Pastoral issues must be part of ILRI’s research agenda – Ian Scoones

In March this year, we asked Ian Scoones, Science Adviser to ILRI, to reflect on the recent conference on the future of pastoralism and the work of ILRI in this area.

He argues that pastoralism “must be part of ILRI’s research agenda into the future.”

He identifies two promising areas for ILRI: First, to engage in technical research on production issues in pastoral areas and pastoral systems – to sustain the enormous economic potential of such areas.

Second, to support the broader area of innovation. As pastoral systems change and evolve, there is enormous innovation in these systems themselves, he gives an example from camel markets in northern Kenya.

“There is a great opportunity for ILRI scientists to engage with innovators outside the formal scientific research system, who are pastoralists themselves.”

The Addis Ababa conference on the future of pastoralism in Africa (21-23 March 2011) was organized by the Future Agricultures Consortium with Tufts University.

See related news items from the conference:

The future of pastoralism in Africa debated in Addis: Irreversible decline or vibrant future?, 21 March 2011.

Climate change impacts on pastoralists in the Horn: Transforming the ‘crisis narrative’, 22 March 2011.

The case for index-based livestock insurance and cash payments for northern Kenya’s pastoralists, 23 March 2011

Punctuated equilibrium: Pastoralist timelines of past and future, 23 March 2011

Making the case for index-based livestock insurance in Kenya, 23 March 2011

Or visit the Future Agricultures Consortium conference page or blog.

‘Unlocking the value of the cow’: New project to identify the best breeds for East Africa’s small-scale dairy producers

woman and cows

A small-scale dairy farmer with her cows in Uganda. A new three-year project will identify and make available appropriate dairy cows for smallholders in East Africa to help them increase their milk yields (photo credit: EADD).

A new project identifying appropriate dairy breeds for small-scale farmers in East Africa, and making these breeds more available in the region, was launched in February 2011 at the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The Dairy Genetics East Africa project—a partnership between ILRI; the University of New England, in Australia; and PICOTEAM, a consultancy group facilitating change processes—will help smallholders obtain the most appropriate cows for their farms so as to increase their milk yields and improve their livelihoods.

Speaking to dairy stakeholders from Kenya, including officials from Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development, the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project and other dairy industry development partners, at the launch on 9 February 2011, Okeyo Mwai, a researcher and the project’s coordinator at ILRI, explained that even though smallholder dairying is booming in parts of East Africa, such as in Kenya’s central region and the north and southern Rift Valley areas, where farmers have adopted improved animal breeds and intensified milk production, many more smallholders lack research-based knowledge about which dairy breeds are best suited for their farms and production systems and information about where to obtain them. According to Mwai, ‘Kenya’s dairy sector currently does not have a clear “breeding strategy.”’ That means that many poor smallholders are unable to take advantage of breeds that best suit their situations.

In the absence of appropriate breeding strategies and the ready supply of appropriate replacement stock, farmers face an unpredictable, unreliable and often costly replacement processes. Many are forced to replace their animals from their existing animals or from their neighbours. Others go to large-scale commercial farms and end up ‘upgrading’ to the main commercial dairy breeds even where these don’t suit their farms.

This project will determine the breed composition of cows currently kept in the project areas, the breeds smallholders prefer and the reasons for their preferences, and which breeds perform best under specific conditions. ‘This information will help us assess the relative fit of the various breeds to different production systems,’ says Ed Rege, a team leader at PICO. ‘We’ll then develop partnerships and business models with the private sector to breed, multiply and continuously supply the best-performing dairy breeds to farmers at affordable prices.’

The project will be implemented in five sites in western Kenya and three sites in Uganda. The first phase of the project will start with gathering information to assess the relative performance of breeds in the sites, setting up partnerships with other stakeholders in dairy development in the region and developing business models that will be carried out the later (phase 2 and 3) stages of the project.

In the first phase, project staff will collect information on about 3000 cows based on two monthly farm visits made over a period of 18 months. Field agents will compile information on the performance of the cows vis-vis farm-level inputs for a cost-benefit analysis of the different breeds. The agents will also collect information on farmer-perceived risks associated with different breeds, on means of livelihoods of the farmers, on any gender-specific preferences for certain breeds, and on farmer use of the various breeding services available and their costs.

The breed compositions will be obtained using advanced genotyping technology, which will be led by John Gibson, the project’s principal investigator, who is based at Australia’s University of New England. This information will be combined with cow and household data to identify the most appropriate breeds for various dairy production systems and household circumstances.

‘This project will harness the diverse expertise of the key partners, and combine the latest technologies with tried and tested methods of engaging with the community, to answer critical questions much more rapidly and accurately than has been possible in the past,’ said Gibson, who formerly worked at ILRI as a livestock geneticist.

Participants in the meeting expressed their support for the project, noting its focus on cattle genetic improvement—an area that has received inadequate research attention in the region. Alex Kirui, country director of the non-governmental organization Heifer International, said the project’s focus on ‘giving farmers the right breed for given circumstances’ is an essential requirement if the dairy industry is to be competitive enough to meet the high and increasing regional demand for fresh milk and other dairy products. Moses Nyabila, regional director for the East Africa Dairy Development Project, said the project would ‘unlock the value of the cow, which is a key asset for smallholder farmers.’

Results from the project’s first phase will guide future dairy pilot studies in East Africa and will inform a comparative study of the South Asian dairy industry.

