Taking stock: East Africa Dairy Development project reflects on its achievements and lessons learned

EADD Annual Review and Planning Meeting 2011

A young East African feeds his family’s dairy cows (photo credit: EADD).

From 2008, the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project has been working in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with the aim of transforming the lives of 179,000 families (about 1 million people) by doubling household dairy income in 10 years through integrated interventions in dairy production, market access and knowledge application.

The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by Heifer International, African Breeders Services—Total Cattle Management, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), TechnoServe and the World Agroforestry Centre.

With the first phase of the project ending in June 2013, two members of the project team—Isabelle Baltenweck, agricultural economist at ILRI, and Gerald Mutinda, the EADD regional manager in charge of dairy productivity, gender and youth—recently had the opportunity to take stock of some of the project’s key achievements during a ‘livestock live talk’ held 26 Jun 2013 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus.

Livestock live talk is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

The talk began with a description of the project, its value chain approach, vision and objectives, and followed by an overview of its achievements and lessons learned.

The speakers then highlighted the project’s innovative ‘hub approach’ which was adopted to help overcome the challenges small-scale dairy farmers often face in accessing farm inputs such as feeds as well as animal breeding and health services.

The hub approach takes advantages of economies of scale and enables service providers to have a wider customer base, thereby making it more efficient for them to operate. Through the hub approach, farmers organize themselves into dairy farmer business associations that make it easier for individual farmers to access inputs and services as well as facilities for bulking and cooling of raw milk.

It was noted that the hubs should not be viewed as a ‘model’ per se, but rather as an approach that can be tailored and adapted to suit different regions and countries. For example, the project found that many hubs can be successful by providing milk bulking services alone while others can offer both milk bulking and cooling. For the second phase of the project, the hub approach planned for Tanzania is centred around the provision of inputs and services.

Another key learning point was the importance of ensuring that the due attention is given to gender aspects during the design and implementation of the project. The speakers admitted that key aspect was overlooked during the design of the first phase of the project. As a result, some key gender-based indicators were not properly tracked.

However, this oversight has been corrected and the team now has a comprehensive gender strategy in place to guide the project design for the second phase to ensure that gender mainstreaming is incorporated through gender analysis at various levels of the value chain as well as monitoring and evaluation of thematic gender-based studies.

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

Now it is time for the herders to cool their body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nile

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

Now (finally) on to that press release.

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

Alan Duncan at the Quick Feeds Synthesis meeting

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

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

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

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

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

Drawing water from the Nile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New program aims to spur state-of-the-art biosciences innovation to fight food insecurity, climate change and environmental degradation across eastern Africa

Bio-Innovate launch: Swedish Embassy's Bjorn Haggmark

Launched today at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) program will support the fight against food insecurity in eastern Africa (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

A new program that provides grants to bioscientists working to improve food production and environmental management in eastern Africa was launched today at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The newly established Bioresources Innovation Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) Program—the first of its kind in Africa—provides competitive grants to African researchers who are working with the private sector and non-governmental organizations to find ways to improve food security, boost resilience to climate change and identify environmentally sustainable ways of producing food.

In its first three-year phase, the program is supporting five research-based projects working to improve the productivity of sorghum, millet, cassava, sweet potato, potato and bean farmers; to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change; to improve the processing of wastes in the production of sisal and coffee; and to better treat waste water generated in leather processing and slaughterhouse operations.

In its second three-year phase, beginning mid-2011, Bio-Innovate will help build agricultural commodity ‘value chains’ in the region and a supportive policy environment for bioresource innovations.

The five-year program is funded by a USD12-million grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Bio-Innovate is managed by ILRI and co-located within the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BeCA) Hub at ILRI’s Nairobi campus. Bio-Innovate will be implemented in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

‘By emphasizing innovations to help drive crop production in the six partner countries, Bio-Innovate is working at the heart of one of the region’s greatest challenges—that of providing enough food in the face of climate change, diversifying crops and addressing productivity constraints that are threatening the livelihoods of millions,’ said Carlos Seré, ILRI’s director general.

An increasingly large number of poor people in the developing world are hungry, or, in development-speak, ‘food insecure.’ In sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural production relies on rainfed smallholder farming, hunger, environmental degradation and climate change present a triple threat to individual, community and national development. In eastern Africa alone, over 100 million people depend on agriculture to meet their fundamental economic and nutritional needs.

