Research collaboration and capacity development focus of long-term partnership with Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Swedish University of Life Sciences Vice Chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith sign a Memorandum of Understanding (image: SLU/Jenny Svennås-Gillner)

On 26 September 2013, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) signed a memorandum of understanding. The MoU was signed by SLU vice chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI director general Jimmy Smith. The MoU signing took place in the margins of the ‘Agri4D annual conference on agricultural research for development’,  where Jimmy Smith gave a keynote address.

The main objective is to establish a long-term relationship to exploit complementary research, institutional development and capacity development skills.

It includes a specific objective to establish joint activities associated with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, including a role in the development and implementation of the program’s research-for-development agenda, which includes research and capacity building.

Some of the specific activities envisaged include:

  • Facilitating research and supervision for PhD students at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners, while course work and main supervision is provided by SLU (i.e., sandwich model)
  • Facilitating opportunities for MSc students to conduct minor field studies of 2–3 months at ILRI’s locations(s) or its partners.
  • Providing post-doc opportunities at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners.
  • Facilitating short-term exchanges and secondments of professional staff from one institute to the other.
  • Exchanging scientific literature and information
  • Facilitating dissemination of scientific information

News item on SLU website

Visit the Animal Genetics Training Resource, a product of SLU-ILRI collaboration

SLU researchers are working in the Livestock and Fish Uganda smallholder pigs value chain as part of the Assessing the Impact of African swine fever (ASF) in smallholder pig systems and the feasibility of potential interventions project

ILRI scientist honoured by Australian university for contributions to African agricultural research

Azage Tegegne holding his award from JCU

ILRI’s Azage Tegegne is a recipient of the 2013 James Cook University Outstanding Alumni Award (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Azage Tegegne, a senior scientist working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Ethiopia has received recognition from Australia’s James Cook University for his outstanding contributions to agricultural research in Africa.

Tegegne, an Ethiopian, was one of 12 recipients of the 2013 James Cook University Outstanding Alumni Award given on 26 Jul in Townsville, Australia. The award pays tribute to graduates of the university who ‘have made an outstanding contribution in their field of endeavour and to the community’.

This year’s winners include lawyers, health workers, a school principal, an engineer, a wildlife conservationist and a businessman and represent citizens from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Northern Ireland and the Philippines.

‘I accept this award and honour in the name of my beloved wife, Tsehay Azage, who passed away on 17 Jul 2013’, said Tegegne.

His wife’s funeral took place on 21 Jul in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – just five days before the award ceremony.

‘My wife was an agricultural professional herself with a BSc degree in plant sciences from the Alemaya College of Agriculture at Addis Ababa University, in Ethiopia, and an MSc degree in plant pathology from Imperial College, University of London, in UK. She was a wonderful woman who contributed significantly to my success over the years’, Tegegne said.

Tegegne was honored by his alma mater for his more than 25 years of work, including being a founder member of the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production and a founding fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. Tegegne has authored or co-authored more than 280 scientific and professional articles in journals, proceedings volumes and book chapters and has supervised and coached more than 65 PhD and MSc/DVM students.

Tegegne, who is deputy representative for ILRI’s director general in Ethiopia, manages one of ILRI’s largest research projects in Ethiopia, called ‘Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES)’. The project works to support millions of Ethiopian smallholder farmers who depend on livestock and irrigated croplands for their agricultural livelihoods.

Azage Tegegne being awarded his degree

In 2012, Tegegne received an honorary doctorate degree of sciences from Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar University (photo credit: ILRI).

Tegegne is a recipient of several other awards, including an honorary doctorate degree of sciences given to him in 2012 by Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar University in recognition of his contributions to agricultural research and ‘the betterment of farmers’ lives’ in his native country. Earlier this year, he was appointed representative of the Australia Awards Ambassador Initiative of AusAID to help better bridge development efforts between Africa and Australia.

Read more about Azage Tegegne’s 2013 James Cook University Outstanding Alumni Award.

http://www-public.jcu.edu.au/news/JCU_126851

http://alumni.jcu.edu.au/OA2013_Wolde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about the Smallholder Dairy Project

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

Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs will be discussing the successes of Africa’s agriculture, including how its livestock sector can help achieve food security in the continent, at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) in Accra, Ghana. This event is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.

