Storming the ivory towers: Time for scientists to get out, ‘get social’, to learn better, faster–Nature commentary

Framework for building an evidence base on impacts of social learning

An evaluative framework for assembling an evidence base on the impacts of social learning. Figure 1 in Social learning and sustainable development, article by Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey, Marissa Van Epp and Philip Thornton, published in Nature Climate Change 4, 5–7 (2014) (first published online 20 Dec 2013).

Most of us like learning new things. But while learning alone is no fun, it’s hard to convince scientists, who spend their professional lives attempting to learn new things, to adopt ‘social learning’ approaches. These could help bring about new understandings, and help transform such understandings into development benefits, by helping scientists learn with, and from, a diverse group of stakeholders, including non-scientists, holding common purpose.

Those assumptions are held by social learning advocates, who include Patti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist at the World Agroforestry Centre and lead author of a commentary on social learning published in the 20 Dec 2013 online edition of Nature Climate Change. Kristjanson gives a main reason for the reluctance of her agricultural research colleagues to take up social learning. ‘First and foremost’, she says, ‘is the worry of scientists about the large transactions costs of the “many conversations and messy partnerships” such joint learning necessarily entails.’

‘Yet many of the same scientists also worry about the slow pace of agricultural development in many parts of the world’, Kristjanson says.

Those of us attempting to use science to help solve complex agriculturally related development problems—like how to help hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers adapt to harsher, more erratic, climates while producing more food and lifting themselves out of poverty—need to try new approaches. If we keep doing science the way we’ve always been doing it, we’re going to run out of time.’

This Nature Climate Change commentary includes a ‘call to action’.

Kristjanson and her colleagues say it’s time for climate change scientists to step up—to help effect a step change. ‘We need the “social engagement” of many, many more scientists working on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. We need them to help us build a solid body of evidence on the benefits—and the costs—of applying social learning approaches.’

The commentary provides a framework that can be used to assess when social learning is likely to be ‘really worth it’ and begins with an introduction, summarized here:

Agricultural research-for-development bodies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, CGIAR and their partners are under mounting pressure from their funders to link their research knowledge to actions that achieve faster and more substantive and long-lasting ‘development outcomes’, such as CGIAR’s four ‘system-level outcomes’ of reduced rural poverty, increased food security, better nutrition and health, and sustainable management of natural resources. To bring about the many changes in behaviour, policies and institutions as well as agricultural practices needed to achieve such broad benefits, the authors argue that researchers and their projects need to be continuously informed by, and engaged with, many others, including the individuals and societies they are working to benefit, so as to better understand, and more effectively use, the processes by which people and communities, and policymakers and government officials, learn and adapt their behaviour in the face of climate and other changes and pressures.

Among the many advantages the authors cite of agricultural scientists employing social learning approaches are the following:

  • joint learning and knowledge sharing and co-creation are enhanced among diverse stakeholders around a common purpose
  • the established traditions of participatory development are built on, with learning and collective change placed at the heart of such engagement
  • diverse knowledge and value systems are integrated in ways that help us tackle so-called ‘wicked’ (highly complex) socio-agro-ecological problems

The Nature Climate Change commentary provides a table of examples of agricultural development projects and programs that are already using social learning approaches.

On the face of it, the authors says, social learning approaches should help research-for-development institutions become smarter and more effective. But while iterative learning processes appear to be critical to adapting to environmental and other big changes, it’s difficult to apply ‘learning tools’ in many developing-country situations, they say, where there is high uncertainty and great poverty. ‘And we have as yet little evidence of the impacts of social learning approaches on “hard” development outcomes’, says Kristjanson. Scientists are also concerned, she says, about a lack of demonstrated ability to replicate and scale out the benefits of localized social learning.

The authors of this commentary include Philip Thornton, an agricultural systems analyst and climate change specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Thornton says that the authors are embarking on a ‘systematic evidence-gathering initiative, using a common evaluative framework to track new initiatives from a range of institutional settings that incorporate social learning approaches’.

‘The practical guidelines we provide’, he says, ‘should help those interested in applying social learning approaches to use the best available knowledge, information and tools to implement and document their initiatives’.

Acknowledgements
Patti Kristjanson and Philip Thornton both lead work of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Program (CCAFS), where Kristjanson leads its Linking Knowledge to Action Theme and Thornton its Data & Tools ThemeCCAFS is funded by the CGIAR Fund, AusAid, Danish International Development Agency, Environment Canada, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (Portugal), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UK Aid, and the European Union, with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Read
An authors’ version of this article is available for all to read on Cgspace.

Journal subscribers can read the whole article, Social learning and sustainable development, by Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey (International Development Research Centre, Canada), Marissa Van Epp (International Institute for Environment and Development, UK)) and Philip K Thornton, in Nature Climate Change 4, 5–7 (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2080 (first published online 20 Dec 2013).

A lively article about this Nature commentary was published by CCAFS yesterday (8 Jan 2014): Want sustainable development? Then it’s time to get social.

CCAFS, ILRI and their many partners invite you to join our efforts to create an evidence base on the impacts of social learning approaches. Leave your comments and ideas in the commentary section below or on the CCAFS website.

This Nature commentary article was produced as part of a continuing social learning process — see their wiki here: Climate Change and Social Learning initiative — in which knowledge is being co-constructed through many different channels. We are grateful and indebted to all who have participated in this process.

As livestock eat, so they emit: Highly variable diets drive highly variable climate change ‘hoofprints’–BIG new study

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia

Cattle being watered in Ethiopia’s Ghibe Valley (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The most detailed livestock analysis to date, published yesterday, shows vast differences in animal diets and emissions.

The resources required to raise livestock and the impacts of farm animals on environments vary dramatically depending on the animal, the type of food it provides, the kind of feed it consumes and where it lives, according to a new study that offers the most detailed portrait to date of ‘livestock ecosystems’ in different parts of the world.

The study, published yesterday (16 Dec 2013) in an early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the newest comprehensive assessment assembled of what cows, sheep, pigs, poultry and other farm animals are eating in different parts of the world; how efficiently they convert that feed into milk, eggs and meat; and the amount of greenhouse gases they produce.

The study, produced by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), shows that animals in many parts of the developing world require far more food to produce a kilo of protein than animals in wealthy countries. It also shows that pork and poultry are being produced far more efficiently than milk and beef, and greenhouse gas emissions vary widely depending on the animal involved and the quality of its diet.

There’s been a lot of research focused on the challenges livestock present at the global level, but if the problems are global, the solutions are almost all local and very situation-specific’, says Mario Herrero, lead author of the study who earlier this year left ILRI to take up the position of chief research scientist at CSIRO in Australia.

‘Our goal is to provide the data needed so that the debate over the role of livestock in our diets and our environments and the search for solutions to the challenges they present can be informed by the vastly different ways people around the world raise animals’, said Herrero.

