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

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_cassava

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.

Why 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.

feast_challenge

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.

 

Acknowledgements
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.

 


Assessing the environmental performance of animal feed supply chains

ILRI scientists Ben Lukuyu was part of the team that produced a set of draft guidelines to assess the environmental performance of animal feeds supply chains.

The methodology developed in these draft guidelines aims to introduce a harmonized international approach to the assessment of the environmental performance of animal feed supply chains in a manner that takes account of the specificity of the various production systems involved. It aims to increase understanding of animal feed supply chains and to help improve their environmental performance. The guidelines are a product of the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) Partnership, a multi-stakeholder initiative whose goal is to improve the environmental sustainability of the livestock sector through better metrics and data.

Download the guidelines.


Assessing the environmental performance of animal feed supply chains

ILRI scientists Ben Lukuyu was part of the team that produced a set of draft guidelines to assess the environmental performance of animal feeds supply chains.

The methodology developed in these draft guidelines aims to introduce a harmonized international approach to the assessment of the environmental performance of animal feed supply chains in a manner that takes account of the specificity of the various production systems involved. It aims to increase understanding of animal feed supply chains and to help improve their environmental performance. The guidelines are a product of the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) Partnership, a multi-stakeholder initiative whose goal is to improve the environmental sustainability of the livestock sector through better metrics and data.

Download the guidelines.


Fostering convergence and technology adoption: Scaling MilkIT dairy feed innovations in India

During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.

Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.

B.K. BhattB.K. Bhatt works as Program Manager for Agriculture-Horticulture in the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP) financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He works for the Uttarakhand Gramya Vikas Samiti one of three agencies implementing the ILSP for the Rural Development Department   of the Uttarakhand state government in India.

He summarized the aims of the UGVS- ILSP as up scaling food production through market access as well as market and innovation linkages. Within this wider scope, dairy value chains are one of the subsectors that the project focuses on. He says this is because dairying ‘provides a lot of income for small farmers – at their doorsteps.’

The project works through ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ in many villages that provide a range of animal health and husbandry services, including, of particular relevance to MilkIT, support of fodder banks. So far, the project has worked in 11 districts and 41 blocks.

Fostering convergence

He first encountered ILRI’s Thanammal Ravichandran – local MilkIT project facilitator, when he was posted to Bhageshwar. “I was very much happy and I went with her to the various actors and stakeholders in order to get convergence across the different departments. My project also financially supported the cooperative where MilkIT was working, to upscale the activities and strengthen the dairy cooperative.”

Collaboration and convergence were what initially attracted him. He could see the local innovation platforms operating in some locations, bringing different actors together. “This was a great thing because every department is working in isolation; they do not come together on a single platform.”This is what, he says, MilkIT offered: “Bringing together the technocrats and market players, with a lot of motivation!”

“Everybody was working in their own direction, but MilkIT united everyone and brought together all the different information.” It was particularly useful that the platforms also connected with research; they were also a conduit to new technical information.

Beyond its convening power, Bhatt also saw that the platforms could help his project to promote technologies to communities, things like forage chopping and animal health improvements.

He recognized the potential of the innovation platforms to create ‘convergence’ among different actors and to bring technologies into the reach of farm communities, especially women.

Looking to the future, now that the main research phase of MilkIT is ending, he reflected on what brought the projects together and how to build on the connections built.

Livestock development platforms

“The MilkIT project is leaving a footprint that we will try to carry forward – we share the exact same technical agenda.” In the coming period, the ILSP will set up 100 ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ (including the existing 64 ).

Each will ideally be linked to dairy cooperatives (Aanchal of the Uttarakhand Co-operative Dairy Federation) as well as other actors like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. He says he would like them to be more like the MilkIT innovation platforms, taking on some of their roles and helping to converge all the various schemes in each location. Each centre is run by a local community member, normally a paraprofessional (or para-veterinarian) with some technical skills, and, perhaps now, with some facilitation training to help ensure the envisaged monthly meetings of actors are effective.

Ultimately he wants the communities to be uplifted through better technologies and improved market linkages.

MilkIT, through its platforms, helped trial and test some practical, low-tech feed interventions and prove their usefulness. He wants these to be scaled out and put into practice, where appropriate, in all the districts where the UGVS- ILSP works.

While less tangible, he also sees a lot of benefits provided by the platforms themselves as places where all the various actors – community, government and market – can interact and especially converge around the important work that has to be done.