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

Kenya livestock ‘on show’: A thriving dairy farm, a breeders show and a national resource for improved genetics

Participants at last week’s (26-28 June 2013) Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013) were offered field visits to Kenyan livestock farmers, producers and industry experts in and around Nairobi. Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) took this opportunity to visit a dairy farm, a livestock breeders’ show and a livestock genetics resource centre.

Tassells Farm

ALiCE2013: Dairy cows

Dairy cows in Tassells Farm in Ruiru, near Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

One of the visits was to Tassells Farm, a dairy smallholding owned by husband and wife Kenyan farmers Moses Muturi and Susan Kasinga in Ruiru, just north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Muturi and Kasinga started dairy farming, separately, when they were young, after seeing the many benefits of selling milk from other farmers who were able to take their children to good schools and live comfortably from dairy incomes.

When they married and joined their assets (16 animals), they were determined to succeed as dairy farmers and committing themselves to learning all they could about the dairy business. Today, some 16 years later, what began as a fairly small-scale dairy farm is now a thriving dairy business, with nearly 400 cows kept on five farms across Kenya. On their three-quarter-acre farm in Ruiru that ILRI visited, this couple’s visible passion for their family, their community and their dairy cows is an inspiration.

On this farm, the couple manages 70 Holstein-Friesian cows in a ‘zero-grazing’ system with the help of four farm workers. Apart from daily milking, the farm also breeds and sells high-grade dairy cattle.

‘We had little knowledge of dairy farming when we started’, says Kasinga, ‘but we gained experience by observing successful farmers, what they do and how they do it; we learned how to make the right decisions’, she says.

Their 5 farms produce about 3000 litres of milk each day.

‘On this farm, we produce 15 to 25 litres of milk per cow, about 1000 litres in total. We sell this milk to the Brookside Dairy, says Muturi, who says the following factors have been critical for their success.

Choosing and improving breeds: This is the first step towards getting cows that are well adapted to the farm environment, which guarantees high milk yields.

High-quality feeds: These should be affordable but also of good quality. The couple maintain a barn full of hay. They also grow forage and buy hay cheaply during the rainy season (sometimes by offering to cut the grass in their neighbours fields). Muturi says it’s important for dairy farmers to buy high-quality feeds and not store them for too long, which lowers their nutritional value. Their cows consume 30-32 kilos of hay each day in addition to molasses, concentrate feeds and mineral supplements. It’s crucial also, he says, to have an adequate supply of water and to collect grasses from areas free of parasites.

Managing diseases: This includes ensuring appropriate veterinary support and learning about animal diseases (they have lost 40 cows to foot-and-mouth disease). The farm now has in place a strict and regular de-worming regime, which, they say, seems to control 70% of diseases. Access to the farm is also restricted to prevent contamination.

Capacity development: Ensuring farm workers are educated about animal management and farm operations has also been key to their success. Workers from other farms now regularly visit their farm to learn with and from them.

‘Taking advantage of economies of scale is very important in the dairy business’, says Muturi. He suggests a minimum of 10 cows as a starting point for small-scale dairy farmers who want to move into wider-scale milk production and sales. ‘The more animals a farmer has’, he says, ‘the better their chance of negotiating better prices for feeds and veterinary services, increasing their profit margins.’

In future, the couple hopes to expand their business through some ‘added value’ ventures and to join like-minded farmers in setting up a milk processing facility.

Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Livestock Breeders Show

Dairy cows at the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Held 26-28 Jun 2013 at Nairobi’s Jamhuri Park, the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale is an annual event in Kenya’s livestock sector calendar that brings together livestock breeders and industry players from across the country to exchange information in seminars, presentations and demonstrations. The event also doubles as an animal auction. This year’s exhibits included breeds from well-known ranches in Kenya, such as Ol Pejeta and Solio, north of Mt Kenya, and an association of goat breeders from Meru, east of the mountain.

Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Kenya Animal Genetic Research Centre

One of the bulls at the Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu)

The Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre is located on a 200-acre piece of land in Nairobi’s lower Kabete area. Started in 1946 by the Kenya Government, the centre produces and distributes bull semen for use by the country’s livestock farmers. With time, the centre’s mandate has grown to include providing artificial insemination (AI) training to farmers and supplying equipment for AI services in the country.

‘We also serve as a genebank for livestock tissues, semen and DNA of all the important livestock and emerging livestock breeds in Kenya,’ said Henry Wamukuru, the centre’s CEO.

