Study recommends new systems for raising and selling small animal stock in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

Thirteen year-old Damte Yeshitella tends cattle on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Improved systems of raising and selling sheep and goats can increase production in Ethiopia's large livestock sector. (Photo credit: ILRI) 

A new report calls for making better use of Ethiopia’s native livestock resources, expanding livestock export markets and favourable livestock regions to transform the country’s large livestock sector, particularly that of sheep and goats.

Despite Ethiopia’s wealth (in types as well as numbers) of livestock resources, scientists report that national levels of livestock production remain far below expectations. A new working paper, ‘Sheep and goat production and marketing systems in Ethiopia,’ offers strategies for raising those levels. The report is published by a project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers,’ implemented by the Government of Ethiopia and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Although Ethiopians raise vast numbers of small stock—about 25 million sheep and 21 million goats—the nation’s livestock sector continues to underperform. The new report cites a multitude of technical, socio-economic and biological problems constraining the country’s sheep and goat production. These include livestock diseases and parasites, poor-quality feeds, inaccessible livestock inputs and inappropriate methods for delivering extension messages. Inadequate markets, including insufficient access to markets and market information as well as low market prices, also prevent livestock farmers from achieving the great potential their animals offer.

But ILRI researchers Azage Tegegne, Berhanu Gebremedhin and Dirk Hoekstra, among other authors of the report, are quick to point out that the Ethiopian livestock sector has many ‘favourable opportunities to increase sheep and goat productivity.’

The report recommends supporting alternative production systems that will not only improve small-scale production systems but also speed development of larger scale specialized sheep and goat production systems.

Small stock production should be stratified, the scientists say, and different zones delineated for different kinds of production systems. The report says, for example, that herding and other forms of extensive livestock-based systems are more suited to the country’s vast western, eastern and southern lowlands as well as subalpine sheep-based regions, whereas intensive market-oriented systems are better suited to the wet highlands, where farmers typically mix crop growing with animal husbandry.

Among the places where the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project is working to increase productivity of small animal stock is Gomma District, where sheep fattening cycles have been set up and are run by women.

The project is enabling farmers to increase the production of sheep and goats, with larger numbers of healthier animals fetching higher prices when they (or their related products) are sold in markets.

‘Farmers are using the increased income to expand and increase the numbers of animals in the fattening program and to purchase agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizer and farm tools. Household items, especially food, are also more accessible. They are also able pay for their children’s education’, said Tegegne, who is also a research scientist with the project.

Findings from the project in Gomma show that households made a profit of Birr 2,250–4,500 (US$167–333 USD) annually from the sale of fattened animals. In the first round, 120 farmers (38 women) fattened 5 sheep per household in three months. Most managed to fatten 15 sheep in three cycles in a year translating to significant household income for farmers and their families. As a result of this success, the fattening program is now used by more farmer groups and landless urban youths.

‘Women in particular benefit from this project, especially in areas where women’s groups focused on sheep fattening have been established. Fattening activities for small animal stock are traditionally carried out by women, who use income generated from this project to meet household and family needs. There is great potential to expand the project,’ says Tegegne.

The report also recommends greater use of technological interventions to better exploit the country’s genetic diversity and improve its breeding stock and to better control livestock diseases. And it suggests ways to reorient the country’s livestock extension services for better delivery to livestock keepers. The report says improved markets will depend on more and better-quality infrastructure and market information as well as communities of livestock producers organizing themselves into marketing groups or cooperatives to gain better access to markets and to increase their profit margins.

This report is part of a series of working papers produced by a five-year project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and implemented by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

To read the full report, please visit http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/2238 and to find out more, visit Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers Project.

New project to reduce chicken disease in Ethiopia

Chicken on LUO RU BIN's farm

A new study of genetic resistance to disease in Ethiopia’s indigenous chicken breeds is scheduled to start later this year. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research, the University of Liverpool, Roslin Institute, the Univerisity of Edinburgh and the University of Nottingham, researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will seek to identify ‘the causes of infectious diseases that have a major impact on poultry production in Ethiopia.’

Scheduled to start in September 2010, the study will take place in the district of Jarso, in eastern Ethiopia, and in Horro, in the west of the country. The results of this research will be linked to an ongoing poultry breeding program to improve resistance to ‘priority infectious diseases’ and thereby enhance the productivity of the country’s poultry sector.

