Dialing back on the drivers of global disease outbreaks: A look inside the ‘black box’

Pathogen flow at the wildlife–livestock–human interface

 

As published in PNAS 2013: 1208059110v1-201208059. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Delia Grace and others, May 2013.

By Michelle Geis

A new report on the ‘causes of causes’ of H7N9 and other diseases that are emerging in animals and jumping species—into people

The deadly H7N9 bird flu virus in China and the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus in the Middle East continue to make headlines. H7N9 has killed 35 people  in China and 20 have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus—which has spread from Saudi Arabia to the UK, France and Germany.

Two opinion editorials in the New York Times last week, The next contagion: Closer than you think and The next pandemic: Not if, but when, correctly warn us about the potential global spread of these killer diseases. They call for more awareness of the dangers of zoonotic (animal-to-people) diseases, faster identification of animal sources of the pathogens and better vaccines to protect us against them. All of those are indeed needed.

But like much of the mainstream press, neither article mentions the root cause of these emerging infectious diseases, that is, the conditions that make zoonoses likely to arise in the first place and then help turn them into lethal pandemics.

These ‘causes of causes‘ of zoonotic disease outbreaks and their spread are pinpointed in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and other scientists argue in this paper that we’ll only become capable of preventing or stopping the next pandemic when we better understand the drivers of disease emergence.

Some of these disease triggers are well-documented, if not well publicized. We know that rising demand for more meat and dairy products in rapidly growing developing countries, where cities and slums are densely crowded with livestock as well as people, can be a culprit. We know that animals kept in stressful as well as crowded conditions can be culprits. And we know that our expanding agriculture is fragmenting habitats, stressing wildlife and bringing people into contact with animals carrying pathogens, and reducing biodiversity, all of which encourage wildlife diseases to jump species.

A table published in the peer-reviewed article (see below) shows what conditions led to Ebola, HIV, SARS, Nipah, avian flu, Japanese encephalitis and more. Acknowledging and investigating these factors can provide governments and global health officials with important clues as to the next probable outbreak.

13PNAS_Grace_Figure1 copy

Table published in PNAS 2013: 1208059110v1-201208059. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change.

So, what is it that’s preventing us from anticipating and stopping the next global pandemic since we know the conditions likely to produce one? For one thing, as the paper discusses, the conditions that trigger diseases are changing more rapidly than the research that examines them.

Another challenge is that though an emerging disease event is reported somewhere in the world on average every four months, the likelihood of emergence in any given farm or farming system is low.

As Grace explains, ‘Taking action to slow the drivers of disease is good for humanity but not likely to have any observable benefits to the individual farmer. Hence, the society that benefits from less disease emergence must provide the incentives to dial back on the drivers.’

Finally, the world is increasingly farming on the margins, with most of the last few remaining near-pristine ecosystems now being invaded and destabilized. Just as inexorable is the move to rapidly growing cities of poor rural people, who are bringing their livestock with them. The resulting losses of biodiversity, and the rise of genetically improved, and thus similar, animal populations, also increases the risk of a pandemic emerging. Climate and environmental changes are generally making matters worse.

Grace says research must better examine the complex, context-specific, and interrelated nature of zoonotic pathogen emergence.

‘First’, she said, ‘we need to look inside the black box of the big trends driving disease emergence: urbanization, intensification, globalization, loss of habitat and biodiversity.

‘We also need to understand what causes matter most in different situations and which are amenable to mitigation.

‘And we need to develop ways of doing agriculture differently, ways that not only reduce disease emergence but also can be adopted at large scale.

‘Given that disease emergence is predictably unpredictable, much can be achieved by understanding, monitoring and managing pathogen dynamics before infectious agents emerge.’

Read the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Bryony A Jones, Delia Grace, Richard Kock, Silvia Alonso, Jonathan Rushton, Mohammed Y Said, Declan McKeever, Florence Mutua, Jarrah Young, John McDermott and Dirk Udo Pfeiffer, PNAS 2013 : 1208059110v1-201208059.

Michelle Geis is a Washington DC-based science communications expert who works for Burness Communications.

As a new round of bird flu hits China, livestock scientist advises to ‘panic slowly’

China

At the chicken market in Xining, Lanzhou Province, China (photo on Flickr by Padmanaba01).

By Matthew Davis

The initial news reports were slim on details but the reaction was swift. There were at least three people dead in China after apparently contracting influenza from birds. Prices of soybean—a major ingredient in livestock feed—immediately took a dive.

Then the death toll rose to five, virus samples were detected in pigeons, and in Shanghai authorities began slaughtering poultry flocks. Within a few days the death count was up to seven, then nine. And people started to wonder about a connection to all those pig carcasses floating down Shanghai waterways.

Such is the confusing swirl of information emanating from the latest incident in which a worrisome disease has passed from animal to human, a phenomena—and a quite common one at that—known as zoonoses. In this instance, it’s an influenza virus called H7N9 that appears to have originated in wild or domestic bird populations, but much about its source remains murky.

For Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who spends most of her waking hours studying zoonotic events around the world, there are two essential facts to keep in mind as the situation in China evolves. And they embody how difficult it can be to craft a proper response.

One: the vast majority of zoonoses outbreaks do not escalate to crisis proportions. But, two:  every now and then, as happened with Spanish flu in 1918 and AIDS in more recent times, an animal disease jumps to human hosts and causes a ‘civilization altering event’.

Grace suggests the appropriate reaction is to ‘panic slowly’. In other words, be prepared to move quickly if things get worse, but don’t over-react to the early reports. Also, keep in mind that, just based on what gets reported, a new disease emerges somewhere in the world about every four months.

