Dryland agriculture program launched for developing countries: Hot topic for a hot climate

Coping with Disaster: Sandstorm in Kenya

A sandstorm on the western shore of Lake Baringo (photo on Flickr by UN/Ray Witlin).

A new science program launched in Jordan last week—the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems—is setting itself a huge ambition: To help many of the 2.5 billion people living in the vast drylands of the developing world raise their levels of both food production and security. A CGIAR Fund is supporting the program’s first three years of work to the tune of 120 million dollars.

This is the latest ‘research for development’ program of CGIAR, a global enterprise conducting ‘agricultural research for a food-secure future’. Some ten thousand scientific and support staff in the CGIAR community are at work with hundreds of organizations worldwide to design enduring food systems, via new means for healthy and productive lives and lands, across the whole of the developing world.

More than 60 research and development organizations, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are part of this new drylands program. It is targeting dryland farmers, livestock keepers and pastoral herders in some of the hottest dryland hotspots of both Africa (West Africa’s Sahel and dry savannas as well as the extensive arid and semi-arid lands of North, East and Southern Africa) and Asia (West and Central Asia, including the Caucasus, and South Asia).

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen leads the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems in East and Southern Africa, where, in the coming years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over some 600,000 square kilometres.

The program as a whole is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which, like ILRI, is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. Scientific, development, agri-business and local experts are joining forces to find new ways to help communities living in the harshest drylands to become more resilient and to help those in better-endowed drylands to increase their agricultural yields and incomes without degrading their natural resource base.

The dry areas of the developing world are likely to experience increasing poverty, out-migration and food insecurity’, says Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, adding that climate change is worsening agricultural and related livelihood prospects in many dry regions of the developing world.

The many scientists and partners in this program will investigate all options and combinations of options, including dryland cropping, livestock raising, mixed (agro-pastoral) crop-and-livestock production, integrating trees or shrubs in cropping and animal husbandry practices (agroforestry), and making diverse and sustainable use of different kinds of rangeland and aquatic resources. Among options to be developed are more sustainable farming techniques and management of water, land and other natural resources; genetically improved crop varieties and livestock breeds tailored for dryland environments; more enabling policy environments and infrastructure; and user-friendly ‘climate smart’ strategies and technologies.

Given the importance of agriculture to dryland developing countries, where farming remains the backbone of the economy but land is degraded, water scarce, rainfall and temperatures increasingly unpredictable, and civil strife (uncommonly) common, it will profit all of us to make sure that the world’s dryland communities can in future earn a decent living and produce food securely.

Note
The kinds of research, investment and policy support this sector needs to move forward in the face of climate change are outlined in a press release and report on Strategies for combating climate change in drylands agriculture, published in 2012 by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), ICARDA and the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems. The report examined the problem of changing climate patterns in dryland areas and its effects on rural populations and offered practical solutions as input to the Conference of the Parties (COP18) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The information came from discussions at the International Conference on Food Security in Dry Lands, held in Doha, Qatar, 14–15 Nov 2012.

Read a recent book, Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones. Published in 2012 by Routeledge, the book includes a chapter by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?, written by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen and colleagues. Parts of the book are available on Google books here.

Other related articles
ILRI News Blog: Pastoral livestock development in the Horn: Where the centre cannot (should not) hold, 31 Dec 2012.
ILRI News Blog: Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers, 6 Jun 2012.
ILRI News Blog: Experts comment on new drylands research program for eastern and southern Africa, 25 Jun 2012.

About the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems
The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems integrates research disciplines to bring rural communities living in the world’s dry areas practical solutions for improved livelihoods and food security. The program develops and refines strategies and tools that minimize risk and reduce vulnerability in low-potential drylands while helping farmers and herders in higher potential drylands to intensify their food production in sustainable ways.

Dialing back on the drivers of global disease outbreaks: A look inside the ‘black box’

Pathogen flow at the wildlife–livestock–human interface

 

As published in PNAS 2013: 1208059110v1-201208059. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Delia Grace and others, May 2013.

By Michelle Geis

A new report on the ‘causes of causes’ of H7N9 and other diseases that are emerging in animals and jumping species—into people

The deadly H7N9 bird flu virus in China and the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus in the Middle East continue to make headlines. H7N9 has killed 35 people  in China and 20 have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus—which has spread from Saudi Arabia to the UK, France and Germany.

Two opinion editorials in the New York Times last week, The next contagion: Closer than you think and The next pandemic: Not if, but when, correctly warn us about the potential global spread of these killer diseases. They call for more awareness of the dangers of zoonotic (animal-to-people) diseases, faster identification of animal sources of the pathogens and better vaccines to protect us against them. All of those are indeed needed.

But like much of the mainstream press, neither article mentions the root cause of these emerging infectious diseases, that is, the conditions that make zoonoses likely to arise in the first place and then help turn them into lethal pandemics.

These ‘causes of causes‘ of zoonotic disease outbreaks and their spread are pinpointed in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and other scientists argue in this paper that we’ll only become capable of preventing or stopping the next pandemic when we better understand the drivers of disease emergence.

Some of these disease triggers are well-documented, if not well publicized. We know that rising demand for more meat and dairy products in rapidly growing developing countries, where cities and slums are densely crowded with livestock as well as people, can be a culprit. We know that animals kept in stressful as well as crowded conditions can be culprits. And we know that our expanding agriculture is fragmenting habitats, stressing wildlife and bringing people into contact with animals carrying pathogens, and reducing biodiversity, all of which encourage wildlife diseases to jump species.

A table published in the peer-reviewed article (see below) shows what conditions led to Ebola, HIV, SARS, Nipah, avian flu, Japanese encephalitis and more. Acknowledging and investigating these factors can provide governments and global health officials with important clues as to the next probable outbreak.

13PNAS_Grace_Figure1 copy

Table published in PNAS 2013: 1208059110v1-201208059. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change.

So, what is it that’s preventing us from anticipating and stopping the next global pandemic since we know the conditions likely to produce one? For one thing, as the paper discusses, the conditions that trigger diseases are changing more rapidly than the research that examines them.

Another challenge is that though an emerging disease event is reported somewhere in the world on average every four months, the likelihood of emergence in any given farm or farming system is low.

As Grace explains, ‘Taking action to slow the drivers of disease is good for humanity but not likely to have any observable benefits to the individual farmer. Hence, the society that benefits from less disease emergence must provide the incentives to dial back on the drivers.’

Finally, the world is increasingly farming on the margins, with most of the last few remaining near-pristine ecosystems now being invaded and destabilized. Just as inexorable is the move to rapidly growing cities of poor rural people, who are bringing their livestock with them. The resulting losses of biodiversity, and the rise of genetically improved, and thus similar, animal populations, also increases the risk of a pandemic emerging. Climate and environmental changes are generally making matters worse.

Grace says research must better examine the complex, context-specific, and interrelated nature of zoonotic pathogen emergence.

‘First’, she said, ‘we need to look inside the black box of the big trends driving disease emergence: urbanization, intensification, globalization, loss of habitat and biodiversity.

‘We also need to understand what causes matter most in different situations and which are amenable to mitigation.

‘And we need to develop ways of doing agriculture differently, ways that not only reduce disease emergence but also can be adopted at large scale.

‘Given that disease emergence is predictably unpredictable, much can be achieved by understanding, monitoring and managing pathogen dynamics before infectious agents emerge.’

Read the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Bryony A Jones, Delia Grace, Richard Kock, Silvia Alonso, Jonathan Rushton, Mohammed Y Said, Declan McKeever, Florence Mutua, Jarrah Young, John McDermott and Dirk Udo Pfeiffer, PNAS 2013 : 1208059110v1-201208059.

Michelle Geis is a Washington DC-based science communications expert who works for Burness Communications.

Livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’: What are the published facts?

Study for Composition VIII (The Cow), by Theo van Doesburg, c. 1918

‘Study for Composition VIII (The Cow)’, by Theo van Doesburg, c.1918, via WikiPaintings.

Yesterday’s post on this ILRI News Blog, Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act and a balanced account, highlighted the overviews and conclusions provided in a new science paper on the roles of livestock in developing countries.

