Competitive dairying offers pathways out of poverty, new global study says

woman feeding cow

A dairy farmer feeds her cows in Kenya. A new global study says competitive dairying offers small-scale dairy producers in Africa a pathway out of poverty (photo credit: East African Dairy Development Project)

Investing in the dairy sector and growing it into a competitive industry would offer small-scale dairy producers in sub-Saharan Africa opportunities to increase their incomes, meet food requirements and find a way out of poverty, according to a new study that assesses global perspectives for smallholder milk production by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The status and prospects for smallholder milk production—A global perspective, a study jointly published by FAO and the International Farm Comparison Network and released September 2010, says ‘making smallholder dairy production more competitive could be a powerful tool for reducing poverty, raising nutrition levels and improving the livelihoods of rural people in many developing countries.’

The study notes that rising milk demand, which is growing by about 15 million tonnes per year in developing countries, provides a chance for small-scale dairy farmers to raise their milk production, which would not only create jobs but also help to ‘establish sustainable dairy chains that can meet local consumer and world market demands’. ‘Growing consumer demand for dairy products in developing countries, driven by population growth and rising incomes, offers important market opportunities for smallholders,’ the report adds.

The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is at the forefront of helping small-scale dairy producers benefit from the dairy sector through projects such as the Smallholder Dairy Project, which contributed to a review of the Kenya dairy policies beginning in 2004, eventually leading to remarkable benefits of over US$230 million for Kenyan milk producers, vendors and consumers in the past 10 years. Interventions of this project have also led to a three-fold increase in milk production across areas where the project worked with small-scale dairy farmers.

ILRI is also helping to implement a Heifer-International-led East Africa Dairy Development project in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda that is improving the dairy incomes of over 170,000 dairy farmers. The project is organizing farmers into cooperative groups to pool resources and buy milk cooling facilities, improve animal breeds, improve fodder and train farmers how to better manage their milk business. In the past two years of the project’s implementation, changes in attitude among dairy farmers have led to economic benefits that are improving the livelihoods of East Africa’s small-scale dairy producers.

Around 150 million small-scale dairy farming households (750 million people) are engaged in milk production globally, with most of them in developing countries, according to the study; some six billion people, most of them in developed countries, consume milk and milk products.

With global prices for dairy products expected to rise in coming years, the report notes that small-scale milk producers ‘have very competitive production costs’ and thus calls for small-scale dairy producers to be organized in order for them ‘to compete with large-scale, capital-intensive, “high-tech” dairy farming systems’. ‘Better farm management practices, expanding dairy herd sizes and increasing milk yields could easily improve smallholder labour productivity, making dairy sector development a potent tool for poverty reduction,’ the report says.

The study, however, cautions that ‘smallholder dairy production will only be able to reach its full potential if some of the threats and challenges the sector is currently facing are addressed. In many developing countries, smallholders lack the skills to manage their farms as “enterprises”; have poor access to support services like production and marketing advice; have little or no capital to reinvest with limited access to credit; and are handicapped by small herd sizes, low milk yields and poor milk quality.

Dairy sectors in developing countries also face the challenge of competing with massive policy interventions (price support, milk quotas, direct payments, investment support programmes, export subsidies) in developed countries, which create a competitive advantage for dairy production in developed countries and penalize dairy farmers in developing countries, the report noted.

Smallholders are also affected by trade liberalization, which increasingly exposes them to competition from large-scale corporate dairy enterprises that are able to respond more rapidly to changes in the market environment.

Any dairy development strategy, the study recommends, must not exclusively focus on dairy producers but improve competitiveness throughout the entire dairy production chain, targeting farmers, input suppliers, milk traders, processors, retailers and others.

This article is adapted from a press release ‘Small-scale dairy production: a way out of poverty’ published by FAO on 29 September, 2010.

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To read the complete report please visit: http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i1522e/i1522e00.htm

To find out more about ILRI’s contribution to small-scale dairy production in Africa and Asia read the following related dairy stories from the ILRI news blog:

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/2884

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3010

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3318

Smallholder livestock farmers are ‘big opportunities for global agribusiness and food security’–Sere

éFrom ILRI with love

Jo Luck, co-winner of this year’s World Food Prize (bestowed this week in Iowa) and president of the Arkansas- and livestock-based NGO Heifer International, receives a present from Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), when Jo Luck paid a visit to ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters in August 2010 (photo credit: ILRI/Njuguna).

In an opinion piece published today in the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters blog, Carlos Seré, a leading agricultural economist from Uruguay serving as director general of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that backing smallholder farmers today could avert food crises tomorrow. Agribusiness investment would not only transform the lives of farmers in South Asia and Africa, Seré says, but also boost global food security.

Seré’s editorial follows.

As food riots continue in Mozambique and food crises persist in Niger and elsewhere, leaders in global agriculture, food and development are gathering in Des Moines, Iowa this week to highlight the significant role the world’s smallholder farmers could play in alleviating poverty and hunger.

In sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, most people still live in rural areas, where they farm crops and livestock or derive other livelihoods from agriculture. With few other ways to feed their families or make a living, billions of rural people will continue to cultivate lands and raise farm animals.

These smallholder farmers form the backbone of global food production. Despite climate change, pests, diseases, water scarcity, and myriad other challenges, small family farms produce more than half of the world’s food. Most of the food staples consumed in the developing world come from small ‘mixed’ farms, which make efficient use of the resources at their disposal by combining crop and animal production.

Smallholders also represent an emerging market opportunity for local and international agribusiness alike. Because opportunity costs for their land and labour are relatively low, these farmers are competitive food producers. Their mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems can compete effectively against large scale commercial operations.

Smart investments by agribusiness could help millions of these smallholders in south Asia and Africa. By helping them to become even more efficient and improving their links to other markets, agribusiness could enable them to make the transition from subsistence farming to remunerative enterprise.

Agribusiness can help farmers gain better access to improved seeds, knowledge, and other agricultural inputs, and link smallholders to local and international private sector enterprises, reducing transaction costs and risks as well as adding value to their agricultural products. Farmers would see a sustainable boost in production and income, while agribusinesses would gain new access to billions of potential buyers.

The award of the World Food Prize this week to Heifer International, a livestock oriented non-governmental organisation, should help promote smallholder livestock production, in particular, as a vital pathway out of poverty and hunger.

Farm animals kept on the world’s small farms serve as the building blocks of prosperity. With global human population rising (it is expected to increase by 2 to 3 billion people over the next four decades, after which it should begin to decline), livestock are becoming agriculture’s most economically important sub sector, with demand in developing countries for milk, meat and eggs projected to double over the next 20 years alone.

A wealth of innovative business opportunities exists for companies to invest in livestock-related enterprises by providing infrastructure, credit, feed, vaccines, or milk cooling systems. Smart investments targeting the developing world’s billions of livestock keepers could greatly increase global food security, as well as generate profits for both livestock producers and agribusinesses.

Small scale livestock enterprises drive dairy production in eastern Africa and south Asia. India is now the largest dairy producer in the world, with most of the country’s milk produced by small farmers. More than 80% of the milk output in Kenya is produced not by large milk companies, but rather by approximately 800,000 small scale dairy farmers. It is sold to customers by some 350,000 small scale milk vendors.

The potential of livestock and the ongoing ‘livestock revolution’ to better the lives of poor farmers in developing countries drives the scientific agenda of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). We see the great opportunities livestock offer the poor. Every day, we see how much difference the meat, milk, muscle, manure and money supplied by a cow, goat, pig, camel or other domesticated animal makes to people struggling to produce enough food and income for their families. We see also how much the loss of farm animals – through disease, drought or other disaster – devastates such households.

With the help of agribusiness expertise and increased public investment, we think the world’s smallholder farmers could become a major force in global food security, helping to sustain increasing levels of world food production over the long term.

Read Seré’s opinion piece on the Guardian‘s ‘Poverty Matters’ blog: Backing smallholder farmers today could avert food crises tomorrow, 14 October 2010.

Watch two short filmed interviews of World Food Prize winner Jo Luck on her visit to ILRI in August 2010:

Livestock Catalyze Community Development

Delivering Livestock Research That Makes a Difference

ILRI's Carlos Sere on expert panel on sustainable food production at University of Minnesota

Carlos Sere, Director General

Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute and member of a forthcoming expert panel on sustainable food production at the University of Minnesota (credit: ILRI).

Carlos Seré, director general of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is one of three leaders of worldwide agricultural research centres who will discuss how increasing global demands for food can be addressed in sustainable ways during a forum on 'Sustainably Feeding the World' next week at the University of Minnesota (USA). The panel discussion will start at 1:30pm, on Monday, 18 October 2010, in the university's Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics.

All three panelists are directors-general of international research institutes that are part of the 15-member network known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Besides Carlos Seré, who leads the International Livestock Research Institute, based in Nairobi, Kenya, the panelists include Shenggen Fan, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, based in Washington, DC, and Ruben Echeverria, of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Cali, Colombia.

'This is a rare opportunity to hear from some of today's most knowledgeable experts on global food prospects and policy,' said professor Brian Buhr, head of the university's Department of Applied Economics. 'To have all three of them together on one panel is unprecedented.'

Fan and Echeverria are graduates of the university's Department of Applied Economics. Later in the afternoon of 18 October 2010, Echeverria will be awarded the university's Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals. The department also will celebrate the accomplishments of the late Vernon Ruttan, who advised both Echeverria and Fan, with a ceremony officially naming its home building 'Ruttan Hall'.

Philip Pardey, of the university's Department of Applied Economics, co-directs a CGIAR HarvestChoice project and will moderate the panel of speakers. HarvestChoice works with all three international centres with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director of the Agricultural Development Program of the Gates Foundation and an international expert on global food issues, also will attend.

Breadbaskets without livestock are ‘an unbalanced diet’ warn experts at the African Green Revolution Forum

Dairy cow looks out from her stall in a village in central Malawi

A dairy cow looks out from her stall in a village in central Malawi (Photo by ILRI / Mann).

