Further unlocking the potential of maize: Dual-purpose is the new purpose of the world’s most important cereal

In the field: Kenya

Maize field at Kampi ya Moto, Kenya (photo on Flickr by C Schubert/CCAFS).

September 2013 special issue of the scientific journal Field Crops Research describes research to improve, and make wider use of, dual-purpose maize (or corn) varieties, which are used for their stover — the stalk, leaves and other residue of the plant after the grain has been harvested — as well as for their grain. Among smallholder farmers in Africa and other developing regions, maize stover is a common, and critically important, supplementary feed for ruminant livestock.

The special journal issue was edited by edited by Elaine Grings, of South Dakota State University (and formerly of ILRI); Olaf Erenstein, of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center; and Michael Blümmel, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The following statements are excerpted from a synthesis paper written by the editors, which presents key findings in 12 papers about the potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands.

This special issue substantiates that dual-purpose maize varieties are technically feasible and have a large potential market, particularly in many emerging markets. The reported findings argue the case for continued investments in maize stover R&D and thus reigniting earlier dual-purpose crop research in general.

WatotoWeeding4A-74

Children weed a maize plot at Kampi ya Moto, Kenya (photo on Flickr by C Schubert /CCAFS).

Among the findings are the following.

‘Maize — or corn (Zea mays L.) — now is the most important global cereal in terms of production reflecting its versatility in use, including human food, animal feed and fodder, industrial products and biofuel.’

‘Despite being a versatile crop, maize production and maize breeding efforts over time have typically had a single-purpose orientation [on improving grain yields]. . . . Even smallholders within mixed maize-livestock systems typically focus on maize grain yield . . . , with maize stover as additional byproduct and benefit.’

There are prospects within the range of stover quality to increase fodder quality without compromising grain yield.

‘It is this potential of dual-purpose varieties that has reignited research interest and some of the research underlying this special issue. Indeed, despite earlier skepticism only a decade ago, substantial progress has been made in developing dual-purpose maize options for both grain and fodder purposes . . . .’

‘Maize germplasm differences in fodder quality can be exploited without compromising on grain yield.’

‘Confirmation of the relatively favorable feed value of maize stover vis-à-vis other coarse cereal residues — having at least par if not better feed quality traits compared to sorghum and millet, which have been the focus of prior dual-purpose crop improvement research and have been reported to contribute substantially to gross crop production values.’

‘Confirmation of being able to rely on a few key laboratory indicators . . .  as good proxies for feed quality . . . as this enhances the ease of screening for feed quality traits.’

‘From a livestock nutrition viewpoint, an increase in stover quantity is only useful (unless making stover cheaper) if livestock can respond with increased intake, which is stover quality dependent.’

Dairy cow on a Kenyan smallholding

 A dairy cow on one of Kenya’s many smallholder farms consumes maize stover, an important supplementary feed in East Africa (photo credit: ILRI).

Read the synthesis paper, as well as other papers, in this special issue of Field Crops Research 153 (2013) 107–112, edited by Elaine Grings, Olaf Erenstein and Michael Blümmel. The papers authored by ILRI scientists include the following.

Blümmel M, Grings E and Erenstein O 2013:
Potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands: Synthesis

Erenstein O, Blümmel M and Grings E 2013:
Potential for dual-purpose maize varieties to meet changing maize demands: Overview

Homann Kee-Tui S, Blümmel M, Valbuena D, Chirima A, Masikati P, Rooyen AF van and Kassie GT 2013:
Assessing the potential of dual-purpose maize in southern Africa: A multi-level approach

Anandan S, Khan AA, Ravi D, Sai Butcha Rao M, Reddy YR and Blümmel M 2013:
Identification of a superior dual purpose maize hybrid among widely grown hybrids in South Asia
and value addition to its stover through feed supplementation and feed processing

Ravi D, Khan AA, Sai Butcha Rao M and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on suitable laboratory stover quality traits for multidimensional maize improvement

Ramana Reddy Y, Ravi D, Ramakrishna Reddy C, Prasad KVSV, Zaidi PH, Vinayan MT and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on the correlations between maize grain and maize stover quantitative and qualitative traits
and the implications for whole maize plant optimization

Lukuyu BA, Murdoch AJ, Romney D, Mwangi DM, Njuguna JGM, McLeod A and Jama AN 2013:
Integrated maize management options to improve forage yield and quality on smallholder farms in Kenya

Ertiro BT, Twumasi-Afriyie S, Blummel M, Friesen D, Negera D, Worku M, Abakemal D and Kitenge K 2013:
Genetic variability of maize stover quality and the potential for genetic improvement of fodder value

Ertiro BT, Zeleke H, Friesen D, Blümmel M and Twumasi-Afriyie, S 2013:
Relationship between the performance of parental inbred lines and hybrids for food-feed traits in maize (Zea mays L.) in Ethiopia

Zaidi PH, Vinayan MT and Blümmel M 2012:
Genetic variability of tropical maize stover quality and the potential for genetic improvement of food-feed value in India

Vinayan MT, Babu R, Jyothsna T, Zaidi PH and Blümmel M 2013:
A note on potential candidate genomic regions with implications for maize stover fodder quality

Read about this special issue in the ILRI Clippings Blog:
Field Crops Research special issue on dual-purpose maize for food and feed, 15 Nov 2013.

Sustainable intensification of agriculture in Africa: The case for mixed crop-livestock farming

Click to view this slide presentation made by Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thu 19 Sep 2013, at the 22 International Grasslands Congress, which was held in Sydney, Australia, 15−19 September 2013, and had some 800 participants. Other ILRI and former colleagues who developed the presentation with Tarawali are Alan Duncan, Peter Thorne, Diego Valbuena, Katrien Descheemaeker and Sabine Homann-KeeTui.

This ILRI presentation made the case for continued close integration of crop farming and livestock raising in Africa, where such integrated farming systems are key to helping small-scale food producers intensify their production levels while conserving their natural resources and protecting their environments.

Tarawali had three main messages for her audience, for which she and her colleagues provided samples of latest research work at ILRI and its partners around the world.

  1. Don’t decouple crop intensification efforts from livestock intensification work.
  2. Address the biomass challenge.
  3. Improve the efficiencies of smallholder livestock production systems to reduce any harm they cause to the environment.

(1) DON’T DE-COUPLE CROP AND LIVESTOCK INTENSIFICATION

Mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems are important for feeding the world

Slide 3: Livestock demand is highest in developing countries

Slide 4: Developing countries lead in global food production

Smallholder livestock keepers in developing countries are remarkably competitive

Slide 6: Smallholder livestock keepers are competitive

Slide 7: Smallholder livestock keepers are competitive

Slide 8: Key points related to smallholder competitiveness

Livestock benefit crop production

Slide 9: Soil fertility and manure

Slide 10: Animal traction

Crop production benefits livestock

Slide 12: Crop residues

(2) ADDRESS THE BIOMASS CHALLENGE

Slide 13: Importance of grazed biomass for livestock

Slide 14: Sustainable intensification

Slide 18: More biomass?

(3) IMPROVE SMALLHOLDER LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION EFFICIENCIES TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL HARM

Improve crop residues for livestock feed

Slide 20: Improve dual-purpise crop-residues for livestock feed

Slide 21: Opportunities to improve livestock efficiencies

Read / view the opening keynote presentation made at the International Grasslands Congress by ILRI’s director general Jimmy Smith on the ILRI News Blog:

Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1, 16 Sep 2013

Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 2, 17 Sep 2013

 

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

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

Next week, staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs are attending the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), which is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.
CGIAR is a global partnership for a food-secure future that conducts and disseminates research to improve the lives, livelihoods and lands of the world’s poorest people. CGIAR research is conducted by 15 of the world’s leading agricultural development research centres and 16 global research programs, all of them partnering with many stakeholders in Africa. More than half of CGIAR funding (52% in 2012) targets African-focused research.

