Research collaboration and capacity development focus of long-term partnership with Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Swedish University of Life Sciences Vice Chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith sign a Memorandum of Understanding (image: SLU/Jenny Svennås-Gillner)

On 26 September 2013, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) signed a memorandum of understanding. The MoU was signed by SLU vice chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI director general Jimmy Smith. The MoU signing took place in the margins of the ‘Agri4D annual conference on agricultural research for development’,  where Jimmy Smith gave a keynote address.

The main objective is to establish a long-term relationship to exploit complementary research, institutional development and capacity development skills.

It includes a specific objective to establish joint activities associated with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, including a role in the development and implementation of the program’s research-for-development agenda, which includes research and capacity building.

Some of the specific activities envisaged include:

  • Facilitating research and supervision for PhD students at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners, while course work and main supervision is provided by SLU (i.e., sandwich model)
  • Facilitating opportunities for MSc students to conduct minor field studies of 2–3 months at ILRI’s locations(s) or its partners.
  • Providing post-doc opportunities at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners.
  • Facilitating short-term exchanges and secondments of professional staff from one institute to the other.
  • Exchanging scientific literature and information
  • Facilitating dissemination of scientific information

News item on SLU website

Visit the Animal Genetics Training Resource, a product of SLU-ILRI collaboration

SLU researchers are working in the Livestock and Fish Uganda smallholder pigs value chain as part of the Assessing the Impact of African swine fever (ASF) in smallholder pig systems and the feasibility of potential interventions project

Agricultural interventions for food safety and nutrition: Livestock reports at this week’s CGIAR Science Forum

Tea Room in Chinseu

The interior of a tea room in Chinseu Trading Centre, in Zomba West, Malawi (photo on Flickr by John Appiah-Duffell); the menu on the wall, written in Chichewa, lists the following: PRICES FOR TEA: Tea without milk, Tea with milk; EXTRAS: Buns, Nsima with chicken, Nsima with meat, Nsima with beans, Rice.

The following is a report on livestock-related presentations at the on-going three-day CGIAR Science Forum, 23–25 Sep 2013, in Bonn, Germany.

From yesterday’s session on food safety is this brief from veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on the case for agricultural interventions for food safety.

Agriculture has allowed massive expansion of people and their animals.

Yet in a world of more than 7 billion people, more than one billion are hungry and more than 2 billion are sickened each year from the food they ate.

Agriculture is exacting a heavy biological cost, but health policy and programs often stop at the clinic door.

A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming.

‘The new CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Enhanced Nutrition and Health is attempting to bridge this disconnect and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) leads the component focusing on diseases related to agriculture. This session uses the case of fungal toxins to explore how research can contribute to game-changing innovations, powerful incentives and enabling institutions that improve at the same time food safety, food accessibility for poor consumers and access to markets for smallholder farmers.

Towards new ways of managing food safety in developing countries
* Incentives for risk management: In poor countries, where public and private standards are weak and where consumers’ choices are limited by income and information, incentives to safe production are lacking. Novel incentives need to be found to encourage farmers and other value chain actors in poor settings to produce quality and safe products.
* Innovations for risk management: Informal markets and food produced and consumed by smallholders typically have high levels of hazards. Innovations, whether technology, social or market-based, can change the game.
* Institutions for risk assessment: Food safety regulations in developing countries are characterized by complexity, inappropriateness for informal and smallholder production, lack of translation of policy into practice, and frequent negative impacts of policy. Both evidence and effective influence are needed to improve food safety institutions.

Mandela Corks 3

If not stored and dried properly groundnut can get mouldy (photo credit: ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

Controlling aflatoxins as an example of agriculture based interventions for human health
‘Among staple crops (maize, groundnuts, sorghum), the most serious food safety problem is toxins produced by fungi. These cause around 90,000 cases of liver cancer each year and there are strong associations between aflatoxin exposure and stunting and immune suppression in children. There have also major impacts on trade and the livestock sector.

‘Using the example of fungal toxins, especially aflatoxins, we make the case for research investors to support research into agricultural approaches for enhancing food safety in value chains.’

