This year’s Yara Prize honours hard-hitting and long-term policy advocacy by ILRI board chair Lindiwe Majele Sibanda

YARA Prize winners for 2013

Co-winners of the Yara Prize for 2013, announced last night (4 Sep 2013) are Nigerian Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu (left) and Zimbabwean Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chair of ILRI’s board of trustees (picture credit: Bella Naija).

The Yara Prize 2013 was yesterday awarded to Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, founder and CEO of the Smallholders Foundation in Nigeria, and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and chair of the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The Yara Prize Committee selected two prominent African laureates for their work for African farmers and for the continent’s green revolution. The award recognizes their effective entrepreneurial work which has spread knowledge that has inspired smallholder farmers and youth to improve their lives, and their policy dialogue and advocacy which has enabled change in the African agricultural sector.

Both laureates have, through personal commitment and special efforts, translated ideas on the development of African agriculture into real results. They are both examples of the can-do spirit and drive that is playing a vital role in transforming agriculture in Africa.

The two laureates were celebrated during a Yara Prize Ceremony in Maputo, Mozambique, held yesterday, 4 Sep 2013, in connection with the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2013.

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu’s award—communicating for impact
Ikegwuonu was being awarded the prize for his entrepreneurial work of using radio as transmitter of sustainable agricultural development and environmental conservation beneficial to rural poor small farmers in the Imo State in southeast Nigeria. Ikegwuonu and the Smallholders Foundation develops and broadcasts 10 hours of educational radio programs daily to 250,000 listeners. The radio programs are held in the local Igbo language. Since 2007, 65 percent of his radio program listeners have increased their agricultural yield by 50 percent and their household income by 45 percent.

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda’s award—advocating for impact
Jimmy Smith and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda at Africa Agriculture Science Week

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith and ILRI board chair Lindiwe Majele Sibanda at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15-20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda was awarded the prize for her many years of work generating knowledge and facilitating dialogue to develop informed, research-based development through policy and advocacy across Africa as CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), where she has served since 2004.

FANRPAN is perceived to be one of the most influential policy networks across the African region. Its focus areas include policy research and advocacy work on food policy, agricultural productivity, natural resources and environment, and the impact of HIV/AIDS on farmers livelihoods. Sibanda, who is an animal scientist by training as well as a beef farmer herself, has played a global leadership role in increasing the visibility and importance of agriculture as a key development driver. In 2009, Sibanda led the global ‘No-Agriculture, No-Deal’ campaign and mobilized African civil society organizations to push for the inclusion of agriculture in negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Sibanda has built the advocacy capacity of FANRPAN through her innovative use of strategic outreach and communication activities, which help leverage and amplify the work done by the organization and its partners at the ground level. In this way, Sibanda has effectively made FANRPAN one of the most recognized and trusted voices on African agriculture and food security, with a strong focus on the continent’s women and young farmers. (Understanding the need to nurture Africa’s youth and include them in agricultural policy processes, FANRPAN launched the FANRPAN Youth in Agriculture Award in 2012.)

Siboniso (‘Boni’) Moyo, another distinguished Zimbabwean animal scientist cum beef farmer, who serves ILRI as its representative for southern Africa, attended the award ceremony in Maputo and was on hand to personally congratulate her country-woman on Sibanda’s achievement. All the directors and staff are delighted to congratulate Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, as well as Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu and both their tireless organizations, for this prestigious award, which is so well deserved and does so much to honour what is right and exciting about Africa and African leadership.

Read a profile of Sibanda.

View a short filmed interview of Sibanda at the July 2013 Accra meeting of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa.

View a short animated film, Cultivate the future! How learning together can mean learning better and faster, speeding research into use’, co-developed and narrated by Sibanda.

About the Yara Prize
The Yara Prize for an African Green Revolution seeks to contribute to the transformation of African agriculture and food availability, within a sustainable context, thereby helping to reduce hunger and poverty. The Yara Prize is based on nominations of candidates who are carefully evaluated by the Yara Prize Committee. The Yara Prize consists of USD60,000, which will be split between the laureates, a crystal trophy and a diploma. The Yara Prize was handed out in Oslo from 2005 to 2009. In 2012, it moved to Africa, where it was handed out as part of AGRF 2012 in Arusha, Tanzania. The Yara Prize 2013 was awarded during a ceremony in Maputo, Mozambique, on Wed 4 Sep 2013.

ILRI geneticist wins prestigious ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’ award for innovative way to improve livestock breeding services in poor countries

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visit to project sites, June 2011

Fidalis Mujibi, a geneticist at ILRI, collecting information from a smallholder livestock farmer in Busia, Kenya. Mujibi is one of the winners of the 2013 ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’ award for an idea to improve livestock breeding services (photo credit: BMGF/Lee Klejtnot).

Fidalis Mujibi, a Kenyan geneticist working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, is one of the winners of the 2013 USD10,000 ‘BREAD Ideas Challenge’, announced in July.

The award is given each year by the American National Science Foundation and is part of the ‘Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, which is co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This year, the award recognized 13 innovators amongst many applicants ranging from scientists, professors and graduate students from around the world. The winning challenges focused on ideas of solving pressing and largely ignored issues affecting smallholder farming in developing countries.