The paper, written by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), also provides a wealth of research-based livestock facts little known (and less cited) in current global debates on the roles farm animals play in reducing or promoting global poverty, hunger, malnutrition, gender inequality, ill health, infectious disease and environmental harm.

The authors of the paper argue that no single, or simple, way exists to view, approach or resolve issues at the interface of livestock and these big global problems.

Consider the following facts / complicating factors cited in the new paper.

LIVESTOCK AND POVERTY
Up to 1.3 billion people globally are employed in different livestock product value chains globally (Herrero et al. 2009). Milk and meat rank as some of the agricultural commodities with the highest gross value of production (VOP) in the developing world (FAOSTAT 2011). Nearly 1 billion people living on less than 2 dollars a day in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa keep livestock (FAO 2009). More than 80% of poor Africans keep livestock and 40–66% of poor people in India and Bangladesh keep livestock (FAO 2009). Some 68% of households in the developing world earn income from livestock (Davis et al. 2007). Across the developing world, livestock contribute, on average, 33% of household income in mixed crop-livestock systems and 55% of pastoral incomes (Staal et al. 2009). The growth in demand for milk and meat, mainly driven by urban consumers in developing countries, has been increasing in the last few decades and is projected to double by 2050 (Delgado et al. 1999, Rosegrant et al. 2009).

LIVESTOCK AND HUNGER
‘Livestock contribute greatly to global food security: they directly provide highly nourishing animal-source foods; they provide scarce cash income from sales of livestock and livestock products used to purchase food; their manure and traction increase household cereal supplies; and increases in livestock production can increase access by the poor to livestock foods through lower prices of livestock products.’

  • Livestock systems in developing countries now produce about 50% of the world’s beef, as well as 41% of our milk, 72% of our lamb, 59% of our pork and 53% of our poultry future (Herrero et al. 2009); all these shares are expected to increase in future (Bruinsma 2003, Rosegrant et al. 2009).
  • Most meat and milk in the developing world comes from so-called ‘mixed’ crop-and-livestock systems [which] . . . are central to global food security, as they also produce close to 50% of the global cereal output (Herrero et al. 2009 and 2010).

LIVESTOCK AND MALNUTRITION
‘Although livestock and fish clearly make important contributions to overall food security, there is an even more important role of animal source foods in achieving nutrition, as opposed to food, security. Animal source foods are dense and palatable sources of energy and high-quality protein, important for vulnerable groups, such as infants, children, pregnant and nursing women and people living with human immunodeficiency virus with high nutritional needs. They also provide a variety of essential micronutrients, some of which, such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, iron, zinc and various essential fatty acids, are difficult to obtain in adequate amounts from plant-based foods alone (Murphy and Allen 2003). Animal source foods provide multiple micronutrients simultaneously, which can be important in diets that are lacking in more than one nutrient: for example, vitamin A and riboflavin are both needed for iron mobilisation and haemoglobin synthesis, and supplementation with iron alone may not successfully treat anaemia if these other nutrients are deficient (Allen 2002). Micronutrients in animal source foods are also often more readily absorbed and bioavailable than those in plant-based foods (Murphy and Allen 2003).’

LIVESTOCK AND GENDER INEQUALITY
‘Almost two-thirds of the world’s billion poor livestock keepers are rural women (Staal et al. 2009). . . . Livestock are an important asset for women because it is often easier for women in developing countries to acquire livestock assets . . . than it is for them to purchase land or other physical assets or to control other financial assets (Rubin et al. 2010). . . . Livestock assets are generally more equitably distributed between men and women than are other assets like land (Flintan 2008). . . . Women generally play a major role in managing and caring for animals, even when they are not the owners. . . . Despite the role of women in livestock production, women have lower access to technologies and inputs than men and there are gender disparities in access to extension services, information and training throughout the developing world due to women’s long workdays, a neglect of women’s needs and circumstances when targeting extension work, and widespread female illiteracy.’

LIVESTOCK AND ILL HEALTH
‘In developing countries, human health is inextricably linked to the livestock, which underpin the livelihoods of almost a billion people . . . . Livestock have an essential role in contributing to good health through providing animal source food, manure and draft power for plant source food, as well as income to buy food and health care. At the same time, livestock can lead to poor health if animal source foods contribute to poor diet and through providing a reservoir for diseases infectious to people (zoonoses). The relationship between livestock, human nutrition and human health are complex, with multiple synergistic and antagonistic links . . . . For example, poor livestock keepers worldwide face daily trade-offs between selling their (relatively expensive) milk, meat and eggs to increase their household income and consuming the same (high-quality) foods to increase their household nutrition. Because animal source foods are so dense in nutrients, including micronutrients that help prevent ‘hidden hunger’, decisions in these matters have potentially large implications for the nutritional and economic health of households. Livestock contributes to food security and nutrition in various ways.’

LIVESTOCK AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE
‘In poor countries, infectious disease still accounts for around 40% of the health burden in terms of years lost through sickness and death (WHO 2008). Livestock directly contribute to this through the foodborne diseases transmitted through animal source foods, the zoonoses transmissible between livestock and people, and human diseases emerging from livestock. A recent estimate suggests that 12% of the infectious disease burden in least developed countries is due to zoonoses, and the majority of this is transmitted to people from livestock hosts through consumption of animal source foods, vectors or direct contact (Grace et al. 2012). More indirectly, keeping of livestock affects agro-ecosystems in ways that influence their ability to provide health-provisioning services. This may be positive or negative. In some circumstances, livestock act as a buffer, for example, between trypanosomosis-carrying tsetse or malaria-carrying mosquitoes and people; in this case, livestock act as alternative hosts, effectively protecting people. In other cases, livestock are an amplifying host, for example pigs harbouring and multiplying Japanese encephalitis and thus increasing the risk it poses to people.’

  • Food-borne disease is the world’s most common illness and is most commonly manifested as gastrointestinal disease; diarrhoea is one of the top three infectious diseases in most developing countries, killing an estimated 1.4 million children a year (Black et al. 2010).
  • In countries where good data exist, zoonotic pathogens are among the most important causes of food-borne disease (Thorns 2000, Schlundt et al. 2004).
  • Animal-source food is the most risky of food commodities (Lynch et al. 2006), with meat and milk providing excellent mediums for microbial growth.
  • Most human diseases come from animals, with some 61% being ‘zoonotic’, or transmissible between animals and humans, including many of the most important causes of sickness and death.
  • Endemic zoonoses that prevail in poor countries are among the most neglected diseases.
  • Zoonoses (diseases transmissible between animals and man) and diseases recently emerged from animals (mostly human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) make up 25% of the infectious disease burden in the least developed countries (Gilbert et al. 2010).
  • Currently, one new disease is emerging every four months, and 75% of these originate in animals (Jones et al. 2008).

LIVESTOCK AND ENVIRONMENTAL HARM
‘The impacts of livestock on the environment have received considerable attention as the publication of the Livestock’s Long Shadow study (Steinfeld et al. 2006). This study helped draw attention to the magnitude and scale of livestock’s impact on land use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollution among others, and it created a thrust for the sector’s stakeholders to develop research agendas geared towards generating better data for the environmental assessment of global livestock systems, and to develop solutions for mitigating environmental livestock problems, and policy agendas more conducive to a greening of the sector by promoting regulation, increases in efficiency and others.’

Land: For grazing or fodder?

  • Livestock systems are one of the main users of land; livestock use some 3.4 billion ha for grazing and 0.5 million ha of cropland for the production of feeds (33% of arable land), globally (Steinfeld et al. 2006).
  • Of the world’s 3.4 billion ha of grazing lands, 2.3 million ha (67%) are in the developing world, with expansion of pastureland at the expense of natural habitats in the developing world in the order of 330 million ha in the last 40 years (FAO 2009).
  • The world will require an additional 450 million tonnes of grain to meet demand for animal products by 2050 (Rosegrant et al. 2009).

Climate change: Decrease livestock numbers or increase livestock efficiencies? (or both?)