Although some three-quarters of the African population are involved in farming or herding, investment in African agricultural production has continued to lag behind population growth rates for several decades, with the result that the continent has been unable to achieve sustainable economic and social development.

‘Bioresources research and use is key to pro-poor economic growth,’ says Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate’s program manager. ‘By focusing on improving the performance of crop agriculture and agro-processing, and by adding value to primary production, we can help build a more productive and sustainable regional bioresources-based economy.’

Bio-Innovate works closely with the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) and its new Planning and Coordinating Agency, as well as with the councils and commissions for science and technology in eastern Africa, to encourage adoption of advances in biosciences. The program builds on AU/NEPAD’s Consolidated Plan of Action for Africa’s Science and Technology and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

‘African governments are appreciating the importance of regional collaboration,’ says Ibrahim Mayaki, the chief executive officer of NEPAD. ‘Collaborations such as this, in science and technology, will enable the continent to adapt to the rapid advances and promises of modern biosciences.’

Bio-Innovate has already established partnerships with higher learning institutions and national agricultural research organizations, international agricultural research centres and private industries working both within and outside eastern Africa.

‘Bio-Innovate is an important platform for pooling eastern African expertise and facilities through a regional Bioresources Innovations Network,’ says Claes Kjellström, Bio-Innovate Sida representative at the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi. ‘We believe this program will enable cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary biosciences research and enhance innovations and policies that will advance agricultural development in the region.’

The Bio-Innovate team is working with these partners to help guide development and adoption of homegrown bioscience policies in its partner countries and to spread knowledge of useful applications of bioscience. In the coming years, Bio-Innovate staff envision eastern Africa becoming a leading region in the use of biotechnology research and approaches for better food production and environmental management.

Some presentations from today’s launch:

More information about Bio-Innovate:
Short Blip TV clips

Three interviews of Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate program manager:

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882255/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882101/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4881914/

Four interviews of Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general:

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882211/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882005/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882481/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882486/

Website:

http://bioinnovate-africa.org/

Pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilri/sets/72157624891160295/

New Bio-Innovate Program is good news for bio-scientists in ‘bio-rich’ eastern Africa

A new program called Bio-Innovate, which stands for ‘Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development,’ is being launched tomorrow (Wednesday 16 March 2011) at the Nairobi, Kenya, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), Bio-Innovate offers competitive funding for biosciences and innovations in six countries of eastern Africa through a Bioresources Innovation Fund. The program accepts applications for regional, multi-disciplinary innovation projects in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

More than 80 people—including scientists, policymakers, development practitioners and staff from private companies, donor agencies and diplomatic missions—are expected to participate. They represent national agricultural research organizations and universities, national councils for science and technology, regional bodies and international organizations from within and outside the region.

We interviewed two of the key people, Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate’s program manager, and Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general, to tell us what Bio-Innovate is all about. Watch these short interviews below.

And follow the launch tomorrow on the web using the search term #BioInnAfrica2011.

Bio-Innovate Bean Technology Consortium

Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate program manager, is interviewed in the following brief films.

Film 1—Bio-Innovate: Addressing the missing link between research and innovation
East Africa has never had the facilities, funding or skilled manpower to undertake agricultural science on a scale that could move from research all the way to new technologies for farmers. Bio-Innovate is a new program aiming to provide that ‘missing link’. It will tackle the big regional problems such as climate change results, and environmental degradation, by the application of bio-sciences, with the direct aim of helping small-scale farmers.

Film 2Over 3 million farmers could benefit from the first projects of a new initiative
Small-scale farmers in 6 East African countries will be the first in the region to benefit from the new Bio-Innovate program. The first projects in the scheme will tackle challenges like the development of more productive varieties of staple crops, and waste re-cycling. Over the next 5 years, the numbers of projects will expand, using Bio-Innovate’s promotion of improvements in policy frameworks, its networks of scientists and research organizations, and the novel links it is building with private sector companies.

Film 3Launching a unique African-based and African-led program on innovations and policy analysis in eastern Africa
16 March 2011 is the official launch date for Bio-Innovate, a unique regional agricultural research initiative that is Africa based, Africa led and focuses on innovations for farmers.

Gabrielle Persley, Senior Advisor to the Director General

Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general, is interviewed in the following brief films.