Poultry play important economic, nutritional and socio-cultural roles in the livelihoods of poor rural households in Ethiopia and many other developing countries, where birds are widely integrated into smallholder production systems and help households cope with hunger and poverty.

Buying and rearing poultry is often a first step out of poverty. Women tend to own and manage chickens, usually native chicken varieties, which provide them with their only independent source of cash income.

Although breeding programs for local chickens have shown that rapid improvement in productivity is possible, researchers have yet to identify and select the optimal breeds for improving, by, for example, providing resistance to common infectious diseases.

Tadelle Dessie, a team leader of ILRI’s biotechnology theme in Ethiopia, and one of the leaders of the chicken project, says ‘enhanced genetic resistance through selective breeding is still an under-exploited low-cost opportunity for disease control in low-input poultry production systems’. He says the study will investigate genetic variability in the resistance of local chicken ecotypes to major infectious diseases hurting village poultry production in Ethiopia. Results of the research will inform strategies for improving both disease resistance and productivity.

Indigenous chicken varieties are well adapted to local environments, but local birds tend to grow slowly and produce fewer and smaller eggs than commercial varieties. Infectious diseases, however, can wipe out flocks of exotic, higher-producing, poultry.

Knowledge from this study should enable Ethiopian policymakers and animal health professionals to design more precise disease-control plans. The study itself should help improve Ethiopia’s scientific capacity in this field by training local scientists and enhancing laboratory facilities for poultry testing.

Staff are now being recruited for the project, which will be launched in September.

Livestock: ‘Polluters of the Planet’ or ‘Pathways out of Poverty’? A public debate

Small-scale pig farming outside Beijing

Two development experts recently debated the 'public goods' and 'bads' of global livestock production. They debated the question, 'Should we eat less meat to increase food security', in a 'Spat' column in the current (June 2010) issue of People and Science, published by the British Science Association.

Arguing 'no' (with reservations) is John McDermott, a Canadian veterinary epidemiologist who serves the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as Deputy Director General for Research. Arguing 'yes' (also with reservations) is Vicki Hird, a Senior Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, a UK-based environmental non-governmental organization.

The missions of both ILRI and Friends of the Earth have much in common. Both organizations, for example, are investigating ways to reduce climate change. And both want to manage natural resources in ways that conserve as much land, water, biodiversity and air as possible, with everyone getting a 'fair share' of those resources.

But when it comes to their views on livestock — as to whether cows, sheep, goats, pigs and other farm animals do more good than bad, or more bad than good, for people and their environments — each of these development experts sees livestock from a different perspective.

For Hird, who lives in Europe — where environmental concerns are major issues, and where the public embraces environmental causes and activism — livestock are largely 'polluters of the planet'.

For McDermott, who lives in East Africa — where people's greatest concerns are getting a job, putting food on the table and paying school and medical fees, a region where development concerns take centre stage — livestock represent 'pathways out of poverty'.

Large-scale pig production in Beijing

As one might expect, Hird takes a 'global' and 'environmental' view of the impacts of livestock production, focusing on the inhumane industrial 'factory farms' of industrialized countries, the over-consumption of fatty meat by the rich, and the rape of South American forests to make room for cattle, sheep and goat ranches or for growing soy to feed pigs in Europe. McDermott, also as one might expect, takes the perspective of the world's 450 million small farmers, who raise their animals on grass and crop wastes rather than grain, whose children don't yet eat enough meat, milk and eggs, and whose livelihoods depend directly on the natural resources they have at hand.

Both of these development experts, perhaps surprisingly, also agree on quite a lot when it comes to livestock. They agree that factory farming practices are becoming more and more unsustainable as well as inhumane; they agree that most people in rich countries would profit from eating less fatty meats; they agree that South America's forests should not be felled so that rich people can eat more pigmeat; and they agree that finding more sustainable as well as equitable ways of producing livestock is in the general public interest.

What the debate focuses on, then, is not so much what to do but how to do it. And, as we shall see, on how long that should take.

McDermott argues for giving small farmers 'incentives', for example, to redistribute livestock herds or to intensify their crop-plus-livestock farming systems in ways that make more efficient use of natural resources.

Hird argues for more regulation of the livestock industry in richer countries in areas such as farm subsidies and taxation, and for raising awareness of the major environmental, social and health problems that livestock systems can cause so as to change public (meat-eating) behaviour.

