Further unlocking the potential of maize: Dual-purpose is the new purpose of the world’s most important cereal

In the field: Kenya

Maize field at Kampi ya Moto, Kenya (photo on Flickr by C Schubert/CCAFS).

September 2013 special issue of the scientific journal Field Crops Research describes research to improve, and make wider use of, dual-purpose maize (or corn) varieties, which are used for their stover — the stalk, leaves and other residue of the plant after the grain has been harvested — as well as for their grain. Among smallholder farmers in Africa and other developing regions, maize stover is a common, and critically important, supplementary feed for ruminant livestock.

The special journal issue was edited by edited by Elaine Grings, of South Dakota State University (and formerly of ILRI); Olaf Erenstein, of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center; and Michael Blümmel, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The following statements are excerpted from a synthesis paper written by the editors, which presents key findings in 12 papers about the potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands.

This special issue substantiates that dual-purpose maize varieties are technically feasible and have a large potential market, particularly in many emerging markets. The reported findings argue the case for continued investments in maize stover R&D and thus reigniting earlier dual-purpose crop research in general.


Children weed a maize plot at Kampi ya Moto, Kenya (photo on Flickr by C Schubert /CCAFS).

Among the findings are the following.

‘Maize — or corn (Zea mays L.) — now is the most important global cereal in terms of production reflecting its versatility in use, including human food, animal feed and fodder, industrial products and biofuel.’

‘Despite being a versatile crop, maize production and maize breeding efforts over time have typically had a single-purpose orientation [on improving grain yields]. . . . Even smallholders within mixed maize-livestock systems typically focus on maize grain yield . . . , with maize stover as additional byproduct and benefit.’

There are prospects within the range of stover quality to increase fodder quality without compromising grain yield.

‘It is this potential of dual-purpose varieties that has reignited research interest and some of the research underlying this special issue. Indeed, despite earlier skepticism only a decade ago, substantial progress has been made in developing dual-purpose maize options for both grain and fodder purposes . . . .’

‘Maize germplasm differences in fodder quality can be exploited without compromising on grain yield.’

‘Confirmation of the relatively favorable feed value of maize stover vis-à-vis other coarse cereal residues — having at least par if not better feed quality traits compared to sorghum and millet, which have been the focus of prior dual-purpose crop improvement research and have been reported to contribute substantially to gross crop production values.’

‘Confirmation of being able to rely on a few key laboratory indicators . . .  as good proxies for feed quality . . . as this enhances the ease of screening for feed quality traits.’

‘From a livestock nutrition viewpoint, an increase in stover quantity is only useful (unless making stover cheaper) if livestock can respond with increased intake, which is stover quality dependent.’

Dairy cow on a Kenyan smallholding

 A dairy cow on one of Kenya’s many smallholder farms consumes maize stover, an important supplementary feed in East Africa (photo credit: ILRI).

Read the synthesis paper, as well as other papers, in this special issue of Field Crops Research 153 (2013) 107–112, edited by Elaine Grings, Olaf Erenstein and Michael Blümmel. The papers authored by ILRI scientists include the following.

Blümmel M, Grings E and Erenstein O 2013:
Potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands: Synthesis

Erenstein O, Blümmel M and Grings E 2013:
Potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands: Overview

Homann Kee-Tui S, Blümmel M, Valbuena D, Chirima A, Masikati P, Rooyen AF van and Kassie GT 2013:
Assessing the potential of dual-purpose maize in southern Africa: A multi-level approach

Anandan S, Khan AA, Ravi D, Sai Butcha Rao M, Reddy YR and Blümmel M 2013:
Identification of a superior dual purpose maize hybrid among widely grown hybrids in South Asia
and value addition to its stover through feed supplementation and feed processing

Ravi D, Khan AA, Sai Butcha Rao M and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on suitable laboratory stover quality traits for multidimensional maize improvement

Ramana Reddy Y, Ravi D, Ramakrishna Reddy C, Prasad KVSV, Zaidi PH, Vinayan MT and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on the correlations between maize grain and maize stover quantitative and qualitative traits
and the implications for whole maize plant optimization

Lukuyu BA, Murdoch AJ, Romney D, Mwangi DM, Njuguna JGM, McLeod A and Jama AN 2013:
Integrated maize management options to improve forage yield and quality on smallholder farms in Kenya

Ertiro BT, Twumasi-Afriyie S, Blummel M, Friesen D, Negera D, Worku M, Abakemal D and Kitenge K 2013:
Genetic variability of maize stover quality and the potential for genetic improvement of fodder value

Ertiro BT, Zeleke H, Friesen D, Blümmel M and Twumasi-Afriyie, S 2013:
Relationship between the performance of parental inbred lines and hybrids for food-feed traits in maize (Zea mays L.) in Ethiopia

Zaidi PH, Vinayan MT and Blümmel M 2012:
Genetic variability of tropical maize stover quality and the potential for genetic improvement of food-feed value in India

Vinayan MT, Babu R, Jyothsna T, Zaidi PH and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on potential candidate genomic regions with implications for maize stover fodder quality

Read about this special issue in the ILRI Clippings Blog:
Field Crops Research special issue on dual-purpose maize for food and feed, 15 Nov 2013.

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

Next week, staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs are attending the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), which is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.
CGIAR is a global partnership for a food-secure future that conducts and disseminates research to improve the lives, livelihoods and lands of the world’s poorest people. CGIAR research is conducted by 15 of the world’s leading agricultural development research centres and 16 global research programs, all of them partnering with many stakeholders in Africa. More than half of CGIAR funding (52% in 2012) targets African-focused research.

The theme of next week’s AASW6 is ‘Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation’. CGIAR is supporting African-driven solutions to food security by partnering with FARA and the African Union, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), sub-regional organizations, national agricultural research systems and many other private and non-governmental as well as public organizations.

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

Ten ILRI scientists and staff will briefly speak and then engage with other participants in a side event ILRI is organizing at AASW6 on the topic of Livestock research for Africa’s food security. This three-hour morning side event will be facilitated by ILRI’s knowledge management and communication specialist, Ewen Le Borgne, and will be highly participatory in nature.

If you plan to attend this session, please shoot an email confirmation to Teresa Werrhe-Abira(t.werrhe-abira [at] cgiar.org) so we can organize refreshments.

And if you’d like to use this opportunity to talk with or interview one of the ILRI staff members below, or just meet them, please do so! ILRI communication officers Muthoni Njiru (m.njiru [at] cgiar.org) and Paul Karaimu (p.karaimu [at] cgiar.org) will be on hand at the ILRI side session (and you’ll find one or both at the CGIAR booth most of the rest of the week) to give you any assistance you may need.

Among the speakers at the ILRI side session will be the following.

Jimmy Smith, a Canadian, became director general of ILRI in Oct 2011. Before that, he worked for the World Bank in Washington, DC, leading the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Before joining the World Bank, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency. Still earlier in his career, he worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and subsequently managed the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR, involving ten CGIAR centres working at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Smith is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed a PhD in animal sciences. He was born in Guyana, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm.

John McIntire (USA) is ILRI deputy director general for research-integrated sciences. He obtained a PhD in agricultural economics in 1980 from Tufts University using results of farm-level field studies of smallholder crop production in francophone Africa. He subsequently served as an economist for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, and the West Africa Program of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in Burkina Faso and Niger, and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), one of ILRI’s two predecessors, in Ethiopia. He is co-author of Crop Livestock Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa (1992), a book still widely cited 20 years later. McIntire joined the World Bank in 1989, where he worked (in Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi) until his retirement in 2011. In 2011, he became the second person to receive both the Bank’s ‘Good Manager Award’ and ‘Green Award for Environmental Leadership’.

Shirley Tarawali (UK) is ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships. Before taking on this role, Tarawali was director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, with responsibilities spanning sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. She holds a PhD in plant science from the University of London. Previously, Tarawali held a joint appointment with ILRI and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Her fields of specialization include mixed crop-livestock and pastoral systems in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

Delia Grace (Ireland) is an ILRI veterinarian and epidemiologist who leads a program at ILRI on food safety and zoonosis. She also leads a flagship project on ‘Agriculture-Associated Diseases’, which is a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), USA. Grace has broad developing-country expertise in food safety, risk factor analysis, ecohealth/one health, gender and livestock, participatory methods, randomized trials and health metrics.

Questions Grace will address in ILRI’s side event are:
What are risk-based approaches to food safety in informal markets where most of the poor buy & sell?
How should we deal with food safety dynamics: livestock revolution, urbanization, globalization?
How can we better understand the public health impacts of aflatoxins?

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

Polly Ericksen (USA) leads drylands research at ILRI and for the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems in East and Southern Africa, where, in the coming years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over some 600,000 square kilometres. That CGIAR research  program as a whole is led by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria. Ericksen also leads a Technical Consortium for Ending Drought Emergencies and Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa. Her broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies.

Questions Ericksen will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can commercial pastoral livestock production lead to growth in risk-prone drylands?
Is there a long-term role for livestock insurance in pastoral production systems?

  • Iain WrightAlan Duncan and Michael Blümmel: The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems

Iain Wright (UK) is ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia and head of ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus, where over 300 staff are located. He also directs  ILRI’s Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program, a USD15-million global program working to increase the productivity of livestock systems in developing countries through high-quality animal science (breeding, nutrition and animal health) and livestock systems research. Before this, Wright served as director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment theme. And before that, from 2006 to 2011, he was ILRI’s regional representative for Asia, based in New Delhi and coordinating ILRI’s activities in South, Southeast Asia and East Asia. Wright has a PhD in animal nutrition. Before joining ILRI, he managed several research programs at the Macaulay Institute, in Scotland.

Alan Duncan (UK) is an ILRI livestock feed specialist and joint leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme. Duncan joined ILRI in 2007, also  coming from Scotland’s Macaulay Institute. Duncan has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. He also works on livestock-water interactions, which are a key issue in Ethiopia, where he is based, particularly in relation to the competition for water occurring between the growing of livestock feed and that of staple crops. Duncan manages a range of research-for-development projects and acts as ILRI’s focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, which is led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria.

Michael Blümmel (Germany) is an ILRI animal nutritionist with PhD (1994) and Habilitation (2004) degrees from the University of Hohenheim, in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in research, teaching and development in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. Blümmel’s major research interests include feeding and feed resourcing at the interface of positive and negative effects from livestock, multi-dimensional crop improvement concomitantly to improve food, feed and fodder traits in new crop cultivars, and optimization of locally available feed resources through small business enterprises around decentralized feed processing.

