Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand

Kitengela rangeland in Kenya: Fencing

Research by ILRI is helping pastoralists in the Kitengela ecosystem better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources (photo: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A paper by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that shares experiences from a project that worked to help Kenyan pastoralists better manage their lands, livestock and wildlife resources has won the 2012 Sustainability Science Award.

The yearly award is given by the Ecological Society of America to the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the preceding five years that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.

The winning paper, ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, was published in 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a prestigious American science journal. The paper shared experimental work in boundary-spanning research from the Reto-o-Reto (Maasai for ‘I help you, you help me’) project, which was implemented between 2003 and 2008 to help balance action in poverty alleviation and wildlife conservation in four pastoral ecosystems in East Africa, including the Kitengela pastoral ecosystem just south of Nairobi National Park.

Lessons from this project supported the development and adoption of a land-use master plan in Kitengela, which is now helping Maasai pastoralists better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources.

The announcement of this award comes at an appropriate time, just as an inception workshop takes place on ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week (Jun 5-7) for the eastern and southern Africa component of a CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agriculture.

The following story, written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith in 2010, shares experiences of pastoralists in Kitengela, their challenges and their hopes, as a result of this award-winning project.

Saving the plains

Talk to the Maasai who herd their cattle across the Athi-Kaputiei Plains to the south of Nairobi and they’ll tell you that the last (2009–2010) drought was one of the worst in living memory. ‘Many people lost almost all their livestock,’ says pastoralist William Kasio. ‘The vultures were so full they couldn’t eat any more. Even the lions had had enough.’

At the slaughterhouse in Kitengela, over 20,000 emaciated cattle were burned and buried during the drought, and the surrounding plains were littered with sun-bleached carcasses. But for the Maasai, droughts are nothing new, and indeed many believe there is an even graver threat to their survival as cattle herders. ‘Land sales, and the subdivision and fencing off of open land—that’s been the biggest problem we’ve faced in recent years,’ says Kasio, chairman of a marketing organization based at the slaughterhouse.

A generation ago, livestock and wildlife ranged freely across the plains. Today, their movements are hindered by fences, roads, quarries, cement works, flower farms and new buildings. If the development trends of the past decade continue, then the pastoral way of life, and the great wildlife migrations in and out of Nairobi National Park, could become little more than a memory. But now, thanks to a community-inspired planning exercise, there’s a good chance this won’t happen.

The Athi-Kaputiei land-use ‘master plan’, launched in 2011, provides the local council with the legislative teeth it needs to ensure that large expanses of land remain free of fencing, and that new developments are confined to specific areas. ‘We see the master plan as our survival strategy,’ says Stephen Kisemei, a member of Olkejuado County Council. ‘It means we can now plan for the future in a way we never could before.’

The master plan is the culmination of years of research and discussion involving local communities, the council, central government and a range of organizations involved in conservation and animal husbandry. ‘It’s been a very democratic process,’ explains Ogeli Makui of the African Wildlife Foundation. ‘The council and the Department of Physical Planning drafted the master plan, but the Maasai landowners’ associations and other local groups were closely involved in all the discussions.’

Since 2004, teams of young Maasai have helped to draw up maps, which illustrate the scale of land sales and the loss of open rangeland. Managed by ILRI, the mapping program and the associated research showed just how rapidly life has changed on the plains over recent years, and provided much of the data used in the master plan.

At the end of the 19th century, the Athi-Kaputiei Plains were said to boast the most spectacular concentration of wildlife in East Africa. In those days, there were four times as many wild herbivores as there were cattle. Now the reverse is true, with the wildlife beating a steady retreat.

Between 1977 and 2002, the wildlife populations in the plains to the south of Nairobi National Park fell by over 70%. Particularly hard hit were migratory animals such as wildebeest, which traditionally graze in the national park during the dry season and move south in search of new pasture during the wet season. From nearly 40,000 migrating animals in the 1970s, wildebeest numbers have fallen to about 1000 today.

ILRI research suggests that two factors are to blame: poaching, and the loss of habitat and open space. The sub-division of land, frequently followed by the erection of fences, has also made it harder for the pastoralists to move their animals around in search of water and fresh pasture. Paradoxically, the Maasai are partly to blame, as they voted for the privatization of communal ranches in the 1980s. All of a sudden, many families realized they were sitting, within gazing distance of Nairobi, on valuable real estate. Land sales rapidly increased, new developments proliferated and the population of Kitengela almost trebled during the 1990s, from 5,500 to over 17,000.

‘When I was a child in the 1970s,’ recalls Ogeli Makui, as he sips tea outside a shopping mall in Kitengela, ‘there were just a few small stalls here, nothing else. I can remember one year when there were so many wildebeest migrating across this area, followed by packs of wild dogs, that my father told me to drive our sheep home to keep them safe.’ Nowadays, speeding lorries are the main danger.

Even before ILRI produced its first maps, conservationists realized something had to be done to keep the migratory routes open. A Wildlife Conservation Lease Programme, launched in 2000, encouraged pastoralists to keep their land open by paying them 300 shillings (USD4) per acre per year. By 2010, 275 families, owners of some 30,000 acres, had signed up to the latest lease scheme.

The lease scheme is helping to protect one of East Africa’s five great migratory routes, but it isn’t enough on its own to prevent further losses of wildlife, says Jan de Leeuw, head of ILRI’s pastoral livelihoods group. ‘The master plan will certainly help, and it’s a very important step towards improving the management of the plains, but it’s also imperative that we improve the financial situation of the pastoralists to a level where they become the champions of conservation,’ he says.

The better off the Maasai are, the more sympathetic they are likely to be to wildlife conservation, even if they occasionally lose livestock to lions and other predators. The Kitengela Conservation Programme, which is managed by the African Wildlife Foundation, is currently promoting various business enterprises, including community-based tourism, and ILRI is providing support for pastoralists to improve the marketing of their livestock. All this will help, says de Leeuw.

This is one of the few places in the world where you can see major wildlife populations, including 24 species of large mammals, grazing and hunting against the jagged backdrop of a populous city, often in the company of Maasai cattle. Little wonder, then, that there are conflicts between conservation and development, and sometimes between wildlife and the Maasai. Some of these conflicts will persist—the locals are deeply concerned, for example, about the building of a new town for Nairobi slum-dwellers—but the master plan provides the local council, for the first time, with the means to control development.

‘I’m very optimistic,’ says Councillor Kisemei. ‘I think the master plan will help us to secure the future for the Maasai and for the wildlife. And if we succeed, it will provide a model which could be used in other areas where wildlife and humans live close together.’

Pastoralists still vulnerable

Despite the successes of projects such as Reto-o-Reto in helping pastoral groups, governments and policymakers work together to better manage the resources in pastoral lands; pastoralists are still vulnerable to drought and changes in land use. Scientists from Colorado State University and ILRI have looked at how modelled scenarios relating to factors like access to forage, water and fuel tied to decisions made by pastoralists at household level. Stressors like drought remain a major threat to pastoral livelihoods and more so in areas where livestock compete with wildlife.

The research, carried out in Kenya’s Kajiado District, was published in a paper: ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services.’ It evaluates pastoralist household wellbeing if access to reserve grazing is lost and the impact of compensation for those who lose access to grazing. The study showed that even though pastoralists that lose access to pasture are likely to experience large livestock losses, those in areas where livestock do not compete with wildlife have greater resilience to drought.

‘Maintaining access to reserve grazing lands is essential in helping pastoralists cope during severe drought,’ said Philip Thornton, a scientist with ILRI and one of the authors of the report. ‘We also found that compensating pastoralists for loss of access to reserve grazing lands increased their resilience.’