Film 4New phase of African Bio-Innovate Program will soon deliver solutions to farmers
Bio-Innovate is building on a previous project that trained 20 regionally recruited bioscientists to PhD level. Now the new program plans to move from research outputs into partnerships with private sector players and other delivery mechanisms. The real focus and the success of Bio-Innovate will be delivery of products to African farmers.

Film 5New science program makes use of facilities and expertise at the first biosciences hub in Africa
The choice of location for the headquarters of Bio-Innovate depended on access to the best bioscience facilities and expertise in the region. The Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, at the ILRI Nairobi campus, provides a vibrant biosciences research platform for advanced research into crops and livestock.

Film 6Bioscience support plus field trials will lead to the development of practical technologies for farmers
Core elements of the work of the Bio-Innovate projects will be done in the field. Through building partnerships within the participating countries, national research programs and the local private sector, evaluation of potential products in the field and scaling up can be targeted to local needs.

Film 7Large African bioscience-based agricultural project targets key famine-type foods and environments
Funding of USD10 million over 5 years will allow projects sponsored by Bio-Innovate to reach the critical mass of financial, agricultural and research resources needed to tackle large-scale regional challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation. In this way Bio-Innovate will help improve food supplies and incomes for small-scale farmers.

Collective action on food crisis

“Food Needs to Move!” Especially across national borders.
“The levers to solve this problem are in our own hands.”—Joseph Karugia

Collective action on food crisis

New research showing how the global food price crisis is playing out in 17 countries of eastern and central Africa was presented at a roundtable discussion in Nairobi 22 July 2008.

The research results show that the regional food situation differs significantly from the global one, largely because of this region’s exceptional diversity. That regional diversity provides these countries with opportunities to turn the volatile global and local food situations to their advantage.

By integrating markets and simplifying trade within the region, policymakers can efficiently link areas with food deficits to areas with food surpluses. This integration will help the region’s small farmers get better prices for their crops and livestock while also helping the region’s urban consumers get reliable year-round access to staple food items.

The July Roundtable on the Global Food Crisis was organized by the Kenya country offices of the World Bank and World Food Program and the Nairobi-headquartered International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Fifty key decision-makers in agricultural and rural development met on ILRI’s campus to discuss interventions that governments, development agencies, research organizations and nongovernmental organizations could make to help poor people cope with the rising prices of staple foods.

Joseph Karugia, a Kenyan agricultural economist, provided an overview of the regional food situation. Karugia coordinates a Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System for Eastern and Central Africa (ReSAKSS-ECA). His review was based on a study led by the region’s leading agricultural research group, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA). Under pressure by policymakers needing to take action to address the food price crisis, a team of 26 researchers within ASARECA and several centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that work in this region, including ILRI, with study activities coordinated by ReSAKSS-ECA, conceived and executed the study together and with speed.

“Our regional food prices have generally risen much slower than global ones,” Karugia said. Even the countries within the region are being affected differently by the global food prices, largely because of their different “food baskets”. Kenya’s main staple is maize, but in Uganda it’s plantain, in Ethiopia it’s teff and in Rwanda it’s beans. Those countries that deal in non-traded commodities are buffered from the rising prices of globally traded staples. “Rice and wheat,” Karugia said, “two hugely important staples globally, are relatively trivial in this region. Moreover, most of the region’s maize needs are met outside the global markets because most people in the region obtain their maize in locally, in informal as well as formal markets.”

One result is that while the food price index (FPI) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which captures trends in major food commodities, rose by 56% between March 2007 and March 2008, the FPI increases in this region were all below 40% and in most cases significantly lower. The FPI increased by 39% in Ethiopia, 20% in Burundi and Kenya, and just 11% in Tanzania. In several other countries in the region, including Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, the increase was less than 10%.

It’s not only the staples of these neighbouring countries that differ. Their climate and rainfall patterns differ, and consequently their planting and harvest times differ, too.

These within-region variations give policymakers a powerful lever for transforming a global food crisis into a regional opportunity for farm producers and urban consumers alike.


“The spatial and temporal distribution of production and staggered harvesting
in the countries of eastern and southern Africa offer large opportunities for trade.”

By integrating the region’s food markets and simplifying its food trade regulations, Karugia said, the region could link up food-deficit to food-surplus areas and thus provide its citizens with staples in an given season. A truly integrated regional market would provide farmers with remunerative prices and alternative reliable markets for their produce while also providing urban consumers and rural net buyers of food with a variety of reasonably priced food staples throughout the year.