A question they will address in ILRI’s side event is:
What are the options for sustainable intensification through livestock feeding?

  • Ethel Makila: Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

Ethel Makila (Kenya) is ILRI communications officer for the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub. She is a graphic designer expert in development communication, media and education. At the BecA-ILRI Hub, she is responsible for increasing awareness of the Hub’s activities, facilities and impacts among African farmers, research institutes, government departments, Pan-African organizations and the international donor and research communities.

Questions Makila will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can we build bio-sciences capacity in Africa to move from research results to development impacts?
How can we keep the BecA-ILRI Hub relevant to the research needs and context of African scientists?

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

Suzanne Bertrand (Canada) is ILRI deputy director general for research-biosciences. With a PhD in plant molecular biology from Laval University, Bertrand began her career as a scientist with Agri-Food Canada, working on forage plants. Her focus shifted rapidly from laboratory-based research to application of modern agri-technology in the developing world. Her overseas assignments included spells in the People’s Republic of China and Tunisia. She spent six years in the USA, first as research assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and then as a founding principal for a biotechnology start-up company. She then joined Livestock Improvement (LIC), a large dairy breeding enterprise in New Zealand, where she managed LIC’s Research and Development Group, delivering science-based solutions in the areas of genomics, reproductive health, animal evaluation and commercialization to the dairy sector. In 2008, Bertrand became director, International Linkages for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology in New Zealand. She was later chief executive officer for NZBIO, an NGO representing the interests and supporting growth of the bioscience sector in New Zealand.

Questions Bertrand will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How do we stimulate and sustain an African vaccine R&D pathway to achieve impact?
How can we grow a biotech and vaccine manufacturing sector in Africa?

Find more information about AASW6, including a full agenda, and follow the hashtag #AASW6 on social media.

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

  • Jimmy Smith, director general, based at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya
  • John McIntire, deputy director general-Integrated Sciences, Nairobi
  • Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general—Biosciences, Nairobi
  • Shirley Tarawali, director of Institutional Planning and Partnerships, Nairobi
  • Iain Wright, director of ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture Program, based at ILRI’s second principal campus, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Abdou Fall, ILRI regional representative and manager of conservation of West African livestock genetic resources project, based in Senegal
  • Iheanacho (Acho) Okike, manages project of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, based in Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Iddo Dror, head of ILRI Capacity Development, Nairobi
  • Delia Grace, leads ILRI Food Safety and Zoonosis program and also an ‘Agriculture-Associate Diseases’ component of CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Nairobi
  • Joy Appiah, former student in ILRI Safe Food, Fair Food project; ILRI is supporting his participation at AASW6; he is now at the University of Ghana
  • Polly Ericksen, leads dryands research within ILRI Livestock Systems and Environment program, serves as ILRI focal point for two CGIAR research programs—on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and Dryland Systems—and leads a Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa, based in Nairobi
  • Katie Downie, coordinator of the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of AfricaHorn of Africa, Nairobi
  • Alan Duncan, leads feed innovations research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program and serves as ILRI focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on the HumidTropics, Addis Ababa
  • Michael Blümmel, leads feed resources research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program, based at ICRISAT, in Hyderabad, India
  • Allan Liavoga, deputy program manager of Bio-Innovate, Nairobi
  • Dolapo Enahoro, agricultural economist within ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chains program, based in Accra

Communications support

  • Ewen LeBorgne, ILRI knowledge management and communications specialist; is facilitating ILRI’s side session at AASW6 on 15 Jul; based in Addis Ababa
  • Muthoni Njiru, ILRI communications officer in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing media relations, exhibit materials, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Paul Karaimu, ILRI communications writer/editor in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing blogging, photography, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Ethel Makila, ILRI communications specialist for the BecA-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Albert Mwangi, ILRI communications specialist for Bio-Innovate, Nairobi


  • Cheikh Ly, ILRI board member, from Senegal, veterinary expert at FAO, based in Accra, Ghana
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, ILRI board chair, from Zimbabwe, livestock scientist, agricultural policy thinker, and CEO and head of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, South Africa

Fixing fodder shortages for dairy in East Africa and South Asia, beef in West Africa, goat/sheep meat in West and southern Africa

Fodder cut and ready for transporting in northern India

Fodder cut and ready for transporting in northern India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

In 2012, a group of researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) worked with partners at the World Bank, under the direction of Jimmy Smith, then a senior livestock advisor at the Bank and now director general of ILRI, in identifying investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries.

Excerpts from the executive summary follow.

‘Driven by population growth, increasing demand, stricter quality and safety standards for animal source food and increasing competition for land and water resources, the livestock sector is changing rapidly. Within this changing landscape, smallholders with crops and livestock will remain the mainstay of the sector in developing countries for some decades to come.

For example, the projections in this report foresee an increase in cattle, sheep and goat populations in the mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world from 467 million to 648 million adult cattle equivalents. However, also here, the abovementioned mega-trends and the resulting competition for feed resources imply that these systems will have to intensify to ensure an acceptable livelihood for its producers.

‘Enhancing the quality and quantity of feed, as one of the most important factors of animal production will play a critical role in this process of intensification. However, feed improvement should not be seen in isolation, but rather be assessed as part of the greater value chain, including all stakeholders. For example, investing in feed improvement without markets to sell the increased production from this investment or without an adequate feed quality control regulatory framework, would yield negative returns.

This report follows a step-by-step analytical framework that will provide the priority investments and actions in technologies, policies, and institutions.

‘As the first step in this framework, the most promising value chains, where feed-related strategies and investments are most likely to have significant impacts, have to be identified. On the basis of the key characteristics of (a) growth and market opportunities, (b) number of poor and pro-poor potential and (c) the supply constraints, in particular disease risk and feed resources availability, this report identifies first Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as priority areas, and then, within these areas, it identifies three commodity value chains in five regions of particularly great potential to benefit poor producers and consumers. They are:

  • Dairy in East Africa and South Asia
    because of the expected growth in demand (including export potential), the number of poor involved (135 million), and the moderately adequate situation resource situation
  • Beef in West Africa
    because of its potential for import substitution and potential for improvement, in spite of the resource constraints
  • Small ruminant meat in West Africa and Southern Africa
    because of the number of poor involved (110 million) and new domestic market opportunities.

‘The framework was then used to analyze the diversity of feed types, the availability of feed sources both from within and from outside of local systems, based on informant interviews and quantitative modeling of the current situation and with projections to 2030. Detailed data for each feed type and source are available in the main text, but the general trends show:

  • (a) A reduction in the use of crop residue
    such as straws and stovers, although at a projected between 20 and 50 percent these remain a substantial part of the daily ration of the livestock of those systems.
  • (b) An increase in the use of crop-by-products
    (such as oil cakes and by-products of the milling industry) and concentrates, although staying in 2030 mostly below ten percent, with the exception of the South Asian dairy systems, where they would amount to 25 percent of the total diet. With such a low share of the diet, and with most products not edible for humans, these systems would not endanger global food security.
  • (c) An increase in the area planted for forages,
    in particular in dairy systems; and (d) a sharp increase in feed procurement from the market instead of supply from the own farm.

‘Based on these projections to 2030, opportunities for feed-related investments with major positive impacts on the poor are then identified. A number of strategies, policies, technologies, and services come to light as especially promising areas for such investment in a variety of scenarios. Applying the assessment framework to each of the three value chains yielded similar results for all chains. First of all, they stress that addressing feed related issues in the context of evolving value chains requires combinations of public and private investments: policies, strategies that facilitate adoption and market engagement with reduced transactions costs such as improved access to knowledge and services for smallholder producers and other market agents together with adoption of improved feed technologies.

‘The more specific areas of improvement that warrant priority in targeting investments are:

  • Technological feed improving solutions include in all value chains studied
    (a) more attention to research and development for feed/food crops, i.e., crops that provide both food (mostly grain) for humans and feed (mostly straws) for livestock;
    (b) better ration formulation, through the introduction of feed processing and storage technologies (including micro-sizing, ensiling, etc.) and
    (c) forage seed production. . .
  • Institutional issues include access to land and water for all smallholders, as a primary concern and as the main incentive to improve crop-residues. Effective governance on feed quality is also a common institutional issue raised. Similarly, reduction on transaction costs (both to access the feeds and to participate in product markets) is another key area for institutional investment support. In all value chains, the report strongly advocates support to Business Development Services – interpreted in the broadest sense as a key to facilitating access to feeds, markets and for reducing transaction costs. . . .
  • The policy concerns are more value chain specific, and include the protection against dumping of meat and milk from the OECD countries, reduction of regional tariff barriers (in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa) and lack of investment in infrastructure.

‘While for many households increasing animal numbers is perceived as attractive, there are severe environmental limitations of the extent this is possible. Policies and investment that increase per animal productivity, such as adequate ration formulation and emphasis on mineral supplementation in the feed and nutrition domain, as well as genetic and health improvement related investment will be important. However, in some areas, increased efficiency (producing the same with fewer animals, or more with the same number of animals) can also be achieved through incentive systems such as payment for environmental services.

‘Ranking those investments regarding their economic return constitutes the final step in the analytical framework, underpinning this study. The analysis shows that for an individual household, the increase in animal numbers is the most attractive option, as has also been proven in the past.

Indeed, according to FAOSTAT (2010) data, most (57 percent over the period 1990–2010) of the increased production in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from an increase in animals, and not from increased productivity per animals. This is obviously not sustainable.

‘The key challenge therefore is to increase the profitability of raising productivity per animal. As better feed utilization will be a critical factor in enhancing the profitability and hence in ensuring the long term sustainability of these system, it is therefore encouraging that in most evaluations feed improvements (and in particular the use of crop-residues) rank from the third to the fifth place. The analytical framework also provides a ranking of the importance of timing over the 2010–2030 period in which investments are made. The results show that in general a fast trajectory (i.e. transformation early in the 20-year interval) is associated with relatively higher returns accruing to investments in selected feed types, compared to a “slow” trajectory. Fast action is therefore recommended.

‘The results of this study demonstrate that the assessment framework developed could be applied readily in other systems, and at the same time provides a basis that can be further built upon.