For example, Grace noted that epidemiologists in the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Middle East are probably more concerned right now about a new and deadly corona virus that as of late March had killed 11 of the 17 people known to have been infected. There is evidence that at least one of the infections may have originated in racing camels.

Grace advises decision-makers in the public and private sector to channel the impulse to take action toward addressing conditions that are intensifying zoonotic threats.

We know that in certain parts of the world, livestock intensification is being pushed well beyond the limits of anything we have done in agriculture in the past’, she said. ‘There are hundreds of thousands of animals packed together and little transparency about how they are being managed. And that’s making disease experts pretty nervous.’

But Grace cautions against focusing solely on the risks posed by certain livestock practices and ignoring the fact that livestock are a major source of food and income for 1 billion of the world’s poorest people. She worries that misguided reactions to emerging zoonotic diseases can end up doing significant harm to their lives and livelihoods.

For example, in 2009, the Egyptian government  ordered the mass slaughter of pigs tended by Coptic Christians on the mistaken belief that the pigs were linked to the H1N1 flu pandemic. Also, the possible link in Asia between a different, and also deadly, form of avian influenza called H5N1 and ‘backyard’ poultry farming has prompted a shift to more industrial-scale production. Yet, as Grace points out, given the problems plaguing industrial operations in the region, this shift could actually increase the risk of zoonotic diseases while imperiling the food security of livestock keepers.

‘The proper reaction to the risks posed by emerging zoonotic diseases is not to indiscriminately slaughter animals. That could threaten the health of far more people by depriving them of their primary source of protein and other nutrients’, Grace said.

What we need to do is look at the many ways livestock production has gone wrong—lack of diversity in animals, using drugs to mask signs of diseases, dirty conditions—and put them to right.

Matthew Davis is a Washington DC-based science writer and policy analyst; he also serves as a senior consulting writer for Burness Communications.

New leadership in ILRI’s livestock research-for-development work in Asia

Steve Staal, Theme Director

ILRI’s new regional representative for East and Southeast Asia Steve Staal (picture credit: ILRI).

Steve Staal has been appointed the new regional representative of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for East and Southeast Asia. An American citizen who has lived and worked in developing countries throughout his life, Staal will be based at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in Los Baños, The Philippines.

Staal, an agricultural economist by training, has been based at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, for many years, where he recently led ILRI’s Markets, Gender and Livelihoods Research Theme and in the past year served as ILRI’s interim deputy director general for research, during the institute’s transition to a new management team. Among other assignments, he has worked in South and Southeast Asia to enhance smallholder dairy and pig systems in particular. He has a long-standing track record in making a difference in policy analysis and advocacy for inclusive and pro-poor smallholder livestock-based development.

This ILRI position for coordinating and shaping ILRI’s collaborative livestock research in East and Southeast Asia is new. Staal’s appointment to it is a reflection of ILRI’s intent to strengthen its presence in Asia and its productive partnerships there so as to provide better support for livestock research for development in the region. Purvi Mehta-Bhatt (India), who has been heading ILRI’s research in all of Asia, will continue to represent ILRI in South Asia.

ILRI's Purvi Mehta-Bhatt #2 in India

ILRI’s head of Asia Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, taken during a field day In Haryana, India, in 4 Nov 2012 (picture credit: ILRI).

This new assignment for Staal and new focus for Mehta-Bhatt is made to increase ILRI’s engagement with partners throughout Asia.

ILRI stakeholders are encouraged to communicate with Steve Staal, at s.staal [at] cgiar.org, on areas of potential mutual interest, including opportunities for new collaborations and interactions, in East and Southeast Asia.

Taking Stock: Jul 2012 round-up of news from ILRI

Remembering Jeff Haskins

JEFF HASKINS
Last month, we at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and within CGIAR and the wider agricultural development communities grieved over the sudden loss of American media guru Jeff Haskins, who had spent six years in Africa covering African agriculture news stories for the American PR firm Burness Communications. Haskins, who had just turned 32, died at the Kenya coast on 14 Jul 2012. See online tributes to him from the ILRI News Blog (with links to 25 major news releases and 20 major opinion pieces that ILRI produced with the help of Jeff and his Burness team over the last five years), Pictures of Jeff Haskins (ILRI Pinterest Board), Pictures by Jeff Haskins (ILRI Pinterest Board)Burness Communications Blog, Global Crop Diversity Trust, CGIARInternational Center for Tropical AgricultureLa Vie Verte and Jeff Haskins Facebook page.

Emerging Zoonotic Diseases Events 1940-2012

MAPPING ZOONOSES
Before his untimely death, Jeff Haskins in early Jul orchestrated major and widespread media coverage of a groundbreaking report by ILRI revealing a heavy burden of zoonoses, or human diseases transmitted from animals, facing one billion of the world’s poor. Some 60 per cent of all human diseases originate in animal populations. The ILRI study found five countries—Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria—to be hotspots of poverty and zoonoses. The study also found that northeastern United States, Western Europe (especially the United Kingdom), Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia may be hotspots of ‘emerging zoonoses’—those that are newly infecting humans, are newly virulent, or have newly become drug resistant. The study, Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, examined the likely impacts of livestock intensification and climate change on the 13 zoonotic diseases currently causing the greatest harm to the world’s poor. It was developed with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

An opinion piece by the main author of the study, ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace, wearing her hat as a member of the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium, appeared this Jul in The Guardian‘s Poverty Matters Blog.

