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

In the field: Kenya

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

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

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

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

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

WatotoWeeding4A-74

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

Among the findings are the following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dairy cow on a Kenyan smallholding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feed quality in the developing world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building capacity for better conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources: Burkina Faso workshop

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Burkina Faso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries in Burkina Faso, attended a Regional Capacity Development Workshop in Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in the capital of Ouagadougou, 4 to 6 November, 2013.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only a handful of qualified livestock breeders and geneticists. Regional collaboration among scientists and institutions in this area provides rare opportunities to exchange information, pull together resources, network with other professionals, and partner strategic organizations.

Addressing more than 75 representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries before meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon on 6 November, Minister Ouedraogo highlighted the need for regional cooperation among individuals and institutions given the region’s scarcity of qualified livestock breeders. He pointed out the urgent need for more appropriate breeding strategies and schemes that will ease access by poor farmers herding livestock in harsh environments to superior livestock germplasm. He thanked ILRI and its partners for supporting Africa’s Global Action Plan on Animal Genetic Resources, which was endorsed by African governments in 2007.

The minister referred to collaboration between ILRI and partners that has effectively built investments, programs and capacity in this area. Best practices must be captured for replication and scaling up, he said. While research should benefit local communities, he said, the scale of the impacts of research depend largely on whether national policies, national budget allocations and national development plans reflect the importance of better use of native livestock resources and allocate funds for developing national capacity in this area.

The minister encouraged the workshop participants to engage actively with those developing a second State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources report, due to be published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014.

APM 2013: How can we unlock the genetic potentials of local livestock breeds?

The workshop was organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). In partnership with FAO, the African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism for Africa (TEAM-Africa), ILRI and SLU are holding regional back-to-back workshops this November in Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Botswana. The purpose is to strengthen regional platforms boosting knowledge exchange, collaboration and capacity in improved conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources.

CGIAR and ILRI have worked together with SLU for a decade to develop capacity in animal genetic resources work. Groups of selected ‘champions’ of this work have been given training in their home institutions by the ILRI/SLU project to advance animal genetic resources teaching in higher education and research work within and outside the university.

Abdou Fall

Abdou Fall, ILRI representative for Burkina Faso and West Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan)

In an opening address to the workshop, Abdou Fall, ILRI’s country and West Africa’s regional representative, commended the strong representation from 22 countries in the region: from Senegal to Congo and from Benin to Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

This geographic breadth’, Fall said, ‘should help provoke dynamic discussions on better and more sustainable use of Africa’s livestock breeds and genes and the capacity development programs that underpin this.

Training has long been a central element in the capacity development approaches ILRI and SLU have taken to strengthen Africa’s use of animal genetic resources; indeed, for many partners and donor organizations, Fall said, this training has been a hallmark of the project’s achievements over the past decade. But Fall highlighted that capacity development work in CGIAR/ILRI goes beyond training and transferring knowledge and skills to individuals, and now embraces work effecting change in organizations, institutions, cultures and sectors.

Fall said capacity development activities can serve sustainable use and appropriate management of the continent’s diminishing livestock genetic resources only if they are embedded within broader policies, strategies and frameworks. ILRI takes a systems approach to capacity development, he said, which addresses up front institutional and organizational shortcomings and regulatory and cultural barriers to sustainable development.

Progress in this kind of capacity development work is measured at the following three levels:
Environment: The policies, rules, legislation, regulations, power relations and social norms that help bring about an enabling or disabling environment for sustainable development;
Organization: The internal policies, arrangements, procedures and frameworks that enable or disable an organization to deliver on its mandate and individuals to work together to achieve common goals
Individual: The skills, experience, knowledge and motivation of people.

Taking such a systems perspective, Fall explained, requires finding the right balance between, on the one hand, responding to expressed demand for agricultural research-based knowledge and interventions, and, on the other, jumping on emerging opportunities and innovations with potential for accelerating agricultural development.

This workshop should help AU-IBAR increase its animal genetics work through a 5-year project funded by the European Union and through strengthened collaboration with FAO in this area. Outcomes of the 4-day Burkina Faso workshop — including lessons learned from the past, a prioritized list of new topics/problems for new MSc and PhD students to take on, a list of key messages, and action plans for animal genetic resources work in Western Africa — will help lay the foundations of the West African Platform on Animal Genetic Resources.

