these genebanks on a more firm financial footing and ensure they will be maintained and improved for generations to come.”

Read the whole press release at the CGIAR website: Consortium partners with Global Crop Diversity Trust to revitalize genebanks, 31 Jan 2013.

Read about ILRI’s work in managing forage diversity on and

For more on crop genebanks and forages visit: and

Filed under: Africa, Biodiversity, Fodder, Forages, ILRI, PA, PLE, Seeds Tagged: Alexandra Jorge, CGIAR Consortium, Frank Rijsberman, Global Crop Diversity Trust, ILRI Genebank

How much water is in the meat on your plate? Livestock live talk at ILRI on 7 February 2013

What is a ‘water footprint’ and why does it matter? How does it differ between developing and developed countries? These are some of the questions that Arjen Hoekstra, a renowned professor in water management from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, will attempt to answer when he gives a ‘livestock live talk’ seminar at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 7 February  2012.

Hoekstra is making a three-day visit to Kenya in early February, during which time he will visit project sites, supervise students and give the talk at ILRI’s John Vercoe Auditorium. The talk will be livestreamed on the Internet.

Hoekstra is the creator of a water footprint concept and is credited with establishing the interdisciplinary research field of water footprint assessment. Water footprint research looks at the relationship between water use and management, consumption and trade. His publications include: Perspectives on Water (1998), Globalization of Water (2008), The Water Footprint Assessment Manual (2011) and The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society (2013).

Hoekstra says that increasing consumption of animal products is likely to put further pressure on the world’s freshwater resources and that nearly one-third of the total global water footprint of agriculture is related to the production of animal products. However, animal products from grazing systems have a smaller water footprint than products from industrial systems.

In his talk, Hoekstra will provide a comprehensive account of the water footprint of animal products in different production  feed compositions systems according to animal type and country.

‘Future water scarcity cannot be addressed without proper understanding of the relationship between livestock and the indirect use of water,’ he says.

The talk will be held at  ILRI Nairobi campus from 1500-1600 hours.

Join the live presentation of this seminar online:


Livestock live talks’ is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who would want to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000).

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Production, Environment, Event, Livestock-Water, PLE, Water Tagged: Arjen Hoekstra, ILRI, Kenya, livestock live talk, livetalk

‘Lifeline’ food crops at risk of climate change: Major adaptation efforts needed, says CGIAR study

Rose Mnjemo

Rose Mnjemo with soya beans, a maize, soya and cassava farmer from Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Agence France Presse reports on a 2012 international study that found that climate change is on track to disrupt lifeline food crops across large swathes of Africa and Asia already mired in chronic poverty.

More than 350 million people face a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions for potential food disaster, warns the report by scientists in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Temperature increases projected by UN climate scientists could, by 2050, shorten growing seasons below critical thresholds, worsen weather variability, and render many regions dominated by subsistence farming unsuitable for key crops. If these areas have a history of persistent food shortages to begin with, the mix could be lethal.”

Co-author of this report is Philip Thornton, an agricultural systems analyst and climate change specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Thornton also is a theme leader in the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

‘”We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty,” said Patti Kristjanson, a scientist at CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

‘Farmers know from experience how to cope with fickle weather patterns by changing planting schedules and moving livestock.

‘But rapid and major climate shifts may force them to use “entirely new crops or new farming systems,” and many may not be able to adapt, Kristjanson said.

‘The 100-page study identifies potential food crisis “hotspots” by overlaying three kinds of data onto global and regional maps. . . .

When you put these maps together, they reveal places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous,” said Polly Ericksen, a scientist at CGIAR’s International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. . . . [I]n much of Africa and Asia, where farmers are already struggling to meet basic needs, survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields,’ Ericksen said. . . .”

‘”The window of opportunity to develop innovative solutions that can effectively overcome these challenges is limited,” said Philip Thornton, a scientist at CCAFS and co-author of the study.

‘”Major adaptation efforts are needed now if we are to avoid serious food security and livelihood problems later.”‘

Read the whole article at Agence France Presse: Tropical ‘hotspots’ may get too warm to farm, 3 June 2011.

Read other news articles reporting on the same study in Time Magazine, and BBC and the Guardian.


Filed under: Agriculture, Climate Change, CRP7, Food security, ILRI, PA, PLE, Report Tagged: Agence France Presse, Patti Kristjanson, Philip Thornton, Polly Ericksen

Refining livestock feed assessment tools – ILRI’s work in 2012

Researchers testing tools with farmers

Feed is often cited as the first limiting constraint to livestock intensification in smallholder mixed-crop farming systems in developing countries.

However attempts to deal with the feed constraint tend to focus on promotion of a fairly standard set of feed technologies with often disappointing results. Our experience is that feed intervention failures can be traced to three main issues:

  • Failure to place feed in broader livelihood context;
  • Lack of farmer design and ownership;
  • Neglect of how interventions fit the context: land, labour, cash, knowledge etc.

To address these three key issues, in 2012,ILRI and some of its international and national partners tested and refined emerging tools for feed resource and demand assessment, value chain analysis, rapid market appraisal and feed technology prioritization. The idea is that these will be taken up and used in CGIAR Research Programs – notably Livestock and Fish, Dryland Systems, and Humidtropics.

