Study finds Vietnam has low awareness of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease commonly transmitted between animals and people

A smallholders pig in Chưng Mỹ, Vietnam

A three-year study by ILRI and partners shows that farmers in Vietnam have low awareness of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that infects animals (including pigs) and humans (photo credit: ILRI/Andrew Nguyen).

A joint research team consisting of staff from the Vietnamese Department of Animal Health, the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, Nong Lam University and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently completed a three-year study of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease passed from animals to humans. The aim of the study was to identify behaviours and conditions in Vietnam that increase the risk of humans and animals contracting this disease.

Results from Tien Giang and Binh Phuoc provinces, where the study was conducted, indicate farmers and small-scale slaughterhouse workers have low awareness of leptospirosis, even though researchers found that the disease was common in the pigs and humans tested.

The study, the findings of which were presented at a workshop in August 2013, was part of a larger project called ‘Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia’, or EcoZD for short, which is coordinated by ILRI and funded by the International Development Research Centre, of Canada.

The EcoZD project used an ‘ecohealth’ approach, which requires bringing scientists from different disciplines and partner organizations to work together on complex health problems. Applying an ‘ecohealth’ framework improves understanding of the web of social, economic and ecological dimensions of infectious diseases and the importance of engaging local actors in preventing and controlling them.

‘Leptospirosis is a disease that has been around for a long time, but it often gets ignored as attention and resources are focused on emerging diseases like avian influenza’, said Mai Van Hiep, the deputy director general of the Department of Animal Health in Vietnam.

Leptospirosis affects animals and humans worldwide. The most common way humans get the disease is through direct exposure to urine from infected animals or from contact with water contaminated with such urine. People living in areas with open sewers, or that regularly flood, or that have poor hygiene are at particular risk. People who work or live with animals are at even greater risk. Animals that commonly acquire and spread leptospirosis include rodents, dogs and livestock.

Leptospirosis stunts the growth of pigs and causes them to abort, leading to economic losses for pig owners and the pork industry as a whole. People who develop the disease also suffer economic losses due to decreased productivity or missed work and the costs of seeking medical treatment.

‘We started by looking at public health records dating back to 2008 but there were no records telling us how common leptospirosis has been in Vietnam, in animals or humans’, said Hiep. ‘We knew that if animal and human health researchers worked side by side to better understand this disease, we would collect relevant data.’

The research team tested more than 360 people and 880 pigs in Tien Giang and Binh Phuoc. In Tien Giang, 29% of pigs and 10% of humans in the sample tested positive for leptospirosis. In Binh Phuoc, 22% of pigs and 20% of humans in the sample tested positive. (A positive test indicated the person or animal had past contact with the causative pathogen.)

Discussions with community members in both provinces revealed that people were unfamiliar with the symptoms of leptospirosis, how it could harm them and their animals and ways they could prevent it.

As yet, no mechanism in Vietnam links disease reporting between animal and human health. This missing link makes it hard for researchers in both sectors to understand how changes in the environment or behaviour may affect leptospirosis and other zoonotic diseases, which are passed between animals and humans.

‘Identification of serovars and serogroups provides us with clues as to which types of animals are transmitting leptospirosis. This information can help authorities to design strategies to control the spread of the disease to humans’, said Cao Thi Bao Van, deputy director of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

‘Some simple things reduce the risk of exposure’, said Van. ‘People working with animals should wear protective clothing, like gloves and boots, when cleaning animals and their pens; this reduces the chance of bacteria entering the body through cuts or scratches. The risk of leptospirosis spreading among animals can be reduced by separating them in several pens rather than keeping them altogether in large groups.’

Lucy Lapar, an ILRI agricultural economist based in Hanoi, said research should now be conducted on the economic burden of leptospirosis in Vietnam, which remains largely unknown. ‘We need estimates of the economic burden in terms of harm both to human health and to livestock production so that decision-makers can better prioritize their resources for disease control’, said Lapar. ‘As long as the true burden of leptospirosis remains unknown in Vietnam, we will not know if the country should direct more resources to controlling it.’

For more information about EcoZD, visit www.ilri.org/ecozd

More information about the project is available on the EzoZD wiki.

Keepers of the flame: Women livestock keepers

Livestock is a considerable but often overlooked economic driver in poor countries

Kenyan farmer Alica Waithira shares the responsibility for managing her farm with her family. Her brothers take on the lion’s share of growing food for the family and fodder for the livestock. Alica takes care of the livestock—six cows, five sheep and countless ‘free range’ chickens. Making sure her animals are healthy and productive is critical to her success (photo credit: Gates Foundation).