The above Kitengela story was written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith.

For more on ILRI’s recent award, see: ILRI pastoral research team wins Sustainable Science Award, by Jane Gitau.

Download ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, by R S Reid, D Nkedianye, M Y Said, D Kaelo, M Neselle, O Makui, L Onetu, S Kiruswa, N Ole Kamuaroa, P Kristjanson, J Ogutu, S B BurnSilver, M J Golman, R B Boone, K A Galvin, N M Dickson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 Nov 2009.

Download ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services’, by R B Boone, K A Galvin, S B BurnSilver, P K Thornton, D S Ojima, and J R Jawson, Ecology and Society 16(2): 6, 1 Jun 2011.

Read more about the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and more on ILRI’s news blogs (below) about the three-day planning workshop for this program, which ends today:

ILRI Clippings Blog: Foolhardy? Or just hardy? New program tackles climate change and livestock markets in the Horn, 7 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Taming Africa’s drylands to produce food, 5 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Collaboration in drylands research will achieve greater impact, 5 Jun 2012.

 

 

Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers

Strategic research themes of CRP on Dryland Systems

A new CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is being planned to find ways to help dryland communities climb out of poverty while enhancing their food security and protecting their natural resources. This program will conduct four strategic research themes in five regions. Two of the research themes—reducing vulnerability/managing risk and sustainably intensifying production—make up the ‘meat’ of what has come to be called ‘the hamburger’ diagram. The top and bottom ‘buns’ represent the other two research themes:  strengthening innovations systems and measuring impacts/synthesizing knowledge across regions, respectively (figure by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems).

This week in Nairobi, Kenya, opening on a morning as grey and cold as London’s weekend Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the Thames, a Regional Inception Workshop of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems for East and Southern Africa is being held. The 3-day workshop (5–7 Jun) is organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This inception workshop brings together more than 50 experts working in the drylands of eastern and southern Africa to identify key hypotheses and research questions for the research program, to agree on initial sites for its activities and to develop impact pathways and implementation plans. See the introductory slide presentation by Maarten Van Ginkel, deputy director general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA): The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems: Scientific content and progress in the inception phase.

The planners of this CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (the full mouthful of a title of which is ‘Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas’) say this large, multi-institutional, multi-stakeholder and multi-diciplinary research program aims to develop a series of complementary technologies, policies and institutional innovations that will help very poor and highly vulnerable dryland populations improve their livelihoods—and do so over the longer term.

As its full name suggests, this CGIAR research program will apply ‘integrated systems’ approaches, which focus less on technical fixes for discrete problems and more on how interventions can be combined to meet the many needs of a profitable, equitable and sustainable agricultural production system. And the program will use large, so-called ‘landscape level’ frameworks to help scientists think through the links between farm or community practices and the broader ecosystem in which they are located; such analyses should allow, for example, more comprehensive assessments of the increasingly hard trade-offs in use of natural resources.

See consultant John Lynam’s slide presentation (below), which gives a comprehensive overview of ‘systems thinking’. Lynam argued that we need to change our research designs and methods if we’re going to serve the expanding agendas for international agricultural research. In his presentation he asked asked some provocative questions, such as, ‘How do we (should we) understand system performance? Is it by productivity, profitability, or income? Is it levels of vulnerability or food security? Or is it resource efficiency or resilience?. . . . Why do we have plantain (matoke) systems in Uganda while beer banana systems dominate in Burundi and Rwanda? . . . Why are many more people exiting agriculture in Africa than they are in Asia?’

The dry areas of the developing world occupy some 3 billion hectares, which represent 41% of the earth’s land area. These drylands are home to 2.5 billion people, who make up about a third of the population in developing countries. At least 16% of this population lives in chronic poverty.

These people make a living from the drylands by growing and managing a mix of food, fodder and fibre crops; vegetables; rangeland and pasture grasses, shrubs and trees; fruit and fuel-wood trees; medicinal plants; livestock; and fish. These dryland people face enormous environmental challenges, which in many regions are likely only to worsen with climate change.

This program targets two kinds of drylands. The first are those with the deepest endemic poverty and the most marginalized and vulnerable people, the most extreme environmental variability, and often the greatest natural resource degradation as well. The second are those with the greatest potential to increase food security and reduce poverty over the short to medium terms.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI

Table discussions at an ILRI-hosted inception workshop for eastern and southern Africa component of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems, 5-7 Jun 2012 (photo by ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The future of dryland farming communities, the research planners assume, depends largely on their ability to more effectively manage  risk as well as to diversify and intensify their agricultural production systems. The integrated approach the program will take should help people better manage their natural resources and improve their crop, vegetable, livestock, tree and fish production. The approach should also help facilitate for dryland communities the establishment of enabling policy environments; the provision of greater institutional support; and a more equitable distribution of, and control over, resources, access to information, livelihood opportunities and decision-making.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Agenda

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Outcomes

More specifically, this dryland research program aims to:

  • prioritize agricultural systems for impact
  • identify key researchable issues
  • increase the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use
  • develop more resilient agricultural systems to manage risk and production variability
  • promote in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity
  • improve the productivity and profitability of dryland agricultural systems through sustainable intensification, diversification, and creation of value-added products and market links
  • identify niches of importance to the most vulnerable livelihoods (even if they appear to have low marketing potential)
  • address constraints faced by the most marginal farmers
  • develop new partnerships and models of working together.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF

Dryland Systems inception workshop for East and southern Africa organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI (left) and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The structure and process of this workshop, which is focused on eastern and southern Africa, have been developed by an interdisciplinary research team headed by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen, with participants from the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Water Management Institute and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, as well as agricultural research consultants John Lynam and Brian Keating. The lead centre for this CGIAR research program is the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.

In this region, the drylands program plans to work to reduce vulnerability in three areas of three East Africa countries:
Northern Kenya/southeastern Ethiopia: the triangle from Garissa in Kenya to Borana in south-central Ethiopia to Somali Region in southeast Ethiopia
Central Kenya: Baringo District
Southern Kenya/northern Tanzania: Kajiado and Narok districts and Serengeti National Park and Monduli and Samanjiro districts.

The program plans work to intensify agricultural production in three areas of three eastern and southern African countries:
Zambia-Malawi-Mozambique: the Chinyanja Triangle
Northeast Tanzania: from Kahama through Shinyanga to Babati districts
Ethiopia: the Oromia zones of East Shoa, West Shoa, Horogudru and the Amhara zone of North Shoa

For more information, visit the website for this CGIAR Research Program.

See previous blogs about this workshop:

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

A set of images of this workshop are on ILRI’s Flickr site.

 

Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance

ILRI director for institutional planning Shirley Tarawali

ILRI director for institutional planning Shirley Tarawali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Shirley Tarawali, director for institutional planning at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a slide presentation today (22 Feb 2012) titled ‘Options for enhancing resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance’, at a Brussels Briefing onNew challenges and opportunities for pastoralism in ACP [Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific] countries.

Rangelands, Tarawali told the participants at this policy briefing, have fewer than 20 persons per sq km and a growing period of less than 60 days/annum, making crop production impossible. Constituting the largest land-use system globally, rangelands cover some 35 million sq km and support almost 50% of the world’s livestock. The 200 million pastoralists who live on rangelands are the environmental stewards of these vast resources, but many of them are among the world’s poorest, Tarawali reported, living on less than $2 a day. Subject to the vagaries of climate variability, food insecurity, poor markets and infrastructure, animal diseases, under-investment and conflicts over natural resources, pastoralists are among the world’s most vulnerable peoples.