In this posting, ILRI scientist Alan Duncan looks back on the work of two projects – Ethiopia Livestock Feeds (ELF, funded by ACIAR) and the Africa RISING ‘quickfeed‘ early win project (funded by USAID) to give a brief account of what we learned through testing and developing these tools.

FEAST – a Feed Assessment Tool

FEAST was already reasonably well developed at the outset of the project having been tried in a number of contexts. Our ELF and Quickfeeds project experiences confirmed that the tool is relatively useful in its current form. One of the key strengths of FEAST is that it encourages technical researchers to talk to farmers. Comments from our national research partners suggested that they had found this to be a useful discipline as opportunities to engage directly with farmers are scarce but provide very useful new perspectives. But we need a lot more direct farmer engagement if the technologies developed in research centres are to be useful and appropriate to farmers’ needs.

For FEAST, as with the other tools, our emerging view is that the process of applying the tool is as important as the outputs of the exercise themselves. The simple discipline of asking the right questions to farmers about feed in a broader context proved enlightening to those involved. The other positive feedback we received from partners was about the readymade outputs. Having a simple readymade Excel template to input the data and produce charts and tables proved to be popular. This allowed the rapid generation of informative reports based on real (if approximate) data. In terms of reporting, having clear guidance and a ‘template’ about what kind of data to include along with some readymade charts was a real plus.

The FEAST tool is online and was downloaded 150 times by people in 30 countries in 2012

Techfit – a feed prioritization tool

Development of Techfit is at a much earlier stage.  We did make some progress in developing aspects of the tool. One key area of progress was the development of a simple checklist to guide users to scores for the five context attributes. This was then applied and modified in the field.

The core excel sheet in Techfit is relatively simple but we realised through testing the tool that the core sheet requires some substantial modification in two main respects:

  • The list of generic technologies requires some thought. It is useful to have an inventory of possible technologies but it is difficult to know how specific to make them. Some technologies are really only applicable in particular locations (e.g. feeding leaves of Enset would only really be applicable in Ethiopia). The technology descriptions need to be sufficiently specific to make any suggested priorities emerging from use of the tool useful but sufficiently generic to make the tool applicable in different contexts.
  • The scores we developed for each of the five technology attributes need further thought. Some of the short-listed technologies arising from application of the tool were clearly unhelpful. The scores need to be revised by a group of experts who really understand what each technology involves.

The other aspect that needs further work is the development of a simple cost-benefit assessment method to work out whether particular technologies make financial sense. One difficulty is the fact that many technologies only contribute part of the diet, and attributing improved performance to the technology can prove challenging. Our national partners did make some attempt at a cost-benefit assessment but this aspect requires much more effort.

With all this in mind, we plan a further expert workshop in early 2013 with the following objectives:

  • Develop the list of technologies to be sufficiently generic to apply to a range of contexts but to be sufficiently specific to generate useful suggestions
  • Refine technology scores to be more realistic and justify each score with a few words of explanation.
  • Develop a methodology for cost-benefit analysis of individual technologies.

Value chain assessment

Our aim in the projects was to develop a value chain assessment tool that was sufficiently light and practicable to be applied by non-specialists. We engaged a value chain expert as consultant and he offered orientation on the methodology to national researchers during our training event. We had to considerably adjust the expectations of the value chain expert since what he proposed was relatively cumbersome and beyond the capacity of the project to support. We worked with the consultant to simplify the checklists partly based on insights from similar checklists developed by the Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) project of ILRI.

The emphasis was very much on identifying problems as perceived by market chain actors rather than collecting detailed and quantitative data. The checklists were certainly not perfect when we proceeded to implementation. The implementation itself also left some gaps. For example, one key element that was missing was information on volume of product passing through different market channels to give an idea of the importance of different market channels. However, the VCA did provide a reasonable overview of the value chains that we studied and raised some key issues. For example, for the sheep VCA the study showed the very different requirements of the domestic and export markets in terms of size and condition of animals.

As with the application of FEAST and Techfit, the process of applying the tool was very valuable for researchers. For some of the technical researchers it was their first experience of thinking beyond technology issues. The development of simple VCA checklists has been useful in the context of the Livestock and Fish program and the same consultant has been engaged to help with assessment of small ruminant value chains in in Ethiopia. The experiences in ELF and Quickfeeds provide a strong foundation for this ongoing work.

Institutional context

In addition to the technical points summarized above, the field testing and refining of the three tools led to important results regarding how the tools could better catalyze the development process. The key result was that applying the VCA, FEAST and Techfit tools within the value-chain approach engages simultaneously researchers, extension/development agents, value chain agents and livestock/feed producers in knowledge exchange cycles. This engagement, facilitated by the application of the tools, ensured the sharing of ideas, reservations and insights within and amongst the R4D community and its various primary and secondary clients which, in turn, led to identifying and prioritizing potential interventions, whether technical, institutional or policy-related,

The subsequent challenge is how to develop for each specific local context ways of institutionalizing the application of the tools and their continuous refinement. And, within that process, how best to turn the proposed interventions emerging from application of the tools into tangible activities on the ground for the benefit of resource-poor livestock keepers and their value-chain partners.

Find out more!