‘This peer-reviewed World Bank report was prepared under the guidance of Jimmy Smith, formerly of the World Bank and (since Nov 2011) now serving as director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and Francois le Gall of the World Bank by an ILRI team consisting of William Thorpe, Derek Baker and Shirley Tarawali with Rainer Asse, Augustine Ayantunde, Michael Blummel, Oumar Diall, Alan Duncan, Abdou Fall, Bruno Gerard, Elaine Grings, Mario Herrero, Chedly Kayouli, Ben Lukuyu, Siboniso Moyo, Ranjitha Puskur, An Notenbaert, Tom Randolph, Steve Staal, Nils Teufel, Francis Wanyoike and Iain Wright. Further inputs were provided by Cees de Haan and Gunnar Larson from the World Bank.’

Read the report: Identifying investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries, World Bank, 2012.

A few of our favourite (missed) livestock presentations in 2012

Here, for your New Year’s reading/viewing pleasure, are 20 slide presentations on 12 topics made by staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in 2012 that we missed reporting on here (at the ILRI News Blog) during the year.

Happy reading and Happy New Year!


>>> Sustainable and Productive Farming Systems: The Livestock Sector
Jimmy Smith
International Conference on Food Security in Africa: Bridging Research and Practice, Sydney, Australia
29-30 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 426 views.

A balanced diet for 9 billion: Importance of livestock
•  Enough food: much of the world’s meat, milk and cereals comes from developing-country livestock based systems
•  Wholesome food: Small amounts of livestock products – huge impact on cognitive development, immunity and well being
•  Livelihoods: 80% of the poor in Africa keep livestock, which contribute at least one-third of the annual income.
The role of women in raising animals, processing and 3 selling their products is essential.

Key messages: opportunities
•  Livestock for nutrition and food security:
– Direct – 17% global kilocalories; 33% protein; contribute food for 830 million food insecure.
Demand for all livestock products will rise by more than 100% in the next 30 years, poultry especially so (170% in Africa)
– Indirect – livelihoods for almost 1 billion, two thirds women
•  Small-scale crop livestock systems (less than 2ha; 2 TLU) provide 50–75% total livestock and staple food production in Africa and Asia
and provide the greatest opportunity for research to impact on a trajectory of growth that is inclusive –
equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable.

>>> The Global Livestock Agenda: Opportunities and Challenges
Jimmy Smith
15th AAAP [Asian-Australasian Association of Animal Production] Animal Science Congress, Bangkok,Thailand
26–30 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 1,650 views

Livestock and global development challenges
•  Feeding the world
– Livestock provide 58 million tonnes of protein annually and 17% of the global kilocalories.
•  Removing poverty
– Almost 1 billion people rely on livestock for livelihoods
•  Managing the environment
– Livestock contribute 14–18% anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, use 30% of the freshwater used for agriculture and 30% of the ice free land
– Transition of livestock systems
– Huge opportunity to impact on future environment
•  Improving human health
– Zoonoses and contaminated animal-source foods
– Malnutrition and obesity

>>> Meat and Veg: Livestock and Vegetable Researchers Are Natural,
High-value, Partners in Work for the Well-being of the World’s Poor

Jimmy Smith
World Vegetable Center, Taiwan
18 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 294 views.

Livestock and vegetables suit an urbanizing, warming world
Smallholder livestock and vegetable production offers similar opportunities:
•  Nutritious foods for the malnourished.
•  Market opportunities to meet high urban demand.
•  Income opportunities for women and youth.
•  Expands household incomes.
•  Generates jobs.
•  Makes use of organic urban waste and wastewater.
•  Can be considered ‘organic’ and supplied to niche markets.

Opportunities for livestock & vegetable research
Research is needed on:
•  Ways to manage the perishable nature of these products.
•  Innovative technological and institutional solutions for food safety and public health problems that suit developing countries.
•  Processes, regulations and institutional arrangements regarding use of banned or inappropriate pesticides,
polluted water or wastewater for irrigation, and untreated sewage sludge for fertilizer.
•  Innovative mechanisms that will ensure access by the poor to these growing markets.
•  Ways to include small-scale producers in markets demanding
increasingly stringent food quality, safety and uniformity standards.

>>> The African Livestock Sector:
A Research View of Priorities and Strategies

Jimmy Smith
6th Meeting of the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
26−29 Sep 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 25 Sep 2012;  4,227 views.

Livestock for nutrition
• In developing countries, livestock contribute 6−36% of protein and 2−12% of calories.
• Livestock provide food for at least 830 million food-insecure people.
• Small amounts of animal-source foods have large benefits on child growth and cognition and on pregnancy outcomes.
• A small number of countries bear most of the burden of malnutrition (India, Ethiopia, Nigeria−36% burden).

Smallholder competitiveness
Ruminant production
• Underused local feed resources and family labour give small-scale ruminant producers a comparative advantage over larger producers, who buy these.
Dairy production
• Above-normal profits of 19−28% of revenue are found in three levels of intensification of dairy production systems.
• Non-market benefits – finance, insurance, manure, traction – add 16−21% on top of cash revenue.
• Dairy production across sites in Asia, Africa, South America showed few economies of scale until opportunity costs of labour rose.
• Nos. of African smallholders still growing strongly.
Small ruminant production
• Production still dominated by poor rural livestock keepers, incl. women.
• Peri-urban fattening adds value.

>>> The CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish and its Synergies
with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Delia Grace and Tom Randolph
Third annual conference on Agricultural Research for Development: Innovations and Incentives, Uppsala, Sweden
26–27 Sep 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 13 Oct 2012;  468 views.

Lessons around innovations and incentives
• FAILURE IS GETTING EASIER TO PREDICT – but not necessarily success
• INNOVATIONS ARE THE LEVER – but often succeed in the project context but not in the real world
• PICKING WINNERS IS WISE BUT PORTFOLIO SHOULD BE WIDER– strong markets and growing sectors drive uptake
• INCENTIVES ARE CENTRAL: value chain actors need to capture visible benefits
• POLICY: not creating enabling policy so much as stopping the dead hand of disabling policy and predatory policy implementers
‘Think like a systemicist, act like a reductionist.’

>>> The Production and Consumption of Livestock Products
in Developing Countries: Issues Facing the World’s Poor

Nancy Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Mario Herrero, Shirley Tarawali, Susan MacMillan, and Delia Grace
Farm Animal Integrated Research 2012 Conference, Washington DC, USA
4–6 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 7 Mar 2012; 1,108 views.

The rising demand for livestock foods in poor countries presents
– Opportunities
• Pathway out of poverty and malnutrition
• Less vulnerability in drylands
• Sustainable mixed systems
– Threats
• Environmental degradation at local and global scales
• Greater risk of disease and poor health
• Greater risk of conflict and inequity

• Key issues for decision makers
– appreciation of the vast divide in livestock production between rich and poor countries
– intimate understanding of the specific local context for specific livestock value chains
– reliable evidence-based assessments of the hard trade-offs involved in adopting any given approach to livestock development

• Institutional innovations as important as technological/biological innovations in charting the best ways forward
– Organization within the sector
– Managing trade offs at multiple scales


>>> Livestock feeds in the CGIAR Research Programs
Alan Duncan
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) West Africa Regional Workshop on Crop Residues, Dakar, Senegal
10–13 Dec 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare on 18 Dec 2012; 3,437 views.

>>> Biomass Pressures in Mixed Farms: Implications for Livelihoods
and Ecosystems Services in South Asia & Sub-Saharan Africa

Diego Valbuena, Olaf Erenstein, Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Tahirou Abdoulaye, Alan Duncan, Bruno Gérard, and Nils Teufel
Planet Under Pressure Conference, London, UK
26-29 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Mar 2012;  1,999 views.


>>> Assessing the Potential to Change Partners’ Knowledge,
Attitude and Practices on Sustainable Livestock Husbandry in India

Sapna Jarial, Harrison Rware, Pamela Pali, Jane Poole and V Padmakumar
International Symposium on Agricultural Communication and
Sustainable Rural Development, Pantnagar, Uttarkhand, India
22–24 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 30 Nov 2012; 516 views.

Introduction to ELKS
• ‘Enhancing Livelihoods Through Livestock Knowledge Systems’ (ELKS) is an initiative
to put the accumulated knowledge of advanced livestock research directly to use
by disadvantaged livestock rearing communities in rural India.
• ELKS provides research support to Sir Ratan Tata Trust and its development partners
to address technological, institutional and policy gaps.


>>> Introducing the Technical Consortium
for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa

Polly Ericksen, Mohamed Manssouri and Katie Downie
Global Alliance on Drought Resilience and Growth, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
5 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 21 Dec 2012; 8,003 views.

What is the Technical Consortium?
• A joint CGIAR-FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] initiative,
with ILRI representing the CGIAR Centres and the FAO Investment Centre representing FAO.
• ILRI hosts the Coordinator on behalf of the CGIAR.
• Funded initially by USAID [United State Agency for International Development] for 18 months –
this is envisioned as a longer term initiative, complementing the implementation of investment plans
in the region and harnessing, developing and applying innovation and research to enhance resilience.
• An innovative partnersh–ip linking demand-driven research sustainable action for development.

What is the purpose of the Technical Consortium?
• To provide technical and analytical support to IGAD [Inter-governmental Authority on Development]
and its member countries to design and implement the CPPs [Country Programming Papers]
and the RPF [Regional Programming Framework], within the scope of
the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI).
• To provide support to IGAD and its member countries to develop regional and national
resilience-enhancing investment programmes for the long term development of ASALs [arid and semi-arid lands].
• To harness CGIAR research, FAO and others’ knowledge on drought resilience and bring it to bear on investments and policies.


>>> Mobilizing AR4D Partnerships to Improve
Access to Critical Animal-source Foods

Tom Randolph
Pre-conference meeting of the second Global Conference for Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), Punta de Este, Uruguay
27 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 29 Oct 2012; 385 views.

The challenge
• Can research accelerate livestock and aquaculture development to benefit the poor?
– Mixed record to date
– Systematic under-investment
– Also related to our research-for-development model?
• Focus of new CGIAR Research Program
– Increase productivity of small-scale systems
> ‘by the poor’ for poverty reduction
> ‘for the poor’ for food security

Correcting perceptions
1. Animal-source foods are a luxury and bad for health, so should not promote
2. Small-scale production and marketing systems are disappearing; sector is quickly industrializing
3. Livestock and aquaculture development will have negative environmental impacts

Our underlying hypothesis
• Livestock and Blue Revolutions: accelerating demand in developing countries as urbanization and incomes rise
• Industrial systems will provide a large part of the needed increase in supply to cities and the better-off in some places
• But the poor will often continue to rely on small-scale production and marketing systems
• If able to respond, they could contribute, both increasing supplies and reducing poverty
. . . and better manage the transition for many smallholder households.