Women livestock keepers are key to global food security. Those working to support women in livestock development have just received some support of their own.

Small livestock are particularly important to women as they contribute to household food security and provide much-needed funds for school fees and other family-related expenses. — Kathleen Colverson, ILRI Program Leader for Livelihoods, Gender, Impact and Innovation

About 752 million of the world’s poor keep livestock to produce food, generate income, manage risks and build up assets. In rural livestock-based economies, women represent two-thirds (some 400 million people) of low-income livestock keepers. In the Gambia 52% of sheep owners and 67% of goat owners are women. In the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, sheep husbandry is mainly women’s responsibility, providing 36% of household income through wool processing and sale. In Afghanistan, traditional backyard poultry activities are carried out entirely by women, who manage an average of 10 hens that produce some 60 eggs a year, sufficient for household consumption. And across the world’s regions and cultures, milking and milk processing are mainly undertaken by women.

Women perform up to 70% of agricultural work in many parts of the world but rarely receive either credit or access to the benefits of their work. — Kathleen Colverson, ILRI Program Leader for Livelihoods, Gender, Impact and Innovation

In spite of their heavy involvement in livestock farming, customary gender roles are often biased, hindering women’s access to resources and extension services and their participation in decision-making. One result is that women get less household income than their menfolk do from livestock farming.

To help redress this, staff of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have worked with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) other organizations to support gender analysis in livestock projects and programs worldwide.

This group has just produced a booklet—Understanding and integrating gender issues into livestock projects and programmes—A checklist for practitioners—that identifies the main challenges faced by women in managing small stock, particularly poultry, sheep and goats, and in dairy farming. The booklet is an outcome of a consultative training workshop held in November 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, involving four East African countries. The workshop participants shared and critically analysed country-specific experiences from a gender perspective. The booklet compiles this knowledge with the aim of helping livestock experts in the field to identify and address the main constraints faced by women and men both in managing small livestock and dairy farming.

The booklet includes a set of tips and gender analysis tools and a checklist that, through all the stages of a project cycle, offers gender-sensitive guidance.

Without women’s contributions to livestock systems, much of what is accomplished today in increasing food security would be lost. — Kathleen Colverson, ILRI Program Leader for Livelihoods, Gender, Impact and Innovation

Kathleen  Colverson (ILRI) group discussion to identify the L&F CRP purpose, form and function over the next 9 years

Kathleen Colverson, ILRI Program Leader for Livelihoods, Gender, Impact and Innovation.

The Addis Ababa workshop was such a success that FAO is holding another regional training workshop this week (4–6 June 2013) in Bangkok attended by representatives from eight countries from Southeast Asia and Bangladesh; a second booklet, generated by the Bangkok workshop, is planned.

Significant inputs to the Addis Ababa workshop and subsequent booklet were made by gender experts from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), including Jemimah Njuki, who facilitated the workshop. Njuki has since left ILRI and is now based in Dar-Es-Salaam, where she leads a 6-country ‘Women in Agriculture (Pathways)’ program for CARE. Other inputs were provided by staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) and representatives of ministries of livestock, agriculture and fisheries in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Kathleen Colverson, who succeeded Jemimah Njuki as program leader at ILRI, is facilitating the livestock and gender workshop being held this week in Bangkok this week.

Read the booklet: Understanding and integrating gender issues into livestock projects and programmes: A checklist for practitioners, FAO, 2013.

View the playlist below of recent ILRI posters and slide presentations related to gender issues in livestock research for development. for more information about ILRI’s gender program, contact Kathleen Colverson at k.colverson [at] cgiar.org

New leadership in ILRI’s livestock research-for-development work in Asia

Steve Staal, Theme Director

ILRI’s new regional representative for East and Southeast Asia Steve Staal (picture credit: ILRI).

Steve Staal has been appointed the new regional representative of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for East and Southeast Asia. An American citizen who has lived and worked in developing countries throughout his life, Staal will be based at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in Los Baños, The Philippines.

Staal, an agricultural economist by training, has been based at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, for many years, where he recently led ILRI’s Markets, Gender and Livelihoods Research Theme and in the past year served as ILRI’s interim deputy director general for research, during the institute’s transition to a new management team. Among other assignments, he has worked in South and Southeast Asia to enhance smallholder dairy and pig systems in particular. He has a long-standing track record in making a difference in policy analysis and advocacy for inclusive and pro-poor smallholder livestock-based development.

This ILRI position for coordinating and shaping ILRI’s collaborative livestock research in East and Southeast Asia is new. Staal’s appointment to it is a reflection of ILRI’s intent to strengthen its presence in Asia and its productive partnerships there so as to provide better support for livestock research for development in the region. Purvi Mehta-Bhatt (India), who has been heading ILRI’s research in all of Asia, will continue to represent ILRI in South Asia.

