Alliance meeting this week to battle global ‘goat plague’

Northern Kenya August 2008

The PPR virus, commonly known as goat plague, swept across southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya in 2008; Mohammed Noor lost 20 goats in the just one week and wondered how he would provide for his family (photo on Flickr by EC/ECHO/Daniel Dickinson).

Assembling for two days this week (29–30 Apr 2013) in Nairobi, Kenya, are members of a global alliance against ‘peste des petits ruminants’, abbreviated as ‘PPR’ and also known as ‘goat plague’ and ‘ovine rinderpest’.

Co-hosting this second meeting of the Global Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) Research Alliance (hereafter referred to as GPRA) are the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is headquartered in Nairobi; the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-iLRI hub (BecA-ILRI Hub), hosted and managed by ILRI; the African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), also based in Nairobi; and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

Among the 70 or so people attending are representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGFYi Cao), the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVMedBapti Dungu), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEAAdama Diallo), the Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre (PANVAC), the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London Vet School (RVC), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAOVincent Martin and Robert Allport, among others), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIEJemi Domenech and Walter Masiga) and a range of national research institutions from developing countries where the disease is endemic.

What’s this alliance all about?
The GPRA is a participant-owned network of researchers and development professionals with an interest in the progressive control of PPR. The GPRA was inaugurated in 2012 at a meeting in London. GPRA aims to provide scientific and technical knowledge towards methods for the detection, control and eradication of PPR that are economically viable, socially practical and environmentally friendly.

Why, and how much, does PPR matter?
Infectious diseases remain the major limitation to livestock production globally and are a particular scourge in the developing world, where most of the world’s livestock are raised. Diseases not only kill farm animals but also cause production losses and hinder access to potentially high-value international livestock markets.

PPR, an infectious viral disease of sheep and goats, poses a major threat to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Africa as well as the Middle East and India. The disease is highly contagious, and has roughly an 80 per cent mortality rate in acute cases.

The impacts of PPR, which is closely related to rinderpest in cattle, have been expanding in recent years. At least 15 million sheep and goats are at risk of death from the disease in Kenya alone and the estimated economic impact of current PPR outbreaks—including production losses and disease control costs for Africa—is more than US$147 million per year. A recent outbreak of PPR in the Marakwet and Baringo districts of Kenya destroyed more than 2000 herds, with the disease spreading in days and farmers losing some KShs6 million (about US$70,000)  to the disease over about three months.

PPR is probably the most important killer of small ruminant populations in affected areas and some 65 per cent of the global small ruminant population is at risk from PPR.

Increasing interest in tackling PPR
Over the last several years, international experts and national authorities have both been increasingly prioritizing the progressive control of PPR, with the first phase designed to contribute to the long-term goal of eradication. Donor interest in this research and development area quickly ramped up over the past year. A current AusAID-funded project being conducted under a partnership between the BecA-ILRI Hub and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific, Industrial and Research Organisation (CSIRO) has supported development of a thermostable vaccine now being piloted in vaccination campaigns in Sudan and Uganda, with similar work proposed for Ethiopia.

Collins Owino, ILRI research technician

Collins Owino, an ILRI research technician working on vaccines and diagnostics in the peste des petits ruminants (PPR) project (photo credit: ILRI/Evelyn Katingi).

Need for coordinated and progressive control of PPR
There is a growing recognition of the need for, and potential benefits of, a coordinated approach to the progressive control of PPR. The disease is now one of the high priorities of AU-IBAR, FAO and OIE, all of which have strong networks and expertise to offer the alliance. The role of the Global PPR Research Alliance as a network of research and development organizations is to develop a coordinated strategy to contribute to the progressive control of PPR.

The Australian Government, together with AU-IBAR and ILRI, is supporting the second meeting of the GPRA to advance with many other stakeholders progressive global control of PPR, particularly through collaborative research. The GPRA supports the sharing of relevant information and results, the establishment of productive working relationships among stakeholders, the establishment of research and development projects of interest to some or all members, and the closer linking of strategic plans of all stakeholders in better control of this disease.