Mujibi received the award together with American scientist and beef reproductive management specialist George Perry, from South Dakota State University. Their idea is to eliminate the need for liquid nitrogen in livestock artificial insemination services in developing countries.

Liquid nitrogen is needed to preserve the semen used to inseminate dairy cows artificially, but it’s expensive and raises the costs of artificial insemination services for poor farmers in developing countries. Most of those providing artificial insemination services are unable to maintain a steady supply of liquid nitrogen in their tanks, leading to cases of dead semen being used for insemination. This in turn necessitates many repeated insemination procedures, which not only are unduly expensive but also result in long calving intervals, reducing the lifetime productivity of cows.

‘Our idea focuses on alternatives that could eliminate the “cold-chain” from the artificial insemination delivery process’, says Mujibi. ‘We’re exploring ways of delivering semen to remote villages in Africa where there is no infrastructure to support liquid nitrogen systems, so that farmers can access the germplasm they need easily.’

‘I want to explore new ways of helping Africa’s smallholder farmers to improve their livestock production through new germplasm delivery and novel reproductive tools. This will help them better cope with pressures from climate change and reduced farmland,’ says Mujibi.

Mujibi and Perry are preparing a full proposal they will submit to the American National Science Foundation in September.

‘The BREAD challenges range from the global to the local and across diverse disciplines’, said John Wingfield, assistant director for biological sciences at the National Science Foundation. ‘What they have in common is that they represent topics that have not had the attention or funding to prompt a solution. Solving any of these challenges would have a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of smallholder farmers around the globe.’

Read more information about the BREAD award:

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=128546&org=NSF&from=news

Find out more about ILRI’s work in livestock genetics

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/tag/dairy-genetics-east-africa-project

http://www.ilri.org/node/598

 

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

BecA-ILRI biosciences Hub in Nairobi receives grant from global life science tools company

Merkel visits ILRI Nairobi: ILRI technician Cecilia Muriuki

ILRI technician Cecilia Muriuki prepares protein samples in one of ILRI’s animal health laboratories (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Global life science tools company Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) has announced the recipients of grants from its ‘Agricultural Greater Good Initiative’. One of these is the BecA-ILRI Hub, a state-of-the-art biosciences laboratory and facility platform located in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub), says the news release from Illumina, is ‘pioneering applications of Illumina technologies to increase crop yields and reduce poverty and hunger. . . .

BecA-ILRI Hub will use the grant to expand its study of genetic resistance to cassava brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease, both of which have infected large percentages of crops across East Africa where cassava is a major source of nutrition.

‘”There is nothing more foundationally important to health than food, and Illumina is excited to be involved with organizations working at the forefront of food security,” said Jay Flatley, President and CEO of Illumina. “Collaboration will enable the power of genomics to impact more people and on a global scale.”. . .

“Collaborations like these between Illumina and the BecA-ILRI Hub are very welcome as they are key contributors towards strengthening agricultural research and capacity development in Africa,” said Dr. Appolinaire Djikeng, interim Director of the BecA-ILRI Hub. “If we are to bring Africa out from the shadow of poverty and food insecurity, then African scientists must have the tools to conduct research at the same level as other scientists around the world.”

‘In 2012, Illumina broadened the scope of the Agricultural Greater Good Initiative through engagement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Dow AgroSciences, as well as with the Feed the Future Initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

‘”We’re excited about the opportunity to connect advances in sequencing technologies with the needs of millions of families farming small plots of land in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” said Katherine Kahn, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Increasing the productivity and resilience of staple crops including cassava and legumes is key to helping small farmers lift themselves out of poverty.”. . .’

Read the whole news release at Illumina: Illumina announces recipients of Agricultural Great Good Initiative grants: Expanded program focuses on improving food security and furthering agricultural sustainability, 15 Jan 2013.

About Illumina
Illumina is a leading developer, manufacturer, and marketer of life science tools and integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variation and function. It provides innovative sequencing and array-based solutions for genotyping, copy number variation analysis, methylation studies, gene expression profiling, and low-multiplex analysis of DNA, RNA, and protein. It also provides tools and services that are fueling advances in consumer genomics and diagnostics. Illumina technology and products accelerate genetic analysis research and its application, paving the way for molecular medicine and ultimately transforming healthcare. Illumina’s Agricultural Greater Good Initiative, launched in 2011, helps to spur critically needed research that will increase the sustainability, productivity and nutritional density of agriculturally important crop and livestock species. Grant recipients receive donations of Illumina reagents to support their projects.

About the BecA-ILRI Hub
The Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub is a world-class agricultural research and biosciences facility located at and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. It provides support to African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges and acts as a focal point for learning, interaction and strategic research — enabling collaborations in the scientific community to benefit African farmers and markets within the region. The Hub was established as part of an African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) African Biosciences Initiative, which employs modern biotechnology to improve agriculture, livelihoods and food security in eastern and central Africa. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research centres that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations.

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.