ILRI's Purvi Mehta-Bhatt #2 in India

ILRI’s head of Asia Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, taken during a field day In Haryana, India, in 4 Nov 2012 (picture credit: ILRI).

This new assignment for Staal and new focus for Mehta-Bhatt is made to increase ILRI’s engagement with partners throughout Asia.

ILRI stakeholders are encouraged to communicate with Steve Staal, at s.staal [at] cgiar.org, on areas of potential mutual interest, including opportunities for new collaborations and interactions, in East and Southeast Asia.

Making Asian agriculture smarter

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A cow feeds on improved CIAT forage grasses, in Kampong Cham, Cambodia (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Last week, coming on the heels of a Planet Under Pressure conference in London, which set out to better define our ‘planetary boundaries’ and to offer scientific inputs to the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development conference this June, a group of leaders in Asia—comprising agriculture and meteorology chiefs, climate negotiators and specialists, and heads of development agencies—met to hammer out a consensus on ways to make Asian agriculture smarter.

The workshop, Climate-smart agriculture in Asia: Research and development priorities, was held 11–12 April 2012 in Bangkok. It was organized by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes; the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security; and the World Meteorological Organization.

This group set itself three ambitious tasks: To determine the best options (1) for producing food that will generate lower levels of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming; (2) for producing much greater amounts of food, which are needed to feed the region’s rapidly growing and urbanizing population; and (3) for doing all this under a changing climate that, if farming and farm policies don’t change, is expected to reduce agricultural productivity in the region by anywhere from 10 to 50 per cent over the next three decades.

The workshop participants started by reviewing the best practices and technologies now available for making agriculture ‘climate smart’. They then reviewed current understanding of how climate change is likely to impact Asian agriculture. They then agreed on what are the gaps in the solutions now available and which kinds of research and development should be given highest priority to fill those gaps. Finally, they developed a plan for filling the gaps and linking scientific knowledge with policy actions at all levels.

On the second of this two-day workshop, the participants were asked to short-list no more than ten key areas as being of highest priority for Asia’s research and development communities.

This exercise tempted this blogger to suggest ten suitable areas in the livestock sector.

(1) Lower greenhouse gas emissions from livestock through adoption of improved feed supplements (crops residues) that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Contact ILRI animal nutritionist Michael Blümmel, based in Hydrabad, for more information: m.blummel at cgiar.org

(2) Safeguard public health by enhancing Asia’s capacity to detect and control outbreaks of infectious diseases transmitted between animals and people.
Contact ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Jeff Gilbert, based in Vientienne, for more information: j.gilbert at cgiar.org

(3) Improve the efficiency of water used for livestock and forage production.
Contact ILRI rangeland ecologist Don Peden, based in Vancouver, for more information: d.peden at cgiar.org 

(4) Pay livestock keepers for their provision of environmental services.
Contact ILRI ecologist Jan de Leeuw, based in Nairobi, for more information: j.leeuw at cgiar.org

(5) Recommend levels of consumption of meat, milk and eggs appropriate for the health of people, their livelihoods and environments in different regions and communities.
Contact ILRI partner Tara Garnett, who runs the Food Climate Research Network based in Guildford, for more information:  t.garnett at surrey.ac.uk

(6) Design institutional and market mechanisms that support the poorer livestock keepers, women in particular.
Contact ILRI agricultural economist Steve Staal, based in Nairobi, for more information: s.staal at cgiar.org 

(7) Educate publics in the West on the markedly different roles that livestock play in different regions of the world.
Contact ILRI systems analyst Philip Thornton, based in Edinburgh, for more information: p.thornton at cgiar.org

(8) Adopt risk- rather than rule-based approaches to ensuring the safety of livestock foods.
Contact ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace, based in Nairobi, for more information: d.grace at cgiar.org 

(9) Focus attention on small-scale, relatively extensive, mixed crop-and-livestock production systems.
Contact ILRI systems analyst Mario Herrero, based in Nairobi, for more information: m.herrero at cgiar.org 

(10) Give livestock-keeping communities relevant and timely climate and other information via mobile technologies.
Contact ILRI knowledge manager Pier-Paolo Ficarelli, based in Delhi, for more information: p.ficarelli at cgiar.org

Do you have a ‘top-ten’ list of what could make Asian agriculture ‘smart agriculture’? Post it in the Comment box, please!

Go here for ILRI blogs about the Planet Under Pressure conference.