Is progressive eradication of PPR possible?
Wide calls for PPR’s progressive global eradication cite the following factors supporting this goal:

  • The close relationship of PPR/’goat plague’ with the recently eradicated ‘cattle plague’ known as ‘rinderpest’ (rinderpest was only the second infectious disease, and the first veterinary disease, to be eradicated from the globe)
  • The availability of effective vaccines against PPR
  • The development of heat-stable PPR vaccines, following the same procedures that were so effective in developing a heat-stable rinderpest vaccine
  • The opportunity to increase focus on Africa and Asia’s small ruminants, which are of critical importance to the livelihoods of rural smallholder and pastoralist communities in many of the world’s poorest countries
  • The existence of vaccines and diagnostics considered sufficient to initiate the program; the current vaccines (based on the strain Nigeria 75/1) are safe, efficacious and provide life-long immunity.

More about the AusAID-funded PPR project at the BecA-ILRI Hub
The Australian Government via AusAID has funded development at ILRI of thermostable formulations of the PPR vaccine that provide a level of stability in the field as high as that demonstrated in the vaccine used to eradicate rinderpest. The project team has demonstrated that the PPR vaccine can be stored without refrigeration for extended periods of time without significant loss in viability. This is a crucial and significant success. Under the guidance of ILRI senior scientist Jeff Mariner and with the assistance of Australia’s CSIRO and BecA-ILRI Hub staff, the project team have developed strong links with AU-IBAR’s Henry Wamwayi, a senior member of his organization seconded to the PPR project.

ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Jeff Mariner at OIE meeting

ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Jeff Mariner presenting lessons learned from work to eradicate rinderpest at a meeting of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) (photo credit: OIE).

Next steps
The project has built on lessons learned from the recent global eradication of rinderpest, which depended on two equally important breakthroughs for its success: development of an effective thermostable vaccine and effective vaccine delivery networks in remote as well as other regions. The next 12 months of the PPR research project will focus on testing the vaccine and delivery strategies in South Sudan and Uganda. Staff will assess in the field just how effective the vaccine is in controlling PPR infections. They’ll also investigate some practical incentives for encouraging livestock owners and livestock service delivery personnel to participation in PPR control programs. And they’ll look into ways to build and enhance public-private community partnerships to deliver the PPR vaccine.

Read more in the ILRI News Blog and science journals about the close connections between the eradication of rinderpest and this new battle against PPR—and the role of ILRI’s Jeff Mariner in development of thermostable vaccines necessary to win the battle against both diseases.

Rinderpest: Scourge of pastoralists defeated, at long last, by pastoralists, 18 Sep 2012.

New analysis in ‘Science’ tells how the world eradicated deadliest cattle plague from the face of the earth, 13 Sep 2012.

Goat plague next target of veterinary authorities now that cattle plague has been eradicated, 4 Jul 2011.

Deadly rinderpest virus today declared eradicated from the earth—’greatest achievement in veterinary medicine’, 28 Jun 2011.

 

 

Misku’s story: How sheep fattening is transforming lives in western Ethiopia

This very brief photofilm (1:41 minutes) shares the story of Misku Abafaris, a woman farmer in Ethiopia, who was interviewed in 2010 about the changes in her life as a result of interventions by an ILRI-led Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project. Since 2006, ILRI has been working closely with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

When asked what life was like a decade ago, Misku Abafaris immediately says: ‘In those days I was never exposed to any new ideas, any new approaches.’ Then, after more consideration, the 40-year old mother of six turns to practical matters. ‘I used to spend most of my time caring for my children and preparing food. And I’d look after our cow and help my husband when the crops needed weeding.’

In short, her daily routine in Gudeta, a small village some 30 minutes’ walk from a tarmac road, was little different from that of earlier generations of women in Ethiopia’s Oromiya Region. There were good years, when the coffee harvest was plentiful, and bad years, when the coffee failed or drought shrivelled their food crops.

Five of Misku’s children still live at home, chickens still wander in and out of their mud-walled, tin-roofed dwelling, and it’s still a long walk to the nearest well to get drinking water. But new ideas and new approaches, so lacking in the past, have recently helped to transform their lives. Their most obvious manifestation can be seen in the fields below the village, where half a dozen handsome sheep are being fattened for the market.

‘With the profits I’ve made from my sheep, I’ve been able to buy a Boran heifer, which will yield much more milk than our local breed of cow’, says Misku, ‘and last year, when we didn’t get a coffee harvest, we still made enough money from the sheep to pay all our household expenses.’ She’s particularly proud of the fact that her sheep-fattening business has paid for her eldest daughter, now 21 years old, to live and study in the nearby town of Agora.