Currently, more than 120 Ayrshire, Guernsey, Holstein-Friesian, Sahiwal and Boran bulls are reared at the centre to supply semen for the country’s AI needs and for export to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. The centre works closely with Kenya’s livestock ministry and the Department of Veterinary Services to improve national herds and productivity.

About the conference
ALiCE is the largest convergence of stakeholders in the livestock sector in Africa. This is a platform specifically aimed at stimulating trade in livestock and livestock products in Africa and beyond and facilitating technology and knowledge transfer and sharing. The event brings together producers, processors and traders of livestock and livestock products and suppliers of technology, solutions and services in the entire value chain.

This post was written by Alexandra Jorge and Paul Karaimu.

Read other ILRI news stories from the ALiCE2013 conference.

Livestock present Africa with huge – ‘right now!’ – opportunities for food, prosperity, environment

Attention entrepreneurs: Your livestock business is growing–but only in Africa and other developing regions

Livestock research for Africa’s food security: Side session at 2013 Africa Agriculture Science Week

Livestock are a key part of the solution to Africa’s food security challenge.

Did you know?

  • The livestock sector contributes as much as 40% of GDP in many African countries
  • Four of the top five agricultural commodities by value come from livestock
  • In the next 20 years Africa’s demand for beef, dairy products, pork and poultry is expected to rise by between 100 and 200%

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), CGIAR and partners are organizing a side event at this year’s Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) in Accra.

The side event takes place on 15 July (from 09:00am) in Executive room 4 of the Accra International Conference Centre.

It provides an opportunity to discuss how ILRI and partners support livestock sector research and development through a strategy that works in partnerships to inform practice, take livestock science solutions to scale, influence decision making and develop livestock capacities.

In-depth discussion topics include:

  • Vaccine biosciences
  • Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI hub
  • Food safety and mycotoxins
  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems
  • Risk and vulnerability in dry lands

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith, senior management and scientists from ILRI and partners will participate. If you are in Accra for the AASW and wish to attend this side event, please send an email confirmation to Ms. Teresa Werrhe- Abira so we can manage logistics and catering: T.Werrhe-Abira@cgiar.org

ILRI and other communication staff are reporting the AASW online and will report this side event – visit the blog

 

Attention entrepreneurs: Your livestock business is growing–but only in Africa and other developing regions

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Rapidly growing global livestock sector

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a keynote presentation this week at a three-day Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013), which came to a close today at Safari Park Hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 20 minutes, Smith made a powerful case for making significant investments in Africa’s livestock sector, which is growing rapidly. Such investments can, he said, ensure that livestock enterprises on the continent are economically profitable, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. By making such investments now, he said, we can ensure that indigenous livestock enterprises are not shut out of the rapidly increasing livestock markets by imports of animal-source foods.

Key messages

  • The global livestock sector is growing rapidly.
  • The global livestock sector is growing in developing—not developed—world countries.
  • The developing world is where the livestock sector will continue to grow for the next decades.
  • The livestock sector continues to receive significant under-investment; we must transform that.
  • Growth in the global livestock sector is demand-led—driven largely by rising demand from rising numbers of consumers with rising incomes.
  • In most developing countries, animal-source foods are both produced and consumed in the countries of origin, so most attention should be paid to within-country/-region livestock trade rather than international trade.
  • In Africa and other developing regions, most milk, meat and eggs are produced by smallholders and family farmers; researchers, policymakers, development workers and business people should thus focus their attention on Africa’s small-scale livestock keepers and herders.
  • Enabling environments, market access, rural infrastructure, risk-based approaches to food safety, livestock research and delivery services will all be needed.
  • The question—and opportunity—for those working for Africa’s development is:

    Can we act now, together and coherently, to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the smallholder livestock sector so that it becomes a major instrument for reducing poverty, feeding and nourishing people and protecting the environment? 

Some of the series of slides Jimmy Smith presented to make this case for a vibrant African smallholder livestock sector are posted below. Go here to view the whole slide presentation online: Opportunities for a sustainable and competitive livestock sector in Africa, Jun 2013.

And be sure to check out this earlier post on the same subject: We would love to know what you think: Please use the comment box that follows this post to post your response.

More meat, milk and fish produced by and for the poor: A first review of a new research program

Buying eggs from a Hanoi street vendor

Lucy Lapar, an ILRI scientist, with a trader selling eggs in Hanoi, Vietnam. A CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish is working to help poor communities play a bigger role in feeding the growing populations in developing countries (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Last week (20–22 May 2013), a group of the word’s leading pro-poor livestock and other agricultural researchers met in Ethiopia to review ways of helping poor communities play a bigger role in feeding their developing countries’ growing populations by increasing their production of livestock-based foods—and doing so in ways that are sustainable over the long term.

