Reducing aflatoxins in Kenya’s food chains: Filmed highlights from an ILRI media briefing

Last month (14 Nov 2013), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held a roundtable briefing/discussion for science journalists in Nairobi to highlight on-going multi-institutional efforts to combat aflatoxins in the food chains of Kenya.

Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic by-product of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts. Researchers from across East Africa are joining up efforts to address the significant human and animal health challenges posed by these food toxins in the region.

Watch this 6-minute film, which highlights some of the interventions being used to tackle aflatoxins in Kenya. The film features interviews with the five panelists at the media briefing, who came from the University of Nairobi, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Kenya, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, and ILRI.

‘Even though the presence of aflatoxins in Kenya dates back to the 1960s, the first recorded outbreak of aflatoxins that affected humans was recorded in the early 1980s,’ says Erastus Kang’ethe, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Nairobi.

‘The biggest risk of aflatoxins comes from long-term exposure to these toxins, which leads to chronic aflatoxicosis,’ says Abigael Obura, of CDC. ‘The CDC in Kenya is working closely with the Ministry of Health to improve aflatoxin surveillance measures in Kenya’s districts through better sample collection and analysis.’

At the same time, Johanna Lindahl and other scientists at ILRI are assessing the risks posed by aflatoxins in Kenya’s dairy value chain; cows that consume aflatoxin-contaminated feeds produce milk that is also contaminated with the toxins.

According to Charity Mutegi, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, one of the key strategies in managing aflatoxins in Kenya is by using a ‘biological control technology that targets the fungus that produces the aflatoxins while the crop is still in the field.’ Known more popularly as ‘aflasafe,’ this technology, which is expected to be available in the country soon, is in use in other parts of Africa where ‘farm trials have yielded aflatoxin reduction of over 70 percent,’ says Mutegi.

Jagger Harvey, a scientist with the BecA-ILRI Hub, says the hub has established a capacity building platform for aflatoxin research that is being used by maize breeders from Kenya and Tanzania to, among other control efforts, come up with maize varieties that are more resistance to the aflatoxin-causing fungus.

Read a related ILRI news article about a filmed interview of two scientists leading work of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Delia Grace, of ILRI, and John McDermott, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who describe some of the risks aflatoxins pose, new options for their better control and why research to combat these toxins matters so much.

View an ILRI infographic of the impact of aflatoxins in the food chain.

Read more on biological control to reduce aflatoxins.

Read more on strengthening regional research capacity to deal with aflatoxins.

Fighting aflatoxins: CGIAR scientists Delia Grace and John McDermott describe the disease threats and options for better control

In this 6-minute film, two leading scientists combatting aflatoxins in the food chains of developing countries describe some of the risks these toxins pose and new options for their better control. Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic byproduct of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts, as well as in the milk and meat of livestock that have consumed feeds contaminated with aflatoxins. These toxins threaten public health in many poor countries.

In this short film, Delia Grace and John McDermott discuss on-going research to control aflatoxins in developing countries and why this research matters so much.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist who leads research on both ‘food safety and zoonoses’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, a flagship project of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). John McDermott, another veterinary epidemiologist by training, who formerly served as ILRI’s deputy director general for research and now works for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is director of A4NH (Agriculture for Nutrition and Health), a multi-centre program led by IFPRI.

Earlier this week (4 Nov 2013), IFPRI and its 2020 Vision initiative jointly with the CGIAR Research Program on A4NH released a series of 19 briefs on the state of efforts to combat aflatoxins. ILRI’s Grace co-edited the series with IFPRI’s Laurian Unnevehr: ‘Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety’. Grace and Unnevehr themselves developed 2 of the 19 briefs: ‘Tackling aflatoxins: An overview of challenges and solutions’  and The role of risk assessment in guiding aflatoxin policy’. In another of the briefs, Grace zeroes in on the dangers of aflatoxins in animal-source foods: ‘Animals and aflatoxins’. Jagger Harvey and Benoit Gnonlonfin, two scientists with ILRI’s Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, along with colleagues in Australia and Cornell University, wrote the last brief in the series: ‘Improving diagnostics for aflatoxin detection‘.

Aflatoxins grow naturally on many farms, infesting grains and groundnuts, particularly after drought or insect damage and are a particularly common problem in developing countries, where aflatoxins not only pose a significant public health risk but also create a barrier to trade in agricultural commodities.

‘These toxins have a range of effects on human and animal health,’ says Grace. ‘High doses are lethal to both humans and animals and chronic consumption of lower levels of aflatoxins is associated with liver cancer and immunosuppression in children.’

Researchers have known about the problem of aflatoxins in developing countries for several decades but because these countries have largely informal markets and minimal trade, people have tended to minimize or ignore the problem.

‘But this is changing’, says McDermott. ‘Recent cases of aflatoxin-related deaths in Africa widened appreciation that this problem is important; there’s been a recent increase in investment in different control methods’, he says.

The series of briefs released this week brings together the experiences of researchers both within and outside CGIAR and contributes to efforts to help smallholder farmers better manage aflatoxins on their farms.

The briefs describe health risks from aflatoxins and the state of research on aflatoxins, including new methods of detection, crop breeding and food storage and handling, as well as ways to overcome the market constraints imposed by aflatoxins.

‘We’ve assembled for policy- and other decision-makers the current state of knowledge on what we need to do about aflatoxins in tropical countries,’ says McDermott.

Read more about the briefs released this week:

Read the whole publication: Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety, edited by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace


Table of Contents and Introduction

1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions
by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

2. Aflatoxicosis: Evidence from Kenya
by Abigael Obura

3. Aflatoxin Exposure and Chronic Human Diseases: Estimates of Burden of Disease
by Felicia Wu

4. Child Stunting and Aflatoxins
by Jef L Leroy

5. Animals and Aflatoxins
by Delia Grace

6. Managing Mycotoxin Risks in the Food Industry: The Global Food Security Link
by David Crean

7. Farmer Perceptions of Aflatoxins: Implications for Intervention in Kenya
by Sophie Walker and Bryn Davies

8. Market-led Aflatoxin Interventions: Smallholder Groundnut Value Chains in Malawi
by Andrew Emmott

9. Aflatoxin Management in the World Food Programme through P4P Local Procurement
by Stéphane Méaux, Eleni Pantiora and Sheryl Schneider

10. Reducing Aflatoxins in Africa’s Crops: Experiences from the Aflacontrol Project
by Clare Narrod

11. Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Reduce Aflatoxin Risk
by Felicia Wu

12. Trade Impacts of Aflatoxin Standards
by Devesh Roy

13. Codex Standards: A Global Tool for Aflatoxin Management
by Renata Clarke and Vittorio Fattori

14. The Role of Risk Assessment in Guiding Aflatoxin Policy
by Delia Grace and Laurian Unnevehr

15. Mobilizing Political Support: Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
by Amare Ayalew, Wezi Chunga and Winta Sintayehu

16. Biological Controls for Aflatoxin Reduction
by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay and Peter J Cotty

17. Managing Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize: Developing Host Resistance
by George Mahuku, Marilyn L Warburton, Dan Makumbi and Felix San Vicente

18. Reducing Aflatoxins in Groundnuts through Integrated Management and Biocontrol
by Farid Waliyar, Moses Osiru, Hari Kishan Sudini and Samuel Njoroge

19. Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection
by Jagger Harvey, Benoit Gnonlonfin, Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell



ILRI’s Jimmy Smith on global health and food security: Why developing-country livestock matter so much

Global food security

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) gave a keynote presentation this morning (17 Oct 2013) at the opening of the Global Animal Health Conference, ‘Developing global animal health products to support food security and sustainability’, in Arlington, Virginia.

Smith began his presentation, ‘Global health and sustainable food security: Why the livestock sectors of developing countries matter’, by setting out the state of global food security and questioning how the world will manage to feed itself as the human population grows before stabilizing at about mid-century. Some 60% more food than is produced now will be needed by then, he said. And, somehow, some 75% of that increase will have to come from increases in productivity rather than from increases in land under cultivation. This higher production, he said, must be achieved while at the same time reducing poverty and hunger and addressing environmental, social and health concerns. In addition, the greater food production will have to be achieved in the face of temperatures 2−4 degrees C warmer than today’s.

He pointed out the great nutritional divides in today’s world, and warned of malnutrition’s huge financial as well as public health costs.

Nutritional divides among 7 billion people today

He noted that gains in consumption of meat in poor and emerging economies are greatly outpacing those of the industrialized countries.