>>> Index-Based Livestock Insurance:
Protecting Pastoralists against Drought-related Livestock Mortality

Andrew Mude
World Food Prize ‘Feed the Future’ event, Des Moines, USA
18 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 22 Oct 2012; 576 views.

Index-Based Livestock Insurance
• An innovative insurance scheme designed to protect pastoralists against the risk of drought-related livestock deaths
• Based on satellite data on forage availability (NDVI), this insurance pays out when forage scarcity is predicted to cause livestock deaths in an area.
• IBLI pilot first launched in northern Kenya in Jan 2010. Sold commercially by local insurance company UAP with reinsurance from Swiss Re
• Ethiopia pilot launched in Aug 2012.

Why IBLI? Social and Economic Welfare Potential
An effective IBLI program can:
• Prevent downward slide of vulnerable populations
• Stabilize expectations & crowd-in investment by the poor
• Induce financial deepening by crowding-in credit S & D
• Reinforce existing social insurance mechanisms

Determinants of IBLI Success
• 33% drop in households employing hunger strategies
• 50% drop in distress sales of assets
• 33% drop in food aid reliance (aid traps)


>>> Lessons Learned from the Application of Outcome Mapping to
an IDRC EcoHealth Project: A Double-acting Participatory Process
K Tohtubtiang, R Asse, W Wisartsakul and J Gilbert
1st Pan Asia-Africa Monitoring and Evaluation Forum, Bangkok, Thailand
26–28 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 5 Dec 2012; 1,395 views.

EcoZD Project Overview
Ecosystem Approaches to the Better Management of Zoonotic Emerging
Infectious Diseases in the Southeast Asia Region (EcoZD)
•  Funded by International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC)
•  5-year project implemented by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
•  Goals: capacity building & evidence-based knowledge•  8 Research & outreach teams in 6 countries.

>>> Mapping the interface of poverty, emerging markets and zoonoses
Delia Grace
Ecohealth 2012 conference, Kunming, China
15–18 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 23 Nov 2012; 255 views.

Impacts of zoonoses currently or in the last year
• 12% of animals have brucellosis, reducing production by 8%
• 10% of livestock in Africa have HAT, reducing their production by 15%
• 7% of livestock have TB, reducing their production by 6% and from 3–10% of human TB cases may be caused by zoonotic TB
• 17% of smallholder pigs have cysticercosis, reducing their value and creating the enormous burden of human cysticercosis
• 27% of livestock have bacterial food-borne disease, a major source of food contamination and illness in people
• 26% of livestock have leptospirosis, reducing production and acting as a reservoir for infection
• 25% of livestock have Q fever, and are a major source of infection of farmers and consumers.

>>> International Agricultural Research and Agricultural Associated Diseases
Delia Grace (ILRI) and John McDermott (IFPRI)
Workshop on Global Risk Forum at the One Health Summit 2012—
One Health–One Planet–One Future: Risks and Opportunities, Davos, Switzerland
19–22 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 5 Mar 2012; 529 views.


>>> African Beef and Sheep Markets: Situation and Drivers
Derek Baker
South African National Beef and Sheep Conference, Pretoria, South Africa
21 Jun 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 24 Nov 2012; 189 views.

African demand and consumption: looking to the future
• By 2050 Africa is estimated to become the largest world’s market in terms of pop: 27% of world’s population.
• Africa’s consumption of meat, milk and eggs will increase to 12, 15 and 11% resp. of global total (FAO, 2009)


>>> Open Knowledge Sharing to Support Learning in
Agricultural and Livestock Research for Development Projects

Peter Ballantyne
United States Agency for International Development-Technical and Operational Performance Support (USAID-TOPS) Program: Food Security and Nutrition Network East Africa Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
11–13 Jun 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 11 Jun 2012; 2,220 views


>>> Strategy and Plan of Action for Mainstreaming Gender in ILRI
Jemimah Njuki
International Women’s Day, ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya
8 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 8 Mar 2012; 876 views.


>>> Biosciences eastern and central Africa –
International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub:
Its Role in Enhancing Science and Technology Capacity in Africa

Appolinaire Djikeng
Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Vancouver, Canada
16–20 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 20 Feb 2012; 2,405 views.


>>> Review of Community Conservancies in Kenya
Mohammed Said, Philip Osano, Jan de Leeuw, Shem Kifugo, Dickson Kaelo, Claire Bedelian and Caroline Bosire
Workshop on Enabling Livestock-Based Economies in Kenya to Adapt to Climate Change:
A Review of PES from Wildlife Tourism as a Climate Change Adaptation Option, at ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya
15 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Feb 2012; 762 views.

More ‘crop per drop’? Only when ‘more milk per drop’ saves the poor as well as Nile Basin waterflows

Now it is time for the herders to cool their body

Herder boys and cattle both cool their bodies in the midday heat in the Awash River in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, posing health problems for people at such shared livestock watering sites (photo credit: ILRI).

Ten years ago, scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) established a partnership centred at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The partnership was formed to address widespread concerns that livestock consume excessive amounts of water and that livestock keeping is a major cause of water degradation. A statistic commonly reported, and believed, was that producing one kilogram of meat required 100,000 litres of water, mainly for production of livestock feed, in contrast to less than 3000 litres needed to grow most crops.

The ILRI-IWMI partners believed that these statements were neither sufficiently nuanced to note huge differences in the world’s livestock systems nor grounded in good science. But it was clear to them that if the figures were true, they needed to find ways to reduce livestock use of water resources and if the figures were not true, they needed to determine accurate estimates of water use. They were fortunate to be welcomed into the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) and the CGIAR Comprehensive Assessment of Water and Agriculture, both of which enabled the new partners to pursue research on what was quickly termed ‘livestock water productivity’ in an African context.

Many unanswered questions remain, but the following consensus emerged from the ILRI-IWMI partnership.
1. African beef production typically uses one-tenth to one-fifth the amount of water used in industrialized countries and livestock systems; 11,000–18,000 litres of water are used to produce one kilogram of beef in Africa compared to the 100,000 litres for beef production that is so often reported (see above). It is clear that industrialized livestock production systems tend to use vastly more water per unit of beef produced than Africa’s livestock keepers, who typically integrate their raising of beef stock with food cropping on small plots of land, where the livestock enhance the cropping (e.g., via manure for fertilizing the soils and draught power for ploughing the land) and the cropping enhances the livestock (e.g., via the residues of grain crops used to feed the farm animals).

2. Because cattle and other livestock serve and benefit the world’s poor farmers in many ways, with meat being only one benefit that usually comes after an animal has served a long life on a farm, the water used in African smallholder livestock production systems generates many more benefits than meat alone.

3. Over the preceding half a century, much research had been conducted to increase crop water productivity, but virtually none to increase livestock water productivity. This dearth, along with the high and rising value of many animal products, suggests that returns on investments made to develop agricultural water resources for crops will be much greater if livestock are integrated in the cropping systems and factored into the water equations.

4. Finally, there still remains much room to increase livestock water productivity in Africa’s small-scale livestock production systems. Four strategies for doing this are outlined below and are included in a book that was launched earlier today in Addis Ababa.

But before we get to that press release, listen for a moment to Don Peden, a rangeland ecologist who led this research at ILRI for many years and who says the IWMI-ILRI partnership ‘was an extraordinary example of the potential for inter-centre collaboration.

I often think the partnership was as important as the research products it generated’, says Peden. ‘Many people and institutions helped make our collaborative work on water and livestock succeed. First on the list is Doug Merrey. Many of the CPWF staff made huge contributions and provided outstanding encouragement. There are too many to mention, but they include Jonathan Woolley, Alain Vidal, Seleshi Bekele, David Molden and Simon Cook.

‘We also owe a great debt to many of our partners’, Peden goes on to say. ‘This includes professors (the late) Gabriel Kiwuwa, David Mutetitka and Denis Mpairwe from Makerere University as well as Hamid Faki from Sudan’s Agricultural Research Corporation. And special mention should be made about Shirley Tarawali, now serving as ILRI’s director for Institutional Planning, who provided day-to-day encouragement and support throughout the project and made a tremendous contribution. And we also had a unique research team in ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme that made successes possible.

In brief, the interpersonal interactions among all of these people and institutions and many others made this work possible. The success of the project lies in the people, and not just in the book.’

5 key messages regarding livestock and water—excerpted in full from the livestock chapter in the new—book follow.
(1) ‘Domestic animals contribute significantly to agricultural GDP throughout the Nile Basin and are major users of its water resources. However, investments in agricultural water development have largely ignored the livestock sector, resulting in negative or sub-optimal investment returns because the benefits of livestock were not considered and low-cost livestock-related interventions, such as provision of veterinary care, were not part of water project budgets and planning. Integrating livestock and crop development in the context of agricultural water development will often increase water productivity and avoid animal-induced land and water degradation. . . .

(2) ‘Under current management practices, livestock production and productivity cannot meet projected demands for animal products and services in the Nile Basin. Given the relative scarcity of water and the large amounts already used for agriculture, increased livestock water productivity is needed over large areas of the Basin. Significant opportunities exist to increase livestock water productivity through four basic strategies. These are:
‘a) utilizing feed sources that have inherently low water costs for their production
‘b) adoption of the state of the art animal science technology and policy options that increase animal and herd production efficiencies
‘c) adoption of water conservation options
‘d) optimally balancing the spatial distributions of animal feeds, drinking water supplies and livestock stocking rates across the basin and its landscapes. . . .

(3) ‘Suites of intervention options based on these strategies are likely to be more effective than a single-technology policy or management practice. Appropriate interventions must take account of spatially variable biophysical and socio-economic conditions. . . .

(4) ‘For millennia, pastoral livestock production has depended on mobility, enabling herders to cope with spatially and temporally variable rainfall and pasture. Recent expansion of rain-fed and irrigated croplands, along with political border and trade barriers has restricted mobility. Strategies are needed to ensure that existing and newly developed cropping practices allow for migration corridors along with water and feed availability. Where pastoralists have been displaced by irrigation or encroachment of agriculture into dry-season grazing and watering areas, feeds based on crop residues and by-products can offset loss of grazing land. . . .