From today’s session on economic implications
‘The objective of the session is to understand better the economic impacts of shifting investments towards more nutrition dense foods for healthier diets. Agricultural interventions in low income countries have often either focused on raising incomes for the poor assuming that nutrition and health benefits follow automatically or focused on improving diets through promotion of specific highly nutritious foods but do not often consider the economic sustainability of the programmes once intervention monies are removed. Furthermore, they may overlook other complex cultural and environmental issues which may be key to their success. For investment to effectively increase nutritional levels and incomes, a multi-dimensional approach including nutrition education, technical assistance, environmental awareness and community organization support may be needed to address the complex economic and social linkages between nutrition and agriculture

‘The session will present results from field research projects aimed at improving nutritional and income outcomes. Among the research questions to be addressed are:

  • How do initiatives to improve dietary and income outcomes need to be structured to reap benefits of both at present and over time?
  • How can the multi-dimensional nature of the nutrition-income linkage be integrated into investment projects in this area?
  • What are the knowledge gaps in developing and implementing these strategies?
  • Are new research approaches needed in developing interventions aimed at double objective outcomes?’

Faith Kivuti and Mom Milking a Cow

An East African smallholder dairy farmer and her cow and child (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).

Tom Randolph, ILRI agricultural economist and director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, will make a presentation on Supporting the pro-poor transformation of smallholder-based animal-source food systems.

‘The presentation focuses on how food systems could be designed to contribute more directly to the nutritional security of poor rural and urban communities. In particular, how might investments to professionalize smallholder livestock and aquaculture production and informal market systems improve incomes and nutritional food security? The presentation explores the implications of such an objective, and provides an example from a dairy development project.’

Find the program and abstracts of presentations for the CGIAR Science Forum 2013, ‘Nutrition and health outcomes: targets for agricultural research’, 23‒25 Sep 2013, Bonn, Germany. Follow the ongoing discussions on Twitter by searching for the hashtag ‘ScienceForum2013’

Study finds Vietnam has low awareness of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease commonly transmitted between animals and people

A smallholders pig in Chưng Mỹ, Vietnam

A three-year study by ILRI and partners shows that farmers in Vietnam have low awareness of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that infects animals (including pigs) and humans (photo credit: ILRI/Andrew Nguyen).

A joint research team consisting of staff from the Vietnamese Department of Animal Health, the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, Nong Lam University and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently completed a three-year study of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease passed from animals to humans. The aim of the study was to identify behaviours and conditions in Vietnam that increase the risk of humans and animals contracting this disease.

Results from Tien Giang and Binh Phuoc provinces, where the study was conducted, indicate farmers and small-scale slaughterhouse workers have low awareness of leptospirosis, even though researchers found that the disease was common in the pigs and humans tested.

The study, the findings of which were presented at a workshop in August 2013, was part of a larger project called ‘Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia’, or EcoZD for short, which is coordinated by ILRI and funded by the International Development Research Centre, of Canada.

The EcoZD project used an ‘ecohealth’ approach, which requires bringing scientists from different disciplines and partner organizations to work together on complex health problems. Applying an ‘ecohealth’ framework improves understanding of the web of social, economic and ecological dimensions of infectious diseases and the importance of engaging local actors in preventing and controlling them.

‘Leptospirosis is a disease that has been around for a long time, but it often gets ignored as attention and resources are focused on emerging diseases like avian influenza’, said Mai Van Hiep, the deputy director general of the Department of Animal Health in Vietnam.

Leptospirosis affects animals and humans worldwide. The most common way humans get the disease is through direct exposure to urine from infected animals or from contact with water contaminated with such urine. People living in areas with open sewers, or that regularly flood, or that have poor hygiene are at particular risk. People who work or live with animals are at even greater risk. Animals that commonly acquire and spread leptospirosis include rodents, dogs and livestock.

Leptospirosis stunts the growth of pigs and causes them to abort, leading to economic losses for pig owners and the pork industry as a whole. People who develop the disease also suffer economic losses due to decreased productivity or missed work and the costs of seeking medical treatment.

‘We started by looking at public health records dating back to 2008 but there were no records telling us how common leptospirosis has been in Vietnam, in animals or humans’, said Hiep. ‘We knew that if animal and human health researchers worked side by side to better understand this disease, we would collect relevant data.’