The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It started in September 2010 and is scheduled to end early in 2013.

For more information visit: http://www.ilri.org/node/598

View presentations from the meeting

Livestock one of three ways to feed the growing world–Economist special report

Dairy cow looks out from her stall in a village in central Malawi

A dairy cow looks out from her stall in central Malawi. Can such ubiquitous backyard livestock farming in the developing world feed the growing world? (picture credit: ILRI/Mann).

A special report on feeding the world, ‘The 9-billion people question,’ appears in this week’s issue of the Economist, as the world continues to grapple with a global food crisis. The author is the Economist‘s globalization editor, John Parker. In an article titled ‘Doing more with less’, Parker argues that ‘the only reliable way to produce more food is to use better technology.’

The world has three main ways to produce more food for our growing populations, he states, and we’ll need new technology for each. The three ways are better seeds, more productive livestock systems and advanced use of plant genetics, including genetic modification.

Parker gives examples of how ‘it is possible to grow more food, more efficiently, on both a regional and a national scale.’ ‘But,’ he asks, ‘can it be done on a global scale . . . to feed 9 billion people? If so, how?’

‘The main gains will have to come in three ways,’ Parker writes: ‘from narrowing the gap between the worst and best producers; from spreading the so-called “livestock revolution”; and—above all—from taking advantage of new plant technologies.’

(1) Regarding the first way, Parker says better technology is already closing the gap between best and worst producers in comparable environments.

(2) Regarding the second way, Parker writes: ‘The second main source of growth will consist of spreading a tried and tested success: the “livestock revolution”. This consists of switching from traditional, open-air methods of animal husbandry, in which chickens and pigs scratch and root around the farm, eating insects, scraps and all sorts of organic waste, to closed “battery” systems, in which animals are confined to cages and have their diet, health and movement rigorously controlled. This entails huge losses in animal welfare, and European consumers are reacting against the system. But there are also gains in productivity and sometimes even in welfare, by reducing losses from diseases and predators that in traditional systems can be distressingly high.

‘Improving livestock farming is important because of meat’s growing share in the world’s diet. Meat consumption in China more than doubled in 1980-2005, to 50kg a year per person. Between now and 2050, meat’s share of calories will rise from 7% to 9%, says the FAO; the share of dairy produce and eggs will rise more.

‘Livestock matters for many reasons. It provides financial security in poor countries, where herds are often a family’s savings. It can affect people’s health: new infectious diseases are appearing at the rate of three or four a year, and three-quarters of them can be traced to animals, domestic and wild. Avian flu is just one example. Livestock also plays a part in global warming. Much of the methane in the atmosphere—one of the worst greenhouse gases—comes from cattle belching.

‘Since the 1980s livestock production has far outstripped that of cereals. World meat output more than doubled between 1980 and 2007. Production of eggs rose from 27m tonnes to 68m over the same period. Some countries have done better still. India has the world’s largest dairy herd. Its milk production trebled, to 103m tonnes, over a period when global milk output increased by half. Brazil increased its production of chickens fivefold in 1987-2007 to become the world’s largest exporter. Most spectacularly, China raised its output of both eggs and milk tenfold.

‘For sheer efficiency, there is little question that battery systems do a better job than traditional methods. A free-range hen scratching around might lay one or two eggs a week. Feeding her costs nothing, giving a net gain of 50-100 eggs a year. A battery chicken will lay six eggs a week. She might cost the equivalent of 150 eggs to feed, producing an annual net gain of 150 eggs. And selective breeding has made her more economic to keep. Battery chickens used to need 4kg of feed for 1kg of eggs; now they need only 2kg.

‘Moreover, it is almost impossible to scale up a farmyard operation: there are only so many insects to eat, and so many hens one family can look after. And to breed the most productive hens which convert their feed most efficiently into eggs and are most resistant to disease, you need large flocks.

‘So there are two reasons for thinking that the livestock revolution will continue. One is that some countries still lag behind. An example, surprisingly, is Brazil, which has just one head of cattle per hectare—an unusually low number even for a country with so much land. Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, of the São Paulo industry federation, says Brazil should be able at least to double that number—which could mean either doubling beef production or using half the area to produce the same amount.

‘Carlos Sere of the International Livestock Research Institute thinks traditional systems could borrow some of the methods of closed battery-farm systems—notably better feeding (giving a small amount of animal feed makes a big difference to the weight of range-land cattle) and the introduction of new breeds for better yields (as Kabiyet did by switching from longhorn to Holstein cattle).

‘The second reason for expecting further gains is that recent genetic analysis could improve breeding dramatically. About a third of the livestock revolution has come about through selecting and breeding the best animals. Another third comes from improved feeding and the remainder from better disease control. In the 1940s and 1950s breeding relied on the careful recording of every animal in the herd or flock; in the 1970s on artificial insemination by the best sires; and in the 1980s on embryo transfers from the best females into ordinary breeding animals.

‘New genetic analysis now promises to bring in another stage, says the FAO’s Henning Steinfeld. It allows breeders to select traits more precisely and thus speeds up breeding by reducing generational intervals: if you know which genetic traits an animal has, there is no need to wait several generations to see how things turn out.

‘This will not happen everywhere. Europeans and—to some extent—Americans are increasingly influenced by welfare concerns. They jib at confining animals. The European Union has banned certain kinds of cages, and California is following suit. But, so far, people in emerging markets, where demand for meat and animal products is growing fast, are less concerned about such things, so the next stage of the livestock revolution will mainly be concentrated there.’