  • Livestock are an important contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming; current estimates range from 8.5% to 18% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (O’Mara 2011), with the range reflecting methodological differences (inventories v. life cycle assessment), attribution of emissions to land use (Herrero et al. 2011, O’Mara 2011) and uncertainty in parameter values (FAO 2010).
  • Livestock in the developing world contribute 50% to 65% of the total emissions from livestock in the world. (Herrero et al. 2013).
  • The higher the productivity of farm animals, the lower the emissions per unit of their products (FAO 2010).
  • While livestock systems in general terms generate significantly more greenhouse gas emissions per kilocalorie than crops, the potential for the livestock sector to mitigate such emissions is very large (1.74 Gt CO2-eq per year, Smith et al. 2007), with land-use management practices representing over 80% of this potential (Smith et al. 2007) and with most of the mitigation potential (70%) lying in the developing world (Smith et al. 2007).

Livestock manure: Waste or resource?

  • Livestock wastes—considered a serious problem in the developed world—are a critical agricultural resource in large parts of Africa, where soils are inherently poor (Petersen et al. 2007, Rufino et al. 2007).
  • Manure contributes between 12% and 24% of the nitrogen input in nitrogen cycles in cropland in the developing world (Liu et al. 2010).
  • Recycling of animal manures is practiced in most mixed crop-livestock systems, although efficiencies are rarely close to those of the developed world (Rufino et al. 2006).
  • Synthetic fertilizers are unaffordable for most small-scale farmers, who depend on the (poor) fertility of their soils to produce food crops, or on livestock to concentrate nutrients from the relatively large grazing lands (Herrero et al. 2013).
  • In many farming systems, the production of food crops directly relies on animal manures to increase effectiveness of fertilizers applied to cropland (Vanlauwe and Giller 2006).
  • Although animal manure can be a very effective soil amendment, its availability at the farm level is often very limited, so designing technologies for soil fertility restoration only around the use of animal manure is unrealistic.

Payments for environmental services: Exclude or include livestock keepers?

  • Despite the fact that livestock is widely distributed in virtually all agro-ecosystems of the developing world, few ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes have targeted livestock keepers; most have focused on such services as climate, water and wildlife (Landell-Mills and Porras 2002, Wunder 2005).
  • Enhancing the role that rangelands play in maintaining ecosystem services through improved rangeland management could be of essential importance for enhancing global green water cycles (Rockström et al. 2007).
  • In Africa, where close to half of the pastoralists earn less than US$1/day, it’s estimated that even modest improvements in natural resource management in the drylands may yield gains of 0.5 t C/ha per year, which translates into US$50/year, bringing about a 14% increase in income for the pastoralist (Reid et al. 2004).

Read the whole paper
The roles of livestock in developing countries, by ILRI authors Mario Herrero, Delia Grace, Jemimah Njuki, Nancy Johnson, Dolapo Enahoro, Silvi Silvestri and Mariana Rufino, Animal (2013), 7:s1, pp 3–18 & The Animal Consortium 2012, doi:10.1017/S1751731112001954

Read related articles
Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act—and a balanced account, 3 Apr 2012
Taking the long livestock view, 23 Jan 2013
Greening the livestock sector, 22 Jan 2013
Livestock livelihoods for the poor: Beyond meat, milk and eggs, 8 Jan 2013
A fine balancing act will be needed for livestock development in a changing world, 7 Dec 2012
Fewer, better fed, animals good for the world’s climate and the world’s poor, 22 Nov 2012
Scientific assessments needed by a global livestock sector facing increasingly hard trade-offs, 12 Jul 2013.
A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector, 13 Apr 2012
Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda, 20 Mar 2012
Towards a more coherent narrative for the global livestock sector, 15 Mar 2012
Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012

Acknowledgements
This paper is an ILRI output of two CGIAR Research Programs: Livestock and Fish and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act–and a balanced account

Worldmapper: Meat consumed

Territory size shows the proportion of worldwide meat consumption that occurs there (map by Worldmapper). Meat consumption per person is highest in Western Europe, with nine of the top ten meat-consuming populations living in Western Europe (the tenth in this ranking is New Zealand). The most meat is consumed in China, where a fifth of the world population lives.

Authors of a new paper setting out the roles of livestock in developing countries argue that although providing a ‘balanced account’ of livestock’s roles entails something of a ‘balancing act’, we had better get on with it if we want to build global food, economic and environmental security.

‘The importance of this paper lies in providing a balanced account [for] . . .  the often, ill-informed or generalized discussion on the . . .  roles of livestock. Only by understanding the nuances in these roles will we be able to design more sustainable solutions for the sector.

‘We are at a moment in time where our actions could be decisive for the resilience of the world food system, the environment and a billion poor people in the developing world . . . . At the same time, . . . the demand for livestock products is increasing, . . . adding additional pressures on the world natural resources.

Not surprisingly, the world is asking a big question: what should we do about livestock?

The paper, by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), provides ‘a sophisticated and disaggregated answer’.

‘The sector is large. There are 17 billion animals in the world eating, excreting and using substantial amounts of natural resources, mostly in the developing world, where most of the growth of the sector will occur. The roles of livestock in the developing world are many . . . . [L]ivestock can be polluters in one place, whereas in another they provide vital nutrients for supporting crop production.’

The picture is complex. Whether for its positive or negative roles, livestock are in the spotlight. . . . [M]aking broad generalizations about the livestock sector [is] useless (and dangerous) for informing the current global debates on food security and the environment.

So what are these ‘nuanced, scientifically informed messages about livestock’s roles’ that the authors say are essential? Well, here are a few, but it is recommended that interested readers read the paper itself to get a sense of the whole, complicated, picture.

In a nutshell (taken from the paper’s conclusion), the authors say that ‘weighing the roles that livestock play in the developing world’ is a ‘complex balancing act’.

On the one hand, we acknowledge that livestock is an important contributor to the economies of developing nations, to the incomes and livelihoods of millions of poor and vulnerable producers and consumers, and it is an important source of nourishment. On the other side of the equation, the sector [is a] . . . large user of land and water, [a] notorious GHG [greenhouse gas] emitter, a reservoir of disease, [and a] source of nutrients at times, polluter at others . . . .

‘Against this dichotomy, [this] is a sector that could improve its environmental performance significantly . . . .’

This paper argues that we will help ensure poor decision-making in the livestock sector if we do the following.

Continue to ignore the inequities inherent
in the debate on whether or not to eat meat
‘This debate translates into poor food choices v. the food choices of the poor [and remains] dominated by the concerns of the developed world, [whose over-consumers of livestock and other foods] . . . should reduce the consumption of animal products as a health measure. However, the debate needs to increase in sophistication so that the poor and undernourished are not the victims of generalisations that may translate into policies or reduced support for the livestock sector in parts of the world where the multiple benefits of livestock outweigh the problems it causes.’

Take as given the projected trajectories of animal
consumption proposed by the ‘livestock revolution’
These trajectories ‘are not inevitable. Part of our responsibility is to challenge these future trajectories, and ensure that we identify levels of consumption and nutritional diversity for different parts of the world that will achieve the best compromise between a healthy diet that includes livestock products (or not), economic growth, livelihoods and livestock’s impacts on the environment. No mean feat, but certainly a crucial area of research.’

Continue to promote large-scale consolidated farms over efficient
and market-oriented smallholders as engines for feeding the world
‘Advocates of large-scale farming argue in favour of the higher efficiencies of resource use often found in these systems and how simple it is to disseminate technology and effect technological change. True, when the market economy is working.’ Not true when the market economy is not working. Investment in developing efficient value chains is essential ‘to create incentives for smallholders to integrate in the market economy, formal or informal.’

Continue to hurt the competitiveness
of the smallholder livestock sector
‘Formal and informal markets will need to ensure the supply of cheaper, locally produced, safe livestock products to adequately compete. This implies a significant reduction in transaction costs for the provision of inputs, increased resource use efficiencies, and very responsive, innovative and supporting institutions for the livestock sector in developing countries (FAO, 2009).

Continue to give lip service to paying for environmental services—
and continue to ignore livestock keepers as targets of these services
‘Proofs of concept that test how these schemes could operate in very fragmented systems, with multiple users of the land or in communal pastoral areas, are necessary. Research on fair, equitable and robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks and mechanisms for effecting payments schemes that work under these conditions is necessary. The promise of PES [payment for environmental services] schemes as a means to . . . produce food while protecting the world’s ecosystems is yet to be seen on a large scale.’