Gains in meat consunmption in developing countries outpace those of developed countries

Smith then pointed out how much of the world’s food comes not from large-scale farmers but rather from hundreds of millions of very small-scale farmers in developing countries.

Global food production: From where?

These small-scale food producers, he said, are more competitive than most people think. He cited two examples. In East Africa, one million smallholders keep Africa’s largest dairy herd, Ugandans produce milk at the lowest cost in the world, and Kenya’s small- and large-scale poultry and diary producers have the same levels of efficiency and profits. In Vietnam, 50% of the country’s pig production is done by farmers with less than 100 pigs, and producers keeping just 1 or 2 sows have lower unit costs than those with more than 4 sows. Scientists estimate that Vietnam’s industrial pig production could grow to meet no more than 12% of the national pig supply in the next 10 years, so small-scale farmers will continue to supply most of the country’s pork for the foreseeable future.

Global livestock markets

In a series of graphs, ILRI’s director general presented figures for livestock commodities being global leaders, for the huge global trade in livestock products and for the fast-rising demand for meat, milk and eggs in developing countries.

4 out of 5 of the highest value global commodities are livestock

Percentage increase in demand for livestock products

Global trade of livestock products (milk excluded)

Global trade in livestock products (milk included)

Global animal health

Smith said that the developing world’s smallholder livestock producers can continue to produce most of the world’s milk, meat and eggs only if we can find ways to improve livestock health, especially by reducing food safety problems that reduce market participation by smallholders, by reducing the endemic livestock diseases that greatly lower livestock productivity in developing countries, and by lowering zoonotic disease transmissions that threaten small-scale livestock production in poor countries—as well as human health in all countries.

Food safety in developing countries, where most milk, meat and eggs are sold in informal or ‘wet’ markets, is a bigger problem than most people recognize, the ILRI director general said. He said we need to manage the risks of illness while retaining the benefits—to livelihoods and food and nutritional security—of informally sold livestock foods. And, he said, we have to educate people about the various risks of these informal markets, where common perceptions can be misleading; eating vegetables sold in these markets, for example, can be as risky to health as handling cattle or drinking raw milk.

Gender is an important determinant of food safety in developing countries, Smith said, with evidence indicating that Africa’s women butchers sell safer meat than their male counterparts. Women and children and farm workers are also at greater risking in contracting food-borne diseases.

Regarding health advice, Smith argued that it is most useful when it is tailored for specific circumstances, when it is based on evidence, and when it is developed in and with local communities. It’s also been found that what works best for increasing food safety are social incentives (e.g., ‘good parents do X rather than Y with their milk cows’), and risk- rather than rule-based approaches. Finally, he said, relatively simple and cheap interventions can lead to substantial improvements in food safety.

The big livestock productivity gaps between rich and poor countries, Smith explained, are due largely to poor animal health in these countries.

Big productivity gaps, largely due to poor animal health, persist between rich and poor countries

Livestock diseases take a huge toll . . .

Annual losses from selected diseases--Africa and South Asia

. . . especially in Africa.

Animal disease is a key constraint in Africa

And the toll from ‘zoonotic’ diseases, which are transmitted from animals to people, is especially devastating.

A deadly dozen zoonotic diseases each year kill 2.2 million people and sicken 2.4 billion

These zoonotic infections harm poor people the most.

Greatest burden of zoonoses falls on one billion poor livestock keepers

Incidences of zoonotic events are worringly on the increase . . .

Emerging zoonotic disease events, 1940-2012

. . . and can have enormous costs . . .

Costs of emerging zoonotic disease outbreaks

. . . as they spread, just as African swine fever is now spreading.

Africa swine fever threatens US$150-billion global pig industry

Global animal health markets

The animal health markets in developing countries are already significant and are growing rapidly. The global animal health market is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The global human health market amounts to US$1000 million and the global animal health market, including livestock, pets and other animals, some $20 billion. The global livestock health market is worth about $13 billion, with the livestock health market in Africa now experiencing a 15.7% year-on-year growth (the second fastest growth after Latin America).

Just 15 countries make up more than 85% of the global animal health market today; demand for animal health markets in developing and emerging economies is increasingly important.

Take India, for example.

Animal health markets: India

To take advantage of the increasing opportunities in developing countries will require an understanding of smallholder livestock systems and customers, who will need tailored packaging and marketing (e.g., drugs in small packets), delivery systems appropriate for widely dispersed farms, surveillance systems for development of drug resistance, and ‘One Health’ approaches and ‘Rational Drug Use’ used for both people and their animals. Among the ‘game-changing’ livestock health products urgently needed in poor countries and communities are appropriate vaccines for Newcastle disease in poultry and East Coast fever in cattle and quality assurance for all veterinary medicines.

Jimmy Smith ended his presentation with four key messages:

Global health and sustainable food security: Key messages

And he closed his presentation the following thoughts.

The risks of ignoring pressing animal health issues in the developing world are huge:

  • Lost livelihoods in poor countries
  • Greater global food insecurity
  • Increased risk of human illness in all countries

The opportunities for improving animal health in developing countries are just as big. With appropriate approaches, this significant animal health market should grow rapidly, for the good of all.

View the presentation.

See other recent presentations by Jimmy Smith:

Improving the environmental sustainability of livestock systems in the developing world–ILRI’s Jimmy Smith, 30 Sep 2013

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, 16 Sep 2013

More presentations by Jimmy Smith.

Agricultural interventions for food safety and nutrition: Livestock reports at this week’s CGIAR Science Forum

Tea Room in Chinseu

The interior of a tea room in Chinseu Trading Centre, in Zomba West, Malawi (photo on Flickr by John Appiah-Duffell); the menu on the wall, written in Chichewa, lists the following: PRICES FOR TEA: Tea without milk, Tea with milk; EXTRAS: Buns, Nsima with chicken, Nsima with meat, Nsima with beans, Rice.

The following is a report on livestock-related presentations at the on-going three-day CGIAR Science Forum, 23–25 Sep 2013, in Bonn, Germany.

From yesterday’s session on food safety is this brief from veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on the case for agricultural interventions for food safety.

Agriculture has allowed massive expansion of people and their animals.

Yet in a world of more than 7 billion people, more than one billion are hungry and more than 2 billion are sickened each year from the food they ate.

Agriculture is exacting a heavy biological cost, but health policy and programs often stop at the clinic door.

A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming.

‘The new CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Enhanced Nutrition and Health is attempting to bridge this disconnect and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) leads the component focusing on diseases related to agriculture. This session uses the case of fungal toxins to explore how research can contribute to game-changing innovations, powerful incentives and enabling institutions that improve at the same time food safety, food accessibility for poor consumers and access to markets for smallholder farmers.

Towards new ways of managing food safety in developing countries
* Incentives for risk management: In poor countries, where public and private standards are weak and where consumers’ choices are limited by income and information, incentives to safe production are lacking. Novel incentives need to be found to encourage farmers and other value chain actors in poor settings to produce quality and safe products.
* Innovations for risk management: Informal markets and food produced and consumed by smallholders typically have high levels of hazards. Innovations, whether technology, social or market-based, can change the game.
* Institutions for risk assessment: Food safety regulations in developing countries are characterized by complexity, inappropriateness for informal and smallholder production, lack of translation of policy into practice, and frequent negative impacts of policy. Both evidence and effective influence are needed to improve food safety institutions.

Mandela Corks 3

If not stored and dried properly groundnut can get mouldy (photo credit: ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

Controlling aflatoxins as an example of agriculture based interventions for human health
‘Among staple crops (maize, groundnuts, sorghum), the most serious food safety problem is toxins produced by fungi. These cause around 90,000 cases of liver cancer each year and there are strong associations between aflatoxin exposure and stunting and immune suppression in children. There have also major impacts on trade and the livestock sector.

‘Using the example of fungal toxins, especially aflatoxins, we make the case for research investors to support research into agricultural approaches for enhancing food safety in value chains.’