A key development challenge, Tarawali said, is how to help pastoral communities increase their adaptive capacity and resilience in the face of shocks, such as the food crisis that followed a great drought in the Horn of Africa last year. At the risk of over-simplifying matters, she said, two main strategies can improve pastoral resilience: (1) help herders better secure the assets on which they depend—their animals and other natural resources (land, water, biodiversity), and (2) help them diversify their income sources, whether through better livestock marketing, sales of other rangeland products, or schemes that pay pastoral herders for ecosystem services and environmental stewardship.

Blind man awaits payout

A blind man awaits his pay out by a livestock insurance scheme being trialled in Marsabit, northern Kenya (photo by Jeff Haskins on Flickr).

Empirical studies of almost 1,000 families in the Marsabit region of northern Kenya, Tarawali said, show that pastoralists rely on their animals for at least 40% of their income, with loss of animals to drought being a major reason that pastoralists fall into poverty. ILRI and partners have tested an innovative insurance scheme designed to protect pastoralists against drought-related livestock deaths. Based on satellite data that determines vegetative cover, and thus forage availability, this insurance makes pay outs when the level of forage scarcity is predicted to cause a certain percentage of livestock deaths in an area. The scheme, which involves commercial insurance companies, has been piloted in northern Kenya since January 2010.

The pilot shows that it’s feasible to design index-based livestock insurance contracts attractive to both pastoralists and commercial institutions. To date, more than 3,000 pastoralists have participated in this novel insurance scheme, and more than 600 of them received indemnity payments in October 2011, following the drought in the Horn that year. Creative education tools have played an important role in helping these never-before-insured pastoral communities to grasp how the insurance works.

Taking the pilot scheme to scale, Tarawali said, will require making the scheme more cost-effective (perhaps through use of ICTs both to collect premiums and to make indemnity payments) and better aligning the different incentives of the partners, with the private (insurance) companies stressing copyright and profit and the public institutions (such as ILRI) aiming to enhance pastoral livelihoods.

Despite these challenges, she reported that this insurance tool has potential to help development agencies and governments shift their focus from making the right responses to droughts when droughts occur to investing in pastoral development on an on-going basis, with livestock insurance acting as a social safety net, securing the productive assets of these vulnerable populations in times of hardship. And she reminded her audience that most countries make significant public investments in agricultural insurance programs (US farmers pay only 40% of the actuarially fair premium and index-linked insurance in India is subsidized by some 50%). The index-based livestock insurance schemes now being piloted in Kenya and about to start in Ethiopia include rigorous evaluations of their impacts on pastoral welfare, which should help governments to efficiently target public investments in livestock insurance.

With this demonstration that index-based livestock insurance mitigates both pastoral vulnerability to drought and ad hoc coping strategies, Tarawali argued, it’s an appropriate time to consider redeploying some of the significant public funds spent in responding to droughts in insurance subsidy programs that keep insurance premiums affordable by poor pastoralists.

View the slide presentation: Options for enhancing resilience in pastoral systems:

 

 

For more information, visit the websites of the Index-based Livestock Insurance Project, www.ilri.org/ibli  and ILRI, www.ilri.org

Policy workshop seeks sustainable practices to preserve livelihoods in Africa’s drylands

Nairobi workshop on Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, social sustainability and tipping points in African Drylands

Policymakers, practitioners and community users discussed, this week, ways to improve the sustainable management of Africa’s drylands at a workshop held at ILRI in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai).

Researchers, policymakers and livestock experts from Africa and the UK met this week to discuss the impacts of land use changes on African drylands  in efforts towards shaping policies that will enhance the sustainable management of these ecosystems.

In a workshop held on 14 February 2012 at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), community representatives, scientists and specialists in ecology, economics and anthropology discussed research that is expected to shape policies for the improvement of poverty alleviation and ecosystems management in eastern Africa’s dryland ecosystems.

African drylands are fast approaching a tipping point brought about by policy-driven changes in land tenure that have transformed communal lands into private enclosures and wildlife conservancies and the closing off of open access lands that have limited livestock and wildlife mobility. These changes have led to environmental and social consequences that are threatening livestock production and and the livelihoods of pastoral people who depend on these lands.

‘This project will get to the heart of the complexities of drylands management because it is seeking to put pastoralists at the centre of managing their resources,’ said Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI. ‘Findings from this project will help us understand how livestock keepers interact with policies, the environment and their economic opportunities,’ said Smith.

The workshop which is part of a 24-month project known as the ‘Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands (BEST).’ It is being carried out by a consortium of international partners who include ILRI, the Institute of Zoology, London, University College London and the African Technology Policy Studies Network who are using their expertise in natural resource and biodiversity assessment, natural resource management and communication to analyze the impacts of the changes taking place in dryland ecosystems. Other partners in the research include the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Association of Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa. The project is funded by a consortium of the Department for International Development and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and  Economic and Social Research Council.

‘We hope to address the very rapidly developing and severe challenges arising in east African arid- and semi-arid rangelands, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania,’ said Katherine Homewood, an anthropologist with the University College London and the principal investigator for the project. ‘These changes have led to significant opportunity costs for pastoralists who depend on livestock production in these areas; some of whom have been displaced or dispossessed of their livelihoods,’ Homewood says, ‘because marginal areas have become immensely important to a huge variety of competing land uses like mining, biofuels production, crop farming and wildlife conservation.’

Despite these changes, findings indicate that livestock production remains the key source of income for pastoralists and the project, now in its first phase, will investigate how households are responding to the changes in dryland ecosystems, how pastoralist households invest time, labour and capital into livestock, farming or wildlife tourism in light of these changes and the consequences of these choices on poverty reduction, biodiversity and the local and national economies.

‘Results from this project will provide the government with useful information on biodiversity management, environmental reporting and land use practices by offering up to date information on social and environmental interactions that are essential for management of environmental risks in rangelands,’ said Ali Mohammed, Permanent Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, who officially opened the workshop.

The project has been implemented for just under one year and  project partners used the workshop to draw on existing expert knowledge of dryland systems. This information will be used in modeling approaches for further analysis of dryland ecosystems. Among others, participants called for better evaluation of the opportunities and tradeoff emerging from differences in land tenure systems, disparities in distribution of  tourism income and displacements of pastoralists and diminishing livestock productivity. Information from this workshop will guide research and deliver findings that will help evaluate policy scenarios and give insights into ecosystem services to inform policymaking and practice.

 

More on the Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands project: http://www.ilri.org/best

 

Watch a 10-minute film about finding ways of balancing the needs of people, lands and wildlife:

http://blip.tv/ilri/counting-in-a-disappearing-land-people-livestock-and-wildlife-1458292

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trained human resources are in short supply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit ILRI’s imGoats Blog.

Putting a price on water: From Mt Kenya forests to Laikipia savannas to Dadaab drylands

Ewaso Ng'iro Catchment A map of the Ewaso Ng’iro watershed catchment, taken from Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed, published in 2011 by ILRI. The Ewaso Ng’iro watershed incorporates the forests of Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa; the wildlife-rich savannas of Laikipia; and the arid scrublands around Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, located in Kenya’s Northeastern Province near the border with Somalia.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) published in 2011 a ground-breaking assessment of Kenya’s Ewaso Ng’iro watershed that maps its key ecosystem services—water, biomass, livestock, wildlife and  irrigated crops—and estimates their economic value. Based on the quantification of, and the demand for, these services, the ILRI scientists estimated their economic value and then obtained downscaled climate change projections for northern Kenya and assessed their impact on crop conditions and surface water hydrology.