Agricultural experts argue that a 'breadbasket approach' to development without livestock is 'an unbalanced diet' and that capacity building from the halls of parliament to the milking shed is key to the success of highly competitive African agriculture.

Over 800 agricultural experts, government officials, private sector leaders, and farmers gathered in Accra last week to promote investment and policy support for driving agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers.

Participants at the African Green Revolution Forum agreed to pool efforts and resources to scale up investments in the 'breadbasket' approach and in agricultural growth corridors. At the end of the three-day conference, the Forum issued a detailed plan of action to the delegates, which included the need to make better and wider use of 'mixed' crop-livestock farming systems.

ILRI Director General Carlos Seré led a dynamic and informative panel session on livestock systems at the Forum, drawing participants from all facets of the agricultural community—from a Mozambican farmer interested in applying the 'best-bet' tactics of the East Africa Dairy Development Project in his own country, to 2009 World Food Prize Laureate Gebisa Ejeta.

'A "breadbasket" approach without livestock is an unbalanced diet,' said Moses Nyabila, Regional Director of East African Dairy Development Project, during the panel session.

Nyabila went on to stress the crucial role of the smallholder farmer to the success of EADD. 'We cannot replace our people with tractors and other things. We need to work with them. The East African Dairy Development Project model is a very important platform going forward, and it is one that can be repeated in other African countries.'

The panel participants called for mixed crop-livestock systems to be integrated into the corridor and breadbasket development strategies to increase the income of the smallholder farmer and improve his or her resilience to market fluctuations, climate change, and other challenges.

Livestock demand is already a major driver of economic growth for the continent, and this demand is rapidly growing driven by rising incomes and urbanization. Capacity-building from the halls of parliament to the milking shed is key to the success of highly competitive African agriculture, panelists said. The policy environment must also be conducive to the specific conditions in which small-scale farmers are operating and good governance must be built into the producer organizations.

'The key breakthrough here is organizing smallholder farmers to make service delivery efficient and to attract partnerships. Once these livestock farmers are organized, opportunities for investment and synergies with other agriculture sectors—seeds, fertilizer, etc—come flowing in,' Seré said.

The panelists also agreed that to boost the competitiveness and viability of livestock systems, the public sector must support rapid learning and results-driven research on markets, technologies and resource management. Examples include finding new ways of providing livestock insurance and financing the development and distribution of vaccines that reduce risks to farmers.

Seré presented the main outcomes and action steps from the livestock panel discussion to all Forum participants on the last day of the conference, pointing to mixed crop-livestock systems as the backbone of African agriculture. 'When you look at African agriculture, you see that mixed crop-livestock systems are eminent,' he said. 'Livestock is absolutely a motor of the agricultural economy.'

Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Forum, also acknowledged the outcomes of the livestock panel at the closing plenary on Saturday, stating that 'livestock is key to food security in Africa, and [an African green revolution] must include mixed crop-livestock systems.'

This article was contributed by Megan Dold, of Burness Communications, who attended the African Green Revolution Forum in Accra, Ghana, 2–4 September 2010.

Read more about the outcomes of the African Green Revolution Forum, media releases and a summary of the African Green Revolution parallel sessions here and in an earlier blogpost by ILRI.

Hands on the plough: Kofi Annan and Forum promise to pool resources for African ‘agricultural growth corridors’ combining crops and livestock

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Kofi Annan speaking at the African Green Revolution Forum held in Accra, Ghana, September 2010 (photo credit: AGRF).

An inaugural African Green Revolution Forum has moved Africa forward in its quest to transform agriculture and tackle food security. 

Closing the Forum in Accra, Ghana, on 4 September 2010, the Forum's chair, Kofi Annan, praised efforts to accelerate a green revolution in Africa. The Forum's executive co-producer, Akin Adesina, said the meetings kick-started a new phase in an African green revolution. The Forum agreed to pool efforts and resources to scale up breadbasket project plans and investment blueprints for agricultural growth corridors. Ghanaian Minister for Agriculture, Kwasi Ahwoi, invited new partners to join the Ghana breadbasket initiative. The Prime Minister of Tanzania, H.E. Mizengo Pinda, agreed to finalise a blueprint for the Tanzania Southern Corridor by January 2011.

The Forum participants specifically agreed on the following actions:
· empower women by accelerating their access to technologies, finances and markets
· scale up farmer and agri-business access to finances
· invest in science, technology and research for food and nutritional security
· increase access to improved seed via plant breeding, seed companies and seed distribution systems
· improve fertilizer supply systems and build more efficient fertilizer value chains
· link agri-business to commercial farms and smallholder farmers
· manage water resources better
· make better and wider use of 'mixed' farming systems that raise animals as well as grow crops
 

The director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Uruguayan agricultural economist Carlos Seré, participated in the Forum and led a panel session of livestock development. A report on that livestock session will be posted here later this week.

The African Green Revolution Forum issued a detailed plan of action to the delegates. Government and development groups, including the African Union and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, will conduct peer review assessments.