(5) ‘In the Nile Basin, livestock currently utilize about 4 per cent of the total rainfall, and most of this takes place in rain-fed areas where water used is part of a depletion pathway that does not include the basin’s blue water resources. In these rain-fed areas, better vegetation and soil management can promote conversion of excessive evaporation to transpiration while restoring vegetative cover and increasing feed availability. Evidence suggests that livestock production can be increased significantly without placing additional demands on river water.’


Cows on the banks of the Nile (in Luxor, Egypt) (photo on Flickr by Travis S).

Now (finally) on to that press release.

‘Tens of millions of small-scale farmers in 11 countries need improved stake in development of the Nile River Basin—News conference, Addis Ababa, 5 Nov 2012

Alan Duncan at the Quick Feeds Synthesis meeting

ILRI livestock feed specialist Alan Duncan (right), joint Basin leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme, participated in a news conference today in Addis Ababa launching a new study on the Nile Basin and poverty reduction (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

As planetary emergencies go, finding ways to feed livestock more efficiently, with less water, typically do not find their way into ‘top ten’ lists. But today that topic was part of a discussion by a group of experts gathered in the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to highlight the Nile River Basin’s potential to help 90 million people lift themselves and their families out of absolute poverty.

Despite attempts to cooperate, the 11 countries that share the Nile river, including a new nation, South Sudan, and the drought-ridden Horn of Africa, often disagree about how this precious and finite resource should be shared among the region’s some 180 million people—half of whom live below the poverty line—who rely on the river for their food and income.

But a new book by the CPWF argues that the risk of a ‘water war’ is secondary to ensuring that the poor have fair and easy access to the Nile. It incorporates new research to suggest that the river has enough water to supply dams and irrigate parched agriculture in all 11 countries—but that policymakers risk turning the poor into water ‘have nots’ if they don’t enact efficient and inclusive water management policies.

The authors of the book, The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, include leading hydrologists, economists, agriculturalists and social scientists. This book is the most comprehensive overview to date of an oft-discussed but persistently misunderstood river and region. To discuss the significance of the findings in the book were Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, a senior water resources and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Simon Langan, head of the East Africa and Nile Basin office of IWMI; and Alan Duncan, a livestock scientist at ILRI.

Drawing water from the Nile

Drawing water from the Nile (photo on Flickr by Challenge Program on Water and Food).

Smallholder farmers need improved stake in Nile’s development
There is enough water in the Nile basin to support development, but small farmers are at risk of being marginalized, says the new book, which finds that the Nile River, together with its associated tributaries and rainfall, could provide 11 countries—including a new country, South Sudan, and the drought-plagued countries of the Horn of Africa—with enough water to support a vibrant agriculture sector, but that the poor in the region who rely on the river for their food and incomes risk missing out on these benefits without effective and inclusive water management policies.

The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, published by CPWF, incorporates new research and analysis to provide the most comprehensive analysis yet of the water, agriculture, governance and poverty challenges facing policymakers in the countries that rely on the water flowing through one of Africa’s most important basins. The book also argues that better cooperation among the riparian countries is required to share this precious resource.

This book will change the way people think about the world’s longest river’, said Vladimir Smakhtin, water availability and access theme leader at IWMI and one of the book’s co-authors.

Agriculture, the economic bedrock of all 11 Nile countries, and the most important source of income for the majority of the region’s people, is under increased pressure to feed the basin’s burgeoning population—already 180 million people, half of which live below the poverty line. According to the book, investing in a set of water management approaches known as ‘agricultural water management’, which include irrigation and rainwater collection, could help this water-scarce region grow enough food despite these dry growing conditions.

‘Improved agricultural water management, which the book shows is so key to the region’s economic growth, food security and poverty reduction, must be better integrated into the region’s agricultural policies, where it currently receives scant attention’, says Seleshi Bekele, senior water resources and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and one of the book’s co-authors. ‘It is tempting for these governments to focus on large-scale irrigation schemes, such as existing schemes in Sudan and Egypt, but more attention must also be paid to smaller, on-farm water management approaches that make use of rainwater and stored water resources such as aquifers.’

Lack of access to water is another area that could negatively impact the poor, according to the book. In the Nile Basin, poor people live further away from water sources than the wealthy, which forces them to travel longer distances to collect water. Women that are responsible for collecting water for their households and smallholder farmers who rely on rainwater to irrigate their crops would therefore benefit from policies that give them greater access to water in the Nile Basin.

We need to look beyond simply using water for crop production if we are to comprehensively address the issues of poverty in the region’, says David Molden, IMWI’s former director general and one of the book’s co-authors. ‘Water is a vital resource for many other activities, including small-scale enterprises like livestock and fisheries. This should not be forgotten in the rush to develop large-scale infrastructure.’

Improving governance, especially coordination among Nile Basin country governments, is another crucial aspect of ensuring that the poor benefit from the basin’s water resources. The book argues that the establishment of a permanent, international body—the Nile Basin Commission—to manage the river would play a key role in strengthening the region’s agriculture, socio-economic development and regional integration.

‘The Nile Basin is as long as it is complex—its poverty, productivity, vulnerability, water access and socio-economic conditions vary considerably’, says Molden. ‘Continued in-depth research and local analysis is essential to further understanding the issues and systems, and to design appropriate measures that all countries can sign on to.’

Interestingly, the book counters a common tendency to exaggerate reports of conflict among these countries over these complex management issues. ‘Past experience has shown that countries tend to cooperate when it comes to sharing water’, says Alain Vidal, CPWF’s director. ‘On the Nile, recent agreements between Egypt and Ethiopia show that even the most outspoken Basin country politicians are very aware that they have much more to gain through cooperation than confrontation.’

For more information, visit the website of the Challenge Program on Water and Food.

The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods is available for purchase from Routeledge as of 5 Nov 2012. IWMI’s Addis Ababa office is donating 300 copies of the book to local water managers, policymakers and institutions in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the region. If you are interested in receiving a copy please contact Nigist Wagaye [at] n.wagaye@cgiar.org.


The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) aims to increase the resilience of social and ecological systems through better water management for food production (crops, fisheries and livestock). The CPWF does this through an innovative research and development approach that brings together a broad range of scientists, development specialists, policymakers and communities to address the challenges of food security, poverty and water scarcity. The CPWF is currently working in six river basins globally: Andes, Ganges, Limpopo, Mekong, Nile and Volta www.waterandfood.org

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a nonprofit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of land and water resources in agriculture to benefit poor people in developing countries. IWMI’s mission is “to improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and the environment.” IWMI has its headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and regional offices across Asia and Africa. The Institute works in partnership with developing countries, international and national research institutes, universities and other organizations to develop tools and technologies that contribute to poverty reduction as well as food and livelihood security. www.iwmi.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles livestock play in pathways out of poverty. ILRI research products help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce their risks of livestock-related diseases. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other hubs in East, West and southern Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia. www.ilri.org

CGIAR is a global research partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. It is carried out by the 15 centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. www.cgiar.org

The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems examines how we can intensify agriculture, while still protecting the environment and lifting millions of farm families out of poverty. The program focuses on the three critical issues of water scarcity, land degradation and ecosystem services. It will also make substantial contributions in the areas of food security, poverty alleviation and health and nutrition. The initiative combines the resources of 14 CGIAR centers and numerous external partners to provide an integrated approach to natural resource management research. This program is led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). www.wle.cgiar.org

Alan Duncan is a livestock feed specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and joint Basin leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme (NBDC). Duncan joined ILRI in 2007 coming from the Macaulay Institute in Scotland. He has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. Livestock-water interactions are a key issue in Ethiopia, particularly in relation to competition for water between livestock feed and staple crops. This is a core research topic for the NBDC and Duncan has built on pioneering work in this field led by ILRI’s Don Peden. Duncan manages a range of research for development projects and acts as ILRI’s focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics.



As the cooking pot turns: Staple crop and animal foods are being ‘recalibrated’ for a warmer world

The cows get automated

CGIAR has just published a really useful snapshot of the world’s major food crops, animals and tree and water resources and what is likely to happen to them in the face of climate change, the effects of which on food production will require reexamining what’s in the cooking pot, especially in regions where people already do not get enough to eat. Above, a worker on a small farm in Limuru, Kenya, pushes maize stalks (after their cobs have been harvested) through a pulverizer before feeding the stover to the cows; this is one way small-scale farmers can improve their dairy cow feeding and milk yields while reducing the amount of methane their cows generate per unit of milk produced. (Photo on Flickr by Luigi Guarino.)

CGIAR, the world’s leading international agricultural-research-for-development organization, has just done something really useful. It has published a snapshot of how climate change is likely to affect key food crops and livestock farming and natural resources in poor countries, where these staple foods and resources remain the backbone not only of food security but also of national economies. What happens to maize and wheat and rice and cattle and goats and sheep and trees and water, for example, will foretell what happens to the 1 billion people living in severe poverty today.

This snapshot summarizes the state of knowledge on 21 CGIAR crop commodities as well as on the ‘living’ livestock assets of the poor and the water and tree resources on which they depend.  The study, Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate, should help decision-makers at all levels prepare better for future food production on our warming planet.

The summaries, written by scientists at 14 of the 15 CGIAR centres, outline the importance of each commodity for food and nutrition security, its biological vulnerability to climate change, and the likely socio-economic vulnerability of the people affected.

The study shows points up some surprising gaps in our knowledge. For example, crops like cassava and yam, which make critically important contributions to the food security of millions of people and are highly climate-resilient, have been little studied in relation to a changing climate. We also know little about how multiple stressors of animals and plants may combine. We also have big knowledge gaps about likely impacts of climate change on weed, pest and disease complexes. We need this information to help identify and evaluate the trade-offs and synergies of particular climate change adaptation and mitigation options in different places.

A few things are already for certain. We must develop hardier varieties of maize, rice and wheat—the three main food staples around the world—quickly to avoid declines in their yields. And the common sources of protein—livestock, fish, and even soybeans—all face difficulties in adapting to the new normal.

Crops and animals till now neglected by major research initiatives, and now considered ‘old-fashioned’ by many, are likely to play an increasingly important role on global food production once again. Drought-resistant camels and goats, ‘famine foods’ such as heat-tolerant cassava and millet, and dual-purpose crops such as protein-rich cowpea (aka black-eyed peas) and groundnut that feed people and animals alike are all likely to come back to the fore in regions with drying or more unpredictable climates.