Read a related interview with Ahmed Iqbal, chief development officer for Almora district in the Uttarakhand state government


Fostering convergence and technology adoption: Scaling MilkIT dairy feed innovations in India

During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.

Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.

B.K. BhattB.K. Bhatt works as Program Manager for Agriculture-Horticulture in the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP) financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He works for the Uttarakhand Gramya Vikas Samiti one of three agencies implementing the ILSP for the Rural Development Department   of the Uttarakhand state government in India.

He summarized the aims of the UGVS- ILSP as up scaling food production through market access as well as market and innovation linkages. Within this wider scope, dairy value chains are one of the subsectors that the project focuses on. He says this is because dairying ‘provides a lot of income for small farmers – at their doorsteps.’

The project works through ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ in many villages that provide a range of animal health and husbandry services, including, of particular relevance to MilkIT, support of fodder banks. So far, the project has worked in 11 districts and 41 blocks.

Fostering convergence

He first encountered ILRI’s Thanammal Ravichandran – local MilkIT project facilitator, when he was posted to Bhageshwar. “I was very much happy and I went with her to the various actors and stakeholders in order to get convergence across the different departments. My project also financially supported the cooperative where MilkIT was working, to upscale the activities and strengthen the dairy cooperative.”

Collaboration and convergence were what initially attracted him. He could see the local innovation platforms operating in some locations, bringing different actors together. “This was a great thing because every department is working in isolation; they do not come together on a single platform.”This is what, he says, MilkIT offered: “Bringing together the technocrats and market players, with a lot of motivation!”

“Everybody was working in their own direction, but MilkIT united everyone and brought together all the different information.” It was particularly useful that the platforms also connected with research; they were also a conduit to new technical information.

Beyond its convening power, Bhatt also saw that the platforms could help his project to promote technologies to communities, things like forage chopping and animal health improvements.

He recognized the potential of the innovation platforms to create ‘convergence’ among different actors and to bring technologies into the reach of farm communities, especially women.

Looking to the future, now that the main research phase of MilkIT is ending, he reflected on what brought the projects together and how to build on the connections built.

Livestock development platforms

“The MilkIT project is leaving a footprint that we will try to carry forward – we share the exact same technical agenda.” In the coming period, the ILSP will set up 100 ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ (including the existing 64 ).

Each will ideally be linked to dairy cooperatives (Aanchal of the Uttarakhand Co-operative Dairy Federation) as well as other actors like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. He says he would like them to be more like the MilkIT innovation platforms, taking on some of their roles and helping to converge all the various schemes in each location. Each centre is run by a local community member, normally a paraprofessional (or para-veterinarian) with some technical skills, and, perhaps now, with some facilitation training to help ensure the envisaged monthly meetings of actors are effective.

Ultimately he wants the communities to be uplifted through better technologies and improved market linkages.

MilkIT, through its platforms, helped trial and test some practical, low-tech feed interventions and prove their usefulness. He wants these to be scaled out and put into practice, where appropriate, in all the districts where the UGVS- ILSP works.

While less tangible, he also sees a lot of benefits provided by the platforms themselves as places where all the various actors – community, government and market – can interact and especially converge around the important work that has to be done.

Read a related interview with Ahmed Iqbal, chief development officer for Almora district in the Uttarakhand state government


Solution-oriented action research: Scaling MilkIT dairy feed innovations in India

During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.

Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.

Ahmed Iqbal Ahmed Iqbal is chief development officer (CDO) for Almora district in the Uttarakhand state government. In this role, he supervises the rural development and poverty alleviation operations of state and federal government departments as well as a vast set of governmental schemes and services provided in the district. This includes aspects of livelihood related to agriculture, horticulture, animal health, fisheries, dairy development, and the dairy cooperative amongst others. In all this, he says that “livestock is at the heart of farmers’ livelihoods, so animal health and dairying are very central” to his work.

He sees one of his key roles as to make sure the intended beneficiaries are aware of the various schemes and that they are taking up the services. “My job is to help make sure that farmers are really accessing these services. The innovation platforms [of MilkIT] seem to play a positive role in this. By bringing people together in a similar platform, informally, it was easy to convince them to take up the schemes.”

Connecting communities with service providers

Like his colleague B.K. Bhatt from the IFAD-supported Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP), it was the local MilkIT coordinator Thannamal Ravichandran who brought the platforms to his notice. He said that he was at that time especially interested in overcoming challenges of inter-departmental coordination, which is a major implementation challenge, and he saw a potential in innovation platforms to facilitate this.

