Planet under pressure / Bits and pieces

This 6-minute animated film explains how we can feed the world by 2050; it was produced by CCAFS and first shown at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, Mar 2012.

In this last posting from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)  about the recent Planet Under Pressure (PUP) conference (London, 26-29 Mar 2012), we highlight a few of our favourite things.

Animated film on a ‘safe operating space’ for food security to 2050
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change launched a short animation that illustrates key actions needed for a ‘safe operating space’ for food security in 2050. An integrated approach must balance how much food we produce, how we adapt to a changing climate and how much agriculture contributes to further climate change. The film offers a summary of steps needed to meet food needs and stabilize the climate. It is short (6 minutes) and very good. Watch it here: How to feed the world in 2050: actions in a changing climate, Mar 2012.

Report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change
Efforts to alleviate the worst effects of climate change cannot succeed without simultaneously addressing the crises in global agriculture and the food system and empowering the world’s most vulnerable populations. Many of these issues have commonly been ‘stovepiped’ into different scientific disciplines, economic sectors, policy processes and geographic regions. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was set up in 2011 to come up with an integrated approach for dealing with these urgent, globally interconnected challenges. Their final report and summary for policymakers, launched at PUP, offer concrete actions to transforming the food system to achieve food security in the face of climate change.

Intensifying agriculture within planetary boundaries
Deborah Bossio, a soil scientist who in Feb 2012 took up the position of research area leader of the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT-TSBF), led a session on ‘Intensifying agriculture within planetary boundaries’. One of the panel speakers was Kate Brauman, one of the authors of a paper published in Nature last October, Solutions for a cultivated planet, led by Jon Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, and co-authored by many others.

‘We are adding 2 billion people to the world by 2050’, Brauman said, ‘by which time we’ll need to double food production. We need to do this in a sustainable way; we need to do this while keeping a world we’d like to live in. But agriculture’s environmental footprint is big: Agriculture uses 40 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, is responsible for 70 per cent of all water use, and generates about 35 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are warming our Earth, mostly deforestation.’

We have a three-part challenge’, Brauman said. ‘Feed  everyone today. Double food production by 2050. And do that in a sustainable way.’

The ‘Solutions for a cultivated planet’ paper offers a 5-part solution:
(1) Slow agricultural expansion: Most expansion will give us relatively small gains at very great environmental costs.
(2) Close yield gaps to increase agricultural productivity: Increase production through intensification where ag systems are already in place
(3) Improve resource efficiency of agriculture: Grow smarter by noting where there is excessive and insufficient nitrogen sources, water sources, etc., and get more bang for our buck.
(4) Close diet gaps: Only 60% of global production is directly consumable, with much going to animal feed, etc.
(5) Reduce food waste, whether stored on poor farms or thrown away in the refrigerators of the rich

‘There is no single way’, Brauman concluded. ‘We need to use all five of these strategies. It can’t be about organic vs commercial, but about both. We’ve only got one planet. We really have to do this right.’

Justin Gillis, in the New York Times Green Blog (Deep thinking about the future of food), points out what is special about Foley’s study: ‘The group finds, as others have before them, that the challenge of doubling global food production in coming decades can probably be met, albeit with considerable difficulty. The interesting thing to me about the analysis is that it doesn’t treat any of the problems confronting the food system as superior to the others—it treats the environmental problem, the supply problem and the equity problem as equally important, laying out a case that they all need to be tackled at once.’

Read an earlier post on this ILRI Clippings Blog about the ‘Solutions for a cultivated planet’ paper: A BIG conversation starts on ways to increase food supplies while protecting environments and eradicating hunger, 14 Oct 2011.

CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems
A CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems was launched at PUP. This multi-institutional program is led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), recently named this year’s Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. The new program embodies a ten-year commitment to bring about a radical transformation in the way land, water and natural systems are managed. ILRI is one of its 11 CGIAR partners. The new research program is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to promote more joined-up-thinking on agricultural research for development at CGIAR, the world’s largest consortium of agricultural researchers. The program’s newly appointed director, Simon Cook, says that more effective, equitable and environmentally sensitive pricing of natural assets like water needs to be mainstreamed. And the fragmented ways in which river basins are managed—with different sectors, such as agriculture, industry, environment and mining, considered separately rather than as interrelated and interdependent—needs to be fixed. ‘A re-think is needed’, Cook says.

