CGIAR research coalition approves six programs to boost global food security

CGIAR Research Program 3.7 on livestock and fish

The developing world’s supplies of wheat, livestock, fish, roots, tubers, and bananas, along with the nutrition of its poorer communities and the food policies of its governments, should be enhanced in the coming years by new funding approved by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the world’s largest international agriculture research coalition.

The CGIAR has approved six new programs, totalling some USD957 million, aimed at improving food security and the sustainable management of the water, soils and biodiversity that underpin agriculture in the world’s poorest countries. The newly created CGIAR Fund is expected to provide USD477.5 million, with the balance of the support needed likely to come from bilateral donors and other sources.

The six programs focus on sustainably increasing production of wheat, meat, milk, fish, roots, tubers and bananas; improving nutrition and food safety; and identifying the policies and institutions necessary for smallholder producers in rural communities, particularly women, to access markets.

The programs are part of the CGIAR’s bold effort to reduce world hunger and poverty while decreasing the environmental footprint of agriculture. They will target regions of the world where recurrent food crises—combined with the global financial meltdown, volatile energy prices, natural resource depletion, and climate change—undercut and threaten the livelihoods of millions of poor people.

‘More and better investment in agriculture is key to lifting the 75 per cent of poor people who live in rural areas out of poverty,’ said Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Council chair and World Bank vice-president for sustainable development. ‘Each of these CGIAR research programs addresses issues that are fundamental to the well-being of poor farmers and consumers in developing countries. Supporting such innovations is key to feeding the nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every night.’ CGIAR Fund members include developing and industrialized country governments, foundations and international and regional organizations.

Each of the research programs, proposed by the Montpellier-based CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, is working on a global scale by combining the efforts and expertise of multiple members of the CGIAR Consortium and involving some 300–600 partners from national agricultural research systems; advanced research institutes; non-governmental, civil society and farmer organizations; and the private sector. By working in partnership on such a large scale, the CGIAR-plus=partners effort is unprecedented in size, scope of the partnerships and expected impact.

The six new programs, each implemented by a lead centre from the CGIAR Consortium, join five other research endeavours approved by the CGIAR in the past nine months (on rice, climate change, forests, drylands, and maize) as part of the CGIAR’s global focus on reducing poverty, improving food security and nutrition and sustainably managing natural resources. Each of the six programs described below was approved with an initial three-year budget.

CGIAR Research Program 3.7 on livestock and fish

Meat, Milk and Fish (USD119.7m) will increase the productivity and sustainability of small-scale livestock and fish systems to make meat, milk and fish more profitable for poor producers and more available and affordable for poor consumers. Some 600 million rural poor keep livestock while fish—increasingly derived from aquaculture—provide more than 50 per cent of animal protein for 400 million poor people in Africa and South Asia. This program will be led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Africa.

Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health (USD191.4m) is designed to leverage agriculture improvements to deal with problems related to health and nutrition. It is based on the premise that agricultural practices, interventions and policies can be better aligned and redesigned to maximize health and nutrition benefits and reduce health risks. The program will address the stubborn problems of under-nutrition and ill-health that affect millions of poor people in developing countries. Focus areas include improving the nutritional quality and safety of foods in poor countries, developing biofortified foods and generating knowledge and techniques for controlling animal, food and water-borne diseases. This program will be led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in the USA, with the health aspects led by ILRI.

Wheat (USD113.6m) will create a global alliance for improving productivity and profitability of wheat in the developing world, where demand is projected to increase by 60 per cent by 2050 even as climate change could diminish production by 20 to 30 per cent. Accounting for a fifth of humanity’s food, wheat is second only to rice as a source of calories for developing-country consumers and is the number one source of protein.

Aquatic Agriculture Systems (USD59.4m) will identify gender-equitable options to improve the lives of 50 million poor and vulnerable people who live in coastal zones and along river floodplains by 2022. More than 700 million people depend on aquatic agricultural systems and some 250 million live on less than USD1.25 per day. The program will explore the interplay between farming, fishing, aquaculture, livestock and forestry with efforts focused on linking farmers to markets for their agricultural commodities.

Policies, Institutions and Markets (USD265.6m) will identify the policies and institutions necessary for smallholder producers in rural communities, particularly women, to increase their income through improved access to and use of markets. Insufficient attention to agricultural markets and the policies and institutions that support them remains a major impediment to alleviating poverty in the developing world, where in most areas farming is the principal source of income. This initiative seeks to produce a body of new knowledge that can be used by decision-makers to shape effective policies and institutions that can reduce poverty and promote sustainable rural development.