In some drying regions, smallholders will be forced to switch from crop growing to livestock raising, and/or from raising dairy cows to raising dairy or other goats. This matters to many. As the new CCAFS policy brief reports: ‘In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, nearly one billion people living on less than two dollars per day keep livestock; two-thirds of those are women. Fisheries and aquaculture support an additional half-billion people around the world. There is no easy answer for adapting these sectors to changing climates.

But the benefits to people from eating fish and animal protein—as well as raising livestock for their livelihoods—will not evaporate as the planet warms; answers must be found in securing their continued availability.’

While the news seems grim, adaptation is possible. Recent CCAFS research in Africa found that farmers are already adapting to climate change. Some 34% of the farmers interviewed in Africa, for example, have reduced their livestock herd sizes and 48% are managing their feed resources better. The better livestock diets also lower livestock methane emissions per kilogram of milk or meat produced. On the other hand, only 25% of the farmers interviewed have begun using manure or compost to improve their soils and only 10% have begun to manage or store agricultural water.

For more information, visits the CCAFS blog page on Recalibrating food production in a changing climate—What do we know and what can be done?

Read a new policy brief by CCAFS that outlines the challenges required in feeding the estimated 9–10 billion people who will live in this world by 2050. In the brief, the need for a complete recalibration of what crops we grow and animals we raise around the world is detailed, as climate change will bring challenges in weather, water use, and increased pests and diseases of crops and animals alike.

The policy brief is based on a new CCAFS working paper. Read the paper by Philip Thornton and Laura Cramer (eds.). 2012. Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate. CCAFS Working Paper 23. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

This report was co-edited by ILRI scientist Phil Thornton, who is a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who also coordinates one of CCAFS’ research groups. CCAFS is a global partnership launched in 2011 between the research centres of CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership. CCAFS facilitates and integrates thematic work across multiple CGIAR Centres and other global, regional and local partners. Its key target groups are resource-poor agricultural producers, and rural and urban consumers of food, in low-income and middle-income countries in the tropics and sub-tropics.

Philip Thornton explains about CCAFS: ‘There are many other examples of the way in which CCAFS is working across disciplines and mandates, and across temporal and spatial scales. These include linking to modelling communities from different fields such as crop modelling and global integrated assessment modelling, and partnering with organisations with skills in the development and provision of downscaled models, decision-tools and datasets that provide the necessary granularity for national and sub-national planning. As well as linking across scientific disciplines, CCAFS recognizes the need to span boundaries across research and policy domains. To link knowledge and action entails involvement of policy-makers in all stages of the research cycle, and an understanding of policy as dynamic and polycentric across the public, private and civil society sectors.’

Read of interviews of Phil Thornton in the following media this week:

The Guardian’s Global Development Blog: When the chips are down: potato, maize and rice crop yields set to fall—Farmers in developing world will have to grow different food to prevent world going hungry in changing climate, says report, 31 Oct 2012.

BBC: Bananas could replace potatoes in warming world, 31 Oct 2012.

KARI agricultural innovations big hit with young smart business farmers: ‘Those are OUR people’

13th Biennial Scientific Conference at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Nairobi

 A few of the tents on the exhibit grounds at the 13th Biennial Scientific Conference held at KARI in Nairobi from 22–26 Oct 2012 (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

The 13th Biennial Scientific Conference and Exhibition at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) took place last week at KARI’s headquarters in Nairobi’s leafy suburb of Loresho.

This correspondent—enamoured of the sea of white tents erected across KARI’s rolling green lawns to showcase hundreds of exhibitors of ‘Agricultural Products, Technologies & Innovations’—never actually made it to the proceedings of the conference itself. But if the conference was anything like the exhibits, it must have been a great success.

My organization, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), tried to distinguish its exhibit on livestock forage research and capacity building from the hundreds of other tents just like it with decorations of African artefacts—wooden bowls, woven baskets and traditional cloths and the like—as well as safari chairs inviting passersby to come inside for a conversation. So successful were we that many people upon entering the ILRI tent promptly asked to buy some of the display items (and were promptly disappointed when we told them they weren’t for sale.) The big cattle and camel bells were also a big hit, with the visitors having to explain to ILRI staff the difference between the bell sounds appropriate for cows and those for bulls!

We were at KARI to promote opportunities for young Kenyan scientists to train at ILRI, the headquarters of which are located just a 15-minute drive from KARI. And we showcased our collaborative research with KARI scientists, including Solomon Mwendia, on disease-resistant varieties of Napier grass, aka ‘elephant grass’, on which so many Kenyan smallholder farmers depend for feeding their milk cows.

ILRI forage seed display at KARI event

Forage seed display at the ILRI booth (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

Visitors showed great interest in ILRI printed materials about improved forages and feeds (lab lab, oats, vetch), seed samples and Napier grass cuttings and leaves, and a research-based feed assessment tool for selecting appropriate feeds for different regions.

13th Biennial Scientific Conference at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Nairobi

Alexandra Jorge, head of ILRI’s Forage Genebank, in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, talks to a visitor in ILRI’s booth on the exhibit grounds at the week-long KARI scientific conference; in the basket are varieties of disease-resistant Napier from the genebank (photo by ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

‘The demand for information was huge’, says Alexandra Jorge, who heads ILRI’s Forage Genebank, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and came down to Nairobi to answer questions and provide expertise at KARI’s week-long event. ‘We had questions about the best feeds for dairy goats, how to maximize forage production for feeding dairy cows, the best methods for raising pigs, the best breeds of chickens to keep, how to transition to stall-fed (‘zero grazed’) dairy animals, how to start hydroponic and screen-house forage production, and what climate change is likely to change in Kenyan agriculture—and what livestock farmers can do now to cope with it.’

‘I really enjoyed participating in this exhibit,’ Jorge says ‘having real contact with our users and clients and chatting about their challenges and projects. It made me think hard about what we researchers do and the impact and benefits we can bring to farmers. It also made me realize how little I know about the work that many colleagues are doing and that we should make this information much more available.’

‘It was amazing to see the amount of interesting and innovative work KARI and many Kenyan universities are doing. Many people had stories to share, or tasty food, like the amazing sorghum sausages that taste just like meat!’

Sausages for sale at KARI event

Sausages for sale at the KARI event (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

ILRI research manager Sandra Rwese was most impressed with the number of young entrepreneurs at this event looking for agricultural innovations and good ideas. ‘Scores of youth finding few jobs in urban areas appear to be calling city life quits and heading to rural farming villages. The numbers of these young new farmers that I met at the KARI event are much larger than I’d expected. This young generation is clearly keen on taking agriculture and livestock farming to the next level.’

Jane Gitau, a communications officer at ILRI, agrees. ‘Many of the visitors to ILRI’s tent inquiring about better methods of livestock keeping appeared to be in their thirties and early forties. They wanted information to take away with them; they wanted to learn more efficient methods of farming. It was refreshing to witness this drive to make agriculture a knowledge-based business.’

KARI display of range grass seed at KARI event

KARI display of range grass seed at KARI event (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

‘Walking from booth to booth’, Gitau said, ‘I was amazed to see all that KARI had to offer from its 22 centres countrywide, from Kibos to Kiboko, Muguga to Thika, each with a different mandate in agricultural research. Staff from KARI’s Kiboko Research Station, located about 150 km southeast of Nairobi and the institute’s drylands station, exhibited various imported and hybrid rangeland grasses they are trialing. KARI’s Muguga Station was exhibiting some of Kenya’s important plant and livestock genetic resources. And an improved rice variety grown under irrigation at Kibos, in western Kenya, was on display, along with rice flour, rice cakes, rice doughnuts and rice cookies!’

Selling traditional Kamba baskets at KARI event

Traditional Taita woven baskets for sale at the KARI event (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

Finally, Gitau remarked on the close connections KARI has to its constituency. ‘Those of us manning the ILRI booth often directed visitors to the many KARI booths to get their specific farming and livestock keeping questions answered. These people sought practical help and region-specific recommendations we didn’t have’, Gitau said. ‘When I asked people if they knew where to find KARI, I several times got the reply, ‘Hao ni watu wetu’, colloquial Swahili for, “Those are our people”.


The road back to Rio: Turning straw into gold — Crop ‘wastes’ at the heart of greener livestock development

Cow consumes the wastes of a crop harvest in West Bengal

A West Bengal cow consumes straw (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Key findings were presented today on ways to enhance the value of coarse crop ‘wastes’—better termed ‘residues’—as feed for cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats and other ruminant farm animals. The talk was given at a ‘learning event’ that is part of Agriculture Day at the Rio-20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Carlos Seré, former director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) now serving as chief strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), delivered this presentation on behalf of Michael Blümmel, an animal nutritionist based in ILRI’s office in Hyderabad, India, who could not make the event as scheduled.

The gist of the presentation is that wheat and rice straw, maize stover, groundnut haulms and other residues of crops that remain after their grain or pods have been harvested for human consumption are major feed resources for livestock in developing countries. Widespread and increasing shortages of arable land and water in these countries are increasing the importance of these crop residues for livestock feed, and their importance will only increase over the coming decades as human population grows and as more and more people move out of poverty and begin adding more milk and meat to their diets.

In recent years, livestock and crop improvement researchers have worked together to improve the fodder value, in terms of both quantity and quality, of crop residues at their source. They’ve done this in crop improvement programs that incorporate fodder traits in crop selection, breeding and new cultivar release criteria. Key cereals and legumes are tackled and both conventional and molecular breeding techniques are employed. Fodder traders and feed processors have started employing additional interventions to further improve the superior crop straws and stover.

The following examples illustrate the many promising findings from this collaborative fodder research.

01  Nutritionally significant variations exist in crop residue fodder value among existing cultivars that can be exploited through simple phenotyping without detriment to primary crop traits such as grain and pod yields.
As a ballpark figure, 5 percentage units in digestibility can be exploited in crop residue fodder quality without detriment to gain or pod yield in all key cereal and leguminous crops. The advantage of daily milk yield accruing from 5% difference in digestibility of basal diet in well designed ration is about 5 kg per day due to a multiplicator effect from both higher energy concentration in the diet and higher intake.

02  Simple and network-sharable food/feed/fodder nutritional phenotyping techniques have been established, such as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) platforms that support whole-plant crop improvement paradigms and programs.
ILRI NIRS platforms in India and Ethiopia are being used by other research programs (e.g., the new CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish) and research organizations (e.g., the International Center from Tropical Agriculture and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas). Staff of national agricultural research institutions from the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have been trained in the NIRS technology and have access to network-shared NIRS equations. NIRS is increasingly being used to test for more qualitative grain traits such as lysine, tryptophan, iron, zinc and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with the aim of optimizing whole plants. This collaborative research is facilitating the analysis of 50 to 100 cultivars every day and gaining information about all their pertinent grain and crop residue traits.