Excerpts from the first chapter of the ILRI report
‘The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) cover 80% of Kenya’s land area, include over 36 districts, and are home to more than 10 million people (25% of the total population) (GoK 2004). A vast majority (74%) of ASAL constituents were poor in 2005/06; poverty rates in the ASALs have increased from 65% in 1994 (KIHBS 2005/6 cited in MDNKOAL 2008), which contrasts with the rest of Kenya — national poverty rates fell from 52% to 46% in the decade 1996–2006. Similar stark inequalities between the ASALs and other areas of Kenya are found in health and education as well as infrastructure development and services provisioning (MDNKOAL 2010a).

‘After decades of neglect, the government is committed to close the development gap between the ASALs and the rest of Kenya. To do so, it charged the Ministry of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands (MDNKOAL) to develop policies and interventions addressing the challenges specific to ASAL, mostly regarding their climate, pastoral and agro- pastoral livelihood strategies and low infrastructure, financial, and human capitals (MDNKOAL 2008). Unlike line ministries with sectoral development planning, MDNKOAL has a cross- sectoral mandate, which requires a holistic approach to development, weighting trade-offs and promoting synergies between sectoral objectives. . . .

‘ASALs, with 24 million hectares of land suitable for livestock production, are home to 80 percent of Kenya’s livestock, a resource valued at Ksh 173.4 billion. The current annual turnover of the livestock sector in the arid lands of Kenya of Ksh 10 billion could be increased with better support for livestock production and marketing. Since livestock is the main source of livelihood of ASAL constituents, any improvement in livestock value could substantially reduce poverty. While rainfed crop production is quite marginal and restricted to pockets of higher potential areas within ASAL districts, there is a sizeable area that could support crop production if there were a greater investment in irrigation (“Pulling apart” and ASAL Draft Policy 2007 cited in MDNKOAL 2008). Wildlife-based tourism, which contributed 10% to GDP in 2007/2008 (World Bank 2010) is largely generated in the ASALs (MDNKOAL 2010a). While tourism revenue has been constantly on the rise (21.5 Million Ksh in 2000 to 65.4 Million Ksh in 2007 (Ministry of Tourism 2007)), the sector would benefit, among others, from improved road and tourism infrastructure (World Bank 2010).

‘Reliance of the ASAL on their natural capital for their development: the importance of ecosystem services In most of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas, pastoral livelihood strategies dominate. This involves moving livestock periodically to follow the seasonal supply of water and pasture. Agro-pastoralism, combining cropping with pastoral livestock keeping, is a livelihood strategy in areas where rainfed agriculture is possible and around more permanent water sources. In areas with slightly more rainfall, there is mixed farming with sedentary livestock. These agricultural lands are typically dominated by a mix of food, livestock and increasingly cash crops, such as flowers and high value vegetables which are often destined for export. The cash crops often rely on irrigated agriculture. Wildlife conservation and tourism are also important land uses with an increase in the dryland area under a protected status.

All of these livelihood strategies are directly dependent on ecosystem services, the benefits people get from ecosystems. As described, dryland ecosystems supply food from livestock and crops, water for domestic use and irrigation, and wood for fuel and construction (provisioning services). Beyond contributing to people’s livelihood strategies, healthy dryland ecosystems contribute to their standard of living (health, physical security) by delivering regulating services such as mitigating the impacts of periodic flooding, preventing erosion, sequestering carbon, purifying water, and affecting the distribution of rainfall throughout the region. These, in turn, all depend on supporting services, such as soil fertility that underlies the productivity of dryland and crops in particular and the production of biomass (vegetation) that sustains livestock and wildlife grazing. Moreover, Kenya’s dryland ecosystems provide important cultural services that maintain pastoral identities and support wildlife tourism.

‘ASAL ecosystems must be managed effectively so that they continue to provide these services. In developing land use planning, decision-makers need to understand and holistically manage the complex linkages between ecosystems, ecosystem services and people. The ecosystem services approach will provide tools to integrate socio-economic and bio-physical aspects providing a holistic approach to look at synergies and trade-offs in terms of land and water between land uses across the catchment.

‘One of the challenges the Ministry faces in taking the most of ASAL’s ecosystem services is to manage the various uses of water and land, as both are and will increasingly be the major limiting factors in improving standards of living in ASAL. In this context, the Ministry needs tools to compare alternative land and water uses between livestock, crop production, and wildlife-based tourism to enable its future assessments of how and how much each use will improve standards of living and whose standard of living. . . .’

Download the whole publication, Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed, by Ericksen, PJ; Said, MY; Leeuw, J de; Silvestri, S; Zaibet, L; Kifugo, SC; Sijmons, K; Kinoti, J; Ng’ang’a, L; Landsberg, F; and Stickler, M. 2011. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Authors
ILRI’s Polly Ericksen was the project leader and editor/compiler of the report. ILRI scientists Mohammed Said, Jan de Leeuw, Silvia Silvestri and Lokman Zaibet wrote much of the material for the chapters. Shem Kifugo, Mohammed Said, Kurt Sijmons (GEOMAPA) and Leah Ng’ang’a compiled the data and made the maps. World Resources Institute’s Florence Landsberg contributed ideas and material for chapters 1 and 2. World Resources Institute’s Mercedes Stickler contributed information from Rural Focus.

Note
The following journal article is forthcoming: P Ericksen, J de Leeuw, M Said, S Silvestri and L Zaibet. In press. Mapping ecosystem services in the Ewaso N’giro Watershed. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management.

 

Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders

For those readers interested to get more local context about the recent first insurance payouts to livestock herders in Kenya’s northern Marsabit District (go here for an assembly of recent stories on this), here are two films ILRI produced on the subject when the insurance was first made available to Marsabit’s pastoral herders, in January 2010.

Livestock Insurance for Pastoralists in Kenya
January 2010 saw the launch of the world’s first livestock insurance for remote African pastoralists as a result of years of research.
Running time: 2:49

Development of World’s First Index-Based Livestock Insurance for African Pastoralists Herders
In Kenya’s drylands, drought has always been the greatest hazard faced by livestock herding families. Modern pressures are making this situation worse.This film tells the story of a research project started in 2007, which this year introduced a new form of insurance to remote herding peoples who had never been provided with insurance before. This new insurance product has potential to protect many other herding communities throughout Africa.
Running time: 12.36.

Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa

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ILRI director general Jimmy Smith speaks to residents of Marsabit, in northern Kenya, where a livestock insurance scheme has made its first payouts to small livestock keepers following a prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, made the following remarks on the occasion of the first payouts of index-based livestock insurance policies ever made to livestock herders in Africa in a region that has been afflicted by the drought that has reduced herds in the drylands of the Horn by a third.

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Inhabitants of Marsabit town, in northern Kenya, attend a special event marking the first payouts of  a livestock insurance scheme to small-scale livestock keepers following a prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘Today ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project provides 650 livestock herders in Kenya’s remote Marsabit District with the very first payments of index-based livestock insurance claims ever made on this continent.

‘That makes this an important as well as historic moment.

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Members of the Marsabit community listen to speakers at the launch of the first payouts of livestock insurance in Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘The success of any insurance scheme depends on its clients being confident that payments will be made if and when an insured event occurs. I hear that many have been reluctant to purchase the livestock insurance policies being offered to Marsabit’s livestock keepers in August and September of this year [2011] because the herders first wanted to be assured that this insurance product works and—in this time of great drought and livestock losses here and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa—if it will payout. Now that the appropriate payments are being made and in a timely manner, we hope we have earned the trust of people here, trust that will generate more widespread awareness and interest in this livestock insurance product.

