Storming the ivory towers: Time for scientists to get out, ‘get social’, to learn better, faster–Nature commentary

Framework for building an evidence base on impacts of social learning

An evaluative framework for assembling an evidence base on the impacts of social learning. Figure 1 in Social learning and sustainable development, article by Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey, Marissa Van Epp and Philip Thornton, published in Nature Climate Change 4, 5–7 (2014) (first published online 20 Dec 2013).

Most of us like learning new things. But while learning alone is no fun, it’s hard to convince scientists, who spend their professional lives attempting to learn new things, to adopt ‘social learning’ approaches. These could help bring about new understandings, and help transform such understandings into development benefits, by helping scientists learn with, and from, a diverse group of stakeholders, including non-scientists, holding common purpose.

Those assumptions are held by social learning advocates, who include Patti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist at the World Agroforestry Centre and lead author of a commentary on social learning published in the 20 Dec 2013 online edition of Nature Climate Change. Kristjanson gives a main reason for the reluctance of her agricultural research colleagues to take up social learning. ‘First and foremost’, she says, ‘is the worry of scientists about the large transactions costs of the “many conversations and messy partnerships” such joint learning necessarily entails.’

‘Yet many of the same scientists also worry about the slow pace of agricultural development in many parts of the world’, Kristjanson says.

Those of us attempting to use science to help solve complex agriculturally related development problems—like how to help hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers adapt to harsher, more erratic, climates while producing more food and lifting themselves out of poverty—need to try new approaches. If we keep doing science the way we’ve always been doing it, we’re going to run out of time.’

This Nature Climate Change commentary includes a ‘call to action’.

Kristjanson and her colleagues say it’s time for climate change scientists to step up—to help effect a step change. ‘We need the “social engagement” of many, many more scientists working on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. We need them to help us build a solid body of evidence on the benefits—and the costs—of applying social learning approaches.’

The commentary provides a framework that can be used to assess when social learning is likely to be ‘really worth it’ and begins with an introduction, summarized here:

Agricultural research-for-development bodies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, CGIAR and their partners are under mounting pressure from their funders to link their research knowledge to actions that achieve faster and more substantive and long-lasting ‘development outcomes’, such as CGIAR’s four ‘system-level outcomes’ of reduced rural poverty, increased food security, better nutrition and health, and sustainable management of natural resources. To bring about the many changes in behaviour, policies and institutions as well as agricultural practices needed to achieve such broad benefits, the authors argue that researchers and their projects need to be continuously informed by, and engaged with, many others, including the individuals and societies they are working to benefit, so as to better understand, and more effectively use, the processes by which people and communities, and policymakers and government officials, learn and adapt their behaviour in the face of climate and other changes and pressures.

Among the many advantages the authors cite of agricultural scientists employing social learning approaches are the following:

  • joint learning and knowledge sharing and co-creation are enhanced among diverse stakeholders around a common purpose
  • the established traditions of participatory development are built on, with learning and collective change placed at the heart of such engagement
  • diverse knowledge and value systems are integrated in ways that help us tackle so-called ‘wicked’ (highly complex) socio-agro-ecological problems

The Nature Climate Change commentary provides a table of examples of agricultural development projects and programs that are already using social learning approaches.

On the face of it, the authors says, social learning approaches should help research-for-development institutions become smarter and more effective. But while iterative learning processes appear to be critical to adapting to environmental and other big changes, it’s difficult to apply ‘learning tools’ in many developing-country situations, they say, where there is high uncertainty and great poverty. ‘And we have as yet little evidence of the impacts of social learning approaches on “hard” development outcomes’, says Kristjanson. Scientists are also concerned, she says, about a lack of demonstrated ability to replicate and scale out the benefits of localized social learning.

The authors of this commentary include Philip Thornton, an agricultural systems analyst and climate change specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Thornton says that the authors are embarking on a ‘systematic evidence-gathering initiative, using a common evaluative framework to track new initiatives from a range of institutional settings that incorporate social learning approaches’.

‘The practical guidelines we provide’, he says, ‘should help those interested in applying social learning approaches to use the best available knowledge, information and tools to implement and document their initiatives’.

Acknowledgements
Patti Kristjanson and Philip Thornton both lead work of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Program (CCAFS), where Kristjanson leads its Linking Knowledge to Action Theme and Thornton its Data & Tools ThemeCCAFS is funded by the CGIAR Fund, AusAid, Danish International Development Agency, Environment Canada, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (Portugal), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UK Aid, and the European Union, with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Read
An authors’ version of this article is available for all to read on Cgspace.

Journal subscribers can read the whole article, Social learning and sustainable development, by Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey (International Development Research Centre, Canada), Marissa Van Epp (International Institute for Environment and Development, UK)) and Philip K Thornton, in Nature Climate Change 4, 5–7 (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2080 (first published online 20 Dec 2013).