Azage Tegegne of IPMS awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science degree

ILRI AWARD
Azage Tegegne, of ILRI and the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree by Ethiopia’s prestigious Bahir Dar University.

Bruce Scott with ILRI Addis colleagues

ILRI STAFF
ILRI bid goodbye to Bruce Scott, who served ILRI as a director for 13 years, the last decade as director of ILRI’s partnerships and communications department. Bruce is moving only down the road in Nairobi, from Kabete to Westlands, where he is taking up the position of deputy director of a new initiative of Columbia University (USA): Columbia Global Centers  ⁄ Africa.

ILRI & FODDER AT RIO+20
We  compiled links to ILRI inputs to the Rio+20 conference, including how to ‘turn straw into gold’ with dual-purpose crop residues and, with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), how livestock feed innovations can reduce poverty and livestock’s environmental ‘hoofprint’.

POLICY BRIEF
ILRI produced a policy brief on ‘Preventing and controlling classical swine fever in northeast India‘.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS
We film interviewed ILRI director general Jimmy Smith on ILRI’s evolving new livestock strategy and on ILRI’s role in providing evidence about the ‘bads’ as well as ‘goods’ of livestock production, marketing and consumption. And we interviewed ILRI scientist Joerg Jores on his research results, which, as reported in Scientific American, show that the pathogen that causes cattle pneumonia (CBPP) arose with domestication of ruminants ten thousand years ago, but only ‘heated up’ and began causing disease relatively recently.

Commissioners in Africa

VIP VISITORS
An Australian contingent visited ILRI this month and launched a new initiative, the Australian International Food Security Centre, to improve food security in Africa. The centre, which falls under the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), will spend USD33.8 million over four years to support food production in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific region.

Visit by Korea's Rural Development Authority (RDA) to ILRI in Nairobi

PROJECT NEWS
We reported on the signing of a memorandum of understanding by ILRI and Korea‘s Rural Development Authority (RDA) for laboratory work in Kenya, innovative platforms in an imGoats project in India and Mozambique, and training sessions on controlling zoonoses conducted by the Vietnamese members of an ILRI-led project known by its acronym EcoZD (‘Ecosystem Approaches to the Better Management of Zoonotic Emerging Infectious Diseases in Southeast Asia’).

Curious pig in Uganda raised for sale

SELECTED RECENT PRESENTATIONS
Azage Tegegne Livestock and irrigation value chains for Ethiopian smallholders (LIVES) project, Addis Ababa, Jun (256 views).
Danilo Pezo Smallholder pig value chain development in Uganda, Wakiso, Jun (1186 views).
Derek Baker Livestock farming in developing countries: An essential resource, World Meat Congress, Paris, Jun (874 views).
Derek Baker Interpreting trader networks as value chains: Experience with Business Development Services in smallholder dairy in Tanzania and Uganda, ILRI Nairobi, Jun (1879 views).
Peter Ballantyne Open knowledge sharing to support learning in agricultural and livestock research for development projects, Addis Ababa, Jun (1589 views).
John Lynam Applying a systems framework to research on African farming systems, CGIAR drylands workshop, Nairobi, Jun (1884 views).
Bernard Bett Spatial-temporal analysis of the risk of Rift Valley fever in Kenya, European Geosciences Union Conference, Vienna, Apr (1164 views).
Nancy Johnson The production and consumption of livestock products in developing countries: Issues facing the world’s poor, Farm Animal Integrated Research Conference, Washington DC, Mar (542 views).

New partnership agreement to extend ILRI’s livestock and forages research in China

New ILRI-CAAS partnership agreement signed

A new partnership agreement to widen research on livestock and forage diversity was signed, on 14 October 2011, between the International Livestock Research Institute and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (photo credit: ILRI/Onesmus Mbiu).

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) today (14 October, 2011) signed an agreement to extend their shared operations in livestock and forage genetics research. Hosted in Beijing, the Chinese capital, the initiative will strengthen the already existing relationship between ILRI and CAAS that has seen the two research centres share research and facilities through the CAAS-ILRI Joint Laboratory on Livestock and Forage Genetic Resources for the past 7 years.

The joint laboratory carries out research into livestock genetics and forage species. ILRI scientists have been working in China for the past 10 years through a liaison office, which is hosted at CAAS.

This new agreement will expand operations of the joint laboratory to widen research into next generation genome sequencing that will help scientists better understand livestock and forage genetic diversity in China and other countries and conserve these unique livestock genetic resources and forage species. The new agreement will also improve training and capacity building of partners on the application of new technological discoveries in livestock and forage research.

Speaking at the signing ceremony held at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi, Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, thanked CAAS and praised the on-going work between the two partners saying ‘the partnership in China had created new opportunities for enhancing livestock research in Asia and contributed to a better understanding on how livestock can help the poor in Asia, particularly in China.’

Read about the outputs of the CAAS-ILRI joint laboratory: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/2421

In the crosshairs of hunger and climate change: New ILRI-CCAFS study maps the global hotspots

Please find a corrected and revised statement below, along with a link to download revised maps here: http://ccafs.cgiar.org/resources/climate_hotspots. All edits to the original article posted on this blog are reflected in RED and BOLDFACE below.

Five per cent reduction in crop season sensitivity to change capacity to cope: Corrected version

Five per cent reduction in crop season sensitivity to change capacity to cope: Corrected 13 Jul 2011 (map credit ILRI/CCAFS/Notenbaert).

A new study out today reveals future ‘hotspots’ of risk for hundreds of millions whose food problems are on a collision course with climate change. The scientists conducting the study warn that disaster looms for parts of Africa and all of India if chronic food insecurity converges with crop-wilting weather. They went on to say that Latin America is also vulnerable.