Four CGIAR research institutions—the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and WorldFish—as well as many other partners are working together in the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Tom Randolph, an agricultural economist at ILRI who directs this multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research program, opened the Addis Ababa meeting by reviewing the objectives, challenges and achievements of the program over its first one and a half years.

What we signed up to do
This program can directly help the world’s poor small-scale food producers and sellers significantly contribute to, and benefit from, meeting the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. This program focuses on the critical role animal-source foods play in nutritionally challenged populations. And it works to find ways to better organize, target and sustain the ‘intensification agenda’ for developing-world animal agriculture.

Changing the way we do business
We’re moving away from developing solutions to discrete livestock development problems faced by livestock keepers in specific settings to addressing all the bottlenecks in whole ‘value chains’ for pork, dairy and small ruminant production in eight selected developing countries. We’re working with partners to design integrated livestock development interventions that will work at large scale. And we’re working directly with development partners to better understand local context and to test our research-based interventions.

What we’ve achieved so far
Technology and research outputs, from both CGIAR ‘legacy’ projects and new ones, have led to improved fish strains, fodder varieties and smallholder dairy livelihoods.

Challenges we’ve faced
Developing a shared vision and coordinating plans among the many institutions involved in the program’s many projects, as well as filling several human resource gaps at program and project levels, have been real, if anticipated, challenges for this new program.

How do we work better
Our objective is to design smart interventions that work at large scale. To succeed, we’ll need to invent new research methods and frameworks. And we’ll need to strengthen our partnerships with other research groups and work more effectively with development actors on the ground.

Seize the opportunity
This program expands our opportunities to do what many of us have always wanted to do—to ‘dig in’ to longer term research conducted in more meaningful partnerships.

View the full slide presentation by Tom Randolph:

Project wiki page for the event

Download first annual report of the program

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

Kemeria Hussien at Ethiopian milk market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch and listen to this seminar here: http://www.ilri.org/livestream.

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

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


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

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

The catch in making livestock more efficient: How to work together towards ‘a greater whole’

Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, Nairobi

Some of the participants at the on-going third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Development taking place in Nairobi 22-24 Jan 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Experts on livestock sector development are gathered this week in Nairobi, Kenya, to think through ways in which the livestock sector can be made more efficient.

On 22 January 2013, at the on-going third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was one of six members of a panel that discussed the clash between resource scarcity and demand growth in the livestock sector.

This panel reviewed the issues, challenges and possible solutions to the problem.

‘The clash between resource scarcity and livestock demand is a real and not a vague “sometime in the future”’ challenge, said Tarawali. ‘We must address it now; it will have devastating effects in our lifetimes if we do not.’

One of the certainties in recent years is that demand for food, especially animal-source foods such as milk, meat and eggs, has steadily risen. Livestock commodities are now among the top five highest value global commodities. Demand for livestock products has led to land use competition between food, feeds and fuel. Increased pressure on land means more food, to feed a growing world population, has to come from increased production on existing farmlands.

These realities are affecting the decisions taken by policymakers at the national level as they design policies on agricultural production, such as  how smallholder farmers should feed their animals or use and manage the manure their animals produce.

According to Tarawali, these challenges offer opportunities in three areas.

  • Diversity: Experts need to deal with the diversity of farming systems, commodities and efficiencies associated with livestock.
  • Dynamics: We need to influence the future dynamics of these changing livestock systems.
  • Development: We need to understand the impacts of livestock production on development issues such as poverty, health and nutrition, and food security.

‘The answer to these challenges does not lie in research alone,’ said Tarawali. ‘The answer will come from a “greater whole” in which research is only a small part.

According to Tarawali, stakeholders should bring together the parts that make up this whole. These include biophysical research that addresses issues such as productivity and efficient animal production; institutional support for markets and service support; and livestock systems issues such as research on future food needs and the diverse starting points and solutions to these challenges.

‘The Global Agenda of Action provides a forum for bridging these gaps and strengthening synergies between investment, development and public- and private-sector research towards this end,’ Tarawali said.

‘But,’ she cautioned, ‘the Agenda’s stakeholders need to think about the process of getting to this whole. We need to have a clear message to share to successfully influence and motivate decision-makers.