Don’t help small-scale livestock farmers and herders
adapt to climate change or help mitigate global warming
In a low carbon economy, and as the global food system prepares to become part of the climate change negotiations, ‘it will be essential that the livestock sector mitigate GHG [greenhouse gas emissions] effectively in relation to other sectors. Demonstrating that these options are real, with tangible examples, is essential . . . .’

Don’t modify institutions and markets to reach smallholders—
and continue to ignore women livestock producers
‘Underinvestment in extension systems and other support services has rendered poor producers disenfranchised to access support systems necessary for increasing productivity and efficiency’ or safety nets. Increased public investment in innovation and support platforms to link the poor, and especially women, to markets is essential.

Continue to protect global environmental goods
at the expense of local livelihoods of the poor
‘. . . [S]tern public opinion in favour of protecting global environmental goods, instead of local livelihoods, could create an investment climate’ that hurts smallholder farmers. The informal and formal retail sectors must ‘gain consumers trust as safe providers of livestock products for urban and rural consumers’.

Bottom line: Need for nuanced information / narratives / approaches
The authors conclude their paper with a plea for greater tolerance for ambiguity and diversity rather than fixed ideas, and a greater appetite for accurate and location-specific information rather than simplistic generalities.

Balancing the multiple roles of livestock in the developing world and contrasting them with those in the developed world is not simple.

‘The disaggregated evidence by region, species, production system, value chain, etc. needs to be generated. Messages need to be well distilled, backed by scientific evidence and well articulated to avoid making generalisations that more often than not confuse the picture and ill-inform policy. Livestock’s roles are simply not the same everywhere.

The roles, whether good or bad, need to be accepted by the scientific community.

‘Research agendas need to use the livestock bads as opportunities for improvement, while continuing to foster the positive aspects. These are essential ingredients for society to make better-informed choices about the future roles of livestock in sustainable food production, economic growth and poverty alleviation.’

Access the full paper
The roles of livestock in developing countries, by ILRI authors Mario Herrero, Delia Grace, Jemimah Njuki, Nancy Johnson, Dolapo Enahoro, Silvi Silvestri and Mariana Rufino, Animal (2013), 7:s1, pp 3–18.

Read related articles
Taking the long livestock view, 23 Jan 2013
Greening the livestock sector, 22 Jan 2013
Livestock livelihoods for the poor: Beyond meat, milk and eggs, 8 Jan 2013
A fine balancing act will be needed for livestock development in a changing world, 7 Dec 2012
Fewer, better fed, animals good for the world’s climate and the world’s poor, 22 Nov 2012
Scientific assessments needed by a global livestock sector facing increasingly hard trade-offs, 12 Jul 2013.
A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector, 13 Apr 2012
Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda, 20 Mar 2012
Towards a more coherent narrative for the global livestock sector, 15 Mar 2012
Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012

Acknowledgements
This paper is an ILRI output of two CGIAR Research Programs: Livestock and Fish and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

Cultivate the future! How learning together can mean learning better and faster–speeding research into use

If you missed it earlier this month, watch this animated 5-min video on what can help agricultural research by CGIAR and others ‘go to scale’.

Below is the full transcript of the video, which public awareness staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) helped to create with Patti Kristjanson and others working in and with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The narrator is Zimbabwean food policy expert Lindiwe Sibanda, who is chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and chairs ILRI’s board of trustees. The developers are  artist/illustrator James Durno and videographer Dale Ballantine, both of South Africa (Indie Village Creative).

‘The world is changing fast. We don’t know how we’re going to produce enough food to feed nine billion people and not destroy the environment in the process. So many more people to feed, escalating food and energy crises, water shortages, a changing climate, and the list goes on . . . .

‘So here we are, a group of scientists working for a food-secure future, meeting in sunny California. We’re here to rethink how we do science to make a bigger difference. We want to help transform the developing world’s agriculture and food systems. (We’re nothing if not ambitious!)

‘People are adaptable. Farmers are adaptable. So are scientists. We’re changing how we work and trying new approaches to solve the big, so-called ‘wicked problems’: e.g., poverty, climate change, environmental destruction and loss of species.

‘This is good, but it’s not good enough.

We’re running out of time; our wicked problems are likely to overrun our solutions unless we learn together, better and faster.

‘Here is the good news: We have evidence that we can speed things up, bring real benefits to people and bring these to scale. (Well, maybe the latter is more of a hypothesis, one that this group wants to test.)

‘Here are some examples of what we’re doing differently.

  • Crowd-sourcing is now being tested to understand what seeds and seedlings different people want, and how to best serve those diverse needs.
  • Learning alliances are bringing private-sector executives to farmers’ fields to learn first-hand from farmers struggling to feed their families; they then work with the farmers and scientists to develop and release varieties that make a difference on those small farms.
  • Innovative mentoring programs are speeding women’s advancement in agricultural sciences and their institutions in the developing world.
  • Farmer-business hubs are bringing together farmers, agri-businesses, NGOs. Farmers get training, seeds, credit and market information. They sell their milk, share their knowledge and earn money.
  • Participatory selection and breeding of crops is addressing women’s needs for foods that use less wood and take less time to prepare.
  • Farmer-to-farmer learning videos, radio and tv programs are spreading the word of best practices based on science and speeding adoption of new technologies.

‘And I’m sure all of us can think of many other examples. Whatever fancy terms we use, at the end of the day, it’s all about people, people from different backgrounds, people with different perspectives and expertise forming partnerships to learn from each other and solve complex problems.

But here’s the rub. We’ve all experienced how messy and time-consuming partnerships can be and how hard it is to take successes to scale.

‘What we may not always appreciate is just how beneficial this joint learning can be. These approaches tend to level the playing field, empower individuals and communities, create benefits that endure, and truly build local capacity.

‘So we can see that shifting how we do science in this way really works. What we can’t see yet is how to involve more people and speed it all up so that our solutions appear to us as to be big as our problems.

‘Let’s focus less on the present and instead view the present through the future we want to create. Just recall the skepticism around the sequencing of the human genome, and yet now, we are in that world.

Our research suggests that what’s going to be critical in the future is creating and nurturing spaces to innovate. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. What it will take is being strategic and intentional about spanning boundaries.

‘Imagine a fertile safe space where diversity is embraced and where we can together grow, spread and harvest our best ideas and successes.

‘We have the pieces; we don’t yet have all the people. But we can create these environments that attract more people and allow us to learn together, better and faster.

Learning together transforms agriculture and lives.

‘Cultivate the future!’

Note: This animated 5-minute video was produced by and for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and launched at CCAFS’ annual science meeting, held in Bodega Bay, California 18–19 Mar 2013.

For more information:
Go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event were shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (search for #2013CCSL).

For more on the value of social learning and the March CCAFS science meeting, see these earlier posts on the ILRI News Blog:
Agricultural research, climate change and ‘social learning’: How did we get here? 19 Mar 2013.
The world’s ‘wicked problems’ need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread, 18 Mar 2013.
Climate change and agricultural experts gather in California this week to search for the holy grail of global food security, 17 Mar 2013.

And on the CCAFS Blog:
Farmers and scientists: better together in the fight against climate change, 19 Mar 2013.
Transformative partnerships for a food-secure world, 19 Mar 2013.

Read Alain de Janvry’s whole paper: Agriculture for development: New paradigm and options for success, International Association of Agricultural Economists, 2010.

For more on the use of ‘social learning’ and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI’s maarifa blog.

Lowering the ‘water footprint’ of livestock products

vietnam fodder10_lo

A smallholder livestock farm in Dak Nong Province, Vietnam. Animals raised in mixed systems have a much lower water footprint on surface and groundwater bodies than those in industrialized farming systems (Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

A leading researcher in water resources says that the efficiency of water use in smallholder livestock systems in Africa could be raised significantly through such means as reducing levels of concentrate feed used in livestock feeding systems, raising more livestock in drylands unsuitable for crop farming, and greater cooperation between livestock sector players and water management experts.

