Enhancing Livelihoods of Poor Livestock Keepers through Increased Use of Fodder: Project news

Working out how to improve livestock feeding: The FEAST feed assessment tool

The milkIT (enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation) project aimed to contribute to improved dairy-derived livelihoods in India and Tanzania via intensification of smallholder production focusing on enhancement of feeds and feeding using innovation and value chain approaches.

Financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the project was organized around three sets of interventions:

  1. Diagnostic activities designed to help target interventions to real issues and constraints at community level
  2. Delivery of solutions – technical as well as institutional, to address challenges and needs
  3. Preparing for scale – engaging with other institutions, building partnerships and promoting wider uptake of the solutions and the approaches employed in the project
    . . . all devised and delivered through innovation platforms at different scales.

The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) was one of the key tools used to assess local feed resource availability and use, guiding targeting and appropriate intervention strategies.

This video explains how FEAST was used in the milkIT project:


More about the MilkIT project

Improving livestock production and productivity: the potential of Napier grass

For better livestock production and productivity, it is essential to assess the genetic diversity of the food which is fed to livestock. One of the main food sources for livestock in East Africa is Napier grass. Trying to bring their research to wider audiences, scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have used a poster to highlight the importance of enhancing the use of Napier grass in order to improve its future effect on small-scale livestock production. It underlines one of ILRI’s key ambitions—to improve forage efficacy in order to allow for more productive livestock, thus assuring the reduction of poverty in developing countries through the implementation of greater food security.

Download the poster: Teressa, A., Jones, C., Hanson, J. and Jorge, A. 2016. Exploring genetic diversity of Napier grass for better livestock production and productivity. Poster. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: ILRI.

Use of grain legumes residues as livestock feed in the smallholder mixed crop-livestock production systems in Ethiopia

Livestock productivity in Ethiopia is much lower than the existing potential due shortages of quality feed in the country. However, according to a poster produced by scientists working for the N2Africa project of the International Livestock Research Institute, adopting grain legumes can help boost annual production with concomitant increase in grain legumes residues, including feed quality, not only improving herd health, most importantly increasing smallholder farmer incomes.

Download the poster: Belete, S. 2016. Use of grain legumes residues as livestock feed in the smallholder mixed crop-livestock production systems in Ethiopia: Opportunities to improve feed quality. Poster. Hawassa, Ethiopia: Hawassa University.

Feeding less food-competing feedstuffs to livestock and global food system sustainability

Increasing efficiency in livestock production and reducing the share of animal products in human consumption are two strategies to curb the adverse environmental impacts of the livestock sector.

A recent article models the impacts and constraints of a third strategy in which livestock feed components that compete with direct human food crop production are reduced. In this scenario, animals are fed only from grassland and by-products from food production.

They show that such a strategy focusing on feed components which do not compete with direct human food consumption offers a viable complement to strategies focusing on increased efficiency in production or reduced shares of animal products in consumption.

Download the article

Is livestock intensification in Africa always a good thing?

In Europe intensive livestock production is often seen as harmful for the environment and animal welfare – think of cattle fed on grains which would be better used for human consumption. And producing lots of waste in concentrated areas which is difficult to deal with. In Africa, the mantra tends to be that intensification of livestock production is an environmental good – livestock are confined and prevented from over grazing scarce vegetation resources. Better fed livestock also use resources more efficiently since they use less energy for maintaining essential body functions leaving more for production of meat and milk. This is good for water use efficiency and means lower GHG emissions per unit of milk and/or meat.

However, in some work we did under the Systemwide Livestock Programme, some of our results indicate that livestock intensification could reduce returns of biomass to soil with possible consequences for long term crop yields and soil integrity. The study used a gradient of productivity in East Africa to look at patterns of use crop residue use among farmers. Crop residues such as straws and stovers are a key resource as crop-livestock systems intensify. In many mixed crop livestock systems farmers are under pressure to feed crop residues to livestock for immediate livelihood needs leaving less biomass for return to the soil. Our results suggest that farmers who sell more milk return less biomass to the soil. Farmers may therefore face a trade off between making immediate money from milk sales or investing in the long term natural capital of their soils.