03  Fodder value can be further increased through conventional crop breeding (such as recurrent selection) and molecular crop breeding (such as quantitative trait loci [QTL] identification and backcrossing).
Identification of stay-green QTLs and their backcrossing into elite sorghum varieties could increase stover digestibility by 3 to 5 percentage units while also increasing the sorghum plant’s drought resistance and water-use efficiencies.

04  In mixed crop-and-livestock agricultural production systems, the rates of adoption of new crop cultivars improved for both food and feed/fodder traits appear to be better than that for adoption of new cultivars improved for food traits only.
In a recent maize project in East Africa, farmers ranked stover traits 2.4 and grain yield 2.9 on a scale of 3. Farmers were most likely to adopt new maize cultivars that had improved stover as well as grain traits. Anecdotal  evidence from groundnut adoption studies in India suggests that farmers prefer relatively small additive advantages—say 10% more pod + 10% more haulm + 10% more haulm quality—over (often theoretical) drastic increases in pod yield.

05 Participants in fodder value chains for straw and stover profit from superior straw and stover.
Price premiums for 3 to 5 percentage units in digestibility are in the range of 10 to 30%. There is higher demand for higher quality crop residues and superior sorghum stover is now regularly transported more than 400 km in parts of India. There are significant employment opportunities in harvesting, chopping, transporting and selling these crop residues.

06  Further improvement of superior straw and stover, in the form of supplementation, fortification or densification, can be done in feed processing, with productivity levels achieved from such processed but largely by-product-based feeds being four or more times greater than current levels of production.
Complete rations based on more than on 80% by-products (50–60% straws and stovers) can support 15–16 kg of milk daily in dairy buffaloes, about 1 kg live-weight gain in cattle and 120–130 g in sheep. Complete rations are suitable for smallholder farmers because the rations need not entail complex feed processing options; simply chopping and supplementing residues can suffice.

07  Increasing current yields of animals in India, such as by doubling the average daily yield of 3.6 kg of milk (across buffalo, crossbred and local cattle herds), would reduce levels of greenhouse gases dramatically, decreasing methane emission from dairy production by more than 1 million tons per year.
This is straightforward; increasing average daily milk yields in India from 3.6 to 6 to 7 kg per animal per day would reduce methane production from dairy animals relative to the same amount of milk produced by about 1 million tons per year.

In addition, there are good prospects for mainstreaming such multi-dimensional crop improvement outputs. For example, new CGIAR Research Programs (such as those on maize, rice, dryland cereals, and grain legumes) have already adopted the approach and have incorporated fodder value as high-priority traits in these crops.

Read more
Read more about the context for this livestock feeds learning event at Agriculture Day at Rio+20 on this ILRI News Blog:
The Road Back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’, 18 Jun 2012.

Follow the presentations and discussions of this learning event on Twitter as @agricultureday and check updates via the Twitter-tags #RioPlus20 and #Rio4Ag and the Facebook page for ARDD. You can also follow CGIAR at Rio on this landing page on the CGIAR Consortium website.

Read more about ILRI’s crop residue research:
Dual-purpose groundnut, pigeonpea, millet and sorghum raise milk yields in dairy-intensive India, 8 Apr 2012.

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis, 17 Jan 2011.

The road back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’

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Cattle graze on Colombia's eastern plains, or Llanos (photo on Flickr by CIAT/Neil Palmer).


Several hundred people in Rio de Janeiro today will be discussing and debating a topic not often included in high-profile meetings. The topic is how we can use improved livestock feed to reduce both poverty and climate change.

The discussions today will take place at one of 13 ‘learning events’ that are part of an Agriculture and Rural Development Day at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Staff from CGIAR  Centres are helping to organize and are participating in events throughout this day.

Given that the key messages of this particular learning event run counter to much current thinking about livestock, the participants will share and discuss scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of improved feeding practices, particularly their potential for contributing significantly to climate change mitigation while improving livestock production.

On the table today are both fodders, coarse foods composed of entire plants or the leaves and stalks of cereal crops, and bulky grass or hay forages. The learning event, titled ‘LivestockPlus—How can sustainable intensification of livestock production through improved feeding practices help realize both livelihood as well as environmental benefits?’, will deliver the following three fundamental messages.

New feeding practices can increase livestock production while decreasing its ecological ‘hoofprint’

New livestock feeding practices, like the use of improved dual-purpose crops and high-quality forages, offer significant potential for sustainable intensification of agricultural production to enhance livelihoods while also reducing livestock’s ecological ‘hoofprint’.

Improved forages, like forests, will capture carbon

Improved tropical forages offer the further advantage of sequestering large amounts of carbon—on a scale similar to that of forests—with the possibility of reducing emissions of nitrous oxide and methane per unit of livestock product. There is evidence that the potential of sown forages to sequester carbon (assuming good pasture and livestock management) is second only to that of forests and that sown forages could realize 60–80% of agriculture’s total potential to mitigate climate change.

Better feeding practices will allow mixed crop-livestock farmers to produce more food more sustainably

If widely applied by the vast army of ‘mixed’ smallholder farmers, who raise livestock as well as grow crops, and who are the mainstay of global food security, improved livestock feeding practices could deliver huge increases in food production at reduced environmental cost against a background of rising livestock production and consumption in the developing world.

The result of numerous global initiatives and extensive testing, this work offers practical examples of how improved feeds can raise the production and incomes of smallholder farmers. Superior forage grasses widely adopted in Latin America, for example, already generate up to USD4 billion in Brazil alone. And improved tropical forages have also been adopted widely in Southeast Asia since the start of their promotion in 1995. A recent review indicates that continued adoption of improved feeds, including sown forages, could significantly reduce greenhouse gases on a global scale, while enhancing the livelihoods of the one billion people dependent on livestock-cropping systems.

What remains to be done
To scale up these improved feed resources so that they contribute to a transformed food system, we need more precsie understanding of the impacts of livestock on climate change, with the impacts differentiated by specific livestock-cropping systems, as well as of the potential for improved feeding practices to mitigate climate change. To make livestock and crop production in the tropics more climate friendly through improved feeding practices, smallholders must be given stronger incentives to market their livestock products and to sequester carbon through improved land management. Smallholders might be encouraged to adopt sown (and carbon-storing) forages, for example, through schemes instituted to pay them for the environmental services they provide.

What could be achieved
With donor support for research to obtain conclusive data and to provide policymakers with support for their decision-making, a functional system for implementing the LivestockPlus concept and associated strategies could be available within the next 5–6 years.

The program for this learning event
The program for this learning event includes a keynote presentation on the role of forages and livestock production in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by CIAT soil scientist and agroecologist Aracely Castro; this keynote will be followed by three short case-study introductions on the following topics.

Carbon sequestration in livestock production for climate change mitigation: Implications for policy development in Brazil, presented by Embrapa beef cattle researcher Davi José Bungenstab.

Livestock production and climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia: Technical innovation for environmental and livelihood benefits, presented by Carlos Seré, former director general of ILRI and now chief strategist for IFAD (note: Seré is speaking on behalf of ILRI animal nutritionist Michael Blümmel).

Climate-smart silvopastoral systems for a green livestock economy, presented by CATIE director Muhammad Ibrahim.

These case study presentations will be followed by parallel group discussions on each of the three cases to answer such questions as:
What are the main research findings that support the technological or policy innovation, including evidence of livelihood and environmental benefits?
What were key lessons learned from the research leading to this innovation?
What are the requirements for scaling it up?

The session will close with a moderated panel discussion in plenary with the keynote speaker and case study presenters.

Institutions involved
CATIE is a regional centre of excellence based in Costa Rica that works on solutions for the environment and development in rural communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CIAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Colombia, works to increase the eco-efficiency of agriculture to reduce hunger and poverty and to improve human health in the tropics.

EMBRAPA is the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, which works for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness.

ILRI, the International Livestock Research Institute, based in Africa, works to reduce hunger, poverty, ill health and environmental degradation through enhanced livestock systems for poor people in the developing world.

Presenters at the event
This learning event will be chaired by Elcio Guimarães, who is director of research for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Discussions at the session will be summarized by Nathan Russell, a key organizer of this session who leads corporate communications work at CIAT. One of the three scheduled case study speakers, Michael Blümmel of ILRI, is unable to attend; his presentation will be made by Carlos Seré, former director general of ILRI and now chief strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Follow the event on the web
Today, 18 Jun 2012, proceedings of the Agriculture and Rural Development Day will be webcast live (the event takes place from 11.30–13.00 Rio time), and you can ask questions and interact with the organizers via Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow the presentations and discussions of this learning event on Twitter as @agricultureday and check updates via the Twitter-tags #RioPlus20 and #Rio4Ag and the Facebook page for ARDD. You can also follow CGIAR at Rio on this landing page on the CGIAR Consortium website.

Changing the fortunes of farmers in Ethiopia through better livestock feed

This very brief photofilm (1:23 minutes) shares the memorable and powerful story of Gebremichael Desta, an Ethiopian farmer whose life has changed by the use of improved livestock feed. 

If you climb up the rickety ladder on to the roof of the stone dwelling where Gebremichael Desta lives with his family and livestock—he keeps his hay on the roof—you can gaze across a world which looks much as it must have done many centuries ago. Ploughmen shout encouragement to their oxen, women urge pack animals over the stony ground and buzzards wheel above the terraced fields. There is not a machine in sight; nothing to indicate that this is the 21st century.

But appearances can deceive. ‘The difference between the past and present?’ muses Desta. ‘It’s like the distance between the sky and the earth.’ Today, the families living in these remote highlands—much of Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, is over 2000 metres above sea level—learn about the importance of family planning and good nutrition. Older generations never did. ‘When I was young, we were entirely dependent on traditional medicines if we fell sick, but now we have access to modern health care,’ says Desta.

Recent years have also witnessed dramatic changes in the way he and his neighbours manage their land and livestock. A few years ago, at this time of day, his animals—two oxen, a dairy cow and calf, a donkey, 10 sheep—would have been grazing in the valley below, watched over by one of his five children. Now they remain at the homestead, and the fodder is brought to them, rather than the other way around.