More information on ILRI’s contribution to capacity development for animal genetic resource work can be found here: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/16393 and here http://agtr.ilri.cgiar.org

About ILRI
ILRI is one of 15 CGIAR research centres and 16 multi-centre research programs located around the world and dedicated to reducing poverty and improving food security, health and nutrition, and natural resource management. Like other CGIAR centres, ILRI leads, co-leads or supports cutting-edge research on sustainable agriculture and designs, conducts and monitors in-country research-for-development programs and projects with the aim of producing international public goods at scales that make significant difference in the lives of the world’s poorest populations. ILRI does this work in collaboration with many public and private partners, which combine upstream ‘solution-driven’ research with downstream adaptive science, often in high-potential livestock value chains engaging small- and medium-sized agri-businesses and suppliers. In this work, ILRI and its partners are explicitly supporting work to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and their successor (now being formulated), the Sustainable Development Goals.

ILRI envisions a world where all people have access to enough food and livelihood options to fulfill their potential. ILRI’s mission is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock, ‘ensuring better lives through livestock’.

Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.

 

Gender equity + capacity development: Marriage proposal in the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish

Close up: Oromo jewelerys

If discussions at a recent research for development meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are to be believed, transformations are afoot at the intersection of gender equity and capacity development work in the strategies and approaches, if not (fully) yet on the ground, of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

By Dorine Odongo and Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Development experts these days will, to a man and woman, insist that we need to do more to empower (poor) women in developing countries. A particularly popular target are the women who grow most of the food their families and communities, and their cities and nations, are consuming. Such ‘gender focus’ is all the rage in agricultural research for development circles.

So far, so good, but just what does a ‘gender focus’ look like that actually makes a difference in the lives of some half a billion women producing food in the face of severe material and resource poverty?

Scientists working on gender issues in a new(ish) research program aiming to make more milk, meat and fish available to the poor and to improve food safety in informal markets think they may have a handle on this.

They call their approach ‘gender transformative’. Basically, that means they’re ambitious to increase women’s income from, and employment in, livestock and fish ‘value chains’ in ways that transform, rather than merely incrementally improve, those livelihoods.

Can that work?
The gender experts working with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish think so. They met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 14–18 Oct 2013 to look at how much their ‘transformative’ strategy has succeeded and to define new strategies and entry points for interventions for 2014–2015. They’re looking in particular at how far they’ve managed to do four things:

(1) develop capacity (in individuals, groups, organizations, institutions) to do productive research and development work in relevant livestock-, fish- and gender-related fields

(2) empower women in their work in livestock and fish ‘value chains’ (these involve all the steps and processes from on-farm production of livestock and fish through the marketing, processing, selling and final consumption of livestock and fish products)

(3) improve the nutrition of poor households in selected communities targeted by the Livestock and Fish research program

(4) encourage others to apply gender transformative approaches to this research-for-development work

At the Addis meeting, presentations were made and discussions held on results made so far by gender scientists and country partners from Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), Southeast Asia (Malaysia) and Central America (Nicaragua) involved in the Livestock and Fish research program. Participants heard about an extensive ‘in-depth women-retailer only analysis’ conducted in five Egyptian governorates that support the formation of women retailer committees. The Livestock and Fish program helped members of these committees improve their links to markets and supported them in engaging in public-private partnerships with local governments to construct marketplaces tailored for small- to medium-sized fish sellers.

In another example, members of a project on Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) developed guidelines for mainstreaming gendered approaches to development for the project’s partners at both national and local levels and in both the public and private sectors. In addition, research on food safety and health in Ethiopia led to a research summary report of gender-related consumption practices, as presented here. The issue of food safety and health is crucial in livestock products and as described in this ILRI Livestock Exchange issue brief, safer food can generate both health and wealth for the poor. If women are supported in this area, they have better chances of competing in the markets with higher quality products.

The field trip
On one day, the workshop participants travelled to central Ethiopia’s West Shoa Zone to visit the Biruh Tesfa Dairy Cooperative, the Hunde Hajebatu Small-scale Irrigation Women’s Group, the LIVES Knowledge Centre in the Zonal Office of Agriculture and a model farmer engaging in a traditional mix of livestock keeping, crop farming and beekeeping. The field trip gave the workshop participants an opportunity to observe at firsthand issues affecting small-scale Ethiopian food producers regarding capacity development, ‘gender transformative’ approaches in that capacity development work, agricultural value chains, and gender-related impacts on household nutrition. These field visits served to underscore a need to apply a gender focus to capacity development work.

Reality checks
The Biruh Tesfa Dairy Cooperative was established in 2004. Of 40 founding members, 15 were women. While the membership has grown to 70 in the last 9 years, the number of women remains unchanged at 15, and no woman yet serves on the cooperative’s board. The cooperative has just two basic kinds of equipment for value addition and they do not have information on how to maintain milk quality and safety standards. Despite being registered as a cooperative, the representatives we spoke to appeared to have no knowledge of how to set up a savings scheme from the profits earned by the cooperative. The members of this cooperative are thus not taking full advantage of the benefits accruing to membership in a co-operative, such as access to loans, which they could use to buy equipment and further upgrade their dairy operations. These observations triggered questions from the gender working group on the constraints these farmers face in accessing:

  • credit facilities
  • dairy information, e.g., via agricultural extension and advisory services
  • technical support
  • dairy markets
  • government support

A similar lack of knowledge about technological options available for Ethiopia’s many small-scale farmers was observed in the gender group’s visit to the Hunde Hajebatu Small-scale Irrigation Women’s Group, which is growing and selling potatoes. After receiving a government loan, this group had a hard time identifying technological options they could use to improve their irrigated potato production. They have not been able to improve their production levels over the three years they have been in existence. Although various options exist for improving small-scale irrigation technologies such as those used by this group, Abebeu Gutema, the group’s leader, says the women do not know where to get hold of this information.

The chicken or the egg?
Later in the tour, the gender group visited Gadisa Gobena, a farmer active in dairy production, livestock rearing, beekeeping and crop farming. Over 50 and well past retirement age, this former schoolteacher is now pursuing his passion for agriculture. Gobena keeps more than one hundred dairy cows on his farm. And though he is at times challenged to market all of his milk, he plans both to increase his stock and to invest in improved dairy technologies for making greater efficiencies and profits. Gobena now employs some 40 people.

Accessing knowledge, getting exposure
While the previous groups visited had little information about, or exposure to, latest technologies that could boost their production and diversify their products, Gobena is looking to acquire milking machines and other technologies to enhance his operations. One likely reason for his outward-looking approach is his travel to other countries, where he saw and learned about emerging trends and technologies in small-scale agriculture and its potential. He recently successfully applied for a business loan. Understanding the importance of sharing his knowledge with other farmers and exposing them to new ideas, Gobena gives back to his community through a farmer extension training centre that he has established. His centre provides 50 to 70 farmers with free training, agricultural information, and seeds, insecticides, livestock drugs and other farm inputs at minimal cost. The centre includes demonstration plots where the farmers can observe different farming practices.

Gobena is clearly a ‘change maker’ for his farm community. The LIVES project and gender visitors have a job now to try to determine what has most encouraged Gobena in his development of his own capacity and that of his community. What came first? Did his confidence push him to take the first step in farm improvements? Or did his farm success build his confidence? Was it business sense that set him apart? Or did he acquire that along the way?

At the end of the field tour, the gender group concluded that three major issues were key to capacity development:

  • leadership
  • access to knowledge
  • exposure to emerging trends and technological advances

While effectiveness of the previous groups in maximizing their agricultural production is limited by lack of access to knowledge about the available technological options and leadership ability, Gobena’ s success in his farming activities can be attributed to having been influenced by these three issues.

The time is now
Following the gender workshop in Addis Ababa, ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit hosted a CGIAR capacity development workshop in Nairobi 21–25 Oct 2013. Participants were experts in organizational development, training design and facilitation, social learning, institutional change, ICT innovations and related fields. ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit is looking to influence change at the following three levels.

  • Institutional change: The policies, legislations and power relations that govern the mandates, priorities, modes of operation and civic engagement across different parts of society
  • Organizational change: Formal and informal arrangements, internal policies, procedures and frameworks that encourage and enable individuals and organizations to work together towards mutual goals
  • Individual change: Developing leadership, experience, knowledge and technical skills in people

ILRI’s lead scientist for gender research, Kathleen Colverson, who organized the ‘transformative gender’ workshop in Addis Ababa, participated in the CGIAR-wide capacity development workshop in Nairobi, which was organized by Iddo Dror, head of capacity development at ILRI. At this second workshop, Colverson again emphasized the central role of capacity development in addressing gender issues, an example of which is her recently produced training manual for use in facilitating gender workshops and closing the gender gap in agriculture.