After initial discussions with MilkIT and ILSP staff (early November 2014), he saw the platforms in action, linking dairying communities and cooperatives. They looked like good mechanisms to help identify local problems and devise local solutions (specifically for dairying – which has a large potential). Moreover, he realized they might also be vehicles to connect government services to people. His concern was however not to overload the platforms. Let them keep a dairy focus and “let’s try and scale these.”

Since then, he was approached by the state dairy cooperative (under the brand ‘Aanchal’) asking that the approach be taken up elsewhere.

He immediately convened a district level stakeholder workshop to analyze the complete dairy value chain and obvious bottlenecks and come up with a strategy and roadmap. It served as a sensitization event where various stakeholders expressed interest in these approaches and ideas, notably the dairy cooperative. He says the group plans to meet every month …

“The MilkIT team sold a mix of demonstrable interventions, maybe also the innovation platforms as one of the interventions. Now we need to decide the best approach, and maybe select some other needy clusters.” He reflected that they “could perhaps build this approach on to the existing 260 mini-cooperatives under Aanchal, perhaps with funds from IFAD or the cooperative itself. We need to find the right interventions and the right institutional entry points.”

He further emphasized two points: that a lack of good communications among the big stakeholders is a big issue and, most importantly, that they need to show tangible results.

“But one of my primary concerns concerns is who should play the role of the facilitator of the Innovation platforms? We need to keep it informal and avoid becoming rule-bound but at the same time there is a risk of making the entire process appear as very casual and amateurish.”

That’s the process so far.

Sustaining momentum

When asked to reflect on what it was about MilkIT that interested him and what the future holds, he said: “MilkIT grabbed my attention particularly because we were already conceptualizing a mechanism to identify possible causes of declining milk production in the district, particularly by the cooperatives. MilkIT acted as a catalyst in our efforts; the most promising aspect was probably the outcome that simple and small interventions could produce visible and immediate effects on the value chain provided they were carried out with clinical precision. So I thought that we could really scale this up. I found something like this that could really trigger wider behavioral changes…”

He argued that the biggest challenge he sees is to make the platform sustainable. The stakeholders are critical in this and he pointed to the need to instill a sense of ownership, and “choose some areas where we have a good chance to make progress.” He mentioned that the strong interest by the dairy cooperative and the IFAD project may provide the flexibility in pursuing such approaches, “that we don’t usually have.”

One path to sustainability he saw was to integrate the platform approach with existing systems and services so it is taken up easily. He noted that there are many existing schemes in the district, perhaps the “only thing lacking is a platform for getting to specific local constraints and to help target these.” The advantage he saw is that joining forces would help to overcome previous piecemeal interventions that have not given good results. He cautioned that the tradeoff in joining the larger schemes is that ‘innovation’ may fall off.

Solution-oriented action research

Finally, our conversation shifted to other areas, looking at the contributions of agricultural research more generally to his work in the state government.

From his perspective Iqbal suggested that there’s a “huge disconnect between research and extension and people.” He observes much research in silos and not well-connected to the district or to farmers. There seems to be a “huge time gap between lab to land.”

MilkIT, he said, kind of “reverse engineered the research process.” Research would be more relevant if it was more context-based and with tangible results.

Pat of the challenge is with the ways research interacts with government. He described much of the dialogue with research and academia as very formal and rigid and cursory. He took some responsibility however: “We as government are not very proactive with academia and research.” He also recognized the potential benefits of better engagement with research. He and other development officers do meet and exchange with one another. But they struggle to access past knowledge and research. They are literally “starving (for knowledge).”

He concluded by reminding us that districts are where the (development) action is. And “what I need is solution-oriented action research.”

Read a related interview with B.K. Bhatt, program manager for agriculture-horticulture in the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP) in Uttarakhand state.



Solution-oriented action research: Scaling MilkIT dairy feed innovations in India

During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.

Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.

Ahmed Iqbal Ahmed Iqbal is chief development officer (CDO) for Almora district in the Uttarakhand state government. In this role, he supervises the rural development and poverty alleviation operations of state and federal government departments as well as a vast set of governmental schemes and services provided in the district. This includes aspects of livelihood related to agriculture, horticulture, animal health, fisheries, dairy development, and the dairy cooperative amongst others. In all this, he says that “livestock is at the heart of farmers’ livelihoods, so animal health and dairying are very central” to his work.