Arjen Hoekstra, a professor in water management from the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, made these remarks during a ‘Livestock live talk’ on ‘The water footprint of livestock products’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 7 Feb 2013.

According to Hoekstra, every commodity has a water footprint –‘the volume of fresh water that is used to produce the commodity, summed over the various steps of the production chain’. This footprint includes when and where the water was used and the temporal and spatial dimensions of the water used.

About 4% of the global water footprint comes from domestic water use, but by far most of the world’s water footprint – 96% – is ‘invisible’ and is associated with agricultural and industrial products bought in markets.

‘Ninety-two per cent of humanity’s water footprint comes from agricultural production, and animal production is responsible for 29% of the water footprint of the global agricultural sector,’ said Hoekstra. Agriculture-related water use inefficiencies in developing countries contribute to a farming water footprint that is much larger in these countries than in developed countries.

Hoekstra presented results from a series of studies that looked at the globalization of water, the water footprint of animals and what can be done to reduce it. These studies focus on components of water consumption and water pollution in producing market commodities, including the volume of rain, surface or ground water evaporated or incorporated into a product and the volume of polluted water resulting from the processes of producing specific commodities.

His results show that in food production, animal products such as beef, poultry and pork had a consistently higher footprint than crops such as wheat and soybean.

‘The higher water footprint of animal products is mostly related to the origin and composition of animal feeds and the feed conversion efficiency’, said Hoekstra. ‘Whether concentrates are organic or conventional determines the pollution-related water footprint of the feed.’

Hoekstra noted that animals raised in grazing and mixed systems had a much lower water footprint on surface and groundwater bodies than those in industrialized farming systems. ‘Even though the conversion of feed to livestock product (milk or meat) improves as one moves from grazing to industrial systems, this is at the cost of more high-nutrient concentrate feed, which has a larger water footprint than roughages,’ he said.

Water footprint assessment is a growing field. ‘In future’, Hoekstra said, ‘stakeholders have the challenge of coming up with shared terminologies and calculations for a global water footprint standard and setting up benchmarks for quantitative water footprint reduction targets.’ A Water Footprint Network that brings together academia, governments and the private and public sectors has already been established towards this end.

View Arjen Hoekstra’s presentation:

Read a related article by Jane Gitau in ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment blog.

Agricultural research, climate change and ‘social learning’: How did we get here?

'Southern Gardens' by Paul Klee, 1921 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Southern Gardens’ by Paul Klee, 1921 (via WikiPaintings).

An ongoing CGIAR group meeting in Bodega Bay, California, (18–19 Mar 2013) is looking at untapped potential in CGIAR and beyond for actors of diverse kinds to join forces in improving global food security in the light of climate change. Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL). For more information, go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programmeMore information about the meeting is here.

The following opinion piece was drafted by Patti Kristjanson, of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and based at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), in Nairobi, Kenya, with inputs from other ‘climate change and social media champions’, including Sophie Alverez (International Center for Tropical Agriculture [CIAT]), Liz Carlile (International Institute for Environment and Development [IIED]), Pete Cranston (Euforic Services), Boru Douthwaite (WorldFish), Wiebke Foerch (CCAFS), Blane Harvey (International Development Research Centre [IDRC]), Carl Jackson (Westhill Knowledge Group), Ewen Le Borgne (International Livestock Research Institute [ILRI]), Susan MacMillan (ILRI), Philip Thornton (CCAFS/ILRI) and Jacob van Etten (Bioversity International). (Go here for a list of those participating at the CCAFS Annual Science Meeting in California).

Untapped potential
All humans possess the fundamental capacity to anticipate and adapt to change. And of course experts argue that it is change — whether the end of the last Ice Age or the rise of cities or the drying of a once-green Sahel — that has driven our evolution as a species. If we’ve progressed, they say, it’s because we had to. And we can see in the modern world that, with supportive and encouraging environments, both individuals and communities can be highly resourceful and innovative, serving as agents of transformation. The agricultural, industrial and information revolutions were the products of both individual inventiveness (think of Steve Jobs) and social support (Silicon Valley).

Some of the major changes today are occurring fastest in some of the world’s slowest economies. The two billion or so people in the world’s developing countries who grow and sell food for a living, for example, are adjusting to huge changes — to their countries’ exploding populations and diminishing natural resources, to a rural exodus and rush to the cities, to higher food prices, to new lethal diseases, to a single global economy, and, on top of all of that, to a changing climate causing unpredictable seasons and more extreme and frequent ‘big weather’ in the form of droughts, floods and storms.

PETE CRANSTON
The problems generated by climate change requires larger scale, collaborative responses — that is, social learning, requiring collaborative reflection and learning, at scale, and engaging community decision-making processes. 
Collective action, at scale, to systemic problems caused by climate change is the area of interest that came out of a workshop on climate change and social learning held in May 2012.

[The workshop Cranston refers to, held on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was organized by CCAFS; go here for more information.]

When it comes to the food systems that support all of us, that enable human life itself, we’re squandering our innate potential to innovate. What will it take to unleash the potential within all of us — consumers and farmers and farm suppliers, food sellers and agri-business players, agricultural scientists, policymakers, thought leaders, government officials, development experts, humanitarian agents — to make the changes we need to make to feed the world? And what will it take to do so in ways that don’t destroy the natural resource base on which agriculture depends? In ways that don’t leave a legacy of ruined landscapes for our children and children’s children to inherit?

PATTI KRISTJANSON
You don’t hear much about what can be done about it. We need to see major changes in how food is grown and distributed. In Africa and Asia, where millions of families live on one to five hectares of land, we need to see improved farming systems. We  need to see transformative changes, not small changes. But to transform food systems, we also need to transform how the research that supports these transformations is done. We need to think more about partnerships. And learning.

Remembrance of a Garden, by Paul Klee, 1914 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Remembrance of a Garden’ by Paul Klee, 1914 (via WikiPaintings).

How did we get here?
Before attempting to answer those questions, it might profit us to take a look at how agricultural development got to where it is now. Alain de Janvry, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and others argue as follows.

For decades, development agencies put agriculture at the forefront of their priorities, believing it to be the precursor to industrialization. Then, starting in the 1970s and early 1980s, the bias for agriculture began to be seriously eroded, with huge economic, social, and environmental costs.

The good news, de Janvry says, is that ‘In recent years, a number of economic, social, and environmental crises have attracted renewed attention to agriculture as both a contributor to these problems and a potential instrument for solutions. . . . A new paradigm has started to emerge where agriculture is seen as having the capacity to help achieve several of the major dimensions of development, most particularly accelerating GDP growth at early stages of development, reducing poverty and vulnerability, narrowing rural-urban income disparities, releasing scarce resources such as water and land for use by other sectors, and delivering a multiplicity of environmental services.’

The bad news, he says, is that ‘renewed use of agriculture for development remains highly incomplete, falling short of political statements.’

Let’s now return to our questions about what’s missing in agricultural development today, and what that has to do with ‘social learning’, or lack of it.

Apparatus for the Magnetic Treatment of Plants, by Paul Klee, 1908 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Apparatus for the Magnetic Treatment of Plants’ by Paul Klee, 1908 (via WikiPaintings).

Unlocking the human potential for innovating solutions
Agricultural scientists are important actors both in instigating change and in helping people anticipate and adapt to climate and other agriculturally important changes. They have played a key role so far in spearheading major agricultural movements such as the Green Revolution in Asia. Yet one billion poor people have been left behind by the Green Revolution, largely because they live in highly diverse agro-ecological regions that are relatively inaccessible and where they cannot access the research-based information, technologies and support they need to improve, or ‘intensify’, their farming systems.

The complex agriculturally related challenges of today require going way beyond ‘business as usual’. And they offer agricultural scientists unprecedented opportunities to play major roles in some of the major issues of our time, including reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. But we’re not going to make good use of these opportunities if we don’t recognize and jump on opportunities for joint societal learning and actions.

POTATOES IN THE ANDES
Take this example from Latin America, where agricultural researchers set about documenting the biodiversity of potato varieties in the high-elevation Andes. An unanticipated consequence of this activity was learning from local farmers about numerous varieties previously unknown to science. And the scientists realized that traditional knowledge of these hardy varieties and other adaptive mechanisms are helping many households deal with climate variability at very high elevations. Further learning in this project showed that women and the elderly tended to have much better knowledge of traditional varieties and their use than the owners of the land. This kind of knowledge is now being shared widely in an innovative Andean regional network.