A lively article about this Nature commentary was published by CCAFS yesterday (8 Jan 2014): Want sustainable development? Then it’s time to get social.

CCAFS, ILRI and their many partners invite you to join our efforts to create an evidence base on the impacts of social learning approaches. Leave your comments and ideas in the commentary section below or on the CCAFS website.

This Nature commentary article was produced as part of a continuing social learning process — see their wiki here: Climate Change and Social Learning initiative — in which knowledge is being co-constructed through many different channels. We are grateful and indebted to all who have participated in this process.

Enhanced cooperation focus of visit to ILRI by Ethiopian State Minister for Livestock Development

Jimmy Smith, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, State Minister for Livestock Development in the Ministry of Agriculture (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Today, Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, newly appointed State Minister for Livestock Development in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, visited the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa.

He was welcomed by ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith, who offered his congratulations on the minister’s appointment. ‘We know you as a scientist; now we know you as a science politician’. Smith explained that ILRI’s research is intended to help people transform their lives through livestock. Ethiopia, with its large livestock sector and population, is a very important focus for ILRI’s work, Smith said: ‘If we can’t make a difference here – where livestock is so important – we can’t do it anywhere!’

Smith emphasized that ILRI aims to add value to the work of the Ethiopian government and institutions. ‘We would like to make a positive contribution to Ethiopian livestock development, and, through this work, to derive and share lessons and learning in other places.’

Shirley Tarawali introduced ILRI’s new strategy – its objectives, focus and current status. She referred to a recent June 2013 discussion of this strategy, in which Ethiopia stakeholders and partners provided feedback on the strategy.

Iain Wright elaborated on the operationalization of this strategy in Ethiopia. His presentation briefly introduced various ongoing projects: Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains, Livestock and Fish small ruminant value chains, Africa RISING, Nile Basin Development Challenge, Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), Safe Food Fair Food and development of a livestock master plan for Ethiopia. He drew attention to the growing role of the ILRI Addis Ababa campus as a CGIAR hub, ILRI’s growth in Ethiopia (more staff, more investments), and initial ideas to develop the campus as a global centre for research on sustainable intensification in the face of climate change.

The State Minister welcomed the renewed ILRI investments in Ethiopia and expressed strong interest in the various ideas and the potential for cooperation. He highlighted existing joint projects, such as LIVES, and the former Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS), that are a good basis for future scaling up of useful technologies. He said that he will also be ‘very strong’ in asking ILRI and CGIAR for support to implement the ministry’s plans for the livestock sector.

We are pleased to be with you . . . and pleased that you are with us! — Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopian State Minister for Livestock Development

Subsequent discussion between the State Minister, his staff and ILRI staff covered various topics of mutual interest including animal health, livestock genetic improvement, pastoral development, livestock feed supply, livestock sector transformation, delivery of services to farmers and capacity development. It was suggested that this initial higher level brainstorming could be followed up on a more regular basis to deepen the collaboration.

‘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.

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

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

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

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

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

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

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

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

Polly Ericksen (USA) leads drylands research at ILRI and for the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems in East and Southern Africa, where, in the coming years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over some 600,000 square kilometres. That CGIAR research  program as a whole is led by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria. Ericksen also leads a Technical Consortium for Ending Drought Emergencies and Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa. Her broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

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

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

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

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

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

Communications support

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

plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning together transforms agriculture and lives.

‘Cultivate the future!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reconstructing by Paul Klee, 1926 (via WikiPaintings)

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

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

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

Refuge by Paul Klee, 1930 (via WikiPaintings)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

A few of our favourite (missed) livestock presentations in 2012

Here, for your New Year’s reading/viewing pleasure, are 20 slide presentations on 12 topics made by staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in 2012 that we missed reporting on here (at the ILRI News Blog) during the year.

Happy reading and Happy New Year!

1 LIVESTOCK RESEARCH FOR FOR DEVELOPMENT

>>> Sustainable and Productive Farming Systems: The Livestock Sector
Jimmy Smith
International Conference on Food Security in Africa: Bridging Research and Practice, Sydney, Australia
29-30 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 426 views.

Excerpts:
A balanced diet for 9 billion: Importance of livestock
•  Enough food: much of the world’s meat, milk and cereals comes from developing-country livestock based systems
•  Wholesome food: Small amounts of livestock products – huge impact on cognitive development, immunity and well being
•  Livelihoods: 80% of the poor in Africa keep livestock, which contribute at least one-third of the annual income.
The role of women in raising animals, processing and 3 selling their products is essential.