The red areas in the map above are food-insecure and intensively farmed regions that are highly exposed to a potential five per cent or greater reduction in the length of the growing season. Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for 369 million people—many of them smallholder farmers—already living on the edge. This category includes almost all of India and significant parts of West Africa. While Latin America in general is viewed as having a ‘high capacity’ to cope with such shifts, there are millions of poor people living in this region who very dependent on local crop production to meet their nutritional needs (map credit: ILRI-CCAFS/Notenbaert).

This study matches future climate change ‘hotspots’ with regions already suffering chronic food problems to identify highly-vulnerable populations, chiefly in Africa and South Asia, but potentially in China and Latin America as well, where in fewer than 40 years, the prospect of shorter, hotter or drier growing seasons could imperil hundreds of millions of already-impoverished people.

The report, Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics, was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The work was led by a team of scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) responding to an urgent need to focus climate change adaptation efforts on people and places where the potential for harsher growing conditions poses the gravest threat to food production and food security.

The researchers pinpointed areas of intense vulnerability by examining a variety of climate models and indicators of food problems to create a series of detailed maps. One shows regions around the world at risk of crossing certain ‘climate thresholds’—such as temperatures too hot for maize or beans—that over the next 40 years could diminish food production. Another shows regions that may be sensitive to such climate shifts because in general they have large areas of land devoted to crop and livestock production. And finally, scientists produced maps of regions with a long history of food insecurity.

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen, lead author of the hotspots study (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘When you put these maps together they reveal places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous,’ said Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at ILRI, in Nairobi, Kenya and the study’s lead author. ‘These are areas highly exposed to climate shifts, where survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields, and where chronic food problems indicate that farmers are already struggling and they lack the capacity to adapt to new weather patterns.’

‘This is a very troubling combination,’ she added.

For example, in large parts of South Asia, including almost all of India, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa—chiefly West Africa—there are 265 million food-insecure people living in agriculture-intensive areas that are highly exposed to a potential five per cent decrease in the length of the growing period. Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for people—many of them farmers themselves—already living on the edge.

Higher temperatures also could exact a heavy toll. Today, there are 170 million food-insecure and crop-dependent people in parts of West Africa, India and China who live in areas where, by the mid-2050s, maximum daily temperatures during the growing season could exceed 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). This is close to the maximum temperature that beans can tolerate, while maize and rice yields may suffer when temperatures exceed this level. For example, a study last year in Nature found that even with optimal amounts of rain, African maize yields could decline by one percent for each day spent above 30ºC.

Regional predictions for shifts in temperatures and precipitation going out to 2050 were developed by analyzing the outputs of climate models rooted in the extensive data amassed by the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Researchers identified populations as chronically food-insecure if more than 40 per cent of children under the age of five were ‘stunted’—that is, they fall well below the World Health Organization’s height-for-age standards.

CCAFS poverty and climate change hotspots presentation: Wiebke Foerch and Patti Kristjanson of CCAFS

CCAFS staff members Wiebke Foerch, based at ILRI, and Patti Kristjanson, based at the World Agroforestry Centre, hold discussions after ILRI’s Polly Ericksen presents her findings on poverty and climate change hotspots at the World Agroforestry Centre in May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty, but only if we fail to pursue appropriate adaptation strategies,’ said Patti Kristjanson, a research theme leader at CCAFS and former agricultural economist at ILRI. ‘Farmers already adapt to variable weather patterns by changing their planting schedules or moving animals to different grazing areas. What this study suggests is that the speed of climate shifts and the magnitude of the changes required to adapt could be much greater. In some places, farmers might need to consider entirely new crops or new farming systems.’

Crop breeders at CGIAR centres around the world already are focused on developing so-called ‘climate ready’ crop varieties able to produce high yields in more stressful conditions. For some regions, however, that might not be a viable option—in parts of East and Southern Africa, for example, temperatures may become too hot to maintain maize as the staple crop, requiring a shift to other food crops, such as sorghum or cassava, to meet nutrition needs. In addition, farmers who now focus mainly on crop cultivation might need to integrate livestock and agroforestry as a way to maintain and increase food production.

CCAFS Bruce Campbell following Andy Jarvis' seminar on CCAFS

Bruce Campbell, coordinator of the CGIAR program ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)’, based in Copenhagen, talks with guests at a seminar given about CCAFS by Andy Jarvis at ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 13 May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘International trade in agriculture commodities is also likely to assume even more importance for all regions as climate change intensifies the existing limits of national agriculture systems to satisfy domestic food needs,’ said Bruce Campbell, director of CCAFS. ‘We have already seen with the food price spikes of 2008 and 2010 that food security is an international phenomenon and climate change is almost certainly going to intensify that interdependence.’

Ericksen and her colleagues note that regions of concern extend beyond those found to be most at risk. For example, in many parts of Latin America, food security is relatively stable at the moment—suggesting that a certain amount of ‘coping capacity’ could be available to deal with future climate stresses that affect agriculture production. Yet there is cause for concern because millions of people in the region are highly dependent on local agricultural production to meet their food needs and they are living in the very crosshairs of climate change.

The researchers found, for example, that by 2050, prime growing conditions are likely to drop below 120 days per season in intensively-farmed regions of northeast Brazil and Mexico.

Growing seasons of at least 120 days are considered critical not only for the maturation of maize and several other staple food crops, but also for vegetation crucial to feeding livestock.