'We pledge ourselves to work with all other key partners to ensure that capacity is not a limiting factor in the green revolution,' said Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the organization that founded the Forum alongside Yara.

Mr Annan thanked the government leaders, including H.E. Mizengo Pinda, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, and the Hon. John Dramani Mahama, Vice President of Ghana, who had taken part in the African Green Revolution Forum. 'These gracious, impassioned leaders threw their political weight behind this shining moment of transformation for Africa,' said Mr Annan.

And he urged governments and parliamentarians to help eradicate poverty and realise the dream of a green revolution. 'The time for action is now. For as you leave this forum, you are carrying upon your shoulders the vibrant hopes of a generation and a continent. We will not dash the dream of the African farmer,' said Mr Annan. 'With our hands on the plough, we will till this beautiful land’s soil together, and help Africa reap a bountiful harvest.'

About the Forum
The African Green Revolution Forum brings together African heads of state, ministers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil society and scientists to an African-led forum to promote investments and policy support for driving agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers in an environmentally sustainable way.

This public-private network it is a catalyst for the African Green Revolution called for by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2004. The Forum gathered momentum during three successful African Green Revolution conferences in Oslo, Norway. This year it was held 2–4 September 2010 in Accra, Ghana, co-chaired by Kofi Annan. The African Green Revolution Forum is supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Yara, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the African Development Bank and Standard Bank.

Read more about the outcomes of the African Green Revolution Forum, media releases and a summary of the African Green Revolution parallel sessions here.

Improving African food security in the face of climate change

ILRI FANRPAN dialog meeting display

Scientists, policymakers and farmers from across Africa are meeting this week in Windhoek, Namibia to discuss how to improve food security in Africa in the face of climate change. (Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann) 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is this week joining over 200 policymakers, farmers, agricultural product dealers, scientists and non-governmental organizations from across Africa in Windhoek, Namibia, in a week-long Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue organized by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). This year’s dialogue focuses on African priorities for food security and climate change and the impacts of climate change on agricultural development, natural resource management and rural livelihoods.

ILRI agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero and Siboniso Moyo, ILRI representative for southern Africa, are attending this conference, which runs from 30 August to 3 September 2010. The participants are examining ways of helping over 265 million people on the continent overcome chronic hunger.

Lindiwe Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network and member of ILRI’s Board of Trustees, says, ‘Africa’s challenges include stagnant agricultural productivity; limited access to agricultural inputs, water, markets and knowledge. And increasingly, we must also cope with more extreme and erratic weather (floods and droughts), soil salinity and unpredictable rainfall, and the effects of such climate change on agricultural production.’

Because agriculture, including livestock farming, still holds the greatest potential to boost rural livelihoods, reduce poverty and spur growth in other sectors in the continent, forums such as this are needed to pull together high-quality, evidenced-based, information and knowledge that can benefit Africa’s poorest people, most of whom are women who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

With 60 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land, Africa's agricultural sector has potential to feed its own people and grow to a US$880 billion industry if the right production strategies and methods are used to increase production.

‘To achieve this’, said Sibanda, ‘agricultural tools and knowledge must be made accessible to farmers to increase their yields and adapt to new climate scenarios. Africa needs its own agricultural revolution, one built on technology and innovation and facilitated by a conducive policy environment aligned with the needs of African farmers.’

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network works in 13 African countries, encouraging government and civil society to work together in support of demand-driven agricultural policy research and analysis.

For more coverage of the 2010 dialogue, visit: 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/katine-chronicles-blog/2010/aug/24/africa-katine-farming and http://www.alertnet.org/db/blogs/66102/2010/07/26-152915-1.htm

To find out more about ILRI's presentation during the meeting (by Mario Herrero) please visit: http://www.slideshare.net/ILRI/fanrpan-policy-meetings-sept-2010 and http://africa.ipsterraviva.net/2010/09/01/agriculture-in-africa-is-changing-rapidly/.

For information about the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network, see http://www.fanrpan.org/

Researchers call for regional approaches to deal with high food prices

Malawi, Nr Dedza, Khulungira village

Researchers in eastern and southern Africa are calling for a new regional and integrated approach to address high food prices associated with global food shortages. They are doing this to help prevent a repeat of the global high food price crisis of three years ago.

Under the leadership of the Association for Strengthening Agriculture Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), a regional body that seeks to transform agriculture and improve livelihoods, a team of researchers from key national, regional and international organizations in eastern and southern Africa (ESA) have determined that a ‘regionally coordinated response . . .  is potentially more effective in responding to the food price crisis than individual country responses.’

This is one of the key findings from a 2009 study that investigated food-price changes in the national and regional markets in eastern and southern Africa, which would provide an ‘evidence base for effective policy action.’

Joseph Karugia led a core team of researchers who were coordinated by the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System-East and Central Africa (ReSAKSS-EA), which is based in Nairobi, Kenya, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Karugia says that ‘Regional blocks can become effective avenues for policy creation and implementation because they offer a much wider and stronger platform to address the challenges posed by the global food price crisis and to exploit the opportunities that high food prices may offer.’