He sees one of his key roles as to make sure the intended beneficiaries are aware of the various schemes and that they are taking up the services. “My job is to help make sure that farmers are really accessing these services. The innovation platforms [of MilkIT] seem to play a positive role in this. By bringing people together in a similar platform, informally, it was easy to convince them to take up the schemes.”

Connecting communities with service providers

Like his colleague B.K. Bhatt from the IFAD-supported Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP), it was the local MilkIT coordinator Thannamal Ravichandran who brought the platforms to his notice. He said that he was at that time especially interested in overcoming challenges of inter-departmental coordination, which is a major implementation challenge, and he saw a potential in innovation platforms to facilitate this.

After initial discussions with MilkIT and ILSP staff (early November 2014), he saw the platforms in action, linking dairying communities and cooperatives. They looked like good mechanisms to help identify local problems and devise local solutions (specifically for dairying – which has a large potential). Moreover, he realized they might also be vehicles to connect government services to people. His concern was however not to overload the platforms. Let them keep a dairy focus and “let’s try and scale these.”

Since then, he was approached by the state dairy cooperative (under the brand ‘Aanchal’) asking that the approach be taken up elsewhere.

He immediately convened a district level stakeholder workshop to analyze the complete dairy value chain and obvious bottlenecks and come up with a strategy and roadmap. It served as a sensitization event where various stakeholders expressed interest in these approaches and ideas, notably the dairy cooperative. He says the group plans to meet every month …

“The MilkIT team sold a mix of demonstrable interventions, maybe also the innovation platforms as one of the interventions. Now we need to decide the best approach, and maybe select some other needy clusters.” He reflected that they “could perhaps build this approach on to the existing 260 mini-cooperatives under Aanchal, perhaps with funds from IFAD or the cooperative itself. We need to find the right interventions and the right institutional entry points.”

He further emphasized two points: that a lack of good communications among the big stakeholders is a big issue and, most importantly, that they need to show tangible results.

“But one of my primary concerns concerns is who should play the role of the facilitator of the Innovation platforms? We need to keep it informal and avoid becoming rule-bound but at the same time there is a risk of making the entire process appear as very casual and amateurish”

That’s the process so far.

Sustaining momentum

When asked to reflect on what it was about MilkIT that interested him and what the future holds, he said: “MilkIT grabbed my attention particularly because we were already conceptualizing a mechanism to identify possible causes of declining milk production in the district, particularly by the cooperatives. MilkIT acted as a catalyst in our efforts; the most promising aspect was probably the outcome that simple and small interventions could produce visible and immediate effects on the value chain provided they were carried out with clinical precision. So I thought that we could really scale this up. I found something like this that could really trigger wider behavioral changes…”

He argued that the biggest challenge he sees is to make the platform sustainable. The stakeholders are critical in this and he pointed to the need to instill a sense of ownership, and “choose some areas where we have a good chance to make progress.” He mentioned that the strong interest by the dairy cooperative and the IFAD project may provide the flexibility in pursuing such approaches, “that we don’t usually have.”

One path to sustainability he saw was to integrate the platform approach with existing systems and services so it is taken up easily. He noted that there are many existing schemes in the district, perhaps the “only thing lacking is a platform for getting to specific local constraints and to help target these.” The advantage he saw is that joining forces would help to overcome previous piecemeal interventions that have not given good results. He cautioned that the tradeoff in joining the larger schemes is that ‘innovation’ may fall off.

Solution-oriented action research

Finally, our conversation shifted to other areas, looking at the contributions of agricultural research more generally to his work in the state government.

From his perspective Iqbal suggested that there’s a “huge disconnect between research and extension and people.” He observes much research in silos and not well-connected to the district or to farmers. There seems to be a “huge time gap between lab to land.”

MilkIT, he said, kind of “reverse engineered the research process.” Research would be more relevant if it was more context-based and with tangible results.

Pat of the challenge is with the ways research interacts with government. He described much of the dialogue with research and academia as very formal and rigid and cursory. He took some responsibility however: “We as government are not very proactive with academia and research.” He also recognized the potential benefits of better engagement with research. He and other development officers do meet and exchange with one another. But they struggle to access past knowledge and research. They are literally “starving (for knowledge).”

He concluded by reminding us that districts are where the (development) action is. And “what I need is solution-oriented action research.”



Leveraging instructional design and learning theories to improve livestock feed productivity

At this week’s international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture, Iddo Dror presented a poster on ways that ILRI is leveraging instructional design and learning theories to improve productivity in  smallholder systems. The poster is about a learning package to support use of the FEAST tool.