(3) Regarding the third way—making better use of plant genetics, Parker argues that ‘the change likely to generate the biggest yield gains in the food business—perhaps 1.5-2% a year—is the development of “marker-assisted breeding”—in other words, genetic marking and selection in plants, which includes genetically modifying them but also involves a range of other techniques. This is the third and most important source of growth.’

Read the whole special report in the Economist: The 9 billion-people question, 24 February 2011.

Read the whole article in the Economist: Doing more with less, 24 February 2011.

Listen to John Parker interviewed on this subject: A special report on food, 24 February 2011.

India, Mozambique goat value chain project starts

This week, partners in the ‘imGoats’ project meet in India to finalize plans and outcomes for the project.

The project – official title ‘Small ruminant value chains to reduce poverty and increase food security in India and Mozambique’ – is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and is implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute with CARE (Mozambique) and The BAIF Development Research Foundation (India).

The project aims to transform goat production and marketing in dryland India and Mozambique from an ad hoc, risky informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market.

Download the project brochure

Livestock and­ the environment: As the hard trade-offs look to get only get harder, more nuanced approaches to livestock development are needed

Boy and goats in Rajasthan

Ramand Ram with goats in his family’s plot in Rajasthan, India. Intensifying mixed crop-and-livestock farming and helping livestock keepers diversify their sources of income can protect livestock livelihoods (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Researchers say that poor countries can protect both livestock livelihoods and environments by promoting measures such as sustainably intensifying mixed crop-and-livestock farming, paying livestock keepers for the ecosystem services they provide, helping pastoralists diversify their sources of income and managing the demand for livestock products.

Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the Animal Production Systems Group at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, report in a proceedings published last November (2010) that there are ‘significant opportunities in livestock systems for improving environment management while also improving the livelihoods of poor people.’

The publication, titled The Role of Livestock in Developing Communities: Enhancing Multifunctionality, was co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation and ILRI. The authors say that even though livestock production is already harming some environments, with such damage likely to increase in some regions in coming years due to an increasing demand from rapidly expanding populations in the developing world, new research-based options for livestock production can help improve both the livelihoods and environments of hundreds of millions of very poor people who raise farm animals or sell or consume their milk, meat and eggs.

The researchers propose shifting the debate on livestock and environment from one that focuses solely on the negative impacts of livestock production to one that embraces the complexity of livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’, particularly in developing countries, where livestock serve as a lifeline to many poor people.

The researchers say a good understanding of the environmental impacts of livestock production depends on distinguishing these impacts by region and production system and by addressing environmental problems along with problems of food insecurity and inequity.

The authors, who include ILRI scientists Mario Herrero, Phil Thornton, An Notenbaert, Shirley Tarawali and Delia Grace, recommend making a ‘fundamental shift’ in how demand for livestock products is seen and in adapting production systems to meet this demand. They suggest, for example, that policymakers consider ways of reducing demand for livestock products in (mostly industrialized) countries where (1) people are damaging their health by consuming too much meat, eggs and milk and (2) intensive ‘factory’ farming is damaging the environment.

The scientists also recommend finding ways of improving water management in livestock production. Recent findings show that livestock water use represents 31 per cent of the total water used for agriculture. The authors report that ‘in rangeland systems, water productivity can be improved by better rangeland management, which has the potential to reduce water use in agriculture by 45 per cent by 2050.’ Another promising idea is to begin paying livestock farmers for the rangeland water purification and other ecosystem services they maintain for the good of the wider community.

To reduce greenhouse gases from livestock systems, the authors recommend that efforts be put in place to intensify production systems in developing countries to produce more livestock products per unit of methane gas. ‘We need to provide significant incentives so that the marginal rangeland areas, often rich in biodiversity, can be protected for the benefit of farmers.’ Other options for reducing livestock-associated greenhouse gasses include improving animal diets, controlling animal numbers and shifting the kinds of breeds kept.

Although diseases transmitted between livestock and people also need to be addressed by research, the book notes that the ‘net effects of livestock on human health are positive,’ particularly due to livestock’s role in providing nourishing food for the poor and the contribution livestock herders make to regulating vast rangeland ecosystems, with their wildlife populations, which often helps prevent animals diseases from spilling over to human populations. Better use of disease control methodologies and investments will also help prevent the spread of these diseases.

The authors acknowledge that such changes in the way that livestock production is viewed will require a ‘subtle balancing act’ and commitments by a wide range of players in the scientific, development and policymaking communities. But without a more nuanced understanding of livestock production in the face of hard trade-offs between livestock and the environment, we could jeopardize the livestock livelihoods of many of the world’s ‘bottom billion’.

This article is summary of the chapter ‘The Way Forward for Livestock and the Environment’ in the The Role of Livestock in Developing Communities: Enhancing Multifunctionality.

Download the full text

For more information read this related ILRI News article.

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis

In December 2010, a special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology focuses on the fodder quality of crop residues and how this can be improved through the close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multi-dimensional crop improvement programmes.

Over the next two decades, rapid urbanization and rising incomes in the developing world will continue to feed an on-going livestock revolution. In India, this boom in the production of animal products will be driven by a demand for milk that is projected to increase by more than 80 million tons in 15 years.