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Women of the Marsabit community listen to speakers at the launch of the first payouts of livestock insurance in Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘We are celebrating today not only the first payouts but also that the livestock index that predicts mortality in this region seems to be working well; several of our on-the-ground partners in Marsabit are in agreement with the figures. Our relatively inexpensive way of estimating livestock deaths in a time of drought and forage loss appears to be reliable and could now open the door to making livestock insurance widely available in Marsabit and similar areas in Kenya’s northern drylands, which are home to many of its pastoral peoples.

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At a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, farmers who took out livestock insurance hear they are to receive their first payout after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘For all its initial success, this insurance project remains a work in progress. We’re aware of the challenges of raising awareness of the program in the more distant areas of Marsabit and making sales across the entire district. And even as we trust that those who purchased this livestock insurance will receive their payments in the shortest time possible, we recognize that many clients will have to be paid manually, a process that involves costly driving to areas as far as Loiyangalani and Illeret, where some pastoralists also bought contracts. That said, over the last three insurance sales periods since January 2010, Equity Bank’s Point of Sale systems and UAP’s telephone scanners have made the process more efficient. Over the next several seasons, on-going efforts will continue to improve the technology platforms delivering IBLI services, making them increasingly more cost-effective and accessible.

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At a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, officials prepare to make the first insurance payouts after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘The most important sign of success is the response of the client. So even as payments are being made, we at ILRI want to know what impact the payments are having and how valuable the insurance product is. You will see the ILRI team in this area conducting research to understand how IBLI is benefiting the community and those households that bought livestock insurance. We worked with members of the community to design and develop this product, and we are keen to receive your suggestions about ways to improve it.

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At a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, farmers who took out livestock insurance receive their first payout after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘‘A project such as this is necessarily a product of collaboration. ILRI and our commercial partners Equity Bank and UAP Insurance—those who actually market and sell the product—are quite visible, but there are several others that must be recognized. Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4) based out of the University of California at Davis have been instrumental in the development of the IBLI product and supporting the research agenda behind it. Closer to the ground, members of the Marsabit District Steering Group have offered invaluable support and advice to the project team, as has Food for the Hungry International. The project has also received tremendous support from the Ministry of the Development of Northern Kenya and the Ministry of Livestock and the Provincial Administration, from the District Commissioner to chiefs and counsellors across Marsabit. Finally there are the hundreds of young men and women across all divisions of Marsabit who have worked tirelessly conducting surveys and product education and extension.

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Leader of the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project, ILRI’s Andrew Mude (right), answers a questions from the Marsabit community (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘We’re now working to see if IBLI can be sustained by commercial partners such as Equity Bank, UAP and others that may be interested. Currently, however, the research, design and implementation of the IBLI project has been funded by numerous donors who believe in its potential. For this we must thank the European Union, the Global Index Insurance Facility, the Microinsurance Facility, the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development.  The British Government, through UKAID, has been one of the largest supporters of the project and, together with the European Union, will be funding the second phase of scaling up.’

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A farmer awaits a livestock insurance payout following a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, near the northern Kenyan town of Marsabit; some farmers in the village took out livestock insurance, and this year are receiving the first payouts after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

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One of the many head of cattle that perished for lack of fodder in the drought that dried up the rangelands of Kenya’s Marsabit District this year (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Read a related story on this ILRI News Blog: Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments

Editor’s note, 26 Oct 2011: The original title of this blog post, ‘Livestock director and partners launch first-ever livestock insurance payments in Africa,’ was changed to ‘Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa;’ other forms of livestock insurance (not index-based) have been available in other parts of Africa. Two similar statements in the body of the blog were similarly corrected.

Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments

Education on livestock insurance

Pastoralists from Marsabit, in Kenya’s remote northern drylands, play a game crafted by ILRI scientists to simulate livestock losses that could occur due to drought, in which the local herding communities are educated about how index-based livestock insurance works (image credit: ILRI).

As livestock deaths mount, a small group of herders in Kenya’s Marsabit District is first to benefit from program that tracks forage conditions via satellite.

In the midst of a drought-induced food crisis affecting millions in the Horn of Africa, an innovative insurance program for poor livestock keepers is making its first payouts today, providing compensation for some 650 insured herders in northern Kenya’s vast Marsabit District who have lost up to a third of their animals.

Known as index-based livestock insurance, or IBLI, payouts are triggered when satellite images show that grazing lands in the region have deteriorated to the point that herders are expected to be losing more than 15% of their herd. The current readings for which indemnities are now being paid show that between 18 and 33% of livestock have been lost to drought this season.

‘It’s terrible that we are seeing this level of loss, but gratifying that the policies are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to help herders avert disaster when weather conditions dry up pasture lands and animals begin to perish,’ said Isaac Magina, head of agriculture insurance at UAP Insurance Ltd.

‘When you look at a 33% loss, that is a significant portion of the asset base of any business and it would be difficult to survive without insurance,’ added Magina.

The insurance project was developed in partnership by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative program at the University of California at Davis. Commercial partners Equity Bank and UAP Insurance Ltd implement the program. The IBLI project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union, the British Government, the World Bank, the Microinsurance Facility and the Global Index Insurance Facility.

The Marsabit District alone is home to some 86 thousand cattle and 2 million goats and sheep that generate millions of dollars in milk and other products and serve as the main source of sustenance and income. ILRI estimates that up to one-third of all livestock in the region have perished during the current drought.

In East Africa, an estimated 70 million people live in the drylands, and many of them are herders. In Kenya, the value of the pastoral livestock sector is estimated to be worth USD800 million. And the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa, which takes a regional approach to combating drought in six countries of the Horn, estimates that over 90% of the meat consumed in East Africa comes from pastoral herds.

Under the terms of the policy, insured herders are compensated for any losses above 15%, with the 15% threshold acting as a sort of deductible. For example, a cattle herder who lives in an area with a livestock mortality rate of 33% receives a payout covering 18% of his or her animals. With cattle valued at about 15,000 Kenyan shillings (Ksh) per head (about USD150), an insurance policy covering 10 animals, or Kshs150,000 in cattle, would pay out at about Kshs27,000 (about USD270).

When the 15% deductible is factored in, compensation ranges from 3% in areas where the drought has been more moderate to 18% in the areas where herders were hit particularly hard. But in an indication of the severity of the drought, all of the areas where the policies were sold have exceeded the 15%mortality threshold that triggers a payout. Thus far, the policies cover about 1,100 animals—mostly cattle, but some goats and sheep and a few camels as well.

The payments are being dispatched in the middle of a humanitarian crisis endangering 12 million people in the Horn that is prompting a call for new ways to manage food security risks in East Africa’s arid drylands. For example, a recent report from ILRI has found that the pastoral approach to livestock production, in which herders make do with marginal lands by regularly moving their herds, could be very effective at averting weather-related food shortages. ILRI experts say that in arid and semi-arid regions, keeping livestock can be a more effective coping strategy than cultivating crops—if herders have options for reducing their vulnerability to drought.

‘Drought insurance is one important way to help livestock keepers maintain food security even in very harsh environments,’ said Andrew Mude, the IBLI project leader at ILRI. ‘Insurance is not by itself sufficient,’ he added, ‘But if it is accompanied by other risk-reducing strategies, such as better access to grazing lands and watering areas, then the pastoralist approach, which some people dismiss as a backward lifestyle of the past, emerges as a very effective way to meet future food needs.’