From today’s session on economic implications
‘The objective of the session is to understand better the economic impacts of shifting investments towards more nutrition dense foods for healthier diets. Agricultural interventions in low income countries have often either focused on raising incomes for the poor assuming that nutrition and health benefits follow automatically or focused on improving diets through promotion of specific highly nutritious foods but do not often consider the economic sustainability of the programmes once intervention monies are removed. Furthermore, they may overlook other complex cultural and environmental issues which may be key to their success. For investment to effectively increase nutritional levels and incomes, a multi-dimensional approach including nutrition education, technical assistance, environmental awareness and community organization support may be needed to address the complex economic and social linkages between nutrition and agriculture

‘The session will present results from field research projects aimed at improving nutritional and income outcomes. Among the research questions to be addressed are:

  • How do initiatives to improve dietary and income outcomes need to be structured to reap benefits of both at present and over time?
  • How can the multi-dimensional nature of the nutrition-income linkage be integrated into investment projects in this area?
  • What are the knowledge gaps in developing and implementing these strategies?
  • Are new research approaches needed in developing interventions aimed at double objective outcomes?’

Faith Kivuti and Mom Milking a Cow

An East African smallholder dairy farmer and her cow and child (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).

Tom Randolph, ILRI agricultural economist and director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, will make a presentation on Supporting the pro-poor transformation of smallholder-based animal-source food systems.

‘The presentation focuses on how food systems could be designed to contribute more directly to the nutritional security of poor rural and urban communities. In particular, how might investments to professionalize smallholder livestock and aquaculture production and informal market systems improve incomes and nutritional food security? The presentation explores the implications of such an objective, and provides an example from a dairy development project.’

Find the program and abstracts of presentations for the CGIAR Science Forum 2013, ‘Nutrition and health outcomes: targets for agricultural research’, 23‒25 Sep 2013, Bonn, Germany. Follow the ongoing discussions on Twitter by searching for the hashtag ‘ScienceForum2013’

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

Livestock landscapes: Africa

Livestock matter to the livelihoods and ambitions of most people living in Africa and other developing regions of the world (image credit: ILRI/Rob O’Meara).

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications staff Paul Karaimu and Muthoni Njiru.

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is being held this week (15–Jul 2013) in Accra, Ghana. The official opening and plenary sessions start tomorrow, Thu 18 Jul.

Speaking at Monday’s launch of the whole AASW6 week, Tiemoko Yo, chairperson of FARA, said the science week aimed to respond to some of the burning issues in African agricultural research for development. Many if not most of those issues were discussed in more than 50 side events held over the first 2 days of the week, many of them by CGIAR centres.

One such side event organized by the International Livestock Research (ILRI) explored the role of  ‘Livestock research for Africa’s food security and poverty reduction’. Sixty-five people from agricultural and livestock development, extension and government agencies participated in this three-hour session facilitated by ILRI’s Even Le Borgne and held on 15 Jul. Five topics were  discussed:

  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder livestock systems
  • Vulnerability and risk in drylands
  • Food safety and aflatoxins
  • Livestock vaccine biosciences
  • Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

The session started with a look at Africa’s livestock sector as a whole.
After ILRI director Jimmy Smith welcomed the guests to ILRI’s morning discussion, Shirley Tarawali, ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, explained one of the aims of the session. ‘Today, with our partners and stakeholders, we’d like to reflect on where we can work closely with others to influence and develop capacity to enhance Africa’s agriculture.’

Half of the highest-value African commodities are livestock products, including milk and meat.—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Highest value African commodities

Next was a brief look at an emerging ‘biomass crisis’ in African agriculture.
Iain Wright, who leads an Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program at ILRI, said ‘Livestock feed is at the interface of the positive and negative effects of livestock raising. Helping Africa’s many millions of farmers and herders to boost their livestock productivity through more and better feeds while also helping them to conserve their natural resources is a major challenge for livestock scientists.’

Biomass production is the most significant user of land resources and water in livestock production systems. We need to think how to produce this biomass more efficiently.—Iain Wright, ILRI

Biomass crisis

Next up was a quick overview of the public health threats posed by livestock foods and aflatoxins.
‘Ensuring food safety is one of the most important issues facing the agricultural sector today’, said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at ILRI.  ‘This is especially so in developing countries, where food-borne diseases are among the top five health burdens. Livestock diseases and unsafe milk, meat and eggs pose multiple burdens on the poor. They sicken and kill people and animals and burden national economies with huge economic losses’.

Each year, Africa loses billions of dollars due to aflatoxins, which occur on mouldy maize, groundnuts and other crops and crop harvests. The widespread presence of aflatoxins in Africa hurts the continent not only by making people ill but also by contributing to lost market opportunities.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Unfortunately, she said, efforts to improve food safety standards can end up hurting the poor, who, finding it difficult to meet those standards, are often cut off from the informal markets they depend on. Livestock foods also pose problems, she said.

The most nutritious foods—milk, meat, fish and vegetables—are also the most dangerous. These foods are also among the highest-value agricultural products in terms of generating cash incomes and are especially critical for the well-being of Africa’s women.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Food safety and aflatoxins

Next was an introduction to livestock vaccines for African livestock.
Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general biosciences at ILRI, reported on ILRI and partner research to produce vaccines that protect African livestock against disease. ‘We want to simplify vaccine production and to understand how the pathogens that are causing African livestock diseases are developing resistance to the drugs used to treat the diseases.’

We want to work on these issues with the immunology and health departments of African universities.—Suzanne Bertrand, ILRI

Importance of animal health in Africa


ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen also spoke on ILRI-partner approaches to new research on pastoral systems in Africa’s drylands and Ethel Makila introduced the state-of-the art facilities and training opportunities in the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and located in Nairobi, Kenya. ILRI deputy director for research in integrated sciences, John McIntire, provided a synthesis of the morning’s discussions.

From the participants

In agriculture, the livestock sub-sector has been neglected. To meet the Millennium Development Goal of helping people rise out of poverty, we must invest more in smallholder livestock production.Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria

‘When a research-based agricultural intervention is introduced to a community,’ said Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, of Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services, ‘it must be integrated into existing work and involve other stakeholders in development, especially governments, to ensure that use of the intervention is sustained over the longer term.

‘And remember’, Ndlovu said, ‘that the most active members in most communities are women; our interventions must suit their needs.’

We don’t feed ourselves and others with food alone; we also feed ourselves and others in intellectual ways. Capacity is key to driving innovation and change within societies; to build that capacity, we need to change people’s mindsets.—Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services

ILRI's livestock for reILRI side event at AASW6: Group discussions

Group discussions at the ILRI side event on 15 Jul at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15-20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) photo credit: ILRI/Ewen Le Borgne).

Those participating in this ILRI-hosted side session agreed on the need for livestock scientists to work in multidisciplinary teams and engage in ‘holistic’ research. Only by doing so, they said, would livestock scientists be in position to evaluate all components affecting the livestock sector and thus to help reduce the many risks and burdens faced by Africa’s millions of small-scale livestock producers.

The participants also agreed that it is the responsibility of livestock and other agricultural researchers to provide policymakers with evidence of how each component of smallholder farming links to others and how investing in one component can make a difference to the other components. Improving animal health, for example, can also improve the safety and nutritional value of animal-source foods.

Recommendations put forward at ILRI’s side meeting for enhancing the livestock sector’s contributions to Africa’s food security and poverty reduction include the following.

  • Ensure development of high-quality vaccines is supported by high-quality vaccination campaigns that involve local communities.
  • Incorporate indigenous knowledge to ensure research understands community realities and addresses community needs.
  • Boost the essential roles of continental and sub-regional approaches to development in the livestock research agendas.

FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, includes marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). Follow the discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #AASW6 or visit the FARA AASW6 blog.

View all of the ILRI slide presentations: Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction, 15 Jul 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] 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] and Paul Karaimu (p.karaimu [at] 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


  • 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

Agriculture-associated diseases: Can we control them? Stop them? Prevent them? It’s back to the farm (and market)

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health within CGIAR

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health: This program focuses on one of five strategic objectives of CGIAR (Slide 3 of ‘A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners’, Jun 2013; credit: CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health).

Veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace is in Montpellier, France, this week, along with a lot of other distinguished folk in the business of doing agricultural research for development in poor countries. Research leaders at 15 CGIAR centres, representatives of CGIAR funding organizations and key CGIAR partners are getting together in this town, the capital of ‘southern France’ and the location of the CGIAR Consortium, to update each other on where they are in a new(ish) series of multi-centre, multi-partner, multi-country and multi-disciplinary CGIAR research programs tackling big issues such as climate change, water scarcity and empowerment of women.

Grace oversees one of four components of one of these 16 big new CGIAR Research Programs—Agriculture for Nutrition and Health—which works to adapt agricultural practices and policies to improve human health. The whole program is led by John McDermott, another epidemiologist, who is based at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC. Grace’s component, which she leads from her base at ILRI’s Nairobi campus (where Mcdermott served for many years, first as scientist and then as deputy director general for research), is investigating ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, with specific focus on improving food safety, controlling zoonotic diseases and diseases emerging from animals, and reducing other health risks in agro-ecosystems in the developing world.

Partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health: Slide 33 of ‘A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners’, Jun 2013 (credit: CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health).

Last week, McDermott and Grace and other leaders in the ‘CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’ gave their CGIAR scientific colleagues, partners and donors an overall presentation of their  program. Highlighted below are slides concerning Grace’s component on ‘Prevention and Control of Agriculture-Associated Diseases’.

CGIAR research at the interface of human, animal and ecosystem health

Measuring and mapping the multiple burdens of food-borne disease

One-health approaches to managing zoonoses and emerging infections

Below, view the whole presentation: A4NH–Presentation for Discussion with Donors and Partners, June 2013:

For more information, visit the landing page on the CGIAR website for the project ILRI’s Delia Grace leads on Agriculture-Associated Diseases or the project’s website and blog: AgHealth.


Action learning, systemic change and sustainability, desired legacy of an Ethiopian R4D project (IPMS)

Kemeria Hussien at Ethiopian milk market

Kemeria Hussien, a young woman at a milk market in Meisso District, West Hararghe Zone, Ethiopia, 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

On 28 March 2013, a team from the project ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian farmers (or IPMS project) gave a ‘livestock live talk’ seminar at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This seminar, given for 70 people physically present and a few more connected virtually via WebEx, happened in the middle of the research planning workshop for a project that is a ‘sequel’ to IPMS, called ‘LIVES’: Livestock and Irrigated Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders.

ILRI staff members Dirk Hoekstra, Berhanu Gebremedhin and Azage Tegegne have been managing IPMS, and learning from it, since its inception in 2004. The legacy as well as the learning from the IPMS project will be applied in the LIVES project, as well as other initiatives led by ILRI and other parties involved in IPMS.

What choices?
This project to ‘improve the productivity and market success of Ethiopian farmers’ was nothing if not ambitious, and, for a research organization, opted for some relatively daring choices:

  • IPMS relied on developmental (uncontrolled) as well as experimental (controlled) research activities, which ranged along the spectrum of diagnostic, action-research and ‘impact research’ activities (so-called for the expected development impact they would have).
  • Some activities were outsourced to development partners rather than undertaken by the research team.
  • The project worked along entire value chains, from crop and livestock farmers and other food producers to rural and urban consumers, with the team restricting itself to introducing and facilitating the implementation of interventions validated by local stakeholders.
  • Rather than focus on value chain interventions exclusively, the IPMS researchers investigated farming production systems as a whole and focused on the role of agricultural extension in the uptake of research results and their integration in interventions.
  • The IPMS workers used ‘action learning’ methods, which appears to have enabled an on-going evolution in the development of their targeted value chains. This kind of learning approach also sped the adoption of new technologies and the implementation of interventions and encouraged the team to use failures as fuel to modify the project’s trajectory.

. . . Led to what insights?
Insights from the project team were at the core of this ‘live talk’, with the lessons IPMS learned simple and straightforward; some examples follow.

Technology generation by itself is not enough to achieve developmental outcomes and impacts – Several interventions in the value chain development approach need to be implemented together to achieve impact.

Research for development can be implemented well in a research environment, i.e., it is possible to combine rigorous research with development processes without sacrificing the quality of scientific research or the generation of robust evidence.

Knowledge management and capacity development—using, among other methods, innovative information and communication technologies and approaches such as farming radio programs, local information portals connected to local knowledge centres and e-extension—are key to development of responsive extension systems as well as women and men farmers working to transform subsistence agriculture into sustainable economic enterprises.

Gathering those lessons was itself far from straightforward. The IPMS team experienced difficulties in negotiating value chain developments and the specific interventions that were felt as necessary, and in making choices among all actors involved in the value chain (e.g., a failed experiment to market sunflowers) because of market failures and insufficient returns on investments. The team also realized that working in an adaptive manner across a broad value chain and extension framework implies letting go of control and of tight deadlines, but can improve relations among value chain actors and their joint interventions.

As ILRI’s new LIVES project is now in full swing, and as a new long-term ILRI strategy demands that ILRI take a more coherent approach to making development impacts, these insights from  IPMS can help guide those undertaking new initiatives of ILRI and of its partners.

Watch and listen to this seminar here:

View the slide presentation here: Agriculture research for crop and livestock value chains development: the IPMS experience, presentation by Dirk Hoekstra, Berhanu Gebremedhin and Azage Tegegne on 28 Mar 2013.

You can contact the IPMS/LIVES team at lives-ethiopia [at]

Note:Livestock live talks’ is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who would want to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at] (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000).

‘Health is not the absence of disease (and too important to be left to doctors)’–Keynote address

Minoan Bronze Bull Leaper

Minoan bronze bull and bull leaper, from Crete, around 1500 BC (image on Flickr by Ann Wuyts).

Increasing livestock production to meet rapidly growing demands in a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable manner is becoming a major challenge for the Asia-Pacific region. To discuss the challenges and a practical response, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA) organized a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

The Asia and Pacific region has experienced the strongest growth in milk and meat over the last two to three decades. In three decades (1980 to 2010), total consumption of meat in the region grew from 50 to 120 million tonnes, and milk consumption grew from 54 to 190 million tonnes. By 2050, consumption of meat and milk in the region is projected to exceed 220 and 440 million tonnes, respectively. While this growth is creating new opportunities and better diets for many poor people, managing it will be a tall order and involve: stimulating income and employment opportunities in rural areas, protecting the livelihoods of small farmers, improving resource use efficiency at all levels of the livestock value chain, minimizing any negative environmental and health consequences of the growth, and ensuring adequate access by the poor to the food they need to live healthy lives.

The Aug 2012 Regional Livestock Policy Forum was held to find solutions. The 80 stakeholders in livestock development who attended represented governments, research agencies, civil society and multilateral organizations, think tanks, private-sector industries and regional and global networks.

Three keynote addresses highlighted environmental, social and health aspects of uncontrolled livestock sector growth. The director general of ILRI, Jimmy Smith, delivered the keynote on ‘health at the livestock-policy interface’. He described three kinds of health—human, animal and ecosystem—and the close interactions among them. Excerpts of his presentation follow.

Health at the livestock-policy interface: Interdependence

Slide from a presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

Livestock and nutrition
‘Livestock provide about a third of human protein. Even small amounts of animal protein greatly enhance the poor-quality diets of very poor people, many of whom subsist largely, for example, on sorghum and millet. But while 1 billion people are hungry, some 2 billiion are over-nourished, which is often attributed particularly to over-consumption of meat.

HEALTH ONE: Livestock and human health
‘Remarkably, 60% of human diseases, and 75% of emerging diseases (such as bird flu), are ‘zoonotic’, or come from animals, and 25% of all human infectious diseases in least-developed countries is zoonotic. A 2012 study led by ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace estimates that the ‘top 13’ zoonoses each year kill 2.2 million people and make 2.4 billion people ill. The same study found that emerging zoonotic diseases are associated with intensive livestock production systems, with hotspots of these being in western Europe and USA, but that the high burden of neglected zoonotic diseases is associated with poor livestock keepers, with hotspots identified in Ethiopia, Nigeria and India.

HEALTH TWO: Livestock health
‘In developing countries, largely in contrast to developed nations, we still struggle to control what are known as ‘transboundary’ livestock diseases, which include, for example, Newcastle disease in chickens and foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. As important, however, are the common endemic diseases of low-income countries, such as parasitic infections, viral diarrhoea, respiratory and reproductive diseases. While we pay considerable attention to transboundary diseases, and emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential, we are neglecting endemic diseases that hurt the world’s poor the most, and which some estimate are even more costly than transboundary diseases.

Health at the livestock-policy interface: Annual losses

Slide from a presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

HEALTH THREE: Agro-ecosystem health
‘The downside: As many people are now aware, livestock are a significant source of the greenhouse gases warming our planet; they compete for water with staple grains and biofuels, and their diseases can spill over into wildlife populations. On the upside, livestock manure is an important source of organic matter needed for soil fertility (about 50% of the nitrogen used in agriculture in India comes from manure), permanent pastures are potentially an important store of carbon, and the current carbon ‘hoofprint’ can be greatly reduced through more efficient livestock production.’

Jimmy Smith then laid out some ‘prescriptions’.