‘This very important research should provide a new foundation for addressing the sustainable development of livestock in a very resource-challenged and hungry world, where, in many areas, livestock can be crucial to food security’, said Harvard University’s William C. Clark, editorial board member of the Sustainability Science section at PNAS.

For the last four years, Herrero has been working with scientists at ILRI and the lIASA in Austria to deconstruct livestock impacts beyond what they view as broad and incomplete representations of the livestock sector. Their findings—supplemented with 50 illustrative maps and more than 100 pages of additional data—anchor a special edition of PNAS devoted to exploring livestock-related issues and global change. Scientists say the new data fill a critical gap in research on the interactions between livestock and natural resources region by region.

The initial work was funded by ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

By the numbers

Livestock production and diets
The study breaks down livestock production into nine global regions—the more developed regions of Europe and Russia (1), North America (2) and Oceania (3), along with the developing regions of Southeast Asia (4), Eastern Asia (5, including China), South Asia (6), Latin America and the Caribbean (7), sub-Saharan Africa (8) and the Middle East and North Africa (9).

The data reveal sharp contrasts in overall livestock production and diets. For example:

Of the 59 million tons of beef produced in the world in 2000, the vast majority came from cattle in Latin America, Europe and North America. All of sub-Saharan Africa produced only about 3 million tons of beef.

Highly intensive industrial-scale production accounts for almost all of the poultry and pork produced in Europe, North America and China. In stark contrast, between 40 to 70 per cent of all poultry and pork production in South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa is produced by small-scale farmers.

Almost all of the 1.3 billion tons of grain consumed by livestock each year are fed to farm animals in Europe, North America, Eastern China and Latin America, with pork and poultry hogging the feed trough. All of the livestock in sub-Saharan Africa combined eat only about 50 million tons of grain each year, relying more on grasses and ‘stovers’, the leaf and stalk residues of crops left in the field after harvest.

Greenhouse gas emissions
Scientists also sought to calculate the amount of greenhouse gases livestock are releasing into the atmosphere and to examine emissions by region, animal type and animal product. They modelled only the emissions linked directly to animals—the gases released through their digestion and manure production.

Some important findings include:
South Asia, Latin America, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest total regional emissions from livestock. Between the developed and developing worlds, the developing world accounts for the most emissions from livestock, including 75 per cent of emissions from cattle and other ruminants and 56 per cent from poultry and pigs.

The study found that cattle (for beef or dairy) are the biggest source of greenhouse emissions from livestock globally, accounting for 77 per cent of the total. Pork and poultry account for only 10 per cent of emissions.

Analyzing efficiency and intensity
Scientists note that the most important insights and questions emerging from the new data relate to the amount of feed livestock consume to produce a kilo of protein, something known as ‘feed efficiency’, and the amount of greenhouse gases released for every kilo of protein produced, something known as ’emission intensity’.

Meat v. dairy, grazing animals v. poultry and pork
The study shows that ruminant animals (cows, sheep, and goats) require up to five times more feed to produce a kilo of protein in the form of meat than a kilo of protein in the form of milk.

The large differences in efficiencies in the production of different livestock foods warrant considerable attention’, the authors note. ‘Knowing these differences can help us define sustainable and culturally appropriate levels of consumption of milk, meat and eggs.’

The researchers also caution that livestock production in many parts of the developing world must be evaluated in the context of its ‘vital importance for nutritional security and incomes’.

The study confirmed that pigs and poultry (monogastrics) are more efficient at converting feed into protein than are cattle, sheep and goats (ruminants), and it further found that this is the case regardless of the product involved or where the animals are raised. Globally, pork produced 24 kilos of carbon per kilo of edible protein, and poultry produced only 3.7 kilos of carbon per kilo of protein—compared with anywhere from 58 to 1,000 kilos of carbon per kilo of protein from ruminant meat.

The authors caution that the lower emission intensities in the pig and poultry sectors are driven largely by industrial systems, ‘which provide high-quality, balanced concentrate diets for animals of high genetic potential’. But these systems also pose significant public health risks (with the transmission of zoonotic diseases from these animals to people) and environmental risks, notably greenhouse gases produced by the energy and transport services needed for industrial livestock production and the felling of forests to grow crops for animal feed.

Feed quality in the developing world

The study shows that the quality of an animal’s diet makes a major difference in both feed efficiency and emission intensity. In arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where the fodder available to grazing animals is of much lower quality than that in many other regions, a cow can consume up to ten times more feed—mainly in the form of rangeland grasses—to produce a kilo of protein than a cow kept in more favourable conditions.

Similarly, cattle scrounging for food in the arid lands of Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan can, in the worst cases, release the equivalent of 1,000 kilos of carbon for every kilo of protein they produce. By comparison, in many parts of the US and Europe, the emission intensity is around 10 kilos of carbon per kilo of protein. Other areas with moderately high emission intensities include parts of the Amazon, Mongolia, the Andean region and South Asia.

Our data allow us to see more clearly where we can work with livestock keepers to improve animal diets so they can produce more protein with better feed while simultaneously reducing emissions’, said Petr Havlik, a research scholar at IIASA and a co-author of the study.

No absolute indicators of sustainability
While the new data will greatly help to assess the sustainability of different livestock production systems, the authors cautioned against using any single measurement as an absolute indicator of sustainability. For example, the low livestock feed efficiencies and high greenhouse gas emission intensities in sub-Saharan Africa are determined largely by the fact that most animals in this region continue to subsist largely on vegetation inedible by humans, especially by grazing on marginal lands unfit for crop production and the stovers and other residues of plants left on croplands after harvesting.

‘While our measurements may make a certain type of livestock production appear inefficient, that production system may be the most environmentally sustainable, as well as the most equitable way of using that particular land’, said Philip Thornton, another co-author and an ILRI researcher at CCAFS.

That’s why this research is so important. We’re providing a set of detailed, highly location-specific analyses so we can get a fuller picture of how livestock in all these different regions interact with their ecosystems and what the real trade-offs are in changing these livestock production systems in future.’

Read the full paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systems, by Mario Herrero (ILRI), Petr Havlík (ILRI and IIASA), Hugo Valin (IIASA), An Notenbaert (ILRI), Mariana Rufino (ILRI), Philip Thornton (ILRI), Michael Blümmel (ILRI), Franz Weiss (IIASA), Delia Grace (ILRI) and Michael Obersteiner (IIASA), in a Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change, early online edition of 16 Dec 2013.

119 pages of supporting online information, including 50 maps, is available at PNAS here.

Read the introduction to this Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change: Livestock and global change: Emerging issues for sustainable food systems, by Mario Herrero and Philip Thornton, in the early online edition of 16 Dec 2013.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research on efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock. The products generated by ILRI and its partners help people in developing countries enhance their livestock-dependent livelihoods, health and environments. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a second principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other offices in southern and West Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia.