‘The catch lies in how we bring together the collective skills of all stakeholders towards this end.’

Read two recent article from the on-going multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the global agenda of action:

Taking the long livestock view
Greening the livestock sector: ‘Game changers’ for environmental, social, economic gains

View a presentation on ILRI’s experience in working with public-private partnerships to promote pro-poor livestock development.

Ethiopian farmers to get market boost: New project to help livestock and irrigated agriculture farmers improve their livelihoods through value chain improvement

LIVES project logo

A new research for development project was launched today by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), both members of the CGIAR Consortium. Entitled ‘Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders – LIVES’, it will directly support of the Government of Ethiopia’s effort to transform smallholder agriculture to be more market-oriented.

Supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the LIVES project is jointly implemented by ILRI, IWMI, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and regional Bureaus of Agriculture, Livestock Development Agencies, Agricultural Research Institutes and other development projects.

LIVES project manager, Azage Tegegne emphasized that this project is unique in that it integrates livestock with irrigated agriculture development. The project is designed to support the commercialization of smallholder agriculture by testing and scaling lessons to other parts of Ethiopia. “It is also excellent opportunity for CGIAR centres to work hand in hand with Ethiopian research and development institutions.”

Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture H.E. Wondirad Mandefro welcomed the project, asserting that it will directly contribute to both the Growth Transformation Plan (GTP) and the Agricultural Growth Program (AGP) of the Ethiopian Government. Canadian Head of Aid, Amy Baker expects this investment to generate technologies, practices and results that can be implemented at larger scales and ultimately benefit millions of Ethiopian smallholder producers as well as the consumers of their products. Canadian Ambassador David Usher noted that the project will contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to drive agricultural transformation, improve nutritional status and unlock sustainable economic growth. LIVES is also a reflection of Canada’s commitment to the 2012 G-8 New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security which will allow Ethiopia, donors and the private sector create new and innovative partnerships that will drive agricultural growth.

LIVES actions will take place over six years in 31 districts of ten zones in Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples and Tigray regions, where 8% of the country’s human population resides. LIVES will improve the incomes of smallholder farmers through value chains development in livestock (dairy, beef, sheep and goats, poultry and apiculture) and irrigated agriculture (fruits, vegetables and fodder).

The project, with a total investment of CAD 19.26 million, aims to directly and indirectly benefit more than 200,000 households engaged in livestock and irrigated agriculture, improve the skills of over 5,000 public service staff, and work with 2,100 value chain input and service suppliers at district, zone and federal levels.

“Projects that support local farmers can help a community in so many ways; not only by providing food and the most appropriate crops, but also by teaching long term skills that can have an impact for years to come,” said Canada Minister of International Cooperation the Honourable Julian Fantino. “The Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains project teaches smallholder farmers new agricultural techniques and provides technical assistance, training, and mentoring to government specialists. They in turn will provide production and marketing assistance to local farmers. This is a project that helps all areas of farming and agriculture development.”

The project will focus on clusters of districts, developing and improving livestock production systems and technologies in animal breeding, feed resources, animal nutrition and management, sustainable forage seed systems, sanitation and animal health, and higher market competitiveness. Potential irrigated agriculture interventions include provision of new genetic materials, development of private seedling nurseries, work on seed systems, irrigation management, water use efficiency, water management options, crop cycle management, and pump repair and maintenance.

The main components of the project are capacity development, knowledge management, promotion, commodity value chain development, and documentation of tested and successful interventions. Gender and the environment will be integrated and mainstreamed in all components of the project.

ILRI’s new strategy–with evidence we can raise the livestock game

Last week, we interviewed International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) director general Jimmy Smith on his first eight months in office.

In the first video interview below, he comments on some emerging ‘big issues’ in ILRI’s new strategy. One is that we need to pay far more attention to the wider global debate on livestock; we also need a clear focus on ‘consumption’ and ‘consumers’, as well as climate change and livestock’s environmental footprint [more on ILRI’s ongoing strategy development process].

In the second video below, he comments on global perceptions that livestock are not good for the planet—and what this means for ILRI. He argues that ‘evidence’ is at the heart of ILRI’s contribution. We need better evidence of where livestock contributes positively and negatively, and we need to communicate this. [ILRI’s 2010 annual meeting was on the theme ‘livestock goods and bads.’ In April 2012, a global alliance on sustainable livestock was formed.].

Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand

Kitengela rangeland in Kenya: Fencing

Research by ILRI is helping pastoralists in the Kitengela ecosystem better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources (photo: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A paper by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that shares experiences from a project that worked to help Kenyan pastoralists better manage their lands, livestock and wildlife resources has won the 2012 Sustainability Science Award.

The yearly award is given by the Ecological Society of America to the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the preceding five years that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.

The winning paper, ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, was published in 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a prestigious American science journal. The paper shared experimental work in boundary-spanning research from the Reto-o-Reto (Maasai for ‘I help you, you help me’) project, which was implemented between 2003 and 2008 to help balance action in poverty alleviation and wildlife conservation in four pastoral ecosystems in East Africa, including the Kitengela pastoral ecosystem just south of Nairobi National Park.

Lessons from this project supported the development and adoption of a land-use master plan in Kitengela, which is now helping Maasai pastoralists better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources.

The announcement of this award comes at an appropriate time, just as an inception workshop takes place on ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week (Jun 5-7) for the eastern and southern Africa component of a CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agriculture.

The following story, written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith in 2010, shares experiences of pastoralists in Kitengela, their challenges and their hopes, as a result of this award-winning project.

Saving the plains

Talk to the Maasai who herd their cattle across the Athi-Kaputiei Plains to the south of Nairobi and they’ll tell you that the last (2009–2010) drought was one of the worst in living memory. ‘Many people lost almost all their livestock,’ says pastoralist William Kasio. ‘The vultures were so full they couldn’t eat any more. Even the lions had had enough.’

At the slaughterhouse in Kitengela, over 20,000 emaciated cattle were burned and buried during the drought, and the surrounding plains were littered with sun-bleached carcasses. But for the Maasai, droughts are nothing new, and indeed many believe there is an even graver threat to their survival as cattle herders. ‘Land sales, and the subdivision and fencing off of open land—that’s been the biggest problem we’ve faced in recent years,’ says Kasio, chairman of a marketing organization based at the slaughterhouse.

A generation ago, livestock and wildlife ranged freely across the plains. Today, their movements are hindered by fences, roads, quarries, cement works, flower farms and new buildings. If the development trends of the past decade continue, then the pastoral way of life, and the great wildlife migrations in and out of Nairobi National Park, could become little more than a memory. But now, thanks to a community-inspired planning exercise, there’s a good chance this won’t happen.

The Athi-Kaputiei land-use ‘master plan’, launched in 2011, provides the local council with the legislative teeth it needs to ensure that large expanses of land remain free of fencing, and that new developments are confined to specific areas. ‘We see the master plan as our survival strategy,’ says Stephen Kisemei, a member of Olkejuado County Council. ‘It means we can now plan for the future in a way we never could before.’

The master plan is the culmination of years of research and discussion involving local communities, the council, central government and a range of organizations involved in conservation and animal husbandry. ‘It’s been a very democratic process,’ explains Ogeli Makui of the African Wildlife Foundation. ‘The council and the Department of Physical Planning drafted the master plan, but the Maasai landowners’ associations and other local groups were closely involved in all the discussions.’

Since 2004, teams of young Maasai have helped to draw up maps, which illustrate the scale of land sales and the loss of open rangeland. Managed by ILRI, the mapping program and the associated research showed just how rapidly life has changed on the plains over recent years, and provided much of the data used in the master plan.

At the end of the 19th century, the Athi-Kaputiei Plains were said to boast the most spectacular concentration of wildlife in East Africa. In those days, there were four times as many wild herbivores as there were cattle. Now the reverse is true, with the wildlife beating a steady retreat.

Between 1977 and 2002, the wildlife populations in the plains to the south of Nairobi National Park fell by over 70%. Particularly hard hit were migratory animals such as wildebeest, which traditionally graze in the national park during the dry season and move south in search of new pasture during the wet season. From nearly 40,000 migrating animals in the 1970s, wildebeest numbers have fallen to about 1000 today.

ILRI research suggests that two factors are to blame: poaching, and the loss of habitat and open space. The sub-division of land, frequently followed by the erection of fences, has also made it harder for the pastoralists to move their animals around in search of water and fresh pasture. Paradoxically, the Maasai are partly to blame, as they voted for the privatization of communal ranches in the 1980s. All of a sudden, many families realized they were sitting, within gazing distance of Nairobi, on valuable real estate. Land sales rapidly increased, new developments proliferated and the population of Kitengela almost trebled during the 1990s, from 5,500 to over 17,000.