The theme of next week’s AASW6 is ‘Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation’. CGIAR is supporting African-driven solutions to food security by partnering with FARA and the African Union, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), sub-regional organizations, national agricultural research systems and many other private and non-governmental as well as public organizations.

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

Ten ILRI scientists and staff will briefly speak and then engage with other participants in a side event ILRI is organizing at AASW6 on the topic of Livestock research for Africa’s food security. This three-hour morning side event will be facilitated by ILRI’s knowledge management and communication specialist, Ewen Le Borgne, and will be highly participatory in nature.

If you plan to attend this session, please shoot an email confirmation to Teresa Werrhe-Abira(t.werrhe-abira [at] cgiar.org) so we can organize refreshments.

And if you’d like to use this opportunity to talk with or interview one of the ILRI staff members below, or just meet them, please do so! ILRI communication officers Muthoni Njiru (m.njiru [at] cgiar.org) and Paul Karaimu (p.karaimu [at] cgiar.org) will be on hand at the ILRI side session (and you’ll find one or both at the CGIAR booth most of the rest of the week) to give you any assistance you may need.

Among the speakers at the ILRI side session will be the following.

Jimmy Smith, a Canadian, became director general of ILRI in Oct 2011. Before that, he worked for the World Bank in Washington, DC, leading the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Before joining the World Bank, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency. Still earlier in his career, he worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and subsequently managed the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR, involving ten CGIAR centres working at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Smith is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed a PhD in animal sciences. He was born in Guyana, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm.

John McIntire (USA) is ILRI deputy director general for research-integrated sciences. He obtained a PhD in agricultural economics in 1980 from Tufts University using results of farm-level field studies of smallholder crop production in francophone Africa. He subsequently served as an economist for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, and the West Africa Program of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in Burkina Faso and Niger, and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), one of ILRI’s two predecessors, in Ethiopia. He is co-author of Crop Livestock Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa (1992), a book still widely cited 20 years later. McIntire joined the World Bank in 1989, where he worked (in Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi) until his retirement in 2011. In 2011, he became the second person to receive both the Bank’s ‘Good Manager Award’ and ‘Green Award for Environmental Leadership’.

Shirley Tarawali (UK) is ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships. Before taking on this role, Tarawali was director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, with responsibilities spanning sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. She holds a PhD in plant science from the University of London. Previously, Tarawali held a joint appointment with ILRI and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Her fields of specialization include mixed crop-livestock and pastoral systems in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

Delia Grace (Ireland) is an ILRI veterinarian and epidemiologist who leads a program at ILRI on food safety and zoonosis. She also leads a flagship project on ‘Agriculture-Associated Diseases’, which is a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), USA. Grace has broad developing-country expertise in food safety, risk factor analysis, ecohealth/one health, gender and livestock, participatory methods, randomized trials and health metrics.

Questions Grace will address in ILRI’s side event are:
What are risk-based approaches to food safety in informal markets where most of the poor buy & sell?
How should we deal with food safety dynamics: livestock revolution, urbanization, globalization?
How can we better understand the public health impacts of aflatoxins?

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

Polly Ericksen (USA) leads drylands research at ILRI and for 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. That CGIAR research  program as a whole is led by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria. Ericksen also leads a Technical Consortium for Ending Drought Emergencies and Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa. Her broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies.

Questions Ericksen will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can commercial pastoral livestock production lead to growth in risk-prone drylands?
Is there a long-term role for livestock insurance in pastoral production systems?

  • Iain WrightAlan Duncan and Michael Blümmel: The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems

Iain Wright (UK) is ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia and head of ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus, where over 300 staff are located. He also directs  ILRI’s Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program, a USD15-million global program working to increase the productivity of livestock systems in developing countries through high-quality animal science (breeding, nutrition and animal health) and livestock systems research. Before this, Wright served as director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment theme. And before that, from 2006 to 2011, he was ILRI’s regional representative for Asia, based in New Delhi and coordinating ILRI’s activities in South, Southeast Asia and East Asia. Wright has a PhD in animal nutrition. Before joining ILRI, he managed several research programs at the Macaulay Institute, in Scotland.

Alan Duncan (UK) is an ILRI livestock feed specialist and joint leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme. Duncan joined ILRI in 2007, also  coming from Scotland’s Macaulay Institute. Duncan has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. He also works on livestock-water interactions, which are a key issue in Ethiopia, where he is based, particularly in relation to the competition for water occurring between the growing of livestock feed and that of staple crops. Duncan manages a range of research-for-development projects and acts as ILRI’s focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, which is led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria.

Michael Blümmel (Germany) is an ILRI animal nutritionist with PhD (1994) and Habilitation (2004) degrees from the University of Hohenheim, in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in research, teaching and development in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. Blümmel’s major research interests include feeding and feed resourcing at the interface of positive and negative effects from livestock, multi-dimensional crop improvement concomitantly to improve food, feed and fodder traits in new crop cultivars, and optimization of locally available feed resources through small business enterprises around decentralized feed processing.

A question they will address in ILRI’s side event is:
What are the options for sustainable intensification through livestock feeding?

  • Ethel Makila: Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

Ethel Makila (Kenya) is ILRI communications officer for the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub. She is a graphic designer expert in development communication, media and education. At the BecA-ILRI Hub, she is responsible for increasing awareness of the Hub’s activities, facilities and impacts among African farmers, research institutes, government departments, Pan-African organizations and the international donor and research communities.

Questions Makila will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can we build bio-sciences capacity in Africa to move from research results to development impacts?
How can we keep the BecA-ILRI Hub relevant to the research needs and context of African scientists?

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

Suzanne Bertrand (Canada) is ILRI deputy director general for research-biosciences. With a PhD in plant molecular biology from Laval University, Bertrand began her career as a scientist with Agri-Food Canada, working on forage plants. Her focus shifted rapidly from laboratory-based research to application of modern agri-technology in the developing world. Her overseas assignments included spells in the People’s Republic of China and Tunisia. She spent six years in the USA, first as research assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and then as a founding principal for a biotechnology start-up company. She then joined Livestock Improvement (LIC), a large dairy breeding enterprise in New Zealand, where she managed LIC’s Research and Development Group, delivering science-based solutions in the areas of genomics, reproductive health, animal evaluation and commercialization to the dairy sector. In 2008, Bertrand became director, International Linkages for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology in New Zealand. She was later chief executive officer for NZBIO, an NGO representing the interests and supporting growth of the bioscience sector in New Zealand.

Questions Bertrand will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How do we stimulate and sustain an African vaccine R&D pathway to achieve impact?
How can we grow a biotech and vaccine manufacturing sector in Africa?

Find more information about AASW6, including a full agenda, and follow the hashtag #AASW6 on social media.