The IPCC of the livestock sector? Global Agenda of Action on building a sustainable livestock sector


Watch this 3.3-minute video interview of Henning Steinfeld, who leads the livestock sector analysis and policy branch at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. He spoke at the sidelines of the Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, which was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22–24 Jan 2013 (video produced by Muthoni Njiru, of ILRI’s public awareness unit).

Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is attending the 4th multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development (GAA)  this week, 15–17 Oct, in Ottawa, Canada. The meeting aims to address the complexity of the challenges facing the sector which can be addressed only through concerted joint action.

This Agenda builds consensus among livestock sector actors on the path towards sustainability. Like its other members, ILRI believes the livestock sector is crucial to society achieving its environmental, social, economic and health objectives.

Basically, the livestock sector needs to produce more, from less, and with benefits to all.

A tall order. Can it be done? The Global Agenda of Action thinks it can.

‘The purpose of the Agenda is to catalyze the continuous improvement of the sector’s natural resource use to ensure the sector’s contribution to sustainability in food and agriculture. The partnership unites the forces of the public and private sectors, producers, research and academic institutions, NGOs and social movements and community-based organizations.’

Set up of the current Agenda

  • Open multi-stakeholder platform for consensus building on top-priority issues and actions
  • Guiding group for overall direction, guidance and monitoring
  • Focus area groups to implement the work programs
  • Support group

The GAA aims to help improve the efficiency of natural resource use in the livestock sector through work in the following three areas.

Focus area 1: Closing the efficiency gap
Generating large resource use efficiency, economic, and social gains through the use of livestock-related technologies, management practices, policies and institutional frameworks through, for example, quantification of efficiency gaps in target countries, regions and production systems

Focus area 2: Restoring value to grasslands
Enhancing livestock-related ecosystem services, productivity and livelihoods through the restoration, optimal management and utilization of grasslands through, for example, synthesis of non-market benefits of grassland restoration and an assessment of global grassland carbon sequestration potential

Focus area 3: Transforming waste to worth
Reducing nutrient overload and greenhouse gas emissions by livestock systems through the recovery and recycling of nutrients and energy contained in manure through, for example, a global inventory of current manure distribution, management practices and associated nutrient balances

This morning (15 Oct 2013), ILRI director Shirley Tarawali, an agronomist and livestock feed specialist by training, took part in a panel discussion questioning whether the Agenda should address ‘comprehensive sustainability’.

What is the evidence that it can be done? ILRI scientists are working to help obtain this (see below, for example). What strikes Tarawali most is the cogency of the three focus areas chosen to build this sustainability and the consistency of alignment demonstrated among the diverse kinds of livestock stakeholders taking part in this Global Agenda of Action.

Asked if we need an ‘IPCC’ to help us manage a sustainable evolution of the global livestock sector, Tarawali answered: ‘The Global Agenda is the IPCC of our global livestock systems! If we pay serious attention to the Agenda’s three focus areas of work, we can do this.’

ILRI scientists working directly with the Global Agenda of Action
ILRI director and agronomist/feed specialist Shirley Tarawali (UK) is part of the Guiding Group. Feed resources specialist Michael Blümmel (Germany), agricultural economist Hikuepi (Epi) Katjiuongua (Namibia) and sustainable livestock systems project leader Iain Wright (UK) are working with the Agenda’s Efficiency Group. Ecosystem ecologist Rich Conant (USA), livestock and the environment leader Polly Ericksen (USA) and ILRI Forage Genebank manager Alexandra Jorge (Mozambique) are working with the Agenda’s Grasslands Group. And landscape ecologist Tim Robinson (UK) and environmental scientist Nguyen Viet Hung (Vietnam) are working with the Agenda’s Manure Group.

See the Agenda strategy and consensus.

Directly below, view the slide presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, which was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22–24 Jan 2013.

Or, below, watch this 3-minute video produced by FAO introducing the Global Agenda of Action.

Improving the environmental sustainability of livestock systems in the developing world–ILRI’s Jimmy Smith

On 25 September, ILRI director general Jimmy Smith delivered an opening address on ‘Improving environmental sustainability of livestock systems in the developing world’ at the ‘Agri4D annual conference on agricultural research for development’ held in Uppsala, Sweden.

Livestock and the Sustainable Development Goals

Livestock and the Sustainable Development Goals

Reduce poverty with livestock

Empower women with livestock

Ensure healthy lives with livestock

Ensure food/nutrition security with livestock

Ensure sustainable livelihoods with livestock

Manage natural resources with livestock

Livestock and the environment

Smallholder livestock keepers and the environment

Global GHG efficiency per kg of animal protein produced

Different trajectories demand different environmental solutions

Closing the efficiency gap

Production efficiency--developed countries

Possible GHG opportunities

Feed opportunities

Water opportunities

Restoring value to grasslands

Potential carbon sequestration by 2040

Pootential carbon sequestration in global rangelands

Pay livestock keepers for wildlife conservation

Pay livestock keepers for environmental services

Waste to worth

Manure problems/management

Opportunities for manure management

Key messages

Conclusions

 

Read / view the opening keynote presentation made by ILRI’s director general Jimmy Smith at the International Grasslands Congress (IGC):

And read / view the presentation made at IGC by ILRI’s director for institutional planning and partnerships Shirley Tarawali:

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

Livestock live talk: Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Livestock live talk: Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

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

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

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

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

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

View the slide presentation made by Butterbach-Bahl.

Empower local experts to inform agricultural policy in Africa: Short filmed interview of FANRPAN’s Lindiwe Majele Sibanda

One of the more interesting side events at this month’s sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013, was hosted by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water & Food, of which the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is a partner.

In this 2.48-minute filmed interview at AASW6, Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in South Africa, shares how ‘innovation platforms’ have ‘brought a new way of doing business’ that is helping to inform policy changes in the agricultural sector.

‘What is clear was that we have often sidelined traditional leaders and not looked at non-scientists and non-technocrats,’ said Sibanda, who chairs ILRI’s board of trustees. ‘We should be focusing on empowering these local experts, giving them capacity to inform policy processes to ensure sustainability.’

‘For this to happen,’ Sibanda says, ‘we need policies that are created bottom up, where the evidence comes from practitioners but is packaged to feed directly into policy.’

‘This process is about equipping all actors to be drivers of change—change that is driven by evidence that comes from research,’ she adds.

The chain starts from those affected by the problem being around the table with those who want to experiment, research and deliver options for development—sitting as equal partners.—Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of FANRPAN

This session by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water & Food, which was facilitated by ILRI’s knowledge management and communication specialist, Ewen Le Borgne, shared experiences from the Limpopo, Nile and Volta basins on engaging partners, keeping them motivated and sustaining their engagement after the program is completed. The session’s 70 participants discussed how to set up engagement platforms, engage with policy, scale up platforms and how to deal with power and representation in these groups.

About AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15-20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15-16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18-19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were captured on Twitter (hashtag #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA AASW6 blog.