McDermott thinks our biggest job is 'to close the selective-evidence divide on both sides of the debate' by getting more evidence in key areas; some industrial practices, he points out, make 'very efficient' uses of environmental resources. To come up with equitable policies in the global livestock sector, McDermott argues, will require better assessments — and at much more local levels — of the differing socio-economic as well as environmental trade-offs of those policies. 'Before taking broad action', he says, 'we should use the best available knowledge to design and test interventions in pilot studies'.

Hird is impatient 'to wait for a perfect evidence base' before acting and says they have 'presented a Sustainable Livestock Bill in Parliament to kick start the dialogue on vital UK action'.

In brief, Hird appears most interested in quickly getting to 'less' livestock intensive production' and McDermott in developing long-term 'smarter' livestock intensive production'.

Let us know below what you think.

More . . . (People and Science Spat, June 2010)

Friends of the Earth

International Livestock Research Institute


In a new 2-minute filmed interview on the 'goods' and 'bads' of livestock by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), scientists Phil Thornton, of ILRI, and Andy Jarvis, of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in Colombia, give their views on whether giving up eating meat altogether would help to save the environment. They describe the importance of livestock to the livelihoods of one billion of the world's poor and caution that removing livestock from the environment would have its own effects. These scientists shared their views during the launch of a new initiative by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) called ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.’

 

Livestock goods and bads … have our views changed?

Livestock, the good the bad and the ugly” was the theme for the annual staff meeting of the International Livestock Research Institute in April of this year.

As an organization we have tended to focus on the positive aspects of livestock production in developing countries and this bias is evident in our strap-line: Better Lives through Livestock. At the same time the global media regularly present a very different view of livestock as “polluters of the planet”.

We felt it time to address this issue head on and consider both the negative and positive elements of livestock production and how these differ in the developed north and the developing south.

In the run-up to our meeting we conducted a quick survey to get participants thinking about the issues. At the meeting itself we engaged in an extended dialogue on livestock goods and bads using a range of formats. We repeated the survey after the meeting.

Survey results were reasonably consistent before and after the meeting although some of the opinions did change. For example the perception that in global terms livestock are a pathway out of poverty was significantly eroded following the meeting. There was also a tendency for increased awareness of zoonotic disease as a livestock bad. We also saw a reduction in those responding “don’t know” suggesting that our deliberations did increase understanding on livestock goods and bads.

Although the results were interesting, the survey was also a useful process for getting people thinking about livestock goods and bads and the high response rate (almost half of participants completed the first survey round) suggest that it was a useful exercise. See a summary of the survey results.

 

 

 

This post is part of a series associated with the ILRI Annual Program Meeting in Addis Ababa, April 2010. More postings …

Indian dairy is big dairy – and it’s all done by small producers

India, Andhra Pradesh, Ramchandrapuram village

A recent article in the Economist — ‘Indian policymakers should see agriculture as a source of growth, not votes’ — in its 13-19 Mar 2010 issue states that: ‘Indian agriculture has performed so poorly largely because governments have treated it as a source of votes rather than as an engine of growth. . . . India’s government still fixes prices and subsidises inputs, when public money would be far better spent on infrastructure and research. . . . India needs to stop seeing agriculture as a problem to be nursed and start thinking of it as an opportunity to be grasped. . . . India is already an agricultural force in some crops. It is the second-biggest exporter of cotton and was a net exporter of cereals for a decade after 1995 . . . .’

What the Economist article omits to mention is that India nearly a decade ago (2001) became the world’s biggest milk producer. Remarkably, almost all of that milk is produced by some 40 million households keeping just a few cows or buffaloes on small plots of land. Those households are, indeed, an opportunity to be realized.

For more information about smallholder dairy research, visit ILRI’s ‘Livestock Markets Digest‘ blog.

New paper quantifies the global role of livestock as a nutrient source for the first time

Mario Herrero, systems analyst at the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is co-author of a paper to be published today in the prestigious US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper quantifies the role of livestock as a nutrient source globally for the first time. The paper, ‘A high-resolution assessment on global nitrogen flows in cropland’, reports results of an investigation of the sources of nitrogen for crop production globally. ‘We quantified the role of manure in different continents and in different agricultural production systems,’ says Herrero. ‘We found large differences in manure levels. In large parts of Africa and South Asia, which have the greatest numbers of poor people in the world, most of whom make a living by farming, manure can represent 35-40% of the nitrogen needed for growing crops, making it a major source of needed nutrients in these regions,’ Herrero. Elsewhere, he explained, where farmers have ready access to chemical fertilizers, manure plays a less important role in crop production. The paper shows that livestock manure is as important a nutrient contributor as (and in some regions, is even more important than) the stalks, leaves and other wastes of crops after harvesting, which are often fed back into soils to help enrich them for the next cropping season. But those crop residues are becoming increasingly scarce due to their competitive uses. And one of the biggest competitive uses is as animal feed. Many farmers are loath to put their crop residues back into their soils because they need them to feed their animals. In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, crop wastes represent between 40 and 60% of all the feed for the cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminant animals raised. ‘Crop residues are a hugely important resource,’ says Herrero. ‘And needing to keep these resources to feed their animals stops many farmers from adopting conservation agriculture, which requires putting the residues back into the ground.’ Of course, the animals consuming crop residues deposit their manure on the ground. This analysis by Hererro and colleagues suggests that, globally speaking, livestock manure and crop residues make similar levels of contributions to nutrient levels. ‘In developing countries,’ he says, ‘the best solution is often for a farmer to feed her crop residues to her ruminant animals and then fertilize her soils with the manure they produce.’ That’s because these farm animals provide poor farmers with many other essentials as well, including highly nourishing animal-source foods for the household, much-needed year-round cash incomes, and draught power, transport and other inputs for successful cropping. ‘The bad news,’ says Herrero, ‘is that the amount of manure we have in Africa and South Asia is not nearly enough to increase levels of crop production. And to feed the world’s growing human populations, we’re going to have to increase the amount of nutrients we’re providing the soils in these regions.’

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

With soaring food prices, indigenous peoples in India are going back to raising small local black pigs. With knowledge-based support, they could tap into new market opportunities and double their incomes.
 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis is Nagaland, one of India’s most insecure and poorest states. It is in the country’s mountainous northeast corner. 

Remarkably, even remote villages here are affected by the rising global prices of milk, meat and cereals.

Most Naga ethnic groups have always kept pigs. Pork remains their preferred meat. Now, today’s skyrocketing grain prices mean the small black pigs these tribal peoples keep, which are adapted to local feed resources, have suddenly become more attractive than big white imported pigs, which have to be fed on expensive grain.

 

India: Poverty Statistics

India: Over 300 million people, 27.5% of the population live below the poverty line.

Northeast India is the easternmost region consisting of the Seven Sister States. It is home to 38 million people. The region is linguistically and culturally very distinct from the other states of India and officially recognized as a special category of States.

Nagaland is home to 1.99 million people. 19% of the population or 399,000 people live below the poverty line of which 387,000 live in rural areas.

Assam is home to 26.6 million people. 19.7% of the population or 557,700 people live below the poverty line, 545,000 of them in rural areas.

Poverty statistics source: Government of India Planning Commission (2007) Poverty estimates 2004-05.

Pig income for livelihoods and education 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland


‘Apart from keeping pigs and farming, women like us don’t have any other ways to make money.
 
 

A window of opportunity for small pig farmers


Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandPig farmers in Nagaland and Assam now have a window of opportunity to step up their pig production and sell their native animals across the two states.
But as markets for pigs are getting larger, so is the market chain, making the business of supplying disease free, safe meat increasingly hard for small producers.  On top of that, there are no functioning breeding schemes or feed systems that would allow farmers to intensify.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis lack of quality knowledge is stopping expansion in a rapidly changing industry that could benefit many of the most vulnerable members of society, such as women and children. Without this critical knowledge-based support the opportunity for millions of the world’s poor to climb out of poverty through enhanced pig farming and marketing will be lost.

A local solution for rising prices

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandDevelopment agencies have tried for decades to raise the very low household incomes in Assam and Nagaland. But even though pig keeping is central to the livelihoods of the poor and especially poor women, pig production has seldom been viewed as a development tool for the region.
This is peculiar because until recently local demand for pork was so great that it was profitable for local business people to import large numbers of commercial white pigs from producers in India’s grain states further west.  Animals were being transported 2000-3000 kilometres, at a cost of USD40 each.

But grain-based feeds and transport have both recently shot up in price, adding even more to the cost.  People in Assam and Nagaland are suddenly finding the imported white pigs far too expensive. A new market is growing fast for the local black and cross-bred pigs. Because these native animals can be fed mostly on low-cost feed crops and crop wastes, they are an ideal solution to fill the new pork and piglet supply gap. 