Between 2007 and 2008, most countries in the region (and across the globe) experienced a rise in food prices that threatened the livelihoods of many of the region’s poor. Causes of the rise in prices were attributed to rising incomes and growing uses of food grains for bio-fuel production and animal feeds. In addition, an increasing world population and urbanization, coupled with high agricultural input prices, reduced world stocks of food staples and exports. Declining agricultural resources also contributed to the low supply of food.

Unlike past food-price spikes, such as those in the mid-1990s, where only a few commodities were affected, the recent rise in prices saw substantial increases in the price of the world’s key cereals, oilseeds and dairy and meat products.

For resource-poor farmers and consumers in Africa, high prices translated into higher costs of living occasioned by the increase in the prices of basic foods and staples such as maize, rice and wheat. Prices of different foods across many countries in the region went up by between 11 and 50 per cent between March 2007 and March 2008.

In the wake of the crisis, ASARECA brought a team of key researchers together in a study to find out ‘the magnitude and implications of food prices’ in the region. ‘One of our key aims was to come up with practical short-, medium- and long-term options for governments and other stakeholders for addressing the problem posed by the crisis,’ Karugia says.

The researchers analyzed trends and outlooks in individual countries as well as the region and presented evidence about the regional food situation. They also explored connections between high domestic food prices in this period and global food prices and examined regional and national dimensions of food-price increases and how they related to food security in the region.

From the study findings, presented in a paper, ‘Responding to the food crisis in eastern and southern Africa: policy options for national and regional action’, researchers argue that the considerable scope offered by regional blocks such as the East Africa Community (EAC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) provides an opportunity to create and implement regional policies and strategies to improve food production, distribution and availability in ways that individual countries could not handle alone.

The findings of this research suggest that new ways of approaching food distribution can improve food security in the region by for example, enabling improved regional trade that would allow easier movement of foods, especially ‘non-tradeable’ commodities such as bananas, shipped from countries where they are readily available to countries where consumers face food shortages. This model of food distribution could effectively deal with challenges that result from failure of staple crops such as maize. This way, the report says ‘the income effect of rising food prices could be dampened if it is relatively easy for the household to substitute one staple food whose price is already rising with a cheaper food product that is nutritious and as easy to handle as the previous one.’

Findings from this study provide thought-provoking perspectives useful to policymakers and governments in managing the frequent food crises in the region.

The findings highlight the important role of regional trade, Domestic food prices are, to a large extent, determined by local and regional demand-and-supply conditions; if policies on informal trade were improved, this region’s food security would also improve. The researchers note that an inability of households to find alternative cheaper nutritious foods would lead to ‘lower resource allocation towards non-food items’. This would then affect other sectors, such as education, health care and water and sanitation, with the ‘eventual deterioration of human capital and overall household welfare.’

Although rising food prices are contributing to food price inflation, the researchers note that the domestic markets in the ESA region are resilient and are not always directly affected by global events. Arguing that the best way to address the food price crisis is to do so regionally, they say policies should aim to ‘increase household purchasing power, have no negative impact on food supply response and should not reduce income of poor food sellers.’

This study calls for paying renewed attention to the agricultural sector, which is essential for improving production. It also notes that high food prices provide incentives to the private sector to invest in the agricultural sector. However, productivity increases will require significant and sustained investments in agricultural research and extension, as well as development of agricultural and general infrastructure along with credit and risk-management instruments.

The complete findings of this research can be accessed on http://mahider.ilri.org/bitstream/10568/184/1/resakss%20workingpaper27.pdf

For more information please visit the websites of ResaKSS and ASARECA.

Livestock: ‘Polluters of the Planet’ or ‘Pathways out of Poverty’? A public debate

Small-scale pig farming outside Beijing

Two development experts recently debated the 'public goods' and 'bads' of global livestock production. They debated the question, 'Should we eat less meat to increase food security', in a 'Spat' column in the current (June 2010) issue of People and Science, published by the British Science Association.

Arguing 'no' (with reservations) is John McDermott, a Canadian veterinary epidemiologist who serves the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as Deputy Director General for Research. Arguing 'yes' (also with reservations) is Vicki Hird, a Senior Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, a UK-based environmental non-governmental organization.

The missions of both ILRI and Friends of the Earth have much in common. Both organizations, for example, are investigating ways to reduce climate change. And both want to manage natural resources in ways that conserve as much land, water, biodiversity and air as possible, with everyone getting a 'fair share' of those resources.

But when it comes to their views on livestock — as to whether cows, sheep, goats, pigs and other farm animals do more good than bad, or more bad than good, for people and their environments — each of these development experts sees livestock from a different perspective.

For Hird, who lives in Europe — where environmental concerns are major issues, and where the public embraces environmental causes and activism — livestock are largely 'polluters of the planet'.

For McDermott, who lives in East Africa — where people's greatest concerns are getting a job, putting food on the table and paying school and medical fees, a region where development concerns take centre stage — livestock represent 'pathways out of poverty'.