ILRI in Asia blog

Small-scale farmers remain crucial to Vietnamese pork industry

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Pigs feeding at a farm in Vietnam: Small-scale farmers remain crucial to the growth of Vietnam’s pork industry (photo from Flickr by Stephen McGrath, Rock Portrait Photography).

A project that evaluated pig production and marketing in Vietnam shows that supply shortages could be responsible for the current high prices of pork in the country. Supporting small-scale farmers to produce more pigs and improving pork distribution and marketing chains could hold the key to keeping rising prices of pork in the country in check.

Between December 2010 and June 2011, Vietnam experienced a 22 per cent rise in the food price index (a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities). A spike in the prices of pork, a key part of the Vietnamese diet, was largely responsible for this rise in food costs. Government and pork industry players in the country have blamed the rise in pork prices on both unregulated pork exports to China through cross-border trade and a rise in global food prices generally.

Even though industry stakeholders, including the government, say importing more meat and supporting large commercial producers will stabilize the pork market in Vietnam, research suggests that developing large farms to address supply constraints will not solve the price problem over the long-term. According to the project, which was carried out between 2007 and 2010 in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh and six of Vietnam’s provinces, large farms will provide ‘only a small share over the next decade, offering only up to 12 per cent of [the country’s] total pork supply.’ The project, titled ‘Improving competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in an adjusting Vietnam market’, was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Many pressing challenges face the Vietnamese pork industry, including increasing feed prices and demand for pork, poor management of the pork value chain, concerns about pig diseases, difficulty finding piglets and other inputs and poor veterinary and credit services.

‘Demand for pork in Vietnam is growing faster than its domestic supply,’ said Lucy Lapar, an economist with ILRI in Vietnam. ‘What our research found was that the recent steep rise in the pork price is most likely a result of inefficiencies along the value chain rather than a critical shortage in pork supply. Normally, high pork prices might encourage pig farmers to expand their production, but in this case, despite the high prices, farmers seem hesitant to raise their pork production,’ said Lapar.

Small-scale farmers in particular worry about pig diseases and the difficulty they face in getting hold of piglets and support services. ‘We need to find ways to address these constraints and bring about substantial improvement to the pig production system,’ said Lapar. ‘Even though efforts by those involved in the pig industry are focusing on increasing large-scale farming of pigs, they must not neglect smallholders who will almost certainly continue to play a significant role in meeting the growing demands for pork in Vietnam in the near future.’

Vietnam’s smallholder pig producers will remain viable because they are able to produce pork at lower costs than large-scale farms by using household scraps and other feeds that would otherwise be unused and thus do not need to rely on feed imports. These practices make small-scale pork production efficient in the long term, translating to better pries for consumers.

‘A combination of small household producers and large pig producers is most efficient for Vietnam at this stage of its pork industry’s development,’ says Lapar. The implications from this project’s findings suggest that the Vietnamese Government and pork industry players should put in place systems and practices that make the pork value chain more efficient and support markets for both small and large producers in the country.

To read more about the project and its findings, visit: http://www.ilri.org/PigProducers and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/606/browse

New project to help Vietnamese and other farmers conserve their native livestock breeds

Hmong girl hold native black chicken of Viet Nam A native black pig of Viet Nam

Left: A Hmong girl, 13-year-old Hi Hoa Sinh, holds a native black chicken in the village of Lung Pu, northern Viet Nam; Right: One of Viet Nam’s native black pigs on the farm of Ma Thi Puong, near the northern town of Meo Vac (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

A project funded by the Global Environment Facility has selected Vietnam, a country with a wealth of livestock diversity, as one of four countries in which to implement a project to conserve livestock genotypes.

The diversity is deteriorating due to the popularization of new breeds together with the commercialization of livestock production. To preserve indigenous livestock breeds, the Global Environment Facility and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have selected 4 countries—Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—to implement the project ‘Developing and applying supporting tools on the conservation and sustainable utilization of the genetic diversity of livestock and their wild relatives.’

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has made the National Institute of Animal Husbandry as the Vietnamese partner in the project.

The project aims to enhance livestock keepers’ awareness of the importance of the genetic conservation of indigenous livestock while helping them to raise their incomes through adoption of indigenous livestock breeds. The project is being implemented over 4 years (2010–2012) in Vietnam’s Son La and Bac Ninh provinces, with a focus on indigenous chicken and pig breeds. The project will train farmers on survey methods and data collection; on ways to maintain their use of indigenous animals; on livestock management; and on business skills in such areas as as tourism with traditional cuisine and cultural activities.

Basic information about valuable indigenous breeds and representative animals is needed, as is the capacity to prioritize, monitor and manage them at both scientific and farm operational levels. Stakeholder groups need to be empowered with knowledge and conducive operational environments in which they can make decisions that work best for them.