Read more on the ILRI blogs about AASW6

With ‘new road’ for agricultural research, Africa can feed Africa—and will feed Africa, and the world

NEPAD’s Ibrahim Mayaki makes the case for investing in Africa’s agricultural research for development, 23 Jul 2013

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir, 22 Jul 2013

Jimmy Smith and Frank Rijsberman speak out at FARA’s Africa Agriculture Science Week, 22 Jul 2013

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development, 19 Jul 2013

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week, 18 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts, 17 Jul 2013

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July, 9 Jul 2013

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story, 12 Jul 2013

With ‘new road’ for agricultural research, Africa can feed Africa—and will feed Africa, and the world

ILRI's Jimmy Smith with IFAD's Kanayo Nwanze, at AASW6

IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze (left) with ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

This blog post was written by ILRI corporate communications writer/editor Paul Karaimu.

‘Researchers and policymakers in Africa must focus their efforts on supporting smallholder farming. A sustainable smallholder agriculture sector will not only feed more people on this continent but also reduce poverty’, Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said last week.

Nwanze, who chairs an expert panel on the Science Agenda for Africa, gave a keynote address, ‘African agricultural development: Opportunities and challenges’, at the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013.

The ‘golden age’ of Africa’s agricultural development
He began by looking back. ‘When I think about African agricultural development today, I cannot help but remember how promising things looked some 30 to 40 years ago. At the time, we felt we were at the start of a golden age for African agriculture. We had universities with agricultural faculties, research centres and research stations we could be proud of. Our graduates at universities in—Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda— were some of the best in the world, and students came from abroad to study here. . . . In the sixties and seventies, many African countries were net exporters of major food and cash crops, not importers as they are today. About 20 per cent of national budgets at that time went to agriculture. It felt like Africa was on the cusp of eliminating poverty and hunger, and taking its place in the world of research and development.’

What happened?
‘[Y]ears of under-investment and an ill-advised structural adjustment’, Nwanze said; ‘The resulting waste of so much human life and potential is not only tragic, it is a disgrace because there is simply no reason for it.

Agriculture—spanning crop production, fishing, livestock, forestry and pasture—has driven economic growth through the centuries, from 18th-century England, to 19th-century Japan, to 20th-century India, to Brazil, China, South Korea and Viet Nam today. We know what needs to be done. And we know what can be done.—Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD president

The good news
Reporting on the good news about Africa’s potential for agricultural development, Nwanze said: ‘Africa has the largest share of the world’s uncultivated land with rain-fed crop potential. Unlike many other parts of the world, in Africa there is room for agriculture to expand.

Demand exists and is growing, not only for raw, primary produce but also higher-end food products. And there is growing foreign interest in the untapped potential of Africa’s fertile land. Added to this many African countries are doing well economically with GDP growth rates above five per cent; new oil finds across the continent; and an abundance of mineral wealth. So indeed, we do not lack the resources to support agriculture and agricultural research.—Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD president

‘Small farms account for 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa’, Nwanze reported. ‘In some countries, they contribute up to 90 per cent of production. They have the potential to be key suppliers to Africa’s burgeoning urban markets as well as supplying rural markets.’

In addition, he said, in sub-Saharan Africa, ‘growth generated by agriculture is eleven times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth in other sectors. Successful small farms can create vibrant rural economies with a range of non-farm enterprises, providing a variety of jobs, decent incomes and food security.’

New road needed
With these issues in mind, Nwanze asked, ‘Do we want to get back on the road that we left in the 1970s, or do we need a new road?’

He pleaded for ‘a new road’, one that ‘reposition[s] research and development so that it is research for development. This means measuring our results not by higher yields alone but also by reduced poverty, improved nutrition, cohesive societies and healthy ecosystems. In short, it must be inclusive.’

With appropriate policies and investments, he said, Africa’s ‘under-performing agricultural system’ can bring about food and nutritional security throughout the continent.

Efforts by African nations to invest in agriculture for growth were encouraging, Nwanze said, but he argued that much more needs to be done. And he cautioned that ‘technology is only a tool. It is not an end in itself. As a scientist, I understand the excitement of new discoveries. But as a development practitioner I have seen the miracles that take place when we give farmers the tools to enhance existing—and sometimes quite traditional technologies.’

On the role of women in Africa feeding Africa, Nwanze reminded his audience that ‘About half of sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural labour force are women. Yet too often women are the most disadvantaged members of rural societies. To farm successfully, women need agricultural resources and inputs, as well as access to rural finance, education and knowledge. They also need rights to the land they farm and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.’

And he reminded the audience that ‘Agriculture is not just crops alone, and science can also lead to productive livestock and crop integration, aquaculture and fish-crop farming and ways of generating income through agriculture while also meeting nutritional needs.

Development is something people do for themselves. Our challenge is to take what we know works, to develop what we know is needed, and to apply our knowledge, country-by-country, region-by-region.—Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD president

‘If we do this, Africa will not only feed itself, it will also contribute to global food security, economic growth and peace and stability. . . .

Agriculture holds the key to Africa’s development, and development holds the key to a future where Africa is not only feeding itself, but feeding the world.

Read a transcript of Kanayo Nwanze’s whole statement.

Read more on the ILRI blogs about AASW6
NEPAD’s Ibrahim Mayaki makes the case for investing in Africa’s agricultural research for development, 23 Jul 2013

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir, 22 Jul 2013

Jimmy Smith and Frank Rijsberman speak out at FARA’s Africa Agriculture Science Week, 22 Jul 2013

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development, 19 Jul 2013

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week, 18 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts, 17 Jul 2013

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July, 9 Jul 2013

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story, 12 Jul 2013

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at the city abattoir in Kampala.

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at Kampala City Abattoir (photo credit: ILRI/Albert Mwangi).

Note: This post was developed by Bio-Innovate communications officer Albert Mwangi.

A clamor to improve Africa’s agricultural value chains by greater industrialization of many of Africa’s agricultural processes was heard often at the just-completed sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW6), held in Accra 15–20 Jul 2013 and organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. Most African nations are already pushing to add value to their primary agricultural commodities by supporting the establishment of relevant production and manufacturing processes and industries. Their aim is to transform their role as producers of primary agricultural commodities, such as whole raw coffee beans, into exporters of near-finished agricultural products, such as finely graded and ground coffees, thus earning more from their agriculture sectors.

Several of Africa’s livestock-based economies are working to add value to their production of leather. Rather than drying the skins and hides of slaughtered domestic animals and selling these as is, the skins and hides in addition are softened, graded and cut for various products, and in some cases used to produce finished leather products for export. While economically desirable, the production and manufacturing processes employed in this kind of industrialization can pose significant environmental risks, in this case, for example, by contaminating and/or polluting riverine eco-systems, water bodies and groundwater sources with heavy metals and other toxic substances.