Ethiopia Livestock Feeds project

Africa RISING ‘quickfeed’ win project

Alan Duncan’s presentation on livestock feeds in the CGIAR research programs

Alan Duncan’s presentation on feast and techfit

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Feeding, CRP11, CRP12, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, Feeds, Fodder, Forages, PLE, Project, Value Chains Tagged: ACIAR, ELF, USAID

Livestock and global change: Livestock live talk at ILRI on 28 November 2012

Globally, the demand for meat products is growing at 1.8% per year due to increasing populations, economic growth and rapid urbanization. Agropastoral and pastoral systems cover 45% of the earth’s usable surface and supply 9% of global meat production, while mixed crop-livestock farming systems produce 54% of the total meat and 90% of the milk consumed in the world.

This demand for livestock products is expected to grow but climate change and competition for land is likely to limit the area available for livestock keeping. What are the options to feed more people, more efficiently from livestock farming?

Join Mario Herrero – a senior systems analyst with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on Wednesday,  28 Nov 2012, as he gives a presentation on ‘livestock and global change’, at the ILRI Nairobi campus Info Centre, from 1500-1600 hours.

Herrero leads ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Futures program (SLF). The program conducts foresight studies on emerging livestock development challenges with uncertain future impacts and signals their importance for other ILRI programs and policymakers.

Mario Herrero, team leader for ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Futures program (photo credit: ILRI).

He has coordinated several global integrated assessment projects such as the CGIAR global assessment of food production systems, ecosystems services and human well-being. Additionally, he has contributed to numerous international assessments such as the 2010 World Development Report, the 2007/2008 Human Development Report and the 2007 Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. He has participated in international task forces such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC’s) Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Guidelines and has served in several donor and science advisory committees on livestock and the environment.

Herrero has published more than 150 refereed papers, book chapters and reports in his areas of expertise and is currently on the editorial board of Agricultural Systems and is a guest editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal (PNAS) in the area of livestock, sustainability science and global change. He has also supervised over 60 academic theses on different aspects of animal production systems.

View Mario Herrero’s publications here: query=%28%28author%3A%22herrero%2C+M%22%29%29&rpp=10&sort_by=2

The presentation is part of ILRI’s ‘livestock live talks’, a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who would want to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000).

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Central America, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Farming Systems, ILRI, Livestock Systems, LivestockFutures, PLE, Research Tagged: livestock live talk, Mario Herrero, PNAS

Eyes in the sky: ‘Index-based’ livestock insurance for pastoral herders pilot ‘a significant success’

Landsat Celebrates 40 Years of Observing Earth

An artist’s rendition of the next Landsat satellite, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) that will launch in Feb 2013 (photo credit: NASA). The Landsat program is the longest continuous global record of Earth observations from space—ever. Since its first satellite went up in the summer of 1972, Landsat has been looking at our planet. The view of Earth that this 40-year satellite program has recorded allows scientists to see, in ways they never imagined, how the Earth’s surface has transformed, over time.

Michael Baron, of the UK’s Institute for Animal Health, blogs this week on Global Food Security, a new UK program uniting the country’s main public funders of food-related research, about a new insurance project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘. . . For most such small farmers and livestock keepers [in the developing world], there has until recently been no insurance to help them weather the vagaries of the weather, because there was no way for the insurers to check on actual losses.

‘In the absence of insurance to share the risks, such farmers tend to be very risk averse, even if that means not trying out new crops, or new breeds of cattle or sheep. Because they cannot afford to try new things, improvements in agricultural productivity happen slowly, if at all, which is very bad if we are all trying hard to boost global food security.

‘Recently, people like the World Bank, the UN and the World Food Programme have been looking to get around this problem by using ‘index-based insurance . . ., which . . . come up with an index that links recorded weather in an area to average harvests.

‘Farmers can then take out insurance, essentially, against the index being low. If the index goes below a certain cut off, there is a payout. As it goes lower, there is a bigger payout. The actual loss to each farmer does not have to be measured, the process is transparent, everyone is happy. This kind of insurance, only introduced in 2003, has become increasingly popular.

‘So far so good, as long as you have a lot of weather stations. In large parts of Africa, the only weather stations are in the towns, where they aren’t much use in saying how the weather has been in the rural areas.

This problem, of how to create index-based agricultural insurance in countries with limited infrastructure, has been recently tackled by economists and agricultural scientists working at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.

They have come up with a rather clever solution. They realised that for nearly 30 years NASA has had satellites taking pictures as they pass over Africa—pictures from which they have been deriving useful data such as the density and spread of vegetation. For poor livestock keepers, the measure of vegetation is a measure of food availability for their animals, which is a good measure of how much milk and meat they are going to have, and how well their animals are growing.

All the satellite data are freely available, so the people at ILRI used it to develop an index that related this measure of how much vegetation there was after each rainy season with sales records from the local livestock markets and came up with an index-based livestock insurance (IBLI), which they have been running in a pilot project in the arid parts of northern Kenya.

They used local people to help spread information about IBLI, and even developed games (PDF) to help teach local livestock keepers about how the insurance worked. So far, the pilot has been a significant success story, and they are looking to expand the concept to other countries in the area. . . .

Read the whole blog at Global Food Security: From insecurity to food security, 17 Sep 2012.