Biomas under pressure
ILRI scientist Diego Valbuena gave a handsome presentation on Biomass pressures in mixed farms: Implications for livelihoods and ecosystems services in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa at a ‘Food security’ session on the first day of PUP.  The work behind this presentation was conducted by members of the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme. If the planet is under pressure (and it is), the pressure on biomass might serve as its poster child. Most of the world’s small-scale farmers mix crop growing with livestock raising, with each activity supporting the other. One of the major synergies exemplified by kind of integrated farming is the use of crop residues—the leaves, stalks and other remains of crops after their grain or legumes have been harvested—for feeding livestock as well as for conserving soil nutrients (through mulching), for fuel and for construction. As agricultural systems intensify, the pressures on the biomass available increase. This research is identifying optimal ways of using crop residues in different regions and circumstances.

And the one that got away
One session that never happened was on ‘Livestock and global change: A dialogue on key pressures and potential solutions’. To have been led by systems analysts Mario Herrero, of ILRI, and Philip Thornton, of ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS), and to have included on the panel ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace and ILRI partner Tara Garnett, who leads the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Surrey, this session was cancelled due to an emergency. The session was sorely missed since there was a dearth of discussion at PUP on livestock issues, which  these scientists and others believe need to have a higher profile at such events. What the session would have covered:

Due to the magnitude of the livestock sector, the pressures it exerts on the world’s natural resources, and the multiple socio-economic benefits it provides, this session will span across many subject areas of interest (food security, poverty reduction, vulnerability, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, competition for biomass, land, water, and others). The topic is central to developing-country agendas, which often have large livestock sectors and people depending on them.’

Read previous about the Planet Under Pressure conference on the ILRI News Blog
Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / A numbers game–but which numbers are the numbers that matter?, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Food security policy brief, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / ‘Get out of the nerd loop’–NYT environmental reporter, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Agriculture (finally) at the global change table, 28 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Navigating the Anthropocene, 29 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Where’s the beef? 9 Apr 2012.

 

Straw matter(s) in Nepal

Nimala Bogati feeds her cows in Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmhouse goats in Nepal

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

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

Man and buffalo in Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system

Extensive farming in central Malawi

An extensive agricultural landscape typical of central rural Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero, who leads a Sustainable Livestock Futures group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, gave a slide presentation last November at an invitation-only US National Academy of Sciences’ scoping meeting on The role of animal agriculture in a sustainable 21st century global food system, held in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle.

Among the conclusions Herrero makes in his slide presentation, Food security, livelihoods and livestock in the developing world, is the need to change our agricultural investment paradigms so that we invest not only in the high-potential agricultural lands of the past (many of which, he says, are already ‘maxed out’), but also in the agricultural lands of the future.

What are these ‘agricultural lands of the future’? Well, those on which relatively extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems are being practiced, for one.

For more on this topic, see ILRI’s current corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010, the foreword of which, by ILRI director general Carlos Seré and ILRI board chair Knut Hove, follows.

ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2011: Cover

ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Knut Hove say it’s ‘mixed farms’,
more than breadbaskets or ricebowls,
that will feed the world over the next two decades.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

This year’s corporate report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

Scientists at ILRI and seven other leading international agricultural research organizations around the world recently looked at the future of this form of farming and determined that it is ‘mixed farms’—not breadbaskets or ricebowls—that will feed most people over the next two decades.

Their report shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today. This same group, the report indicates, is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Remarkably, this is the first study ever to investigate the state of the world’s most prevalent kind of farmers—those who keep animals as well as grow crops. A major implication of the new report is that governments and researchers are mistaken to continue looking to high-potential lands and single-commodity farming systems as the answer to world hunger. As the study shows, many highly intensive agricultural systems are reaching their peak capacity to produce food and should now focus on sustaining rather than increasing yields.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

The authors of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary study, most belonging to centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agree with many other experts that we need to bring our focus back to small-scale farms. But this report goes further, distinguishing one particular kind of small-scale farmer that should be our focus: this is the mixed farmer growing crops and raising animals in the world’s more extensive agricultural systems, which are described in detail on the next page.

These ‘mixed extensive’ farms make up the biggest, poorest and most environmentally sustainable agricultural system in the world. It is time we invested heavily in this particular kind of farming system. Here is where there remain the biggest yield gaps. Here is where we can make the biggest difference.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale farming in developing countries are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards this particular, most ubiquitous, and till now most neglected, form of agriculture. What this ‘extensive frontier’ needs are the most basic forms of infrastructure and services. With these at hand, the world’s extensive mixed farmers will be in good position to scale up their food production to meet future needs.

Read ILRI’s corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010.

Watch a 4-minute ILRI photofilm (audio with still pictures) illustrating the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers: Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Small-scale Food Production, 2011.