Mude said that it is too early to tell just how the payouts from the policies will affect food security and other welfare indicators. For example, it’s not yet clear how many herders will use the compensation to replace animals lost to the drought. But Mude said one major success thus far is that the livestock mortality index that is at the heart of the program appears to be working. The fatality rate predicted by the satellite assessments of forage loss is tracking very closely surveys of animal deaths on the ground.

That’s crucial because using freely available satellite images of pasture lands to accurately predict animal deaths overcomes a major barrier that has bedeviled past efforts to provide livestock insurance in poor regions: the prohibitively high costs and logistics of confirming animal deaths in herds that roam across vast distances in extremely remote areas.

‘This is all still a work in progress,’ said Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI. ‘But the fact that our relatively inexpensive approach to estimating livestock deaths seems to be accurate could open the door to making livestock insurance widely available in many parts of Africa.’

Going forward, experts believe a key issue will be whether livestock insurance in East Africa would be commercially viable by itself or whether its ability to protect herders from the impact of prolonged drought might justify some level of financial support from governments or donors, as agricultural insurance programs in Western countries often do.

‘This is asset insurance for animals that are the centerpiece of livelihoods, providing a stream of income and nutrition for years and years,’ said Mude. ‘The investment in insurance=based asset safety nets protecting these herds could have a more cost-effective welfare impact over the longer term than other forms of response such a food and cash assistance.’

‘This insurance scheme is a great example of how partnerships with the private sector can lift people out of poverty and provide long-term solutions to food crises,’ said Andrew Mitchell, the British international development secretary.

‘To many farmers, losing their cattle means losing everything, as they are not just a source of income but are their only source of food. Support from Britain and others means that more than 600 herders in Northern Kenya can buy more cattle to replace those they have lost. This means they are better able to cope with this and future devastating droughts.’

Hunger in the Horn: Risk management key to coping with drought

Cover of ILRI report on impacts of ALRMPII

The cover of a 2011 ILRI report that evaluated a long-term drought management project–the Arid Lands Resource Management Project–in Kenya (photo credit: ILRI).

The current drought in the Horn of Africa is once more stressing the urgent need to invest in agricultural development in the region. Adopting new approaches for drylands agriculture, increasing support for agricultural research and better cooperation between partners will help farmers and herders in these areas to cope with increasingly harsh climates and improve their food production.

A 2011 report of an evaluation of a long-term drought management initiative in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) indicates that long-term interventions in Africa’s drylands can lower the levels of vulnerability to drought and reduce the need for food aid. Such initiatives help speed emergency responses, improve food security, empower locals to influence policies and promote often-neglected drylands issues at national levels.

This review is of the second phase of a project known as ‘Impacts of the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMPII).’ It was carried out by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to assess the project’s impact on livelihoods and vulnerability in 10 arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya. The ALRMPII is a community-based drought management initiative that was implemented by the Government of Kenya with support from the World Bank in 28 districts.

The first phase of this project concentrated on improving drought management, marketing, infrastructure and community development in 10 of Kenya’s arid districts over seven years (1996–2003). The project increased the response capacity of herders during the 1999 and 2001 droughts, implemented over 1000 micro projects that benefited over 180,000 people, created grazing reserves for pastoralists in 24 areas and supported initiatives to reduce land degradation. Following these successes, the project’s second phase or ALRMPII, started and was expanded to include semi-arid regions of the country with the aim of enhancing food security, increasing access to basic services, and reducing livelihood vulnerability in 28 drought-prone ASAL districts. This second phase of the project was carried out between 2003 and 2010.

ILRI’s evaluation of ALRMPII reviewed activities in Garissa, Kajiado, Laikipia, Mandera, Marsabit, Mwingi, Narok, Nyeri, Tharaka and Turkana districts using household surveys, focus group discussions and interviews with relief and development agencies in the districts as well as people involved in policy processes in Nairobi.

The review assessed the project’s key performance indicators, which were:

  • Decreasing the number of people needing free food aid
  • Reducing emergency response times
  • Improving child nutrition
  • Increasing access to water, health, education and other social services
  • Strengthening local people’s contribution to policymaking

The review found that in arid areas, herders felt it ‘difficult to abandon pastoralism,’ which was the only suitable form of livelihood in these areas. In the semi-arid districts, on the other hand, communities were more likely to be settled because mixed crop-livestock farming was allowing them to diversify their livelihoods. As a result, many households in the semi-arid districts were increasingly relying on agriculture, and a growing cash economy enabled some herders to hire labour to manage their animals.

The report, by ILRI’s Ayago Wambile and Nancy Johnson, interestingly found that while according to local indicators long-term interventions were effectively decreasing livestock losses in arid districts, food aid needs in those districts were increasing. The authors conjectured that increasing need for food aid could have resulted from prolonged dry seasons, which make it harder for households to re-build their herds and from increases in resource-based conflict.

The report points out that although the arid areas had shown an increased demand for food aid, investment from Government through this project was lowering these needs. In the arid districts, ‘ALRMPII expenditure is negatively and significantly associated with the percent of people needing food aid,’ which means that as expenditure—a proxy for the intensity of project activity—increased the number of people needing aid declined.

Also, the review suggests, the project bulletin had ‘become the most useful and most used source of early warning information for response agencies.’ Users of the bulletin also felt emergency responses were faster, better coordinated, and more appropriate, a claim that was supported by data on response times. The review shows that ALRMPII appears to have improved child nutrition and provided a ‘nutritional safety net’ in participating communities. Further, the project enabled local people to participate in policymaking. Key stakeholders from these regions were invited to take part in ASALs policymaking processes where they ‘contributed evidence and experience.’ (However, while access to social services did increase in the ALRMP study communities, this cannot be attributed to the project since it also increased in control communities).

Even though the changes observed in these areas during the review may not all have resulted from ALRMPII–mobile phone coverage, rapid responses by relief agencies and international funding for emergency responses all increased during this period–this review found that the project did make a difference. But even with the successes of ALRMPII, challenges such as conflict are still a threat to livelihoods in much of the region.  Regarding repeated environmental shocks on households, the review recommends focusing ‘on interventions that go beyond current drought to address issues such as conflict or dependency.’

Finally, it recommends that future ALMPII reviews be expanded to cover impacts of the project on the environment, capacity building, community empowerment and overall risk management coordination in these regions.

Download the complete report: http://mahider.ilri.org/bitstream/handle/10568/3416/9291462578_content.pdf?sequence=1

Experts produce joint statement on long-term development needs of the drylands of the Horn

Ethiopische nomadevrouw met haar dochter

Ethiopian pastoralists of Somali origin have been trying to sustain their livestock livelihoods after some of their land was used to build a camp for Somali refugees at Dolo Ado, Ethiopia (photo on Flickr by Petterik Wiggers/Hollandse Hoogte—Photostream Giro 555 SHO).

The Africa Union’s Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) recently convened a two-day consultation of experts working to address the challenges to development of the arid and semi-arid lands of the Horn of Africa. This expert consultation on ‘Interventions for sustainable livestock systems in the Horn of Africa,’ was held 2–3 Sep 2011 at the International Livestock Research Institute’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya. The AU meeting was preceded by a news briefing and learning event convened by the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers. CGIAR CEO Lloyd Le Page participated in both the Consortium and AU drought-related meetings.

Both meetings helped to identify opportunities for sustaining food production in this sub-region, which continues to suffer from the catastrophic impacts of a severe drought, and helped to develop an initial framework for making better use of those agricultural opportunities in future.