Most of the trade in food in this region is informal. It is wasteful not because it is informal but rather because of the many obstacles the informal traders have to face. Karugia explains: “At the border between Kenya and Uganda, trucks laden with sacks of grain and other food staples are unloaded, reloaded onto bicycles, bicycled across the border to be reloaded onto trucks on the other side. This is not an efficient way to move food!”

It would be a shame, Karugia said, quoting the economist Paul Romer, for the eastern and southern Africa region “to waste a good crisis”. “This global food price crisis provides the 19 countries of eastern and southern Africa with a golden opportunity to promote agricultural-led development through increased domestic production, regional trade and integration.”

The ASARECA research presented at this roundtable discussion was a demonstration of this new networked science. Diverse scientists from ReSAKSS-ECA, ASARECA and the CGIAR worked together for months amassing data from country and regional organizations and consulting with key experts and partners within governments, policy think tanks, research institutions, emergency relief agencies and the private sector. Although their individual perspectives on, and interpretations of, the data they collected vary considerably, the research group reached consensus on several points.

The poor in this region are spending 40 to 70% of their income on buying food.
The poor are being hit hardest by the rise in food prices, especially the rural net buyers of food.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the farming households in the rural areas are net buyers rather than net producers of food if price rather than volume of food is considered. Poverty forces them to sell their grain and other crops at harvest time, when prices are at their lowest, and to buy grain again, several months later, when the households run out of the staple, often at two to three times the price at which they sold their grain.
Prices of agricultural inputs are increasing across the 17 countries of the region. (The price of fertilizer rose 200% in Kenya in the last year.)
Yields of staple food crops are stagnating or decreasing in 17 of the 19 countries of Eastern and Central Africa (only Egypt and Mauritius are increasing their yields) because farming is moving onto increasingly marginal agricultural lands, causing yield aggregates to fall.

One other salient fact leaped out of the data—the region cannot continue to spend less than 10% (and in some cases as low as 2%) of its national budgets in a sector that provides 25% of the region’s gross domestic product, 75% of its citizen’s livelihoods, and food for 100% of its people. ‘We have neglected our agriculture, our farmers and our food markets for decades,” says Karugia. “This is the result.”

Karugia and his many colleagues in this multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary, and multi-commodity project asked themselves one central question: What levers can we pull to take advantage of the higher food prices? The two conventional answers—increase farm production and control consumer demand—were deemed by the group to be too slow to be useful. This regional group of scientists concluded that a regional strategy for exploiting the food price hikes offered the best opportunities for the most numbers of people: “Exploit the regional diversity by facilitating regional trade”.

Priority actions for such a regional strategy would include the following:
Markets: Remove export bans, eliminate non-trade barriers, simplify trade regulations and upgrade infrastructure along the region’s main trade corridors.
Farmers: Reduce the high cost of fertilizer and other agricultural inputs and facilitate their trade, widen use of best-bet agricultural technologies, pilot innovative risk-management strategies such as index-based insurance schemes.
Institutions: Strengthen market information and intelligence as well as frameworks for preparedness, response and learning.

Addressing these issues in these ways, with evidence-based policy options, is thus feasible, say the study team, and should lead to lowering the prices of food staples while also raising farm productivity and agricultural livelihoods.

In summing up the day’s roundtable discussion, host Carlos Seré, who is ILRI’s director general, said that it’s not only food we should be moving within the region but also the agricultural technologies that allow greater and more sustainable food production. The current food price crisis also has that silver lining: “When you have high food prices, you can move those technologies for improved food production. And you can get attention for neglected alternative crops, such as cassava chips for livestock feed. Which become viable as the price of grain staples rise.”

“This is something happening now,” Seré said. “We need smart interventions that target the region’s poor consumers and farmers alike. We need to get fertilizers into the region’s high potential farming areas. The key thing is to work with markets—to arbitrage across countries and across the region. We must reduce trade barriers within the region, which will greatly improve the efficiency of its markets.”

“We must also think through new crop portfolios for this region,” he continued. “How, for example, could we continue to support maize production in Kenya without penalizing those farmers pursuing a more diversified system that includes sorghum or millet?”