In addition, parts of Latin America are likely to experience temperatures too hot for bean production, a major food staple in the region.

Mario Herrero, Polly Ericksen and Wiebke Foerch prepare to listen to Andy Jarvis' seminar on CCAFS

Mario Herrero, another ILRI author of the study, with climate Polly Ericksen and CCAFS staff member Wiebke Forech, all based at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, wait to hear a presentation from visiting CCAFS scientist Andy Jarvis at ILRI on 13 May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

The study also shows that some areas today have a ‘low sensitivity’ to the effects of climate change only because there is not a lot of land devoted to crop and livestock production. But agriculture intensification would render them more vulnerable, adding a wrinkle, for example, to the massive effort under way to rapidly expand crop cultivation in the so-called ‘bread-basket’ areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Philip Thornton at Andy Jarvis' CCAFS Seminar

Philip Thornton (white shirt, facing camera), of ILRI and CCAFS, and other ILRI staff following a seminar on CCAFS given by Andy Jarvis at ILRI Nairobi on 13 May 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

‘Evidence suggests that these specific regions in the tropics may be severely affected by 2050 in terms of their crop production and livestock capacity. The window of opportunity to develop innovative solutions that can effectively overcome these challenges is limited,’ said Philip Thornton, a CCAFS research theme leader and ILRI scientist and one of the paper’s co-authors. ‘Major adaptation efforts are needed now if we are to avoid serious food security and livelihood problems later.’
Five per cent reduction in crop season sensitivity to change capacity to cope: Corrected version

Areas where average maximum temperatures are expected to exceed 30⁰C by 2050, corrected version (map credit: ILRI-CCAFS/Notenbaert).

Read the whole report: Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics, by Polly Ericksen, Philip Thornton, An Notenbaert, L Cramer, Peter Jones and Mario Herrero 2011. CCAFS Report no. 5 (final version). CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Copenhagen, Denmark. Also available online at: www.ccafs.cgiar.org.

Click here for the CCAFS online media room with more materials, including corrected versions of the news release in English, Spanish, French and Chinese, and also versions of the two maps shown here in high resolution suitable for print media.

All the maps will be made available online later this year; for more information on the maps, please contact ILRI’s Polly Ericksen at p.ericksen [at] cgiar.org or CCAFS’ Vanessa Meadu at ccafs.comms [at] gmail.com.

Note: This study was led by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS is a strategic partnership of the CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security. The CGIAR’s Lead Centre for the program is the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia. For more information, visit www.ccafs.cgiar.org.

Big optimism for Africa and Asia at global and African forums

Sere_InACrowd2_FARA2010_ByMcGaw

World leaders say 'big powers must tap into the dynamism of the developing world'

Time Magazine's report Look who's leading on the Global Forum it hosted in June 2010, along with Fortune and CNN, in Cape Town was full of good news for and from the leaders of ('what we will soon have to stop calling') the developing world. Similar optimistic talk was heard by Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and some 800 other participants of the recently concluded 5th African Agriculture Science Week and General Assembly of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), held in July 2010 in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso.

From the FARA Week 2010 blog:
'The FARA General Assembly occurred amidst growing interest from both inside and outside of Africa on how to realize the continent’s untapped agricultural potential. A report released earlier this month from McKinsey & Company predicts Africa’s agriculture sector could rapidly advance from generating US $280 billion a year today in revenue to $500 billion by 2020 to as much as $880 billion by 2030. According to some estimates, Africa has 60 percent of the world’s remaining arable land and an unmatched bounty of natural resources and plant and animal biodiversity.'

From Time Magazine:
'The theme of the [Global Forum] was the New Global Opportunity. The phrase is not just a recognition that, as the world economy emerges from the Great Recession, there are markets aplenty in the developing world but also that, if we are wise, we will take the chance to build an economy that is more inclusive than before and more respectful of the need to conserve natural resources for future generations. That way, everyone will benefit. As former U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a keynote address to the forum, right now the world is "too unequal and too unsustainable to be stable." But it doesn't need to be like that. The question facing the more than 350 leaders of government, business and civil society assembled in Cape Town was how to help build a different world.

'The developed economies of the Atlantic region are seeing a fragile recovery at best, one with little growth in jobs — and even that slow growth is threatened, in the view of many economists, by the hair-shirted fiscal tightening that has been seen of late in Europe. Concomitantly with the forum, world leaders at the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada were wrestling with the question of how long stimulus programs that have injected much-needed demand into economies could be continued. In that context, the performance of what we will soon have to stop calling the developing world has been tremendous. China grew by 8.7% in 2009, according to official figures. India showed excellent growth too, and even in Africa — so long dismissed by seers as an underperformer — growth hit 2% before the recession took hold, which followed years when the continent was growing at the historically robust rate of 6% or more.

'This isn't simply a function of the famous BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China — setting the pace. Indeed, as veteran global economist Kenneth Courtis of Themes Investment Management pointed out, Russia has fallen out of the club of most-favored developing economies, having been unable (so far) to use its endowment of natural resources to build truly world-class companies. With Indonesia increasingly catching the attention of business leaders, and Africa too, it might be time to try a new acronym: ABICI, for Africa, Brazil, India, China and Indonesia. Whatever you call them, the performance of the leading economies of the developing world has been sufficiently robust that political leaders like Rob Davies, South Africa's Minister for Trade and Industry, were able to trumpet the potential of south-south trade — while acknowledging that even the best-performing southern economies had been hurt by the continuing weakness in the rich world.

'The caveat is important, especially if, as Oxford University's Ian Goldin warned, there remains the real risk of a double-dip recession in the most-developed economies. Household-debt levels remain worryingly high, which is bound to dampen the recovery of consumer spending, and some banks still have substantial exposure to overvalued assets. But the worrywarts notwithstanding, corporate titans in Cape Town could hardly restrain their sense of excitement about the opportunities in the developing world. For AstraZeneca's CEO David Brennan, DuPont's chair and CEO Ellen Kullman and management consultancy McKinsey's global managing director Dominic Barton, the story of the recession was the acceleration of a trend toward growth in the developing world that had been under way before the downturn started.

'It isn't just that the developing world provides vibrant markets — 84% of the world's population lives outside the combined area of the North Atlantic economies, Japan and the four original Asian dragons — that explains the new corporate focus. Increasingly, it is the potential for low-cost innovation in the poor world that can provide goods and services that can be sold everywhere. From telecom to banking to medical supplies, companies are finding business processes and products in the poor world that they can apply and sell everywhere.

'. . . From the perspective of developing nations, the question of talent takes on a different hue. There is a growing consensus among development economists that the key driver of China's stellar success in the past 20 years has not been government policy (however effective it may have been) or the technocratic skills of its public-sector managers (though they are certainly impressive). It is that for two generations — going back to the dark, autarkic days of Maoism — China has educated its women. China would not have been able to become the workshop of the world if its factory workers, mainly girls and women, did not have the literacy and numeracy essential to perform assembly tasks. If there is one lesson from China that African nations (and ones in South Asia too) need to learn, it is that you cannot build a modern economy if you ignore the innate talents of 50% of your population.'

More . . . (Time MagazineLook who's leading, 12 July 2010, and FARA Week 2010 blog

Investigating new livelihood options for pastoralists

Research is identifying new development options that will help pastoral peoples and lands of the South adapt to big and fast changes.

livelihood optionsOver 180 million people in the developing world, especially in dry areas, depend solely on livestock and pastoral systems for their livelihoods. Grassland-based pastoral and agro-pastoral systems are undergoing unprecedented changes that are bringing new opportunities as well as problems. Research is helping to identify new development options for pastoralists that reduce risks and enhance their ability to adapt to changing climates, markets and circumstances.

Pastoral lands are crucial for the production of ecosystem goods and services, for tourism and for mitigating climate change. Pastoral systems can no longer be viewed as livestock enterprises, but as multiple-use systems that have important consequences for the environment and more diversified livelihood strategies.

Opportunities and challenges in tropical rangelands
A new paper, written by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), describes the major drivers and trends of dryland tropical pastoral and agro-pastoral systems and the challenges they present for development agendas. The paper, entitled Livestock production and poverty alleviation – challenges and opportunities in arid and semi-arid tropical rangeland based systems, gives examples of how research is providing new development options that should make drylands more attractive for public and private investment. The authors urge for a more holistic research agenda that will take into account the socio-economic and ecological synergies and trade-offs inherent in pastoral people taking up new livelihood opportunities.

livelihoodILRI’s director general and lead author of the paper, Carlos Seré, presented the paper at a joint meeting of the International Grasslands and Rangelands Congresses, held 29 June–5 July 2008, in Hohhot, in China’s Inner Mongolia.

Seré says: ‘Perceptions about arid pastoral regions are changing rapidly as we recognize the many functions these ecosystems provide and the new development options available.

‘Pastoralism can no longer be seen as a “tragedy” for common grazing areas but rather as a production system with great potential to sustain complex livelihood strategies.

‘Balancing the needs for increased productivity, environmental protection and improved livelihoods in these fragile drylands will help us address the needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable peoples’.

New development options for pastoral peoples and lands
Much conventional research has focused on increasing the productivity of drylands, for example, by improving livestock and feed management. However, big and fast changes mean that there is a need for an expanded, more integrated, research agenda that investigates what options will work best in given areas and circumstances and how pastoral peoples and lands will benefit.

The new development options need to ease the transitions in pastoral livelihoods that will be necessary in the coming decades and focus on ways to mitigate pastoral risk and encourage adoption of new livelihoods. Poor households may have opportunities to engage in livelihood strategies outside traditional livestock production, such as payments for ecosystem goods and services such as water purification and carbon sequestration. Others may have opportunities to combine livestock keeping with new or increased incomes generated through expanded eco- and wildlife tourism, biofuel production and niche markets for speciality livestock products.

Download Livestock production and poverty alleviation paper and presentation

Livestock production and poverty alleviation, C. Seré et al. June 2008


Reference
C. Seré, A. Ayantunde, A. Duncan, A. Freeman, M. Herrero, S. Tarawali and I. Wright (2008). Livestock production and poverty alleviation – challenges and opportunities in arid and semi-arid tropical rangeland based systems. International Livestock Research Institute, P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi, Kenya.

Impacts from ILRI and partner pastoral research
Studies in Africa, combining climate change predictions and proxy indicators of vulnerability, identified areas on the continent most vulnerable to climate change.

Studies in Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia identified economic shocks, drought, livestock losses due to animal diseases, and declining livestock service delivery as major sources of pastoral vulnerability. The study noted marked differences in the ownership of productive assets, livelihood strategies and vulnerability between men and women. This meant that women and female-headed households are still more vulnerable than the general population—and this in spite of the fact that young men are increasingly emigrating from pastoral to urban areas, leaving ever larger numbers of women as heads of pastoral households.