The more than 40 experts gathered at the AU meeting developed a joint statement to better inform long-term development of this region’s drylands. This statement, which follows in full, will be used at upcoming high-level meetings on topics related to food security.

Expert Consultation to inform long-term development of arid and semi-arid lands in the Greater Horn of Africa

2–3 September 2011

A Joint Statement

Preamble
The current food security crisis in the Greater Horn of Africa is a stark reminder that insufficient attention has been given to addressing the root causes of vulnerability in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of this region. It is also apparent that it is not drought but rather vulnerability during drought in the ASALs that has thrown the region into repeated food crises. Yet in contrast to this vulnerability is the fact that the ASALs produce most of the livestock traded in the region, contributing up to 50% of agricultural GDP to the national economies, in addition to playing wider economic roles. African leaders at the country, regional and continental levels, along with global leaders and the development community, are now confronted with, and attempting to address, the questions: why do we continue to regard what is so clearly an asset as a liability; and what would an appropriate long-term development program look like that could sustainably harness the productive potential of the ASALs and reduce repeated crises?

In the next several months, numerous technical and political consultations are planned to discuss short, medium and long-term development in the ASALs. Against this backdrop, and the urgency of tackling this challenge head on, the African Union (AU) through its Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) convened an expert consultation 2–3 September 2011 in Nairobi, which was hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a center of the CGIAR Consortium.

The consultation brought together over 50 development practitioners, researchers, and policy makers (from non-governmental organizations, government, regional organizations, international research institutes, and development agencies) from the Greater Horn of Africa and globally that are or have been engaged in addressing the challenges to the development of the ASALs.

This statement is a summary of key trends identified and recommendations of the experts. It also provides a summary of outcomes, illustrative interventions and issues for consideration.

Context and Trends

Context

  • ASALs account for 70% of the land area of the countries in the Greater Horn of Africa.
  • ASALs are a discrete geographic area in the Greater Horn of Africa where the population is vulnerable.
  • The shared agro-ecosystem, including natural resources such as water and pastures and common production systems, offers an opportunity for cooperation among countries to identify and implement solutions.
  • Pastoral and agro-pastoral livestock production systems are the primary economic enterprise and main economic driver in the ASALs.
  • There are now a large number of activities being implemented at country and local levels to help mitigate the impacts of drought and to build household and community resilience in an environment of increasingly unpredictable rainfall.
  • Social, technical and economic services are not widely available, especially to the mobile pastoral populations, and the longer-term development needs of the ASALs are generally neglected.
  • Insecurity in the region exacerbates vulnerability and hinders effective response and other interventions.

Important trends

  • The region is experiencing an increased number of shocks, especially more frequent droughts and floods, but also man-made shocks.
  • Although the long-term impacts of climate change cannot yet be accurately predicted, there appears to be increased variability of rainfall; and although many experts believe the region will become progressively hotter and drier, some parts may become wetter and more flood-prone.
  • There are growing opportunities for international/regional trade in livestock products due, in large part, to the increased demand for these products in Africa and the Middle East fuelled by growing populations, urbanization and rising incomes.
  • While access to services remains generally poor in the ASALs, significant progress has been made recently through greater access to, and coverage by, mobile phones.
  • Country strategies and investment plans are in place, but ASAL programming, although it is included, is not prioritized, coordinated or well developed.
  • Ongoing processes of land fragmentation, insecure tenure and use rights, and externally driven land appropriation processes also undermine pastoral productivity.
  • Improved research coordination and frameworks are already in place[1] but need to be leveraged to support the ASALs.
  • Policy windows of opportunity are emerging nationally and regionally, and the political voice of pastoralists is increasing.

Strategic Actions and Recommendations
The immediate challenges being faced in the Greater Horn of Africa serve as a call to action that is being heard and responded to by many countries, agencies, and interest groups. The immediate attention to saving lives and protecting livelihoods is indeed critical. However, much of this response, especially the efforts focused on long-term development, could make better use of existing systems, evidence and best practices to inform investment. They are too often partial solutions because no single country or agency has the ability to mobilize the resources or political will to operate at the scale needed to systemically tackle the issues. Recognizing the need for coordinated action, two recommendations are summarized below to advance a more effective mobilization of domestic resources and foreign development assistance in support of a long-term development effort.

1. The African Union should establish a task force to assist countries and regional economic communities (RECs) to design and mobilize support for long-term development of the ASALs in the Greater Horn of Africa. The fundamental task is to translate national strategies and investment plans for agriculture and food security that now exist into concrete activities and services. This will require:

  • Analysis to help inform and clarify the expected outcomes and targets from the investment in ASALs on the national agriculture and food security goals and targets, articulated through their CAADP Plans.
  • An inventory and review of ongoing efforts in the ASALs, identify best practices and modalities or instruments to consolidate ongoing efforts, align them with long term goals and targets, and scale up the best practices.
  • Strategic coordination of research and technical support to assist national coalitions of government, development partners, NGOs and the private sector to prioritize various interventions for the ASALs.
  • Development of partnerships to support and implement high-priority policy recommendations, and research, development and economic growth projects and activities.
  • The review of options for establishing an implementation framework at the national and regional levels that provides effective coordination, and that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of various parties in the implementation of a coordinated investment strategy for ASALs.
  • The task force is envisaged as a temporary measure with a lifespan of around 6 months: an important task during this period will be to identify a more sustainable platform to provide ongoing effective coordination to support long-term development of the ASALs of the Greater Horn of Africa.

2. The international community and bilateral development agencies should mobilize a consortium of technical organizations, e.g. CGIAR, FAO, WFP and NGO partners (e.g. REGLAP) to work with and support the AU task force in close consultation with the concerned countries to identify best practice, develop programs, provide technical services and conduct relevant research to support long term development of the ASALs.

Illustrative Outcomes and Interventions for Long-Term Development of ASALs
The expert consultation identified key challenges that a long-term development effort in the ASALs will face, considered major outcomes that will need to be pursued, and began to examine best practices that have been developed and are being applied, typically on a small-scale basis, that could be helpful in the long-term development of the ASALs. The expert consultation considered possible outcomes and actions for long-term agenda from the lens of: a) increasing the contribution of the ASALs to agricultural growth and national development goals and targets; and b) diversifying livelihoods and improving resilience amongst vulnerable households in ASAL areas of the Greater Horn of Africa.

Six major outcome areas and related illustrative interventions are considered as key in advancing the long-term development of the ASALs. They include the following.

Make national and regional pastoral policy frameworks operational

  • Define and elaborate ASAL programmes within the umbrella of the CAADP investment plans that are consistent with the AU policy framework for pastoralism and other regional initiatives, such as the IGAD regional policy framework on animal health in the context of trade and vulnerability
  • Promote regionally harmonized policy on livestock trade and the movement of livestock and people
  • Capacity strengthening of RECs, national and local agencies coordinating and implementing ASAL development where and as appropriate and requested
  • Effective monitoring and evaluation of policy implementation

Sustainable ecosystem management

  • Integrate local knowledge through participatory action research so as to ensure that strategies fit with local perspectives and priorities
  • CGIAR mentoring of national agricultural research services in applied research in ecosystem dynamics
  • Develop payment systems for environmental services that benefit pastoralists
  • Facilitate carbon sequestration and methane emission reduction
  • Enhance the use of natural resource (e.g. improved land-use planning; and water and soil management efforts.)