‘When I was a child in the 1970s,’ recalls Ogeli Makui, as he sips tea outside a shopping mall in Kitengela, ‘there were just a few small stalls here, nothing else. I can remember one year when there were so many wildebeest migrating across this area, followed by packs of wild dogs, that my father told me to drive our sheep home to keep them safe.’ Nowadays, speeding lorries are the main danger.

Even before ILRI produced its first maps, conservationists realized something had to be done to keep the migratory routes open. A Wildlife Conservation Lease Programme, launched in 2000, encouraged pastoralists to keep their land open by paying them 300 shillings (USD4) per acre per year. By 2010, 275 families, owners of some 30,000 acres, had signed up to the latest lease scheme.

The lease scheme is helping to protect one of East Africa’s five great migratory routes, but it isn’t enough on its own to prevent further losses of wildlife, says Jan de Leeuw, head of ILRI’s pastoral livelihoods group. ‘The master plan will certainly help, and it’s a very important step towards improving the management of the plains, but it’s also imperative that we improve the financial situation of the pastoralists to a level where they become the champions of conservation,’ he says.

The better off the Maasai are, the more sympathetic they are likely to be to wildlife conservation, even if they occasionally lose livestock to lions and other predators. The Kitengela Conservation Programme, which is managed by the African Wildlife Foundation, is currently promoting various business enterprises, including community-based tourism, and ILRI is providing support for pastoralists to improve the marketing of their livestock. All this will help, says de Leeuw.

This is one of the few places in the world where you can see major wildlife populations, including 24 species of large mammals, grazing and hunting against the jagged backdrop of a populous city, often in the company of Maasai cattle. Little wonder, then, that there are conflicts between conservation and development, and sometimes between wildlife and the Maasai. Some of these conflicts will persist—the locals are deeply concerned, for example, about the building of a new town for Nairobi slum-dwellers—but the master plan provides the local council, for the first time, with the means to control development.

‘I’m very optimistic,’ says Councillor Kisemei. ‘I think the master plan will help us to secure the future for the Maasai and for the wildlife. And if we succeed, it will provide a model which could be used in other areas where wildlife and humans live close together.’

Pastoralists still vulnerable

Despite the successes of projects such as Reto-o-Reto in helping pastoral groups, governments and policymakers work together to better manage the resources in pastoral lands; pastoralists are still vulnerable to drought and changes in land use. Scientists from Colorado State University and ILRI have looked at how modelled scenarios relating to factors like access to forage, water and fuel tied to decisions made by pastoralists at household level. Stressors like drought remain a major threat to pastoral livelihoods and more so in areas where livestock compete with wildlife.

The research, carried out in Kenya’s Kajiado District, was published in a paper: ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services.’ It evaluates pastoralist household wellbeing if access to reserve grazing is lost and the impact of compensation for those who lose access to grazing. The study showed that even though pastoralists that lose access to pasture are likely to experience large livestock losses, those in areas where livestock do not compete with wildlife have greater resilience to drought.

‘Maintaining access to reserve grazing lands is essential in helping pastoralists cope during severe drought,’ said Philip Thornton, a scientist with ILRI and one of the authors of the report. ‘We also found that compensating pastoralists for loss of access to reserve grazing lands increased their resilience.’

The above Kitengela story was written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith.

For more on ILRI’s recent award, see: ILRI pastoral research team wins Sustainable Science Award, by Jane Gitau.

Download ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, by R S Reid, D Nkedianye, M Y Said, D Kaelo, M Neselle, O Makui, L Onetu, S Kiruswa, N Ole Kamuaroa, P Kristjanson, J Ogutu, S B BurnSilver, M J Golman, R B Boone, K A Galvin, N M Dickson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 Nov 2009.

Download ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services’, by R B Boone, K A Galvin, S B BurnSilver, P K Thornton, D S Ojima, and J R Jawson, Ecology and Society 16(2): 6, 1 Jun 2011.

Read more about the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and more on ILRI’s news blogs (below) about the three-day planning workshop for this program, which ends today:

ILRI Clippings Blog: Foolhardy? Or just hardy? New program tackles climate change and livestock markets in the Horn, 7 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Taming Africa’s drylands to produce food, 5 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Collaboration in drylands research will achieve greater impact, 5 Jun 2012.