Last week, Nigerian blogger Bunmi Ajilore, an advocate of sustainable agriculture and environmental justice, gave a succinct description of the public health hazards as well as benefits of using wastewater in agricultural activities (The use of wastewater in agriculture: The nagging dilemma, posted on his EcoAgriculturist Blog and reposted on the FARA–AASW Blog).

A research-for-development program based in eastern Africa known as ‘Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development’, or Bio-Innovate for short, is working to deliver innovations in the recycling of agro-wastewater from industrial processes. A pilot project being implemented in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, is working to develop safe and sustainable agro-processes for waste treatment and these will soon be scaled out to other agro-industries in the eastern Africa region.

The city abattoir in Kampala, Uganda, a partner in this Bio-Innovate project, illustrates ways in which the project is helping to make recycling processes both safe and sustainable. These processes are being integrated in ways to, simultaneously, reduce pollution, generate energy and recover nutrients from agro-process wastewaters.

Wastewater recycling at the city abattoir in Kampala
A 2005 publication by Joseph Kyambadde (Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment and Climate Change Mitigation in Eastern Africa) showed that a good number of industrial activities in this region release inadequately treated wastewaters into the environment. The study further indicated that effluent from Kampala City Abattoir significantly harms the ecology and water quality of Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay, source of Kampala’s drinking water.

The abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 500–600 cattle and 200–300 goats/sheep per day, with an estimated wastewater production of 200-400 m3 per day. This wastewater effluent generated by the abattoir is a major factor in nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion in Lake Victoria.

Researchers at Uganda’s Makerere University, who are implementing this project, are working with staff of Kampala City Abattoir to create a ‘value-addition chain’ that involves bioconversion of slaughter wastes to produce biogas and production of nutrient-rich slurry for use in hydroponic systems, where plants are grown without soil, and as bio-fertilizer. In a pilot plant that has been set up, effluent from the abattoir is first treated in anaerobic and aerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBRs) digesters; the resulting digestate is separated into two components: a nutrient-rich sludge that will be converted to bio-fertilizer and treated effluent that has a reduced organic load. This effluent can then be used to cultivate vegetables, flowers and animal fodder in a hydroponic system constructed in an artificial wetland. The treated wastewaters have great potential also for industrial use in cleaning the slaughtering areas, animal storage facilities and public toilets. This system combines bio-digestion of waste to reduce the organic load and generate biogas and electricity; utilization of nutrient-rich effluent for hydroponics; and artificial wetlands to further clean the effluent before release into the environment. This integrated system not only is an innovative way to manage and recycle wastewater sustainably but also provides people with sufficient incentives for such recycling.

The biogas and electricity generated by this integrated wastewater management / recycling system can be used as an alternative energy source, and so help reduce deforestation, which generates the greenhouse gases causing climate change. As noted, other products generated by the system can be used as affordable bio-fertilizer. And of course a further benefit is better protection of freshwater resources.

By treating agro-process waste in such an integrated way, this project is helping Kampala City Abbattoir to protect Uganda’s environment and livestock livelihoods alike. It is the aim of Bio-Innovate and its Ugandan colleagues to replicate this pilot system in suitable places elsewhere on the continent to help Africa’s expanding agro-industries make safer and better use of their wastewater.

About Bio-Innovate
Bio-Innovate makes use of advanced biosciences both to increase efficiencies in agro-processing and to make more sustainable use of local bio-resources. The program is based at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI website). For further information, contact Albert Mwangi, Bio-Innovate communications officer, at a.mwangi [at] cigar.org

About AASW6
FARA website’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were followed on Twitter (search for #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA-AASW6 blog.

Growing more food using fewer natural resources: Pipe dream or the ‘only’ development pathway possible?

Banalata Das, a shrimp farmer feds her cow at the family home. Khulna, Bangladesh. Photo by Mike Lusmore, 2012

 Banalata Das, a dairy and shrimp farmer, feeds her cow in Khulna, Bangladesh (photo credit: WorldFish/Mike Lusmore).

Ramadjita Tabo, a member of The Montpellier Panel and deputy executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), recently described the recent rather divisive nature of academic discussions on the viability of the ‘sustainable intensification’ of agriculture as follows.

Sustainable intensification, an agricultural development pathway that aims to reconcile food production and environmental protection, is a highly politicised term that divides academics and practitioners alike. Although, when first coined by Jules Pretty, the term was a way of bringing often divergent priorities such as addressing declines in land and agricultural productivity, pollution and food insecurity together under a new paradigm, it has been since accused of being a ruse for big, industrial agriculture. — Ramadjita TaboSustainable intensification: A practical approach to meet Africa’s food and natural resource needs, Global Food Security blog, 18 Apr 2013

Now a team of diverse scientists and other experts, having broadened the concept, make a case in a new report published in the journal Science that sustainable intensification is absolutely central to our ability to meet increasing demands for food from our growing populations and finite farmlands.

Tara Garnett and Charles Godfray, the article’s lead authors, say that we can increase food production from existing farmland if we employ sustainable intensification practices and policies. These, they say, can help minimize already severe pressures on the environment, especially for more land, water, and energy, natural resources now commonly overexploited and used unsustainably.

The authors of this Science ‘Policy Forum’ piece are researchers from leading universities and international organizations as well as policymakers from non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. One of the co-authors is Mario Herrero, an agricultural systems scientist who recently led a ‘livestock futures’ team at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, a member of CGIAR), in Nairobi, Kenya, and who earlier this year moved to Brisbane, Australia, to take up the position of chief research scientist for food systems and the environment at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Another co-author is Philip Thornton, another ILRI systems scientist and a leader of a multi-institutional team and project in the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The authors of this Science paper outline a new, more sophisticated account of how ‘sustainable intensification’ should work. They recognize that this policy has attracted criticism in some quarters as being either too narrowly focused on food production or as representing a contradiction in terms.

Why does articulating this new, more refined, account of sustainable intensification matter so much? ‘We often confuse sustainable intensification as synonymous with increases in productivity and resource use efficiency, but the picture is far more complex’, explains Herrero. ‘We attempted a balanced definition, one that encompasses all major perspectives.’ Such a new definition, Herrero says, can be telling. Take the pig and poultry sub-sectors, he says, which are commonly lauded for being more efficient than raising cattle, goats, sheep, water buffalo and other ruminant animals. ‘Well, that can be true. But not in large parts of Europe, for example, which import grain to feed their pigs and poultry, with one result being that Brazilian farmers are chopping down the rain forest to provide that feed to Europe’s livestock farmers. From this perspective, those “efficient” pig and poultry business are just not sustainable. In our endeavour to intensify’, Herrero continues, ‘we can overlook important aspects of agricultural intensification like ecosystems services, biodiversity and human health. Take the livestock sector, for example. With this sector so intimately connected to land management issues and with so many livestock-based livelihoods of poor people at stake, it’s essential that we don’t pay lip service to the ‘sustainability aspects’ of livestock intensification.