Agriculture in the partner countries in this project contributes 20 to 26% of gross domestic product, of which livestock contributes approximately 15 to 20% in terms of income, insurance, food (meat, milk, eggs), hides/skin, traction and manure. It is mostly smallholder farmers who are dependent on indigenous breeds. These animals have evolved in diverse tropical environments and possess valuable traits such as disease resistance, adaptation to harsh environments, including heat tolerance and ability to utilize poor quality feeds, attributes essential for achieving sustainable agriculture in low-input production systems. However, it is still largely unknown which breeds hold significant genetic diversity or specific genes that should be targeted for conservation and/or incorporation into breeding programs. In the meantime, crossbreeding with exotic breeds is increasing and indigenous breeds are being lost.

The development objectives of this project are to help conserve the indigenous livestock of the partner countries for future generations and to help increase the contribution these native breeds make to the livelihoods of poor people. The first goal of the project is to develop and to make available effective tools to support decision making for the conservation and sustainable use of indigenous farm animals and their wild relatives in developing countries.

For more information, see the project’s description on ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme webpage.

UN highlights project helping Asian countries to conserve their native livestock and wild relatives

Farmer Ma Thi Puong feeds her pigs on her  farm near the northern town of Meo Vac.

The Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project is encouraging wider use of native Asian chicken, goat and pig breeds to help sustain the livelihoods of poor farmers (photo credit: ILRI) 

A Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners to conserve indigenous livestock breeds in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam has been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as one of eleven global projects ‘assisting farmers in developing diversified and resilient agricultural systems to ensure communities and consumers have more predictable supplies of nutritious food.’

The ILRI project is featured in an UNEP booklet launched on Tuesday 19 October 2010 during the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, taking place in Nagoya, Japan.

Securing sustainability through conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity: The UNEP-GEF contribution provides lessons from projects about useful tools for conserving and managing agricultural biodiversity over the long term. The report features project partnerships among UNEP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and national and international organizations conducted over the last 10 years.

The ILRI-led and GEF-funded US$6.4-million Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project was started in 2009 to better conserve local breeds of chickens, goats and pigs that help sustain the livelihoods of poor farmers and the health and well-being of women and children in Asia.

As much as 10 per cent of the world’s livestock breeds have disappeared in the last six years, due mostly to substitution or cross-breeding of local indigenous animals with exotic commercial breeds. Most of the extant indigenous livestock breeds today are found in pastoral herds and on small farms in developing countries. Understudied and insufficiently documented, many of the strengths and potential benefits of these tropical local breeds remain untapped.

The Farm Animal Genetic Resource Project works to encourage wider use of local breeds, such as the Bengal goat in Bangladesh. Each of the four countries where the project is implemented has a long history of use of indigenous livestock and a rich diversity of animals, including the wild relatives of domestic livestock, which provide additional genetic resources for breeding programs to improve domestic animals.

ILRI’s project partners include the Bangladesh Agricultural University; the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council; the University of Peradeniya, in Sri Lanka; and the Vietnamese National Institute of Animal Husbandry, with more organizations expected to join the project later. By the time the project is completed, in 2014, these partners aim to have developed breeding tools for use in low-input livestock production systems, cost-benefit analysis tools for comparing breeding programs for different indigenous breeds and populations, and analytical frameworks for assessing policy and marketing options for farm animal genetic resources.

So far, with the input of local actors, including farmers, researchers and development agents, the Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project has developed baseline survey tools for assessing animal genetic biodiversity and constraints to its conservation. These tools will also be used to assess marketing opportunities for indigenous animals and the contributions these animals make to rural livelihoods. The project has also developed a flock and herd monitoring tool that helps to measure genetic and phenotypic diversity, to track genetic changes in livestock populations over time, and to capture the relations between indigenous domesticated animals and their wild relatives.

Mohamed Ibrahim, ILRI’s coordinator of this Asia project, says that the project is increasing the capacity of local institutions to collect and analyse data related to indigenous livestock breeds. ‘Our goal,’ says Ibrahim, ‘is to ensure that important chicken, goat and pig breeds in the four targeted Asian countries are protected for the future benefit of local farmers’.

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Read the complete report on the following link: http://www.unep.org/dgef/Portals/43/AgBD_publication_FINAL.pdf

And find out more about the Farm Animal Genetic Resources Project on their website: http://www.fangrasia.org; and partner websites: www.fangrbd.org, www.fangrvn.org

Small pig producers bring home the bacon in Vietnam

Pigs for sale at a market in Viet Nam

Pigs for sale at a market in Viet Nam (photo credit: Simone Retif).