Key messages: opportunities
•  Livestock for nutrition and food security:
– Direct – 17% global kilocalories; 33% protein; contribute food for 830 million food insecure.
Demand for all livestock products will rise by more than 100% in the next 30 years, poultry especially so (170% in Africa)
– Indirect – livelihoods for almost 1 billion, two thirds women
•  Small-scale crop livestock systems (less than 2ha; 2 TLU) provide 50–75% total livestock and staple food production in Africa and Asia
and provide the greatest opportunity for research to impact on a trajectory of growth that is inclusive –
equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable.

>>> The Global Livestock Agenda: Opportunities and Challenges
Jimmy Smith
15th AAAP [Asian-Australasian Association of Animal Production] Animal Science Congress, Bangkok,Thailand
26–30 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 1,650 views

Excerpt:
Livestock and global development challenges
•  Feeding the world
– Livestock provide 58 million tonnes of protein annually and 17% of the global kilocalories.
•  Removing poverty
– Almost 1 billion people rely on livestock for livelihoods
•  Managing the environment
– Livestock contribute 14–18% anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, use 30% of the freshwater used for agriculture and 30% of the ice free land
– Transition of livestock systems
– Huge opportunity to impact on future environment
•  Improving human health
– Zoonoses and contaminated animal-source foods
– Malnutrition and obesity

>>> Meat and Veg: Livestock and Vegetable Researchers Are Natural,
High-value, Partners in Work for the Well-being of the World’s Poor

Jimmy Smith
World Vegetable Center, Taiwan
18 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 294 views.

Excerpts:
Livestock and vegetables suit an urbanizing, warming world
Smallholder livestock and vegetable production offers similar opportunities:
•  Nutritious foods for the malnourished.
•  Market opportunities to meet high urban demand.
•  Income opportunities for women and youth.
•  Expands household incomes.
•  Generates jobs.
•  Makes use of organic urban waste and wastewater.
•  Can be considered ‘organic’ and supplied to niche markets.

Opportunities for livestock & vegetable research
Research is needed on:
•  Ways to manage the perishable nature of these products.
•  Innovative technological and institutional solutions for food safety and public health problems that suit developing countries.
•  Processes, regulations and institutional arrangements regarding use of banned or inappropriate pesticides,
polluted water or wastewater for irrigation, and untreated sewage sludge for fertilizer.
•  Innovative mechanisms that will ensure access by the poor to these growing markets.
•  Ways to include small-scale producers in markets demanding
increasingly stringent food quality, safety and uniformity standards.

>>> The African Livestock Sector:
A Research View of Priorities and Strategies

Jimmy Smith
6th Meeting of the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
26−29 Sep 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 25 Sep 2012;  4,227 views.

Excerpts:
Livestock for nutrition
• In developing countries, livestock contribute 6−36% of protein and 2−12% of calories.
• Livestock provide food for at least 830 million food-insecure people.
• Small amounts of animal-source foods have large benefits on child growth and cognition and on pregnancy outcomes.
• A small number of countries bear most of the burden of malnutrition (India, Ethiopia, Nigeria−36% burden).

Smallholder competitiveness
Ruminant production
• Underused local feed resources and family labour give small-scale ruminant producers a comparative advantage over larger producers, who buy these.
Dairy production
• Above-normal profits of 19−28% of revenue are found in three levels of intensification of dairy production systems.
• Non-market benefits – finance, insurance, manure, traction – add 16−21% on top of cash revenue.
• Dairy production across sites in Asia, Africa, South America showed few economies of scale until opportunity costs of labour rose.
• Nos. of African smallholders still growing strongly.
Small ruminant production
• Production still dominated by poor rural livestock keepers, incl. women.
• Peri-urban fattening adds value.

>>> The CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish and its Synergies
with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Delia Grace and Tom Randolph
Third annual conference on Agricultural Research for Development: Innovations and Incentives, Uppsala, Sweden
26–27 Sep 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 13 Oct 2012;  468 views.

Excerpts:
Lessons around innovations and incentives
• FAILURE IS GETTING EASIER TO PREDICT – but not necessarily success
• INNOVATIONS ARE THE LEVER – but often succeed in the project context but not in the real world
• PICKING WINNERS IS WISE BUT PORTFOLIO SHOULD BE WIDER– strong markets and growing sectors drive uptake
• INCENTIVES ARE CENTRAL: value chain actors need to capture visible benefits
• POLICY: not creating enabling policy so much as stopping the dead hand of disabling policy and predatory policy implementers
‘Think like a systemicist, act like a reductionist.’

>>> The Production and Consumption of Livestock Products
in Developing Countries: Issues Facing the World’s Poor

Nancy Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Mario Herrero, Shirley Tarawali, Susan MacMillan, and Delia Grace
Farm Animal Integrated Research 2012 Conference, Washington DC, USA
4–6 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 7 Mar 2012; 1,108 views.