Visit the Index-Based Livestock Insurance blog.

About the animal disease research of blog author Michael Baron and ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Jeffrey Mariner
Michael Baron works at the Institute for Animal Health UK) researching the basic biology of rinderpest and peste des petit ruminants (PPR), two important diseases of livestock affecting primarily animals in developing countries. He leads research to develop rapid pen-side diagnostics and improved vaccines for PPR, as well as studying the basic biology of the virus. See previous blog posts on this ILRI Clippings blog about ILRI researcher Jeffrey Mariner and the eradication of rinderpest; Mariner is also now working with a small team at ILRI on PPR; he is developing a thermostable vaccine for PPR and designing ways to disseminate, using lessons he and others learned from their work to help eradicate rinderpest.

Filed under: CRP11, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, Food security, Geodata, ILRI, Insurance, Kenya, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, PPR, Vulnerability Tagged: Global Food Security Blog, IBLI, Jeffrey Mariner, Rinderpest

Greening livestock

This report on Greening livestock: Assessing the potential of payment for environmental services in livestock inclusive agricultural production systems in developing countries was released by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in July 2012.

Livestock serve as pathways out of poverty for poor smallholder farmers in the developing world. The production of livestock in mixed extensive and intensive crop–livestock and pastoral grazing systems worldwide generates both positive and negative impacts on the environment. This creates a challenge to promote livestock production systems that can generate economic benefits that foster social development while ensuring environmental sustainability.

In the developing world, there is increasing interest in payments for environmental services as an instrument for better managing the environment while helping to reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas.

To date, few payments for environmental services schemes target livestock keepers. This ILRI report, by Silvia Silvestri, Philip Osano, Jan de LeeuwMario HerreroPolly EricksenJuliet Kariuki, Jemimah Njuki, Claire Bedelian and An Notenbaert, helps to fill this gap by assessing the merits of such schemes in various livestock-inclusive farming systems in the developing world.

Among the report’s key recommendations are the following.

• Develop robust measurement and verification tools for environmental services produced by the livestock sector in livestock-inclusive agricultural production systems.

• Develop policies to promote implementation of schemes offering payments for environmental services in livestock-inclusive agricultural production systems to enable livestock farmers to diversify their income and to improve their economic situation.

• Provide support to livestock farmers to access the emerging environmental service markets.

• Implement capacity building activities (training, information provision to mention but a few) to increase the awareness of payments for environmental services schemes among smallholder households and to enable collective action processes needed for livestock farmers to access and participate in environmental service markets.

• Establish pilot climate change mitigation PES projects to demonstrate their benefits to livestock keepers and to explore the potential to link PES to climate change adaptation funds.

This report was made possible through financial support from the CGIAR, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Federal Republic of Germany and its GIZ/BEAF International Agricultural Research Grants Programme within the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Download the paper

Filed under: Agriculture, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, ILRI, Livestock, Livestock Systems, PLE, Report Tagged: BEAF, BMZ, CGIAR, GIZ, PES, Silvia Silvestri

Dynamic pastoral change: A new look at the Horn’s resourceful, innovative livestock peoples

Africa Everyday

(Left) water gourd, Kenya, Northern Frontier District, Boran or Gubbra tribe, on loan from Gary K Clarke, Cowabunga Safaris; (right) calabash, Kenya, Maasai, on loan from Gary K Clarke, Cowabunga Safaris (photo credit: Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library / Betsy Roe).

A new book from the STEPS Centre, in the UK, takes a fresh look at the livestock sector in the Horn of Africa.

‘. . . The region is often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons: drought, famine, conflict and suffering. But this is only part of the story.

‘Looking at the regional centres and their hinterlands, where pastoralists operate, reveals a booming livestock export trade; the flourishing of the private sector; growing investment and expanding towns; and the emergence of a class of entrepreneurs commanding a profitable market. This is the livestock trade in the Horn of Africa, across Ethiopia, Somaliland, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya.

‘A new book, Pastoralism and Development In Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, highlights innovation and entrepreneurialism, cooperation and networking and diverse approaches which are rarely in line with standard development prescriptions.

‘Through 20 detailed empirical chapters, the book highlights diverse pathways of development, going beyond the standard “aid” and “disaster” narratives. . . .

‘Many successful development efforts at “the margins” often remain hidden, informal, sometimes illegal; and rarely in line with standard development prescriptions. If we shift our gaze from the capital cities to the regional centres and their hinterlands, then a very different perspective emerges. These are the places where pastoralists live. They have for centuries struggled with drought, conflict and famine. They are resourceful, entrepreneurial and innovative peoples. Yet they have been ignored and marginalised by the states that control their territory and the development agencies who are supposed to help them. This book argues that, while we should not ignore the profound difficulties of creating secure livelihoods in the Greater Horn of Africa, there is much to be learned from development successes, large and small.