Those wanting more detail on the future of mixed farming should consult the research report by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme: Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030, 2009.

A tribute to the heroes of small-scale food production

Watch ILRI’s new 4-minute photofilm, A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those who farm both crops and livestock—hold the key to feeding the world in coming years. Most of the world’s ‘mixed’ farmers are smallholders tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few animals. A research report led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) indicates that this group is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades (see ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2010, ‘Back to the Future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems’). This photofilm celebrates these ‘unsung heroes’—both the mixed farmers themselves and their farm animals.

 

Some of our readers will remember that last year a perspective piece by ILRI was published in a special February 2010 issue of Science on food security, “Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems”, focused on the importance of the same smallholder mixed farmers.

This article was based on results of a study by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR Consortium.

Small farms that combine crop and livestock production supply much of the food staples (41 percent of maize, 86 percent of rice, and 74 percent of millet), as well as most of the meat and dairy products consumed in these countries.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale agriculture farming are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards these ‘mixed’ farmers.

The pressures of climate change and finite resources, as well as the increasing demand for milk, meat and eggs across the developing world, will require proper planning, looking beyond ‘business as usual investments,’ and a greater ‘intellectual commitment’ to understanding food systems in the developing world.

Read more on this topic in ILRI’s Corporate Report 2009–2010: Back to the Future: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems, 2009.

Or visit the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme website.

Nairobi Science and Policy Forum holds roundtable discussions at ILRI’s Nairobi campus

4th Meeting of the Nairobi Science and Policy Forum held at ILRI, Nairobi Campus on 21Sept 2010

The International Research Livestock Institute hosted the 4th meeting of the Nairobi Science and Policy Forum on Tuesday, 21 September 2010. This Forum takes advantage of a unique location of several science and policy organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and CGIAR Centres like ILRI that belong to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, in Nairobi. Members are building case studies and scenarios for policy briefs based on the best scientific evidence as well as networking among like-minded stakeholders to advance the objectives of the Forum.

The topic of discussion at this 4th meeting was ‘Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agro-ecosystems services and human well-being to 2030’, presented by Mario Herrero, leader of the Sustainable Livestock Futures group at ILRI. His team is assessing the trade-offs in using environments for ecosystem services or to produce food and income. Its aim is to support and guide policies and investment strategies and to improve agricultural livelihoods and environmental resilience. This group will address issues of policies, institutions and political ecology, including gender, power relations and access to ecosystem services. It will consider drivers of change such as global trade, urbanization, climate change and energy demand.

While membership is not closed to organizations that are not based in Nairobi, a key characteristic of the Forum is that it will be a venue for face-to-face dialogue and consensus among organizations engaged in science and policymaking in the arena of agriculture and the environment. It is expected that membership will continue to evolve and increase.

A desert state turns green

Rajasthan (disused) water pump (Bhimpur Village)

Disused water pump in Bhimpur Village, 1.5 hours' drive south of Udaipur, in Rajasthan, India (photo ILRI / MacMIllan).

Over the last five years, poor monsoons have led to crippling droughts throughout Rajasthan, India's 'Land of the Kings', which includes a hilly and rugged southeastern region and the barren northwestern Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan.

Rajasthan cow (Bhimpur Village)

This year's monsoon, which started mid-June, is wetter than average. By mid-September, the rains had transformed Rajasthan's hills into misty verdant pastures, on which still-thin cattle and buffaloes are now fattening. Rivers are full and running fast and lake waters are high with their floodgates bursting with water. Even the camels appear thankful for the greenery the monsoon has brought. Maize is ripening in the fields and everywhere you look people are cutting the tall green grass and other fodder and loading it and carrying it home—on their heads, on their bullock carts, on the backs of their motorcycles—to feed their animals. They will dry and store the excess fodder for use when the land turns brown again.

Rajasthan rice straw stored for livestock feed (Bhimpur Village)

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with others to conduct three case studies in South Asia on the use of stover and other crop 'wastes' for feeding ruminant farm animals. The residues of grain crops after harvesting are vital to animal husbandry here, where such residues typically make up more than half the feed for cattle, buffaloes, camels, goats and sheep.

The case studies are being conducted in three contrasting sites: the extensive and normally dry rangelands of Rajasthan, the modern farming sector of Haryana (part of India's breadbasket), and in the intensely cultivated fields of Bangladesh.

ILRI's Braja Swain in Rajasthan

Braja Swain, the project associate doing all the fieldwork and analyses for this project, says that even this year's good maize harvest will feed many families only for a few months, after which they will have to buy grain using money they get from selling some animals or from family members who have migrated away to find jobs.