RICE IN VIETNAM
Here’s another example. Rice is now being grown by over a million farmers in Vietnam using a new management system that reduces water use and methane gas emissions while generating higher incomes for farm families. This happened through farmers — both men and women — experimenting and sharing experiences in ‘farmer field schools’ that had strong government support. It turns out that the women farmers are better trainers than men. After participating in a farmer field school, each woman helped 5–8 other farmers adopt the new approach, while every male participant helped only 1–3 additional farmers. So making sure women were a key part of this effort led to much greater success in reducing poverty and environmental damage.

Ravaged Land, by Paul Klee, 1921, Galarie Beyeler (via WikiPaintings)

‘Ravaged Land’ by Paul Klee, 1921, Galarie Beyeler (via WikiPaintings).

New opportunities for doing research differently
Back to de Janvry for a moment. ‘Crises and opportunities’, he says, ‘combine in putting agriculture back on the development agenda, as both a need and a possibility. This second chance in using agriculture for development calls for a new paradigm, which is still largely to be consistently formulated and massively implemented. . . [A] Green Revolution for Sub-Saharan Africa is still hardly in the making.’

ALAIN DE JANVRY
In the new paradigm, process thus matters along with product if the multiple dimensions of development are to be achieved. . . . As opposed to what is often said in activist donor circles, it is a serious mistake to believe that we know what should be done, and all that is left to do is doing it. . . . Because objectives and contexts are novel, we are entering un-chartered territory that needs to be researched and experimented with. Extraordinary new opportunities exist to successfully invest in agriculture for development, but they must be carefully identified. . . . Innovation, experimentation, evaluation, and learning must thus be central to devising new approaches to the use agriculture for development. This requires putting into place strategies to identify impacts as we proceed with new options.

The biggest mistake one could make about using agriculture for development is believe that it is easy to do and that we already know all we need to do it. It is not and we don’t. . . . Lessons must be derived from past mistakes, and new approaches devised and evaluated.

So how do we derive lessons from past mistakes? How do we devise new approaches and evaluate them on-goingly?

LIVESTOCK IN EAST AFRICA
One way is to take a proactive social learning approach — learning together through action and reflection, which leads to changes in behaviour. Researchers from ILRI, for example, learned by interacting closely with pastoral groups in East Africa that intermittent engagement is not as powerful a force of social change as is continual engagement, which they achieved by instituting ‘community facilitators-cum-researchers’. This led to transformative changes in land policy and management, with long-lasting benefits for wildlife populations, pastoral communities and rangelands alike.

Public-private partnerships that include researchers can also help. Through active learning together we can reach more people, more efficiently and effectively than before — this approach is further supported through widespread access to the internet and smartphones that allow greater engagement from communities and individuals spread far and wide. We can map the soils and water resources needed to grow food, and try new ‘crowdsourced’ approaches to identify needs for different types of seeds and seedlings. We can democratize research, and make scientists much more responsive to the needs of different groups of people.

Rising Sun, by Paul Klee, 1907 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Rising Sun’ by Paul Klee, 1907 (via WikiPaintings).

Why bother?
What’s the incentive for researchers to do things differently? For all of us, it lies in the opportunity to sharpen our edge, to become better solvers of bigger, more complex problems, or at least to ask better questions about ‘wicked problems’. For scientists in particular, the opportunity to make our research, including fundamental and lab-based research, more relevant and targeted to meeting demand — user-inspired rather than supply-driven research — is tremendous.

RICE IN AFRICA
When researchers at two international rice research institutes, IRRI and AfricaRice, started to include women in participatory varietal selection, different preferences emerged. Women focused more on food security than yields. Through working directly with women as well as men, the nature of research challenges and questions changed to accommodate different needs, values and norms. The use of farmer-to-farmer learning videos accelerated the transfer of different types of learning. Evaluations show that this approach has led to an 80% greater adoption rate of different technologies and practices than previous dissemination techniques.

In these ways, socially differentiated and participatory research approaches hold the promise of making our research more central to the major agricultural problems we’re facing — and to anticipate future problems, issues and questions by sharpening our critical questioning through ongoing learning.

Reconstructing by Paul Klee, 1926 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Reconstructing’ by Paul Klee, 1926 (via WikiPaintings).

How do we learn and make this happen?
We learn by using, by doing, by trying, by failing, by modeling, through engagement, dialogue and reflection. Knowledge links to action more effectively when the users are involved from the problem definition stage onwards, when they ‘co-own’ the problem and questions that could lead to solving it. So a shift towards joint observation, trials, modeling and experimentation is key. CGIAR and its partners have used learning approaches to catalyze transformative change in the ways in which food is grown, distributed and consumed.

LEARNING ALLIANCES IN LATIN AMERICA
CIAT has been taking a ‘learning alliance’ approach, partnering with intermediaries such as the Sustainable Food Lab, global food and commodity corporations, local farmer associations and international development-oriented non-governmental organizations. Innovative networks have been formed that link local producers (rural poor) with global buyers. Executives from global food companies have gone on learning journeys where they hear first-hand from small farmers about 3-month periods of food insecurity; they responded by supplying alternate seed varieties for food security over this period. Global companies have reoriented their buying patterns to accommodate local producer needs. These new alliances are generating longer-term networks that are building the adaptive capacity of both food sellers and producers.

Refuge by Paul Klee, 1930 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Refuge’ by Paul Klee, 1930 (via WikiPaintings).

What are we asking people to do?
We want to see more people embracing the idea of joint, transformative learning, the co-creation of knowledge. This is not a new idea. But the imperatives we’re facing now demand a more conscious articulation, promotion and facilitation of this approach by a wide range of people, especially scientists from all disciplines. More relevant science leads to social credibility and legitimacy, which in turn should lead to the ability to mobilize support — a win-win for researchers.

PATTI KRISTJANSON
To enable social learning, incentives and institutions — the rules of the game — have to change also. This includes our changing how research is planned, evaluated and funded. We need much longer time horizons than those currently in play (with 2–3 year projects the norm). And we need to share this critical lesson with governments and other investors in agricultural research for development.

Our vision of success includes many more scientists engaged in broad partnerships; producing more relevant, useful and used information; doing less paperwork and more mentoring of young people and more interactive science; and more generously sharing their knowledge. This helps us to see — much more clearly than before — our scientific contributions to improved agricultural landscapes, sustainable food systems, profitable and productive livelihoods, and improved food security globally.

EWEN LE BORGNE
For more on social learning, consult these ‘social learning gurus’ cited by Ewen Le Borgne:
•  Mark Reed, author of the definition that a few of us have been quoting — see his What is social learning? response to a paper published in Ecology and Society in 2010.
•  Harold Jarche or Jane Hart, both write well on social learning in an enterprise — see Social Learning Centre website and Jarche’s blog.
•  Sebastiao Ferreira Mendonca — see the Mundus maris website (Sciences and Arts for Sustainability International Initiative)
•  Valerie BrownAustralian academic who worked a lot on multiple knowledges in IKM-Emergent, a five-year research program in ’emergent issues in information and knowledge management and international development’ (blog here)

For more information:
Go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL).

For more on this week’s meeting, see these earlier posts on the ILRI News Blog:
The world’s ‘wicked problems’ need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread, 18 May 2013.
Climate change and agricultural experts gather in California this week to search for the holy grail of global food security, 17 Mar 2013.

And on the CCAFS Blog:
Farmers and scientists: better together in the fight against climate change, 19 Mar 2013.
Transformative partnerships for a food-secure world, 19 Mar 2013.

Read Alain de Janvry’s whole paper: Agriculture for development: New paradigm and options for success, International Association of Agricultural Economists, 2010.

For more on the use of ‘social learning’ and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI’s maarifa blog.

The world’s ‘wicked problems’ need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread

Five-minute animated video produced for a Climate Change and Social Learning (CCSL) initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS scientists and partners are meeting this week to share their best ideas on how to work better together, and with many others, for a climate-safe future.