‘”In 2010 the African Union released the first continent-wide policy framework to support pastoralism and pastoralist areas in Africa. The policy draws on a central argument of this new book, being that innovative and dynamic changes are occurring in pastoralist areas in response to increasing livestock marketing opportunities, domestically, regionally and internationally, and these changes are providing substantial but often hidden economic benefits.”—Dr Abebe Haile Gabriel, Director, Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission

‘”There is a rich array of case studies in this book, which capture the vitality and innovation of pastoral societies. They are a welcome antidote to the negativity that infects far too much of the discourse on pastoralism.—Hon. Mohamed Elmi, MP, Minister of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands

‘”This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of pastoralism in Africa. In Ethiopia, pastoralism is a vital economic sector and essential for the country’s development. This book will provide important guidance for both policymakers and development practitioners.”—Hon. Ahmed Shide, MP, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ethiopia

“‘This book is exceptionally deep in the analysis of the conditions of the pastoralists and provides far-sighted and comprehensive options for improving their livelihoods within the context of country-specific reality and regional and global challenges. Understanding the resilience of pastoralists in the face of growing complex challenges moves us away from a focus on traditional coping strategies to innovative efforts which provide more robust and sustainable solutions for the livelihoods of pastoralists.”—Dr Luka Biong Deng, formerly National Minister for Cabinet Affairs of Sudan

‘”This is a candid and thought provoking scrutiny of some of the diverse, complex and often emotive issues around pastoral development and investment. The book is an important and timely resource as African countries embark on securing the future of pastoralists as espoused by the recently approved AU Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa.”—Dr Simplice Nouala, African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR)

‘”This book is a fascinating, timely collection of case studies by researchers, activists and policymakers (many of whom are African pastoralists themselves) . . . . By analyzing what pastoralists are actually doing (rather than dictating what they should be doing), the book will be of tremendous value to anyone with an interest in the future of pastoralists and pastoralism in the Greater Horn of Africa.”—Dorothy Hodgson, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey

‘”. . . The book conveys the vigour, dynamism and adaptability of these arid and semi arid land populations, and their ability to embrace and exploit change, in a context of policies that too often constrain rather than enable.”—Katherine Homewood, Professor of Anthropology, University College London

‘”This timely and highly relevant publication challenges the prevailing view that there is no future for pastoralism in the Horn of Africa. . . . Its detailed case studies and fresh empirical evidence offer clear insights into a range of potential pathways for the development of these complex and uncertain environments.”—Ced Hesse, International Institute for Environment and Development, London

‘”This important book helps narrow the prevailing knowledge gap on pastoralism and pastoral development.”—Tezera Getahun, Executive Director, Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia

‘”This book, about one of the most diverse pastoral regions of the world, brings together many cutting-edge studies on the sustainability of pastoral development. The book provides cause for optimism as well as pause for thought, since pastoralism is evidently thriving in drylands that are also home to some of the world’s worst poverty. The book illustrates how sustainable pastoralist development depends on development partners doing what pastoralists have always done: managing complexity.”—Jonathan Davies, Coordinator, Global Drylands Initiative, IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.”

Read more about the book: STEPS Centre: Pastoralism and Development In Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones, 9 Jul 2012.

Order the book online from Earthscan / Routledge. Paperback, £24.95 GBP. A discount of 20% is available until the end of 2012. Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, Jul 2012.

Read three recent policy briefs on pastoralism produced with support from the Association for the Strengthening of Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE), and Egerton University as the coordinating institution. The research goal was to make a significant contribution to understanding high priority regional policy issues and potential reforms that will favor improved and sustainable biodiversity conservation while enhancing livelihoods in pastoral areas of the Eastern and Central African region.

Drylands Development, Pastoralism and Biodiversity Conservation in Eastern Africa, ABCD series, Policy Brief No 1.

Payment for wildlife conservation in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem, ABCD series, Policy Brief No 2.

Tanzania: Wildlife and livestock need each other for prosperity, ABCD series, Policy Brief No 3.

Filed under: Books and chapters, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, Kenya, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Vulnerability, Wildlife Tagged: ABCD policy briefs, Andy Catley, ASARECA, Ian Scoones, Jeremy Lind, Somaliliand, STEPS Centre

New EU-funded project to support Kenya dryland livestock markets and women camel milk traders

KE044S02 World Bank

Women herding camels in Kenya (photo on Flickr by Curt Carnemark/World Bank Photo Collection).

Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist with the People, Livestock and Environment Theme at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), announced to the ILRI community last Friday new funding from the European Union that will finance a three-year food security project that ILRI will conduct in Kenya’s drylands with the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council.

SNV made the announcement on its website earlier this week, saying that these partners ‘have been awarded EU funding of €1.8 million under the Kenya Rural Development Program. The three-year project focuses on securing long-term food security through boosting agricultural productivity, enabling better responses to drought and improving livelihoods in arid and semi-arid lands.

‘Aiming to improve pastoral livelihoods through sustainable market systems, the project will promote pastoral livelihoods diversification . . . .

‘The project will enable improved access and availability of fodder for 25,000 livestock keepers households and empower 1,000 female-led households through a more profitable camel milk trade. In addition, 25 vibrant livestock markets in arid areas will benefit from improved management including information flow. . . .

‘SNV has overall responsible for the project and will specifically take the lead for commercialisation of fodder production, commercialisation of camel milk, of strengthening livestock markets. ILRI is in charge of the development and dissemination of knowledge on livestock markets and climate change resilience. The Kenya Livestock Marketing Council will support policy dialogue and livestock markets on the ground.’

Read the whole article on the SNV website: EU to fund €1.8 million project on innovative market-based livestock systems in Kenya, 22 Jun 2012.

Filed under: Animal Feeding, Climate Change, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Food security, ILRI, Kenya, Markets, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Project, Vulnerability, Women Tagged: Camel milk, EU, Kenya Livestock Marketing Council, Polly Ericksen, SNV

CNN publishes major story and video about livestock insurance project helping herders in northern Kenya

Training livestock herders in Marsabit in new insurance scheme available

ILRI is working with insurance companies to train livestock herders in Kenya’s northern drylands in the benefits and costs of a new index-based livestock insurance first made available in Marsabit District in 2010 (photo credit: ILRI/Andrew Mude).

CNN has published a major story on a major breakthrough—a project that is insuring never-before-insured livestock herders in Kenya’s remote northern drylands.

‘Wacho Yayo and his wife Dawe are used to seeing the plants shrivel around them, the earth crack and their cattle die. Every time a drought has hit this elderly couple’s village in northern Kenya they have had to rebuild their lives all over again.

‘”The last drought was bad,” 69-year-old Wacho says. “During the drought time there wasn’t even any water to drink. There was no food. The animals had nothing to eat. And there was only dust blowing. I felt very bad and I was very bitter. I wanted to run away but there was nowhere to run.” . . .

‘By then Wacho and Dawe had lost 10 of their 15 cows, but they danced too. They knew they would struggle to support their nine children without these animals but this drought was different—for the first time in their lives Wacho had taken insurance out on some of their cattle.

‘Shortly before the first leaf wilted from the heat, an insurance promoter had come to their small village offering livestock insurance. It was a new initiative that has been trialed in this part of Kenya. Wacho was skeptical—he’d never heard of insurance and he wasn’t sure that he would ever see his money again. After talking it through with Dawe he eventually decided to sign up and pay a premium for a few of his cows—he couldn’t afford to cover them all.

‘”This insurance is good,” he says, sitting on a stool outside his home, his surviving cattle listlessly tied up behind him.

‘Once the rains came 650 herders eventually received compensation for the loss of thousands of animals. Wacho and Dawe did not get enough to buy new cows but they did manage to buy some goats.

This initiative is run by the Nairobi-based organization, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It is one of a growing number of micro-insurance schemes being rolled out in Africa. Backed by British and U.S. government development departments and the World Bank, there are plans to expand this project across northern Kenya and into southern Ethiopia. . .

‘When drought hits such remote and vast areas it is impossible to count all the dead animals, so this initiative uses satellite images to quantify the loss of foliage in each area. This then determines who should be compensated and by how much.

‘One of the biggest challenges of introducing insurance in remote rural villages is the lack of knowledge and understanding. This is where insurance promoters like Edin Ibrahim come in. As a farmer himself Ibrahim knows all about being ravaged by drought.

‘”Over 80%of our population are illiterates. Understanding this insurance issue was just too hard,” he explains. “But with the time and with the information in the language they understand and the values and importance, now they are getting it and catching up.”

‘”Micro-insurance for agriculture is something that farmers in the rest of the world have had access to for sometime,” says Challiss McDonough from the World Food Programme.

‘”African farmers, the poorest and smallest scale farmers are only just beginning to have access to [insurance] and their ability to do that can really help the agriculture sector to grow and become more productive.” . . .’

Read the whole story on CNN: Insurance helps Kenya’s herders protect against drought, 18 Jun 2012.

Watch the CNN 6-minute video on this project: Protecting farmers from drought.

Filed under: Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, Film and video, ILRI, Insurance, Kenya, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Vulnerability Tagged: CNN, DFID, IBLI, World Bank

Hunger in Sahel worsens as ‘lean season’ begins: ‘The worst is yet to come’


Football legend Raul Gonzalez, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), learns while speaking to goat herders in Chad that protecting people’s livestock is essential for preventing them from falling into the danger zone during the current food crisis. Livestock will also be essential, the people say, for helping them to recover from the crisis afterwards. Chad is one of eight West African countries being hit hard by drought in the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid land south of the Sahara Desert that stretches across the whole of the north of the African continent. Some 13 million people in eight countries of the West African Sahel are facing a severe food crisis. In addition to Chad, these countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. (Photo on Flickr by FAO/Sia Kambou/European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.)

Mark Tran in the Guardian’s Global Development Blog gives an update on the deteriorating food situation across Africa’s Sahel region. He says that aid agencies are facing funding shortfalls to tackle hunger as political uncertainty as well as drought worsen the crisis for some 18 million hungry people.

‘. . . Relief agencies have been sounding the alarm for months about the effects of drought on the Sahel—a region stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. The situation has been made worse by the knock-on effect of the Libyan uprising that has destabilised Mali. With the onset of the “lean season”—the next three months will be the driest and harshest period of the year—aid groups warn that the worst is yet to come.

For months now, families have been telling us they have next to nothing to eat,” said Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children. “In Niger, mothers have little or no food to feed their children. Our analysis now shows just how bad the situation has become and confirms our worst fears: a major emergency is now upon us.”

‘The UN says about 18 million people are affected by a drought and food crises in nine countries. Unicef warned in December last year that more than 1 million children would need life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition and appealed for $119.5m. The figure has since gone up, as conflict in Mali has forced 170,000 people from their homes, with some seeking refuge in neighbouring Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger. . . .’