Rajasthan goats (Renoje Village)

This project is funded by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and led by the Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. ILRI's Swain is studying for a doctoral degree in economics at the Centre for Development Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi.

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

Evolution of Uganda's dairy systems

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

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

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

ILRI study published today in Science special issue on food security

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

Improving the performance of crop-livestock systems

Last week, the CGIAR System-wide Livestock Programme (SLP) held its annual planning meeting in Addis Ababa.

In this short video, John McDermott, ILRI Deputy Director General for Research introduces the SLP. He argues that its focus on the intensification of crop-livestock systems is critical: More than a billion people in developing countries are involved in these smallholder systems.

The SLP brings together 12 CGIAR centers, and, he mentions, “one of the key things we’ve been struggling with is how to improve the performance of these [crop-livestock] systems” – so people can get more income and more benefits from them; also so the systems can be more sustainable.

Reflecting on the just-completed SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, he highlights one of the major issues under discussion: how the crop biomass from these systems can be used more effectively – as food, as animal feed, and as fuel. Furthermore, how the crop residues can be fed back into the soil.

“Now we are turning our attention more to this tradeoff between whether you actually feed these residues to animals or whether some of them should stay with the soil.”

Watch the video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2966773&dest=-1]

Feeding livestock, sustaining soils: Crop-livestock tradeoffs focus of SLP discussions

This week, ILRI Addis Ababa hosted a meeting of the Livestock Programme Group that steers the CGIAR’s Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP). The Programme builds synergies between crop research and livestock research across the CGIAR.

A major discussion point at the meeting is the “pressure on biomass use in systems.”

Bruno Gerard, SLP Coordinator, explains that the group will look especially at tradeoffs in the use of crop residues – between feeding livestock or sustaining soils.

View his video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2967023&dest=-1]

Read more …

African animal feeds: Two decades of research now freely available on the web

The most comprehensive and authoritative web-based resource on the nutritional values of livestock feeds in African agriculture has just been launched.
 
This month sees the launch of the ‘Sub-Saharan Africa Feed Information System’. This new web-based resource provides free access to a comprehensive database providing the nutritional values of feedstuffs used by small-scale farmers in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. SSA Feeds provides data on 14,571 samples of 459 livestock feeds, including herbaceous forages, fodder trees and shrubs, cereals and legumes, roots and tubers, other food crops, concentrate feeds and agro-industrial by-products, mineral supplements and other less common feeds. These feeds were analyzed in the animal nutrition laboratories of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the information made available through an initiative of the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

SSA Feeds: Authoritative, comprehensive and freely available online
This unique resource is the culmination of 26 years of extensive research and data collection. The newly launched product makes available twelve years of initial data collection that started in 1981. This resource is now being updated with thousands of additional entries encompassing 14 years of subsequent research. This makes SSA Feeds the Web’s most comprehensive and authoritative resource on the nutritional values of livestock feeds in African agriculture.

Salvador Fernández-Rivera, a Mexican livestock nutritionist based at ILRI’s principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who coordinates SSA Feeds, is excited. ‘This is the first time that we have pulled together more than two decades of our research on animal feeds. SSA Feeds will be an invaluable resource for extension and development agents as well as livestock researchers. SSA Feeds will help them design optimal and scientifically based feeding systems for meat, dairy and draft animals. Better nourished and healthier livestock will enable Africa’s small-scale farmers improve their food and economic security.’

What the experts have to say about SSA Feeds
SSA Feeds was developed in conjunction with world experts in animal nutrition. These experts are already using the new resource and benefiting from having access to such depth and breadth of critical information on African animal feeds.

Adugna Tolera, an expert in animal nutrition and associate professor at the University of Hawassa, Ethiopia, advises his country’s feedlot industry on use of local feed resources. 

SSA Feeds is an important and rich source of information on the nutritive value of a wide range of sub-Saharan African feed resources. It is user-friendly for searching and summarizing the data on a given feed and enables the user to see the average value as well as the variability (range and standard deviation). 

It would be useful if the database were further enriched by including similar data accumulated in many of the national agricultural research systems in this region of Africa.

 Hank Fitzhugh, former director general of ILRI and its Addis Ababa-based predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), is an animal geneticist and livestock production systems specialist. He is leading a project to improve meat and livestock exports from Ethiopia. The project, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Texas A&M University, will fund the upgrading of the SSA Feeds database.

SSA Feeds demonstrates impacts from research.