Misku’s forgotten to tell you about the chairs we’re sitting on’, says Abafaris Abamaliky, her husband. ‘It was the money from the sheep that paid for the timber and the carpentry. And it paid for the wooden box where I now keep my clothes and my private things.’ The pride he takes in his wife’s achievement is plain to see.

The power of knowledge
Misku and her husband are among tens of thousands of farmers to benefit from a project which has helped them to improve the productivity of their livestock and crops and—crucially—market their produce more effectively. Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project was launched in 2006.

Goma, where Misku and her family live, is one of 10 districts where the project operates. The early stages involved the identification of crops and livestock which could benefit from activities to improve production and marketing. This followed lengthy consultations with farmers and local government staff. In Goma the focus has been on improving ‘value chains’—linking production, the supply of farm inputs and the markets—for coffee, poultry, honey, fruit and sheep.

‘Many farmers were keen to develop sheep fattening, but they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to improve production’, explains Yisehak Baredo, the project’s research and development officer in Goma. ‘Their sheep were in poor health, and it took them up to a year to fatten them.’ Misku’s experience was typical: she used to keep just one sheep, whose only food supplement was kitchen scraps, and she made hardly any money fattening its lambs.

In 2008, the project provided training on sheep fattening for Misku and 119 other farmers. They learned, among other things, about the importance of providing their animals with protein-rich food supplements and how to keep them in good health. Such was the success of the first training program that the project repeated the exercise for 92 farmers a year later.

None of this would have been possible without access to credit, which was provided through a local microfinance institution. Talk to any of the farmers who benefited and they’ll tell you in great detail precisely how they spent their first loans.

Misku borrowed 1500 birr (USD115). With this she bought five young sheep, a supply of cotton-seed meal, life insurance for herself and insurance for her five sheep, and de-wormers and other veterinary medicines. Three months later, she sold the fattened sheep and paid back the loan, leaving her a net profit of 1200 birr (USD90)—a considerable sum of money in one of the poorest countries in the world. Subsequent fattening cycles have provided her with similar profit margins.

So is her story unusual? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that she is a strong and respected leader, and the group of 30 smallholders which she chairs was immediately able to repay its loans in full—something several other groups failed to achieve. As a result, the microfinance institution has been happy to provide further loans. And no, in the sense that many other farmers have made a success of fattening their sheep and increasing their income. Over four out of five who received training shortened the fattening period to just three months.

‘With the profits I’ve made from the sheep, we’ve built an extension to our house and bought a high-yielding Boran cow’, says Suchare Abamaliky, one of Misku’s neighbours. Musa Kadir, who belongs to the same peasant association, has used the profits from his sheep to pay school fees for his children. ‘I’m now earning as much money in three months as I used to make in a year from the sale of coffee beans’, he says. He has ambitious plans to expand the number of sheep he fattens, and he’s also begun to raise avocado and mango seedlings, having observed the activities of one of his neighbours. Shito Nasir had received training on how to graft superior varieties of fruit tree. ‘I could see she was making such a good business that I decided to do the same’, explains Musa Kadir. This is the way new ideas are beginning to spread, across hedges and fields from farmer to farmer.

A rural revolution?
Abafaris Abamaliky is some 20 years older than his wife, Misku, and he has lived, as he puts it, through three governments. Life is now better than it ever was in the past, he says. ‘We now have electric light in the village and better health care.’ Just as importantly, he and his neighbours now feel they can talk openly to government officials. Indeed, the success of the IPMS project owes much to the close relationship between villagers and the staff at the district offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Besides introducing new technologies to Ethiopian farmers, the project has begun to change the way government staff approach agricultural development. ‘Before the project began, we used to focus on increasing the production of particular commodities, but we knew nothing about value chains’, explains Tanashe Eyasu at the local Office of Agriculture and Rural Development. ‘Now, we’re changing the way we work, and we’re linking producers with suppliers of inputs like fertilizers and feed, and sometimes even linking them with buyers as far away as Addis Ababa.’

Although the IPMS project will come to an end at the end of this year (2012), its impact is assured. ‘You can already see the knowledge being transmitted from farmer to farmer’, says Tsegaye Umeta, Goma’s district administrator, ‘and local government staff will continue to promote the knowledge and practices introduced by IPMS to new areas.’ It shouldn’t be a hard sell: when farmers are making good money, others will follow where they lead. And already, new businesses have sprung up to provide feed, fertilisers, medicines, beehives and other equipment.