Roots, Tubers and Bananas (USD207.3m) is designed to improve the yields of farmers in the developing world who lack high-quality seed and the tools to deal with plant disease, plant pests and environmental challenges. Over 200 million poor farmers in developing countries are dependent on locally grown roots, tubers and bananas for food security and income, which can provide an important hedge against food price shocks. Yet yield potentials are reduced by half due to poor quality seed, limited genetic diversity, plant pests and disease and environmental challenges.

‘These programs mark a new approach to collaborative research for development,’ said Carlos Perez del Castillo, CGIAR Consortium Board Chair. ‘They bring together the broadest possible range of organizations to ensure that research leads to development and real action that improves people’s lives.’

Note: The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development with the funders of this work. The funders include developing- and industrialized-country governments, foundations and international and regional organizations. The work they support is carried out by 15 members of a Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system

Extensive farming in central Malawi

An extensive agricultural landscape typical of central rural Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero, who leads a Sustainable Livestock Futures group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, gave a slide presentation last November at an invitation-only US National Academy of Sciences’ scoping meeting on The role of animal agriculture in a sustainable 21st century global food system, held in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle.

Among the conclusions Herrero makes in his slide presentation, Food security, livelihoods and livestock in the developing world, is the need to change our agricultural investment paradigms so that we invest not only in the high-potential agricultural lands of the past (many of which, he says, are already ‘maxed out’), but also in the agricultural lands of the future.

What are these ‘agricultural lands of the future’? Well, those on which relatively extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems are being practiced, for one.

For more on this topic, see ILRI’s current corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010, the foreword of which, by ILRI director general Carlos Seré and ILRI board chair Knut Hove, follows.

ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2011: Cover

ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Knut Hove say it’s ‘mixed farms’,
more than breadbaskets or ricebowls,
that will feed the world over the next two decades.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

This year’s corporate report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

Scientists at ILRI and seven other leading international agricultural research organizations around the world recently looked at the future of this form of farming and determined that it is ‘mixed farms’—not breadbaskets or ricebowls—that will feed most people over the next two decades.

Their report shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today. This same group, the report indicates, is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Remarkably, this is the first study ever to investigate the state of the world’s most prevalent kind of farmers—those who keep animals as well as grow crops. A major implication of the new report is that governments and researchers are mistaken to continue looking to high-potential lands and single-commodity farming systems as the answer to world hunger. As the study shows, many highly intensive agricultural systems are reaching their peak capacity to produce food and should now focus on sustaining rather than increasing yields.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

The authors of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary study, most belonging to centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agree with many other experts that we need to bring our focus back to small-scale farms. But this report goes further, distinguishing one particular kind of small-scale farmer that should be our focus: this is the mixed farmer growing crops and raising animals in the world’s more extensive agricultural systems, which are described in detail on the next page.

These ‘mixed extensive’ farms make up the biggest, poorest and most environmentally sustainable agricultural system in the world. It is time we invested heavily in this particular kind of farming system. Here is where there remain the biggest yield gaps. Here is where we can make the biggest difference.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale farming in developing countries are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards this particular, most ubiquitous, and till now most neglected, form of agriculture. What this ‘extensive frontier’ needs are the most basic forms of infrastructure and services. With these at hand, the world’s extensive mixed farmers will be in good position to scale up their food production to meet future needs.

Read ILRI’s corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010.

Watch a 4-minute ILRI photofilm (audio with still pictures) illustrating the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers: Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Small-scale Food Production, 2011.

Those wanting more detail on the future of mixed farming should consult the research report by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme: Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030, 2009.

A tribute to the heroes of small-scale food production

Watch ILRI’s new 4-minute photofilm, A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those who farm both crops and livestock—hold the key to feeding the world in coming years. Most of the world’s ‘mixed’ farmers are smallholders tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few animals. A research report led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) indicates that this group is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades (see ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2010, ‘Back to the Future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems’). This photofilm celebrates these ‘unsung heroes’—both the mixed farmers themselves and their farm animals.

 

Some of our readers will remember that last year a perspective piece by ILRI was published in a special February 2010 issue of Science on food security, “Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems”, focused on the importance of the same smallholder mixed farmers.

This article was based on results of a study by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR Consortium.

Small farms that combine crop and livestock production supply much of the food staples (41 percent of maize, 86 percent of rice, and 74 percent of millet), as well as most of the meat and dairy products consumed in these countries.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale agriculture farming are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards these ‘mixed’ farmers.

The pressures of climate change and finite resources, as well as the increasing demand for milk, meat and eggs across the developing world, will require proper planning, looking beyond ‘business as usual investments,’ and a greater ‘intellectual commitment’ to understanding food systems in the developing world.

Read more on this topic in ILRI’s Corporate Report 2009–2010: Back to the Future: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems, 2009.