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

  • Jimmy Smith, director general, based at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya
  • John McIntire, deputy director general-Integrated Sciences, Nairobi
  • Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general—Biosciences, Nairobi
  • Shirley Tarawali, director of Institutional Planning and Partnerships, Nairobi
  • Iain Wright, director of ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture Program, based at ILRI’s second principal campus, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Abdou Fall, ILRI regional representative and manager of conservation of West African livestock genetic resources project, based in Senegal
  • Iheanacho (Acho) Okike, manages project of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, based in Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Iddo Dror, head of ILRI Capacity Development, Nairobi
  • Delia Grace, leads ILRI Food Safety and Zoonosis program and also an ‘Agriculture-Associate Diseases’ component of CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Nairobi
  • Joy Appiah, former student in ILRI Safe Food, Fair Food project; ILRI is supporting his participation at AASW6; he is now at the University of Ghana
  • Polly Ericksen, leads dryands research within ILRI Livestock Systems and Environment program, serves as ILRI focal point for two CGIAR research programs—on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and Dryland Systems—and leads a Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa, based in Nairobi
  • Katie Downie, coordinator of the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of AfricaHorn of Africa, Nairobi
  • Alan Duncan, leads feed innovations research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program and serves as ILRI focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on the HumidTropics, Addis Ababa
  • Michael Blümmel, leads feed resources research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program, based at ICRISAT, in Hyderabad, India
  • Allan Liavoga, deputy program manager of Bio-Innovate, Nairobi
  • Dolapo Enahoro, agricultural economist within ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chains program, based in Accra

Communications support

  • Ewen LeBorgne, ILRI knowledge management and communications specialist; is facilitating ILRI’s side session at AASW6 on 15 Jul; based in Addis Ababa
  • Muthoni Njiru, ILRI communications officer in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing media relations, exhibit materials, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Paul Karaimu, ILRI communications writer/editor in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing blogging, photography, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Ethel Makila, ILRI communications specialist for the BecA-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Albert Mwangi, ILRI communications specialist for Bio-Innovate, Nairobi

plus

  • Cheikh Ly, ILRI board member, from Senegal, veterinary expert at FAO, based in Accra, Ghana
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, ILRI board chair, from Zimbabwe, livestock scientist, agricultural policy thinker, and CEO and head of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, South Africa

Better grass for better smallholder dairying in East Africa

The tuft of grass minor, by Albrecht Durer (via Wikipaintings).

The Tuft of Grass Minor, watercolour by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1521) (image via Wikipaintings).

An impact case study on Getting superior Napier grass to dairy farmers in East Africa was published on 1 Mar 2013 by the European Initiative for Agricultural Research for Development (EIARD), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Kenya Agricultural Research institute (KARI). Excerpts follow.

To meet demand for high-yielding, disease resistant fodder from smallholder dairy farmers in East Africa, scientists from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) worked together to select and distribute smut-resistant varieties of Napier grass.

‘Napier grass has become the most important fodder crop in Kenya, but 20 years ago head smut disease began to have a devastating impact, turning valuable fodder into thin, shrivelled stems. With the cost of disease control using systemic fungicide beyond the means of most smallholder dairy farmers, KARI began work to select smut-resistant varieties.

‘With access to Napier grass germplasm from ILRI’s genebank, KARI developed two resistant varieties — Kakamega I and Kakamega II. Favourable laboratory results were confirmed in farmer’s fields and work began to multiply planting material. Within a year, cuttings were distributed to over 10,000 smallholder farmers. The new varieties are not quite as productive as the best of Kenya’s local Napier grass varieties, but have still proven popular in smut-affected areas. By 2007, 13 per cent of farmers were using Kakamega I for zero grazing systems in smut prone areas.

‘The chance of head smut resistance breaking down in the new varieties is high, so KARI is screening more materials from ILRI, which is continuing to build its Napier grass collection to have germplasm available to screen for new resistant varieties. In 2012, ILRI provided the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa, with Kakamega I and II to enable researchers to use them to develop higher yielding and more nutritious resistant varieties. . . .

Background
‘Dairy farming, Kenya’s leading livestock sector activity, is vital for the livelihoods and food security of millions of Kenyans. More than 80 per cent of milk produced and sold in Kenya comes from smallholder farmers, typically raising just one or two dairy cows on small plots of land. Women perform half of all dairy related activities in Kenya, which improves household welfare, primarily through increased household income and milk consumption.

‘With a growing population and shrinking areas for pasture, cattle are increasingly being fed on crop residues, cultivated fodder and some concentrates. Ninety per cent of farmers now produce on-farm feeds. Being able to provide enough good quality fodder is by far the most important factor in achieving high milk quality and yield, with a well fed animal producing two or three times more milk than an averagely fed one.

‘The high yielding fodder, Napier grass — Pennisetum purpureum — has become by far the most important due to its wide adaptation to different regions, high yield and ease of propagation and management. Napier grass constitutes between 40–80 per cent of the forage for more than 0.6 million smallholder dairy farms. With fodder in high demand, selling Napier grass as a business has good potential for improving smallholder livelihoods. According to a recent survey, up to 58 per cent of Kenyan smallholder farmers already sell fodder, including crop residues, straw or grass.

‘However, in the early 1990s, head smut disease, caused by the fungus Ustilago kamerunensis, began to have a devastating impact on Napier grass. Spread rapidly by wind and infected plant material, smut turned valuable Napier grass into thin, shrivelled stems and reduced yields by 25–46 per cent. For smallholder farmers, the threat was very serious.

‘Disease control using systemic fungicide in fodder crops is very expensive and therefore beyond the means of most smallholders. Using tolerant high yielding varieties is a cost effective solution and avoids the additional costs of moving to a different feeding system. ILRI maintains an international collection of forage germplasm under the auspices of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The state of the art genebank, based in Ethiopia, holds over 19,000 forage accessions, including 60 genotypes of Napier grass. . . .’

Funding
ILRI received direct funding from the European Union, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to support their forage diversity work and forage genebank in addition to funding from CGIAR.

For further information
Getting superior Napier grass to dairy farmers in East Africa, impacts case study by EIARD, ILRI and KARI, Mar 2013
Visit ILRI’s forage diversity website
Visit the project site: Napier Grass Stunt and Smut Project
Saving animal feed plants to preserve livelihoods, 2007 (ILRI film, run-time: 11 minutes)
Putting ILRI’s genebank to work, 2007 (ILRI film: run-time: 14 minutes)
Contact: Alexandra Jorge, ILRI Genebank Manager: a.jorge [at] cgiar.org

Fixing fodder shortages for dairy in East Africa and South Asia, beef in West Africa, goat/sheep meat in West and southern Africa

Fodder cut and ready for transporting in northern India

Fodder cut and ready for transporting in northern India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

In 2012, a group of researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) worked with partners at the World Bank, under the direction of Jimmy Smith, then a senior livestock advisor at the Bank and now director general of ILRI, in identifying investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries.

Excerpts from the executive summary follow.

‘Driven by population growth, increasing demand, stricter quality and safety standards for animal source food and increasing competition for land and water resources, the livestock sector is changing rapidly. Within this changing landscape, smallholders with crops and livestock will remain the mainstay of the sector in developing countries for some decades to come.

For example, the projections in this report foresee an increase in cattle, sheep and goat populations in the mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world from 467 million to 648 million adult cattle equivalents. However, also here, the abovementioned mega-trends and the resulting competition for feed resources imply that these systems will have to intensify to ensure an acceptable livelihood for its producers.

‘Enhancing the quality and quantity of feed, as one of the most important factors of animal production will play a critical role in this process of intensification. However, feed improvement should not be seen in isolation, but rather be assessed as part of the greater value chain, including all stakeholders. For example, investing in feed improvement without markets to sell the increased production from this investment or without an adequate feed quality control regulatory framework, would yield negative returns.

This report follows a step-by-step analytical framework that will provide the priority investments and actions in technologies, policies, and institutions.

‘As the first step in this framework, the most promising value chains, where feed-related strategies and investments are most likely to have significant impacts, have to be identified. On the basis of the key characteristics of (a) growth and market opportunities, (b) number of poor and pro-poor potential and (c) the supply constraints, in particular disease risk and feed resources availability, this report identifies first Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as priority areas, and then, within these areas, it identifies three commodity value chains in five regions of particularly great potential to benefit poor producers and consumers. They are:

  • Dairy in East Africa and South Asia
    because of the expected growth in demand (including export potential), the number of poor involved (135 million), and the moderately adequate situation resource situation
  • Beef in West Africa
    because of its potential for import substitution and potential for improvement, in spite of the resource constraints
  • Small ruminant meat in West Africa and Southern Africa
    because of the number of poor involved (110 million) and new domestic market opportunities.

‘The framework was then used to analyze the diversity of feed types, the availability of feed sources both from within and from outside of local systems, based on informant interviews and quantitative modeling of the current situation and with projections to 2030. Detailed data for each feed type and source are available in the main text, but the general trends show:

  • (a) A reduction in the use of crop residue
    such as straws and stovers, although at a projected between 20 and 50 percent these remain a substantial part of the daily ration of the livestock of those systems.
  • (b) An increase in the use of crop-by-products
    (such as oil cakes and by-products of the milling industry) and concentrates, although staying in 2030 mostly below ten percent, with the exception of the South Asian dairy systems, where they would amount to 25 percent of the total diet. With such a low share of the diet, and with most products not edible for humans, these systems would not endanger global food security.
  • (c) An increase in the area planted for forages,
    in particular in dairy systems; and (d) a sharp increase in feed procurement from the market instead of supply from the own farm.

‘Based on these projections to 2030, opportunities for feed-related investments with major positive impacts on the poor are then identified. A number of strategies, policies, technologies, and services come to light as especially promising areas for such investment in a variety of scenarios. Applying the assessment framework to each of the three value chains yielded similar results for all chains. First of all, they stress that addressing feed related issues in the context of evolving value chains requires combinations of public and private investments: policies, strategies that facilitate adoption and market engagement with reduced transactions costs such as improved access to knowledge and services for smallholder producers and other market agents together with adoption of improved feed technologies.

‘The more specific areas of improvement that warrant priority in targeting investments are:

  • Technological feed improving solutions include in all value chains studied
    (a) more attention to research and development for feed/food crops, i.e., crops that provide both food (mostly grain) for humans and feed (mostly straws) for livestock;
    (b) better ration formulation, through the introduction of feed processing and storage technologies (including micro-sizing, ensiling, etc.) and
    (c) forage seed production. . .
  • Institutional issues include access to land and water for all smallholders, as a primary concern and as the main incentive to improve crop-residues. Effective governance on feed quality is also a common institutional issue raised. Similarly, reduction on transaction costs (both to access the feeds and to participate in product markets) is another key area for institutional investment support. In all value chains, the report strongly advocates support to Business Development Services – interpreted in the broadest sense as a key to facilitating access to feeds, markets and for reducing transaction costs. . . .
  • The policy concerns are more value chain specific, and include the protection against dumping of meat and milk from the OECD countries, reduction of regional tariff barriers (in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa) and lack of investment in infrastructure.

‘While for many households increasing animal numbers is perceived as attractive, there are severe environmental limitations of the extent this is possible. Policies and investment that increase per animal productivity, such as adequate ration formulation and emphasis on mineral supplementation in the feed and nutrition domain, as well as genetic and health improvement related investment will be important. However, in some areas, increased efficiency (producing the same with fewer animals, or more with the same number of animals) can also be achieved through incentive systems such as payment for environmental services.

‘Ranking those investments regarding their economic return constitutes the final step in the analytical framework, underpinning this study. The analysis shows that for an individual household, the increase in animal numbers is the most attractive option, as has also been proven in the past.

Indeed, according to FAOSTAT (2010) data, most (57 percent over the period 1990–2010) of the increased production in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from an increase in animals, and not from increased productivity per animals. This is obviously not sustainable.

‘The key challenge therefore is to increase the profitability of raising productivity per animal. As better feed utilization will be a critical factor in enhancing the profitability and hence in ensuring the long term sustainability of these system, it is therefore encouraging that in most evaluations feed improvements (and in particular the use of crop-residues) rank from the third to the fifth place. The analytical framework also provides a ranking of the importance of timing over the 2010–2030 period in which investments are made. The results show that in general a fast trajectory (i.e. transformation early in the 20-year interval) is associated with relatively higher returns accruing to investments in selected feed types, compared to a “slow” trajectory. Fast action is therefore recommended.

‘The results of this study demonstrate that the assessment framework developed could be applied readily in other systems, and at the same time provides a basis that can be further built upon.

‘This peer-reviewed World Bank report was prepared under the guidance of Jimmy Smith, formerly of the World Bank and (since Nov 2011) now serving as director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and Francois le Gall of the World Bank by an ILRI team consisting of William Thorpe, Derek Baker and Shirley Tarawali with Rainer Asse, Augustine Ayantunde, Michael Blummel, Oumar Diall, Alan Duncan, Abdou Fall, Bruno Gerard, Elaine Grings, Mario Herrero, Chedly Kayouli, Ben Lukuyu, Siboniso Moyo, Ranjitha Puskur, An Notenbaert, Tom Randolph, Steve Staal, Nils Teufel, Francis Wanyoike and Iain Wright. Further inputs were provided by Cees de Haan and Gunnar Larson from the World Bank.’

Read the report: Identifying investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries, World Bank, 2012.

KARI agricultural innovations big hit with young smart business farmers: ‘Those are OUR people’

13th Biennial Scientific Conference at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Nairobi

 A few of the tents on the exhibit grounds at the 13th Biennial Scientific Conference held at KARI in Nairobi from 22–26 Oct 2012 (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

The 13th Biennial Scientific Conference and Exhibition at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) took place last week at KARI’s headquarters in Nairobi’s leafy suburb of Loresho.

This correspondent—enamoured of the sea of white tents erected across KARI’s rolling green lawns to showcase hundreds of exhibitors of ‘Agricultural Products, Technologies & Innovations’—never actually made it to the proceedings of the conference itself. But if the conference was anything like the exhibits, it must have been a great success.

My organization, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), tried to distinguish its exhibit on livestock forage research and capacity building from the hundreds of other tents just like it with decorations of African artefacts—wooden bowls, woven baskets and traditional cloths and the like—as well as safari chairs inviting passersby to come inside for a conversation. So successful were we that many people upon entering the ILRI tent promptly asked to buy some of the display items (and were promptly disappointed when we told them they weren’t for sale.) The big cattle and camel bells were also a big hit, with the visitors having to explain to ILRI staff the difference between the bell sounds appropriate for cows and those for bulls!

We were at KARI to promote opportunities for young Kenyan scientists to train at ILRI, the headquarters of which are located just a 15-minute drive from KARI. And we showcased our collaborative research with KARI scientists, including Solomon Mwendia, on disease-resistant varieties of Napier grass, aka ‘elephant grass’, on which so many Kenyan smallholder farmers depend for feeding their milk cows.

ILRI forage seed display at KARI event

Forage seed display at the ILRI booth (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

Visitors showed great interest in ILRI printed materials about improved forages and feeds (lab lab, oats, vetch), seed samples and Napier grass cuttings and leaves, and a research-based feed assessment tool for selecting appropriate feeds for different regions.

13th Biennial Scientific Conference at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Nairobi

Alexandra Jorge, head of ILRI’s Forage Genebank, in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, talks to a visitor in ILRI’s booth on the exhibit grounds at the week-long KARI scientific conference; in the basket are varieties of disease-resistant Napier from the genebank (photo by ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

‘The demand for information was huge’, says Alexandra Jorge, who heads ILRI’s Forage Genebank, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and came down to Nairobi to answer questions and provide expertise at KARI’s week-long event. ‘We had questions about the best feeds for dairy goats, how to maximize forage production for feeding dairy cows, the best methods for raising pigs, the best breeds of chickens to keep, how to transition to stall-fed (‘zero grazed’) dairy animals, how to start hydroponic and screen-house forage production, and what climate change is likely to change in Kenyan agriculture—and what livestock farmers can do now to cope with it.’

‘I really enjoyed participating in this exhibit,’ Jorge says ‘having real contact with our users and clients and chatting about their challenges and projects. It made me think hard about what we researchers do and the impact and benefits we can bring to farmers. It also made me realize how little I know about the work that many colleagues are doing and that we should make this information much more available.’

‘It was amazing to see the amount of interesting and innovative work KARI and many Kenyan universities are doing. Many people had stories to share, or tasty food, like the amazing sorghum sausages that taste just like meat!’

Sausages for sale at KARI event

Sausages for sale at the KARI event (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

ILRI research manager Sandra Rwese was most impressed with the number of young entrepreneurs at this event looking for agricultural innovations and good ideas. ‘Scores of youth finding few jobs in urban areas appear to be calling city life quits and heading to rural farming villages. The numbers of these young new farmers that I met at the KARI event are much larger than I’d expected. This young generation is clearly keen on taking agriculture and livestock farming to the next level.’

Jane Gitau, a communications officer at ILRI, agrees. ‘Many of the visitors to ILRI’s tent inquiring about better methods of livestock keeping appeared to be in their thirties and early forties. They wanted information to take away with them; they wanted to learn more efficient methods of farming. It was refreshing to witness this drive to make agriculture a knowledge-based business.’

KARI display of range grass seed at KARI event

KARI display of range grass seed at KARI event (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

‘Walking from booth to booth’, Gitau said, ‘I was amazed to see all that KARI had to offer from its 22 centres countrywide, from Kibos to Kiboko, Muguga to Thika, each with a different mandate in agricultural research. Staff from KARI’s Kiboko Research Station, located about 150 km southeast of Nairobi and the institute’s drylands station, exhibited various imported and hybrid rangeland grasses they are trialing. KARI’s Muguga Station was exhibiting some of Kenya’s important plant and livestock genetic resources. And an improved rice variety grown under irrigation at Kibos, in western Kenya, was on display, along with rice flour, rice cakes, rice doughnuts and rice cookies!’

Selling traditional Kamba baskets at KARI event

Traditional Taita woven baskets for sale at the KARI event (photo by ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

Finally, Gitau remarked on the close connections KARI has to its constituency. ‘Those of us manning the ILRI booth often directed visitors to the many KARI booths to get their specific farming and livestock keeping questions answered. These people sought practical help and region-specific recommendations we didn’t have’, Gitau said. ‘When I asked people if they knew where to find KARI, I several times got the reply, ‘Hao ni watu wetu’, colloquial Swahili for, “Those are our people”.

 

The road back to Rio: Turning straw into gold — Crop ‘wastes’ at the heart of greener livestock development

Cow consumes the wastes of a crop harvest in West Bengal

A West Bengal cow consumes straw (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Key findings were presented today on ways to enhance the value of coarse crop ‘wastes’—better termed ‘residues’—as feed for cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats and other ruminant farm animals. The talk was given at a ‘learning event’ that is part of Agriculture Day at the Rio-20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Carlos Seré, former director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) now serving as chief strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), delivered this presentation on behalf of Michael Blümmel, an animal nutritionist based in ILRI’s office in Hyderabad, India, who could not make the event as scheduled.

The gist of the presentation is that wheat and rice straw, maize stover, groundnut haulms and other residues of crops that remain after their grain or pods have been harvested for human consumption are major feed resources for livestock in developing countries. Widespread and increasing shortages of arable land and water in these countries are increasing the importance of these crop residues for livestock feed, and their importance will only increase over the coming decades as human population grows and as more and more people move out of poverty and begin adding more milk and meat to their diets.

In recent years, livestock and crop improvement researchers have worked together to improve the fodder value, in terms of both quantity and quality, of crop residues at their source. They’ve done this in crop improvement programs that incorporate fodder traits in crop selection, breeding and new cultivar release criteria. Key cereals and legumes are tackled and both conventional and molecular breeding techniques are employed. Fodder traders and feed processors have started employing additional interventions to further improve the superior crop straws and stover.

The following examples illustrate the many promising findings from this collaborative fodder research.

01  Nutritionally significant variations exist in crop residue fodder value among existing cultivars that can be exploited through simple phenotyping without detriment to primary crop traits such as grain and pod yields.
As a ballpark figure, 5 percentage units in digestibility can be exploited in crop residue fodder quality without detriment to gain or pod yield in all key cereal and leguminous crops. The advantage of daily milk yield accruing from 5% difference in digestibility of basal diet in well designed ration is about 5 kg per day due to a multiplicator effect from both higher energy concentration in the diet and higher intake.

02  Simple and network-sharable food/feed/fodder nutritional phenotyping techniques have been established, such as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) platforms that support whole-plant crop improvement paradigms and programs.
ILRI NIRS platforms in India and Ethiopia are being used by other research programs (e.g., the new CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish) and research organizations (e.g., the International Center from Tropical Agriculture and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas). Staff of national agricultural research institutions from the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have been trained in the NIRS technology and have access to network-shared NIRS equations. NIRS is increasingly being used to test for more qualitative grain traits such as lysine, tryptophan, iron, zinc and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with the aim of optimizing whole plants. This collaborative research is facilitating the analysis of 50 to 100 cultivars every day and gaining information about all their pertinent grain and crop residue traits.

03  Fodder value can be further increased through conventional crop breeding (such as recurrent selection) and molecular crop breeding (such as quantitative trait loci [QTL] identification and backcrossing).
Identification of stay-green QTLs and their backcrossing into elite sorghum varieties could increase stover digestibility by 3 to 5 percentage units while also increasing the sorghum plant’s drought resistance and water-use efficiencies.

04  In mixed crop-and-livestock agricultural production systems, the rates of adoption of new crop cultivars improved for both food and feed/fodder traits appear to be better than that for adoption of new cultivars improved for food traits only.
In a recent maize project in East Africa, farmers ranked stover traits 2.4 and grain yield 2.9 on a scale of 3. Farmers were most likely to adopt new maize cultivars that had improved stover as well as grain traits. Anecdotal  evidence from groundnut adoption studies in India suggests that farmers prefer relatively small additive advantages—say 10% more pod + 10% more haulm + 10% more haulm quality—over (often theoretical) drastic increases in pod yield.

05 Participants in fodder value chains for straw and stover profit from superior straw and stover.
Price premiums for 3 to 5 percentage units in digestibility are in the range of 10 to 30%. There is higher demand for higher quality crop residues and superior sorghum stover is now regularly transported more than 400 km in parts of India. There are significant employment opportunities in harvesting, chopping, transporting and selling these crop residues.

06  Further improvement of superior straw and stover, in the form of supplementation, fortification or densification, can be done in feed processing, with productivity levels achieved from such processed but largely by-product-based feeds being four or more times greater than current levels of production.
Complete rations based on more than on 80% by-products (50–60% straws and stovers) can support 15–16 kg of milk daily in dairy buffaloes, about 1 kg live-weight gain in cattle and 120–130 g in sheep. Complete rations are suitable for smallholder farmers because the rations need not entail complex feed processing options; simply chopping and supplementing residues can suffice.

07  Increasing current yields of animals in India, such as by doubling the average daily yield of 3.6 kg of milk (across buffalo, crossbred and local cattle herds), would reduce levels of greenhouse gases dramatically, decreasing methane emission from dairy production by more than 1 million tons per year.
This is straightforward; increasing average daily milk yields in India from 3.6 to 6 to 7 kg per animal per day would reduce methane production from dairy animals relative to the same amount of milk produced by about 1 million tons per year.

In addition, there are good prospects for mainstreaming such multi-dimensional crop improvement outputs. For example, new CGIAR Research Programs (such as those on maize, rice, dryland cereals, and grain legumes) have already adopted the approach and have incorporated fodder value as high-priority traits in these crops.

Read more
Read more about the context for this livestock feeds learning event at Agriculture Day at Rio+20 on this ILRI News Blog:
The Road Back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’, 18 Jun 2012.

Follow the presentations and discussions of this learning event on Twitter as @agricultureday and check updates via the Twitter-tags #RioPlus20 and #Rio4Ag and the Facebook page for ARDD. You can also follow CGIAR at Rio on this landing page on the CGIAR Consortium website.

Read more about ILRI’s crop residue research:
Dual-purpose groundnut, pigeonpea, millet and sorghum raise milk yields in dairy-intensive India, 8 Apr 2012.

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis, 17 Jan 2011.

The road back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’

NP Llanos51_lo

Cattle graze on Colombia's eastern plains, or Llanos (photo on Flickr by CIAT/Neil Palmer).

 

Several hundred people in Rio de Janeiro today will be discussing and debating a topic not often included in high-profile meetings. The topic is how we can use improved livestock feed to reduce both poverty and climate change.

The discussions today will take place at one of 13 ‘learning events’ that are part of an Agriculture and Rural Development Day at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Staff from CGIAR  Centres are helping to organize and are participating in events throughout this day.

Given that the key messages of this particular learning event run counter to much current thinking about livestock, the participants will share and discuss scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of improved feeding practices, particularly their potential for contributing significantly to climate change mitigation while improving livestock production.

Messages
On the table today are both fodders, coarse foods composed of entire plants or the leaves and stalks of cereal crops, and bulky grass or hay forages. The learning event, titled ‘LivestockPlus—How can sustainable intensification of livestock production through improved feeding practices help realize both livelihood as well as environmental benefits?’, will deliver the following three fundamental messages.

New feeding practices can increase livestock production while decreasing its ecological ‘hoofprint’

New livestock feeding practices, like the use of improved dual-purpose crops and high-quality forages, offer significant potential for sustainable intensification of agricultural production to enhance livelihoods while also reducing livestock’s ecological ‘hoofprint’.

Improved forages, like forests, will capture carbon

Improved tropical forages offer the further advantage of sequestering large amounts of carbon—on a scale similar to that of forests—with the possibility of reducing emissions of nitrous oxide and methane per unit of livestock product. There is evidence that the potential of sown forages to sequester carbon (assuming good pasture and livestock management) is second only to that of forests and that sown forages could realize 60–80% of agriculture’s total potential to mitigate climate change.

Better feeding practices will allow mixed crop-livestock farmers to produce more food more sustainably

If widely applied by the vast army of ‘mixed’ smallholder farmers, who raise livestock as well as grow crops, and who are the mainstay of global food security, improved livestock feeding practices could deliver huge increases in food production at reduced environmental cost against a background of rising livestock production and consumption in the developing world.

Evidence
The result of numerous global initiatives and extensive testing, this work offers practical examples of how improved feeds can raise the production and incomes of smallholder farmers. Superior forage grasses widely adopted in Latin America, for example, already generate up to USD4 billion in Brazil alone. And improved tropical forages have also been adopted widely in Southeast Asia since the start of their promotion in 1995. A recent review indicates that continued adoption of improved feeds, including sown forages, could significantly reduce greenhouse gases on a global scale, while enhancing the livelihoods of the one billion people dependent on livestock-cropping systems.

What remains to be done
To scale up these improved feed resources so that they contribute to a transformed food system, we need more precsie understanding of the impacts of livestock on climate change, with the impacts differentiated by specific livestock-cropping systems, as well as of the potential for improved feeding practices to mitigate climate change. To make livestock and crop production in the tropics more climate friendly through improved feeding practices, smallholders must be given stronger incentives to market their livestock products and to sequester carbon through improved land management. Smallholders might be encouraged to adopt sown (and carbon-storing) forages, for example, through schemes instituted to pay them for the environmental services they provide.

What could be achieved
With donor support for research to obtain conclusive data and to provide policymakers with support for their decision-making, a functional system for implementing the LivestockPlus concept and associated strategies could be available within the next 5–6 years.

The program for this learning event
The program for this learning event includes a keynote presentation on the role of forages and livestock production in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by CIAT soil scientist and agroecologist Aracely Castro; this keynote will be followed by three short case-study introductions on the following topics.

Carbon sequestration in livestock production for climate change mitigation: Implications for policy development in Brazil, presented by Embrapa beef cattle researcher Davi José Bungenstab.

Livestock production and climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia: Technical innovation for environmental and livelihood benefits, presented by Carlos Seré, former director general of ILRI and now chief strategist for IFAD (note: Seré is speaking on behalf of ILRI animal nutritionist Michael Blümmel).

Climate-smart silvopastoral systems for a green livestock economy, presented by CATIE director Muhammad Ibrahim.

These case study presentations will be followed by parallel group discussions on each of the three cases to answer such questions as:
What are the main research findings that support the technological or policy innovation, including evidence of livelihood and environmental benefits?
What were key lessons learned from the research leading to this innovation?
What are the requirements for scaling it up?

The session will close with a moderated panel discussion in plenary with the keynote speaker and case study presenters.

Institutions involved
CATIE is a regional centre of excellence based in Costa Rica that works on solutions for the environment and development in rural communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CIAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Colombia, works to increase the eco-efficiency of agriculture to reduce hunger and poverty and to improve human health in the tropics.

EMBRAPA is the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, which works for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness.

ILRI, the International Livestock Research Institute, based in Africa, works to reduce hunger, poverty, ill health and environmental degradation through enhanced livestock systems for poor people in the developing world.

Presenters at the event
This learning event will be chaired by Elcio Guimarães, who is director of research for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Discussions at the session will be summarized by Nathan Russell, a key organizer of this session who leads corporate communications work at CIAT. One of the three scheduled case study speakers, Michael Blümmel of ILRI, is unable to attend; his presentation will be made by Carlos Seré, former director general of ILRI and now chief strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Follow the event on the web
Today, 18 Jun 2012, proceedings of the Agriculture and Rural Development Day will be webcast live (the event takes place from 11.30–13.00 Rio time), and you can ask questions and interact with the organizers via Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow the presentations and discussions of this learning event on Twitter as @agricultureday and check updates via the Twitter-tags #RioPlus20 and #Rio4Ag and the Facebook page for ARDD. You can also follow CGIAR at Rio on this landing page on the CGIAR Consortium website.

Changing the fortunes of farmers in Ethiopia through better livestock feed

This very brief photofilm (1:23 minutes) shares the memorable and powerful story of Gebremichael Desta, an Ethiopian farmer whose life has changed by the use of improved livestock feed. 

If you climb up the rickety ladder on to the roof of the stone dwelling where Gebremichael Desta lives with his family and livestock—he keeps his hay on the roof—you can gaze across a world which looks much as it must have done many centuries ago. Ploughmen shout encouragement to their oxen, women urge pack animals over the stony ground and buzzards wheel above the terraced fields. There is not a machine in sight; nothing to indicate that this is the 21st century.

But appearances can deceive. ‘The difference between the past and present?’ muses Desta. ‘It’s like the distance between the sky and the earth.’ Today, the families living in these remote highlands—much of Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, is over 2000 metres above sea level—learn about the importance of family planning and good nutrition. Older generations never did. ‘When I was young, we were entirely dependent on traditional medicines if we fell sick, but now we have access to modern health care,’ says Desta.

Recent years have also witnessed dramatic changes in the way he and his neighbours manage their land and livestock. A few years ago, at this time of day, his animals—two oxen, a dairy cow and calf, a donkey, 10 sheep—would have been grazing in the valley below, watched over by one of his five children. Now they remain at the homestead, and the fodder is brought to them, rather than the other way around.

These changes have been inspired by a five-year project, Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers or IPMS, in short, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  In 10 districts across Ethiopia, the project has helped to improve the value chains—the links between producers, the suppliers of farm inputs and markets—for a range of crops and livestock products.

The project began with a lengthy series of consultations with farmers and local government staff. Together, they identified which farm commodities had the potential to improve local incomes and livelihoods. ‘The main candidates were milk and butter, sheep for fattening and beekeeping,’ recalls Gebremedhin Woldewahid, the project’s research and development officer in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘But the more we talked, the more we realised there was a major limiting factor for all these commodities—a lack of nutritious fodder.’ Much of the district suffered from overgrazing and heavily degraded soils. Tackling this was to be a priority.

A fairer, greener world

‘In 2006, before the project really got under way, this valley would have been parched and dusty and full of livestock at this time of year,’ explains Kidan Kindeya, a young woman who works as a development agent for Habes Peasant Association, of which Desta is vice-chairman. Today, there is not a grazing animal in sight and the vegetation is green and lush. Here and there, the grass has been harvested with a scythe; elsewhere it is almost knee-high, despite the fact that there has been little rain recently.

It is now three years since the peasant association agreed to ban grazing in the valley bottom, an area of some 280 hectares, and allow the land to regenerate naturally. ‘Before we enclosed the area, the ground was very compacted, especially by horses, and the grass was sparse and unpalatable for our sheep and cows,’ recalls Desta. ‘Now we can harvest our plots three times a year, and the quality of the fodder is excellent.’

There are numerous benefits to the ‘cut and carry’ system now operating in many valleys in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘My milk yields have risen and my animals are much healthier,’ says Desta. He also believes that by keeping animals at the homesteads, there is less risk of infectious diseases passing from one to another. The restoration of grazing lands has also led to an increase in flowers, providing a rich supply of pollen for honey bees. As a result, farmers practicing apiculture have benefited greatly from the new methods of pasture management.

In the past, children used to watch over the grazing livestock, which meant they did not go to school. Now they are attending classes. Farmers also used to spend a lot of time travelling long distances to buy fresh grass and hay. Now many have a surplus. This has proved especially important for the poorer households without livestock, which are often headed by widows. ‘They received no benefit in the past from areas like this, before the enclosures,’ explains Kidan Kindeya. ‘They had no livestock to graze, and there was nothing for them to harvest.’ Now, every family is allocated the same amount of land in the valley and those without livestock can harvest their grass and sell it. Two harvests a year yield fodder worth around 10,000 Ethiopian birr (USD740) per hectare.

Besides helping farmers to improve the supply of natural fodder, the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the peasant associations have encouraged farmers to grow their own supplies. Training centres, many with colourful murals depicting the new ways of farming, have provided the know-how and materials to establish Napier grass, tree lucerne and other fodder crops. Now you see them growing around almost every homestead, besides plots of fruit and vegetables.

Spreading the word

‘When I was young,’ says an old priest outside the Orthodox church in Cherkos Haremere, ‘there was thick forest all over this hillside.’ All that remains is a fine stand of African olive trees around the church, the site’s sanctity protecting them from axe and fire. Over the years, a rapidly rising population and the ever-increasing demand for fuelwood, cropland and pasture transformed the rest of the landscape, much of which suffers from erosion and overgrazing.  It is a scene repeated across the district, but gradually, thanks to the efforts of the peasant associations and the introduction of new management techniques, degraded land is being brought back to life.

Four years ago, farmers in Baati-ero agreed to establish enclosures on the sloping land between the valley bottom and the village itself. They kept their animals out, planted fast-growing grasses and leguminous trees, and dug long ditches to harvest and retain rainwater. ‘We hardly used to get any fodder here at all,’ says a local farmer, Tadele Teklay, ‘but this year I’ve been able to get about five donkey loads.’

The farmers are so impressed by what they have achieved that they recently decided to establish enclosures in the valley bottom – something they originally resisted. Many, like Teklay, have also decided to reduce the number of livestock they keep.  ‘Now, we don’t talk about how many animals we have, but how much money we can make from each of them,’ he says.  ‘It’s the quality that matters, not the quantity, and the better the feed, as well as the breed, the more money we’ll make.’

Much of the technical advice that has enabled farmers to improve their productivity and gain access to better markets has been provided by Gebremedhin Woldewahid and the IPMS project, but most of the training has been carried out by the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development and by development agents like Kidan Kindeya. ‘That means that when the project comes to an end, hardly anybody will notice we’ve left,’ says Woldewahid with satisfaction.

One of the reasons why many of the activities encouraged by IPMS are spreading swiftly is because they make good financial, as well as environmental, sense. ‘You can see that with the fodder enclosures,’ says Berhe Fiseha, who chairs the project’s regional advisory and learning committee in Tigray. ‘They began establishing them in one peasant association, then they spread to four others, and now you’ll see enclosures being used to restore grassland all over the district.’

When asked what he has gained in recent years, Gebremichael Desta responds with one word: knowledge. He still regrets that he left school at the age of 17. He was a bright child, but his parents, traditional peasant farmers, had little appreciation of the value of education. Desta is justly proud that his eldest son has a diploma in agriculture and now works as a development agent, and his eldest daughter is studying at university.

‘If you want to survive, and you want to improve your life, then you must take advantage of the opportunities that come your way,’ he says. ‘There are many things which we now do differently, and we have many technologies that our parents never had or knew about. For me, knowledge is the key to everything.’

Story by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

 

Straw matter(s) in Nepal

Nimala Bogati feeds her cows in Nepal

Dairy woman Nimala Bogati feeds her improved dairy cows green fodder. An ILRI-CSISA project on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of Chitwan District, in south-central Nepal, began in Sep 2010. Project staff are introducing residue-based feeding strategies supplemented with green fodder and concentrates to increase cattle and buffalo milk production (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Starting in 2010, feed‐related aspects of dairying in two municipalities of Chitwan District in south-central Nepal have been investigated by staff members from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a local Nepali non-governmental organization called Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD). This study set out to gain an understanding of the overall dairy production system in this district, with a particular focus on the livestock feeding strategies employed by farmers, and to identify key areas of the feeding strategy that could be altered to improve livestock productivity. A feed assessment tool called FEAST—a questionnaire that combines informal group discussions with structured interviews of key farmer informants—was used to rapidly assess on‐farm feed availability in a smallholder context.

FORWARD's Deep Sapkota and ILRI's Arindam Samaddar in Nepal

FORWARD’s Deep Sapkota and ILRI’s Arindam Samaddar confer on a visit to a smallholder dairy producer in Gitanagar, Chitwan District, south-central Nepal (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Project staff from ILRI and FORWARD selected the municipalities of Gitanagar and Ratnanagar for this study because these sites were to become part of projects conducted by a multi-institutional Cereal Systems Initiative of South Asia (CSISA) in Nepal.

Farmers in this area generally have very small plots of land, averaging just 0.24 hectares, from which they produce a wide variety of crops. Rice, maize and wheat are the dominant cereal crops here. Goats and dairy cattle, predominately Holstein-Friesian and Jersey, are the main livestock kept. Some households also keep dairy buffaloes and poultry.

Dairying and other livestock activities contribute 63% of household income, cropping the remaining 37%.

Crop residues (most of which until recently were purchased) are the primary component of the feed for the farm animals and are relied on throughout the year.

Purchased concentrate feeds such as wheat bran and commercially mixed rations provide a significant portion of the dietary metabolizable energy and crude protein.

ILRI has been working with FORWARD for just over one year to improve understanding in these farming communities of key animal health, nutrition and reproduction concepts, so that the farmers can reduce the costs of their milk production, with purchased feed being the main cost.

Farmhouse goats in Nepal

Two goats kept by a farm household in Nepal in a community served by the ILRI-FORWARD-CSISA project (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Goats are the most popular livestock species kept within the area. Eighty percent of households keep 2–3 goats, which are used to fulfil household meat requirements and/or sold at irregular intervals for slaughter. Half the households here keep improved dairy cows, primarily Holstein-Freisian and Jersey, with each household keeping some 2–3 cows. About 10% of the households maintain local buffalo, and 5% improved buffalo such as Murrah, for milking, with each household keeping 1–2 animals. Local cows and buffalo are the cheapest dairy animals available, costing about 10,000Rs (USD$141) and 30,000Rs (USD$423) per head respectively. Improved cows and buffalo are available for 80000–90000Rs (USD$1128–USD$1269) per head. Dairy animals in this area produce approximately 3141 litres of milk per head per year, with sales of milk generating 249446Rs (USD$3519) per household annually.

Man and buffalo in Nepal

Bhim Bahadur Bogati, father-in-law of dairy woman Nirmala Bogati, and his son’s staff-kept buffalo cow (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The dairy animals are usually maintained in purpose built sheds in close proximity to the household and stall fed throughout the year. The shed will generally only have temporary walls that are erected during winter months to keep the animals warm. During summer months, the walls are removed to allow air to circulate around the animals to keep them cool.

To find out more, read: Characterisation of the livestock production system and the potential of feed‐based interventions in the municipality of Ratnanagar and Gitanagar in the Chitwan district of southern Nepal, September 2010.

Notes
About FEAST
Feed for livestock is often cited as the main constraint to improved productivity in smallholder systems. Overcoming this constraint often seems an elusive goal and technical feed interventions tend to adopt a scattergun or trial and error approach which often fails to adequately diagnose the nature of the feed problem and opportunities and therefore the means to deal with problems and harness opportunities. The purpose of the Feed Assessment Tool described here is to offer a systematic and rapid methodology for assessing feed resources at site level with a view to developing a site-specific strategy for improving feed supply and utilization through technical or organizational interventions. Output from FEAST consists of a short report in a defined format along with some quantitative information on overall feed availability, quality and seasonality which can be used to help inform intervention strategies. The tool is aimed at research and development practitioners who are working in the livestock sector and need a more systematic means of assessing current feed-related strategies and developing new ones.

About CSISA
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) applies science and technologies to accelerate cereal production growth in South Asia’s most important grain baskets. CSISA works in partnerships in 9 intensive cereal-production ‘hubs’ in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to boost deployment of existing crop varieties, hybrids, management technologies and market information. CSISA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development and conducted by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Program (CIMMYT), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), ILRI and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

ILRI DAIRY FEED INTERVENTIONS IN SOUTH ASIA
Last September, ILRI held a workshop in Dehradun, northern India, to develop a tool for feed technology screening and prioritization. Last December, ILRI and national research institutions and NGOs from Bangladesh, India and Nepal conducted dairy feed experimental trials and demonstrated better use of crop residues for feeding to their dairy cows. Thirteen participants from four sites in Haryana, India (National Dairy Research Institute); Bihar, India (Bihar Veterinary College, Sarairanjan Primary Agricultural Cooperative Society); Chitwan, Nepal (Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development); and Dinajpur, Bangladesh (Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) shared their results of the feed intervention trials and related training activities.

ETHIOPIAN LIVESTOCK FEEDS PROJECT (ELF)
This week (21–22 Feb 2012), an inception workshop for an Ethiopian Livestock Feeds Project (ELF) is taking place at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The project involves a short scoping study that will be used to help further develop and test rapid livestock feed assessment methods such as FEAST and Techfit. This work is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

ILRI genebank manager elected ‘Fellow’ of the prestigious Society of Biology

Alexandra Jorge ILRI genebank manager

Alexandra Jorge, the genebank manager at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is one of four Africa-based scientists elected, this past December, to join the Society of Biology, a leading professional body that represents individuals committed to biology from academia, industry, education and research.

With over 80,000 members, the Society of Biology promotes advances in biological science across the world and awards fellowships to individuals who make ‘contribution to the advancement of biological sciences, and who have over five years experience in positions of senior responsibility’. The society is a particular supporter of work done by scientists in developing countries.

Jorge, a plant physiologist, works under the People, Livestock and Environment theme at ILRI, where she is managing the study, documentation and conservation of forage seeds in a forage genebank located at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. The genebank, together with Ethiopian field sites in Soddo, Ziway and Debre Zeit, contains over 20,000 types of tropical grasses, legumes and tree forages, which are routinely tested to ensure they remain healthy and viable for use in farms.

‘To be invited to become a Fellow of the Society of Biology is a great honour to any scientist and I am very proud of this achievement,’ says Jorge, ‘I thank the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) program for nominating me for this fellowship and I look forward to working with the large network of scientists in the Society.’

Other Fellows elected to the Society of Biology in December 2010 are Stella Asuming-Brempong, Waceke Wanjohi and Sheila Okoth. These four women are also fellows of AWARD, a Gender and Diversity Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

For African women scientists, such recognition is significant.

‘It can be a struggle for scientists from the developing world to network successfully and maximize the benefits of international collaboration due to geographical and financial reasons,’ said Vicki Wilde, director of the Gender and Diversity Program and AWARD, ‘These scientist’s voices—and the unheard voices of millions of farmers, particularly women, in sub-Saharan Africa—will now be heard and their work taken seriously.’

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For more information see the following article: http://www.societyofbiology.org/newsandevents/news/view/210

Read about ILRI’s work in managing forage diversity on http://www.ilri.org/ForageDiversity and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/228

For more on crop genebanks and forages visit: http://cropgenebank.sgrp.cgiar.org/ and http://www.tropicalforages.info/

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis

In December 2010, a special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology focuses on the fodder quality of crop residues and how this can be improved through the close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multi-dimensional crop improvement programmes.

Over the next two decades, rapid urbanization and rising incomes in the developing world will continue to feed an on-going livestock revolution. In India, this boom in the production of animal products will be driven by a demand for milk that is projected to increase by more than 80 million tons in 15 years.

Smallholder livestock producers will have new opportunities to raise their incomes on the back of this increasing demand, particularly the vulnerable communities occupying dry, marginal and remote lands that rely most heavily on their animals.

Feed scarcity and resulting high feed costs are one of the major constraints and threats to higher benefits from livestock otherwise offered by the rising demand for livestock products. New strategies for improving feed resources are urgently needed, but they need to take into account the increasing scarcity of the natural resource base, particularly of arable land and increasingly water.

Crop residues are the single most important feed resource in India, and the national feed resource scenarios predict that their importance for livestock feeding will further increase. In several parts of India, weight for weight, crop residue prices are now approaching, and sometimes even exceeding, half the prices of their grains.

Crop residues do not require specific land and water allocations, since these are required in any case for the production of grains. Unfortunately, the fodder quality of crop residues is often low, and in the past decades, efforts have been invested in upgrading the feeding value of crop residues (implicitly from cereals since leguminous residues can have excellent fodder quality) through chemical, physical and biological treatments.

However, these approaches have seen little adoption by farming communities. A different paradigm has been developed in this this special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology, namely, the improvement of crop residues at source through close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multidimensional crop improvement programs. Until recently, fodder traits of crop residues were largely ignored in crop improvement, although farmers were traditionally aware of differences in the fodder quality of crop residues even within the same species. Farmers’ perception of crop residue fodder traits could effect the adoption of new cultivars, resulting sometimes in the rejection of new cultivars that have been improved only for grain yields.

In response, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with their partners from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) initiated several multidisciplinary research projects to create crop cultivars that better match the need of farmers, particularly in mixed crop-livestock systems which are dominant in many parts of the developing world.

The fundamental issues explored in these collaborative projects, and expounded in this special issue, are: (1) availability of livestock nutritionally-significant cultivar-dependent variation in crop residue fodder quantity and quality; (2) relationships between crop residue fodder traits and primary food traits and possible trade-offs between the traits; (3) technologies for quick and inexpensive phenotyping of large set of samples for simple fodder quality that are well correlated with actual livestock productivity; (4) breeding techniques for further genetic enhancement towards food-feed traits; and (5) upgrading crop residue fodder in value chains through densification and fortification.

These valuable contributions serve as eye-openers to researchers and present a strong case for further strengthening such collaborations between national and international crop and livestock institutions. More importantly, they pave the way for expanding work on the promising approach of producing dual-purpose varieties of key crops for mixed crop-livestock systems given that these systems will be crucial in feeding the next 3 billion people.

View the special issue