In Viet Nam, small pig farmers raising 10 or fewer animals near their village households can remain competitive with larger pig producers if they continue to exploit their advantages over larger farmers. These advantages include their low labour costs and their ability to supply buyers with freshly slaughtered meat, a form most Vietnamese continue to prefer to the chilled or frozen meat from bigger piggeries.

These are the conclusions of a three-year research project led by the Kenyan-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

ACIAR's representative in Viet Nam, Geoff Morris, speaking at a final workshop of the project held in Hanoi on 5 October 2010, said that smallholder pig producers, who supply about 80 per cent of the pork marketed in Viet Nam, play a big role in the nation's economy. The research project identified policies that would help Viet Nam's many small pig farmers to raise their incomes and remain competitive in the face of growing imports of pork and official support for larger piggeries.

Another advantage small producers have over large ones is that the former spend less on feed for their animals. Lucy Lapar, an economist with ILRI, said that while feed accounts for two-thirds of the costs of raising pigs at small piggeries, this was much lower than at bigger farms because small operators tend to feed their pigs by-products from their own crops and to let their pigs forage. Bigger operators must buy relatively expensive, industrially processed, feed.

Household-based pig production generates gross margins ranging from 4,000–15,000 Vietnamese dong (US$0.21–0.78 based on current exchange rates) per kilogram liveweight of pig produced. These are good indicators of returns to household labour and comparable to the current daily minimum wage of about 22,000 VND ($1.15). Among those employed in small-scale pig production are women and many others who would otherwise remain jobless.

Conducting a consumer survey of 1,650 households to investigate the demand for pork, the researchers found that it accounts for 40 per cent of household expenditure on meat and that fresh pork remains preferable to chilled or processed meat.

'The good news is that smallholder pig producers are highly competitive in producing fresh pork,' said Lapar. The bad news, she says, is that, compared to large-scale pig producers, most small producers in the country have to deal with poor genetic stock, low-quality feed, animal illnesses, and insufficient market information and policy support.

Pham Van Duy, from the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry's Livestock Department, said that it is likely to become increasingly difficult for the nation's four million pig-raising households to continue to meet the growing demand for pork in terms of both increasing their quantity and quality, both of which are being demanded by the country's consumers. According to Viet Nam's General Statistics Office, the country's pork sales have steadily increased, from 1.5 million tonnes in 2001 to 2.9 million in 2009, with 27.6 million pigs now being raised in the country.

This smallholder pig research project, 'Improving the competitiveness of pig producers in an adjusting Vietnam market', was carried out in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and six of Viet Nam's provinces from 2007 to 2010. Partners in the project include the Centre for Agricultural Policy – Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development, the International Food Policy Research Institute, Oxfam and the University of Queensland.

For more information contact Lucy Lapar (l.lapar@cgiar.org) or visit the project website.

For a news clipping on this topic, see Viet Nam News: Small pig producers bring home the bacon, 9 October 2010.

Read six projects briefs developed for the October 2010 final workshop:

Competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in Vietnam

Demand for pork by Vietnamese consumers: Implications for pro-poor livestock policy and development agenda in Vietnam

Future scenarios for pig sector development in Vietnam: Results from a policy simulation model

Participatory risk assessment of pork in Ha Noi and Ha Tay, Vietnam

The growing shortfall in Vietnam’s domestic supply of pork: Significance and policy implications

The pork value chain in Vietnam: Emerging trends and implications for smallholder competitiveness and chain efficiency

Reducing the risks of bird flu in poor communities in Indonesia

Poultry seller in Indonesia

Poultry seller in Indonesia (photo by ILRI / C Jost)

To reduce risks faced by poor communities to outbreaks of bird flu (highly pathogenic avian influenza), experts in Indonesia say poultry farmers, traders and transporters, as well as the general public, need to be better educated about the disease and its control. They also recommend strengthening the capacity of Indonesia's institutions to control the country's bird flu pandemic.

These recommendations were made during a workshop held in Bogor, Indonesia, 5–6 August 2010, that concludes the research activities of an Indonesian component of a project to develop strategies for reducing the risks of bird flu among poor communities in countries of Asia and Africa.

The two-year project is supported by the UK Department for International Development and is implemented in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.

About 40 participants attended the Bogor workshop, some drawn from the key partners in the project: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the Royal Veterinary College. Other participants represented a variety of stakeholders in better control of bird flu in poor communities. These included local universities such as Gadjah Mada University, in Yogyakarta, and Bogor Agricultural University; local poultry farmer groups and members of the poultry industry; and international researchers and donor agents conducting similar projects in the country.