These changes have been inspired by a five-year project, Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers or IPMS, in short, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  In 10 districts across Ethiopia, the project has helped to improve the value chains—the links between producers, the suppliers of farm inputs and markets—for a range of crops and livestock products.

The project began with a lengthy series of consultations with farmers and local government staff. Together, they identified which farm commodities had the potential to improve local incomes and livelihoods. ‘The main candidates were milk and butter, sheep for fattening and beekeeping,’ recalls Gebremedhin Woldewahid, the project’s research and development officer in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘But the more we talked, the more we realised there was a major limiting factor for all these commodities—a lack of nutritious fodder.’ Much of the district suffered from overgrazing and heavily degraded soils. Tackling this was to be a priority.

A fairer, greener world

‘In 2006, before the project really got under way, this valley would have been parched and dusty and full of livestock at this time of year,’ explains Kidan Kindeya, a young woman who works as a development agent for Habes Peasant Association, of which Desta is vice-chairman. Today, there is not a grazing animal in sight and the vegetation is green and lush. Here and there, the grass has been harvested with a scythe; elsewhere it is almost knee-high, despite the fact that there has been little rain recently.

It is now three years since the peasant association agreed to ban grazing in the valley bottom, an area of some 280 hectares, and allow the land to regenerate naturally. ‘Before we enclosed the area, the ground was very compacted, especially by horses, and the grass was sparse and unpalatable for our sheep and cows,’ recalls Desta. ‘Now we can harvest our plots three times a year, and the quality of the fodder is excellent.’

There are numerous benefits to the ‘cut and carry’ system now operating in many valleys in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘My milk yields have risen and my animals are much healthier,’ says Desta. He also believes that by keeping animals at the homesteads, there is less risk of infectious diseases passing from one to another. The restoration of grazing lands has also led to an increase in flowers, providing a rich supply of pollen for honey bees. As a result, farmers practicing apiculture have benefited greatly from the new methods of pasture management.

In the past, children used to watch over the grazing livestock, which meant they did not go to school. Now they are attending classes. Farmers also used to spend a lot of time travelling long distances to buy fresh grass and hay. Now many have a surplus. This has proved especially important for the poorer households without livestock, which are often headed by widows. ‘They received no benefit in the past from areas like this, before the enclosures,’ explains Kidan Kindeya. ‘They had no livestock to graze, and there was nothing for them to harvest.’ Now, every family is allocated the same amount of land in the valley and those without livestock can harvest their grass and sell it. Two harvests a year yield fodder worth around 10,000 Ethiopian birr (USD740) per hectare.

Besides helping farmers to improve the supply of natural fodder, the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the peasant associations have encouraged farmers to grow their own supplies. Training centres, many with colourful murals depicting the new ways of farming, have provided the know-how and materials to establish Napier grass, tree lucerne and other fodder crops. Now you see them growing around almost every homestead, besides plots of fruit and vegetables.

Spreading the word

‘When I was young,’ says an old priest outside the Orthodox church in Cherkos Haremere, ‘there was thick forest all over this hillside.’ All that remains is a fine stand of African olive trees around the church, the site’s sanctity protecting them from axe and fire. Over the years, a rapidly rising population and the ever-increasing demand for fuelwood, cropland and pasture transformed the rest of the landscape, much of which suffers from erosion and overgrazing.  It is a scene repeated across the district, but gradually, thanks to the efforts of the peasant associations and the introduction of new management techniques, degraded land is being brought back to life.

Four years ago, farmers in Baati-ero agreed to establish enclosures on the sloping land between the valley bottom and the village itself. They kept their animals out, planted fast-growing grasses and leguminous trees, and dug long ditches to harvest and retain rainwater. ‘We hardly used to get any fodder here at all,’ says a local farmer, Tadele Teklay, ‘but this year I’ve been able to get about five donkey loads.’

The farmers are so impressed by what they have achieved that they recently decided to establish enclosures in the valley bottom – something they originally resisted. Many, like Teklay, have also decided to reduce the number of livestock they keep.  ‘Now, we don’t talk about how many animals we have, but how much money we can make from each of them,’ he says.  ‘It’s the quality that matters, not the quantity, and the better the feed, as well as the breed, the more money we’ll make.’

Much of the technical advice that has enabled farmers to improve their productivity and gain access to better markets has been provided by Gebremedhin Woldewahid and the IPMS project, but most of the training has been carried out by the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development and by development agents like Kidan Kindeya. ‘That means that when the project comes to an end, hardly anybody will notice we’ve left,’ says Woldewahid with satisfaction.

One of the reasons why many of the activities encouraged by IPMS are spreading swiftly is because they make good financial, as well as environmental, sense. ‘You can see that with the fodder enclosures,’ says Berhe Fiseha, who chairs the project’s regional advisory and learning committee in Tigray. ‘They began establishing them in one peasant association, then they spread to four others, and now you’ll see enclosures being used to restore grassland all over the district.’

When asked what he has gained in recent years, Gebremichael Desta responds with one word: knowledge. He still regrets that he left school at the age of 17. He was a bright child, but his parents, traditional peasant farmers, had little appreciation of the value of education. Desta is justly proud that his eldest son has a diploma in agriculture and now works as a development agent, and his eldest daughter is studying at university.

‘If you want to survive, and you want to improve your life, then you must take advantage of the opportunities that come your way,’ he says. ‘There are many things which we now do differently, and we have many technologies that our parents never had or knew about. For me, knowledge is the key to everything.’

Story by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262


Making Asian agriculture smarter


A cow feeds on improved CIAT forage grasses, in Kampong Cham, Cambodia (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Last week, coming on the heels of a Planet Under Pressure conference in London, which set out to better define our ‘planetary boundaries’ and to offer scientific inputs to the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development conference this June, a group of leaders in Asia—comprising agriculture and meteorology chiefs, climate negotiators and specialists, and heads of development agencies—met to hammer out a consensus on ways to make Asian agriculture smarter.

The workshop, Climate-smart agriculture in Asia: Research and development priorities, was held 11–12 April 2012 in Bangkok. It was organized by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes; the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security; and the World Meteorological Organization.

This group set itself three ambitious tasks: To determine the best options (1) for producing food that will generate lower levels of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming; (2) for producing much greater amounts of food, which are needed to feed the region’s rapidly growing and urbanizing population; and (3) for doing all this under a changing climate that, if farming and farm policies don’t change, is expected to reduce agricultural productivity in the region by anywhere from 10 to 50 per cent over the next three decades.

The workshop participants started by reviewing the best practices and technologies now available for making agriculture ‘climate smart’. They then reviewed current understanding of how climate change is likely to impact Asian agriculture. They then agreed on what are the gaps in the solutions now available and which kinds of research and development should be given highest priority to fill those gaps. Finally, they developed a plan for filling the gaps and linking scientific knowledge with policy actions at all levels.

On the second of this two-day workshop, the participants were asked to short-list no more than ten key areas as being of highest priority for Asia’s research and development communities.

This exercise tempted this blogger to suggest ten suitable areas in the livestock sector.

(1) Lower greenhouse gas emissions from livestock through adoption of improved feed supplements (crops residues) that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Contact ILRI animal nutritionist Michael Blümmel, based in Hydrabad, for more information: m.blummel at cgiar.org

(2) Safeguard public health by enhancing Asia’s capacity to detect and control outbreaks of infectious diseases transmitted between animals and people.
Contact ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Jeff Gilbert, based in Vientienne, for more information: j.gilbert at cgiar.org

(3) Improve the efficiency of water used for livestock and forage production.
Contact ILRI rangeland ecologist Don Peden, based in Vancouver, for more information: d.peden at cgiar.org 

(4) Pay livestock keepers for their provision of environmental services.
Contact ILRI ecologist Jan de Leeuw, based in Nairobi, for more information: j.leeuw at cgiar.org

(5) Recommend levels of consumption of meat, milk and eggs appropriate for the health of people, their livelihoods and environments in different regions and communities.
Contact ILRI partner Tara Garnett, who runs the Food Climate Research Network based in Guildford, for more information:  t.garnett at surrey.ac.uk

(6) Design institutional and market mechanisms that support the poorer livestock keepers, women in particular.
Contact ILRI agricultural economist Steve Staal, based in Nairobi, for more information: s.staal at cgiar.org 

(7) Educate publics in the West on the markedly different roles that livestock play in different regions of the world.
Contact ILRI systems analyst Philip Thornton, based in Edinburgh, for more information: p.thornton at cgiar.org

(8) Adopt risk- rather than rule-based approaches to ensuring the safety of livestock foods.
Contact ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace, based in Nairobi, for more information: d.grace at cgiar.org 

(9) Focus attention on small-scale, relatively extensive, mixed crop-and-livestock production systems.
Contact ILRI systems analyst Mario Herrero, based in Nairobi, for more information: m.herrero at cgiar.org 

(10) Give livestock-keeping communities relevant and timely climate and other information via mobile technologies.
Contact ILRI knowledge manager Pier-Paolo Ficarelli, based in Delhi, for more information: p.ficarelli at cgiar.org

Do you have a ‘top-ten’ list of what could make Asian agriculture ‘smart agriculture’? Post it in the Comment box, please!

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ILRI in Asia blog

Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda

Those interested in the future of the livestock sector—particularly in its potential to help alleviate world poverty and hunger without harming human health and the environment—will want to watch this 10-minute film of brief comments made by seven leaders in livestock development thinking. These comments were captured at the end of a recent (12–15 Mar 2012) ‘High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020’, which was co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and held at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The seven participants interviewed are (1) Francois Le Gall, co-host of this consultation and livestock advisor at the World Bank; (2) Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); (3) Kristin Girvetz, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; (4) Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); (5) Boni Moyo, ILRI representative for southern Africa; (6) Carlos Seré, chief development strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and (7) Jimmy Smith, co-host of this event and director general of ILRI.

Eight other leaders in global livestock issues took part in last week’s consultation in Nairobi:

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): Soloman Benigno, project manager and animal health expert

AU-IBAR (African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources): Ahmed El-Sawalhy, director; Bruce Mukanda, senior program and projects officer; Baba Soumare, chief animal health officer

EU (European Union) Delegation to Kenya: Bernard Rey, head of operations

OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health): Walter Masiga, sub-regional representative for Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa

UN (United Nations): David Nabarro, special representative of the UN secretary general for food security and nutrition (via filmed presentation)

World Bank: Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

Read more about this consultation on this ILRI News Blog: Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012.

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr