Goat pathways to better lives and livelihoods in remote mid-Himalayas

Goats before the Himalayan mountain range

Goats rest before the Himalayan mountain range in Kothera Village, Gangolihat, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

A TATA Trust-funded project conducted by staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) called Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems (ELKS) is holding a stakeholder workshop today (28 Feb 2012) on goat value chain development in the mid-hills of northern India’s state of Uttarakhand.

Twenty participants are meeting in Dehrudan, the state capital, where ILRI’s Sapna Jarial is based. The coordinator of ELKS, ILRI’s V Padmakumar (Padma), has organized this workshop with Jarial to get concrete recommendations from actors along the whole goat value chain here as to how to substantially improve goat enterprises among poor hill communities in this region.

Goat keeper getting her master's degree in Hindi literature in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Gita Fartiyal, a goat keeper getting her master’s degree in Hindi literature from Almora University, is paying for her education by keeping 40 goats with her brother  in a village in Lambgara Block in Almora District, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Goat keeper in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Govind Fartiyal, Gita’s brother, with some of their 40 goats (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Portrait of goat-keeping family in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Portrait of goat-keeping family, with Gita Fartiyal (left) (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Goats matter here. This state has 1.34 million of them! And there are signs that goats could provide farmers here with a pathway from subsistence to commercial enterprises.

Goat is the preferred meat in India,’ says Padma, ‘and demand for goat meat is increasing. There is thus great scope for using goats as an engine for reducing poverty.’

Terraced landscape in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Terraced landscape in a village in Lambgara Block, Almora District, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

While the focus of the Indian government till now has been on sheep development in this mid-Himalayan region, the sheep population is declining while the goat population is exploding, having increased 10-15% in just 10 years (1997-2007). Only sporadic initiatives support goat development in the state. The TATA Trust, ILRI and other participants at this workshop are interested to support this till-now neglected sub-sector through interventions and policies that support better goat health, breeding, feeding and marketing.

Mr Gafur, Dehrudan goat trader, and ILRI's Sapna Jarial

Mr Gafur, Dehrudan goat trader, and ILRI’s Sapna Jarial at a stakeholder workshop on Goat Value Chain Development, held in Dehrudan, 28 Feb 2012, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

This workshop is tasked with coming with practical ideas for substantially improving the state’s goat production in the next three years. At the same time, since goats here graze common lands under open grazing systems, it is vital that this development does not come at the expense of the fragile mountain environment.

ILRI's V Padmakumar

ILRI’s V Padmakumar, coordinator of the TATA-funded ELKS project (Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems), listens to discussions at a stakeholder workshop on Goat Value Chain Development, held in Dehrudan, 28 Feb 2012, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Read more about the ELKS project and check out a recent article about ELKS on the ILRI Asia Blog.

 

Transformation of life and livelihood: The success story of Manpai Konyak, Indian pig farmer

Nagaland pig farmer Manpai Konyak

Manpai Konyak with his sow in Lampongsheanghah Village, Mon District, Nagaland, India (image credit: ILRI/Ram Deka).

Manpai Konyak, a 52-year-old married father of six children, attended elementary school up to class V. All his children used to go to school but two have now left. Konyak and his family reside in a small house made of bamboo and leaves built on a hillside in Lampongsheangha Village, in the Mon District of the state of Nagaland, situated in India’s far northeastern corner. Konyak is a beneficiary of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) of the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR), which is being implemented by ICAR and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

This is Konyak’s story.

Konyak’s livelihood before the NAIP project intervention
Manpai Konyak is a very poor farmer who cultivates three jhum, or slash-and-burn, fields of paddy rice, maize, millet, colocacia, tapioca, vegetables, and so on. He rotates his jhum plots, each constituting 1–1.5 hectares, every 3–5 years. His plot yields were very low because they were neither irrigated nor fertilized. Konyak’s agricultural production met the food requirements of his household for only four months or so a year, with the family facing acute shortages of food over the other eight months of the year. In addition to farming, Konyak used to earn a small daily wage from labouring, or collecting firewood, or collecting leaves from the forest for making brooms. Daily wages in Lampongsheangh Village were only Indian rupees 50 per day (about USD1), and that was only available to him seasonally. In the off-season, he sold firewood (Rs25 per bundle) or brooms (Rs3 per broom). Konyak also kept some indigenous animal stock: usually 1 pig, 3 cows and 5–7 chickens. He earned Rs7000–9000 every 3–4 years when he sold a fattened pig, as well as about Rs400–500 a year by selling 2–3 chickens.

The pig system of Manapai Konyak before the NAIP project intervention
Konyak raised his small native pig in his backyard. He fed it waste from the household kitchen and forages collected from the nearby forest. At first he raised his pigs in the open, with no shed for them, but after a local ban was placed on free-ranging pig production systems, he started rearing his pig in a small (3 ft x 4 ft) enclosure constructed out of tree stems and leaves. He had no access to government, private or community veterinary services and in the absence of such services, most diseased pigs in the village died without treatment. It took Konyak 3–4 years to grow a pig to a weight of 70–80 kg. In the absence of any markets, he used to slaughter or sell a pig within the village every 3 to 4 years, usually during Christmas or Aaoling festivals, earning Rs7000–9000 (USD139–179) each time. Konyak’s wife helped him manage his pigs, but they gave little attention to the animals, as the little income they got from raising them didn’t justify much labour on their part. And in any case, Konyak and his wife had little understanding of good piggery management, and their lack of knowledge and confidence meant they never tried to rear cross-bred pigs for breeding purposes.

What ILRI worked to do under NAIP with Konyak and other small-scale pig producers
ILRI started to work in Konyak’s Lampongsheangh Village in early 2008, when ILRI staff visited the village and talked to some of the pig producers about their pig production practices, their problems and scope for improvement. The ILRI staff worked with the community to develop ideas for simple interventions that could  improve the village’s pig production and marketing. The villagers and ILRI staff then finalized activities and action plans for implementation. Konyak, like many others, took an active part in these discussions and helped design the following intervention plans, which the villagers then jointly implemented with ILRI staff.

Pig systems used after NAIP project intervention
Konyak is one of the first people to benefit from the Pass-on-the-Gift scheme implemented by ILRI under NAIP. He attended training on self-help group management, pig management and fodder cultivation delivered by ILRI. He participated in an exposure visit to Dimapur to observe pig management systems and attend a motivational program. These trainings have built his confidence in managing improved pigs for breeding and motivated him to invest more time and energy in managing his pigs. He realized that his piggery operatons could be an importance source of income for him and could transform his livelihood. He thus attended all the training programs and worked to follow all the recommendations made by ILRI. After being trained, ILRI project staff gave him a good-quality Large Black cross-bred female piglet in Sep 2009. As per the precondition, he constructed, with his own investment, a pig sty in a slightly elevated area that had good sunlight and no waterlogging. The shed he built was of sufficient size (8 x 10 ft) to accommodate one sow and her piglets. He used good-quality locally available materials to ensure his pig shed was durable. A drain and two manure pits were constructed for easy drainage of the pig waste. The pigs and shed were regularly cleaned to prevent the spread of diseases. (Konyak commented that his pig sty ‘was very dirty prior to the NAIP interventions, but now one can take food or go for sleeping in the pig sty’.) Konyak began to cultivate sweet potato, tapioca, colocacia and maize in a small area in his backyard. He and his wife no longer have to collect forages from the forest with which to feed their pigs, but rather cut and carry their home-grown forages to their pigs. Konyak supplements his forages with some bought concentrates, especially when his sows are pregnant and lactating. If Konyak observes any abnormality in his pigs, he now immediately contacts his local livestock service provider for advice on treating the animal(s). This local service provider visits Konyak’s farm and other farms at least once a week to advise the pig farmers about improved pig production practices and regularly provides them with deworming drugs, liver tonic and mineral and vitamin mixtures.  While Konyak formerly spent much of his time on unproductive work, and spent little time looking after his pigs, he now invests a lot of time in his pig rearing, and enjoys taking good care of his sows and piglets.

Impacts of the project on Konyak’s life
Whereas Konyak used to have to work for a daily wage quite frequently, he now does so rarely. The period during which his household experiences a food shortage has shrunk from 8 to 4 months. He is now living a much more comfortable life than ever before. He has bought a new cell phone and pays the school fees of his school-going children regularly. He recently purchased iron sheets and other construction materials to build a new house for his family. And his new awareness of the need to maintain clean and hygienic pig-keeping practices not only motivated him to keep his pig sty clean but also to improve the personal health and hygiene of his family.

Konyak’s future plans
After completing construction of his new house, Konyak says he would like to improve his pig sty further. He plans to make the floor of the sty concrete and to put a tin roof over the pen. He also plans to increase the number of sows he keeps from 2 to 5 over the next 2–3 years. Konyak is also taking the lead in installing a feed grinding machine in his village, with technical support from ILRI, and has already collected from his community Rs26,000 for this purpose.

Economic outcome of the interventions
The piglet ILRI supplied to Konyak grew well and was mated with a boar reared by another farmer participating in the project. The pig delivered 7 piglets in Oct 2010; 3 died due to lack of milk by the sow. Of the 4 survivors, Konyak gave one to his down-line beneficiary as a gift, as per the condition of the Pass-on-the-Gift scheme, and sold the other three for Rs2000 each in the village. The sow farrowed twice again in 2011, producing 11 and 9 piglets, respectively. Out of these, 1 piglet died and Konyak kept 1 as replacement stock and sold the remaining 18 in the village for Rs2000 per piglet, thus earning  Rs36,000 (USD714). In management his sow, Konyak spent about Rs1600 in 2011, giving him a profit in 2011 of about Rs34,400 (USD680) excluding the cost of labour. Considering the price of the piglet (Rs2000, and note that he received the first piglet free in 2009 from the project) and the cost of managing the pig in 2009–2010, Konyak’s total pig expenses came to some Rs5400, with his total earning during this period about Rs42,000, leaving him with a total profit of about Rs36,600 (USD726) over the two-year period.

Konyak has no problems selling his piglets. Many of the farmers from his village and neighbouring villages book the piglets in advance. Other pig farmers in the village, like Konyak, are now rearing pigs for breeding under the NAIP project, and all of this is transforming the village into a major piglet-producing village in the area. The villagers consider the project to be a great success because before the start of the project the village had no pig breeder, forcing them to buy piglets from visiting traders or farmers outside their village.

With the help of NAIP, Konyak has become one of the most progressive pig breeders in Lampongsheangha Village. He now encourages other farmers to rear and sell cross-bred pigs for breeding. Konyak says that good breeding, feeding, housing and veterinary care, coupled with his improved knowledge on pig management, have helped him to transform his subsistence pig system into a profitable one.

Read more on the ILRI News Blog about ILRI’s pig research in Nagaland.

Read an ILRI report: Improving the livelihoods of small-scale pig producers in Northeast India: An integrated, people-centred approach, by Ram Deka and Iain Wright. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI, 2011.


Raising incomes in India through better markets for goat and sheep meat, leather and wool

 The Goat Herd, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1862 (source: Wikipaintings.org).

This business of goats—
Sometimes it flourishes,
Sometimes it yields only a handful of chickpeas,
And sometimes even that is denied.

An interesting new report on Small Ruminant Rearing: Product Markets, Opportunities and Constraints makes a strong argument for enhancing the value chains of India’s meat, leather and wool industries to reduce poverty levels among the country’s many sheep and goat rearers, who make up 15% of all rural households in the country and most of whom (70%) are small and marginal farmers and landless labourers.

The report was published in Dec 2011 by the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, a joint initiative of India’s National Dairy Development Programme (NDDB) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The report was developed by Varsha Mehta, a consultant working with this South Asia livestock program, who spent six months (Nov 2010–Apr 2011) gathering information in extensive field visits and discussions with practitioners and communities rearing small ruminants in various states of the country.

Some the key findings, appearing in report’s the executive summary, are summarized below.

Sheep and goat ownership
With 15% of the world’s goat population and 6% of its sheep, India is among the highest livestock holding countries in the world. As of 2009, its estimated sheep and goat population was 191.7 million, comprising 10% of the world total.

Most of India’s goats (70%) are found in just 7 of the country’s 28 states (West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh) and 72% of the sheep population is concentrated in just 4 states (Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).

Although total numbers of such small stock have been rising in the country, average numbers per household have been falling, by about 25%—from 85 to 64 per 100 households—in the 11 years between 1991/2 and 2002/3.

The ownership and distribution of small ruminants in the country appears to be more equitable than that of land.

Policy issues and recommendations
Livestock rearing in the country has been primarily for livelihood security and not for commercial purposes, with ownership being more evenly distributed vis-à-vis land and other resources; animals are a hedge and insurance against natural calamities, droughts, etc., and animal husbandry is frequently one of the many occupations in a household’s livelihood strategy.

However, the commercialization of livestock is on the rise as a result of market developments and fiscal incentives, and an increasing demand for animal protein in the consumer market. A gradual shift is occurring towards intensively managed ram lamb/sheep units, particularly in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which is being led and/or facilitated by animal health professionals, state veterinary departments and financial institutions.

India’s single-minded pursuit of agricultural enhancement at all costs has harmed its animal husbandry. Government-planned and -sponsored schemes for intensifying agricultural production systems through land development and irrigation have led to a rapid loss of lands available for grazing sheep and goats, declining land and soil productivity, greater reliance on chemical fertilizers and higher costs of agriculture inputs. With the loss of grazing lands, flock sizes have decreased, with, for example, the average flock size in the ‘shepherd belt’ of Rajasthan declining from 200–300 to 60–70 sheep over a period of 10 years. The numbers of keepers of small stock have also declined, with many former shepherds and goat rearers now working as daily wage labourers.

Another threat to India’s small stock keepers are high levels of livestock diseases and deaths due to state veterinary health services and facilities unable to meet the veterinary demands of local and migrant graziers, breeders, rearers and shepherds.

Small ruminant meat
Prioritize the meat value chain
With an estimated 25,000 unauthorized slaughter locations and 4,000 registered slaughterhouses, India’s meat trade is highly unorganized and largely unregulated, having remained a low priority sector until the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007–12), when incentives were provided to industries to boost investment for modernization, value addition and infrastructure development.

The many entities responsible for licensing, regulating and controlling quality in the meat processing and export sectors lead to inefficiencies, and the mechanisms in place are largely ineffectual and the institutions involved largely under-resourced.

Although India’s meat market is predominantly a ‘wet market’ (dealing in live animals), knowledge of, and adherence to, food safety standards and regulations are greatly lacking, which poses the threat of infectious and other diseases erupting among livestock populations and some of them (zooneses) being transmitted between livestock and people.

Create more equitable livestock markets
India’s small ruminant markets favour brokers and other intermediaries to the disadvantage of consumers, rearers and sellers of livestock by-products.

A large part of the consumer’s costs are due to inefficient slaughter operations and markets and high transportation costs. Inefficient use of small ruminant by-products means the rearers get poor prices for their animals.

New players face barriers in entering the market and robust agents’ networks and strong resistance to government attempts to introduce change hamper the modernization or relocation of abattoirs.

Create value addition along the value chain
The non-standardized, unregulated and ad hoc transactions typical of India’s small ruminant trade lead to unfair practices. For example, animals are sold purely on the basis of a visual estimation of their weight, age and appearance, and female animals get lower prices than males in meat markets, even though no such distinction is made in the final price of meat sold in retail outlets. And although sheep fetch a lower price than goats, sheep meat is frequently passed off as goat meat in New Delhi.

With India’s small ruminant market remaining predominantly a wet market, given the preference of the Indian consumer for fresh meat over frozen or processed meat, little value addition takes place along the chain from producer to consumer although the price of the commodity rises at every level.

Fully utilize ruminant by-products
Whereas the blood, head, legs and offals of slaughtered sheep and goats are often sold near slaughterhouses in terminal markets and at village butchers’ shops, full potential of the by-products’ (skin, casings, bones, blood and other waste) is not realized in the country.

Bring the market closer to the production base
By bringing the market closer to the production base, it would be possible to address many problems that plague efficient operations in the meat industry. The terminal markets in all cities are constrained on account of space and municipal requirements for waste disposal. Both these issues could be addressed at the district level through appropriate site selection, long-term planning, and establishment of effluent treatment plants. District-level livestock trade centres would also be more accessible to producers, and lower the costs of transporting live animals, which are often transported in poor conditions across long distances and suffer poor lairing at terminal markets before their slaughter.

Small ruminant leather
Support smallholder production and collection of leather for a fast-growing industrial sector
While most of the leather industry’s units are small and medium enterprises, with 60–65% of the production coming from small/cottage sectors, the industrial structure, which till now has been mostly unorganized and decentralized, is gearing up fast in response to international market demand and a changing policy environment.

The gains that the leather industry has made over the years, due to favourable government policies and growth in international markets, have not trickled down to the players operating at lower levels in the leather value chain. And developments in the processing and manufacturing sectors are not accompanied by corresponding developments in raw material production and collection methods, which continue to be highly scattered and unorganized.

Enhance the supply of raw leather
Too little raw material, and material of poor quality, due to inappropriate methods of procurement of raw hides and skins, and their flaying and curing, are hurting India’s leather sector.

Losses from putrefaction and low-quality raw material could be addressed through worker collectives established close to the source of production, which could reduce the time lag between removal of skin and its (temporary) curing for preservation. Apart from the cost of inputs for treatment (salt) and storage (warehouse), the only other costs would be those of labour and the initial investment in organizing and establishing the collective. This small intervention in the leather value chain could go a long way in resolving higher end problems, as well as providing employment for many poor people.

Provide human resources for labour- and skill-intensive operations
Operations in leather processing and finishing are labour-intensive except in the initial stages, with the costs of labour rising as the product moves along the value chain. In many attempts to promote its leather industry, India has focussed on manufacturing and finished goods to the exclusion of all other aspects, such as procuring hides and skins and/or improving slaughterhouse practices, both of which could add significantly to the quality and availability of raw material.

Trained human resources are in short supply.

Small ruminant wool
Protect grazing lands
The entire production system that supports India’s wool industry is crippled by a loss of grazing lands and reduced flock sizes. In Himachal Pradesh, graziers since the British times have been issued permits for grazing their herds, with migratory routes and numbers specified in the permit issued by the Forest Department. A specified fee per animal is charged per season. Over the years, there has been a restriction on the issuance of new permits, and the common practice now is for herds to be taken for migration by (existing) permit-holders on a contractual basis. Grazing grounds/pastures have also shrunk and degraded with the spread of weeds, which can also cause of high mortality, particularly in younger livestock.

Support local wool markets
Since changes in India’s import policies and licenses took effect, the markets have been flooded with products made of imported wool. The rising costs incurred by shepherds in rearing sheep and shearing their wool are not matched by a corresponding rise in returns from wool. Loss of markets for traditionally valued products have caused a loss in demand for local wool. A revival of the local wool markets is possible only through revival of Khadi institutions, as well as significant and sustained investments in R&D of products made out of local wool.

Improve sheep breeds
Only a small proportion of sheep (10–15%) have been crossbred. State-led initiatives for breed improvement have focused on the production of finer quality wool through crossing indigenous breeds with imported breeds such as the Merino and Rambouillet. The crossbreeding programs face two main problems: crossbred sheep have higher mortality levels than native sheep because they are unable to withstand the nutritional stress and difficult terrain/conditions; and the crossbreeding program has not yet led to the production of significant quantities of superior wools. Some scientists say there is a lack of high-quality germplasm available for improving wool quality and yield.

Read the whole report:  Small Ruminant Rearing: Product Markets, Opportunities and Constraints, South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, Dec 2011.

Notes
A year-old project on ‘Small ruminant value chains as platforms for reducing poverty and increasing food security in the dryland areas of India and Mozambique’, known as ‘imGoats’ for short, seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in India and Mozambique. The main target groups are poor goat keepers, especially women, and other marginalized groups, such as scheduled castes and tribes in India, households with members living with HIV/AIDS and female-headed households in Mozambique. The project is led by researchers from the Market, Gender and Livelihoods Theme of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International, Mozambique. It is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The goal of the imGoats Project is to increase incomes and food security in a sustainable manner by enhancing small ruminant value chains in the two countries. The project proposes to transform goat production and marketing from the current ad hoc, risky, informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market, largely controlled by and benefiting women and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups while preserving the natural resource base.

The project established a strategic advisory committee at the national level in each of the project countries. In India, the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme (SAPPLPP) is one of seven agencies represented on this committee; the others are the Animal Husbandry Departments of Governments of India, Rajasthan and Jharkhand; IFAD; BAIF; and ILRI. The first national advisory committee meeting of the imGoats project in India was held on the 17 Aug 2011 in New Delhi; it meets every six months, with its next meeting scheduled for 10–11 Feb 2012, in Udaipur and Jhadol.

For more information, visit ILRI’s imGoats Blog.

New training manuals for improving small-scale pig production: With lessons from northeastern India

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

Children of a smallholder pig-farming household in Mon District, Nagaland, in the far northeastern corner of (tribal) India, which is participating in an ILRI project to help the rural poor enhance their production of pigs and pork (photo credit: ILRI/Ram Deka).

A new set of training manuals for pig farmers is now available. The manuals inform poor rural pig farmers in developing countries how to ‘intensify’ their production, using lessons gathered from a research-for-development project in India. Among other recommendations, the manuals offer ways of improving smallholder pig farming, including basic veterinary care, and pork production and marketing.

‘These manuals are the result of an analysis of the main gaps in small-scale pig production in India,’ said Rameswar Deka, a scientist from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Guwahati, in northeastern India. ‘They are a response to farmer needs and offer a reference for best practices in managing small-scale pig systems.’

The manuals are a result of a project called ‘Livelihood Improvement and Empowerment of Rural Poor through Sustainable Farming Systems in Northeast India’. The five-year project, in India’s Assam and Nagaland states, was started in 2007 with funding from the Government of India, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), ILRI and the World Bank.

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

Raising pigs is a particularly important livelihood for smallholders in northeast India, where hilly terrain, poor roads and widespread poverty hamper crop cultivation. ‘Crop farming alone cannot meet the needs of families in these areas and many rely on livestock–mostly pigs and chickens–to supply much needed nutrition and income,’ said Deka.

The livelihood improvement project is working with farmers to develop pig production in particular because the region has a history of pig rearing and because keeping pigs requires minimal investments at the outset. Pig production is also easily intensified using locally available resources.

There are three well-illustrated manuals. Smallholders’ pig management offers a detailed look at pig systems in India, including features of common breeds, how to care and manage piglets, the reproductive cycle of pigs, breeding methods and how to cultivate feed-food crops. Veterinary first aid for pig offers information on organisms that cause common pig diseases, how to identify them and basic ways of controlling their spread. Hygienic pork production and marketing details how to hygienically process pork, follow slaughterhouse and meat inspection procedures and how to pack and preserve pork for sale.

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

ILRI scientist Ram Deka (middle) distributes training manuals to Livestock Service Providers participating in an ILRI pig production project in the state of Nagaland, in northeast India, 2011 (photo credit: ILRI).

The manuals provide easy-to-apply principles in improving pig management, feeding, and care to enhance yields. Farmers in areas where the project is implemented say the manuals are helping them to increase their production. Project staff have set up systems for collecting feedback from farmers and trainers so as to improve future editions of the manuals.

‘We hope these manuals will serve other countries as well,’ said Iain Wright, ILRI’s former representative in Asia. ‘This information can be adapted to make relevant training tools for smallholder pig farmers in other areas of the world where small-scale pig production systems are growing rapidly.’

Download manuals:

Training manual on smallholders’ pig management

https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/12533

Training manual on veterinary first aid for pig

https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/12534

Training manual on hygienic pork production and marketing

https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/12535

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.

Research group helps pig business become bigger business in northeastern India

 Pig in Nagaland, India

Pig kept in Nagaland, in northeastern India, where pig production and consumption by poor tribal peoples is commonplace (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Small-scale pig production is the basis of livelihoods of many poor tribal people living in India’s remote northeast corner. Pigs could provide a pathway out of poverty for many people if they were able to transform their subsistence production into market-oriented systems. Few people in India’s state of Nagaland are vegetarian and pork is the most preferred meat (50% of all pork consumed in India is consumed in the northeast). Although only about a quarter of all pigs in India are in the northeastern states, some 80% of tribal families keep at least 2 to 3 pigs. Pig meat is so in demand that these states import pigs from northern Indian states and Myanmar. Nagaland alone imports about 10,000 pigs per month.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) undertook the first comprehensive assessment of the whole pig value chain in northeast India in 2006–07. Reports were published for the state of Assam as well as Nagaland and set out the role of pig production in people’s livelihoods and the current state of pig production here, identifying some of the sector’s technical, economic, social and institutional constraints and opportunities.

As part of a National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) funded by the World Bank, the Government of India and the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), ILRI is implementing a project with other local partners in Mon District of Nagaland to improve livelihoods through development of the pig sector. With few good roads or other infrastructure, most people here are very poor, and their pig farming remains very traditional. The small, local pig breeds raised here are fed forages harvested from the jungle and kitchen wastes and are housed in unhygienic pens with virtually no veterinary care. With no concerted effort made to improve pig production in the villages, it remains very traditional and largely unprofitable. While most of the farmers produce one mature pig, of 70–80 kg, in a span of 3–4 years, the same sized pig can be produced within 8–10 months through adoption of a few relatively simple improved practices.

In the pilot project in Mon, ILRI and members of the community together identified a package of integrated, locally appropriate interventions: (a) improvement of the local pig genotype through distribution of higher-producing pig breeds, (b) development of community-based veterinary first aid services, (c) cultivation of dual-purpose crops that can feed pigs as well as people, (d) better pig housing, sanitation and quarantine measures (e) closer links among stakeholders in the value chain, from input suppliers to pork sellers, (f) creation of business development services and (g) building the capacity of target groups using local resource persons and influential groups.

ILRI’s initiatives raised the level of interest of community members in pig keeping, especially for breeding. The ILRI project promoted the adoption of clean and hygienic practices in the pig sty and encouraged the cultivation of food-feed crops. Two trained paravets in each village became sufficiently confident to provide veterinary first aid and business development services. And household income from pigs increased from one year to the next by 133–457 per cent.

With funding from the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust under their North East Initiative and in collaboration with several local non-governmental organizations, this successful model will be extended to other parts of Nagaland and into Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Several government and non-government organizations in northeast India are interested in replicating this model and have sought not only ILRI’s technical support but also its help in framing a people-centric policy for development of the pig sub-sector initiated by the government’s North East Council.

For more information, contact Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia, at i[dot]wright[at]cgiar.org

Kenya’s small milk traders benefit from research evidence leading to pro-poor policy change

Milk sale #2 in Nairobi's informal market

Sale of unpasteurized in Nairobi’s informal Dagoretti Market (photo credit: ILRI/Brad Collis).

A case study recently posted on the Research for Development (R4D) website of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) reviews a policy change in Kenya that has greatly benefitted the country’s many small-scale milk vendors. The ‘raw’ (unpasteurized) milk sold by these milk hawkers has become safer, the poor milk sellers have made more profit, the poor consumers have more affordable milk to buy, and many unskilled people have been able to get jobs in small-scale milk enterprises and trade.

In all, these benefits add up to more than USD33 million every year. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) worked for a decade with the relevant Kenya Government ministries and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute to bring about these pro-poor policy changes. This research was supported throughout by DFID and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

‘Evidence-based research by the DFID-funded Smallholder Dairy Project (SDP) revealed the economic and nutritional significance of the informal milk sector and the potential for improved handling and hygiene practices, which would ensure quality and safety of milk from farm to cup. The second phase of the project (2002-2005) involved more active engagement with policymakers to raise awareness of its research findings on the informal milk market, its importance for livelihoods, and to allay public health concerns while simultaneously working with milk vendors to pilot training and certification approaches that effectively improve quality. Updated dairy industry regulations, designed to streamline licence application processes for smallscale milk vendors, were issued by the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development (MoLFD) in September 2004.

‘Total economy-wide gross benefits accruing to the sector from the policy change are estimated at US$33 million per annum, as a result of reduced transaction costs and less milk spoilage due to improved practices by newly-trained vendors. More than half of the benefits accrue to producers (increased incomes) and consumers (lower milk prices). Licensing of smallscale milk traders by the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) has also led to formation of groups under the umbrella of the Kenya Smallscale Milk Traders Association. A further legacy of the project is the establishment of self-employed business development service providers, who are paid by dairy companies and traders to provide training on milk handling and business development. The lessons learnt from the SDP are being applied across East Africa, particularly Tanzania and Uganda, and also in India.’

Read the full (5-page) case study: Policy change: Milking the benefits for smallscale vendors, DFID and ILRI, 2010.

More information:

Leksmono, C., J. Young, N. Hooton, H. Muriuki, and D. Romney (2006), Informal traders lock horns with the formal milk industry: the role of research in pro-poor dairy policy shift in Kenya, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and International Livestock Research Institute Working Paper No. 266, London/Nairobi.

CGIAR Science Council, (2008), Changing dairy marketing policy in Kenya: The impact of the Smallholder Dairy Project, Science Council Brief Standing Panel on Impact Assessment No. 28.

Livestock sector in India’s Jharkhand could move millions out of poverty

A woman in Jharkhand tends her goats
A woman in Jharkhand, in eastern India, tends her goats (photo credit: BAIF).

A new report from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) highlights the potential for the livestock sector in the state of Jharkhand, in eastern India, to move millions of people out of poverty.

Jharkhand, formerly part of Bihar, was created as a new state in 2000. Despite having rich mineral resources and some of India’s most industrialized cities, its population of 27 million are amongst the poorest in India. Some 26% of the population is classified as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ and a further 12% as ‘Scheduled Castes’.

The rural economy is dominated by smallholder rain-fed farming and use of extensive common property resources. Nearly 56% of holdings are less than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in size. Most farmers here raise livestock and grow rice, although pulses, maize, wheat and oil seeds are also grown. Lack of investment in infrastructure (only 9% of the sown area is irrigated), poor extension services, lack of input supplies and services as well as a lack of training have led to low agricultural yields and very low incomes.

The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which has been funding rural livelihood programs in Jharkhand for several years, commissioned ILRI to undertake a study of the livestock sector to explore its potential for improving livelihoods in this state. As in the rest  of India and other developing countries, the demand for livestock products in Jharkhand is increasing. With 90% of rural households in the state keeping livestock, there is a huge opportunity for these small and marginalized farmers to supply the growing livestock markets with livestock products. In areas around towns, the study found a booming demand for milk, much of which has been met by imports from neighbouring states, but peri-urban dairies are developing to supply the demand locally.