Knowledge-based support needed to tap into fast changing markets


Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandHowever because markets are changing so fast smallholder farmers can no longer make it alone.  They lack access to information and resources, linkages to health and breeding services, business support, and feeding systems.  All these are vital if they are to expand while also meeting increasingly demanding new health and safety standards. This short-term opportunity is ready-made for success. The pigs are there, the demand is there, and farmers ambitious to grow their pig enterprises are also there.

With relevant knowledge and training, both of which ILRI with its national partners are ready to provide, most tribal households in these states could boost their herd sizes and double their incomes sustainably and in a cost-effective way over the next 5–10 years.

Without support, millions of people will increasingly suffer poverty, conflicts, and the loss of dignity that goes with forced migration to cities. However, with help, they can maintain the traditional livelihoods that sustain communities and generate prosperity.

ILRI’s representative for Asia, Iain Wright, says ‘We are working with national partners to gain support for helping poor people seize this big pig marketing opportunity in Nagaland, Assam and other northeast states.

‘We have recently started a project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the School of Agricultural Science and Rural Development, Nagaland University, to implement a programe of research to improve the production and marketing of pigs in selected villages in Mon District, Nagaland. We’re also looking at working on similar projects with national partners in other notheastern states’, says Wright.

Background information:
The Nagaland pig production and marketing project is funded by the National Agricultural Innovation Project with a contribution from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and aims to develop sustainable solutions to livelihood improvement in one of the poorest districts in India.

 

Renewed invitation! Join our e-consultation on livestock research in Asia – deadline 31 August

Over the next few months, ILRI will be facilitating the development of an ‘Action Plan for Pro-Poor Livestock Research for Sustainable Development in South and South East Asia’ and invite you to contribute your views on livestock research in Asia

Approximately 300 million poor people in Asia depend to some extent on livestock for their livelihoods. The livestock sector in Asia is undergoing unprecedented rapid and dynamic change which presents huge opportunities for improvement in livestock-related livelihoods as well as posing a number of challenges to poor livestock keepers. Rapidly growing demand for livestock products are creating new opportunities for poor livestock keepers, but changes in processing and retailing – such as the supermarket revolution – increased concerns about environmental impacts of livestock production, and new and emerging diseases could threaten the access of poor livestock keepers to these opportunities. Coupled with concern that much past livestock research has not contributed to a reduction in poverty in many parts of Asia, now is the time to take a fresh look at how livestock research can contribute to poverty reduction.

In the coming months ILRI will be facilitating the development of an Action Plan for Pro-Poor Livestock Research for Sustainable Development in South Asia and South East Asia. As part of this process ILRI will be conducting an electronic ‘Challenge Dialogue’ in which stakeholders from all areas of livestock research and development will be invited to put forward their views.

Challenge Dialogue: a new kind of consultation

A ‘Challenge Dialogue’ is a disciplined process of defining a specific challenge, engaging diverse stakeholders in a productive conversation focused on co-creating a solution, and taking action towards the solution.

It is a proven vehicle for taking groups of 10-100 people through a structured conversation over several months focused on developing alignment and agreement around a plan for solving complex tasks.

‘Challenge Dialogue’ is particularly useful when faced with a significant opportunity or problem to be solved, when you need to bring people together that don’t normally work as a team and get them collaborating quickly and effectively, and you want to move to action within a defined timeframe.

Patti Kristjanson, ILRI’s Innovation Works leader says ‘The idea behind the Challenge Dialogue is that we involve as many diverse participants as possible and engage them in a bigger conversation. Everyone’s opinions are encouraged – thus we get diversity of views and a free flow of innovative ideas.

Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative in Asia said ‘we want to engage in dialogue with anyone who has views to share in what livestock research is needed, what new ways of working are required and what partnerships need to be developed in South Asia and South East Asia – and most importantly how that research can benefit the poor.

‘It’s important that we get the views of not only the research community, but also government departments, development agencies, donors, NGOs, the private sector and particularly representatives of farmers’ organizations.

‘We want the Action Plan to help all organizations involved in livestock research for development to ensure that their activities can have an impact on poverty reduction,’ said Wright.

Following the electronic consultation, two workshops will be organized to draft the Action plans, which will then be presented for final discussion at a meeting of representatives of key stakeholders in Beijing in early December, at the time of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Annual General Meeting.

Download the Challenge Dialogue paper: http://192.156.137.110/ILRIPubAware/Uploaded%20Files/2007824629490.Challenge%20Paper%20Asia%20.pdf