The work emphasizes the need to think about the whole system when making recommendations about future intensification strategies.

Until 14 July, you can have free access to the paper here.


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Nutritional value and seasonal availability of feed ingredients for pigs in Uganda

In this study, the nutritional values and seasonal availability of 43 local feed ingredients for pigs in Uganda, were estimated based on nutrient analyses and literature values, information needed to develop low-cost balanced rations for pigs on smallholder farms.

Parameters considered were: concentration of ash, neutral detergent fibre (NDF), crude protein (CP), calcium (Ca), phosphorous (P), ether extract (EE), total lysine (Lys), standardized ileal digestible (SID) Lys, standardized total tract digestible (STTD) P (all as % of dry matter [DM]); digestible energy (DE), (kcal kg−1 of DM); and DM concentration.

Banana peel, maize bran, and sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) were ranked highest; and commercially-prepared ration, and kale/collard greens (Brassica oleracea var. acephala), were ranked lowest as potential feed ingredients. Ingredients with nutritional profiles suitable for pigs are available but some only in certain seasons. Estimated nutritional values may assist in ration formulation.

View the open access article:

Carter, N., Dewey, C., Lukuyu, B., Grace, D. and Lange, C. de. 2015. Nutritional value and seasonal availability of feed ingredients for pigs in Uganda. Agricultura Tropica et Subtropica 48(3-4):91-104.

Selecting forages for the Tropics with the SoFT tool

More than the 70% of the total area of agricultural land in developing countries is used for livestock feeding. Worldwide, there are 3.4 billion hectares of grazing land, representing more than a quarter of world land use. Research shows that there is an increasing demand for livestock products. Thus, the need for information on forages for specific climates, soil types, farming systems, and animals is enormously important to mitigate feed shortages and improve natural resource management.

Tropical Forages: an Interactive Selection Tool, or “SoFT” (Selection of Forages for the Tropics) enables users to identify forage species suitable for specific climates, soils, and farming systems such as cut and carry, agroforestry, erosion control, beef, and dairy. Users can also view images of the plants and their use, search a database of scientific references with abstracts, and consult a glossary of botanical and management terms.


Read the full article in the CIAT blog

Least-cost rations for sheep fattening: A manual for livestock farmers and extension workers in the Sahel

Sheep fattening is an increasingly important economic activity in the West African Sahel, particularly in and around Tabaski, the Islamic festival of Eid-al-Kabir. The low level of initial investment, rapid turnover rate, the high degree of social acceptance and easy access to the market make sheep fattening extremely attractive to poor farmers, including women. It entails feeding young sheep for a short period, leading to a 30–40% increase in edible carcass yield.

The main strategy is to fatten young, lean male sheep, born on-farm or, more frequently, purchased on the open
market, over a two–three-month period. Fattening is increasingly providing opportunities to rural and suburban
Sahelian communities to improve household food security and incomes. Sheep farmers traditionally feed their animals with whatever food that is available: feed waste when available and underfeeding in times of shortages. Consequently,growth rates in traditional sheep fattening have remained low and largely unprofitable.

This manual provides simple and tested practical guidelines for livestock farmers and extension workers on least-cost rations based on locally-available feed resources for sheep fattening. It contains details on feeding and management options that can be applied by small-scale producers. Other key issues addressed in the manual include housing, purchase of feed, general hygiene and the handling of animals.

Download the manual

Forage seed systems in Kenya – status update

A new working paper from CIAT report focuses on the current state of forage seed systems in Kenya under both formal and informal sectors and seeks to provide useful information for farmers and development actors looking or likely to engage in tropical forage seeds, especially in Kenya.

After presenting lists of different forage seed suppliers in the country, the authors conclude: “Although it was difficult to quantify the seed volumes from the information sources used to compile this report, it was clear that both formal and informal seed systems are important in Kenya. Demand for forage seed is likely to increase and be met by either of the systems, largely due to increasing demand for livestock products that in
turn has to be supported by robust forage and fodder availability.”

“With development of the fodder markets, farmers may be able to produce milk by relying on fodder and forage
bought off farm. This stratification on farmers specializing in milk or meat production and others on forage
production is likely to be beneficial as each entity complements the other. However, farmers with relatively large
farms would be the most suited to produce forage and, as such, drive forage seed demand and especially the
formal one.”

Download the paper

Finding niches for legumes in smallholder farming systems

Followers of the N2Africa project (in which ILRI leads work in Ethiopia) do not need convincing about the benefits of legumes to smallholders.

However, legumes mean different things to different people. Agro-foresters may think of tree legumes, livestock specialists may interpret legumes to mean forages, while to crop agronomists legumes tend to be grain legumes.

Legumes are indeed a diverse class of plants – they are diverse in form: from the mighty Acacia to the diminutive white clover. They are also diverse in function and contribute multiple benefits to farmers: food, income, feed for livestock, fertility for following crops, protection of soils from erosion and so on.

Making sense of this diversity of form and function among legumes could help us to match up different legumes with the needs of smallholder farmers. And this could improve adoption of legumes by farmers from the current low base.

This targeting of legumes to niches in smallholder systems is the core objective of the Legume CHOICE project. Better targeting could help us get away from the prevailing fragmented approach to legume development in Africa. This could lead to legumes playing a more prominent role in farming systems by providing protein nutrition for families, improved feeding for livestock and environmental benefits through improved soil fertility.

As part of this work, ILRI has been leading the development of a decision support tool (also called Legume Choice) as one component of the Legume CHOICE project. The evolving tool is essentially a list of different legume options. Each option has been scored by experts for its contribution to a series of functions in smallholder systems: food, income, feed, soil fertility and so on. This is the supply side.

The tool includes a community needs assessment where farmers can express their demand for the various benefits that legumes can provide. Matching scores for supply and demand allows prioritization of legumes into a shortlist of promising options that can then be tested with farmers. The diagram below shows an illustrative output from the tool – showing that legumes serve different functions for different people.

legumechoice example outpit

The prototype tool has been applied in Ethiopia, Kenya and DRC as part of the Legume CHOICE project. Preliminary feedback shows it to be useful but points to the need for a further component where agro-ecological suitability of legumes is also assessed. This component will be developed in this, the final year of the project.

The Legume CHOICE project is funded by BMZ and led by IITA with ILRI, ICRAF, OARI, KALRO and Catholic University of Bukavu as key partners.

Original story published on N2Africa web site

Brachiaria grass significantly increases livestock productivity in East Africa

Forages are the most important feed resources constituting up to one hundred percent of daily diets of livestock in East Africa. Shortage of forages both in quality and quantity especially during the dry seasons is major reason for the lowest livestock productivity in the region.

Prepared for the BecA-ILRI Hub 15 year event on 3 February 2016, this poster explains ways research in the Hub aims to increase availability of quality forage in the program areas of Kenya and Rwanda through the development and promotion of drought and low fertility adapted Brachiaria grass varieties. The program also aims to establish Brachiaria seed production business as an additional income source to the smallholder farmers of program countries.

Related posters:

Feeding pigs roots, tubers and bananas in Uganda

Sweetpotato, banana and other root and tuber ‘residues’, such as vines, leaves and peels are often fed to pigs in Uganda, but could be utilized much better.

A recent study of ‘Perceptions and practices of farmers on the utilization of sweetpotato, and other root tubers, and banana for pig feeding in smallholder crop-livestock systems in Uganda’ calls for further exploration of strategies to conserve such crop residues during the harvest period to reduce waste and improve incomes for smallholder pig farmers in Uganda.

Read the full story

ILRI showcases cassava peel processing innovation at global technologies conference in Durban


Mechanized sieve for separating mash into fine and coarse fractions (photo credit: ILRI/Iheanacho Okike).

With 60% of the world’s arable land, Africa has the potential to not only feed itself, but also to become a major food exporter. This enormous potential was demonstrated in an innovation by CGIAR scientists—processing cassava peels into animal feed—that was one of the many innovative technologies recognized at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA), Africa edition, held in Durban, South Africa on 1-2 December 2015.

Processing high quality cassava peels into animal feed could reduce human-livestock competition for food-feed grains and help develop alternative and sustainable feed sources to boost livestock production in Africa.

With the right investment in scaling up, Africa’s estimated 50 million tonnes of cassava peel waste per year could generate at least 15 million tonnes of cassava mash.

Participants at GFIA Africa explored innovative agricultural solutions coming from the continent and beyond that are enabling farmers, large and small, to create agribusinesses and contribute to wider economic prosperity. The forum brought together public decision-makers, private sector champions and civil society leaders to discuss what has been achieved through innovative technologies and approaches and how to scale up innovations. Unlocking this potential will require that Africa’s agriculture leapfrog traditional development challenges and leverage sustainable and inclusive agriculture as a driver for economic prosperity and global trade.

In 2015, CGIAR scientists harnessed one such technology. They developed a low-tech way of transforming wet cassava peels into high quality, safe and hygienic feed ingredients within eight hours, producing one tonne of high quality cassava peel (HQCP) mash from three tonnes of wet peels.

Speaking on the second day of GFIA Africa, animal scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Anandan Samireddypalle—based in Ibadan, Nigeria—explained the simple process. He explained how 98% of Nigeria’s cassava peels annually are wasted due to constraints associated with drying and concerns about safety of use, particularly hydrocyanide- and mycotoxins-related food poisoning. Drying peels outside, practically impossible during the rainy season, takes two-three days otherwise, Samireddypalle continued. Consequently, peels are left to rot in heaps or set on fire—both polluting the nearby air, soil and groundwater and wasting a potential feed resource.

With the right investment in scaling up, Africa’s estimated 50 million tonnes of cassava peel waste per year could generate at least 15 million tonnes of HQCP, substantially addressing shortfalls in the supply of animal feed and eventually creating a USD2 billion a year industry on the continent. Of course, safe and hygienic processing standards will need to be promoted among processors and users to allay safety, storability and other concerns. CGIAR scientists believe related research and development activities could facilitate about 20% of the sector’s potential transformation, so that further scaling could rely on private, and not donor, funding.

The innovation was developed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and International Potato Center (CIP), with the support of CGIAR Research Programs on Root Tubers and Bananas (RTB), Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics and Livestock and Fish, as well as the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21). Working closely with private sector partners, ILRI is currently leading the effort to attract USD25 million investment into the further development of the sector in four Africa countries. If successful, the CGIAR partners believe they could substantially help address shortfalls in the supply of animal feed and eventually facilitate the creation of a USD2 billion a year industry.

For further information on cassava production processing, see a PowerPoint presentation from the Durban conference, a six-minute video, an extension brief and research summary proposal on Scaling the use of cassava peels as quality livestock feed in Africa

For further details on GFIA Africa, see http://gfiaafrica.com/The-Conference

Enhancing livestock productivity through feed and feeding interventions in India and Tanzania

The majority of smallholders in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa who raise both crops and livestock keep dairy animals.

Milk is an important commodity in both India and Tanzania, and rising demand, especially in the cities, is an opportunity for farmers to intensify their production. In both countries, many poor livestock keepers produce milk, and a variety of dairy production systems exist. But the lack of sufficient high-quality feed is a key constraint for the sustainable improvement of milk yields and smallholders’ incomes.

In Tanzania, many farmers face feed shortages and poor feed quality. Production is low: 5–10 litres/day for improved dairy cows, and only 1–2 litre/day for zebu cows.

In India, average milk yields are also far below their potential and the national average milk yield is 3.6 litres/cow/day. Because the availability of the main feeds, natural grass and other forages depends on rainfall, milk production is strongly seasonal, especially in Tanzania. Such problems are usually addressed by promoting improved feed technologies, but this has rarely been successful and uptake is low, so new approaches are needed.

This report shares results and lessons on productivity-enhancing feed interventions developed through MilkIT, a project to promote milk production in India and Tanzania.

Download the report

Read more articles on the MilkIT project

Modeling forage intercropping and best bets for farmers in Tanzania

Farmers in East Africa could increase their yields and simultaneously build richer soil in a sustainable way by adopting intensive farming practices. But, knowledge about which farming practices are the most effective is not well documented by researchers.

To speed up this process for local cropping systems, a CIAT-led project on ‘Sustainable Intensification of Crop-livestock Systems through Improved Forages’ enhanced CropSyst, a sophisticated agricultural model, to simulate the simultaneous growth of two forage species and their competition for light, water, and nutrients – intercropping.

Read an update of the project that uses models to help provide Tanzanian farmers with best-bet forage crop management techniques.

New study looks at institutional barriers to dairy development in Ethiopia

We recently published a paper looking at how the Ethiopian dairy innovation system has functioned to support the development of the Ethiopian dairy sector and what have been the major technical, economic, and institutional constraints in the process.

We used a coupled functional–structural analysis of innovation systems to analyse the influence of socio-economic and policy constraints on the development of the Ethiopian dairy sector. Results show that problems with structural elements such as the absence of key actors, limited capacity of existing actors, insecure property rights, cumbersome bureaucratic processes, poor interaction among actors and inadequate infrastructure have all limited dairy innovation.

Out of the seven innovation system functions studied, our findings show that entrepreneurship, knowledge diffusion, market development and legitimacy creation have been particularly weak. Our evidence thus suggests that problems with certain structural elements coupled with weaknesses in various innovation system functions have been major hindrances to the uptake of technologies and dairy sector development in Ethiopia. The narrow policy focus on biophysical technology generation and dissemination, without considering the underlying problems related to institutional conditions and socio-economic processes, has also contributed to low technology adoption and limited broader development in the dairy sector.

We suggest that combinations of institutional and technological interventions are needed to overcome the various system weaknesses that have hindered dairy sector development in Ethiopia.

Read the paper here

Nutritional value of feed ingredients for pigs in Uganda

In Uganda, smallholder pig farmers report that feeding management is an important production constraint. Feed scarcity, high cost, seasonal variations in feed quality and availability, food competition between people and pigs and lack of knowledge to formulate low-cost nutritionally balanced rations for pigs are key challenges.

Low- to no-cost planted forages and opportunistic forages (weeds) and fruits, crop residues and agricultural co-products are available seasonally. These materials could be used in the formulation of balanced rations to meet pigs’ nutrient requirements and improve pig growth performance while minimizing feed costs.

This brief highlights findings from observational and experimental studies on pig diets in East Africa. It will help researchers design trials to develop diets for local pigs. It provides information for extension workers on local feeds that are high in energy, fat and protein.

Download the brief:  Carter, N., Dewey, C., Lukuyu, B., Grace, D. and Lange, C.F.M. de. 2015. Nutritional value of feed ingredients for pigs in Uganda. ILRI Research Brief 55. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Dairy development in Tanzania with local innovation platforms: When and how can they be useful?

Farmers and livestock keepers in Tanzania face a range of problems, including feed shortages, land tenure issues,animal health and milk and meat marketing. Most dairy producers find it hard to obtain feed in sufficient quantity and quality to improve their milk production.

The main feed constituents in all production systems (mixed crop-livestock, agro-pastoralist and pastoralist) are natural grasses and herbs, either grazed or collected. But these plants are low in productivity, digestibility and protein content. Especially in the dry season, producers have to cover long distances in search for forage, and milk production levels drop steeply. Producers also lack markets to sell milk and meat, especially in rural areas where direct sales to neighbours is the most common marketing channel.

This brief seeks to answer what role can local innovation platforms play in helping Tanzania dairy producers solve these problems? Under what conditions are they useful, and what are the factors for success? Do we need innovation platforms at the village level, or can we work with producer groups?

It suggests some answers based on experiences from MilkIT, a project that aimed to improve the feeding ofdairy cattle in Tanzania.

Download the brief:  Paul, B.K., Maass, B.L., Wassena, F., Omore, A.O. and Bwana, G. 2015. Dairy development in Tanzania with local innovation platforms: When and how can they be useful? ILRI Research Brief 54. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Read more articles on the MilkIT project

Innovation platforms to improve smallholder dairying in India and Tanzania

Generating impact at scale has become a mantra for agricultural research for development projects in recent years. Donors want projects to reach not just hundreds, but hundreds of thousands of farmers. In a recent review, the International Fund for Agriculture and Development elevated scaling to the level of “mission critical”. But what do we really mean by scaling, and how do we achieve the large reach demanded by donors?

In the case of livestock feed and dairy production, scalable interventions are hard to come by. Why is this? Feed technologies work in particular situations for a range of reasons and tend to be fairly context-specific. For example, results from using the Techfit tool (a way of prioritizing feed interventions developed by the International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI) suggest that factors such as availability of land, labour, cash, inputs and knowledge strongly influence which feed technologies will work in a particular location. This context specificity complicates the scaling issue.

Also, technologies for livestock differ from those for crops in that farmers tend to keep livestock for multiple reasons, but raise crops mainly for income and food. Livestock serve many additional roles including traction, storage of capital, provision of manure, and so on. Milk is perishable, so market access is a key issue in dairying. For farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, livestock are important because they contribute to crop production. Growing feed often competes with cropping, and farmers may be reluctant to invest land and labour in growing feed if they are not sure of growing enough food for themselves. Smallholder livestock production is complex and multi-faceted; that complicates the adoption of feed technologies and affects the prospect of scaling. All this means that technologies that work in one place may not work nearby.

This report reflects on the potential role of innovation platforms as spaces to identify and spread useful
innovations associated with dairy production and feeding. It draws examples from MilkIT, a project to promote
milk production in India and Tanzania.

Download the report

Read more articles on the MilkIT project

More about scaling feed and forage interventions

Doing feed assessments with FEAST: Why, what, when and where

On 22 May 2015, the updated FEAST data application and e-Learning course were launched in Addis Ababa.

Organizations like the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) regularly develop approaches and tools to understand and tackle tough problems. Feeding livestock is one of these challenges and scientists at ILRI and the
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) worked with partners to produce a feed assessment tool (FEAST) to guide decisions on relevant feed interventions.In late 2014, to extend the use of this tool, ILRI upgraded the application and created an e-Learning course on FEAST.


Feed is a key issue in developing world livestock systems upon which at least 500 million smallholder farmers depend. Farmers regularly point to lack of feed as the key limiting constraint to improving their productivity.

Recognizing this, the livestock research and development community has placed considerable emphasis on improving feed supply. The standard approach has been “technology promotion” focusing on a limited number of fairly standard feed interventions including planted forages, treatment and chopping of residues and supply of concentrate feeds.


Results from this FEAST assessment in Boneya District in Ethiopia show feed resources availability around the year

Often what is promoted does not achieve success and tends to fizzle out as projects end. The reasons for this include: researcher-driven solutions are often not suitable for the local context and do not really deal with the key constraints, farmers and other local stakeholders are often not closely involved in the selection and design of feed interventions, and, finally, classical feed interventions regularly fail to take account of wider system constraints such as labour, markets and input supply. The result is that well-meaning feed interventions don’t take off or they fade away once project inputs withdraw.

What is FEAST?

The feed assessment tool – FEAST – is a way to tackle these failures. It emerged from work by scientists at ILRI and CIAT who concluded that a more systematic approach to assessing feed contexts and issues was needed. It starts by recognizing that involvement of farmers and other local stakeholders in processes to design feed interventions is key. It is based on the notion that having the right conversations with the right people in a systematic way could help design more promising feed interventions. FEAST was developed with these in mind.

FEAST (the feed assessment tool) is a systematic approach to understanding the overall feeding system and thinking with farmers and other stakeholders about possible interventions. The approach has a number of elements.

Focus group discussion in India

First, focus group discussions are held with the local community which involve asking some key questions about the overall farming system, livestock holdings, feed resources, labour issues and so on. This discussion leads to sharper constraint and solution identification.

Second, a sub-set of farmers completes a short farm-level survey and the data from this standardized survey is entered into the FEAST data application.

Third, the application generates a series of standard charts, figures and tables which are used to populate a FEAST Report. This guides discussion on interventions and priorities.

When was FEAST developed?

FEAST originated in the IFAD-funded Fodder Adoption Project (http://feeding-innovation.ilri.org/?s=fap). Project staff realized the need for a simple tool to guide feed interventions and a dedicated workshop was convened in Hyderabad, India in 2009. There were different views among participants about what the tool would look like. Some felt that a quantitative questionnaire-based approach was the most promising while others believed that the tool should be based around participatory rural appraisal approaches. What resulted was a mixture of the two: a structured questionnaire generating simple graphics to illustrate some of the feed issues along with a structured conversation with farmers to tease out the subtleties of their situation.

More than 100 FEAST reports and other products are online at https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/16490

The tool was further developed by interns, CGIAR staff and partners through various other projects including in Ethiopia, India and Kenya. Key projects that contributed to this included the East Africa Dairy Development project, Africa RISING, the Livestock and Fish CGIAR research program in Ethiopia, the MilkIT project in India and Tanzania, the Ethiopia Livestock Feeds project, and the HumidTropics CGIAR research program.

The tool has improved greatly through this collaborative development from a fairly ugly excel spreadsheet through to a macro-driven excel program to the latest version which does not rely on proprietary software and is database driven giving future options for data aggregation.

The focus group discussion guide has also been refined through extensive use to arrive at its current form. The tool continues to evolve through use.

It continues to be made openly accessible to the world as a public good application.

Where has FEAST been used?

The FEAST software has been downloaded in more than 20 countries and used in at least 12. Half the users are researchers with the remainder extension personnel, NGO’s and others. With development of a new suite of learning material around the use of FEAST we expect its uptake to increase.

FEAST is especially useful when researchers or development people first think about engaging with a community around feed interventions. Many ILRI feed projects now begin with a FEAST assessment to lay the groundwork for subsequent feed interventions in action research mode.

FEAST, so what? feastreports_map

FEAST reports have been recorded from 10 countries

FEAST was originally conceived as a decision support tool to help researchers, local communities and other livestock stakeholders think through feed intervention strategies.

The tool provides ideas for interventions that are appropriate, locally owned and which fit the local context.

As the tool has been applied, one of its strengths has been the way it encourages good conversations among researchers, extension agents and farmers around the feed issues in a particular location. These lead to good decisions.

An added and perhaps more important benefit is that application of FEAST and the process of engaging farmers in conversation around feed issues can lead to broader thinking among researchers and other “higher-level” stakeholders. These conversations can lead to better understanding among feed professionals of the constraints under which farmers operate and the feed interventions that result are therefore, we hope, more sensible.

Where next for FEAST?

While FEAST has proven itself as a useful community engagement and feed assessment and diagnosis tool (http://feeding-innovation.ilri.org/2015/02/16/milkit-feast), it is just an input to design and deliver actual interventions and changes that improve livelihoods and food security for livestock keepers.

  • FEAST is being combined with another tool – TechFit (http://feeding-innovation.ilri.org/techfit) – that guides recommended feed interventions for different situations.
  • The FEAST approach more generally and its specific use has been turned into a blended e-learning course for wider uptake and use of the tool.
  • A FEAST aggregated open data platform is being built as a location to document, share and analyze the various data generated through the various FEAST surveys.
  • Other livestock disciplinary communities are looking at FEAST as an approach to help understand and address other problems related to animal genetics and health.

More information:

Read the full version of this post

The FEAST web site at https://www.ilri.org/feast gives access to all the various tools and documents.

All reports, documents and other information materials are accessible through the FEAST repository at https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/16490.

ILRI and partner work ad news on feeds is reported and shared at http://feeding-innovation.ilri.org. See especially the many reports on the development of FEAST at http://feeding-innovation.ilri.org/tag/feast.

ILRI’s new e-learning platform that hosts the FEAST blended learning course is at https://learning.ilri.org.


FEAST was originally developed by ILRI and CIAT. It has been tested and further developed together with many partners and projects in South Asia as well as East and West Africa. Supporters of the ongoing testing and development of the tool include ACIAR, the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, the Humidtropics CGIAR research program, the Water, Land and Ecosystems CGIAR research program, and USAID (through the Africa RISING program). Development of the e-learning course was supported by the Humidtropics CGIAR research program.