Smallholder livestock producers will have new opportunities to raise their incomes on the back of this increasing demand, particularly the vulnerable communities occupying dry, marginal and remote lands that rely most heavily on their animals.

Feed scarcity and resulting high feed costs are one of the major constraints and threats to higher benefits from livestock otherwise offered by the rising demand for livestock products. New strategies for improving feed resources are urgently needed, but they need to take into account the increasing scarcity of the natural resource base, particularly of arable land and increasingly water.

Crop residues are the single most important feed resource in India, and the national feed resource scenarios predict that their importance for livestock feeding will further increase. In several parts of India, weight for weight, crop residue prices are now approaching, and sometimes even exceeding, half the prices of their grains.

Crop residues do not require specific land and water allocations, since these are required in any case for the production of grains. Unfortunately, the fodder quality of crop residues is often low, and in the past decades, efforts have been invested in upgrading the feeding value of crop residues (implicitly from cereals since leguminous residues can have excellent fodder quality) through chemical, physical and biological treatments.

However, these approaches have seen little adoption by farming communities. A different paradigm has been developed in this this special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology, namely, the improvement of crop residues at source through close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multidimensional crop improvement programs. Until recently, fodder traits of crop residues were largely ignored in crop improvement, although farmers were traditionally aware of differences in the fodder quality of crop residues even within the same species. Farmers’ perception of crop residue fodder traits could effect the adoption of new cultivars, resulting sometimes in the rejection of new cultivars that have been improved only for grain yields.

In response, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with their partners from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) initiated several multidisciplinary research projects to create crop cultivars that better match the need of farmers, particularly in mixed crop-livestock systems which are dominant in many parts of the developing world.

The fundamental issues explored in these collaborative projects, and expounded in this special issue, are: (1) availability of livestock nutritionally-significant cultivar-dependent variation in crop residue fodder quantity and quality; (2) relationships between crop residue fodder traits and primary food traits and possible trade-offs between the traits; (3) technologies for quick and inexpensive phenotyping of large set of samples for simple fodder quality that are well correlated with actual livestock productivity; (4) breeding techniques for further genetic enhancement towards food-feed traits; and (5) upgrading crop residue fodder in value chains through densification and fortification.

These valuable contributions serve as eye-openers to researchers and present a strong case for further strengthening such collaborations between national and international crop and livestock institutions. More importantly, they pave the way for expanding work on the promising approach of producing dual-purpose varieties of key crops for mixed crop-livestock systems given that these systems will be crucial in feeding the next 3 billion people.

View the special issue

Improving water productivity of crop-livestock systems in drought-prone regions

Today saw the publication of a special issue of Experimental Agriculture guest edited by Tilahun Amede, Shirley Tarawali and Don Peden. It presents evidence from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and India, and captures current understanding of strategies to improve water productivity in drought-prone crop-livestock systems.

Crop-livestock systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are mostly rainfall-dependent and based on fragmented marginal lands that are vulnerable to soil erosion, drought and variable weather conditions. The threat of water scarcity in these systems is real, due to expanding demand for food and feed, climate variability and inappropriate land use.

According to recent estimates, farming, industrial and urban needs in developing countries will increase water demand by 40% by 2030. Water shortage is expected to be severe in areas where the amount of rainfall will decrease due to climate change. The lack of capacity of communities living in drought-prone regions to respond to market opportunities, climatic variability and associated water scarcity also results from very low water storage facilities, poverty and limited institutional capacities to efficiently manage the available water resources at
local, national and basin scales.

The spiral of watershed degradation causes decline in water budgets, decreases soil fertility and reduces farm incomes in SSA and reduces crop and livestock water productivity. In areas where irrigated agriculture is feasible, there is an increasing demand for water and competition among different users and uses.

Strategies and policies to reduce rural poverty should not only target increasing food production but should also emphasize improving water productivity at farm, landscape, sub-basin and higher levels. In drought-prone rural areas, an increase of 1% in crop water productivity makes available at least an extra 24 litres of water a day per person. Moreover, farming systems with efficient use of water resources are commonly responsive to external and internal drivers of change.

Articles included in the issue are:

Amede, T., Tarawali, S. and Peden, D. Improving water productivity in crop livestock systems of drought-prone regions. Editorial Comment

Amede, T., Menza, M. and Awlachew, S. B. Zai improves nutrient and water productivity in the Ethiopian highlands

Descheemaeker, K., Amede, T., Haileslassie, A. and Bossio, D. Analysis of gaps and possible interventions for improving water productivity in crop livestock systems of Ethiopia

Derib, S. D., Descheemaeker, K., Haileslassie, A. and Amede, T. Irrigation water productivity as affected by water management in a small-scale irrigation scheme in the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

Awulachew, S. B. and Ayana, M. Performance of irrigation: an assessment at different scales in Ethiopia

Ali, H., Descheemaeker, K., Steenhuis, T. S. and Pandey, S. Comparison of landuse and landcover changes, drivers and impacts for a moisture-sufficient and drought-prone region in the Ethiopian Highlands

Mekonnen, S., Descheemaeker, K., Tolera, A. and Amede, T. Livestock water productivity in a water stressed environment in Northern Ethiopia

Deneke, T. T., Mapedza, E. and Amede, T. Institutional implications of governance of local common pool resources on livestock water productivity in Ethiopia