The research team tested more than 360 people and 880 pigs in Tien Giang and Binh Phuoc. In Tien Giang, 29% of pigs and 10% of humans in the sample tested positive for leptospirosis. In Binh Phuoc, 22% of pigs and 20% of humans in the sample tested positive. (A positive test indicated the person or animal had past contact with the causative pathogen.)

Discussions with community members in both provinces revealed that people were unfamiliar with the symptoms of leptospirosis, how it could harm them and their animals and ways they could prevent it.

As yet, no mechanism in Vietnam links disease reporting between animal and human health. This missing link makes it hard for researchers in both sectors to understand how changes in the environment or behaviour may affect leptospirosis and other zoonotic diseases, which are passed between animals and humans.

‘Identification of serovars and serogroups provides us with clues as to which types of animals are transmitting leptospirosis. This information can help authorities to design strategies to control the spread of the disease to humans’, said Cao Thi Bao Van, deputy director of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

‘Some simple things reduce the risk of exposure’, said Van. ‘People working with animals should wear protective clothing, like gloves and boots, when cleaning animals and their pens; this reduces the chance of bacteria entering the body through cuts or scratches. The risk of leptospirosis spreading among animals can be reduced by separating them in several pens rather than keeping them altogether in large groups.’

Lucy Lapar, an ILRI agricultural economist based in Hanoi, said research should now be conducted on the economic burden of leptospirosis in Vietnam, which remains largely unknown. ‘We need estimates of the economic burden in terms of harm both to human health and to livestock production so that decision-makers can better prioritize their resources for disease control’, said Lapar. ‘As long as the true burden of leptospirosis remains unknown in Vietnam, we will not know if the country should direct more resources to controlling it.’

For more information about EcoZD, visit www.ilri.org/ecozd

More information about the project is available on the EzoZD wiki.

Want ‘climate-smart’ farming adopted in Africa? Then better start collecting data on how much greenhouse gases African countries are emitting

Livestock live talk: Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, a scientist at ILRI, says data on emissions estimates from developed countries are inapplicable to Africa’s climatic and environmental conditions (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Obtaining country-specific greenhouse gas emission data from agricultural activities is critical in supporting ‘climate smart’ agricultural practices that will help Africa’s smallholder farmers protect their livelihoods in the face of climate change.

According to Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), ‘current estimates of emissions from Africa’s agricultural sector rely heavily on data collected in developed countries that are inapplicable to Africa’s climatic and environmental conditions’. As a result, he says, many African countries simply don’t have reliable information on ‘greenhouse gas emission factors’ for their agricultural production activities. This is despite the fact that such agricultural emissions are the dominant source of harmful greenhouse gases in developing countries.

Butterbach-Bahl, who is on joint appointment at ILRI and the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, in Garmisch, Germany, made these remarks while giving a ‘livestock live talk’ on ‘Standard assessment of mitigation potentials and livelihoods in smallholder systems’ at ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 14 Aug 2013.

Food production contributes 19–29% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that originate from human activity, he reported. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land cover change, contributes 80–86% of total food system emissions.

According to Butterbach-Bahl, the absence of region-specific measurements of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities is hurting efforts to verify the environmental impacts of agricultural intensification in Africa. ‘Farmers and farmer organizations, government and non-governmental organizations need this information to know which options will make the best use of their land resources without further fuelling climate change.’

‘Without accurate emission data’, says Butterbach-Bahl, ‘African countries have little chance of identifying emission hotspots, of developing ways to reduce their emissions or of helping their communities to adapt better to a changing climate’. This will happen only by developing capacity and expertise in collecting greenhouse gas emission data in Africa, he says.

Butterbach-Bahl is leading a team of climate change scientists at ILRI and partner organizations, including an initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) that is assessing ways smallholder farmers in Kenya can help reduce emissions, and, thus climate change.

This project, ‘Identifying pro-poor mitigation options for smallholder agriculture in the developing world’, is working with smallholder farmers in mixed livestock-and-crop production systems in Nyando, in western Kenya. The project aims to quantify greenhouse gas emissions in this region and to identify mitigation options for smallholders at both farm and landscape levels.