Will these transformative gender and capacity development strategies turn out to be truly transformative? Watch this (ILRI, CGIAR) space. . . .

Gender workshop posters and presentations

Dorine Odongo is a communications consultant with ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender, Impacts and Innovation Program; Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a new staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.

ILRI deputy director-general of research at World Bank summit makes (serious, sane, realistic) case for West African pastoralism

 

Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Two major recent World Bank agricultural summits in Mauritania and Senegal recently urged African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods.

‘. . . African agriculture employs a massive 65–70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30–40 percent of GDP. It represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region’, said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, who opened the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on 29 Oct 2013.

The statement that follow are by John McIntire, deputy director-general—integrated sciences, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who gave his thoughts at one of these summits on ‘The future of West African pastoralism’.

From ILRI deputy director general John McIntire

Sustainability
• West African pastoralism is biologically and economically sustainable at current levels of animal productivity and personal incomes

• By ‘sustainable’, I mean roughly constant annual average stocking rates (in tropical livestock units [TLU]) and roughly constant rates of personal income growth from animal production

• Beyond current levels of real per capita incomes, the biological facts of pastoralism – heat, aridity, low soil fertility, sharp seasonality – make it difficult to raise productivity and incomes at current shares of livestock in total incomes

• Income can be expected to grow more rapidly among herding peoples who have moved out of pastoralism (into industry, services, and government) and this income will contribute indirectly to the viability of pastoralism per se by providing finance for growth and insurance against calamity

Why pastoralism is sustainable only at roughly constant levels
Adaptation to marginal areas
• In West Africa, pastoralism thrives in marginal areas just as it does in Australia, in the western United States, in Mongolia, in parts of Latin America and even in the Arctic Circle, because it is adapted to such areas and other sectors (arable farming) are not

• The adaptation of pastoralism to marginal areas is, unfortunately, what traps it in a low-productivity equilibrium and subjects it to catastrophic risks that are difficult to insure against

Pasture productivity
• Pasture productivity is low in pastoral areas because of heat, aridity, low soil fertility, and unusually sharp seasonality

• An important system constraint to pastoral growth is that the chief limiting resource – wet season pastures – cannot be expanded easily without inducing conflicts with arable farming

• Sown forages do not complement pastures in pastoralism, as they often do in mixed farming systems, because heat, low soil fertility and aridity make it costly to raise forage yields in pastoral areas without irrigation

• Irrigation is usually too expensive for sown forages in pastoral areas unless used for commercial dairying, which is not common in remote areas because markets are thin

• Sown forages are not a complement to wet season pastures because that is when pastures are cheapest anyway

Risks
• Associated with low-growth sustainability are high risks caused by rainfall variability, animal disease, and markets

• Periodic droughts disturb long-term growth of herds, destroying animal capital and forcing herders to restock

• However, the risks of pastoralism now appear to be less of a threat to pastoral livelihoods today than in even the recent past because of higher non-pastoral incomes (which provide diversification), better communications and cheaper transport

• Animal health is better than in the past (less trypanosomiasis because of more intensive land use; elimination of rinderpest, more veterinary services) but gains from better animal health are (partly) self-limiting because they are partly consumed by forage costs; that is, healthy animals consume more feed, causing the price of feed to rise

• The long-term shift from cattle to small ruminants will continue and this will tend to reduce income risks aggregated over time by shortening the periods in which flocks recover compared to the recovery periods of cattle

Competition in market for animal proteins
• West African price trends will be unfavourable to red meat because of faster technical changes in non-ruminant meats, so the value of ruminant sales cannot be expected to grow in real terms relative to other animal-source proteins; the constant pressure of imports harms the economic viability of pastoralism by limiting its traditional markets

A likely future
• From this reasoning – constraints to the asset base of pasture and animal capital, persistent risks and the costs of managing them, competition from other sources of protein – the quantity, quality and productivity of pastoral assets can only grow slowly in real per capita terms

• As long as population growth is vigorous, real per capita income growth is limited by growth of the capital stock in a way that is not typical of the industrial and service sectors