Dairying, however, is not an option for all. As Iain Wright, ILRI’s regional representative for Asia and one of the report’s authors, explains, ‘In the tribal societies, there is no tradition of milk consumption or of producing milk, so there  are no traditional skills in dairy production. These communities do, however, have a long tradition of keeping goats and pigs. And with high goat meat and pork prices driven by growing demand, many rural communities, including those of “Scheduled Tribes” and “Castes”, have the potential to supply pork and goat meat for markets outside as well as within the state.’

Assessing the results of surveys carried out in different parts of the state, the authors of the report recommend the following ways to overcome the technical, institutional and policy constraints to livestock development, especially among poor and marginalized livestock keepers: (1) tailor development programs to suit different ethnic communities and locations and build on the traditional skills and knowledge of local communities, (2) help livestock producers to access markets and improve their marketing skills, and (3) implement community-based programs to support livestock development.

The report concludes that poor coordination among the key stakeholders in the livestock sector—from government officials to livestock researchers to staff of non-governmental organizations, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions—is what is most hindering the development of the livestock sector. A main recommendation, therefore, is to establish a common platform, facilitated by the government, where key players can come together to exchange information and experiences and identify knowledge gaps.

ILRI will be implementing some of the recommendations of the report in two new projects in Jharkhand. An imGoats project will work to strengthen goat value chains in Mozambique and India, including Jharkhand, and as part of an ELKS Project, ILRI is supporting an organization called ‘Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), which is supported by the Sir Rattan Tata Trust, in the design of a new project to improve the livelihoods of goat and pig keepers.

For further information, contact Iain Wright (i.wright@cgiar.org), the author of this blog post, or read the ILRI report by Rameswar Deka and Iain Wright: Potential for livelihood improvement through livestock development in Jharkhand, January 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

Seeing the beast whole: When holistic approaches ‘come out of Powerpoints’ for better health

Purvi Mehta, Capacity Strengthening Officer

Head of capacity strengthening ILRI, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt delivered a lively presentation yesterday in New Delhi explaining how capacity building is an ‘impact pathway’ linking agriculture, nutrition and health for human well being (photo credit: ILRI).

Yesterday in New Delhi, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, head of Capacity Strengthening at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was one of three speakers to make a presentation during a side session at the international conference ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health’ being put on this week by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Saying it was ‘great to be home, in India’, Mehta-Bhatt, who is an Indian national based at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, started her 12-minute talk by getting down to basics—the basics of an elephant, that is. She told a ‘small story’ of an elephant that landed in a land where nobody had seen an elephant before. Everyone looked at this new beast in different ways, each seeing only a part of the animal. Even though all were looking at the same object, each interpreted the beast very differently, according to the small part they could see of it and according to their own interpretations. ‘This is pretty much the story of the three sectors we are talking about—agriculture, nutrition and health,’ said Mehta-Bhatt.  ‘We are all in our own silos’, she said, and need to see the beast whole.

Mehta-Bhatt sees capacity strengthening work as an important ‘impact pathway in linking these three sectors together’.

‘A piecemeal approach won’t work,’ she warned.  And although ‘this is nothing new’, she said, we still have limited capacity and understanding in this area, and only a few concrete case studies to show where linking different stakeholders in a health outcome has worked. As someone recently complained to her, it’s all very well talking about bringing all stakeholders together, but when has that ever ‘come out of Powerpoints’?

‘Capacity development is not just about training programs,’ says Mehta-Bhatt; ‘it goes beyond individual capacity building; it brings in systemic cognizance and impinges on institutional architecture, and all this happens in a process of co-learning, where messages are taken both from lab to land and from land to lab.’

Among ongoing ILRI initiatives that make use of multi-national, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral capacity building approaches are an ILRI-implemented Participatory Epidemiology Network for Animal and Public Health (PENAPH) with seven partners; a NEPAD-sponsored Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub facility managed by ILRI in Nairobi and hosting many students from the region; a Stone Mountain Global Capacity Development Group of 11 members that is mapping existing capacities in the field of ‘one-health’ and co-led by the University of Minnesota and ILRI; and an EcoZD project coordinated by ILRI that is taking ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in six countries of Southeast Asia and helping to set up two regional knowledge resource centres at universities in Indonesia and Thailand.

All of these projects, she explained, have capacity strengthening as a centrepiece; all are working with, and building on, what is already existing at the local and regional levels; and all are being conducted in a process of co-learning.

Mehta-Bhatt finished by finishing her elephant story. Capacity development, and collective action for capacity development, she said, can link the three sectors—agriculture, nutrition and health—allowing them not only ‘to recognize the elephant as a whole but to ride it as well.’

Watch the presentation by Purvi Mehta-Bhatt here:

Livestock boom risks aggravating animal ‘plagues,’ poses growing threat to food security and health of world’s poor

Shepherd in Rajasthan, India

Research released at conference calls for thinking through the health impacts of agricultural intensification to control epidemics that are decimating herds and endangering humans (Picture credit: ILRI/Mann).

Increasing numbers of domestic livestock and more resource-intensive production methods are encouraging animal epidemics around the world, a problem that is particularly acute in developing countries, where livestock diseases present a growing threat to the food security of already vulnerable populations, according to new assessments reported today at the International Conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition & Health in New Delhi, India.

‘Wealthy countries are effectively dealing with livestock diseases, but in Africa and Asia, the capacity of veterinary services to track and control outbreaks is lagging dangerously behind livestock intensification,’ said John McDermott, deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which spearheaded the work. ‘This lack of capacity is particularly dangerous because many poor people in the world still rely on farm animals to feed their families, while rising demand for meat, milk and eggs among urban consumers in the developing world is fueling a rapid intensification of livestock production.’

The global conference (http://2020conference.ifpri.info), organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute, brings together leading agriculture, nutrition and health experts to assess ways to increase agriculture’s contribution to better nutrition and health for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The new assessments from ILRI spell out how livestock diseases present ‘double trouble’ in poor countries. First, livestock diseases imperil food security in the developing world (where some 700 million people keep farm animals and up to 40 percent of household income depends on them) by reducing the availability of a critical source of protein. Second, animal diseases also threaten human health directly when viruses such as the bird flu (H5N1), SARS and Nipah viruses ‘jump’ from their livestock hosts into human populations.

McDermott is a co-author with Delia Grace, a veterinary and food safety researcher at ILRI, of a chapter on livestock epidemics in a new book called ‘Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction.’ This chapter focuses on animal plagues that primarily affect livestock operations—as opposed to human populations—and that are particularly devastating in the developing world.

‘In the poorest regions of the world, livestock plagues that were better controlled in the past are regaining ground,’ they warn, with ‘lethal and devastating impacts’ on livestock and the farmers and traders that depend on them. These ‘population-decimating plagues’ include diseases that kill both people and their animals and destroy livelihoods.

Livestock-specific diseases include contagious bovine ‘lung plague’ of cattle, buffalo and yaks, peste des petits ruminants (an acute respiratory ailment of goats and sheep), swine fever (‘hog cholera’) and Newcastle disease (a highly infectious disease of domestic poultry and wild birds). The world’s livestock plagues also include avian influenza (bird flu) and other ‘zoonotic’ diseases, which, being transmissible between animals and people, directly threaten human as well as animal health.

McDermott and Grace warn that new trends, including rapid urbanization and climate change, could act as ‘wild cards,’ altering the present distribution of diseases, sometimes ‘dramatically for the worse.’ The authors say developing countries need to speed up their testing and adoption of new approaches, appropriate for their development context, to detect and then to stop or contain livestock epidemics before they become widespread.

In a separate but related policy analysis to be presented at the New Delhi conference, McDermott and Grace focus on links between agricultural intensification and the spread of zoonotic diseases. The researchers warn of a dangerous disconnect: the agricultural intensification now being pursued in the developing world, they say, is typically focused on increasing food production and profitability, while potential effects on human health remain ‘largely ignored.’

A remarkable 61 percent of all human pathogens, and 75 percent of new human pathogens, are transmitted by animals, and some of the most lethal bugs affecting humans originate in our domesticated animals. Notable examples of zoonotic diseases include avian influenza, whose spread was primarily caused by domesticated birds; and the Nipah virus infection, which causes influenza-like symptoms, often followed by inflammation of the brain and death, and which spilled over to people from pigs kept in greater densities by smallholders.

The spread and subsequent establishment of avian influenza in previously disease-free countries, such as Indonesia, was a classic example, McDermott and Grace say, of the risks posed by high-density chicken and duck operations and long poultry ‘value chains,’ as well as the rapid global movement of both people and livestock. In addition, large-scale irrigation aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, they say, has created conditions that facilitate the establishment of the Rift Valley fever virus in new regions, with occasional outbreaks killing hundreds of people along with thousands of animals.

The economic impacts of such zoonotic diseases are enormous. The World Bank estimates that if avian influenza becomes transmissible from human to human, the potential cost of a resulting pandemic could be USD3 trillion. Rich countries are better equipped than poor countries to cope with new diseases—and they are investing heavily in global surveillance and risk reduction activities—but no one is spared the threat as growing numbers of livestock and easy movement across borders increase the chances of global pandemics.

But while absolute economic losses from livestock diseases are greater in rich countries, the impact on the health and livelihoods of people is worse in poor countries. McDermott and Grace point out, for example, that zoonotic diseases and food-borne illnesses associated with livestock account for at least 16 percent of the infectious disease burden in low-income countries, compared to just 4 percent in high-income nations.

Yet despite the great threats posed by livestock diseases, McDermott and Grace see a need for a more intelligent response to outbreaks that considers the local disease context as well as the livelihoods of people. They observe that ‘while few argue that disease control is a bad thing, recent experiences remind us that, if livestock epidemics have negative impacts, so too can the actions taken to control or prevent them.’

An exclusive focus on avian influenza preparedness activities in Africa relative to other more important disease concerns, they point out, invested scarce financial resources to focus on a disease that, due to a low-density of chicken operations and scarcity of domestic ducks, is unlikely to do great damage to much of the continent. And they argue that a wholesale slaughter of pigs in Cairo instituted after an outbreak of H1N1 was ‘costly and epidemiologically pointless’ because the disease was already being spread ‘by human-to-human transmission.’

McDermott and Grace conclude that to build surveillance systems able to detect animal disease outbreaks in their earliest stages, developing countries will need to work across sectors, integrating veterinary, medical, and environmental expertise in ‘one-health’ approaches to assessing, prioritizing and managing the risks posed by livestock diseases.

More information on why animals matter to health and nutrition: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/3152 and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/3149

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