If you ask Misku about her hopes for the future, she lists her priorities without hesitation. ‘My first desire is to support my children, so they can go to college’, she says. ‘Then, if God is willing, I would like a better house, with a cement floor, not a mud floor like this one, and with brick walls painted a nice colour. I’d also like a well.’ A while ago, she went on a farmers’ study trip to the capital, where she saw a small pump for drawing well water. ‘I’d like that too’, she says.

But is this a dream too far for a family which has just three hectares of land, a pair of oxen, two cows, ten chickens and a small flock of sheep? ‘No’, she replies. ‘If we continue to work hard, I’m sure this will happen.’ Her husband nods in agreement.

As we leave the village, we are accompanied by a chattering crowd of children, including Misku’s eight-year-old boy. When Ariso is not at school, he helps to look after the family’s sheep, but he also has a lamb of his own, which he recently bought with money he earned picking coffee.

‘Once I have fattened it up’, he says, ‘I will make a good profit.’ He probably hasn’t heard of ‘value chains’, but he is very much his mother’s son: he understands the importance of the market.

Story and photofilm by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

Read and view other stories/photofilms by Charlie Pye-Smith:

Gebremichael’s story: Changing the fortunes of farmers in Ethiopia through better livestock feed, 28 May 2012 (story and photofilm).

Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012 (story).

The connection between animal disease and human health, 13 Jan 2012 (photofilm).

 

 

Raising incomes in India through better markets for goat and sheep meat, leather and wool

 The Goat Herd, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1862 (source: Wikipaintings.org).

This business of goats—
Sometimes it flourishes,
Sometimes it yields only a handful of chickpeas,
And sometimes even that is denied.

An interesting new report on Small Ruminant Rearing: Product Markets, Opportunities and Constraints makes a strong argument for enhancing the value chains of India’s meat, leather and wool industries to reduce poverty levels among the country’s many sheep and goat rearers, who make up 15% of all rural households in the country and most of whom (70%) are small and marginal farmers and landless labourers.

The report was published in Dec 2011 by the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, a joint initiative of India’s National Dairy Development Programme (NDDB) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The report was developed by Varsha Mehta, a consultant working with this South Asia livestock program, who spent six months (Nov 2010–Apr 2011) gathering information in extensive field visits and discussions with practitioners and communities rearing small ruminants in various states of the country.

Some the key findings, appearing in report’s the executive summary, are summarized below.

Sheep and goat ownership
With 15% of the world’s goat population and 6% of its sheep, India is among the highest livestock holding countries in the world. As of 2009, its estimated sheep and goat population was 191.7 million, comprising 10% of the world total.

Most of India’s goats (70%) are found in just 7 of the country’s 28 states (West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh) and 72% of the sheep population is concentrated in just 4 states (Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).

Although total numbers of such small stock have been rising in the country, average numbers per household have been falling, by about 25%—from 85 to 64 per 100 households—in the 11 years between 1991/2 and 2002/3.

The ownership and distribution of small ruminants in the country appears to be more equitable than that of land.

Policy issues and recommendations
Livestock rearing in the country has been primarily for livelihood security and not for commercial purposes, with ownership being more evenly distributed vis-à-vis land and other resources; animals are a hedge and insurance against natural calamities, droughts, etc., and animal husbandry is frequently one of the many occupations in a household’s livelihood strategy.

However, the commercialization of livestock is on the rise as a result of market developments and fiscal incentives, and an increasing demand for animal protein in the consumer market. A gradual shift is occurring towards intensively managed ram lamb/sheep units, particularly in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which is being led and/or facilitated by animal health professionals, state veterinary departments and financial institutions.

India’s single-minded pursuit of agricultural enhancement at all costs has harmed its animal husbandry. Government-planned and -sponsored schemes for intensifying agricultural production systems through land development and irrigation have led to a rapid loss of lands available for grazing sheep and goats, declining land and soil productivity, greater reliance on chemical fertilizers and higher costs of agriculture inputs. With the loss of grazing lands, flock sizes have decreased, with, for example, the average flock size in the ‘shepherd belt’ of Rajasthan declining from 200–300 to 60–70 sheep over a period of 10 years. The numbers of keepers of small stock have also declined, with many former shepherds and goat rearers now working as daily wage labourers.

Another threat to India’s small stock keepers are high levels of livestock diseases and deaths due to state veterinary health services and facilities unable to meet the veterinary demands of local and migrant graziers, breeders, rearers and shepherds.