Livestock live talk: Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

The audience at a ‘livestock live talk’ on assessing climate change mitigation potentials in smallholder systems at ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 14 Aug 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

‘We’re looking at both the ecological and the economic impacts of climate change options adopted by smallholder farmers’, said Butterbach-Bahl.

ILRI is hoping to use experiences from this project and other ongoing climate change research activities:

  • to develop capacity in quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural sources
  • to build ILRI’s competence in measuring Africa’s agricultural greenhouse gas emissions
  • to build a network of greenhouse gas assessment labs across the continent that will allow countries to obtain country-specific agricultural-related data.

‘We want to show the benefits of climate-smart agriculture’, says Butterbach-Bahl. ‘We intend to collect enough evidence to demonstrate these benefits to policymakers so that governments have the information they need to implement climate-smart interventions.’

View the slide presentation made by Butterbach-Bahl.

ILRI geneticist wins prestigious ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’ award for innovative way to improve livestock breeding services in poor countries

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visit to project sites, June 2011

Fidalis Mujibi, a geneticist at ILRI, collecting information from a smallholder livestock farmer in Busia, Kenya. Mujibi is one of the winners of the 2013 ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’ award for an idea to improve livestock breeding services (photo credit: BMGF/Lee Klejtnot).

Fidalis Mujibi, a Kenyan geneticist working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, is one of the winners of the 2013 USD10,000 ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’, announced in July.

The award is given each year by the American National Science Foundation and is part of the ‘Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, which is co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This year, the award recognized 13 innovators amongst many applicants ranging from scientists, professors and graduate students from around the world. The winning challenges focused on ideas of solving pressing and largely ignored issues affecting smallholder farming in developing countries.

Mujibi received the award together with American scientist and beef reproductive management specialist George Perry, from South Dakota State University. Their idea is to eliminate the need for liquid nitrogen in livestock artificial insemination services in developing countries.

Liquid nitrogen is needed to preserve the semen used to inseminate dairy cows artificially, but it’s expensive and raises the costs of artificial insemination services for poor farmers in developing countries. Most of those providing artificial insemination services are unable to maintain a steady supply of liquid nitrogen in their tanks, leading to cases of dead semen being used for insemination. This in turn necessitates many repeated insemination procedures, which not only are unduly expensive but also result in long calving intervals, reducing the lifetime productivity of cows.

‘Our idea focuses on alternatives that could eliminate the “cold-chain” from the artificial insemination delivery process’, says Mujibi. ‘We’re exploring ways of delivering semen to remote villages in Africa where there is no infrastructure to support liquid nitrogen systems, so that farmers can access the germplasm they need easily.’

‘I want to explore new ways of helping Africa’s smallholder farmers to improve their livestock production through new germplasm delivery and novel reproductive tools. This will help them better cope with pressures from climate change and reduced farmland,’ says Mujibi.

Mujibi and Perry are preparing a full proposal they will submit to the American National Science Foundation in September.

‘The BREAD challenges range from the global to the local and across diverse disciplines’, said John Wingfield, assistant director for biological sciences at the National Science Foundation. ‘What they have in common is that they represent topics that have not had the attention or funding to prompt a solution. Solving any of these challenges would have a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of smallholder farmers around the globe.’

Read more information about the BREAD award:

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=128546&org=NSF&from=news

Find out more about ILRI’s work in livestock genetics

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/tag/dairy-genetics-east-africa-project

http://www.ilri.org/node/598

 

Index-based livestock insurance pilot launches today in drought-prone northern Kenya’s Wajir County

Kenya: drought leaves dead and dying animals in northen Kenya

Kenya: dead and dying animals in previous drought in Arbajahan, in northern Kenya’s Wajir County (photo credit: Brendan Cox / Oxfam).

Today (Sat 10 Aug 2013), Takaful Insurance of Africa is launching a pilot project providing satellite date-based livestock insurance cover for pastoral livestock herders in the drought-prone drylands of northern Kenya’s Wajir County.

The Takaful Livestock cover will provide livestock keepers in the county with covers against livestock deaths resulting from shortage of fodder due to prolonged dry weather.