 

 

Feed for livestock is often cited as the main constraint to improved productivity in smallholder systems, yet uptake of feed technologies remains relatively low. The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) is a set of electronic forms and accompanying documentation designed by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to help research and development practitioners working in the agricultural sector conduct farmer-centered diagnoses by providing a more systematic means of assessing current feed, related strategies and analytics to inform the development of new strategies. The main forms of the FEAST tool are built on Microsoft Excel, but feature a more visual, more intuitive interface than typical spreadsheets.

To date, FEAST training for practitioners has consisted of 3-day, face-to-face sessions conducted on-site in host countries, facilitated by members of ILRI’s staff. While the growing popularity of the FEAST tool is seen as a positive development, the increasing demand for training has placed a considerable strain on ILRI’s staff, to the detriment of other activities, and perhaps also limits the dissemination of the tool to all those who can benefit from it. Meanwhile, there is a sense that 3 days of traditional classroom instruction might not be sufficient to adequately address the major concepts and skills necessary for the participants’ success in the field.

As part of ILRI’s contributions to CGIAR research programs on Livestock and Fish and Humidtropics, ILRI has decided to convert the existing materials into a blended learning course with both online and offline modules, and a re-designed face to face component, to provide a more effective learning experience to more participants in less time than current methods / resources allow, reduce the burden on current facilitators while ensuring consistency and accuracy of instruction even if less experienced facilitators are enlisted to deliver the classes, and better track the performance of class participants.

The poster/presentation covers the process followed, explain why and how to reformat and refine course materials, and provide an overview of effective development of eLearning and blended learning materials in the context of systems research developing countries.

More information: ilri.org/feast

More about the conference:

Web page

Twitter hashtag: CGIAR_Systems

 


Leveraging instructional design and learning theories to improve livestock feed productivity

At this week’s international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture, Iddo Dror presented a poster on ways that ILRI is leveraging instructional design and learning theories to improve productivity in  smallholder systems. The poster is about a learning package to support use of the FEAST tool.

 

 

Feed for livestock is often cited as the main constraint to improved productivity in smallholder systems, yet uptake of feed technologies remains relatively low. The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) is a set of electronic forms and accompanying documentation designed by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to help research and development practitioners working in the agricultural sector conduct farmer-centered diagnoses by providing a more systematic means of assessing current feed, related strategies and analytics to inform the development of new strategies. The main forms of the FEAST tool are built on Microsoft Excel, but feature a more visual, more intuitive interface than typical spreadsheets.

To date, FEAST training for practitioners has consisted of 3-day, face-to-face sessions conducted on-site in host countries, facilitated by members of ILRI’s staff. While the growing popularity of the FEAST tool is seen as a positive development, the increasing demand for training has placed a considerable strain on ILRI’s staff, to the detriment of other activities, and perhaps also limits the dissemination of the tool to all those who can benefit from it. Meanwhile, there is a sense that 3 days of traditional classroom instruction might not be sufficient to adequately address the major concepts and skills necessary for the participants’ success in the field.

As part of ILRI’s contributions to CGIAR research programs on Livestock and Fish and Humidtropics, ILRI has decided to convert the existing materials into a blended learning course with both online and offline modules, and a re-designed face to face component, to provide a more effective learning experience to more participants in less time than current methods / resources allow, reduce the burden on current facilitators while ensuring consistency and accuracy of instruction even if less experienced facilitators are enlisted to deliver the classes, and better track the performance of class participants.

The poster/presentation covers the process followed, explain why and how to reformat and refine course materials, and provide an overview of effective development of eLearning and blended learning materials in the context of systems research developing countries.

More information: ilri.org/feast

More about the conference:

Web page

Twitter hashtag: CGIAR_Systems

 


FEAST – how it helped a feed innovation project with engagement, intervention design and impact assessment

Women farmers discussing their problems, Kolseer village, Uttarakhand

Women farmers discussing their problems, Kolseer village, Uttarakhand

In December 2014, the IFAD-financed MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) held final workshops in Lushoto and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

As we mentioned before, we sought to draw out some key insights from our experiences. This concerns the use of a feed assessment tool which we discovered to have more uses that we first planned …

FEAST was originally developed as a decision-support tool to help in identifying appropriate feed interventions in smallholder systems. During the MilkIT Project FEAST was used in both India and Tanzania but in different ways and with different benefits. We reflected on the use of FEAST during our final project meeting in Lushoto Tanzania and produced a rough poster outlining the various ways in which FEAST was used and what the benefits of use were.