Haileslassie, A., Blümmel, M., Clement, F., Descheemaeker, K., Amede, T. Samireddypalle, A., Acharya, N. S., Radha, A. V., Ishaq, S., Samad, M., Murty, M. V. R. and Khan, M. A. Assessment of the livestock-feed and water nexus across a mixed crop-livestock system’s intensification gradient: an example from the Indo-Ganga Basin

Clement, F., Haileslassie, A., Ishaq, S., Blummel, M., Murty, M. V. R., Samad, M., Dey, S., Das, H. and Khan, M. A. Enhancing water productivity for poverty alleviation: role of capitals and institutions in the Ganga Basin

Sibanda, A., Tui, S. H.-K., Van Rooyen, A., Dimes, J., Nkomboni, D. and Sisito, G. Understanding community perceptions of land use changes in the rangelands, Zimbabwe

Senda, T. S., Peden, D., Tui, S. H.-K., Sisito, G., Van Rooyen, A. F. and Sikosana, J. L. N. Gendered livelihood implications for improvements of livestock water productivity in Zimbabwe

View the full issue

Investments needed to help poor people take advantage of an on-going boom in livestock production in developing countries

Ploughing with cattle in West Bengal

Farmer Noor Ali ploughs his field in Brahampur, India. A better understanding of the multiple roles played by livestock in developing communities will help improve livestock production and accelerate economic development in poor countries (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Following the 2008/9 global food price crisis, agricultural experts agree that more investment in food production is needed to meet increasing world food demand. Global food security, however, is unlikely to be achieved unless livestock production is made more efficient.

Farm animals fulfil an important role in developing communities, where many people depend on mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems or live in marginal areas where animal agriculture is the only means of producing food. For most of the world’s poorest, about 600 million people, animals provide not only milk, meat and eggs but are also a source of draught power and manure for crop farming, resources that help livestock keepers diversify their income.

For many of these livestock keepers, greater investment in livestock production would make a significant difference in helping them come out of poverty by increasing their sources of food and income. 

The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality, a new book co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), argues that a better understanding of the multiple roles played by livestock in developing communities will help decision-makers and development practitioners not only improve the livestock sector’s efficiency and productivity but, through that, accelerate economic development in poor countries.

Livestock production in the developing world faces the challenge of how to meet an increasing demand for meat, milk and eggs with limited land, water and other natural resources, say two of the book’s authors, Siboniso Moyo, ILRI’s representative in southern Africa, and Frans Swanepoel, senior director of research and professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Examining trends and drivers in livestock production in developing communities, the authors say that the smallholder livestock sector needs to adapt to increasing population and urbanization and the other changes coming in the wake of these changes, such as rapidly changing livestock systems, environments, climates and consumption patterns. All these changes, they say, require stronger policies and institutions.

The authors propose strengthening institutions and policies, providing livestock owners with credit, improving veterinary services, increasing the delivery and uptake of livestock technologies and improving the infrastructure of livestock markets.

The increasing demand for livestock in developing countries due to rising populations and incomes offers many poor livestock keepers new opportunities to raise their incomes by increasing the production and marketing of their livestock products. The main questions are how to include poor people in this livestock boom, and how to help smallholders increase their livestock production while making more efficient use of their land, water and native stock.

Three other big challenges of the fast-changing livestock sector in poor countries are finding ways to feed the increasing numbers of animals in the face of diminishing natural resources, developing diagnostics and vaccines to better protect animals against neglected tropical diseases of livestock as well as zoonotic diseases, which are shared by livestock and people, and finding optimal ways for small-scale livestock keepers to adapt to climate change and reduce their production of greenhouse gases.

The authors, however, note that rising prices of livestock products can open up new market opportunities for small-scale producers, though this alone will not guarantee their competitiveness. Without support, many smallholder livestock producers, especially those in marginal areas, with limited access to information and knowledge, will find it difficult to compete with larger livestock operations in meeting the increasing demand for livestock products while also meeting the more stringent food quality and safety standards the new market is demanding.

‘The livestock sector is an important part of developing communities and the multiple roles that livestock play in meeting the livelihoods of people need to be enhanced for the sector to continue contributing to poverty reduction,’ the book says. ‘Research and development agencies need to come together to address these challenges comprehensively.’

This book provides a list of ‘Livestock development projects that make a difference’ and ways to promote gender equality and empower women through livestock development. Watch for more highlights from the book in upcoming ILRI news articles.

Read more about The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality

Download the full text

New book spells out how investment in livestock production can enhance development in poor countries

New book on livestock in developing countries

Siboniso Moyo, ILRI’s representative for southern Africa, holds a copy of ‘The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality’ which was recently launched in South Africa (photo credit: ILRI).

A new book co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) calls for more investment in livestock production to fight poverty and promote human health in developing countries.

The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality was launched on 9 November 2010 at the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Farm animals continue to play several central roles in the livelihoods of the people in developing countries, ranging from providing households with high-quality foods, good nutrition and regular incomes to providing labourers with jobs, community members with social status and farmers and herders with ways to sustain food production.

This book highlights the livestock sector’s contribution to the social and economic progress of developing communities and advocates public- and private-sector investments in livestock production.

The publication is a product of a satellite symposium that was part of the 10th World Conference on Animal Production, held in Cape Town in November 2008. The symposium, jointly organized by ILRI and the University of the Free State, focused on livestock livelihood strategies for meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

‘We were pleased with the chance to work together with the University of the Free State in a side event during the World Conference of Animal Production 2008, which led to the production of this book,’ said Siboniso Moyo, ILRI’s representative for southern Africa, during the launch.