Secure regional trade

  • Inter-regional financial systems
  • Product standardization linked to SPS measures
  • Enhanced negotiation capacity
  • Reduced non-tariff trade barriers
  • Niche market development
  • Improved road, market, water and communication infrastructure

Institutionalized disaster-risk management and response

  • Assess need for early-warning systems for different stakeholders
  • Develop demand-driven knowledge products
  • Improve dissemination of early-warning information using alternative media
  • Invest in data management systems
  • Establish functional mechanisms for early response
  • Fund early response, especially at local levels, within a conducive policy and institutional setting
  • Provide safety nets
  • Provide index-based livestock insurance
  • Enhance traditional coping strategies

Empowered pastoralist communities

  • Strengthened producer associations
  • Conflict resolution – grazing, land access, environment
  • Strengthened traditional NRM strategies
  • Increased awareness of improved coping measures, such as timely destocking
  • Increased community participation in policy decisions and resource allocations
  • Capacity development for community driven development in government and at community level
  • Vocational training in technical and business skills
  • Social fund for cost-shared community-driven investments

Improved and alternative incomes

  • Effective community-based animal health services
  • Effective veterinary epidemiology program
  • Competitive private input supply
  • Secure access to land and water
  • Development of irrigation
  • Dryland products such as resins and gum arabica
  • Savings-driven credit schemes
  • Information-technology-based market information
  • Vocational training in technical and business skills
  • Basic numeracy and literacy
  • Energy and environmental services

Next Steps for Catalyzing Action
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, it is proposed that the African Union convenes a broadly based task force immediately, drawing on the rich expertise available within the region, continent and globally.

At the same time this joint statement should be distributed to other stakeholders, including the donor community, engaged in technical and political consultations over the next few weeks and months, with a view to mobilizing a coordinated effort to shape and implement a long-term development program to tackle the underlying causes of vulnerability in the ASALs of the Greater Horn of Africa.


[1] Newly approved CGIAR Research Programs, in partnership with national research institutes and other stakeholders, have the capacity to identify information and knowledge gaps, and provide research and innovation fundamental to the ASALs finding lasting and viable solutions, and to provide improved food security, reduced poverty, enhance nutrition and health, and more sustainable use of natural resources for the Greater Horn of Africa region.

Read more about these meetings on the AU-IBAR website and on the ILRI News Blog:

‘Africa’s drylands are productive, and potentially very productive’–ILRI’s Bruce Scott

CGIAR media briefing on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa: A strengthened and joined-up approach is needed

CGIAR briefing on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa: 1 September at ILRI Nairobi

Investments in pastoralism offer best hope for combating droughts in East Africa’s drylands–Study


‘Africa’s drylands are productive, and potentially very productive’–ILRI’s Bruce Scott

AU-IBAR livestock consultation to reduce hunger in the Horn

ILRI’s Bruce Scott delivers a talk at an expert consultation on livestock systems in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Bruce Scott, acting director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), delivered the following talk at the opening of an expert consultation convened by the Africa Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), on ‘Interventions for sustainable livestock systems in the Horn of Africa’, held at ILRI’s campus in Nairobi, Kenya, on 2 September 2011.

‘I thank you all for accepting the invitation from the Africa Union to attend this expert consultation.

‘I thank the Africa Union Commission (AUC) and AU-IBAR for convening this meeting, which ILRI is pleased to host.

‘I especially appreciate each of you agreeing to attend this meeting at this time of crisis, where there are so many activities competing for your precious time. We are confident that your presence will help us identify steps towards a more holistic and practical approach for addressing livestock issues in the Horn.

‘I am delighted to welcome His Excellency Erasmus Mwancha, deputy chairperson of the Africa Union Commission, who has kindly agreed to officially open this consultation.

‘I also take pleasure in acknowledging the presence of the chief executive officer of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, Lloyd Le Page. Yesterday (Thursday, 1 September), Lloyd convened a CGIAR media briefing and learning event also here at ILRI, and also on the crisis in the Horn, looking at the most promising agricultural research inputs for addressing these issues in future.

‘The consensus of the Consortium’s learning event was that we need greater investment in agricultural development, greater support for agricultural research, and greater cooperation between research, government, private sector and development actors. These can spread the adoption of innovations by farmers and herders, helping millions of food producers in the Horn of Africa, who are now facing the severest drought in this region in the last six decades.

‘The CGIAR and partner experts gathered yesterday called for a ‘matching of investments in infrastructure development with investments in knowledge’ to get more research into use.

‘We are all here at today’s Africa Union meeting because of our commitment to finding sustainable livestock-based solutions for this region’s food production problems.

‘I’d like to take a minute to set some context for this consultation.

‘Rangelands cover about one-half of the landmass in Africa. In Kenya, about 80 per cent of the landmass comprises arid and semi-arid lands. These drylands can be subdivided into the wetter drylands and the drier drylands. Most of the Horn now afflicted by drought is made up of the drier drylands. I caution us to keep in mind that food production options appropriate for the wetter drylands often are inappropriate for the drier drylands.

‘Droughts have frequented the Horn of Africa for centuries. But in recent decades they have become more frequent and the rainfall has become more variable from year to year. Both of these changes are increasing the vulnerability of the communities that live in these lands.

‘As you know, livestock are a central source of livelihoods in this region and the major way that pastoralists generate income and build their ‘asset base’. A remarkable 70 per cent of all the beef produced in Kenya comes from the arid and semi-arid regions of the country.

‘The Horn of Africa experiences bimodal rainfall, which occurs in only a few regions on earth. That means that the little rain that does fall in these drylands does so in two rather than one growing season, which of course reduces the low levels of annual rainfall available for either of the two annual growing seasons. While this is bad news for cropping, it serves animal production particularly well, with pastures renewed twice a year. Furthermore, the unpredictability of rainfall here is often so great as to allow only one crop every third, fourth or fifth season, which makes crop production unviable without irrigation of some sort.

‘Africa’s dry rangelands are, in fact, productive, and potentially very productive. They are good filtres of water, for example, with some parts of the continent’s drylands, such as in West Africa, having sizable aquifers below their surface (these aquifers, unfortunately, are much smaller in the Horn). The drylands are home to much of the continent’s wildlife diversity. The drylands sequester carbon, and carbon credits might one day provide the local populations with new income streams. And livestock enterprises are not only a major source of income for the peoples of the Horn, they also provide up to 50 per cent of the agricultural gross domestic product of these countries.

‘In spite of all this, the Horn’s drylands have been badly neglected. Governments have neither significantly invested in nor developed these drylands, whose people (pastoral livestock herders) have been marginalized for decades. Donor investments in this region have fallen drastically in the recent past and even ILRI has reduced its attention to these drylands since the late 1990s.

‘Meanwhile, over the last 30 years, more and more people and more and more animals have inhabited these fragile ecosystems, fragmenting the rangelands and reducing the mobility of the herders and their stock in seasonal search of new pasture. Pastoral mobility has also been restricted by governance issues, insecurity, and conflicts over natural resources. And as we well know, Somalia has been a non-state since 1990 and many of the region’s commercial livestock markets are functioning badly or not at all.

‘It is clear to us that the traditional way of managing livestock will need to change to adapt to changes in this region and that we’ll need to identify ways to help the Horn’s pastoralists diversify their incomes and livelihoods.

‘ILRI is investigating promising options for this region’s livestock herders, including better land-use policies, well-functioning livestock markets, pastoral livestock insurance and schemes to pay pastoral herders for their environmental services, such as sequestering carbon, filtering water and conserving wildlife.

‘It’s essential that this expert consultation identifies opportunities to ensure a sustainable future for this sub-region, which is changing rapidly under both external and internal pressures. This meeting should provide a framework for collecting some of our best professional advice on new opportunities for viable livestock enterprises for the future.’