Large-scale pig production in Beijing

As one might expect, Hird takes a 'global' and 'environmental' view of the impacts of livestock production, focusing on the inhumane industrial 'factory farms' of industrialized countries, the over-consumption of fatty meat by the rich, and the rape of South American forests to make room for cattle, sheep and goat ranches or for growing soy to feed pigs in Europe. McDermott, also as one might expect, takes the perspective of the world's 450 million small farmers, who raise their animals on grass and crop wastes rather than grain, whose children don't yet eat enough meat, milk and eggs, and whose livelihoods depend directly on the natural resources they have at hand.

Both of these development experts, perhaps surprisingly, also agree on quite a lot when it comes to livestock. They agree that factory farming practices are becoming more and more unsustainable as well as inhumane; they agree that most people in rich countries would profit from eating less fatty meats; they agree that South America's forests should not be felled so that rich people can eat more pigmeat; and they agree that finding more sustainable as well as equitable ways of producing livestock is in the general public interest.

What the debate focuses on, then, is not so much what to do but how to do it. And, as we shall see, on how long that should take.

McDermott argues for giving small farmers 'incentives', for example, to redistribute livestock herds or to intensify their crop-plus-livestock farming systems in ways that make more efficient use of natural resources.

Hird argues for more regulation of the livestock industry in richer countries in areas such as farm subsidies and taxation, and for raising awareness of the major environmental, social and health problems that livestock systems can cause so as to change public (meat-eating) behaviour.

McDermott thinks our biggest job is 'to close the selective-evidence divide on both sides of the debate' by getting more evidence in key areas; some industrial practices, he points out, make 'very efficient' uses of environmental resources. To come up with equitable policies in the global livestock sector, McDermott argues, will require better assessments — and at much more local levels — of the differing socio-economic as well as environmental trade-offs of those policies. 'Before taking broad action', he says, 'we should use the best available knowledge to design and test interventions in pilot studies'.

Hird is impatient 'to wait for a perfect evidence base' before acting and says they have 'presented a Sustainable Livestock Bill in Parliament to kick start the dialogue on vital UK action'.

In brief, Hird appears most interested in quickly getting to 'less' livestock intensive production' and McDermott in developing long-term 'smarter' livestock intensive production'.

Let us know below what you think.

More . . . (People and Science Spat, June 2010)

Friends of the Earth

International Livestock Research Institute


In a new 2-minute filmed interview on the 'goods' and 'bads' of livestock by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), scientists Phil Thornton, of ILRI, and Andy Jarvis, of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in Colombia, give their views on whether giving up eating meat altogether would help to save the environment. They describe the importance of livestock to the livelihoods of one billion of the world's poor and caution that removing livestock from the environment would have its own effects. These scientists shared their views during the launch of a new initiative by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) called ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.’

 

Farming extensively: A ‘third way’ for agriculture?

Joyce Ledson

Not to be missed is an inspired, and inspiring, 20-minute TED Talk by one of America's most famous cooks, New York's Dan Barber.

How I Fell in Love with a Fish is a presentation not for the 'self-righteous goody-two-shoes foodie,' says Barber (although he immediately confesses that, as a passionate chef and environmentalist, he is one). Rather, this is an instructive tale of how he fell out of love with one fish and into love with another, and the reasons for that, plus much else about our food systems.

His second (fishy) love affair takes place in Veta La Palma, a 27,000-acre totally self-sustaining fish farm in southwestern Spain that had formerly been a beef ranch and before that a wetlands. The owners of this fish farm reflooded the land, restoring the wetlands ecosystem, and began operating in radically sustainable ways. This farm doesn't feed its animals (fish); it measures its success not by how much fish it produces but rather by the health of its predators (birds); and, as a spill-over benefit, it serves the region as a water purification plant.

This fish farm / love story is, says Barber, a recipe for the future of good food. 'What we need,' says Barber, 'is a radically new conception of agriculture, one in which the food actually tastes good.'

Jacobo Filiasi

And for those of you who may be wondering about where he stands on global food security, Barber does get to the question (which he admits he 'doesn't love'): 'But how we can feed the world'.

'Our current agro-business business plan is one in liquidation,' he cautions, because it is a business 'that is quickly eroding the ecological capital that makes that very production possible. . . . Our breadbaskets are threatened today not because of diminishing supply but because of diminishing resources.'

Barber answers the question 'How can we feed the world' with another, 'How can we create conditions for every community feeding itself?'

Elestina Kamponza

He answers, 'To do that, don't look at the agro-business model for the future. It's really old and its tired. It's high on capital, chemistry and machines. And it's never produced anything really good to eat. Look to farms that restore instead of deplete. Farms that farm extensively instead of just intensively. Farmers that are not just producers but are experts in relationships.'

To that end, we might look to many of the world's billion-plus small-scale farmers in developing countries who are ambitious to practice neither the unhealthy factory-farming of the rich nor the grinding subsistence farming of the poor.