Prescriptions for human health

  • Manage disease at its (early animal) source, not when it shows up (later) in humans
  • Invest in ‘one-health’ systems for preventing and controlling zoonotic diseases
  • Promote risk- and incentive-based (not regulatory- and compliance-based) food safety systems

Prescriptions for animal health

  • Support smallholder systems to improve livestock production and productivity
  • Use technology and innovations (e.g., vaccines) to improve animal health services
  • Take a whole value-chain-development (not piecemeal) approach

Prescriptions for ecosystem health

  • Manage externalities
  • Close large gaps in ruminant production
  • Reduce livestock-induced deforestation
  • Manage manure
  • Implement payment schemes for livestock-based environmental services

Advice for policymakers
And Smith had some advice for policymakers.

  • Invest in surveillance (re-incentivize disease reporting)
  • Better allocate resources between emerging and endemic diseases
  • Support innovations at all levels in the health sectors
The livestock director concluded his talk by saying:
It is our belief that we can feed the world, we can do so in environmentally sustainable ways, we can do so while reducing absolute poverty, and we can do so while improving the health of people, animals and the planet.
Health is not the absence of disease’, Smith said, quoting his scientist Delia Grace. ‘And it’s too important to be left to doctors.’

See Jimmy Smith’s whole slide presentation, Health at the livestock-policy interface, 16–17 Aug 2012, and/or watch this 25-minute filmed presentation of his presentation.

See a slide presentation made at the Bangkok Forum, Poverty, food security, livestock and smallholders, by ILRI’s Steve Staal and FAO’s Vinod Ahuja.

Presentations made at the meeting, a detailed program and a list of participants are available here.

Get the proceedings of the whole conference: Asian Livestock Sector: Challenges, Opportunities and the Response — Proceedings of an international policy forum held in Bangkok, Thailand, 16–17 August 2012. Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific, International Livestock Research Institute and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013.

For more information, please contact:
Vinod Ahuja, FAO livestock policy officer, based in Bangkok: Vinod.Ahuja [at]
Purvi Mehta, Head of ILRI Asia, based in New Delhi: p.mehta [at]


Livestock livelihoods for the poor: Beyond milk, meat and eggs

Kenya farm boy drinking milk

Kenya farm boy drinking milk (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

The science journal Animal Frontiers this month (Jan 2013) focuses on the links between livestock production and food security.

Maggie Gill edited the issue. Gill is an animal nutritionist by training who has spent years as a senior member of research institutions in the the UK (Natural Resources Institute, Natural Resources International, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Scottish Government) and presently divides her time between work for the UK Department for International Development and the University of Aberdeen while also serving on the CGIAR’s Independent Science and Partnership Council. She is a former board member of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

In her introductory editorial to this issue, which focuses on livelihoods for poor owners and food for rich consumers, Gill reminds readers of the vast differences in livestock systems between the world’s poor and rich people and nations.

‘The relationship between livestock and food security is often portrayed by the media in emotional terms such as “Go vegetarian to save the planet”. Yet the relationship is not so simple. There are positive impacts of livestock on “the planet,” not the least in terms of the economy, with trade in live animals and animal products contributing 40% of the global value of agricultural output (FAO, 2009), but also in terms of the 1 billion poor people in Africa and Asia who depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The challenge is that there are also negative impacts of livestock, and they tend to be good headline grabbers!

‘I was pleased, therefore, to be invited to serve as guest editor of this issue of Animal Frontiers . . . [and] to have the opportunity to include papers about some of the lesser publicized facts about livestock and food security. . . . [A second issue on this topic will be published in Jul 2013.]

‘This issue takes a high-level perspective, exploring the relationship between people and animals (including fish) in developing countries, through trade and particularly in terms of nutrition. It then looks ahead to the challenge of climate change and considers how one traditional system (pastoralism) has evolved to cope with environmental instability. It ends with a paper on breeding strategies as an illustration of how scientific advances can help the livestock sector to make the best use of resources in a dynamic world. . . .’

One of the seven papers featured in this issue is by Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general, and his ILRI colleagues. The article focuses mainly on the impacts and implications of livestock on food and nutrition security in poor countries, which go well beyond being a source of milk, meat, and eggs.

‘The paper by Smith et al. (2013)’, Gill says, ‘highlights, for example, the indirect benefits of livestock to the food security of poor livestock owners through income from the sale of their livestock products, enabling the purchase of (cheaper) staple foods and thus improving the nutritional status of members of the household, albeit not in the way many researchers expect! . . .’

Below are a few of the facts noted in Smith’s paper, ‘Beyond meat, milk and eggs: Role of livestock in food and nutrition security’.

Farm animals both increase (smallholder systems) and decrease (industrial systems) food supplies
‘Livestock contribute to food supply by converting low-value materials, inedible or unpalatable for people, into milk, meat, and eggs; livestock also decrease food supply by competing with people for food, especially grains fed to pigs and poultry. Currently, livestock supply 13% of energy to the world’s diet but consume one-half the world’s production of grains to do so.’

Livestock directly enhance the nutrition security of the poor
‘However, livestock directly contribute to nutrition security. Milk, meat, and eggs, the “animal-source foods,” though expensive sources of energy, are one of the best sources of high quality protein and micronutrients that are essential for normal development and good health. But poor people tend to sell rather than consume the animal-source foods that they produce.’

Livestock enhance food security mostly indirectly
‘The contribution of livestock to food, distinguished from nutrition security among the poor, is mostly indirect: sales of animals or produce, demand for which is rapidly growing, can provide cash for the purchase of staple foods, and provision of manure, draft power, and income for purchase of farm inputs can boost sustainable crop production in mixed crop-livestock systems.’

Smallholder livestock production and marketing can be ‘transformational’ for the world’s poor
‘Livestock have the potential to be transformative: by enhancing food and nutrition security, and providing income to pay for education and other needs, livestock can enable poor children to develop into healthy, well-educated, productive adults.’

The complex trade-offs inherent in livestock systems must be managed to increase the benefits and reduce the costs
‘The challenge is how to manage complex trade-offs to enable livestock’s positive impacts to be realized while minimizing and mitigating negative ones, including threats to the health of people and the environment.’

Read the whole illustrated article at Animal Frontiers: Beyond milk, meat, and eggs: Role of livestock in food and nutrition security, by Jimmy Smith, Keith Sones, Delia Grace, Susan MacMillan, Shirley Tarawali and Mario Herrero, Jan 2013, Vol. 3, No. 1, p 6–13, doi: 10.2527/af.2013-0002

The whole issue is available at Animal Frontiers: The contribution of animal production to global food security: Part 1: Livelihoods for poor owners and food for rich consumers, Jan 2013, which you can read about on the ILRI Clippings Blog today: Animal production and global food security: Livelihoods for poor owners and food for rich consumers, 8 Jan 2012.


Zoonoses: The lethal gifts of livestock–Part 3 of ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ by Delia Grace

View this ILRI slide presentation, which is a ‘slidecast’ that includes an audio file of a ‘livestock live talk’ given by veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters on 31 Oct 2012.

The following remarks are a transcript of the third part of a presentation made on 31 Oct 2012  by Delia Grace, who works at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi. Grace, a Irish veterinary epidemiologist, leads ILRI’s research on food safety in informal markets in developing countries and on ‘zoonoses’—diseases shared by animals and people. Grace also leads a component on agriculturally related diseases of a new multi-centre CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition, which is headed by John McDermott, former deputy director general-research at ILRI, who is now based at ILRI’s sister CGIAR institute the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, USA. Grace is also a partner in another multi-institutional initiative, called Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa.

A prolific writer of scientific publications and a scientist of particularly wide research interests, Grace began her ‘big-picture’ talk on zoonoses—on why, and if, they are ‘the lethal gifts of livestock’—with an overview of human health and disease at the beginning of the 21st century. Go here to read part one:  The riders of the apocalypse do not ride alone: Plagues need war, famine, destruction–and (often) livestock, ILRI News Blog, 4 Nov 2012, and here to read part two: Mapping the perfect storms: Where poverty, livestock and disease meet in terrible triage, ILRI News Blog, 6 Nov 2012.

Here we begin the third and final part of this ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ presentation by Delia Grace on ‘The lethal gifts of livestock’.

‘So we’ve talked a bit about the big picture: human health and disease in the 21st century and why livestock matter. I’ve presented some of the findings on these studies, trying to get some evidence—the evidence decision-makers want, in a format they can use, in a way that motivates them to invest money.