We need to  come up with suitable practical indicators of just what is sustainable, and the fact is that we’ll sometimes need to reduce intensification, as in places where additional increases in yields or efficiencies could place too much pressure on other facets of food systems. — Mario Herrero, agricultural systems scientist, CSIRO (formerly of ILRI)

Herrero’s colleague, Philip Thornton, agrees. And he reminds us of the ‘multi-functionality’ of agricultural production systems in developing countries, particularly livestock systems in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘These ‘multifunctions’ (such as keeping cows for household milk, and/or to generate a daily household dairy income, and/or to produce manure to fertilize croplands, and/or to transport produce to markets, and/or or to build household assets) differ by place and context, and our interventions aiming to enhance them need to differ accordingly, Thornton says. No ‘silver bullets’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, he says, is going to work in these varied smallholder production system contexts.

‘As usual, it’s a matter of scale, with landscape or regional approaches expected to become critical to success. To achieve our desired development outcomes, we’re going to have to “intensify” small-scale livestock, mixed crop-livestock and other agricultural production systems where intensification can be done viably, and we’re going to have to ‘extensify’ these smallholder systems elsewhere in the landscape, where intensification is just not viable.
The main reason for producing this Science paper was to try to wrest the concept of ‘sustainable agricultural intensification’ back from those driving specific agendas. (We may well have to try to do the same for ‘climate-smart agriculture’, but that’s another story.) — Philip Thornton, ILRI and CCAFS

Similar arguments were published in a previous article in Science by Herrero, Thornton and their colleagues (Smart investments in sustainable food production: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, Science, 12 Feb 2010, DOI: 10.1126/science.1183725). This new investigation, Herrero says, is something of a follow-up to that earlier paper. The new Science article stresses that while farmers in many regions of the world need to produce more food, it is equally urgent that policymakers act on diets, waste and how the food system is governed. The authors say we must produce more food on existing rather than new farmland; converting uncultivated land, they say, will lead to greater emissions of greenhouse gases, which are causing global warming, and greater losses of biodiversity.

The authors make a strong case for sustainable intensification being the only policy on the table that could generate ways of producing enough food for all without destroying our environment.

But, warns Charles Godfray, of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, sustainable intensification should be only one part of an agricultural and development policy portfolio. ‘Sustainable intensification is necessary’, he says, ‘but not sufficient’.

Achieving a sustainable food system will require changes in agricultural production, changes in diet so people eat less meat and waste less food, and regulatory changes to improve the efficiency and resilience of the food system. Producing more food is important but it is only one of a number of policies that we must pursue together. — Charles Godfray, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food

Increasing productivity does not always mean using more fertilizers and agrochemicals, which frequently carry unacceptable environmental costs, argue the authors. They say that a range of techniques, both old and new, should be employed to develop ways of farming that keep environmental damage to a minimum.

The authors of the paper accept that the intensification of agriculture will directly as well as indirectly impact other important policy goals, such as preserving biodiversity, improving human nutrition and animal welfare, protecting rural economies and sustaining development generally in poor countries and communities. Policymakers will need to find ways to navigate conflicting priorities, they say, which is where research can help.

Lead author Tara Garnett, from the Food Climate Research Network at the Oxford Martin School, says that food security is about more than just more calories. Better nutrition also matters, she says.

Some two billion people worldwide are thought to be deficient in micronutrients. We need to intensify the quality of the food we produce in ways that improve the nutritional value of people’s diets, preferably through diversifying the range of foods produced and available to people but also, in the short term, by improving the nutrient content of crops now commonly produced. — Tara Garnett, Food Climate Research Network

Michael Appleby, of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, says that ‘Attention to livestock welfare is both necessary and beneficial for sustainability. Policies to achieve the right balance between animal and crop production will benefit animals, people and the planet.’

Agriculture is a potent sector for economic growth and rural development in many countries across Africa, Asia and South America, says co-author Sonja Vermeulen, of CCAFS.

Sustainable intensification can provide the best rewards for small-scale farmers and their heritage of natural resources. What policymakers can provide are the strategic finance as well as institutions needed to support sustainable and equitable pathways rather than quick profits gained through depletion. — Sonja Vermeulen, CCAFS

Get the paper: Sustainable intensification in agriculture: Premises and policies, by T Garnett, MC Appleby, A Balmford, IJ Bateman, TG Benton, P Bloomer, B Burlingame, M Dawkins, L Dolan, D Fraser, M Herrero, I Hoffmann, P Smith, PK Thornton, C Toulmin, SJ Vermeulen, HCJ Godfray, Science, vol. 341, 5 Jul 2013.

Note
ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, Shirley Tarawali, will be travelling to Accra, Ghana, tomorrow (9 Jul 2013) to take part in a 4-day workshop (10–13 Jul 2013) for major stakeholders in sustainable agricultural intensification in Africa. The participants will explore the links between systems research and sustainable intensification to refine and reach a common understandings.

The workshop also aims to help determine:
1) factors critical for successful sustainable intensification
2) institutional arrangements for integrating sustainable intensification into investment and service delivery programs
3)  best mechanisms for sharing and learning across Africa’s major sustainable intensification programs.

About 50 people will participate in this sustainable intensification workshop, representing the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); Africa’s sub-regional and non-governmental organizations, national agricultural research systems, universities and farmer organizations; CGIAR centres and research programs; and major African sustainable intensification programs, financing organizations and investors.

More information
Contact the University of Oxford Press Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email press.office@admin.ox.ac.uk
Contact taragarnett [at] fcrn.org.uk or charles.godfray [at] zoo.ox.ac.uk
Contact Shirley Tarawali: s.tarawali [at] cgiar.org

The Science article follows a workshop on food security convened by the Oxford Martin School and the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford; a more detailed account of the workshop is at: http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/sustainable-intensification

Tara Garnett runs the Food Climate Research Network: http://www.fcrn.org.uk
Charles Godfray is the Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food: http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk
For more information on the Oxford Martin School, please visit http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/
Michael Appleby is chief scientific adviser for humane sustainable agriculture at the World Society for Protection of Animals: www.wspa.org.uk
Sonja Vermeulen is head of research at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security: http://ccafs.cgiar.org

Addendum
Simon West, a PhD student within a GLEAN project and working at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, has an interesting point to make about the importance of ‘learning’ at the interface of ecosystem management and sustainable development (One thought on GLEAN @ STEPS summer school, 30 May 2013).

‘. . . My research examines the production of learning within ecosystem management, and how such learning – informed by mental models, narratives and framing of ecological change – affects the way that people interact with their environment. Learning is increasingly recognized as critical in achieving transitions toward sustainable development – but how does such learning take place, and what types of learning are required? Scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds will answer these questions in very different ways, and such differences reveal the contestation at the heart of any idea of sustainable development. . . .