Moyo, along with Frans Swanepoel, senior director of research and professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, and Aldo Stroebel, director of international affairs and associate professor at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development at the same university, provided editorial oversight for the book.

John McDermott, ILRI’s deputy director general for research; Canagasaby Devendra, a tropical animal production specialist who formerly worked at ILRI, and Akke van der Zijpp, another former ILRI staff member who is now professor in livestock production systems at the Wageningen University and Research Centre, in the Netherlands, served in the editorial advisory committee that steered production of the book.

‘The “multifunctionality” of livestock is an important concept to understand when working with developing communities,’ said Moyo. ‘Viewing research and development challenges through a livestock lens,’ she said, ‘can help us make even greater use of the many functions livestock serve in poor communities and so as to increase their contribution to livelihoods.’

The book launch was attended by Monty Jones, executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, chairperson of the Global Forum of Agricultural Research and a World Food Prize Laureate (2004), who contributed the foreword to the book, and Norman Casey, president of the 10thWorld Conference of Animal Production 2008.

The book describes successful livestock development strategies, including ways to promote gender equality and to empower women through livestock development and ways to develop small-scale livestock enterprises without harming the environment.

Targeting academic professionals, industry experts, government officials and academics interested in increasing the contributions livestock enterprises can make to human well-being and developing-country economies, the new publication includes case studies and frameworks, discussions of key global policy development issues, and the main challenges and constraints of smallholder livestock production systems around the world.

The book is available in South Africa through Sun Media Bloemfontein and can be ordered through their e-shop: http://www.sun-e-shop.co.za/?Task=moreinfo&SKU=ISBN+978-0-86886-798-4

Download the full text

View ILRI slide presentations made at the satellite symposium during the 10th World Conference on Animal Production: www.ufs.ac.za/wcapsatellite

Scientists meet in Ethiopia to broaden market opportunities for Africa’s livestock farmers, including its women farmers

Village women and livestock in Niger

Women and livestock in Niger: Leading scientists in African agriculture are gathering, this week, in Ethiopia, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of commercializing livestock agriculture in Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Mann)

As agricultural leaders across the globe look for ways to increase investments in agriculture to boost world food production, experts in African livestock farming are meeting in Addis Ababa this week to deliberate on ways to get commercialized farm production, access to markets, innovations, gender issues and pro-poor policies right for Africa’s millions of small-scale livestock farmers and herders.

More than 70 percent of Africa’s rural poor are livestock farmers. Each farm animal raised is a rare source of high-quality food, particularly of dietary protein, minerals, vitamins and micronutrients, for these households. Pastoralists, who rely on herding their animal stock to survive in the continent’s dry and otherwise marginalized environments, also make up a significant number of Africa’s population.

‘There is a growing recognition by governments and donors that expanding investment in the agricultural sector is a cornerstone for alleviating poverty and building assets in Africa and other developing regions,’ said Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

‘Smart investments targeting the developing world's growing numbers of livestock keepers (who make up about 1 billion people today) is a win-win-win,’ said Seré. ‘Such investments promise not only to greatly increase global food security but also to generate profits for both poor livestock producers and agribusinesses.’

Livestock production today employs more than 1.3 billion people globally. Most African small-scale farmers practice mixed farming systems that combine both crop farming and livestock keeping. Globally, these mixed systems produce the majority of the world’s food staples, including 89 percent of the maize, 91 percent of the rice, nearly 75 percent of the milk and 68 percent of the beef consumed.

Livestock-based enterprises are pathways out of poverty for many people in Africa, for whom animals are a source of nourishing foods and regular incomes. With demand for milk, meat and eggs rising fast in many developing countries, the raising and marketing of animals and animal products also allows many people to take advantage of the new growth opportunities in this sector.

Despite the vibrancy of the livestock sector in Africa, much of the investments in African agriculture for food security to date has focused almost exclusively on crop farming. That is a mistake, says Seré, as are many investments made to boost crop and livestock production systems independently.

A livestock scourge eradicated
This is an opportune time for a meeting of Africa’s leading livestock experts. On 16 October 2010, to mark the United Nations World Food Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other world bodies chose to celebrate the eradication of rinderpest from the face of the earth. Probably the most remarkable achievement in the history of veterinary science, this milestone is expected to be announced in mid-2011, pending a review of final official disease status reports from a handful of countries to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Rinderpest is a viral livestock disease that has afflicted Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries. It killed more than 90 percent of the domesticated animals, as well as untold numbers of people and plains game, in Africa at the turn of the 19th century, a devastation so complete that its impacts are still felt today, more than a century later. The last-known outbreak of rinderpest occurred in Kenya in 2001.

The key technical breakthrough in this effort involved development of an improved vaccine against rinderpest that did not require refrigeration up to the point of use. This allowed vets and technicians to backpack the vaccine into remote war-torn areas where the disease was a major problem. The AU-IBAR led the Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign, which coordinated the efforts that resulted in the eventual eradication of rinderpest from Africa.

Livestock conference to address main constraints to livestock production in Africa
It is against this background that leading scientists in African agriculture are gathering 25–28 October 2010 at the United Nation Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of commercializing livestock agriculture in Africa at the Fifth All African Society of Animal Production.

Carlos Sere at the opening of the AASAP Conference

Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, gives a keynote address during the opening of the fifth all African society of animal production (photo credit: ILRI/Habtamu)

Among specific areas to be addressed are livestock trade and markets, pastoralism and natural resource management, animal genetics and commercialization, climate change and its effects on livestock systems, livestock feeds, and the delivery of livestock services to smallholders and herders.

Despite its wealth of livestock resources, Africa produces livestock at relatively low levels, due to a range of technical, socioeconomic and biological challenges faced by smallholders and herders on the continent. These include weak policies and veterinary and other institutions; widespread parasitic, tropical and other livestock and zoonotic diseases; poor-quality feeds; inadequate inputs for livestock production; insufficient access to livestock markets and market information; and low market prices.

‘This conference is addressing policy and strategy gaps that have prevented African livestock producers from making the most of their livestock resources,’ said Tadelle Dessie, a scientist with ILRI. ‘Addressing these gaps should help raise the level of investment in livestock production and improve market access for small-scale livestock producers.’

Fix gender-based problems in livestock livelihoods
One potent way to enable Africa’s farmers and herders to benefit more from livestock production, say many who have researched the topic, is to redress gender imbalances in access to resources for livestock production. ‘Institutional, social and economic gender-based constraints inhibit women’s full participation in livestock markets and marketing,’ says Jemimah Njuki, a scientist with ILRI.

Research shows that many African women already have access to very local markets and that they already participate in different stages of livestock value chains. ‘Helping women access market-related information will help them help raise the continent’s livestock production levels,’ Njuki said, adding, ‘and should allow them to benefit more from their livestock enterprises.’

Watch a short video interview with Carlos Seré: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIFiQJp-WaY

View presentations from the conference: http://www.slideshare.net/tag/esap

Livestock take centre stage at World Food Prize ceremonies

Livestock landscapes: Africa

At the World Food Prize ceremony (12 October 2010) and Borlaug Dialogue (13–15 October 2010) in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, issues surrounding small-scale livestock enterprises received a rare dose of major attention.

First, Jo Luck, president of Heifer International, an American livestock-based non-governmental humanitarian organization, received the World Food Prize, considered the ‘Nobel Prize of agriculture’. Only the third woman to be so honoured, Jo Luck shared this year’s World Food Prize with David Beckmann, head of Bread for the World, another American-based NGO.

Following the award ceremonies, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other key livestock-for-development organizations took part in a special ‘Livestock in Smallholder Agriculture Symposium’.

Carlos Seré, director general of the Africa-based ILRI, was a member of a panel moderated by Alice Pell, vice provost at Cornell University. Seré provided context for the high-level discussions about the importance smallholder animal agriculture. ‘Feeding the next 2 to 3 billion people,’ he said, ‘will require the sustainable inte¬nsification of the world’s “mixed” farming systems, which combine livestock raising with crop production. ‘

Seré pointed out the need to find smarter ways for the world’s small-scale farmers to integrate crops, animals and trees on their farms. He explained how better livestock feeding systems can reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from livestock enterprises in both developing and developed countries. And he described how stover and other wastes of crop production are increasingly being used by small-scale farmers in poor countries as supplementary feed for their animal stock, which subsist largely on grass and planted forages rather than grains.

‘Livestock bring cash into the small farming system,’ Seré said. ‘They constitute the motor that links farmers to urban producers, and they give millions of people who own no land at all the means by which to earn an income.’

Seré also pointed out the need for the private sector to find ways to engage with the ‘bottom billion’ of poor livestock farmers. By creating or joining farm cooperatives, food producer companies and contract farming schemes, he said, these dispersed smallholders become subjects of interest to the private sector. Once aggregated in such societies, small farmers become attractive to businesses looking to provide the agricultural sector with livestock services and other inputs, as well as processing plants and distribution channels for crop and animal products.

‘Smallholder farmers can be very competitive,’ Seré said. ‘Agribusiness would profit from thinking up imaginative ways to do business with them. Agri- and other businesses wanting to work broadly in rural sub-Saharan Africa, for example, all find themselves working with smallholder livestock farmers.’

Another panelist, Deepack Tikku, chairman of the National Dairy Development Board Dairy Services in India, described how his country surpassed the United States as the world’s largest milk producer.

‘Our model is not one of mass production but production by the masses,’ he said. He describe the food, income and gender distribution gains that India has made in increasing its milk production, almost all from smallholders, from 20 million tonnes in 1970 to 112 million tonnes today. 

Thad Simons, chief executive officer of Novus International, focused his panel remarks on eggs, ‘the original superfood’.  ’Eggs are one of the best ways to deliver protein to consumers at affordable costs,’ Simons said. ‘No other food provides as much nutrition in so few calories at such a low cost.’ Novus has begun an information campaign—www.eggtruth.com—to increase consumption of eggs, particularly among mothers and young children, to help families stay financially as well as physically fit.

Christie Peacock, chief executive of the non-governmental organization FARM-Africa, asked policymakers to pay more attention to helping smallholder farmers acquire livestock. ‘It’s my passionate belief that livestock are the fastest route out of poverty,’ Peacock said. ‘My experience in Ethiopia taught me that when crops fail, having one or two goats enables families to survive. Without animals, many families in such circumstances have to go on food aid.’ 