Excerpts:
The rising demand for livestock foods in poor countries presents
– Opportunities
• Pathway out of poverty and malnutrition
• Less vulnerability in drylands
• Sustainable mixed systems
– Threats
• Environmental degradation at local and global scales
• Greater risk of disease and poor health
• Greater risk of conflict and inequity

• Key issues for decision makers
– appreciation of the vast divide in livestock production between rich and poor countries
– intimate understanding of the specific local context for specific livestock value chains
– reliable evidence-based assessments of the hard trade-offs involved in adopting any given approach to livestock development

• Institutional innovations as important as technological/biological innovations in charting the best ways forward
– Organization within the sector
– Managing trade offs at multiple scales

2 LIVESTOCK FEEDS

>>> Livestock feeds in the CGIAR Research Programs
Alan Duncan
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) West Africa Regional Workshop on Crop Residues, Dakar, Senegal
10–13 Dec 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare on 18 Dec 2012; 3,437 views.

>>> Biomass Pressures in Mixed Farms: Implications for Livelihoods
and Ecosystems Services in South Asia & Sub-Saharan Africa

Diego Valbuena, Olaf Erenstein, Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Tahirou Abdoulaye, Alan Duncan, Bruno Gérard, and Nils Teufel
Planet Under Pressure Conference, London, UK
26-29 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Mar 2012;  1,999 views.

3 LIVESTOCK IN INDIA

>>> Assessing the Potential to Change Partners’ Knowledge,
Attitude and Practices on Sustainable Livestock Husbandry in India

Sapna Jarial, Harrison Rware, Pamela Pali, Jane Poole and V Padmakumar
International Symposium on Agricultural Communication and
Sustainable Rural Development, Pantnagar, Uttarkhand, India
22–24 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 30 Nov 2012; 516 views.

Excerpt:
Introduction to ELKS
• ‘Enhancing Livelihoods Through Livestock Knowledge Systems’ (ELKS) is an initiative
to put the accumulated knowledge of advanced livestock research directly to use
by disadvantaged livestock rearing communities in rural India.
• ELKS provides research support to Sir Ratan Tata Trust and its development partners
to address technological, institutional and policy gaps.

4 AGRICULTURAL R4D IN THE HORN OF AFRICA

>>> Introducing the Technical Consortium
for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa

Polly Ericksen, Mohamed Manssouri and Katie Downie
Global Alliance on Drought Resilience and Growth, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
5 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 21 Dec 2012; 8,003 views.

Excerpts:
What is the Technical Consortium?
• A joint CGIAR-FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] initiative,
with ILRI representing the CGIAR Centres and the FAO Investment Centre representing FAO.
• ILRI hosts the Coordinator on behalf of the CGIAR.
• Funded initially by USAID [United State Agency for International Development] for 18 months –
this is envisioned as a longer term initiative, complementing the implementation of investment plans
in the region and harnessing, developing and applying innovation and research to enhance resilience.
• An innovative partnersh–ip linking demand-driven research sustainable action for development.

What is the purpose of the Technical Consortium?
• To provide technical and analytical support to IGAD [Inter-governmental Authority on Development]
and its member countries to design and implement the CPPs [Country Programming Papers]
and the RPF [Regional Programming Framework], within the scope of
the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI).
• To provide support to IGAD and its member countries to develop regional and national
resilience-enhancing investment programmes for the long term development of ASALs [arid and semi-arid lands].
• To harness CGIAR research, FAO and others’ knowledge on drought resilience and bring it to bear on investments and policies.

5 LIVESTOCK AND FOOD/NUTRITIONAL SECURITY

>>> Mobilizing AR4D Partnerships to Improve
Access to Critical Animal-source Foods

Tom Randolph
Pre-conference meeting of the second Global Conference for Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), Punta de Este, Uruguay
27 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 29 Oct 2012; 385 views.

Excerpts:
The challenge
• Can research accelerate livestock and aquaculture development to benefit the poor?
– Mixed record to date
– Systematic under-investment
– Also related to our research-for-development model?
• Focus of new CGIAR Research Program
– Increase productivity of small-scale systems
> ‘by the poor’ for poverty reduction
> ‘for the poor’ for food security

Correcting perceptions
1. Animal-source foods are a luxury and bad for health, so should not promote
2. Small-scale production and marketing systems are disappearing; sector is quickly industrializing
3. Livestock and aquaculture development will have negative environmental impacts

Our underlying hypothesis
• Livestock and Blue Revolutions: accelerating demand in developing countries as urbanization and incomes rise
• Industrial systems will provide a large part of the needed increase in supply to cities and the better-off in some places
• But the poor will often continue to rely on small-scale production and marketing systems
• If able to respond, they could contribute, both increasing supplies and reducing poverty
. . . and better manage the transition for many smallholder households.