Seré concluded: “Climate and other fast-evolving changes affecting developing-country food production will make our problems worse in future. Finding the institutional frameworks for addressing these problems in collective action is our challenge.”

Welcome address by ILRI director general Carlos Seré

In welcoming participants to the roundtable forum, ILRI director general Carlos Seré said: “Global analysis of the food situation is relatively simple. We need to bring the discussion and analysis down to regional levels to increase the specificity, the granularity, of our information.” . . . Read more
Read profile of Carlos Seré

Interview with Ravi Prabhu, a member of the study team and coordinator of a CGIAR initiative called Collective Action for Eastern and Southern Africa

Let’s take a look at what we heard today from Joseph Karugia and his ASARECA, ReSAKSS-ECG and CGIAR team.

We heard that have opportunities to exploit regional food heterogeneity, capacities and systems that we are not doing a good job of exploiting . . . Read more


The latest version of the ASARECA Food Crisis Report is available: http://www.asareca.org/resources/reports/resp2food_pr_main.pdf

Further Information Contact:

Joseph Karugia
Coordinater, ReSAKSS-ECA
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Nairobi, KENYA
Email: j.karugia@cgiar.org
Telephone: +254 (20) 422 3016

Unleashing the potential of livestock in Africa

ILRI’s Director General Carlos Seré addresses talks held by African ministers responsible for animal resources in Kigali, Rwanda.

Keynote address by Carlos Seré, Director General of the
INTERNATIONAL LIVESTOCK RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Unleashing the Potential of Livestock
to Make Poverty History in Africa

(Salutations)

It is my privilege and pleasure to speak to you today on historic changes in the livestock sector and innovations that can help us create a new future for livestock producers, marketers and consumers.

The livestock sub-sector is one of the most dynamic in the world – growing at well over 7 percent per year in developing countries over the last 25 years and far out-performing virtually all other agricultural and industrial commodities. This growth is driven by soaring demand for meat and milk in developing countries. Every year, developing-country consumers add an additional US$20 billion to their already high levels of collective spending on livestock foods such as milk and meat.

On the negative side, the threat of – and response to – resurgent and emerging diseases, particularly those transmitted between livestock and people, is also changing the livestock sector: Witness the massive media and political attention currently being paid to avian influenza worldwide.

This dynamic situation presents both immense challenges and opportunities for Africa. If the challenges are met and the opportunities seized, there is no doubt that livestock can be a powerful development tool in Africa: the livestock sector can help ‘make poverty history’.

We know that 70 percent of the rural poor in Africa keep livestock and that some 200 million people on this continent rely on livestock for their livelihoods. Despite the importance of livestock to the poor, however, the sector needs to transform itself to realize its full potential as a development tool.

The rising demand for livestock products in developing countries – driven by increasing urbanization and associated dietary changes – is predicted to continue in the coming decades. In Africa producers are struggling to keep up with this growing demand. FAO calculations suggest that without major changes in production levels, by 2015 Africa will be a significant net importer of all livestock food products, except mutton/goat meat.

Given the surging demand patterns, especially in the Near East and Asia, many believe that increased trade is the key to the future development of Africa’s livestock sector. But export of livestock products, whether to neighbouring countries, regional partners or more distant global markets, presents its own challenges, especially in regard to meeting food safety standards and controlling diseases of trade – the theme of this week’s conference.

Smallholders remain the backbone of Africa’s livestock sector but the requirement to meet more stringent food quality and safety standards – both in domestic and export markets – will undoubtedly bring about changes in livestock commodity value chains. Will Africa’s smallholder farmers evolve into or be absorbed by large-scale ‘vertically integrated’ commercial operations; will they be able to organize themselves into efficient, competitive producer associations or will the costs and difficulties of meeting these higher sanitary and food safety standards force them out of the value chains altogether? And what impact will rising food safety standards have on the poorest consumers – will the cost of compliance put livestock products beyond their reach?

Clearly, the livestock sector in Africa has many challenges. But there are also creative, inspiring, bold initiatives that offer real possibilities of meeting those challenges. And increasingly these initiatives are being developed and led in Africa, by Africa and for Africa.