In Tanzania, FEAST was applied at an early stage of the project and used to characterize the livestock production system and the various livestock feeding issues prevalent in our study sites. The results of the FEAST exercise were then fed back to IP’s and used as a catalyst to discussing possible intervention strategies. What emerged from these discussions was a series of feed interventions that were then applied in project sites. The Tanzania team felt that using FEAST helped to build engagement with farmers and other stakeholders and also created a sense of ownership of the interventions that were subsequently tried. Interventions in Tanzania included private pasture improvement and cultivation of planted forages.

In India, when FEAST was applied, the emphasis was on collecting quantitative data for impact assessment. The India team put a lot of effort into a rigorous sampling regime and used FEAST in both target and control communities. This allowed the FEAST data to be used as a biophysical baseline. FEAST was re-used at the end of the project with the same households to allow changes in feeding practices to be assessed. There was less emphasis on the qualitative aspects of FEAST.

In both cases, the fact that FEAST is a ready-made tool with questions that have been tried and tested, meant that it could be applied relatively quickly and easily. Although the use of the tool was different in the two project countries, in both cases application of a simple tool allowed project staff and partners to quickly identify key feed issues and move forward with some practical interventions. In both countries, the process of applying FEAST helped to get the conversations going and engage local stakeholders in the process of deciding on interventions.

Three key features of FEAST emerged from brainstorming at the Lushoto meeting:

  1. FEAST is a proven tool for identifying feed interventions
  2. FEAST is a good way of engaging local communities and stakeholders
  3. FEAST helps to catalyze “buy-in” of local stakeholders which helps the subsequent implementation of feed interventions

A writeshop in early March 2015 will help transform these insights into finished learning products.

More news from the MilkIT project

More experiences with FEAST


FEAST – how it helped a feed innovation project with engagement, intervention design and impact assessment

Selecting locally appropriate feed technology - Uttarakhand, India

Selecting locally appropriate feed technology – Uttarakhand, India

In December 2014, the IFAD-financed MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) held final workshops in Lushoto and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

As we mentioned before, we sought to draw out some key insights from our experiences. This concerns the use of a feed assessment tool which we discovered to have more uses that we first planned …

FEAST was originally developed as a decision-support tool to help in identifying appropriate feed interventions in smallholder systems. During the MilkIT Project FEAST was used in both India and Tanzania but in different ways and with different benefits. We reflected on the use of FEAST during our final project meeting in Lushoto Tanzania and produced a rough poster outlining the various ways in which FEAST was used and what the benefits of use were.

In Tanzania, FEAST was applied at an early stage of the project and used to characterize the livestock production system and the various livestock feeding issues prevalent in our study sites. The results of the FEAST exercise were then fed back to IP’s and used as a catalyst to discussing possible intervention strategies. What emerged from these discussions was a series of feed interventions that were then applied in project sites. The Tanzania team felt that using FEAST helped to build engagement with farmers and other stakeholders and also created a sense of ownership of the interventions that were subsequently tried. Interventions in Tanzania included private pasture improvement and cultivation of planted forages.

In India, when FEAST was applied, the emphasis was on collecting quantitative data for impact assessment. The India team put a lot of effort into a rigorous sampling regime and used FEAST in both target and control communities. This allowed the FEAST data to be used as a biophysical baseline. FEAST was re-used at the end of the project with the same households to allow changes in feeding practices to be assessed. There was less emphasis on the qualitative aspects of FEAST.

In both cases, the fact that FEAST is a ready-made tool with questions that have been tried and tested, meant that it could be applied relatively quickly and easily. Although the use of the tool was different in the two project countries, in both cases application of a simple tool allowed project staff and partners to quickly identify key feed issues and move forward with some practical interventions. In both countries, the process of applying FEAST helped to get the conversations going and engage local stakeholders in the process of deciding on interventions.

Three key features of FEAST emerged from brainstorming at the Lushoto meeting:

  1. FEAST is a proven tool for identifying feed interventions
  2. FEAST is a good way of engaging local communities and stakeholders
  3. FEAST helps to catalyze “buy-in” of local stakeholders which helps the subsequent implementation of feed interventions

A writeshop in early March 2015 will help transform these insights into finished learning products.

More news from the MilkIT project

More experiences with FEAST


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