Saulosi Tchinga

This is what scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its research, development and agricultural partners are calling a 'third way' for the future of animal agriculture and mixed crop-and-livestock farming. This is an agriculture that would manage to feed the world while helping the world's 'bottom billion' climb out of hunger and poverty. Such a 'third way' of agriculture would feed both human nutrition and ambition in ways that build their livestock and other assets while conserving, not merely extracting, the Earth's remaining, land, water, air and other natural resources.

Demetria Solomon

More . . . ('No simple solutions to livestock and climate change', opinion piece by ILRI Director General Carlos Seré published in SciDevNet, 10 November 2009)

Animal agriculture can help sustain the new ‘food frontiers’ that should feed the world’s growing populations

Evolution of Uganda's dairy systems

Voice of America reported yesterday (‘Regulation Can’t Keep Pace with Livestock’, 22 Feb 2010) that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that ‘livestock production is growing faster than our capacity to safely manage it’. A new FAO report, The State of Food and Agriculture, underscores the importance of supporting the world’s one billion poor people who depend on livestock to make their living.

What poor animal keepers need, say scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is a ‘third way’ of producing milk, meat and eggs that copies neither harmful industrial-scale factory farming of animals in rich countries nor inefficient subsistence-level practices currently used to wrest a living off marginal lands in poor countries. ILRI staff argue, most recently in the world’s leading science journal, Science (‘Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems’, 12 Feb 2010), that more sustainable animal agriculture is particularly needed in developing countries, where livestock production is growing fast, natural resources are being degraded and lost, and small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers are already feeding most of the world’s poor people. The authors of the Science paper, who come from ILRI and other centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), also see this ‘third way’ of livestock production as particularly vital for the new ‘food frontiers’ of the world. These, they say, are the many farmlands currently being used to raise animals as well as to produce maize, rice and other major food crops that lie between the high- and low-potential agricultural lands of developing countries.

‘It is these relatively extensive medium-potential mixed-production farmlands that have been neglected until now,’ says lead author and ILRI scientist Mario Herrero, ‘that should now be the focus of agricultural development policymakers and aid agencies. These are the lands that are key to feeding the world’s extra 3 billion people over the next 4 decades. Click here for the Voice of America news item about the FAO study. Click here to read the Science paper by ILRI and other CGIAR researchers on the import of mixed and extensive crop-livestock farming for food security.

ILRI study published today in Science special issue on food security

A paper written by several centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems, is published in the current issue (12 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5967, pp. 822–825) of Science magazine. The paper argues that the world's small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers are the farmers feeding most of the world's poor today, are the farmers likely to feed most of the world's growing poor populations tomorrow, and are the farmers most neglected by current investments and policies worldwide. Lead author Mario Herrero, an agricultural systems analyst at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that with the right investments and policy support, the 'relatively extensive' mixed crop-livestock farming systems – located in most tropical developing regions of the world between intensively farmed fertile highlands and semi-arid low rangelands – could be the future breadbaskets of the developing world. The abstract of the paper follows. Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems M. Herrero P. K. Thornton, A. M. Notenbaert, S. Wood, S. Msangi, H. A. Freeman, D. Bossio, J. Dixon, M. Peters, J. van de Steeg, J. Lynam, P. Parthasarathy Rao, S. Macmillan, B. Gerard, J. McDermott, C. Seré, M. Rosegrant Farmers in mixed crop-livestock systems produce about half of the world’s food. In small holdings around the world, livestock are reared mostly on grass, browse, and nonfood biomass from maize, millet, rice and sorghum crops, and in their turn supply manure and traction for future crops. Animals act as insurance against hard times and supply farmers with a source of regular income from sales of milk, eggs and other products. Thus, faced with population growth and climate change, small-holder farmers should be the first target for policies to intensify production by carefully managed inputs of fertilizer, water and feed to minimize waste and environmental impact, supported by improved access to markets, new varieties and technologies. Read the full text

New study warns that climate change could create agricultural winners and losers in East Africa

While predicting highly variable impacts on agriculture by 2050, experts show that with adequate investment the region can still achieve food security for all

Forage Diversity field on ILRI Addis campus

As African leaders prepare to present an ambitious proposal to industrialized countries for coping with climate change in the part of the world that is most vulnerable to its impacts, a new study points to where and how some of this money should be spent. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Agricultural Systems, the study projects that climate change will have highly variable impacts on East Africa’s vital maize and bean harvests over the next two to four decades, presenting growers and livestock keepers with both threats and opportunities.

Previous estimates by the study’s authors projected moderate declines in the production of staple foods by 2050 for the region as a whole but also suggested that the overall picture disguises large differences within and between countries. The new findings provide a more detailed picture than before of variable climate change impacts in East Africa, assessing them according to broadly defined agricultural areas.

‘Even though these types of projections involve much uncertainty, they leave no room for complacency about East Africa’s food security in the coming decades,’ said the lead author of the new study, Philip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). ‘Countries need to act boldly if they’re to seize opportunities for intensified farming in favored locations, while cushioning the blow that will fall on rural people in more vulnerable areas.’