Read the whole article at the Guardian‘s Global Development Blog: UN and NGOs appeal for Sahel aid as west Africa food crisis worsens, 12 Jun 2012.

Read an opinion piece by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith: Turning defeat into new destiny–Going beyond food aid in the Horn of Africa, 24 Jan 2012.

Visit the website of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

Read ILRI’s earlier blog reports
on this year’s food crisis in the Sahel
(06) 26 May 2012
Extreme hunger in East Africa and the Sahel: Building response systems that work.
(05) 24 Apr 2012
FEWS NET says rainfall in Africa’s eastern Horn may be below normal again this year.
(04) 30 Mar 2012
Oxfam on the West African food crisis that is building.
(03) 13 Feb 2012
Climatic conditions linked to Horn’s 2011 drought persist–could spell another food crisis.
(02) 03 Feb 2012
United Nations declares famine over in Somalia–but says millions still at risk.
(01) 30 Jan 2012
Flawed global food systems–not drought–cause of African famines.

Read about some livestock-based options/projects
to help Africa’s drylands peoples cope better with drought
(24) 07 Jun 2012
Foolhardy? Or just hardy? New project tackles climate change and livestock markets in the Horn.
(23) 07 Jun 2012
Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand.
(22) 06 Jun 2012
Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers.
(21) 05 Jun 2012
Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions.
(20) 01 May 2012
New markets book showcases livestock insurance scheme that is helping Kenyan herders protect their marketable assets.
(19) 29 May 2012
Dry-season milk supplies to pastoral children improves their nutrition, development and health.
(18) 10 May 2012
Meat exports and livestock jobs could transform Kenya’s drought-stricken northern lands.
(17) 29 Apr 2012
Five ways to enhance agricultural markets in hungry regions of East and West Africa.
(16) 25 Apr 2012
Recurrent drought can encourage, not kill, pastoralism.
(15) 28 mar 2012
Women playing key role in pastoralist livelihood diversification.
(14) 20 Mar 2012
Livestock herding and resource management: Good (natural, rangeland) bedfellows.
(13) 15 Feb 2012
Policy workshop seeks sustainable practices to preserve livelihoods in Africa’s drylands.
(12) 06 Feb 2012
Belgian veterinary group message to Bill Gates: Herding livestock makes more sense than growing crops in arid lands.
(11) 19 Jan 2012
Putting a price on water: From Mt Kenya forests to Laikipia savannas to Dadaab drylands.
(10) 10 Jan 2012
Kenyan herders cope with drought by buying livestock insurance.
(09) 26 Oct 2011
Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders.
(08) 25 Oct 2012
Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa.
(07) 22 Oct 2011
Remote Kenya livestock herders receive their first drought insurance payouts.
(06) 21 Oct 2011
Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments.
(05) 24 Aug 2011
Prospects for greater agricultural investments in the Horn?
(04) 24 Aug 2011
Investments in pastoralism offer best hope for combating droughts in East Africa’s drylands–Study.
(03) 07 Aug 2011
Best ways to manage responses to recurring drought in Kenya’s drylands.
(02) 03 Jun 2011
In the crosshairs of hunger and climate change: New ILRI-CCAFS study maps the global hotspots.
(01) 22 Mar 2011
Climate change impacts on pastoralists in the Horn: Transforming the ‘crisis narrative’.

Filed under: Burkina Faso, Climate Change, CRP11, Directorate, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Food security, ILRI, Insurance, Kenya, LivestockFutures, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Policy, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Vulnerability, West Africa Tagged: 2012 Sahel Food Crisis, Guardian's Global Development Blog

Integration, intensification, innovation – CGIAR humid tropics research program takes shape

Last week the CGIAR Humid Tropics research program held a planning Workshop in Nairobi. Alan Duncan, ILRI’s contact person for the program shares his reflections on the design of the program:

One could argue that the ‘integrating’ systems research programs like this one are what CGIAR reform was meant to achieve: Different centers pooling expertise, thinking about links between different system components and fitting technical work such as crop breeding into a wider social and systems context. This integration is key to the sustainable intensification of mixed crop livestock systems which are home to the majority of the world’s poor. A successful Humid Tropics research program in the coming 15 years could have real impact on the livelihoods of millions of poor people.

The meeting was lively and there was some good thinking over the course of the week. Some highlights:

  • We spent quite some time thinking about the core concept of the program: It is built around the idea that as systems intensify different locations follow different paths. In some places natural resources are heavily degraded but people have graduated out of poverty. In others, natural resources are still in reasonable condition but poverty is widespread. These different starting conditions require different interventions to move smallholders towards a ‘golden quadrant’ where poverty is overcome while natural resources are maintained. At the meeting we introduced a further variable into the core concept: Markets. These had previously been a bit of an add-on and their inclusion in the core concept brings much more coherence to the thinking.
  • We also spent time working out a protocol for action site selection. We developed a draft study design and some criteria to select sites based on the three main variables in the core concept: natural resource condition, poverty rates and market access. This site selection protocol will allow a common approach to site selection across the four Tier 1 Action Areas (Central America, West Africa Humid Lowlands, East and Central Africa Highlands, Greater Mekong). A strong study design will make drawing lessons from the program about how to catalyse sustainable intensification of systems much more powerful.
  • We had an excellent debate about the overall structure and content of the so-called SRTs (Strategic Research Themes). In the last iteration of the proposal, institutional issues had been lumped into SRT3 on Scaling Out. Many in the group argued that institutional issues needed to be much more embedded in SRT2 (production, NRM, markets) and this view prevailed. We rejigged the program by including institutional issues together with markets in SRT2.
  • We talked a lot about ‘R4D platforms’ and what we really mean by this term – are they different to the ‘innovation platforms’ that ILRI often works with? These terms mean many different things to different people but by the end of the meeting we had come up with a concept that most were comfortable with. R4D platforms will be convened at various scales, notably at local ‘action site’ level. They will act as a forum to bring together relevant stakeholders to catalyze innovation around agreed ‘entry points’ toward sustainable intensification.

The Humid Tropics program has been ‘in the kitchen’ for quite a while but last week saw a good deal of progress. The team gelled well and there was a good sense that participants had signed up to revise the proposal and get it in good shape to be resubmitted to the CGIAR Fund Council in August 2012.

ILRI web page about this program

Humid Tropics web site

Africa RISING – IITA and ILRI-led projects on sustainable intensification in Africa

Filed under: Agriculture, Crop-Livestock, CRP12, Event, ILRI, Intensification, PLE

Livestock insurance for the Horn: Looking back in anger, forward in hope–CNN video

 Protecting farmers against drought

A new CNN video—Protecting farmers against drought—describes the benefits of ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) scheme in Kenya’s Marsabit District, runtime: 5:44, 11 Jun 2012 (CNN Marketplace Africa).

Watch the video     Read the transcript

Some half a year after the drought that devastated large parts of the Horn of Africa broke towards the end of 2011, livestock herders in the drylands of northern Kenya speak out about the horror of that time, and their hopes that a new livestock insurance scheme will protect them against further livestock losses in the next, inevitable, drought.

In a new 6-minute video on CNN’s Marketplace Africa, several herders in Kenya’s Marsabit District tell reporter Nima Elbagir their stories of last year’s drought and how an insurance scheme piloted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and backed by British and US government development departments and the World Bank is offering them hope for protection against the next drought.

WACHO YAYO, FARMER (through translator): The last drought was bad. During the drought time, there wasn’t even any water to drink. There was no food. The animals had nothing to eat. There was only dust blowing. I felt very bad and I was very bitter. I wanted to run away, but there was nowhere to run.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Fifty-nine-year-old Wacho Yayo lost 10 of his 15 cows. These are the survivors. He can’t afford to replenish his herd, but thanks to livestock insurance that has been set up in this part of Kenya, he should afford to buy four new goats. . . .

Elbagir also interviewed leaders of an insurance company and a humanitarian organization working in the area.

SIMON CLAYTON, CEO, APA INSURANCE: The penetration of insurance in Kenya is only about 3 percent of the population. So the more we can grow and give access to insurance products for those uninsured people, the better it is for them. They can protect their assets, their families and their occupations for the future.

CHALLISS MCDONOUGH, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Microinsurance for agriculture is something that farmers in the rest of the world have had access to for some time, but African farmers, the poorest and smallest . . . African farmers are only really beginning to have access to. And their ability to do that can really help the agricultural sector in Africa grow and become more productive.

What’s important to know, however, though, is that insurance by itself isn’t a magic bullet. It has to be combined with other forms of risk management, including access to credit, savings and other things that help the communities themselves become more resilient and more able to withstand a shock like a drought.’

A total of 650 herders received compensation for the loss of their animals last year. Now there are plans to expand this ILRI project across northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.

ILRI’s technical partners in this project
Cornell University
Index Insurance Innovation Initiative
Syracuse University (Maxwell School)
University of Wisconsin (BASIS Research Program)

The implementing partners
Equity Insurance Agency
UAP Insurance Limited
Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya
Kenya Meteorological Department
Kenya Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands
Kenya Ministry of Livestock

The donor agencies
UK Department for International Development (DFID)
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
World Bank

Read more about ILRI’s Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project below.

On the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Blog
IBLI Blog: Latest news: Livestock insurance – protecting Kenya’s pastoralists from drought, 11 Jun 2012.

On ILRI’s New Blog
Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance, 22 Feb 2012.
Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa, 25 Oct 2011.
Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments, 21 Oct 2011.

Watch two ILRI short films on this topic
Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders, 26 Oct 2011.

On this ILRI Clippings Blog
Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.
Coping with drought: Assessing the impacts of livestock insurance in Kenya, 7 May 2012.
Of cell phones, satellites and livestock insurance in Kenya’s Chalbi Desert, 29 Feb 2012.
Kenyan herders cope with drought by buying livestock insurance, 10 Jan 2010.

Filed under: Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Film and video, ILRI, Insurance, Kenya, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, PovertyGender, Vulnerability Tagged: 2011DroughtInHorn, CNN, Cornell University, DFID, DroughtInHorn2011, Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya, IBLI, Index Insurance Innovation Initiative, Kenya Meteorological Department, Kenya Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands, Kenya Ministry of Livestock, UAP Insurance Limited, USAID, World Bank