Patti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist working out of Nairobi, Kenya (World Agroforestry Centre), for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), opened the latter’s annual science meeting in California yesterday (18 Mar) with a little animated video on ways to combat the world’s ‘wicked problems’. The 70-odd researchers at this meeting are looking for ways to make bigger and faster impacts on increasing global food security while reducing global warming.

The short (5-minute) animated video is worth a look. It sets out the need for speed in scaling up our agricultural successes and encourages us to make more conscious use of something called ‘social learning’.

What’s that? Well, it’s what most of us do most of the time—learn from each other in social gatherings of one kind or another. What Kristjanson and her climate change researchers are advocating, however, is applying social learning methods intentionally and systematically, that is to say, doing research that pays as much attention to the social processes of science and its communication as to the scientific methods it employs and the evidence it generates.

That may not be rocket science for most of us, but it’s still a tall order for most scientists. Kristjanson’s short engaging video, narrated by Zimbabwean food policy expert (and ILRI board chair) Lindiwe Sibanda and produced by two South Africans, artist/illustrator James Durno and videographer Dale Ballantine, chips away at such academic fustiness and scientific exceptionalism, arguing for greater scientist engagement with a greater diversity of people for greater impacts.

The video encourages its viewers to create ‘safe spaces’ for social learning (picture tree nurseries protecting seedlings — seedlings that will grow into trees of knowledge!). In such protected places, scientists and their many new partners can together tackle the wickedly complex problems of today, such as finding ways to grow enough food to feed the world’s increasing population in the face of an increasingly unpredictable climate.

Cultivate the future’, the video exhorts us. ‘Focus on the future, not the past — on our solutions, not our problems.’

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt, 1909 (via Wikipaintings)

‘The Tree of Life’ by Gustav Klimt, about 1909, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (via WikiPaintings). 

More information
Read more on the ILRI News Blog about the CCAFS annual science meeting here and here.

For more information on the CCSL initiative, go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL).

For more on the use of ‘social learning’ and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI’s maarifa blog. See also this document by Blane Harvey (Institute for Development Studies [IDS], at the University of Sussex), Jonathan Ensor (University of York), Liz Carlile (International Institute for Environment and Development [IIED]), Ben Garside (IIED), Zachary Patterson (IDS), Lars Otto Naess (IDS): Climate change communication and social learning — Review and strategy development for CCAFS, Oct 2012.

For a recent scientific review of social learning, see this paper: Towards systemic and adaptive governance: Exploring the revealing and concealing aspects of contemporary social-learning metaphors, by Ray Ison, Chris Blackmore and Benjamin Iaquinto, Ecological Economics 87 (2013) 34–42, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.12.016

Here is an excerpt from the paper:
‘Concerns about the effective governance of situations such as river catchments, watersheds, climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service provision are widespread. A paucity of effective governance approaches in such situations seemingly exists despite the efforts made in the 40 years since Rittel and Webber (1973) coined the term ‘wicked problems’ to refer to situations that are contested, difficult to bound, involving many stakeholders with socio-technical features (APSC, 2007; Ison, 2008). There is clearly a need for governance innovation (Hajer and Wagenaar, 2003); fortunately recent research, as evidenced by Ostrom’s body of work (see Ostrom, 2007, 2010) demonstrates that commons-type situations are no longer irrevocably committed to tragedy as posited by Hardin (1968). Social learning research is also an innovative response to commons-like, or ‘wicked’, situations (Wals, 2007) but the potential of ‘social learning’ to contribute to the governance of socio-ecological systems is not widely appreciated.’

 

 

 

 

Climate change and agricultural experts gather in California this week to search for the holy grail of global food security

Silhouette of a woman, by Vincent van Gogh,

Silhouette of a peasant woman digging carrots, by Vincent van Gogh, 1885, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (via WikiPaintings).

Experts working at the interface of climate change and agriculture are gathering at two venues in California this week to do the impossible: find ways to do ‘climate-smart agriculture’, specifically—use science to feed more of the world’s growing population and reduce world poverty while mitigating agriculture’s environmental harms the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the Earth.

First up is a CGIAR group looking to work better, with faster impacts, through so-called ‘social learning’. On Mon and Tue, 18–19 Mar 2013, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is holding its annual science meeting, in Bodega Bay. This group of 70 or so people is Rethinking Science, Learning and Partnerships to Meet Development Outcomes: Reducing Poverty and Improving Food Security in the Context of Climate Change.

This CCAFS meeting is looking for ways to achieve better, bigger and faster impacts through engagement with a wide variety of communities. The participants see untapped potential in CGIAR and beyond for actors of diverse kinds to join forces in improving global food security in the light of climate change. They’re looking at innovative ways to democratize and co-create science for practical use. They hope to build on a legacy of social learning approaches and participatory work within CGIAR and to find ways to adapt these to address the complex challenges faced by hundreds of millions of small-scale food producers and sellers in developing countries.

Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL).
For more information, go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme.

Among the CCAFS participants coming from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, are Philip Thornton, James Kinyangi, Mariana Rufino, Polly Ericksen, Wiebke Foerch, Maren Radeny and Ewen Le Borgne.

Three peasants at a meal, by Pablo Picasso (via WikiPaintings)

Three peasants at a meal, pencil sketch and study by Vincent van Gogh, 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (via WikiPaintings).

Following the Bodega Bay meeting, a larger group of climate change and agricultural experts will meet at the University of California at Davis from Wed through Fri, 20–22 Mar 2013, for a global science conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture (and here).

With climate change occurring more rapidly than anticipated, an increase in extreme weather events is threatening global agriculture and food supplies. Existing technologies and institutional structures will be insufficient to slow climate change while feeding the growing human population sustainably. Participants at this conference will work to identify useful actions that are science-based, to use knowledge systems in new ways and to help strengthen the resilience of agricultural communities facing an uncertain future. They’ll look at new ways of integrating science and policy to transform land management and community action for food security. The overall aim is to link agricultural sciences with policies and practices so as to ensure a triple bottom line: food security, poverty alleviation and ecosystem services.

Many CCAFS staff will be participating in, or organizing sessions at, this conference as well.
For more information, visit the UC Davis website.

The ‘cream’ from more efficient dairying: Kenya to pilot scheme to pay smallholders for their environmental services

Global Agenda: 1 of 3 objectives

One of three objectives of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development. Its Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22-24 Jan 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Guest blog post by ILRI’s Simon Fraval

In collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development, researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are assessing the feasibility of the Kenyan dairy industry obtaining payment for its environmental services through productivity gains. (See this ILRI position paper for more information on ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes).

Reducing the level of greenhouse gases generated per unit of milk produced by smallholder farmers could be attractive to environmental markets. While this project will not provide direct money transfers to Kenya’s dairy farmers, it will support agricultural extension for better cow nutrition and other interventions made to increase milk production while also reducing emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of milk.

The concept gained momentum at an interim preparatory committee meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development held in Rome in September 2012.

The Global Agenda is committed to broad-based, voluntary and informal stakeholder actions improving the performance of the livestock sector. It ambitiously aims to protect natural resources as well as to reduce poverty and protect public health. The Agenda’s stakeholders have agreed initially to focus on the following three objectives: Close the efficiency gap in livestock production systems, restore value to grasslands’ environmental services and sustainable livelihoods, and recover and recycle nutrients and energy contained in animal manure. The Agenda is working to achieve these objectives largely through consulting and networking, analyzing and informing, and guiding and piloting.

Progress on the Kenya dairy pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project was presented at the third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 22–24 January 2013. This project provided a practical example of the Agenda’s core activity in piloting novel approaches to ‘close the efficiency gap’. The presentation to the Global Agenda meeting can be found on its Livestock Dialogue website.

Pilot workshop on payment for environmental services for Kenya's dairy sector

A stakeholders’ workshop on a pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project for Kenya’s dairy industry was held in Jan 2013. Pictured left to right: Luke Kessei, Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development; Julius Kiptarus, Director of Livestock Production in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development; Pierre Gerber, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; and Isabelle Baltenweck, ILRI (photo credit: MLD/Henry Ngeno).