Or visit the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme website.

Pathways of the evolution of livestock production systems

Pathways of evolution to increase the sustainability of livestock production

Graphic showing pathways of livestock systems evolution to increase the sustainability of livestock production in selected systems, published in a paper by John McDermott et al, ‘Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems in the tropics, Livestock Science (2010) (illustration credit: ILRI/McDermott).

John McDermott, who serves as deputy director general-research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and some of his ILRI colleagues published a paper in Livestock Science that sets out what will be needed to make livestock production a sustainable system for smallholders in the developing world, enhancing both the livelihoods and environmental resources of the poor. The abstract of this ILRI paper follows.

‘Smallholder livestock keepers represent almost 20% of the world population and steward most of the agricultural land in the tropics. Observed and expected increases in future demand for livestock products in developing countries provide unique opportunities for improving livelihoods and linked to that, improving stewardship of the environment.

‘This cannot be a passive process and needs to be supported by enabling policies and pro-poor investments in institutional capacities and technologies. Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems must take into account both social and environmental welfare and be targeted to sectors and areas of most probable positive social welfare returns and where natural resource conditions allow for intensification.

‘Smallholders are competitive in ruminant systems, particularly dairy, because of the availability of family labour and the ability of ruminants to exploit lower quality available roughage. Smallholders compete well in local markets which are important in agriculturally-based or transforming developing countries.

‘However, as production and marketing systems evolve, support to smallholders to provide efficient input services, links to output markets and risk mitigation measures will be important if they are to provide higher value products. Innovative public support and links to the private sector will be required for the poor to adapt and benefit as systems evolve. Likewise targeting is critical to choosing which systems with livestock can be intensified. Some intensive river basin systems have little scope for intensification. More extensive rain-fed systems, particularly in Africa, could intensify with enabling policies and appropriate investments. In more fragile environments, de-intensification is required to avoid irreversible damage to ecosystems.

‘Attention to both social and environmental sustainability are critical to understanding tradeoffs and incentives and to bridging important gaps in the perspectives on livestock production between rich and poor countries and peoples. Two specific examples in which important elements of sustainable intensification can be illustrated, smallholder dairy systems in East Africa and South Asia and small ruminant meat systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, are discussed.’

Read the whole paper, J.J. McDermott, S.J. Staal, H.A. Freeman, M. Herrero and J.A. Van de Steeg, Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems in the tropics, published in Livestock Science, 2010: doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2010.02.014

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

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

Boy and goats in Rajasthan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the full text

For more information read this related ILRI News article.

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the special issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles included in the issue are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the full issue

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

Ploughing with cattle in West Bengal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the full text

Nairobi Science and Policy Forum holds roundtable discussions at ILRI’s Nairobi campus

4th Meeting of the Nairobi Science and Policy Forum held at ILRI, Nairobi Campus on 21Sept 2010

The International Research Livestock Institute hosted the 4th meeting of the Nairobi Science and Policy Forum on Tuesday, 21 September 2010. This Forum takes advantage of a unique location of several science and policy organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and CGIAR Centres like ILRI that belong to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, in Nairobi. Members are building case studies and scenarios for policy briefs based on the best scientific evidence as well as networking among like-minded stakeholders to advance the objectives of the Forum.

The topic of discussion at this 4th meeting was ‘Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agro-ecosystems services and human well-being to 2030’, presented by Mario Herrero, leader of the Sustainable Livestock Futures group at ILRI. His team is assessing the trade-offs in using environments for ecosystem services or to produce food and income. Its aim is to support and guide policies and investment strategies and to improve agricultural livelihoods and environmental resilience. This group will address issues of policies, institutions and political ecology, including gender, power relations and access to ecosystem services. It will consider drivers of change such as global trade, urbanization, climate change and energy demand.

While membership is not closed to organizations that are not based in Nairobi, a key characteristic of the Forum is that it will be a venue for face-to-face dialogue and consensus among organizations engaged in science and policymaking in the arena of agriculture and the environment. It is expected that membership will continue to evolve and increase.

A desert state turns green

Rajasthan (disused) water pump (Bhimpur Village)

Disused water pump in Bhimpur Village, 1.5 hours' drive south of Udaipur, in Rajasthan, India (photo ILRI / MacMIllan).

Over the last five years, poor monsoons have led to crippling droughts throughout Rajasthan, India's 'Land of the Kings', which includes a hilly and rugged southeastern region and the barren northwestern Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan.

Rajasthan cow (Bhimpur Village)

This year's monsoon, which started mid-June, is wetter than average. By mid-September, the rains had transformed Rajasthan's hills into misty verdant pastures, on which still-thin cattle and buffaloes are now fattening. Rivers are full and running fast and lake waters are high with their floodgates bursting with water. Even the camels appear thankful for the greenery the monsoon has brought. Maize is ripening in the fields and everywhere you look people are cutting the tall green grass and other fodder and loading it and carrying it home—on their heads, on their bullock carts, on the backs of their motorcycles—to feed their animals. They will dry and store the excess fodder for use when the land turns brown again.

Rajasthan rice straw stored for livestock feed (Bhimpur Village)

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with others to conduct three case studies in South Asia on the use of stover and other crop 'wastes' for feeding ruminant farm animals. The residues of grain crops after harvesting are vital to animal husbandry here, where such residues typically make up more than half the feed for cattle, buffaloes, camels, goats and sheep.

The case studies are being conducted in three contrasting sites: the extensive and normally dry rangelands of Rajasthan, the modern farming sector of Haryana (part of India's breadbasket), and in the intensely cultivated fields of Bangladesh.

ILRI's Braja Swain in Rajasthan

Braja Swain, the project associate doing all the fieldwork and analyses for this project, says that even this year's good maize harvest will feed many families only for a few months, after which they will have to buy grain using money they get from selling some animals or from family members who have migrated away to find jobs.

Rajasthan goats (Renoje Village)

This project is funded by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and led by the Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. ILRI's Swain is studying for a doctoral degree in economics at the Centre for Development Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi.

Borlaug Symposium recommends stronger linkages between crop and livestock production to empower Africa’s smallholders

Household takes refuge from the rain in central Malawi

Women and livestock shelter from rain in Malawi. Livestock production can empower Africa's small-scale producers (photo ILRI/Mann)

Over 100 government leaders, academicians, donors, farmers and politicians meeting in the Borlaug Symposium, a senior-level gathering of global agricultural decision makers, held in Addis Ababa this past July,  recommend that agricultural programs in Africa use linkage opportunities offered by livestock production alongside food crop farming to enhance the productivity and value addition of  Africa’s agricultural sector.

Among other recommendations, the Symposium calls for greater support to address the extension needs of pastoralists to help them develop and maintain their livestock-based systems saying that well-coordinated livestock and food crop production programs are essential if Africa is to achieve a ‘green revolution’ of its agricultural sector.

Many households in Africa largely depend on mixed farming systems that grow crops and keep livestock to meet food and income needs. Livestock play an especially important role for Africa’s pastoralist populations, most of who are dealing with the effects of climate change while relying on livestock to sustain their livelihoods. Strengthening livestock development has a direct impact on many of these pastoralist households and other smallholder households in mixed farming systems.

‘Livestock is such an important source of income, actual and potential, for smallholders that we cannot ignore ways to improve the linkages between crops and livestock,’ said Christopher Dowswell, the Executive Director – Programs, of the Sasakawa Africa Association.

The Sasakawa Africa Association is a Japan-founded group that seeks to apply green revolution principles to meet the changing needs of extension and the constraints to improving smallholder productivity in Africa. The association organized the Borlaug Symposium from 13-14 July in Ethiopia and brought together ministers of agriculture from 10 countries, academicians from African agricultural universities,representatives of bilateral donor agencies, private foundations, agribusinesses farmers and politicians. Carlos Seré the Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) attended this year's event.

The Symposium also recommends efforts to address the challenge of smallholder’s access to commercial markets to enable them to profit from agriculture by, for example, organizing them into farmer organizations or as outgrowers to larger private agribusinesses specialized in export crops.

‘The value chain examples [shared in this symposium] illustrate that there is considerable scope for smallholder farmers to capture more of the total value added, after production, than they have before,’ said Dowswell.

The meeting also highlighted the need to reach women farmers with productivity-enhancing technologies, and to incorporate them in appropriate research and extension programs while at the same time seeking to correct the disadvantaged position women in Africa face that restricts their access to land and other production resources. It also encourages greater stakeholder participation in mechanizing smallholder agriculture,  agricultural education and for more economic investment in the agricultural sector.

The Symposium was held to honour the life and achievements of Dr Norman E Borlaug, who died in September 2009 and was a co-founder of the Sasakawa Africa Association. It was attended by among others former US President Jimmy Carter who, with Dr Borlaug and Ryoichi Sasakawa, helped to establish the Sasakawa-Global 2000 program in 1985 to strengthen Africa’s agriculture. The symposium also launched the Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education in Africa and highlighted some key agricultural developments in the continent.

You can read more about the Borlaug Symposium 2010 and its recommendations at: http://saa-borlaug-symposium.org/?page_id=54.

More information about the Sasakawa African Association can be found on: http://www.saa-tokyo.org/english/