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: From mapping to managing slide

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: From mapping to managing, by Delia Grace, ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, 31 Oct 2012.

‘But now, finally, I want to talk a bit about how we move from mapping to managing.

‘Mapping is good but there is always the “paralysis by analysis” with such organizations, And it’s true; I was originally trained as a vet and it’s like we spend all our time on diagnosis and we don’t do any therapy; we never get round to actual treatment. I think too much of the work we’ve done so far has been assessing, trying to know more and more, and not saying, “OK, we know enough; let’s go and do something; let’s show that we can do something; and let’s try and make a difference.

‘So in this last section I’m going to talk about how we are planning to move from mapping and measuring to managing. This takes me to the new CGIAR Research Program ‘Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’, which just started in January, like the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, which you may be more familiar with.

‘This brings together a lot of CGIAR centres to focus for the first time on the links between agriculture and human health. It’s led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and has four components. Three of these components focus on human nutrition—human nutrition is a big problem and it’s probably where the donors are most interest at the moment. But one component focuses on disease, and that’s the component that’s led by ILRI.

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Agriculture-associated diseases slide

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Agriculture-associated diseases, by Delia Grace, ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, 31 Oct 2012.

‘So “agriculture-associated disease” works at that intersection, the intersection between human health, animal health and agro-ecosystems and value chains. We sometimes talk about “one-health”, this new integrated movement. We like to think of three healths: people, animals and the planet—three healths that are interdependent. And if they’re managed separately, they won’t be managed best.

‘The aim of this component on disease is to have key development implementors as well as the enablers to have the evidence, motivation and capacity. So we need somehow to generate evidence, motivation and capacity, motivation probably being the tricky one, to reduce the burden of disease through agricultural-based interventions and innovations. And that’s key, because of course this whole area of innovation and human health is a very crowded, busy map. We need to identify where agricultural research and agricultural-based interventions can make a difference.

‘So what do we focus on? We focus on big five areas, which we call research activities. Two of them are under food safety, the first being risk management in these informal food markets, where most poor people buy and sell; the second being mycotoxins, which are a fungal toxin in staple crops. And then under “zoonoses”, we have three major focuses: the first being emerging infectious disease, the second neglected zoonoses, and the third “eco-health/one-health”, which is a kind of capacity-building paradigm.

‘Cross-cutting disease and appearing in all of them is a focus on gender and equity. Gender is quite important in disease because it’s both a biological and a social determinant of exposure and vulnerability to disease Equity likewise—poverty, age, other issues can very much affect susceptibility and vulnerability. The second is capacity building; this is key to change and we mean capacity building at all levels, from decision-makers to the science community to the actual farmers and value chain actors. Of course, we won’t be doing that directly; that’s not our comparative advantage. But we can develop pilot tools and new approached that can then be taken up by the development sector. And, third, communication and influence.

How do we get these messages out? How do we move from outputs to outcomes? And how do we show how those outcomes can contribute to impact?

‘There are some key assumptions or hypotheses. These are based on five to ten years’ work. At the same time, they’re not written in stone; they’re things we need to generate more evidence about. And many people would disagree with some or all of these.

‘So, first of all is that the informal food markets are the most important for poor buyers and consumers and will be—no ‘supermarketization’ here–and will be into the next few decades, at least in the countries we care about, where there are the most poor people.

Current food safety regulation is ineffective and unfair; we know it; we know it can even be paradoxical; we know it can make things worse. It’s kind of like the Somalia story—once you’ve got rid of the government, you’ve removed the first constraint to export. We find in many cases, these food safety regulations brought in to make things better make things worse. The way forward we believe is through risk- and incentive-based approaches.

‘The second main areas and the second main hypothesis is that these rapidly intensifying and urbanizing livestock systems are something the planet has never experienced before at this level and this rate, and it really does have the potential to bring about something very nasty. We talked at the beginning of great societal dislocations, of the Neolithic transition, of these massive plagues that wiped out ninety per cent of the population. I’m not saying it’s a fact, it may not even be probable, but it’s certainly something that cannot be ignored.

‘And at the moment, we are woefully ignorant of the disease dynamics and drivers and emergence of what’s going on in these new, novel, never-before seen systems, especially around South Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of the peri-urban areas of African cities. Here we think innovative surveillance—I showed you the surveillance we’ve got, 920,000 dead, 80,000 reported—so here we need innovative surveillance and whole-chain interventions. These are product-driven, demand-driven, rapidly emerging value chains and we need to work with the chain, not just work here and there in a piecemeal approach, as we have done in the past.

‘Our third big area are the cold spots. We sometimes emphasize the hotspots. These are places that are bubbling up, rapidly changing, doing strange things, lots of innovation going on, lots of possibility for thing to pop out of the cooking pot. But then we also have the cold spots, the neglected zoonoses, the pastoral areas, where you still have hundreds of millions of people cut off from markets, cut off from these emerging rapid opportunities, getting poorer and poorer, digging themselves deeper into poverty. And for these people, they’re the ones who are bearing the burden of these neglected zoonoses.

‘Take cysticercosis; you don’t have cysticercosis anymore in Vietnam, where you’ve got rapidly growing, highly innovative pig keepers. You get it in places in Uganda, where pigs are still scavenging and people don’t use latrines. So these people are still suffering from neglected zoonoses that have been eradicated everywhere anyone has got enough money and will power, and they’re symptoms of poverty, really; they’re symptoms of the whole complex. This is not a place for silver bullet approaches; this is a place for integrated approaches—taking a community wide, a gender approach, an equity approach—that deals with all the symptoms and not just the disease.

‘So those are our assumptions and how those assumptions affect what we’re going to be working on as we try and see how agriculture can do its little bit to help manage these diseases.

‘I’m going to give you a few examples before we finish and close for questions.

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Highlight 1 slide

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Highlight 1, by Delia Grace, ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, 31 Oct 2012.

So here is one highlight. One thing we’re doing this year is conducting rapid integrated assessments of food safety, zoonoses and nutrition in five high-potential CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish value chains. This Livestock and Fish program has made the decision to focus on nine value chains in the whole world and really transform them, bring all of research with development partners to really change these value chains to move millions of people out of poverty. And these value chains are pre-selected as being one of these hotspots I’ve been talking about—rapidly changing, rapidly intensifying, lots going on. The Livestock and Fish program cares about production; they care about increasing productivity. They’re not necessarily thinking about the externalities of this, that they might unleash new diseases on the world, or make lots and lots of people sick by giving them more and more pork that is full of salmonella and trichomonas and things like that. So we see an added value of food safety working with those value chains, not just those in the Livestock and Fish program but in all the CGIAR research program value chains. And also, in many of these areas, food safety is not a standalone concern but if we can piggyback it on lots of other activities, then we can make it go further. Just a quick example—well, no I won’t. But ask me about pigs in Uganda sometime; it’s rather scary.

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Highlight 2 slide

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Highlight 2, by Delia Grace, ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, 31 Oct 2012.

‘The second highlight I mentioned before and I won’t go into it now but how this mapping and measuring we’re doing of the hotspots is already starting to inform donor agendas and we also want to be part of that funding, if we can be, to help manage what we have measured and mapped.

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Highlight 3 slide

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Highlight 3, by Delia Grace, ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, 31 Oct 2012.

‘And the third highlight is how these integrated approaches have started making a difference. And these highlights are things the whole of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition has done during the year:
(1) Publishing special editions on urban zoonoses.
(2) Starting a new project on how the pathogens flow in Nairobi, from the abattoir to the dumps to the slums to the hospitals to the ILRI campus, and back and forth.
(3) Eco-health, one-health—we set up and are supporting two new centres in Southeast Asia and we’re looking at the barriers and bridges for governments doing things differently.
(4) Rift Valley fever—how does climate change and irrigation cause disease to jump around? We think it does; we want to know how.
(5) Pathogen hunting, here in our biotechnology facilities there’s a big pathogen hunting facility and now bio-repository. What are the implications of these new diseases getting into new systems?
(6) We’re integrating; instead of doing everything separately, we’re putting human and livestock disease surveys. We’re doing that in Kenya, Laos, Vietnam, China. There are some maps from Laos.
(7) Developing and testing new diagnostics; one thing main here has been for cysticercosis.

‘So in conclusion, here are my take-home messages. This is what I’d like people to think about.

‘First, here and now, the burden—the human sicknesses and deaths caused by neglected zoonoses—is much, much higher than that caused by emerging diseases. And most are very manageable. Moreover, the pareto law applies of the vital few and the trivial many. So these are places we can and must act to alleviate human misery.