Following the progress update provided at the mid-January 2013 Global Agenda meeting, a stakeholder workshop was held later in the month (29 Jan 2013) engaging representatives from the Kenya Dairy Board, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the Kenya Dairy Processors Association, Kenyan livestock and cooperation ministries, development organizations and ILRI. The workshop was attended by Julius Kiptarus, Director of Livestock Production in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development.

Stakeholders of the pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project for Kenya’s dairy industry discussed the intricacies of such schemes, particularly carbon markets; site selection; potential greenhouse gas mitigation activities; and the design of a feasibility study. View slide presentations from this workshop here.

Technical mitigation options in dairy from ILRI: By Caroline Opiyo, of FAO.

This pilot project is the first to access markets for payment for environmental services schemes through productivity gains in smallholder livestock enterprises. With the setting of this precedent and development of an internationally recognized methodology, development organizations will be able to replicate this pilot project and draw funding from the carbon market and other providers of ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes.

For more information, please contact Simon Fraval, a volunteer with AusAID’s Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program placed at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, where he supports CGIAR research programs on ‘Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security’ and ‘Livestock and Fish: More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor’. Fraval brings to ILRI expertise in livestock value-chain development and life-cycle assessment. Contact him at s.fraval [at] cigar.org

The catch in making livestock more efficient: How to work together towards ‘a greater whole’

Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, Nairobi

Some of the participants at the on-going third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Development taking place in Nairobi 22-24 Jan 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Experts on livestock sector development are gathered this week in Nairobi, Kenya, to think through ways in which the livestock sector can be made more efficient.

On 22 January 2013, at the on-going third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was one of six members of a panel that discussed the clash between resource scarcity and demand growth in the livestock sector.

This panel reviewed the issues, challenges and possible solutions to the problem.

‘The clash between resource scarcity and livestock demand is a real and not a vague “sometime in the future”’ challenge, said Tarawali. ‘We must address it now; it will have devastating effects in our lifetimes if we do not.’

One of the certainties in recent years is that demand for food, especially animal-source foods such as milk, meat and eggs, has steadily risen. Livestock commodities are now among the top five highest value global commodities. Demand for livestock products has led to land use competition between food, feeds and fuel. Increased pressure on land means more food, to feed a growing world population, has to come from increased production on existing farmlands.

These realities are affecting the decisions taken by policymakers at the national level as they design policies on agricultural production, such as  how smallholder farmers should feed their animals or use and manage the manure their animals produce.

According to Tarawali, these challenges offer opportunities in three areas.

  • Diversity: Experts need to deal with the diversity of farming systems, commodities and efficiencies associated with livestock.
  • Dynamics: We need to influence the future dynamics of these changing livestock systems.
  • Development: We need to understand the impacts of livestock production on development issues such as poverty, health and nutrition, and food security.

‘The answer to these challenges does not lie in research alone,’ said Tarawali. ‘The answer will come from a “greater whole” in which research is only a small part.

According to Tarawali, stakeholders should bring together the parts that make up this whole. These include biophysical research that addresses issues such as productivity and efficient animal production; institutional support for markets and service support; and livestock systems issues such as research on future food needs and the diverse starting points and solutions to these challenges.

‘The Global Agenda of Action provides a forum for bridging these gaps and strengthening synergies between investment, development and public- and private-sector research towards this end,’ Tarawali said.

‘But,’ she cautioned, ‘the Agenda’s stakeholders need to think about the process of getting to this whole. We need to have a clear message to share to successfully influence and motivate decision-makers.

‘The catch lies in how we bring together the collective skills of all stakeholders towards this end.’

Read two recent article from the on-going multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the global agenda of action:

Taking the long livestock view
Greening the livestock sector: ‘Game changers’ for environmental, social, economic gains

View a presentation on ILRI’s experience in working with public-private partnerships to promote pro-poor livestock development.

Taking the long livestock view

Taking the long livestock view, slide presentation by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith.

View this slide presentation, Taking the Long Livestock View, made by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), at the Third Stakeholder Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action for Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 January 2013.

What follows is the gist, but view the presentation itself to get the affecting imagery.

‘Long before recorded history, people depended on animals for their survival. Some seven to nine thousand years ago, people domesticated large herbivores. Evidence suggests that cattle domestication occurred in Africa as well as Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Indus Valley (Pakistan). This animal domestication helped bring about the agricultural revolution.

‘Only during the last century did perceptions of the benefits of animals begin to diverge. People in more developed regions of the world began separating from the animals they raised and consumed. This is reflected in the “factory farms” of industrialized and industrializing parts of the world.

‘But people in less developed regions (mostly the South — especially in Africa and Asia) maintained close relations with their domesticated animals, which shared their farm compounds and scarce resources to support their livelihoods.

‘Thus, today perspectives on the value of livestock diverge, depending on whether people: (1) are poor or rich, (2) eat too little or too much and (3) live with or away from livestock.

‘For those who live with and depend on livestock:
• Livestock production and marketing remain essential to 1 billion people.
• 80% of the world’s livestock foods are generated on small farms, mostly those mixing animal raising with crop growing, and sold in informal markets.
• 80% of Africa’s poor keep livestock, which contribute at least one-third of their annual income as well as other benefits (e.g., food, manure, traction).
• Livestock are central to the lives and well-being of developing-country women, children and households.
• Women livestock producers, processors and sellers are essential to developing-country economies.

‘While domesticated animals remain highly valued in poor countries, it is companion animals that are increasingly revered in wealthier countries or segments of society today:
• World pet food sales are roughly USD72 billion annually
• and growing at a rate of 4% annually in the United States
• and at 11−12% annually in eastern Europe and Latin America.
• 62% of all households in the U.S. own a pet animal
• including 78 million dogs and 86 million cats
• costing their owners on average USD800 per animal per year.

‘As animals for food became divorced from animals for companionship in the U.S. and other rich countries, and have begun to be similarly divorced in urban areas of fast-developing countries, it is livestock that remain important to poor communities.

‘Now there is an added source of tension between those who can over-consume livestock and other foods and those who cannot. For many who have escaped poverty, environmental issues in the livestock sector are now paramount. For those who remain in absolute poverty, what is paramount is getting enough to eat, making a living, staying healthy.

‘So for those now divorced from livestock, the narrative is: If we want to save the planet, we should get rid of the livestock. And to preserve our health, we should stop eating meat.

‘But the on-going demand-led ‘livestock revolution’ happened fast. Green and equitable policies/incentives haven’t caught up with livestock practices. The livestock revolution of the South may slow but it will not stop. Some estimates show that demand for livestock foods will rise more than 100% in the next 30 years (and poultry by 170% in Africa).

‘Our livestock-related ills are largely the result of public sector neglect. We can grow the livestock sector in poor countries in ways that are:
• Green
• Equitable
• Sustainable
• Profitable

‘What can be done?
‘Those of us working in livestock for development can ensure that we approach livestock development as a transitory pathway out of poverty. And we can, and must, support many poor people in exiting the livestock sector in the coming decades.

‘Research can help
‘Research on the transition of livestock systems can:
• Address future as well as current food needs — understand better growth trajectories
• Exploit a diversity of starting points and solutions
• Work explicitly toward ‘inclusive growth’ that is both sustainable and equitable.

‘Research on biophysical matters can:
• Increase productivity via better livestock feeds, breeds and health
• Enhance the efficiency of animal production
• Improve control of livestock and zoonotic diseases
• Manage trade-offs in livestock vs human nutrition
• Find practical and equitable solutions to environmental problems.

‘Research on institutional matters can:
• Create incentives for environmental stewardship
• Build market and service provision models
• Build business enterprise models
• Provide evidence to guide livestock investments.

‘Our concern for the environment needn’t override our concern for the world’s poor.

‘Livestock are not the most important factor in developing-world agriculture. People are. For ten thousand years, livestock have mattered to people. They’ll almost certainly matter for a few thousand more. ILRI is delighted to be working with you, working towards convergence, and getting traction this week, on livestock futures that benefit all.’

Read more on the ILRI News Blog about the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development and its Third Stakeholder Meeting, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 January 2013: Greening the livestock sector: ‘Game changers’ for environmental, social, economic gains, 22 Jan 2013.