Peacock also argued that the commonplace views in the North about the environmental damage caused by livestock are among the biggest threats to livestock development in the South, where domesticated animals continue to play many central roles in the livelihoods of the poor. ‘Obviously, there are hotspots of livestock-related environmental damage, such as those in the Amazon and Southeast Asia, that we must address’ Peacock said. ‘But what we must not do is to let the life chances of the world’s poor livestock keepers be compromised by Northern prejudices against livestock.’

The agricultural development ‘luminaries’ attending the World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa this year included, in addition to those named above, HE Kofi Annan, Nobel Laureate, former secretary-general of the United Nations and current chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; Howard Buffett, president of the Howard G Buffet Foundation (and farm and livestock ranch owner); Marco Ferroni, executive director of the Syngenta Foundation, Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute; Kamal El-Kheshen, president of the African Development Bank;  Matt Kistler, senior vice-president of marketing for Walmart; Gregory Page, chairman and chief executive officer of Cargill; Amrita Patel, chairman of India’s National Dairy Development Board; Prabhu Pingali, deputy director of Agricultural Development, and Jeff Raikes, chief executive officer, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Rajiv Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development; MS Swaminathan, chairman of the MS Swaminathan Foundation; and Tom Vilsack, secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Market opportunities for poor Ugandan livestock farmers mapped for first time

Map Showing Economic Opportunities for Poor Livestock Farmers in Uganda

This map from Mapping a Better Future combines poverty rates with milk production data and shows only the poverty rates for administrative areas with milk surplus. By knowing which areas display both high poverty rate and milk surplus, Uganda’s leaders can better provide market opportunities for poorer dairy farmers and target infrastructure investments.

The percentage of the population living below the poverty line is shown from
>dark green (lowest) to > light green (low) to > beige (medium) to > tan (high) to > dark brown (highest).
Gray areas = no data
White areas = outside milk surplus area
Diagonal blue lines = major national parks and wildlife reserves (over 50,000 ha)

To see the original of this and other maps, go here.

A new
 set of maps illustrating possible market 
opportunities for Uganda’s livestock farmers living 
in poverty is being unveiled today. The maps compare for the first time
 2005 poverty levels with livestock data from the 
2002 population and housing census and the 2008 
national livestock census.

‘Seven out of ten households in Uganda own 
livestock, making it an integral part of Ugandans’ 
diet, culture and income,’ said Hon. Hope R.
Mwesigye, Ugandan Minister of Agriculture, 
Animal Industry and Fisheries and co-author of 
Mapping a Better Future: Spatial Analysis and 
Pro-Poor Livestock Strategies in Uganda. ‘The
 maps are meant to guide the government’s future 
investments to reduce poverty while strengthening
the livestock sector.’

Hon. Syda N.M. Bbumba, Uganda Minister of
 Finance, Planning and Economic Development, 
said, ‘Examining the spatial relationships between 
poverty, livestock systems, location of livestock 
services such as dairy cooling plants, and livestock 
disease hotspots can provide new evidence-based 
information to help craft more effective 
investments and poverty reduction efforts.
While Uganda’s total agricultural output has declined, livestock figures have increased dramatically in the last 
decade due to strong domestic and regional demand for livestock products, according to the report.
‘Increased livestock production carries both economic opportunities for Ugandans and greater risk for 
transmission of animal diseases,’ said Nicholas Kauta, Commissioner of Livestock Health and Entomology at 
the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. ‘The maps included in this report will help
Uganda’s leaders understand market opportunities and, at the same time, target at-risk areas for disease 
outbreaks with appropriate health intervention plans.’
For instance, maps showing milk surplus and deficit areas can highlight geographic differences in market 
opportunities for poor dairy farmers. According to the maps in the report, about 3.5 million people live in 
sub-counties identified as producing more milk than their residents consume, and approximately 0.8 million
poor people live in areas where the demand for milk is greater than supply. This information can help 
policymakers, dairy researchers and development agencies gauge market opportunities and invest in 
infrastructure where it is needed the most.
‘By combining social data and livestock information and analyzing the map overlays, decision-makers from 
different sectors can work together to identify solutions to complex problems facing communities such as 
diseases that affect both people and livestock,’ said Norbert Henninger, senior associate at the World Resources Institute and co-author 
of the report.
John B. Male-Mukasa, executive director of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, said, ‘Uganda’s government 
acknowledges the importance of livestock to the nation’s economic development and food security, and as 
part of its 2010–2015 National Development Plan, it plans to invest in improved livestock breeds, water
infrastructure and livestock land management. The maps in this report will be useful in identifying the 
regions where investment is needed most dearly.’
Mapping a Better Future is the third installment in a series of publications using maps and spatial analysis to 
reduce poverty in Uganda, following two previous reports that targeted wetlands and water and sanitation.

Download the publication here.

The following institutions were involved in the production of this publication.
The Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries provides an 
enabling environment in which a profitable, competitive, dynamic and sustainable agricultural and agro-industrial 
sector can develop.
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics is the principal data-collecting, -processing, -analyzing, and -
disseminating agency responsible for coordinating and supervising the National Statistical System.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to 
defeat hunger. Besides acting as a neutral forum to negotiate agreements and debate policy, FAO is also a
 source of knowledge and information.
The International Livestock Research Institute works at the crossroads of livestock and 
poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable 
development.
The World Resources Institute is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to 
find practical ways to protect the earth and improve people’s lives.