‘Second, emerging infectious diseases are not so scary by themselves. But when you get a great societal dislocation, then they can be civilization-altering. And are we farming on the brink of chaos? We don’t know. It’s important that we find out, because this is one of the big questions for humanity’s future. Moreover, if societal dislocation is the missing ingredient X that nobody is talking about, we need to think about that, not just the disease.

‘And my final point is that agricultural research has an important role in integrative approaches to improve human health, animal health and the health of the planet.

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: Bibliography slide

Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock: bibliography slide, by Delia Grace, ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, 31 Oct 2012.

‘And here I just list some of the various chapters and papers that this presentation was based upon and where you can get more information if you are scared or skeptical or anything like that.

‘I’d like to acknowledge the mapping and spillover work, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and done with partners from different institutions, and the team leading the component on Agriculture-Associated Diseases of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, whose work I’m representing across food safety, mycotoxins, emerging infectious diseases, zoonoses and eco-health, and the many people who have supported us. And with that, I’ll hand it over to questions and to Tezira Lore to moderate.’

This ends the third and final part of the seminar by Delia Grace.

Part one of this seminar is here: The riders of the apocalypse do not ride alone: Plagues need war, famine, destruction–and (often) livestock, ILRI News Blog, 4 Nov 2012. Part two is here: Mapping the perfect storms: Where poverty, livestock and disease meet in terrible triage, ILRI News Blog, 6 Nov 2012.

View the slide presentation, which is a ‘slidecast’ that includes an audio file of the presentation by Grace: Zoonoses: The lethal gifts of livestock, an ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ by Delia Grace at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters on 31 Oct 2012.

Read the invitation to this ILRI ‘livestock live talk’, and sign up here for our RSS feed on ILR’s Clippings Blog to see future invites to this new monthly seminar series.


Mapping the perfect storms: Where poverty, livestock and disease meet in terrible triage

The following remarks are a transcript of the second part of a presentation made last week by Delia Grace, who works at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi. Grace, a Irish veterinary epidemiologist, leads ILRI’s research on food safety in informal markets in developing countries and on ‘zoonoses’—diseases shared by animals and people. Grace also leads a component on agriculturally related diseases of a new multi-centre CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition, which is headed by John McDermott, former deputy director general-research at ILRI, who is now based at ILRI’s sister CGIAR institute the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, USA. Grace is also a partner in another multi-institutional initiative, called Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa.

A prolific writer of scientific publications and a scientist of particularly wide research interests, Grace began her ‘big-picture’ talk on zoonoses—on why, and if, they are ‘the lethal gifts of livestock’—with an overview of human health and disease at the beginning of the 21st century. Go here to read part one:  The riders of the apocalypse do not ride alone: Plagues need war, famine, destruction–and (often) livestock, ILRI News Blog, 4 Nov 2012.

Here we begin part two of this ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ presentation by Delia Grace on ‘The lethal gifts of livestock’.

Getting a handle on why zoonotic diseases matter, to whom and how much
‘So, we’ve discussed the links between livestock and disease and why livestock play such an important role in human disease. The next question we have to ask is to try and put some details on this, to put some parameters on it. So, if disease matters, and if animals have a big role in disease, what disease matters? How much? To whom? What does it cost? And what can we do about it?

‘In thinking through this, we tend to think at ILRI of different categories, which help us get more of a handle on some of the details. So we talk about the neglected zoonoses; these are the diseases like TB, brucellosis, cystercicosis—diseases that have been eradicated anywhere people have money and care, but persist—hang on—in poor countries. We talk about emerging infectious diseases—the BSEs, the SARS, the bird flus, Rift Valley fever, blue tongue—diseases that are changing their patterns and becoming more important. Then the food-borne diseases are the other big category. This is the single-most important. If you’re interested in human health and human death, food-borne diseases are the single-most important category. And finally, there are the other health risks in agro-ecosystems: How we farm and what this means for our health and nutrition.

Let the mapping begin
‘I now want to talk about some recent work we did on mapping poverty, zoonoses and emerging livestock systems in order to get a better handle on some of these questions about why it matters, who it matters to, how much it matters, and what we should or could do about it.

‘I’m going to present some work that was commissioned by DFID [the UK Department for International Development]. These were two systematic reviews that DFID asked us to do. The aim of these was to present data and expert knowledge on poverty and zoonoses hotspots in order to prioritize areas, to target areas, where prevention of zoonotic diseases can bring the greatest benefits to poor people.

‘This study took us down some interesting paths and some interesting conclusions. I’m going to talk about them in a little bit of detail.

‘So, the methods. What we wanted to do was to update global maps of poor livestock keepers. The first ever global map of poor livestock keepers was produced by ILRI around 10 or 15 years ago, again commissioned by DFID. This, I would say, was a landmark map. We also wanted to map rapidly emerging livestock systems. And here we drew a lot again on ILRI’s expertise, especially Mario Herrero’s group, which have been doing a lot of big-picture work on changes in livestock systems—what’s happening, where it’s happening and why it’s driving change. We also wanted to update one of the most iconic maps for people in the zoonoses community, and this is the map by Kate Jones on emerging infectious diseases that appeared in Nature about ten years ago (and everywhere else since).

‘We wanted to identify which were the most important zoonoses for poor people. You’d think that we’d know that, but what we find is that we have a dozen definitions and none of them agree. And then, finally, we wanted to develop the first global mapping of where zoonoses, poverty and emerging [livestock] systems come together to make hotspots, for maximum investments, for maximum bang for the buck.

Where are the poor livestock keepers?

Density of poor livestock keepers (updated 2012)

Update in 2012 by ILRI’s Delia Grace of map by ILRI’s Phil Thornton showing density of poor livestock keepers (map credit: ILRI/Philip Thornton).

‘Here is the updated map of poor livestock keepers. I think you can see by looking at it that it’s focal. The dark areas represent high density. South Asia jumps out at us. And in Africa we see the ‘magic 7’, from the coastal regions of West Africa to Nigeria and up through the highlands of Ethiopia and right down the Rift Valley through Uganda and northern Tanzania and right down to Malawi.

‘So what can we say in our updating of poor livestock keepers?

One billion poor livestock keepers depend on 19 billion livestock. Most of the livestock in the world are owned by poor people: 24 billion in total in the world and 19 billion in poor countries. That’s a lot of opportunities for disease to spill over, 19 billion animals.

What’s more, the ‘parietal law’, the law of ‘the vital few and the trivial many’, applies. Just 4 countries have 44 per cent of poor livestock keepers. All countries are not equal.

‘Livestock matter a lot: 75% of rural people, and 25% of urban people, depend on livestock. Now ‘depend’ is one of those weasel words that we keep being asked to shine more light on. We don’t know enough—it’s amazing how little we know despite how important this is—but our best guess for now is that when we say ‘depend’ we mean that livestock contribute between 2 and 33% of household income and 6 to 36% of protein. It’s not trivial.

Where are the fast-evolving livestock production systems?

Change in poultry production
Change in pig production
2012 maps showing changes in poultry and pig production between 2000 and 2030 (map credit ILRI/Delia Grace).

‘The second map we updated was these emerging livestock systems. As we suspected, most emergence is happening in the monogastrics, the pigs and the poultry. And of course this has been known since the landmark papers on the livestock revolution. Our maps confirm this; we’re getting a lot of change in pigs and poultry, and again it’s focal; you can see that it’s not uniform.

‘So in summary, where are we getting massive, rapidly changing systems? Big changes in numbers? Big changes in baselines? Where do we have people who don’t have a lot of experience doing this sort of farming now doing it in a big way? (Once you get naïveté along with massive intensification, you get problems.)

Poultry in several places on all continents, bovines in South and East Asia, and pigs in sub-Saharan Africa. These are the rapidly emerging livestock systems.

Where are the emerging infectious diseases?
‘Next, we updated the emerging infectious diseases map. This was a study that was originally done by Jones et al. based on all emerging diseases from 1940 to 2004. What we wanted to do was to focus just on zoonotic diseases (the 75% of all human disease that are zoonotic) and also to update it with data from 2004 to 2012.

Emerging Zoonotic Diseases Events 1940-2012

Map by IOZ, published in an ILRI report to DFID; Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots 2012.