Those who subscribe to this insurance policy will receive payments if the forage available for their insured cattle, camels, sheep or goats falls below a given threshold, with assessment of the state of vegetative cover in the county determined by satellite data.

Takaful Insurance is partnering in this project with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and MercyCorps. ILRI, under the leadership of Andrew Mude, is providing the satellite data and MercyCorps is coordinating public awareness campaigns.

Among those who will be in attendance are:

  • Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI
  • Andrew Mude, leader of ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project
  • Abdihafith Maalim, deputy governor of Wajir County
  • Liesbeth Zonnoveld, country director of Mercy Corps
  • Hassan Bashir, chief executive officer of Takaful Insurance of Africa

The launch of this new livestock insurance scheme, the first ever provided in this county, begins at 12 noon at the Wajir Guest House in Wajir town.

About Takaful Insurance of Africa
Founded in 2008 and licensed in Mar 2011 by the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), Takaful Insurance of Africa Limited (TIA) is pioneering an ethical approach to insurance in Kenya and the region based on the Shariah principles of togetherness, cooperation and mutual solidarity. Each participant contributes a given premium, which is pooled in a general fund managed by TIA on behalf of the members. Through the principle of Tabarru’, or donation, members allow the company to pay any loses suffered by participants contributing to the pool, while any surplus left from the pooled funds after payment of claims and other expenses is either used to grow the reserves or is distributed among members.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) ILRI is a not-for-profit institution with a staff of about 600 and, in 2012, an operating budget of about USD 60 million. A member of the CGIAR Consortium working for a food-secure future, ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and offices in other countries in East, West and Southern Africa and in South, Southeast and East Asia. ILRI works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships 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 the risk of livestock-related diseases.

Read more about ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project

Index-Based Livestock Insurance Blog

ILRI Clippings Blog
Livestock keepers in Kenya’s northern Isiolo District to get livestock-drought insurance for first time, 30 Jul 2013

ILRI News Blog
‘Livestock insurance project an excellent example of innovative risk management in Kenya’s arid lands’ Kenyan minister, 10 Sep 2012
Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance, 22 Feb 2012
Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders, 26 Oct 2011
Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa, 25 Oct 2011
Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments, 21 Oct 2011

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story

This 3:25-minute film shares how keeping cows has enabled Margaret Muchina, a dairy farmer from central Kenya, to support and educate her four children, who include Edward Kimani, who sat for his high school exam in 2010 and emerged as one of the country’s best students.

This single mother from Kenya’s Kiambu District started keeping dairy cows on her 2-acre farm in 1985. Her regular dairy income, mostly through daily milk sales, has been critical in enabling her to support her family, including the schooling of her children. Her dairy income is now supporting Kimani’s education at the University of Nairobi, where he is studying for a bachelor’s degree in geology.

Between 1997 and 2005, Margaret was one of many Kenyan farmers who participated in an award-winning Smallholder Dairy Project that carried out research to help improve the country’s smallholder, and largely informal, dairy sector, which trades mostly in ‘raw ‘ (unpasteurized) milk and was then being more harassed than supported by regulatory authorities.

The Smallholder Dairy Project supported a move towards towards a more favourable policy environment that paved the way for significant increases in the number of raw milk traders in the country, which helped milk producers like Margaret sell more milk leading to wider economy wide benefits for small-scale farmers.

Like many other Kenyans keeping one or two dairy cows to help them feed their families and send their children to school, Margaret Muchina is grateful to the Smallholder Dairy Project for information on best farm management and milk handling practices. Mrs Muchina now operates her small dairying with greater freedom and with new support from her government.

The Smallholder Dairy Project was led by Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock and implemented by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Find out more about the Smallholder Dairy Project

ILRI’s current work in dairying focuses on value chain development in Tanzania. Read more here.

Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs will be discussing the successes of Africa’s agriculture, including how its livestock sector can help achieve food security in the continent, at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) in Accra, Ghana. This event is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.

Check out this blog next week for more stories from the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week.

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.