What can be done?
Build pastoral assets
• Defend pasture corridors against crops and towns; corridors maintain mobility and reduce risk of conflict between farmers and herders

• Build roads – roads reduce marketing costs, promote social capital, and insure against distress sales

• Make irrigation more compatible with pastoralism – one idea is to subsidize modest areas dedicated to forage reserves; another is to see that irrigation projects do not deprive pastoralists of access to dry-season water; ensure that irrigation does not aggravate vector-borne diseases of people or animals (such as Rift Valley fever)

Create social capital for pastoral peoples
• Provide free social services – education, health, social protection; they give additional incomes to pastoralists and reduce their income risks and improve life prospects for pastoral peoples outside herding …

• Give pastoralists legal entitlements to rent income (minerals, wildlife, tourism) in their regions; this is controversial and I do not wish to minimize the political problems but we know that the mechanisms for income transfers today are cheaper than ever before and those mechanisms should not be adduced as a pretext not to distribute resources regularly and transparently

• Give legal pasture land entitlements to pastoral associations but do not make them individually tradable because of the risk of land grabs

• Sell commercial index-based insurance products and link the use of those products to participatory disease surveillance via the cellular phone networks market information …

• Invest in public research – especially in veterinary epidemiology, disease surveillance, in diseases related to animal confinement and production intensification

Promote complementary private investments
• Some complementary private investments might be lightly subsidized on the grounds that subsidies contribute to maintenance of a unique livelihood and culture

• Target productive investments – in industrial feedlots, animal waste management, in peri-urban dairying – to the finishing stage of animals’ lives; such investments are crucial for expanding pastoral markets because they offer growth possibilities that other investments at earlier stages do not offer

• Ease resource flows between pastoral and non-pastoral sectors – Remittances of money and knowledge from pastoral peoples working in cities or on arable farms, or return of those people as vets, well diggers, road builders, irrigated farmers, teachers and health workers, are beneficial to total pastoral income, not by direct effects on pastoral incomes but by adapting to risks and by improving resilience

More information from John McIntire: j [dot] mcintire [at] cgiar [dot] org

Read the whole World Bank press release: West Africa: The Sahel—New push to transform agriculture with more support for pastoralism and irrigation, 27 Oct 2013.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Set up of the current Agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the Agenda strategy and consensus.

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

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

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’

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

Livestock live talk: Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Livestock live talk: Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

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

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

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

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

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

View the slide presentation made by Butterbach-Bahl.

‘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).

Recommendations
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.

AASW6
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.

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

This 3:25-minute film shares how keeping cows has enabled Margaret Muchina, a dairy farmer from central Kenya, to support and educate her four children, who include Edward Kimani, who sat for his high school exam in 2010 and emerged as one of the country’s best students.

This single mother from Kenya’s Kiambu District started keeping dairy cows on her 2-acre farm in 1985. Her regular dairy income, mostly through daily milk sales, has been critical in enabling her to support her family, including the schooling of her children. Her dairy income is now supporting Kimani’s education at the University of Nairobi, where he is studying for a bachelor’s degree in geology.

Between 1997 and 2005, Margaret was one of many Kenyan farmers who participated in an award-winning Smallholder Dairy Project that carried out research to help improve the country’s smallholder, and largely informal, dairy sector, which trades mostly in ‘raw ‘ (unpasteurized) milk and was then being more harassed than supported by regulatory authorities.

The Smallholder Dairy Project supported a move towards towards a more favourable policy environment that paved the way for significant increases in the number of raw milk traders in the country, which helped milk producers like Margaret sell more milk leading to wider economy wide benefits for small-scale farmers.

Like many other Kenyans keeping one or two dairy cows to help them feed their families and send their children to school, Margaret Muchina is grateful to the Smallholder Dairy Project for information on best farm management and milk handling practices. Mrs Muchina now operates her small dairying with greater freedom and with new support from her government.

The Smallholder Dairy Project was led by Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock and implemented by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Find out more about the Smallholder Dairy Project

ILRI’s current work in dairying focuses on value chain development in Tanzania. Read more here.

Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs will be discussing the successes of Africa’s agriculture, including how its livestock sector can help achieve food security in the continent, at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) in Accra, Ghana. This event 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.

Check out this blog next week for more stories from the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.