‘Even in open and inclusive participatory processes decisions have to be made which inherently require closing down around particular courses of action; the success of one narrative (even if the narrative was previously marginalized) will inevitably come at the expense of others. Not everyone in a participatory process can necessarily ‘win.’ . . .

‘[T]oo much emphasis (by any discipline looking at sustainability issues) on developing any kind of “general content” of learning for sustainability is likely to be misguided. . . . I would argue that a more productive goal would be to encourage a new structure to knowledge, moving towards an ability to think in terms of complexity, multiple variables, interaction of social and ecological factors and temporal and spatial variability, in order to facilitate understanding of the adaptive and dynamic relations between values, framings and narratives, and the material environment.

‘Most importantly, this may lead to the realization that others in all contexts . . . will have wildly different, but equally legitimate, understandings of reality and what really matters – and this is perhaps the hardest concept for all of us, not least scientists, to really grasp.’

Attention entrepreneurs: Your livestock business is growing–but only in Africa and other developing regions

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Rapidly growing global livestock sector

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a keynote presentation this week at a three-day Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013), which came to a close today at Safari Park Hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 20 minutes, Smith made a powerful case for making significant investments in Africa’s livestock sector, which is growing rapidly. Such investments can, he said, ensure that livestock enterprises on the continent are economically profitable, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. By making such investments now, he said, we can ensure that indigenous livestock enterprises are not shut out of the rapidly increasing livestock markets by imports of animal-source foods.

Key messages

  • The global livestock sector is growing rapidly.
  • The global livestock sector is growing in developing—not developed—world countries.
  • The developing world is where the livestock sector will continue to grow for the next decades.
  • The livestock sector continues to receive significant under-investment; we must transform that.
  • Growth in the global livestock sector is demand-led—driven largely by rising demand from rising numbers of consumers with rising incomes.
  • In most developing countries, animal-source foods are both produced and consumed in the countries of origin, so most attention should be paid to within-country/-region livestock trade rather than international trade.
  • In Africa and other developing regions, most milk, meat and eggs are produced by smallholders and family farmers; researchers, policymakers, development workers and business people should thus focus their attention on Africa’s small-scale livestock keepers and herders.
  • Enabling environments, market access, rural infrastructure, risk-based approaches to food safety, livestock research and delivery services will all be needed.
  • The question—and opportunity—for those working for Africa’s development is:

    Can we act now, together and coherently, to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the smallholder livestock sector so that it becomes a major instrument for reducing poverty, feeding and nourishing people and protecting the environment? 

Some of the series of slides Jimmy Smith presented to make this case for a vibrant African smallholder livestock sector are posted below. Go here to view the whole slide presentation online: Opportunities for a sustainable and competitive livestock sector in Africa, Jun 2013.

And be sure to check out this earlier post on the same subject: We would love to know what you think: Please use the comment box that follows this post to post your response.

Livestock present Africa with huge – ‘right now!’ – opportunities for food, prosperity, environment

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Major opportunities for Africa's livestock sector

Slide from presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition 2013 (credit: ILRI/Jimmy Smith).

Yesterday, Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), briefed Felix Kosgey, Kenya’s new cabinet secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, who was guest of honour at the opening of the African Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE), on key messages delivered during the opening session of the conference.

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith took the opportunity at this conference, being held this week (26–28 Jun 2013) in Nairobi, Kenya, to speak about the enormous opportunity, as well as special challenges, the livestock sector presents Africa at this particular moment, with the sector’s many direct current and potential twin benefits in terms of both agricultural prosperity and agricultural sustainability.

‘The theme for this conference and exhibition is Towards a competitive and sustainable world-class livestock sector. This theme addresses the global concern, even anxiety, about how the world will feed itself by the time the human population is expected to stabilize at over 10 billion by about mid-century. By then, with about 2.5 billion more people than there are now, 60–70% more food will have to be produced on a fixed land base that some argue is reaching its ecological limits.

The livestock sector must play a major role in meeting our food and nutritional security here in Africa and the world over. I say food and nutritional security because one can be fed but not be nourished; the livestock sector contributes to both.

‘The livestock sector in the developing world is growing very rapidly. In these regions, the sector contributes between 30 and 40% of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), with this growth driven by increasing population, urbanization and, in particular, incomes.

‘This rapid growth in demand for animal-source foods will continue well into the future because per capita consumption of milk, meat and eggs is still quite low in the developing world. Here in Africa, for example, per capita consumption is only about 10kg a year, whereas in the USA it’s about 100kg. As incomes continue to rise in Africa, which has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, so, too, will demand for animal-source foods.

Little known or appreciated is that more than 50% of the world’s supply of animal-source foods comes from small-scale livestock producers. Here in Africa, some 70% of the supply of milk, meat and eggs is produced by smallholder farmers and herders.

‘Also here in Africa, consumption of animal-source foods will increase greatly between 2000 and 2030. The total percent increases between actual 2000 and anticipated 2030 figures are dramatic:

Africa’s consumption of poultry meat will increase by 200%, beef by over 100%, pork by 150% and milk by about 100%.

In Africa in 2006/07 (base years), the value of all animal-source foods consumed, excluding eggs, was USD33 billion.

Around the time population growth is expected to stabilize on the continent, in 2050, the value of animal-source foods consumed is projected to reach USD107 billion.

A critical part of our deliberations at this conference will be how to facilitate full participation of smallholder producers in this rapidly expanding livestock market.

‘There is a sobering side to this livestock growth story; increasingly, a larger and larger share of this rapidly rising demand for animal-source foods in Africa is being met by imports, despite the fact that the continent is extremely well endowed with livestock resources and the potential of the sector is vast.

Despite the importance of the livestock sector, it remains largely neglected, with discussions on agriculture by policymakers and others invariably still focused on crops.

‘The neglect of the sector, and in particular the potential of 200 million small-scale livestock producers, not only condemns the continent to steeply rising import bills but also ensures that we will miss an enormous opportunity to meet the need for food and nutritional security while also creating prosperity and transforming rural economies.

‘Here in Kenya, I’m happy to say, the livestock sector receives more attention than in most other countries and we can see its commensurate growth and development.

‘I know that there are many powerful voices out there who say that the neglect of the livestock sector is justified because livestock contribute to global warming, and high levels of meat consumption contribute to obesity and the poor health that often comes with it.

‘Regarding the livestock and environment issue, we can make livestock systems much more environmentally sustainable and we are working to do so. For example, we can cut the carbon footprint per unit of livestock product as aggressively as we can increase the productivity of cattle, sheep and goats.

Regarding the meat and obesity issue, I would argue that there is no moral equivalent between those who make poor a choice of food and those who have no choice of food.’

Jimmy Smith made his presentation to Kenya cabinet secretary Felix Kosgey on behalf of all the co-organizers and co-hosts of ALiCE, including:

  • African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal resources (AU-IBAR)
  • Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF)
  • Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA)
  • Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed)
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
  • Kenya Livestock Producers Association (KLPA)
  • New Kenya Co-operative Creameries (New KCC)
  • Unga Ltd.