A participatory pastoral project in East Africa created knowledge and relationships that enabled poor Maasai agro-pastoral communities to influence district and national land-use policies affecting their livelihoods and wildlife-rich landscapes. Locals worked with researchers as community facilitators and played a key role in GIS mapping, representing the interests of their communities to local and national policymakers and delivering the maps and other knowledge products that are helping to protect their wildlife and secure additional income from wildlife tourism.

Studies in West Africa show that typically it is traders that dictate livestock prices because livestock producers and sellers lack accurate and up-to-date price information. Producers thus have little incentive to increase their livestock production even though a wide range of cross-regional links exist that could greatly increase their market opportunities. This research showed that West Africa’s pastoralists could increase their incomes by entering the growing regional livestock markets if provided with credit for value-added processing, reduced transportation and handling costs, livestock market information systems, and harmonized regional livestock trade policies.

Other studies have identified that new market opportunities for pastoralists are opening due to increasing demands from affluent members of society. Growing niche markets for certain locally preferred breeds of animals (Sudan desert sheep) or animal products (El Chaco beef), for example, are starting to be exploited in pastoral regions.

Contacts:
Carlos Seré
Director General, ILRI
Email: c.sere@cgiar.org
Telephone: +254 (20) 422 3201/2

Livestock research in Asia: Strategy and action plan launched in Beijing

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners have launched a new strategy and action plan for livestock research in Asia to ensure research has an impact on poverty reduction.

Livestock Research in Asia

‘Livestock Asia: A strategy and action plan for research for poverty reduction’ was launched at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Annual General Meeting in Beijing on 3 December 2007. The strategy and plan, which focuses on South Asia, South East Asia, and China, was created by over 50 organizations and individuals, during a five-month consultative process, facilitated by ILRI. The strategy contains a five-point action plan designed to ensure that livestock research ultimately has an impact on poverty reduction.

‘We hope that it will be of value to all those interested in reducing poverty through livestock research and development in South and South-East Asia, and China,’ explained Iain Wright, ILRI’s Regional Representative for Asia.

‘In particular, we hope that it will be used by researchers, policymakers, aid specialists and development practitioners to guide the development of their policies, programs, and projects’ said Wright.

300 million people depend on livestock in Asia

Three hundred million poor people in South Asia and another 100 million in South-East Asia and China, depend to some extent on livestock for their livelihoods. Rapidly growing economies and changing patterns of food consumption are driving increased demands for livestock products. This presents unique opportunities to reduce poverty through livestock production and marketing. The opportunities will only be realized if the poor can respond by generating marketable surpluses and accessing the market. Research towards poverty reduction through livestock can contribute to achieving this goal.

There are a number of key drivers changing the livestock landscape in Asia. These include a growing gap in income between urban and rural areas, rapidly growing demand and rising prices for livestock products, and changes in the way food is retailed, linked to changes in the supply chain. Trade liberalization is opening up new markets, but endemic and emerging diseases such as Avian Influenza can threaten access. Livestock production can have both positive and negative environmental impacts, and production systems are changing with intensification and competition for crops for human and animal feed and biofuels.

New roles emerging
There are evolving policy needs and new roles for the public and private sectors. This is taking place against a background of new communication technologies that are opening up new ways of sharing knowledge. There are, however, major challenges on how to manage knowledge effectively.

Creating the research agenda
The strategy recognizes that the poor are particularly vulnerable to external shocks because of their small asset base. It also recognizes that research is only one small but critical component in the process of improving pro-poor animal agriculture and market development.

According to Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI, ‘No single organization can ensure that the research that it carries out will reduce poverty. This requires the collaboration of many groups of stakeholders that extend way beyond the traditional research community.’

‘To ensure that research is relevant to the needs of the poor and that research outputs result in action, new partnerships will need to be formed’ he said.

‘National and international researchers, extension services, donors, development organizations, government at all levels, the private sector, regional organizations, representatives of local groups and farmers, producer organization and consumers need to work together to create the research agenda. This will ensure that research methodologies are appropriate and that research outputs make a real difference on the ground.’

Focus on process: The ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’
In recognition of the need for stakeholders to be involved in the development of the research agenda, the Livestock Asia Strategy and Plan does not identify priority research topics. It concentrates on how research for poverty reduction through livestock could be approached and conducted, rather than what research should be conducted. If the appropriate ways of working can be defined, if relevant partnerships can be developed, and if the appropriate skills can be brought to bear, then the establishment of research priorities and topics should be a logical consequence of that process.

The Executive Secretary of APAARI (Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes), Dr Raj Paroda, welcomed the launch of the plan. Speaking at the launch in Beijing, he said ‘APAARI is delighted with this initiative to create a strategic plan for pro-poor animal agricultural research in Asia.  It is timely, and we will certainly be a willing partner in taking this important initiative forward.’

Action points
Five key actions have been identified for implementation in the short term to improve the effectiveness of pro-poor livestock research in South and South-East Asia, and China, and the plan outlines how these action points will be taken forward:
1. Raising awareness and promoting the need for livestock research for poverty reduction
2. Developing a livestock knowledge resource for Asia
3. Defining regional research issues
4. Working in partnership
5. Capacity strengthening

Download Livestock Asia: A strategy and action plan for research for poverty reduction

Development and launch of the Livestock Asia Strategy and Plan

This strategy and plan focuses on the tropical and semi-tropical agricultural regions of South and South-East Asia, and China, regions dominated by smallholder, mixed crop–livestock systems with smaller populations of pastoralists, especially in South Asia. This plan has been produced by a large group of stakeholders in a process facilitated by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The steps in the process were:

1.  In August 2007, a Challenge Dialogue Paper was produced, following discussions with a small group of stakeholders in South and South-East Asia. The discussion paper, which set out certain assumptions, assertions, and questions, was sent to over 150 individuals representing a wide group of stakeholders from the research and development communities in the public and private sectors. They were invited to respond and provide ideas and suggestions. Forty-eight responses were received.