Small ruminant meat
Prioritize the meat value chain
With an estimated 25,000 unauthorized slaughter locations and 4,000 registered slaughterhouses, India’s meat trade is highly unorganized and largely unregulated, having remained a low priority sector until the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007–12), when incentives were provided to industries to boost investment for modernization, value addition and infrastructure development.

The many entities responsible for licensing, regulating and controlling quality in the meat processing and export sectors lead to inefficiencies, and the mechanisms in place are largely ineffectual and the institutions involved largely under-resourced.

Although India’s meat market is predominantly a ‘wet market’ (dealing in live animals), knowledge of, and adherence to, food safety standards and regulations are greatly lacking, which poses the threat of infectious and other diseases erupting among livestock populations and some of them (zooneses) being transmitted between livestock and people.

Create more equitable livestock markets
India’s small ruminant markets favour brokers and other intermediaries to the disadvantage of consumers, rearers and sellers of livestock by-products.

A large part of the consumer’s costs are due to inefficient slaughter operations and markets and high transportation costs. Inefficient use of small ruminant by-products means the rearers get poor prices for their animals.

New players face barriers in entering the market and robust agents’ networks and strong resistance to government attempts to introduce change hamper the modernization or relocation of abattoirs.

Create value addition along the value chain
The non-standardized, unregulated and ad hoc transactions typical of India’s small ruminant trade lead to unfair practices. For example, animals are sold purely on the basis of a visual estimation of their weight, age and appearance, and female animals get lower prices than males in meat markets, even though no such distinction is made in the final price of meat sold in retail outlets. And although sheep fetch a lower price than goats, sheep meat is frequently passed off as goat meat in New Delhi.

With India’s small ruminant market remaining predominantly a wet market, given the preference of the Indian consumer for fresh meat over frozen or processed meat, little value addition takes place along the chain from producer to consumer although the price of the commodity rises at every level.

Fully utilize ruminant by-products
Whereas the blood, head, legs and offals of slaughtered sheep and goats are often sold near slaughterhouses in terminal markets and at village butchers’ shops, full potential of the by-products’ (skin, casings, bones, blood and other waste) is not realized in the country.

Bring the market closer to the production base
By bringing the market closer to the production base, it would be possible to address many problems that plague efficient operations in the meat industry. The terminal markets in all cities are constrained on account of space and municipal requirements for waste disposal. Both these issues could be addressed at the district level through appropriate site selection, long-term planning, and establishment of effluent treatment plants. District-level livestock trade centres would also be more accessible to producers, and lower the costs of transporting live animals, which are often transported in poor conditions across long distances and suffer poor lairing at terminal markets before their slaughter.

Small ruminant leather
Support smallholder production and collection of leather for a fast-growing industrial sector
While most of the leather industry’s units are small and medium enterprises, with 60–65% of the production coming from small/cottage sectors, the industrial structure, which till now has been mostly unorganized and decentralized, is gearing up fast in response to international market demand and a changing policy environment.

The gains that the leather industry has made over the years, due to favourable government policies and growth in international markets, have not trickled down to the players operating at lower levels in the leather value chain. And developments in the processing and manufacturing sectors are not accompanied by corresponding developments in raw material production and collection methods, which continue to be highly scattered and unorganized.

Enhance the supply of raw leather
Too little raw material, and material of poor quality, due to inappropriate methods of procurement of raw hides and skins, and their flaying and curing, are hurting India’s leather sector.

Losses from putrefaction and low-quality raw material could be addressed through worker collectives established close to the source of production, which could reduce the time lag between removal of skin and its (temporary) curing for preservation. Apart from the cost of inputs for treatment (salt) and storage (warehouse), the only other costs would be those of labour and the initial investment in organizing and establishing the collective. This small intervention in the leather value chain could go a long way in resolving higher end problems, as well as providing employment for many poor people.

Provide human resources for labour- and skill-intensive operations
Operations in leather processing and finishing are labour-intensive except in the initial stages, with the costs of labour rising as the product moves along the value chain. In many attempts to promote its leather industry, India has focussed on manufacturing and finished goods to the exclusion of all other aspects, such as procuring hides and skins and/or improving slaughterhouse practices, both of which could add significantly to the quality and availability of raw material.

Trained human resources are in short supply.