About the conference
ALiCE is the largest convergence of stakeholders in the livestock sector in Africa. This is a platform specifically aimed at stimulating trade in livestock and livestock products in Africa and beyond and facilitating technology and knowledge transfer and sharing. The event brings together producers, processors and traders of livestock and livestock products and suppliers of technology, solutions and services in the entire value chain.

Jimmy Smith on the global development agenda, and livestock’s role in it — 13-minute film

Watch this 13-minute film-enhanced slide presentation by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith on the global development agenda and the roles of livestock, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), within it.

‘Over the last several decades, up until the early 2000s, agriculture was a very neglected sector. Agricultural investments precipitously declined from about 15% of official development assistance to about 2.5% in the early 2000s.

‘However, the world food crisis of 2008 and the recurring ones since then have elevated the agricultural agenda high up on the development agenda. So the challenge for us now is how we will feed the world, what will be the contribution of livestock, and how will we address poverty and environmental sustainability.

Trends
‘Livestock often make up 40% of agricultural GDP, and the sector is growing fairly rapidly; 4 of the top 5 agricultural commodities by value are livestock, and in Africa, 4 of the top 10 agricultural commodities are livestock. So livestock are quite important in terms of the global food and poverty agenda.

No matter which region we look at, livestock’s contribution to agricultural GDP is growing as fast as the rest of agriculture, and in most cases faster. Per capita consumption of meat in the developing parts of the world, for example in Africa, is only 13 kg, when meat consumption in North America, for example, is 125 kg per person.

The growth in demand for livestock products is happening everywhere. No matter which region we look at, and no matter which commodity of livestock we look at, there is growth. Between now and 2030, the demand for various livestock commodities will grow, from 50% in the case of pork to up to 600% in the case of poultry.

‘Less than 15% of the total livestock commodities are traded, so though trade is important, local markets matter more. And these local markets in the case of livestock commodities are mostly informal. So as we attempt to deal with meeting the rising demand for livestock products, we must work on the informal markets as much as we work on the formal ones.

‘So what’s the global development agenda that livestock faces? First, livestock contributes to the livelihoods of over a billion people. And so there is a great opportunity for us in this rising demand for livestock products to integrate small farmers into markets. For us, that’s a big opportunity to contribute both to food security and to poverty reduction. . . .

‘About one billion people rely on livestock for their livelihoods in the developing world. And these people, relatively poor, in rural areas, need attention so that they will not only contribute to the global food equation, but also reduce their poverty.

Livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’
‘But as we know, livestock are not all good. There are also some “bads” about livestock. They contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, amounting (depending on whose calculations you look at) to somewhere between 14 and 26%. So as we integrate smallholders into markets, we must be sure that we give them the tools to cut the carbon footprint of livestock.

‘As livestock populations have been growing around the world, disease challenges have emerged more and more. And these mostly include (but are not limited to) “zoonotic” diseases that can go from humans to livestock and livestock to humans.

‘In many developing countries, consumption of meat and milk is low, and there is an opportunity to increase that consumption for better nutrition and health. There’s also the concern, even in developing countries, about obesity—people who consume too much.

‘There are many other ways that livestock contribute to the rural poor. These are what we refer to as the “non-tradables”, such as manure, which, for example, in India is about 50% of the nitrogen used in crop farming. And livestock provide traction and fuel in addition to the enormous cultural values that livestock have held for people since ancient times.

‘In our efforts to address the global livestock agenda, we see ourselves working in three broad systems.

Three systems ILRI works in
High growth
‘The first are those systems where the possibilities for growth are quite high, and where there is good market access, where we can increase the productivity of livestock, so that smallholders can contribute to the global food equation and at the same time use that to escape poverty.

Fragile growth
‘But we also have very fragile environments in which livestock are raised, in the drylands, for example, where pastoralism is the main means of livelihood. And there is very little opportunity to increase the productivity of livestock. Rather, the challenge in these systems is mainly to put safety nets under those who are very vulnerable to changing climates and harsh ecological conditions.

Growth with externalities
‘The third are those systems with high growth but also externalities. These are what we refer to as ‘factory farms’, large intensive farms found in many parts of the developed world but also increasingly in the developing world. And here the issues are about how you dispose of manure, and how you deal with the threat of livestock diseases. We see a marginal role for ILRI in these latter systems, but aware that small-scale farming in the developing world will over time increase in size. this is not a system that we will ignore entirely.

Livestock in CGIAR research programs
‘We’re addressing these livestock issues through what are known as the CGIAR research programs. We lead the Livestock and Fish program and we are major players in the other seven CGIAR research programs. We are addressing our agenda through these new CGIAR research programs, which are giving us huge access not only to our traditional partners, who are the other CGIAR research centres, but also many development partners in both the developed and developing worlds.

ILRI’s strengths
‘We’re a very strong player in gender and equity issues. We’re a strong player in work to build resilience in livestock communities in marginal environments. We’re working with others on innovations in value chains for various livestock commodities. We’re a significant player in dealing with zoonotic diseases and food safety. And of course feed, an intractable problem for small-scale livestock systems in developing countries, is an area in which we are engaged as well.

‘And we work on issues at the interface of livestock and the environment, including both the impacts of livestock on the environment and the impacts of the (changing) environment on livestock. That’s what we call our “integrated sciences”.

‘We also work in the biosciences, where most of the work goes on in laboratories. We’re an increasingly important player in vaccinology, in genomics and in breeding. In what is known as the BecA-ILRI Hub, we have world-class biosciences facilities that are being used not just for livestock but also for crop sciences. In future, we’ll strengthen our work in genomics and gene delivery, in feed biosciences and in poultry genetics.

ILRI resources
‘We’re an institute of 700 staff around the world, have an annual budget of about USD60 million, operate in about 30 scientific disciplines, and have over 120 senior scientists with many more junior scientists, representing 39 developing countries. Of our internationally recruited staff, 56% are from developing countries, and 34% are women—we’re proud of this record and we need to improve on it. We operate out of two large campuses, in Kenya and in Ethiopia, with other staff located in about 20 other sites around the world, in Africa and South and Southeast Asia, and we’re now looking at how we might engage in livestock research work in Latin America and Central Asia.’

Watch two companion filmed presentations

Go to ILRI’s website for more on ILRI’s new long-term strategy.

View related ILRI slide presentations
Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction: ILRI strategy 2013–2022, Apr 2013
(and see a related ILRI News blog post: Launching ILRI’s new long-term strategy for livestock research for development, 12 Jun 2013).

An overview of ILRI, by Jimmy Smith, 25 Feb 2013

Taking the long livestock view, by Jimmy Smith, 22 Jan 2013

Livestock and global change, by Mario Herrero, 28 Nov 2012

The global livestock agenda, by Jimmy Smith, 27 Nov 2012