The workshop participants made 5 key recommendations regarding better control of bird flu in poor communities:

  1. widen uptake of basic biosecurity measures through education
  2. provide targeted subsidies
  3. develop professional actor associations with certification schemes
  4. find ways to encourage prompt reporting of outbreaks of bird flu
  5. build public awareness campaigns to promote changes in public behaviour that reduce risks to the disease 

Ad hoc institutions set up after the initial outbreaks of bird flu in the country played a key role in the subsequent dissemination of information on  bird flu. The Indonesia National Committee for Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness is one such institution, which usefully brought together animal and human health authorities in a joint response to the pandemic. The workshop members recommended that these institutions be integrated into relevant government departments throughout the country’s administrative units. These recommendations will be further developed in consultation with the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture.

This piece is adapted from an original story posted on the Market Opportunities Digest blog drafted by ILRI staff members Fred Unger and Bernard Bett, scientific members of the project who attended the Bogor workshop, and Tezira Lore, communications specialist for ILRI's Markets Theme.

Read more on the website of the collaborative research project: Pro-poor HPAI Risk Reduction

Women scientist leading national project to conserve Vietnam’s native livestock breeds wins prestigious Kovalepskaia Award

Prof Dr Le Thi Thuy Prof Dr Le Thi Thuy, Director of the Department of Science and International Cooperation of Vietnam’s National Institute of Animal Husbandry, has been awarded the 2009 Kovalepskaia Award in recognition of her role as a woman scientist working on conservation of indigenous livestock breeds. The award is named after Sophia Kovalepskaia, an eminent 19th-century Russian mathematician. Thuy is serving as the national project director in Vietnam of a multi-national project scientists are leading at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to help conserve the indigenous farm animal genetic resources of Asia. This project is funded by the Global Environment Facility. The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation of Germany bestows a bi-annual Sofia Kovalevskaya Award to promising young researchers from all fields. From Wikipedia: Sofia Kovalevskaya, 1850–1891, was the first major Russian female mathematician, responsible for important original contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics, and the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe. Despite her obvious talent for mathematics, she could not complete her education in Russia. At that time, women there were not allowed to attend the universities. To study abroad, she needed written permission from her father (or husband). Accordingly, she contracted a "fictitious marriage" with Vladimir Kovalevsky, then a young paleontology student who would later become famous for his collaborations with Charles Darwin. They emigrated from Russia in 1867. In 1869, Kovalevskaya began attending the University of Heidelberg, Germany, which allowed her to audit classes as long as the professors involved gave their approval. Shortly after beginning her studies there, she visited London with Vladimir, who spent time with his colleagues Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin, while she was invited to attend George Eliot's Sunday salons. There, at age nineteen, she met Herbert Spencer and was led into a debate, at Eliot's instigation, on ‘woman's capacity for abstract thought’. This was well before she made her notable contribution of the ‘Kovalevsky top’ to the brief list of known examples of integrable rigid body motion. After two years of mathematical studies at Heidelberg, she moved to Berlin, where she had to take private lessons, as the university would not even allow her to audit classes. In 1874 she presented three papers—on partial differential equations, on the dynamics of Saturn's rings and on elliptic integrals—to the University of Göttingen as her doctoral dissertation. This earned her a doctorate in mathematics summa cum laude, bypassing the usual required lectures and examinations. She thereby became the first woman in Europe to hold that degree. Her paper on partial differential equations contains what is now commonly known as the Cauchy-Kovalevski theorem, which gives conditions for the existence of solutions to a certain class of those equations. In 1889 she was appointed Professorial Chair holder at Stockholm University, the first woman to hold such a position at a northern European university. After much lobbying on her behalf (and a change in the Academy's rules), she was granted a Chair in the Russian Academy of Sciences, but was never offered a professorship in Russia. Kovalevskaya died of influenza in 1891 at age forty-one. Sofja Kowalewskaja

Promising technologies not enough on their own to bring about widespread change in livestock systems

In this short video, ILRI’s Alan Duncan introduces the IFAD-funded ‘Fodder Adoption Project’ based at ILRI.

He outlines the approach followed in the project – trying to strike a balance between the technological and institutional angles.

The project helps groups of stakeholders – farmers, private sector, dairy coops, the government – get together in ‘innovation platforms’ where they can develop joint actions that address livestock fodder problems.

Initially the project went with a traditional approach, focusing on technologies. As the process evolved, other issues came in, more actors joined the platforms, and the technologies – growing improved fodder – acted more as a catalyst for people to come together to discuss a wide range of other issues (dairying, health, etc).

Fodder proved to be a useful ‘engine’ for the group to identify a much wider range of issues to address – along the whole value chain.