Recognizing the critical role of livestock in the livelihoods of rural communities, African ministers of agriculture specifically requested that the livestock sub-sector be given adequate
attention within NEPAD’s activities. This has led to the development of a companion document to the existing Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan, CAADP II, which will be/has been formally presented to you this week.
In addition, the African Union Commission has adopted the Africa Livestock Initiative (ALive) as a platform for the implementation of its livestock development programmes. As you know, ALive is an initiative of the World Bank launched in May 2004 to build a sustainable livestock sector to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth in Africa.

Also under the aegis of the AU, PATTEC, the Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Eradication Campaign, is a bold – some would say audacious – initiative to rid the entire continent of the scourge of trypanosomosis, one of the biggest constraints to improving cattle production over much of Africa. Decisive political action in this regard now needs to be supported by bringing to bear the vast body of research knowledge on tsetse fly control. It is imperative that PATTEC builds on this knowledge and bases its approach on good science.

Research has a vital role to play in the livestock sector – but research needs to be organized and managed in a new way.

Research priorities need to be identified based on dialogue with all stakeholders, from ministers of livestock to livestock keepers and consumers. Supply-led research agendas do not work in a demand-driven world.

Research needs to be undertaken through far broader, more inclusive ‘smart’ partnerships. International agricultural research centres, such as ILRI, have an increasingly facilitative role to play in partnerships formed among national agricultural research systems, state veterinary services, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, vaccine production units and farmer associations.

Beyond research, international regulatory and technical assistance agencies such as OIE and FAO have a vital role to play in addressing Africa’s needs for building regulatory and institutional capacity. Similarly, the capacity of African livestock scientists needs to be raised to enable them to better meet the many challenges the sector is posing.

The power of ‘new science’, especially biosciences such as genomics and proteomics, needs to be brought to bear on African livestock problems. The OIE regional meeting in Khartoum recognized this when, in February 2004, it emphasized the role of biotechnology. But new science is expensive and so new ways need to be found to allow access to the facilities and resources needed.

The New Partnership for African’s Development has placed agriculture and science at the forefront of Africa’s economic development, and NEPAD has played a leading role in the establishment of what is envisioned to be the first of a series of regional centres of excellence – Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA).

Based at ILRI, BecA is an exciting example of a new institutional paradigm for African-led research. Established at a cost of US$25 million, BecA will enable African scientists to access state-of-the-art bioscience facilities. Its vision is to enable African scientists and institutions to become significant technological innovators – not just technology users – by undertaking bioscience research targeted at priority constraints affecting Africa agriculture, including the livestock sector. Access to world-class facilities will also engage African scientists currently in the Diaspora and encourage them to carry out research for Africa, at the same time enabling young and upcoming African scientists to achieve their full potential without going overseas, thus avoiding a future brain drain.

But research isn’t just about developing new technologies – better breeds and vaccines will help but technology alone will not be the answer. Complementary research is vital, for example, to facilitate the development of processes, policies, and institutions that both maximize Africa’s gain from new opportunities worldwide and help ensure that these gains are widely spread for development and political stability.

The Smallholder Dairy Programme in Kenya, for example, showed that while pasteurized milk met the needs of the wealthy, the ban on marketing of raw milk was damaging to small-scale producers, traders and poor consumers, and the perceived risk associated with this trade was grossly overstated as Kenyans consume nearly all their milk after boiling it to make tea – which destroys potentially dangerous pathogens. The Smallholder Dairy Programme is a good example of how research should be done: broad inclusive partnerships tackling high-priority problems and packaging and presenting independent research findings to enable them to be used by a range of stakeholders, including by policy makers so that they can develop better evidence-based policies.

In conclusion: there are pressing problems and challenges facing the livestock sector in Africa – and new challenges will arise in the future. Better policies, institutions, regulatory frameworks and technologies are all needed.

More investment is also required: national agriculture research systems in Africa have been under-funded for the past several decades. African governments now need to deliver on their commitment, made at Maputo in 2003, to allocate 10 percent of national budgetary resources for the implementation of the CAADP action plans.

CAADP II notes that to increase institutional effectiveness of research there is a need for greater cooperation and collaboration, on a regional basis, to tackle prioritized research aimed at increasing production and productivity in the livestock sector. It goes on to note that national agricultural research systems need to collaborate more effectively with international research centres such as ILRI.

As director general of ILRI, I assure you we are ready to collaborate with African governments, regional organizations, national agricultural research systems and other stakeholders in livestock research for development. Together, we can manage and target African livestock research to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities the livestock sector presents.