The researchers simulated likely shifts in cropping, using a combination of two climate change models and two scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions, together with state-of-the-art models for maize and beans, two of the region’s primary staple foods.

In the mixed crop-livestock systems of the tropical highlands, the study shows that rising temperatures may actually favor food crops, helping boost output of maize by about half in highland ‘breadbasket’ areas of Kenya and beans to much the same degree in similar parts of Tanzania. Meanwhile, harvests of maize and beans could decrease in some of the more humid areas, under the climate scenarios used in the study. Across the entire region, production of both crops is projected to decline significantly in drylands, particularly in Tanzania.

‘The emerging scenario of climate-change winners and losers is not inevitable,’ said ILRI director general Carlos Seré. ‘Despite an expected three-fold increase in food demand by 2050, East Africa can still deliver food security for all through a smart approach that carefully matches policies and technologies to the needs and opportunities of particular farming areas.’

At the Seventh World Forum on Sustainable Development, held recently in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, African leaders announced a plan to ask the industrialized world to pay developing countries USD67 billion a year as part of the continent’s common negotiating position for December’s climate talks in Copenhagen.

The ILRI study analyzes various means by which governments and rural households can respond to climate change impacts at different locations. In Kenya, for example, the authors suggest that shifting bean production more to the cooler highland areas might offset some of the losses expected in other systems.

Similarly, Tanzania and Uganda could compensate for projected deficits in both maize and beans through increased regional trade. In the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), maize trade is already worth more than USD1 billion, but only 10 percent of it occurs within the region. As grain prices continue to rise in global markets, several East African countries will be well positioned to expand output of maize and beans for regional markets, thus reducing reliance on imports and boosting rural incomes.

Where crop yields are expected to decline only moderately because of climate change, past experience suggests that rural households can respond effectively by adopting new technologies to intensify crop and livestock production, many of which are being developed by various CGIAR-supported centres and their national partners.

Drought-tolerant maize varieties, for example, have the potential to generate benefits for farmers estimated at USD863 million or more in 13 African countries over the next 6 years, according to a new study carried out by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Meanwhile, new heat-tolerant varieties of productive climbing beans, which are traditionally grown in highlands, are permitting their adoption at lower elevations, where they yield more than twice as much grain as the bush-type beans grown currently, according to Robin Buruchara of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

In areas that face drastic reductions in maize and bean yields, farmers may need to resort to more radical options, such as changing the types of crops they grow (replacing maize, for example, with sorghum or millet), keeping more livestock or abandoning crops altogether to embrace new alternatives, such as the provision of environmental services, including carbon sequestration.

This latter option could become a reality under COMESA’s Africa Biocarbon Initiative, which is designed to tap the huge potential of the region’s diverse farmlands and other rural landscapes, ranging from dry grasslands to humid tropical forests, for storing millions of tons of carbon. The initiative offers African negotiators an appealing option in their efforts to influence a future climate change agreement.

‘If included in emissions payment schemes, this initiative could create new sources of income for African farmers and enhance their resilience to climate change,’ said Peter Akong Minang, global coordinator of the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn (ASB) Programme at the World Agroforestry Centre. ‘Its broad landscape approach would open the door for many African countries to actively participate in, and benefit from, global carbon markets.’

‘Rural people manage their livelihoods and land in an integrated way that encompasses many activities,’ said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR’s Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. ‘That’s why they need integrated options to cope with climate change, consisting of diverse innovations, such as drought-tolerant crops, better management of livestock, provision of environmental services and so forth.’

How rapidly and successfully East African nations and rural households can take advantage of such measures will depend on aggressive new investments in agriculture, CGIAR researchers argue. According to a recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it will take about USD7 billion annually, invested mainly in rural roads, better water management and increased agricultural research, to avert the dire implications of climate change for child nutrition worldwide.

About 40 per cent of that investment would address the needs of sub-Saharan Africa, where modest reductions projected for maize yields in the region as a whole are expected to translate into a dramatic rise in the number of malnourished children by 2050. Thornton’s projections probably underestimate the impacts on crop production, because they reflect increasing temperatures and rainfall changes only and not greater variability in the weather and growing pressure from stresses like drought and insect pests.

‘Farmers and pastoralists in East Africa have a long history of dealing with the vagaries of the weather,’ said Seré. ‘But climate change will stretch their adaptive capacity beyond its limits, as recent severe drought in the region has made abundantly clear. Let’s not leave rural people to fend for themselves but rather invest significantly in helping them build a more viable future.’

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About ILRI:
The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development. ILRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It has its headquarters in Kenya and a principal campus in Ethiopia. It also has teams working out of offices in Nigeria, Mali, Mozambique, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and China. www.ilri.org.

About the CGIAR: The CGIAR, established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations supporting the work of 15 international Centers. In collaboration with national agricultural research systems, civil society and the private sector, the CGIAR fosters sustainable agricultural growth through high-quality science aimed at benefiting the poor through stronger food security, better human nutrition and health, higher incomes and improved management of natural resources. www.cgiar.org