This important database moves over 20 years of research off the shelf and into use by African livestock producers responding to the ‘livestock revolution—the huge increase in demand for meat and milk by consumers in developing countries.

— Dr Hank Fitzhugh

David Hutcheson is a worldwide expert on beef cattle nutrition, involved in projects in several countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With a long and distinguished career in the university system and US beef industry, he also served on the Committee of the National Research Council (NRC) of the United States that established the current “Nutritional Requirements of Beef Cattle".

I have used SSA Feeds to develop a “Best Cost” ration concept for Ethiopia Feedlots. The database is user friendly and easily adapted to the “Best Cost” Excel program. The arrangement of the nutrient analyses and summary statistics allow for easy manipulation and export of the data into different programs, for applications in both research and producer situations.

— Dr David Hutcheson

 Click on the graphic to visit the SSA Feeds website

Send us your feedback by emailing: SLPOffice@ILRIETH.EXCH.CGIAR.ORG

Fodder innovations for smallholders in India

Improved fodder varieties and technologies offer better quality feed all year through for highly valued livestock in Hyderabad.

The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
http://www.new-agri.co.uk/06-2/focuson/focuson5.html.

Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI's website and its 2004 annual report;
http://www.ilri.org/home.asp?CCID=61&SID=1.

smallholders in IndiaHyderabad is one of India's fastest growing cities. The local markets in the central square sprawl onto the road, sellingcredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI everything from black pearls and embroidered rugs to plastic key rings. Fresh fruit stalls steadied on bicycles cluster by the side of the main road as motorbikes and rickshaws weave their paths through the chaos. Like the markets, the Indian economy is thriving and in the farming state of Andhra Pradesh, where Hyderabad is the capital, livestock produce is at the heart of development. Throughout India, livestock are highly valued for their agricultural products and buffalo, cattle, goats and pigs are the most important source of livelihood for poorer people in the state. Livestock supply daily food and milk, as well as draft power and manure, and the dairy industry provides valued employment for the poor, especially women. But many farmers cannot produce quality fodder – or enough of it – which prevents them from taking advantage of increased market opportunities and demand.


Rapid population growth, particularly in urban areas, has increased demand for produce such as milk and meat. However, the population expansion also means that there is little land available to support fodder production, in addition to the area needed for food crops. Family plots are divided and reduced over generations, making many plots too small to sustain livestock. And while public land is often used as a grazing area for livestock among marginal communities, the areas are shrinking. Consequently, over 40 per cent of fodder resources in India come from crop residues and are of poor quality.

Food and fodder

To help the poor in Andhra Pradesh benefit from India's livestock revolution, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is co-ordinating a project under the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) enabling smallholders to build on their assets by exploiting the growing market for livestock products. The aim of this work has been to improve fodder varieties and technologies in order to provide livestock with more and better quality feed throughout the year. Under the project, over 500 farmers from 47 villages have tested seed delivery systems and evaluated fodder and feed technologies. This process has included the farmers evaluating their own 'food-feed' crops (those that provide both grain for human consumption and fodder for livestock) and management systems, testing varieties provided by the research team, and evaluating researcher-managed demonstration trials. During the trials, farmers consistently found improved varieties to be superior to local cultivars.


smallholders in IndiaThe project has also supported seed supply for forage crops, since these are scarcely available from the commercial seed companies operating in Andhra Pradesh. Young people and women's self-help groups from several villages have been trained in seed multiplication and distribution, and village seed banks have been given support in sourcing germplasm from the public sector. In 2005 over 350 farmers attended field days and seed multiplication plots to learn about forage seed production.

Including fodder in food crop development

Credit:Stevie Mann/ILRIA third focus has been in raising awareness about fodder quality in India's crop improvement programmes. Nutritional studies have shown a wide variability in digestibility in stover from different sorghum varieties. But is has also been shown that high yield in food (grain or legume pods), can be compatible with high quality and quantity in crop residue. As a result, indicators of stover quality have now been incorporated into the sorghum and millet breeding programmes of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and India's National Research Centre for Sorghum has included stover quality in its release criteria for the last two years.


There is more work to be done, with the researchers continuing to find new ways of working with partners to increase the uptake of the technologies. A particular challenge will be to involve more women and minority groups in testing and evaluating new seed varieties. Partnerships with the private sector are also being explored, to investigate employment opportunities and further broaden seed choice and variety. Private sector dairy companies are being encouraged to promote fodder seeds in locations not served by dairy co-operatives. Looking more widely, the research team are hopeful that lessons from this project can be applied internationally.