‘All of these dots represent new, potentially scary, diseases. The bigger the dot, the more the outbreaks. The new diseases are the blue circles; they are the ones that happened in the last ten years. The brown are the old; those are the ones that happened in the 70 years before. Again you can see a pattern here, but it’s not the same pattern we saw in the other map.

‘What we see is that western USA and western Europe are the hotspots for disease emergence. There’s a reporting bias in here, but we believe that this is not just reporting bias but actually represents emerging events. Interestingly, the blue events, the new events, are more common in South America and Southeast Asia, as intensification takes off in these regions and start to look more like intensive [livestock] systems of the West.

Multiple disease burdens are ‘where it’s at’
‘So, what are the high-priority zoonoses? We were interested in multiple [disease] burdens. One of the things we believe leads to bad management of zoonoses is that it’s done sectorally; it falls between lots of chairs. The World Health Organisation thinks about the human burden. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization thinks about the animal burden. Other people think about the wildlife burden. But people too rarely get together and think about the multiple burden.

What isn’t measured isn’t managed. And we think that one great step forward is just having people think about multiple burdens. So our listing, our criteria, consists of looking at the burdens across human health, animal health and ecosystems health.

‘From lots of listings, we assessed 56 zoonoses and found that together they caused a lot of problems. But the ones that were most important tended to have a wildlife interface, had a major impact on livestock and were amenable to on-farm agricultural interventions.

Top zoonoses calculated by ILRI's Delia Grace in 2012

Slide of ‘top zoonoses’ from ‘livestock live talk’ presentation, ‘Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock’, made by Delia Grace on 31 Oct 2012.

‘Just to give you some idea of the numbers, there are about 600 zoonoses and we looked at the top 50. Of that top 50, this is the human death caused by the top 13 and that by the next 43. Again, I think you can see it’s a case of the vital few and the trivial many. If you’ve got scarce resources and care about human death, you invest in the top 13, not in the bottom 43.

And here it is just broken out by individual zoonoses, and even in that top 13, you can see that there’s a difference between big killers and little killers. And sometime the ones we hear most about—and worry most about—are the ones that kill least.

‘The first thing we did then was to go to official reporting systems to try to find out where these zoonoses were and how these linked to the other things we were mapping. There are several reporting systems. There’s one by OIE [World Organisation for Animal Health], which is ‘notifiable’, that is, every OIE member has to report all their animals that die of notifiable diseases (you’d think that was easy enough). There’s also one run by FAO, and there’s Pro Med, there’s GEWS, and there’s Health Map, which is an aggregator.  That a picture of Health Map, and it’s a pretty exciting innovation. A ‘bot’ trawls the web and captures all the information on diseases.

When we put all of these [official disease reporting systems] together, what we found was that they were completely useless. They told us almost nothing about the burden of diseases. They told us about exciting things, interesting things. When a kid in Buenos Aires got bitten by a rabid dog, that showed up here. But when we were interested in what is sickening and killing billions and millions of people, it was just hopeless.

‘Just to give you an example, Africa has about 250 million tropical [aggregated] livestock units; we know that around 25 million of them die prematurely every year. We estimate around half of those deaths are due to notifiable diseases. There are over 60 notifiable diseases and pretty much everything falls into these. And what’s reported? Say 10 million dead, 80,000 reported.

This isn’t just under-reporting; this is a reporting system that is not very helpful!

‘So we couldn’t use the official reports. And it’s a huge weakness. People go along blindly and mechanically collecting this data, sending it in to OIE, doing complicated analyses showing all the different effects and impacts of these diseases, but they fail to take into account that they’re only looking at the 80,000 that are reported, and not the 920,000 that are not reported. It’s sort of an exercise in futility.

‘So what we did instead was a systematic literature review. We found that the only way we could get some sort of handle on where these zoonoses are was just to keep looking through the literature, pulling it out—grey, white, published, local language—and get as many surveys as we could and geographically map them and see what they are doing. In fact, we got over a thousand studies, which was enough to get some sort of a spatial understanding.

Greatest Burden of Zoonoses Falls on One Billion Poor Livestock Keepers

Map by ILRI, published in an ILRI report to DFID: Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, 2012.

‘This is what we came up with. Where you see a dot is where 1 or more people or animals in 100 are affected by 1 or more diseases per year. At least a 1%, at least 1 in 100 are sickened or killed. The dark colour shows where the poor livestock keepers are. Again, you can see the ‘7’ in Africa, whereby the zoonoses are linked to the poor livestock keepers. You can see quite a bit in South Asia and some in Southeast Asia.

‘There is a definite link between livestock keeping and poverty, which is what we suspected, but here again there is a lot of under reporting.

An unlucky 13 zoonoses sicken 2.4 billion people and kill 2.2 million people and they affect more than 1 in 7 livestock each year. These numbers are not trivial. These are large numbers, large numbers of sickness and death.

Our zoonotic problems are big problems

Multiple burdens of zoonoses calculated by ILRI's Delia Grace in 2012

Slide of ‘multiple burdens of zoonoses’ from ‘livestock live talk’ presentation, ‘Zoonoses: The Lethal Gifts of Livestock’, made by Delia Grace on 31 Oct 2012.

‘As I said, we focused on multiple burdens of  zoonoses, and here are some. I won’t read through them in detail, but again, going across all of these surveys, the numbers are frighteningly high. Round about 10% of animals have brucellosis, which is a serious disease in people, causing ungulant fever, infertility in men; it can cause psychosis and depression. And it’s transmitted in milk. If you don’t boil your milk, 1 in 10 animals has brucellosis. Ten per cent of animals in Africa have tryps [African animal trypanosomiasis], reducing their productivity by 15%. With 250 million livestock units, say they’re worth USD500 each, and you reduce their productivity by 15%—we’re talking large numbers here. TB, cysticercosis, bacterial food-borne disease, all of these came up.

‘The bad news is that it’s there and it’s a big problem in animals as well as people. The good news, of course, is that this provides incentive-based ways of tackling some of these zoonoses. Because if you can manage your animal zoonoses and boost your productivity by 10 or 20%, there’s a strong incentive for you to do it. What we’ve found with these studies (and we’ve been doing a lot of them over the years), is that too often the human health attitude is that people should do this because it’s good. You should do it to protect your own health. You should do it to protect the consumer’s health. That is one of the weakest motivations of all. How many things do we not do even though we know they’re good for our health? And how many fewer things do we do if they’re not good for our health but they’re good for someone else’s health?

Give people incentives, not rules, to better manage disease
‘What we find in these informal markets, where regulation is a joke and you have a hundred vets in a country and a hundred million animals, there’s no point in regulations or officials telling people “You should do this because it’s good for you”. It has to be incentive-based. People have to see a real benefit from changing their behaviour, either in their pocket or in their social status. And it doesn’t have to be money. We found people will change their behaviour just as much if they can get a social kick out of it. If instead of being a low-status person they get to be a high-status person, they’ll change their behaviour.

‘So, in summary what did we find? There are definite [zoonotic] hotspots, which is good, because that’s what the donor wanted  because that’s where the donor wants to invest. This is also a nice example of how science can generate evidence that is asked for by a donor and then influences donor behaviour, so it’s a virtuous cycle.

Where the ‘perfect storms’ lie
‘Poor livestock keepers? South Asia is the biggest. Emerging livestock systems? Again, South Asia. Zoonotic emerging infectious diseases? Western Europe and USA. Zoonoses? South Asia and central and eastern Africa.

If we are to name six countries where all of these come together, where you get the ‘perfect storm’ conditions, they are India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in Asia; Ethiopia, Nigeria and Congo in Africa.

‘So we’ve talked a bit about the big picture, human health and disease in the 21st century and why livestock matter. I’ve presented some of these findings of our mapping studies trying to get some evidence: the evidence that decision-makers want in a format they can use, in a way that motivates them to invest money.

‘But now, finally, I want to talk a bit about how we move from mapping to managing. . . .’

This ends part two of the seminar by Delia Grace. Look on this ILRI News Blog for part three in a couple of days’ time.

Part one of this seminar is here: The riders of the apocalypse do not ride alone: Plagues need war, famine, destruction–and (often) livestock, ILRI News Blog, 4 Nov 2012.

View the slide presentation, which is a ‘slidecast’ that includes an audio file of the presentation by Grace: Zoonoses: The lethal gifts of livestock, an ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ by Delia Grace at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters on 31 Oct 2012.

Read the invitation to this ILRI ‘livestock live talk’, and sign up here for our RSS feed on ILR’s Clippings Blog to see future invites to this new monthly seminar series.