Roots and tubers to the fore: How a Tanzanian crop and goat project is helping farmers

Integrated Dairy Goat and Root Crop in Tanzania workshop

A meeting to review research results from a dairy goat and root crop project in Tanzania was held in Nairobi last week (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Last week (18-20 Jun 2013) the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted partners in a crop and goat project working to improve food security in Tanzania. The meeting reviewed research results from the two-year-old project.

This project is helping Tanzanian farmers integrate their dairy goat production with growing root crops. It’s raising incomes by improving the milk production potential of dairy goats, introducing improved sweet potato and cassava varieties and improving marketing options for goats and crops in Tanzania’s Kongwa and Mvomero districts.

Led by Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture and the University of Alberta in Canada, the project also involves collaboration with an agricultural research institute in Kibaha, the Kongwa and Mvomero district councils and the Foundation for Sustainable Rural Development, a non-governmental organization in the country. ILRI is serving as knowledge-support partner for the project and is providing expertise on goat production, gender issues and monitoring and evaluation.

Started in March 2011, the project is funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency. The project brings together farmers and scientists in setting up community-managed breeding programs for dairy goats and introducing improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato in agro-pastoral area of the two districts. Previously, dairy goat keeping was restricted to wetter areas of the districts.

‘This is one of few projects whose achievements so far the IDRC is proud of and it stands a good chance for being considered for funding for scaling-up under the Food Security Research Fund,’ said Pascal Sanginga, of IDRC.

The program’s interventions have focused on understanding women’s roles in livestock activities such as feeding and milking, getting more women involved in livestock keeping and increasing women’s access to, and control over, benefits from livestock rearing and farming.

‘This project highlights the central role of partnerships in ILRI’s work in Tanzania, which is a focus country for the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish,’ says Amos Omore, the project’s coordinator at ILRI.

ILRI's Okeyo Mwai and Amos Omore with Immaculate Maina (KARI)

Participants in the meeting, who included graduate students and faculty from Sokoine and Alberta universities and researchers from ILRI, shared 16 research presentations, which will now be reworked as papers for submission to scientific journals. Feedback from these presentations guided a project evaluation and planning session that followed the workshop.

‘We’re learning about the challenges in establishing root crops and dairy goat production in marginal environments where there is a high variability in rainfall and stiff competition from pastoralism,’ said John Parkins, of Alberta University.

The project, which is reaching more than 100 farmers, has conducted a baseline study and has developed gender and monitoring & evaluation strategies.

Findings from this workshop, which included determination of specific environmental constraints and the costs and benefits of adopting new varieties of sweet potatoes and cassava, guided preparation of a proposal to scale up the project’s interventions. This proposal will be used to implement the final phase of the project, which ends in August 2014.

‘This meeting revealed a need to focus on doing a few things well—like facilitating fodder production, animal health and disease control,’ said Parkins.

View presentations from the meeting:

Read more about the project, ‘Integrating dairy goats and root crop production for increasing food, nutrition and income security of smallholder farmers in Tanzania’, http://ilri.org/node/1177 and https://sites.google.com/a/ualberta.ca/diary-goats-and-root-crops-tanzania/home. Download a project brochure

Read an ILRI news article about the project: Cassava and sweet potato may improve dairy goat production in Tanzania’s drylands, but will women benefit?

 

Agriculture-associated diseases: Can we control them? Stop them? Prevent them? It’s back to the farm (and market)

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health within CGIAR

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health: This program focuses on one of five strategic objectives of CGIAR (Slide 3 of ‘A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners’, Jun 2013; credit: CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health).

Veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace is in Montpellier, France, this week, along with a lot of other distinguished folk in the business of doing agricultural research for development in poor countries. Research leaders at 15 CGIAR centres, representatives of CGIAR funding organizations and key CGIAR partners are getting together in this town, the capital of ‘southern France’ and the location of the CGIAR Consortium, to update each other on where they are in a new(ish) series of multi-centre, multi-partner, multi-country and multi-disciplinary CGIAR research programs tackling big issues such as climate change, water scarcity and empowerment of women.