2. In September, the responses were summarized and synthesized in a Progress Report, which was sent to 150 stakeholders for further comment.

3. In October, two follow-up workshops were held in Bangkok and Kathmandu with stakeholders from South-East and South Asia respectively. The task was to validate the responses to the Challenge Dialogue paper, to clarify and further develop some of the ideas received, to check for gaps in information, and to identify specific activities that could be undertaken in pursuit of a pro-poor livestock research and development agenda.

4. In November, the strategy and plan was drafted. Input and comments were received from representatives from 12 countries within the region, as well as from individuals and organizations outside Asia with an interest in the region. Over 50 organisations – representing international, national and regional interests – participated in the creation of the strategy and action plan.

5. In December 2007, the strategy and action plan was launched at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Annual General Meeting in Beijing.

New pig feed technologies take off in China

Poor households in Sichuan are doubling their incomes by adopting research-based methods to store sweet potato leaves and vines to feed their backyard pigs almost year-round.
 
The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
http://www.new-agri.co.uk/06-2/focuson/focuson6.html.
Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI's website and its 2004 annual report;
http://www.ilri.org/home.asp?CCID=61&SID=1.

New pig feed technologiesThe southwest province of China is a world of contradictions. Amidst brand new cars and tall glass buildings, horse carts slowly wind their way through the bustle and the traffic, carting vegetables for sale. Commuters on bicycles peddle ferociously against the onward torrent of buses and motorcycles, and stop on the way to buy pancakes from a wooden stall propped up by the side of the road. The rich and poor live side by side in small cities and towns, in the growing network of China's metropolis. But with the growth of the economy and endless construction sites has come the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

While business is booming in China's cities, the poverty gap is growing between the urban and rural areas, with roughly 100 million rural people living on less than US$1 a day. Income for rural people has increased, but at a much lower rate than the urban industrial incomes which have underpinned a national GDP growth of about nine per cent every year since 1978. The real challenge is east-west and rural-urban inequality. The view from green paddy fields on the city outskirts is astonishing, as the speed of development merges the surrounding landscape into new high rises and roads every day. Between 40-50 million farmers are estimated to have partially or fully lost their land to development in the past decade, and that number is set to double in the next ten years.

Demand and supply
China's rural people rely heavily on agriculture and their livestock to provide food security amidst uncertain and rapid change; it is estimated that almost 70 per cent of the Chinese are dependent on agriculture. But China also has a very strong agricultural heritage. The Chinese were the first to use an iron plough, and wereCredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI thousands of years ahead of the West in methods of winnowing grain. Today, they are leading producers of pigs, poultry, rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. And while demand for livestock products is increasing, livestock research can help mitigate the impacts that increasing demand will have on small-scale producers. With rapid change, knowledge about how to adapt farming systems is essential.

New pig feed technologiesThere are many challenges ahead: how to feed increased numbers of livestock, the risk to public health, and the impact on natural resources. To address some of these issues, the Sichuan Animal Science Academy (SASA), has worked with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Sichuan Animal Husbandry Bureau to help farmers make the most of sweet potato as a feed for pigs. In 2001, pig production accounted for four fifths of total meat production in China. The province of Sichuan produces more pigs than any other region, and most of this is small-scale production, largely in poorer, hilly terrain. The pigs are fed on sweet potato but as a feed source the crop presents two problems: it becomes rotten within three weeks after harvest, and it can be harvested only once a year.

To address these constraints, the International Potato Center (CIP) worked to improve sweet potato varieties with Chinese institutions, and ILRI joined them to assist with feed supplementation and silage-making technology for sweet potato roots and vines. As a result, the extra biomass that farmers have been able to conserve has radically changed the pig production system. After harvesting, the vines are wilted to reduce moisture content. The roots and vines are then chopped, mixed with supplements and stored in airtight plastic bags, providing a nutritious feed that can support pig herds for up to nine months of the year. Improved feed has also allowed farmers to keep high-yielding cross-bred pigs, replacing much smaller and slower growing scavenging pigs that spread zoonotic, diseases such as cystercercosis. Other improvements have also been observed, including better husbandry practices, animal housing, and use of feed supplements and drugs, and these have increased the weight of pigs and greatly raised farm income.

Racing ahead
Over the past few decades, China has made its transition from a rural to an urban and market-based economy. The transition has occurred at remarkable speed, especially considering its population of over 1.3 billion people. The country has experienced one of the fastest rates of agricultural and overall economic growth, amid reforms leading to rapid progress in several areas, although agriculture – which was once a clear leader in reforms – now lags behind other sectors. China's economy grew by an average of 9.9 percent between 1993 and 2004, accelerating the demand for electricity and power networks, as well as food production.

In the outline of the national programme for science and technology development between 2006 and 2020, published by the State Council, China will give priority to technological development to solve problems, including those in the environmental and agricultural sectors. As labour costs rise, and many move to the cities in search of work, the agricultural sector will face challenges. Small-scale farmers are already adopting mechanical innovations in feed processing to overcome constraints and to continue to thrive. Commenting on the work being done in Sichuan, the Director of ILRI-IFPRI Joint Programme on Livestock Market Opportunities, Chris Delgado asks: 'What is the future of small-holders farming in this province? With the hard work of the people and their science institutions, and a little technology transfer from outside, it looks bright."