Small ruminant wool
Protect grazing lands
The entire production system that supports India’s wool industry is crippled by a loss of grazing lands and reduced flock sizes. In Himachal Pradesh, graziers since the British times have been issued permits for grazing their herds, with migratory routes and numbers specified in the permit issued by the Forest Department. A specified fee per animal is charged per season. Over the years, there has been a restriction on the issuance of new permits, and the common practice now is for herds to be taken for migration by (existing) permit-holders on a contractual basis. Grazing grounds/pastures have also shrunk and degraded with the spread of weeds, which can also cause of high mortality, particularly in younger livestock.

Support local wool markets
Since changes in India’s import policies and licenses took effect, the markets have been flooded with products made of imported wool. The rising costs incurred by shepherds in rearing sheep and shearing their wool are not matched by a corresponding rise in returns from wool. Loss of markets for traditionally valued products have caused a loss in demand for local wool. A revival of the local wool markets is possible only through revival of Khadi institutions, as well as significant and sustained investments in R&D of products made out of local wool.

Improve sheep breeds
Only a small proportion of sheep (10–15%) have been crossbred. State-led initiatives for breed improvement have focused on the production of finer quality wool through crossing indigenous breeds with imported breeds such as the Merino and Rambouillet. The crossbreeding programs face two main problems: crossbred sheep have higher mortality levels than native sheep because they are unable to withstand the nutritional stress and difficult terrain/conditions; and the crossbreeding program has not yet led to the production of significant quantities of superior wools. Some scientists say there is a lack of high-quality germplasm available for improving wool quality and yield.

Read the whole report:  Small Ruminant Rearing: Product Markets, Opportunities and Constraints, South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, Dec 2011.

Notes
A year-old project on ‘Small ruminant value chains as platforms for reducing poverty and increasing food security in the dryland areas of India and Mozambique’, known as ‘imGoats’ for short, seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in India and Mozambique. The main target groups are poor goat keepers, especially women, and other marginalized groups, such as scheduled castes and tribes in India, households with members living with HIV/AIDS and female-headed households in Mozambique. The project is led by researchers from the Market, Gender and Livelihoods Theme of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International, Mozambique. It is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The goal of the imGoats Project is to increase incomes and food security in a sustainable manner by enhancing small ruminant value chains in the two countries. The project proposes to transform goat production and marketing from the current ad hoc, risky, informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market, largely controlled by and benefiting women and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups while preserving the natural resource base.

The project established a strategic advisory committee at the national level in each of the project countries. In India, the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme (SAPPLPP) is one of seven agencies represented on this committee; the others are the Animal Husbandry Departments of Governments of India, Rajasthan and Jharkhand; IFAD; BAIF; and ILRI. The first national advisory committee meeting of the imGoats project in India was held on the 17 Aug 2011 in New Delhi; it meets every six months, with its next meeting scheduled for 10–11 Feb 2012, in Udaipur and Jhadol.

For more information, visit ILRI’s imGoats Blog.

Improved fattening doubles incomes from sheep raising in western Ethiopia–Top two innovators are women

Yisehak Baredo at the AgriGender 2011 workshop, day 2

Ethiopian researcher Yiseshak Baredo gives evidence of a successful intervention by a project of the Ethiopian government implemented by ILRI in western Ethiopia (picture credit: ILRI/Habtamu).

AgriGender 2011 logo
A success story was presented during the second day of a ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ being organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on its Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus.

Participants heard from Ethiopian researcher Yiseshak Baredo evidence of a successful intervention by a project of the Ethiopian government implemented by ILRI in western Ethiopia. The project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS), involved 117 farmers in Goma woreda (district).

Goma is a small coffee-growing district in Jimma Zone, about 400 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Farmers mostly depend on their annual sales of coffee, but they also need other sources of income, including sales of honey, animal products and crops. Even though most households keep livestock, they engage in husbandry practices that are centuries old, including free grazing and feeding animals household leftovers—both of which generate low yields.

Yiseshak Baredo explained how households in a small village in Goma have begun doubling their income from fattening sheep. The IPMS project loaned each farmer about US$100 (1,000 Ethiopian birr), which was enough for them to buy five sheep, veterinary drugs and services, and cottonseed meal from a nearby oil factory in Agaro. As a safety net, farmers also contributed US$0.75 (ETB7.50) per sheep for a community-based insurance scheme that protected them from loss or accidental death of the animals.

The project began in March 2008, when farmers were first offered the financial loans to buy the sheep. The improved feed supplements they used accelerated the fattening period, enabling the farmers to bring their sheep to market in an average of three months, instead of the usual eight to ten months.

Officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, greatly encouraged by the results, said that they now hope to extend the project to neighbouring villages, other parts of the region and eventually to other regions.

Aberra Deressa, former State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said last year, ‘We are a rural nation that depends on our farmers, and this kind of program will ensure two things: They will earn a good living from their livestock and the rest of the nation will have a steady stream of food from sheep and other livestock.’

The lives of the farmers participating in the project were greatly impacted. The added income from the quick fattening of sheep has improved nutrition, as women have more money to spend on household needs. The added income also allows farmers to make other lifestyle improvements.

Mesku Abafaris, one of the women involved, said, ‘I can now plan to build a tin-roofed house. I used to think that this was a far-away dream, but now I see that I can make extra money to achieve my dreams.  I have already rented a small land with the money I’m making from the sale of sheep, to plant corn on this small plot and make more money.  Most importantly, I no longer have to ask my husband for household expenses, because I am the one who controls the income from the sale of sheep and can decide on how to spend it.’

Yiseshak Baredo went on to tell of another impact of the project–—the greater acceptance of women’s involvement in farming.

In early 2008, several men resisted the inclusion of women in the project and some women dropped out. Still, women made up 38 of the 117 farmers in the program. IPMS and Ministry of Agriculture staff of the district worked with community leaders and elders to break the gender barrier, holding repeated discussions with men to persuade them to allow women to participate. In the end, most of the men grew to accept the women—and the women’s performance was among the best. In fact, women ranked first and second place for a ‘best-practice’ award organized by the district and IPMS, proving that given the chance, women can excel in innovative agricultural ventures. Observers particularly commended several women farmers for closely following best practices in the fattening process.

IPMS leads pilot projects in 10 woredas located in four regional states of Ethiopia. Funding for the IPMS project comes from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

For more information about the IPMS Goma sheep fattening project, contact Loza Mesfin (l.mesfin@cgiar.org) or Dirk Hoekstra (d.hoekstra@cgiar.org), or visit www.ilri.org or www.ipms-ethiopia.org

You may follow discussions at this workshop on the main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

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

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

From poor to well-off: Livestock can make a difference

A survey in Western Kenya reveals that poor families move through six stages of progress out of poverty – from being able to secure food to purchasing a sheep or goat. These stages highlight the relative importance of livestock to the poor.

A recent study in Western Kenya has looked at Stages of Progress into and out of poverty as defined by the communities being studied. A common understanding of poverty was agreed with villagers, and the study found that families do not consider themselves poor if they progress beyond stage 6, referred to as the first poverty line – see below.

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The results show the importance of livestock to the poor. Livestock types are a key indicator of where families sit on the poverty scale. Owning chickens is viewed as the most basic level of livestock keeping. Chickens are an important source of protein in the diets of the poor – they can provide eggs that can be eaten and/or sold, or they can be sold or slaughtered for food. Chickens are relatively easy to keep, and are important to the poor, particularly to the many families predominantly made up of women, children and the elderly.

Shoats (sheep and goats) represent the next step up the livestock ladder – they provide milk and manure and are important protein sources in the diets of the poor. The study found that households that have not been successful in progressing beyond Stage 6 consider themselves to be poor and are commonly regarded as such by other villagers.

Although there is broad agreement that most families progress through each of the six stages, and usually in the order defined, the authors noted that beyond stage 6, households tend to diverge in the later stages, for example, some may rent land before purchasing cattle.

The purchase of local cattle is the next step up in the livestock rankings – in addition to being a food source, they also provide manure and draft power. However, cattle are targeted by thieves, and there are some examples of families being stripped of their assets due to persistent cattle thefts. Cattle diseases are also prevalent in Africa, emphasising the importance of education in disease prevention and management. This is a key contributor to families safely remaining above the first line of poverty. The model neatly illustrates how the loss of a household’s cattle – whether it be through disease, thefts, funerals, or bride price – can propel a family back into poverty.

At the highest level in the livestock rankings are dairy cattle, which provide milk for the family as well as milk that can be sold to earn income for the household. Those families who have dairy cattle sit above the second poverty line and are considered to be relatively well-off.

The study entitled “Pathways out of Poverty in Western Kenya and the Role of Livestock” was undertaken by scientists from ILRI, Duke University, and FAO. We thank the authors, P. Kristjanson, A. Krishna, M. Radeny and W. Nindo for granting permission to reproduce extracts.