6 LIVESTOCK INSURANCE

>>> Index-Based Livestock Insurance:
Protecting Pastoralists against Drought-related Livestock Mortality

Andrew Mude
World Food Prize ‘Feed the Future’ event, Des Moines, USA
18 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 22 Oct 2012; 576 views.

Excerpts:
Index-Based Livestock Insurance
• An innovative insurance scheme designed to protect pastoralists against the risk of drought-related livestock deaths
• Based on satellite data on forage availability (NDVI), this insurance pays out when forage scarcity is predicted to cause livestock deaths in an area.
• IBLI pilot first launched in northern Kenya in Jan 2010. Sold commercially by local insurance company UAP with reinsurance from Swiss Re
• Ethiopia pilot launched in Aug 2012.

Why IBLI? Social and Economic Welfare Potential
An effective IBLI program can:
• Prevent downward slide of vulnerable populations
• Stabilize expectations & crowd-in investment by the poor
• Induce financial deepening by crowding-in credit S & D
• Reinforce existing social insurance mechanisms

Determinants of IBLI Success
DEMONSTRATE WELFARE IMPACTS
• 33% drop in households employing hunger strategies
• 50% drop in distress sales of assets
• 33% drop in food aid reliance (aid traps)

7 LIVESTOCK-HUMAN (ZOONOTIC) DISEASES

>>> Lessons Learned from the Application of Outcome Mapping to
an IDRC EcoHealth Project: A Double-acting Participatory Process
K Tohtubtiang, R Asse, W Wisartsakul and J Gilbert
1st Pan Asia-Africa Monitoring and Evaluation Forum, Bangkok, Thailand
26–28 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 5 Dec 2012; 1,395 views.

Excerpt:
EcoZD Project Overview
Ecosystem Approaches to the Better Management of Zoonotic Emerging
Infectious Diseases in the Southeast Asia Region (EcoZD)
•  Funded by International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC)
•  5-year project implemented by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
•  Goals: capacity building & evidence-based knowledge•  8 Research & outreach teams in 6 countries.

>>> Mapping the interface of poverty, emerging markets and zoonoses
Delia Grace
Ecohealth 2012 conference, Kunming, China
15–18 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 23 Nov 2012; 255 views.

Excerpt:
Impacts of zoonoses currently or in the last year
• 12% of animals have brucellosis, reducing production by 8%
• 10% of livestock in Africa have HAT, reducing their production by 15%
• 7% of livestock have TB, reducing their production by 6% and from 3–10% of human TB cases may be caused by zoonotic TB
• 17% of smallholder pigs have cysticercosis, reducing their value and creating the enormous burden of human cysticercosis
• 27% of livestock have bacterial food-borne disease, a major source of food contamination and illness in people
• 26% of livestock have leptospirosis, reducing production and acting as a reservoir for infection
• 25% of livestock have Q fever, and are a major source of infection of farmers and consumers.

>>> International Agricultural Research and Agricultural Associated Diseases
Delia Grace (ILRI) and John McDermott (IFPRI)
Workshop on Global Risk Forum at the One Health Summit 2012—
One Health–One Planet–One Future: Risks and Opportunities, Davos, Switzerland
19–22 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 5 Mar 2012; 529 views.

8 LIVESTOCK MEAT MARKETS IN AFRICA

>>> African Beef and Sheep Markets: Situation and Drivers
Derek Baker
South African National Beef and Sheep Conference, Pretoria, South Africa
21 Jun 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 24 Nov 2012; 189 views.

Excerpt:
African demand and consumption: looking to the future
• By 2050 Africa is estimated to become the largest world’s market in terms of pop: 27% of world’s population.
• Africa’s consumption of meat, milk and eggs will increase to 12, 15 and 11% resp. of global total (FAO, 2009)

9 KNOWLEDGE SHARING FOR LIVESTOCK DEVELOPMENT

>>> Open Knowledge Sharing to Support Learning in
Agricultural and Livestock Research for Development Projects

Peter Ballantyne
United States Agency for International Development-Technical and Operational Performance Support (USAID-TOPS) Program: Food Security and Nutrition Network East Africa Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
11–13 Jun 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 11 Jun 2012; 2,220 views

10 LIVESTOCK AND GENDER ISSUES

>>> Strategy and Plan of Action for Mainstreaming Gender in ILRI
Jemimah Njuki
International Women’s Day, ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya
8 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 8 Mar 2012; 876 views.

11 AGRICULTURAL BIOSCIENCES HUB IN AFRICA

>>> Biosciences eastern and central Africa –
International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub:
Its Role in Enhancing Science and Technology Capacity in Africa

Appolinaire Djikeng
Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Vancouver, Canada
16–20 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 20 Feb 2012; 2,405 views.