He explains that this type of work facilitating stakeholder platforms is “not trivial.” But it is essential: “Technology is only one small part of the equation and really a lot of it is about human interactions and how organizations behave.”

He concludes: “We have lots of promising technologies, but in themselves they are not enough to bring about widespread change in livestock systems.”

See his presentation with Ranjitha Puskur

More information on this project

View the Video:

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Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

With soaring food prices, indigenous peoples in India are going back to raising small local black pigs. With knowledge-based support, they could tap into new market opportunities and double their incomes.
 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis is Nagaland, one of India’s most insecure and poorest states. It is in the country’s mountainous northeast corner. 

Remarkably, even remote villages here are affected by the rising global prices of milk, meat and cereals.

Most Naga ethnic groups have always kept pigs. Pork remains their preferred meat. Now, today’s skyrocketing grain prices mean the small black pigs these tribal peoples keep, which are adapted to local feed resources, have suddenly become more attractive than big white imported pigs, which have to be fed on expensive grain.

 

India: Poverty Statistics

India: Over 300 million people, 27.5% of the population live below the poverty line.

Northeast India is the easternmost region consisting of the Seven Sister States. It is home to 38 million people. The region is linguistically and culturally very distinct from the other states of India and officially recognized as a special category of States.

Nagaland is home to 1.99 million people. 19% of the population or 399,000 people live below the poverty line of which 387,000 live in rural areas.

Assam is home to 26.6 million people. 19.7% of the population or 557,700 people live below the poverty line, 545,000 of them in rural areas.

Poverty statistics source: Government of India Planning Commission (2007) Poverty estimates 2004-05.

Pig income for livelihoods and education 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland


‘Apart from keeping pigs and farming, women like us don’t have any other ways to make money.
 
 

A window of opportunity for small pig farmers


Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandPig farmers in Nagaland and Assam now have a window of opportunity to step up their pig production and sell their native animals across the two states.
But as markets for pigs are getting larger, so is the market chain, making the business of supplying disease free, safe meat increasingly hard for small producers.  On top of that, there are no functioning breeding schemes or feed systems that would allow farmers to intensify.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis lack of quality knowledge is stopping expansion in a rapidly changing industry that could benefit many of the most vulnerable members of society, such as women and children. Without this critical knowledge-based support the opportunity for millions of the world’s poor to climb out of poverty through enhanced pig farming and marketing will be lost.

A local solution for rising prices

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandDevelopment agencies have tried for decades to raise the very low household incomes in Assam and Nagaland. But even though pig keeping is central to the livelihoods of the poor and especially poor women, pig production has seldom been viewed as a development tool for the region.
This is peculiar because until recently local demand for pork was so great that it was profitable for local business people to import large numbers of commercial white pigs from producers in India’s grain states further west.  Animals were being transported 2000-3000 kilometres, at a cost of USD40 each.

But grain-based feeds and transport have both recently shot up in price, adding even more to the cost.  People in Assam and Nagaland are suddenly finding the imported white pigs far too expensive. A new market is growing fast for the local black and cross-bred pigs. Because these native animals can be fed mostly on low-cost feed crops and crop wastes, they are an ideal solution to fill the new pork and piglet supply gap. 

Knowledge-based support needed to tap into fast changing markets


Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandHowever because markets are changing so fast smallholder farmers can no longer make it alone.  They lack access to information and resources, linkages to health and breeding services, business support, and feeding systems.  All these are vital if they are to expand while also meeting increasingly demanding new health and safety standards. This short-term opportunity is ready-made for success. The pigs are there, the demand is there, and farmers ambitious to grow their pig enterprises are also there.

With relevant knowledge and training, both of which ILRI with its national partners are ready to provide, most tribal households in these states could boost their herd sizes and double their incomes sustainably and in a cost-effective way over the next 5–10 years.

Without support, millions of people will increasingly suffer poverty, conflicts, and the loss of dignity that goes with forced migration to cities. However, with help, they can maintain the traditional livelihoods that sustain communities and generate prosperity.

ILRI’s representative for Asia, Iain Wright, says ‘We are working with national partners to gain support for helping poor people seize this big pig marketing opportunity in Nagaland, Assam and other northeast states.

‘We have recently started a project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the School of Agricultural Science and Rural Development, Nagaland University, to implement a programe of research to improve the production and marketing of pigs in selected villages in Mon District, Nagaland. We’re also looking at working on similar projects with national partners in other notheastern states’, says Wright.

Background information:
The Nagaland pig production and marketing project is funded by the National Agricultural Innovation Project with a contribution from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and aims to develop sustainable solutions to livelihood improvement in one of the poorest districts in India.