Grace oversees one of four components of one of these 16 big new CGIAR Research Programs—Agriculture for Nutrition and Health—which works to adapt agricultural practices and policies to improve human health. The whole program is led by John McDermott, another epidemiologist, who is based at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC. Grace’s component, which she leads from her base at ILRI’s Nairobi campus (where Mcdermott served for many years, first as scientist and then as deputy director general for research), is investigating ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, with specific focus on improving food safety, controlling zoonotic diseases and diseases emerging from animals, and reducing other health risks in agro-ecosystems in the developing world.

Partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health: Slide 33 of ‘A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners’, Jun 2013 (credit: CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health).

Last week, McDermott and Grace and other leaders in the ‘CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’ gave their CGIAR scientific colleagues, partners and donors an overall presentation of their  program. Highlighted below are slides concerning Grace’s component on ‘Prevention and Control of Agriculture-Associated Diseases’.

CGIAR research at the interface of human, animal and ecosystem health

Measuring and mapping the multiple burdens of food-borne disease

One-health approaches to managing zoonoses and emerging infections

Below, view the whole presentation: A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners, June 2013:

For more information, visit the landing page on the CGIAR website for the project ILRI’s Delia Grace leads on Agriculture-Associated Diseases or the project’s website and blog: AgHealth.

 

More meat, milk and fish — Big interventions for ‘farm-to-table’ livestock value chains in poor countries

Watch this brief (3-minute) film introducing a new multi-centre CGIAR research program, one after ‘more meat, milk and fish by and for the poor’, that has ambitions to do research differently, moving from research products to research outcomes. Developing—and getting into use—big interventions that help transform eight ‘whole farm-to plate livestock and fish value chains’ are what this program is about. Is it doable? Let us know what you think.

In this 3-minute film, Tom Randolph, an agricultural economist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), explains what’s new about the multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish that he directs.

‘Meat, milk and fish are critical to the poor both as food and income’, Randolph says. ‘But while research has hugely increased farm production in rich countries, we haven’t suceeded yet to help the millions of family farms in developing nations to raise their production very much.

We’ve been doing a lot of good science a lot of good research over the years. But all that good science has not translated into significant improvements in the amount of milk meat and fish that people are able to produce and put on their tables for themselves and their communities.

‘To change this, we’re experimenting with a new approach. The focus of research in the past was on research products. Now we’re making ourselves accountable for getting research into use.

This is what a new program called More Meat, Milk and Fish by and for the Poor is all about.

‘So what’s different about this program? Well, for one thing, we’re addressing the whole way these foods move from small farms to tables. This so-called ‘food chain’ includes producing, processing, selling and consuming meat, milk and fish.

‘And we’re working to design big interventions that can transform whole farm-to-table chains in selected countries. This will help us scale up our research, with direct benefits for large numbers of people.

‘Also, we’re teaming up early with development partners who know how to take these interventions to scale.

‘Finally our program is focusing all its research capacity on just 8 farm-to-table livestock and fish systems selected because their successes can be replicated in many other regions. These 8 systems include small-scale dairying, goat and sheep raising, pig production and aquaculture in 8 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

‘Our intention is to show that small-scale farmers and businesses, already central to feeding the world’s poor, will be key to food security up to the year 2050, when global populations peak. We want to demonstrate that their systems can be transformed. And this kind of science can make a big difference in everyone’s lives.

By doing research in this different way, we expect within a decade to see more meat, milk and fish being produced and consumed by the people who need it most.’

Below, view a slide presentation version of the film above by Tom Randolph: ‘More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor: How the Livestock and Fish Research Program Helps Improve Access to Critical Animal-source Foods’, Mar 2013.

Four CGIAR research institutions—the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and WorldFish—as well as many other partners are working together in the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Watch two companion film presentations
Shirley Tarawali, ILRI director of Institutional Planning and Partnerships, on Livestock Research for Food Security and Poverty Reduction (15 minutes)
Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general, on ILRI and the Global Development Agenda (13 minutes)

Climate change–Wholesale reconfiguration of diets, livelihoods, farming will be required in some regions

Field photos from Lower Nyando, Kenya

A new report identifies ‘regret-free’ approaches for adapting agriculture to climate change. Amid fears of wasted investments and imprecise science, researchers are providing clarity on actions small-scale food producers and their governments can take now. Gala goats, pictured above, for example, are an improved breed being acquired by farmers in Kenya’s Lower Nyando region to help them cope with climate change: The goats mature early, are easy to manage and produce high levels of milk (photo credit: K Trautmann).

Findings from a new report from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) chart a path for farmers to adapt to climate shifts despite uncertainties about what growing conditions will look like decades from now.

As this week’s UN climate talks in Bonn continue to sideline a formal deal on agriculture, the study, ‘Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture’, which was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS), finds that the cloudy aspects of climate forecasts are no excuse for a paralysis in agriculture adaptation policies.

Climate projections will always have a degree of uncertainty, but we need to stop using uncertainty as a rationale for inaction’, said Sonja Vermeulen, head of research at CCAFS and the lead author of the study.

‘Even when our knowledge is incomplete, we often have robust grounds for choosing best-bet adaptation actions and pathways, by building pragmatically on current capacities in agriculture and environmental management, and using projections to add detail and to test promising options against a range of scenarios.’

The CCAFS analysis shows how decision-makers can sift through the different gradients of scientific uncertainty to understand where there is, in fact, a general degree of consensus and then move to take action. Moreover, it encourages a broader approach to agriculture adaptation that looks beyond climate models to consider the socioeconomic conditions on the ground. These conditions, such as a particular farmer’s or community’s capacity to make the necessary farming changes, will determine whether a particular adaptation strategy is likely to succeed.

Getting farmers, communities, governments, donors and other stakeholders to embrace various adaptation strategies can end up being equally or more important than seeking higher levels of scientific certainty from a climate model’, said Andy Challinor, a professor at the Institute for Climate and Atmosphere Science, School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, who co-leads research on climate adaptation at CCAFS and was also an author of the study.

‘There is no question that climate science is constantly improving’, he added. ‘But scientists also need to understand the broader processes involved in agriculture adaptation and consider how we can better communicate what we do know in ways that are relevant to a diverse audience.’

The CCAFS study uses examples from the program’s recent work in the developing world to illustrate how some countries have pursued climate change adaptation strategies that will that help them prepare for shifts in growing conditions in the near-term and long-term.

Some of the strategies involve relatively straightforward efforts to accommodate changes in the near-term that will present growing conditions that are not significantly different from what farmers have experienced in the past.

The authors also explore how in some parts of the world adaptation planning must consider long-term changes that exceed historical experience and require ‘wholesale reconfigurations of livelihoods, diets, and the geography of farming and food systems’.

As short-term and long-range agriculture forecasts reveal disturbing trends, especially in developing countries, many decision-makers acknowledge the critical importance of moving forward with climate adaptation.

For example, in Kenya, rain-fed agriculture contributes more than one-quarter of the GDP. Recent droughts have left millions without access to adequate food and slowed the nation’s economic growth by an annual average of 2.8 per cent between 2008 and 2011. In March 2013, after an extensive consultation process engaged most sectors of society, Kenya formally launched its national climate change action plan.

In Kenya, as well as in many countries in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, climate change is a critical policy priority’, said James Kinyangi, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a regional program leader for CCAFS in East Africa. ‘It is imperative for developing nations to embrace the adaptation planning process and for industrialized countries to unlock much-needed funding support so that this planning fast tracks climate adaptation actions.’

‘Some farmers and countries are going to need to make big transitions in what food they produce’, concluded Vermeulen. ‘Science is now reaching a point where it will be able to provide advice on when—not just whether—major climatic shifts relevant to agriculture will happen. Helping governments and farmers plan ahead will make all the difference in avoiding the food insecurity and suffering that climate change threatens.’

About CCAFS
The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) partners CCAFS in its work. Two of the authors of this study, Philip Thornton and James Kinyangi, are ILRI scientists.

Read the journal article
Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture, by Sonja Vermeulen, Andrew Challinor, Philip Thornton, Bruce Campbell, Nishadi Eriyagama, Joost Vervoort, James Kinyangi, Andy Jarvis, Peter Läderach, Julian Ramirez-Villegas, Kathryn Nicklin, Ed Hawkins and Daniel Smith. 2013. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) vol. 110 no. 21. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1219441110