12 PASTORAL PAYMENTS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

>>> Review of Community Conservancies in Kenya
Mohammed Said, Philip Osano, Jan de Leeuw, Shem Kifugo, Dickson Kaelo, Claire Bedelian and Caroline Bosire
Workshop on Enabling Livestock-Based Economies in Kenya to Adapt to Climate Change:
A Review of PES from Wildlife Tourism as a Climate Change Adaptation Option, at ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya
15 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Feb 2012; 762 views.

‘It takes an orchestra to play a symphony’: Jemimah Njuki on making market-oriented agriculture work for women

Jemimah Njuki

Agricultural intensification in many parts of Africa has meant that traditional food crops such as bananas and beans have entered sophisticated market chains which, though they provide benefits, also carry certain risks for smallholder producers, most of whom are women.

Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan sociologist and gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that ‘despite women’s involvement in agricultural development in rural parts of Africa, how they benefit from this involvement is often unclear, because as commodity market chains become increasingly commercialized, they often end up marginalizing the women they sought to help in the first place.’

In a keynote speech at the opening of a workshop on ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ (#AgriGender2011) being held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Njuki noted that ‘with the emergence of regional and export markets, as soon as women’s crops become profitable, they are no longer women’s crops. And we can end up doing as much harm as good.’

Cautionary tale
Njuki told a story to illustrate this. It’s about a farmer named Mercy that she knew and worked with in Malawi. Mercy is a smallholder bean farmer from Chinseu Village who often intercropped her beans with maize on her small plot of land. Using little fertilizer or other farm inputs, Mercy produced between 50 and 100 kilogrammes of beans in a good year. Her family consumed half her bean crop at home and she sold the remainder on the roadside near her village. She used the money she earned from the sale of the beans to buy food and clothes for her family.

When a new farming project was started in Chinseu, Mercy got access to improved bean varieties and markets. Because the new bean variety could not be intercropped, she had to grow the beans on a different plot of land from her maize. The investment paid off, however, and in the first year she produced nearly one ton of beans. To sell the increased produce, she needed to find new markets, and these were far from her village. Her husband thus started to transport the surplus beans to the city for bulking and sale there. He began spending less and less time at home, and sometimes he spent the income from the beans before he reached home. Meanwhile, Mercy remained at home, often with less bean income than she had before she began to adopt the ‘improvements’.

Doing right by women does right by everyone
Njuki believes that market-oriented agriculture will succeed in helping women only if it moves beyond ‘doing right for women.’ ‘We should not include gender development in agriculture to help women only; we ought to focus on women because if we do not, there will be adverse repercussions for the incomes, nutrition and empowerment not only of women but also of households, communities and countries.’

To get market-oriented agriculture to work for women, Njuki suggests the following ways of raising the often under-recognized role of women in agricultural production.

Increase women’s decision-making in agricultural projects to enable them play a role in identifying markets and commodities in specific value chains. ‘We should not push any one commodity at women to bring about change; we must first understand from them what they need.’

Work with both men and women because women live in households and communities that include their husbands, brothers and other men. ‘If we do not put money in pockets of men, we will not manage to put money in the pockets of women.’

Raise women’s assertiveness and leadership skills by linking them directly with (especially urban) consumers who buy their products so that the women producers understand at first hand how markets work and what kinds of products their clients prefer.

Encourage women to come together in groups, which give them better bargaining power to access banking and other financial services.

Increase women’s access to technologies and inputs and services to ensure that they can on-goingly adopt production practices needed to meet new and changing market needs and demands.

Njuki recommends that projects widen their indicators of success beyond just increases in women’s income. ‘We need to expand our indicators to look at the distribution of this income. We need to know which households and individuals are benefiting. We need to pay attention to labour issues.’

Finally, Njuki warns that success in work aiming to redress gender imbalances depends on a multitude of actors working together. ‘No one (woman) can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it,’ she concluded, quoting Halford Luccock. ‘These initiatives need to be driven and replicated by many individuals and organizations working together to scale up community successes regionally.’

AgriGender 2011 logo

Working with women and men in agricultural market development: The missing link

View more presentations from ILRI CGIAR.
Read more about the ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ in the ILRI gender and agriculture blog.

‘Fixing the gender imbalance in agriculture will yield high returns’–Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture

AgriGender 2011 logo The Hon. Wondirad Mandefro, Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture, today delivered a strong opening address at an international workshop being held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, this week.

The workshop, ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’, is being organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which for several years has been implementing a project of the Ethiopian Government on ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’.

The state minister made the following points.

  • Despite having made rapid progress over the last decade, Ethiopia was ranked 157th out of 168 countries in the Human Development Index prepared in 2010 by the United Nations Development Program.
  • Among Ethiopia’s urgent needs is the need to enhance the quality of life of its women, particularly the 85% of Ethiopian women who live in rural areas.
  • In the countryside, peasant farming is the main livelihood and it requires heavy labour that exacts a heavy physical toll on both women and children.
  • Only 34% of Ethiopian women have attended primary school; only 28% have any post-secondary education.
  • Only 8% of the seats in the Ethiopian Parliament are held by women.
  • Ethiopian women earn incomes (average of US$516) that are just half that of Ethiopian men (US$1008).
  • Ethiopia’s national targets for gender equality in agriculture, first set in 1993 in a National Policy on Women, are not yet met, due largely to women’s low education levels, low involvement in household and community decision-making, and low rewards accruing from the country’s agricultural and economic development.
  • Women’s access to markets is particularly constrained in Ethiopia, indicating that redressing the gender imbalance in the country’s market-oriented agriculture will yield high returns.
  • By removing the constraints Ethiopian women face in both education and the labour market, it is estimated that the country could add almost 2 percentage points to growth of its gross domestic product every year between 2005 and 2030.
  • If we consider in addition the effects of a ‘gender-equal’ agriculture on national growth, the expected economic benefits of including women in development strategies become huge.

For these reasons, the Ethiopian Government has instituted an Agricultural Growth Program that is focusing on increasing the involvement of women and youth in projects to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crops and livestock in selected woredas (districts) in the country.

A project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS), implemented by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, has led to several successes, such as doubling the income of women fattening sheep in Goma, benefiting women dairy and honey farmers in Ada’a, helping women in Dale start an initiative that is supplying pullets for semi-commercial poultry producers, and increasing the levels of butter production and sales by supporting women with livestock fodder interventions.

The lessons, strategies and approaches raised at this workshop, and an understanding of what makes them effective in the Ethiopian context, should be immensely helpful to us in designing strategies to scale them out for the agricultural transformation to which the Ethiopian government and people are firmly committed.

Find the whole speech by the minister on ILRI Gender and Agriculture Blog.

Follow discussions on this and related topics at a workshop being held this week on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

‘Spoken Web’: A voice-internet tool for sharing research knowledge with the unreached

John on Mobile Phone

The ‘Spoken Web’ uses mobile phones to provide information to people who have no access to the internet (photo credit: David Dennis)

Imagine using your mobile phone to connect to a voice site on the internet to listen to your favourite blog or to search for information. According to IBM, this might be one of the ways we use the internet in the near future.

No, it will not replace the current technology that involves using a browser on your computer to search for what you need online, but the company is banking on a new voice-enabled internet platform that can provide information and services to millions over phone, especially in the developing world’s rural areas, where many people do not read and write and have no access to the internet.

The ‘Spoken Web’ makes use of speech recognition software to allow users to upload information to networks of ‘voice sites’ that are then stored on a voice server and navigated by users talking over the phone. People in rural areas of India and Africa and other developing regions can use this system to upload information in their own language using a mobile phone. The ‘Spoken Web’ can be used for many of the things that can be done over the internet today, such as online banking, buying goods or searching for information. For example, callers can access the platform from their mobile phones to listen to agricultural information or to find advice from fellow farmers by dialing a local number, which directs them automatically to the most relevant voice sites.

This technology has been under development since 2004, when it started as a ‘World Wide Telecom Web’. It has been further developed into the ‘Spoken Web’ by IBM research labs in New Delhi, India. In 2007, it was piloted successfully in parts of India.

IBM believes that this new platform holds great potential for transferring and sharing information, especially for development organizations that can use it to communicate with their field staff and the rural communities with which they are implementing projects.

The concept of the ‘Spoken Web’ was presented during last week’s ‘AgKnowledge Africa’ Share Fair, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The presenter was Pier Paolo Ficarelli, an agricultural development and knowledge management expert working in the International Livestock Research Institute’s (ILRI) Asia regional office, in New Delhi.

Earlier this month, on 7 October 2010, IBM staff invited ILRI and partners of the Consortium of the Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and other organizations to their research offices in India to see a demonstration of the workings of this new voice-based internet.

‘Internet connectivity in rural areas where organizations like ILRI work is seldom available, and agricultural extension services that were one of the few channels for information and service access for rural communities are ineffective in many of these places,’ said Ficarelli, who attended the demonstration together with John McDermott, ILRI’s deputy director general and Iain Wright, ILRI’s Asia regional director. ‘ICT tools such as this can give opportunity for grassroots people to access information and receive services,’ said Ficarelli.

To test this project in India, IBM has partnered with Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile phone service provider, which also owns mobile networks in 16 African countries. The two companies are likely to roll out the service in Africa in the future.

‘If adopted widely, this new system can be used to bridge the information gap that exists in many areas of the developing world because of illiteracy, which limits knowledge transfer and exchange,’ said Ficarelli. ‘Indian farmers have successfully used it to share innovative solutions to common agricultural problems,’ he added.

‘This technology could benefit ILRI’s livestock and dairy research projects that are seeking to create efficient links among researchers, farmers and other actors in the different value chains,’ Ficarelli said.

However, to be a successful knowledge sharing platform, the voice-internet needs to overcome challenges of likely high implementation costs for both organizations and communities. The system also needs to have clear advantages over existing and already tested web-based or mobile-phone-based information dissemination applications, such as telecentres and SMS information channels. There is need not only to test ‘Spoken Web’ on a wider scale and in different contexts to assess its usability and usefulness, but also to involve enough agents ready to put into voice their knowledge and services and to do so in ways that are attractive to end users.

For more information about the ‘Spoken Web’ and how it can be used visit:

http://domino.research.ibm.com/comm/research_people.nsf/pages/arun_kumar.wwtw.html and http://domino.research.ibm.com/comm/research_people.nsf/pages/arun_kumar.index.html

Also watch the following video demonstrations:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_4LgyBn2CQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFc6HkK2eiw

Strengthening our walking sticks: Harnessing Africa’s diversity of knowledge sharing methods

IPMS market place

Participants attend the Ethiopian market place on day two of the on-going 'Agknowlege Africa' Share Fair at the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa (photo credit: ILRI/Sewunet)

The second day of the ‘AgKnowledge Africa’ Share Fair in Addis Ababa began sunny and bright. Tuesday 19 October marked the official start of this event, which has never before been held in Africa. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) sees the fair as a chance ‘to get to know the new innovators who are sharing and applying agricultural knowledge in the continent,’ according to Peter Ballantyne, ILRI’s head of Knowledge Management and Information Services.

Following Monday's program that oriented participants to various social media tools used in knowledge sharing, the second day’s main activity centred on the ‘marketplace’, an information exchange set-up to mimic the typical African marketplace. For millennia, marketplaces have let people trade in knowledge as well as goods, allowing them to find solutions to shared problems.

While the real donkeys grazing ILRI’s lawns in this simulated marketplace might not be sold today, various corners of the ILRI compound are hosting different open air sessions where ‘sellers’ and ‘buyers’ are displaying products and talking and exchanging knowledge with the participants who tour their stands. Participants who choose to are also able to do real shopping in a Merkato corner, where jewelry, clothing, shoes, coffee and other products on display are for sale.

In another corner of the compound stands a ‘Seeds for Knowledge’ exhibit, where Roseline Murota is talking about how her organization—the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resource (SAFIRE)—is training local communities in Zimbabwe to use natural resources sustainably to improve their livelihoods. This initiative is helping local people make herbal teas from traditional trees, including Makoni tea, made from a ‘resurrection tree’, so named because it is quick to dry up when the rainy season ends and equally quick to come back to life with start of the rains. The organization is using local knowledge to train farmers in how to produce Baobab oil and Baobab cereal bars, among other products.

Elsewhere in the compound, a group of women are walking slowly, singing songs and carrying water pots on their backs. As women have traditionally borne water from rivers and wells to their homes, they have exchanged information, transferred knowledge and learned how to solve common problems.

The main auditorium is filled with stands displaying various local knowledge exchange platforms used to transfer information and knowledge in Ethiopia. In one corner is Ageno Aweno, a traditional medicine man from the Halaba area of southern Ethiopia, who is displaying various plants that he uses to treat livestock diseases, including internal parasite infections, and to improve animal feeding.

A project implemented by ILRI in Ethiopia with the Ethiopian Government, ‘Improving the Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’, is sharing cases of how knowledge sharing is empowering farmers in the country. Lessons from a farmer-designed training project in Dale District are highlighted. This project links farmers with extension agents and universities to identify and address farmer needs in participatory ways. It has helped farmers in Dale produce and sell improved avocado and mango trees, which has transformed the livelihoods of 47 families, who now sell grafted seedlings to earn Ethiopian birr 150,000 (US$8,500) per year.

Also among the displays is a livestock market, complete with a pen containing sheep, goats and chickens. Some indigenous sheep from Afar and other parts of Ethiopia are on display, giving participants a chance to see the country’s native stock and share information about livestock breeds.

While opening the Share Fair earlier, Bruce Scott, director of ILRI’s Partnerships and Communications program, said meetings such as this offer ‘innovative ways to make information available to farmers. Our aim should be to reach the millions of smallholder farmers in Africa who are the main drivers of Africa’s agricultural production. These smallholder producers need better access to markets, information and knowledge.’

Edna Karamangi, who is leading a group discussing traditional methods of African knowledge exchange at the Share Fair, summed up in a speech this morning the power that knowledge sharing gives people: ‘Knowledge is like a walking stick; whenever we share knowledge and learn from others, we are patching our walking sticks to keep them from breaking.’

Follow the Share Fair proceedings daily via our:
Blogs: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisblog
Photos: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisphotos
Tweets: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddistweets