‘The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor’: A little film for a big World Food Day and World Food Prize

The prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases from FILM for SCIENCE in AGRICULTURE on Vimeo.

To honour World Food Day today, celebrated every year on 16 Oct in honour of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on this date in 1945, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) invites you to watch a 3-minute film about a new research to reduce agriculture-associated diseases.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI, one of 15 CGIAR centres working for a food-secure world. Grace leads the ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ component of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The latter, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute, was started in 2012 to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations.

Here is Grace on just what ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ are, and why they matter.

The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor.
In hungry countries, most people cannot get enough nourishing and safe food. A third of humankind still grows their own food or buys local food in local markets. But the foods poor people grow, buy and eat often make them sick, and can even kill them.

Food-borne disease is the most common illness in the world.
Milk, eggs, meat and vegetables are especially dangerous. Yet these superior foods provide the world’s poorest two billion people with essential nutrients they need to grow, develop and be healthy and productive.

In addition, more than half of all human diseases are transmitted to people from farm and other animals.
These diseases include those like TB and AIDs, which are catastrophic in the developing world. And every six months, another new disease jumps from animals to people.

In 2012, the A4NH research program was started to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations. A4NH scientists aim  to find ways to lower people’s risk of disease from food farming, food markets and foods, while increasing agriculture’s benefits.

Health problems rooted in agriculture need solutions that start on the farm.And end with safe food in every household.

About World Food Day and the World Food Prize
The annual celebrations for World Food Day help to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. In the US, the associated events include bestowal of the World Food Prize on individuals who have contributed the most to the world’s food supply. Along with former British prime minister Tony Blair and others, ILRI’s director general, Jimmy Smith, is in Des Moines, Iowa, today to participate in the World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony  and Borlaug Dialogue.

The World Food Prize was founded by Norman Borlaug, a CGIAR scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in Mexico, whose work on high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties led to the Green Revolution and his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The winners of this year’s World Food Prize—Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T Fraley—made independent breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology that have made it possible for farmers to grow crops that give greater yields, resist insects and disease, and tolerate extreme climates.

ILRI takes pleasure today in celebrating their achievements, as well as in honouring the following thirteen CGIAR scientists who have received the World Food Prize since the CGIAR’s Borlaug established the award in 1986:

  • 1987: MS Swaminathan, improved wheat and rice varieties in India, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1988: Robert Chandler, improved tropical rice varieties, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1990: John Niederhauser, control of potato late blight, International Potato Center (CIP)
  • 1995: Hans Herren, pest control for the cassava mealybug, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 1996: Henry Beachall and Gurdev Khush, rice breeders, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 2000: Evangelina Villegas and Surinder Vasal, development of Quality Protein Maize, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
  • 2001: Per-Pinstrup Andersen, food-for-education programs, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • 2002: Pedro Sanchez, restoring fertility to soils, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • 2004: Monty Jones, developer of New Rice for Africa (NERICA), International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 2005: Modadugu Gupta, promoter of acquaculture and architect of the ‘blue revolution’, WorldFish Center (WorldFish)
  • 2009: Gebisa Ejeta, sorghum breeder, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

The IPCC of the livestock sector? Global Agenda of Action on building a sustainable livestock sector


Watch this 3.3-minute video interview of Henning Steinfeld, who leads the livestock sector analysis and policy branch at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. He spoke at the sidelines of the Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, which was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22–24 Jan 2013 (video produced by Muthoni Njiru, of ILRI’s public awareness unit).

Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is attending the 4th multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development (GAA)  this week, 15–17 Oct, in Ottawa, Canada. The meeting aims to address the complexity of the challenges facing the sector which can be addressed only through concerted joint action.

This Agenda builds consensus among livestock sector actors on the path towards sustainability. Like its other members, ILRI believes the livestock sector is crucial to society achieving its environmental, social, economic and health objectives.

Basically, the livestock sector needs to produce more, from less, and with benefits to all.

A tall order. Can it be done? The Global Agenda of Action thinks it can.

‘The purpose of the Agenda is to catalyze the continuous improvement of the sector’s natural resource use to ensure the sector’s contribution to sustainability in food and agriculture. The partnership unites the forces of the public and private sectors, producers, research and academic institutions, NGOs and social movements and community-based organizations.’

Set up of the current Agenda

  • Open multi-stakeholder platform for consensus building on top-priority issues and actions
  • Guiding group for overall direction, guidance and monitoring
  • Focus area groups to implement the work programs
  • Support group

The GAA aims to help improve the efficiency of natural resource use in the livestock sector through work in the following three areas.

Focus area 1: Closing the efficiency gap
Generating large resource use efficiency, economic, and social gains through the use of livestock-related technologies, management practices, policies and institutional frameworks through, for example, quantification of efficiency gaps in target countries, regions and production systems

Focus area 2: Restoring value to grasslands
Enhancing livestock-related ecosystem services, productivity and livelihoods through the restoration, optimal management and utilization of grasslands through, for example, synthesis of non-market benefits of grassland restoration and an assessment of global grassland carbon sequestration potential

Focus area 3: Transforming waste to worth
Reducing nutrient overload and greenhouse gas emissions by livestock systems through the recovery and recycling of nutrients and energy contained in manure through, for example, a global inventory of current manure distribution, management practices and associated nutrient balances

This morning (15 Oct 2013), ILRI director Shirley Tarawali, an agronomist and livestock feed specialist by training, took part in a panel discussion questioning whether the Agenda should address ‘comprehensive sustainability’.

What is the evidence that it can be done? ILRI scientists are working to help obtain this (see below, for example). What strikes Tarawali most is the cogency of the three focus areas chosen to build this sustainability and the consistency of alignment demonstrated among the diverse kinds of livestock stakeholders taking part in this Global Agenda of Action.

Asked if we need an ‘IPCC’ to help us manage a sustainable evolution of the global livestock sector, Tarawali answered: ‘The Global Agenda is the IPCC of our global livestock systems! If we pay serious attention to the Agenda’s three focus areas of work, we can do this.’

ILRI scientists working directly with the Global Agenda of Action
ILRI director and agronomist/feed specialist Shirley Tarawali (UK) is part of the Guiding Group. Feed resources specialist Michael Blümmel (Germany), agricultural economist Hikuepi (Epi) Katjiuongua (Namibia) and sustainable livestock systems project leader Iain Wright (UK) are working with the Agenda’s Efficiency Group. Ecosystem ecologist Rich Conant (USA), livestock and the environment leader Polly Ericksen (USA) and ILRI Forage Genebank manager Alexandra Jorge (Mozambique) are working with the Agenda’s Grasslands Group. And landscape ecologist Tim Robinson (UK) and environmental scientist Nguyen Viet Hung (Vietnam) are working with the Agenda’s Manure Group.

See the Agenda strategy and consensus.

Directly below, view the slide presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, which was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22–24 Jan 2013.

Or, below, watch this 3-minute video produced by FAO introducing the Global Agenda of Action.

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the specific activities envisaged include:

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

News item on SLU website

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

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

CGIAR on the recent tragic events in Nairobi

Social media symbol of sympathy for Kenya after terrorist attack Sep 2013

Symbol of concern, sympathy, community spirit that quickly spread on Facebook and other social media sites during the 4-day terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which began just after noon on Sat 21 Sep and ended the evening of Tue 24 Sep 2013, at which time Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning, beginning today, Wed 25 Sep 2013 (photo / graphic credit: unknown).

We are all shocked by the tragic events that unfolded in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in recent days. We stand together with the people of Kenya during these three days of national mourning called for by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. We offer our deepest condolences to the many people who have lost loved ones or were hurt or traumatized as a result of this 4-day siege.

We thank everyone who has expressed concern for CGIAR staff members and their families during this time; while several were directly touched by this, we are thankful that we know of no staff member or member of their immediate families who have lost their lives or sustained major injury.

This, the worst terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 US embassy bombing, has touched every life in the nation and many beyond. We share the grief and sorrow that has resulted. We are committed to working with our partners in Kenya and many other countries to fulfill the CGIAR mission to help create a future more secure for all.

Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium
Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Jimmy Smith, Director General, International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 2


Opening keynote slide presentation by Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, at the 22nd International Grasslands Congress, held in Sydney, Australia, 16 September 2013 (credit: ILRI).

This is the second of a two-part article on the opening keynote presentation at the International Grasslands Congress, held in Sydney, Australia from 16 to 19 September 2013, given by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on Monday 16 September.

Importance of small-scale livestock production: The ‘goods’ and the ‘bads’
‘Livestock are a source of nutrient-dense animal-source foods that can support normal physical and mental development and good health; an income stream that enables the world’s billion poorest people to buy staple foods and other household essentials; and a means of underpinning soil health and fertility and increased yields, thereby enabling more sustainable and profitable crop production’, Smith said in his keynote.

‘But in doing so, if not managed well, livestock production can harm the environment. The sector is a significant source of greenhouse gases, for example, and can be detrimental to human health with the transmission of diseases from livestock to people.’

But there are real opportunities, Smith went on to say, to mitigate such negative impacts now and as livestock systems in the developing world transition in the coming decades.

‘The many goods and services that livestock provide can and must be produced in ways that are less damaging to the environment and pose less risk to public health while also sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest citizens, who currently have few options other than livestock farming.’

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 20

Livestock sector opportunities and trade-offs in a nutshell

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 21

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Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 1Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 31

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In conclusion
Smith concluded by saying that the developing world’s livestock sector is diverse, changing and growing rapidly. ‘This will pose considerable risks, to the environment and to animal and human health in particular. However, if managed well, it also offers enormous opportunities simultaneously to contribute to global food and nutritional security and poverty reduction in rural areas.’

Read the first part of this article: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1: Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much, 16 Sep 2013.

About Jimmy Smith

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith on livestock research in Africa

Jimmy Smith, keynote speaker at the Sep 2013 International Grasslands Congress, held in Sydney, Australia, and director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

Jimmy Smith, a Canadian, is director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a position he assumed on 1 October 2011. Before joining ILRI, he worked for the World Bank, in Washington, DC, where he led the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Before joining the World Bank, he held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Still earlier in his career, Smith worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and subsequently managed the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR, an association of 10 CGIAR centres working at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Smith was born in Guyana, in the Caribbean, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed a PhD in animal sciences. He is widely published, with more than 100 publications, including papers in refereed journals, book chapters, policy papers and edited proceedings.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, a global research partnership of 15 centres working with many partners for a food-secure future. ILRI has two main campuses in East Africa and other hubs in East, West and Southern Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia.

About the 22nd International Grasslands Congress
The program and other information about the 22nd International Grasslands Congress, ‘Revitalising grasslands to sustain our communities’, is online here.

Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1


Opening keynote slide presentation by Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, at the 22nd International Grasslands Congress, held in Sydney, Australia, 16 September 2013 (credit: ILRI).

This is the first of a two-part article.

The world’s small-scale farmers and livestock keepers, both relatively under-appreciated in global food security discussions and agenda till now, can be a large part of the solution, rather than a problem, to feeding the world sustainably to 2050.

This was the message today (Mon 16 September 2013) of Jimmy Smith, an animal scientist, food security specialist and director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Smith is in Australia to give the keynote address to the 22nd International Grassland Congress being held in Sydney 15–19 September 2013. This global forum is being attended by 1000 delegates from more than 60 countries.

In his presentation, Feeding the world in 2050: Trade-offs, synergies and tough choices for the livestock sector, Smith gave an overview of the global food security challenge and argued that smallholder animal agriculture is key to addressing it.

1: We need lots more food

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 2

‘Producing sufficient quantity and quality of food for nearly 10 billion people represents a huge challenge’, Jimmy Smith said. ‘We need lots more food in the next four decades and we need to produce it profitably, efficiently, safely, equitably and without destroying the environment.’

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 3

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 4

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 6

Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 7

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Feeding the World in 2050: Slide 9

The world’s sub-optimal diets
‘It’s a shocking indictment of the global food system’, Smith said, ‘that in the 21st century most of the world’s population have sub-optimal diets’.
• 870 million go to bed hungry
• 2 billion are vulnerable to food insecurity
• 1 billion have diets that don’t meet their nutritional requirements
• 1 billion suffer the effects of over-consumption

While all of these are problems we must address, I believe most of us would agree that there is no moral equivalence between those who make poor choices of food and those who have no food choices.— Jimmy Smith

2: The role of small-scale livestock production

Unknown to most people, Smith said, is just how much food is produced by smallholders. Some 500 million smallholders support more than 2 billion people. In South Asia, for example, more than 80% of farms are less than 2 hectares in size. In sub-Saharan Africa, smallholders contribute more than 80% of livestock production.

Unknown to most people, Smith said, is just how much food is produced by smallholders. Some 500 million smallholders support more than 2 billion people. In South Asia, for example, more than 80% of farms are less than 2 hectares in size. In sub-Saharan Africa, smallholders contribute more than 80% of livestock production. Also unknown to many is just how competitive smallholders can be.

In India, at least 70% of the milk produced comes from smallholders and India is now the largest dairy producer in the world. In East Africa, Kenya’s 1 million smallholders keep the largest dairy herd in Africa (larger than South Africa); Uganda has lowest-cost milk producers globally; small-scale Kenyan dairy producers get above-normal profits of 19−28% in addition to non-market benefits (insurance, manure, traction) of a further 16−21%. And ILRI and partner scientists have shown that Kenya’s small- and large-scale poultry and dairy producers have the same levels of efficiencies and profits.

Feeding the World  in 2050: Slide 19

ILRI and other global partners recognize three major trajectories livestock systems are moving along as they develop, Smith reported. These are:

Strong growth
Where good market access and
increasing productivity provide opportunities for continued smallholder participation.

Fragile growth
Where remoteness, marginal land resources or agro-climatic vulnerability restrict intensification.

High growth with externalities
Where fast-changing livestock systems can damage the environment and human health.

Each of these, he said, presents different research and development challenges for poverty, food security, health and nutrition, and the environment.

Part two of this article is published here.

About Jimmy Smith

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith on livestock research in Africa

Jimmy Smith, a Canadian, is director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a position he assumed on 1 October 2011. Before joining ILRI, he worked for the World Bank, in Washington, DC, where he led the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Before joining the World Bank, he held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Still earlier in his career, Smith worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and subsequently managed the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR, an association of 10 CGIAR centres working at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Smith was born in Guyana, in the Caribbean, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed a PhD in animal sciences. He is widely published, with more than 100 publications, including papers in refereed journals, book chapters, policy papers and edited proceedings.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, a global research partnership of 15 centres working with many partners for a food-secure future.

About the 22nd International Grasslands Congress

The program and other information about the 22nd International Grasslands Congress, ‘Revitalising grasslands to sustain our communities’, is online here.

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

Next week, staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs are attending the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), which is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.
CGIAR is a global partnership for a food-secure future that conducts and disseminates research to improve the lives, livelihoods and lands of the world’s poorest people. CGIAR research is conducted by 15 of the world’s leading agricultural development research centres and 16 global research programs, all of them partnering with many stakeholders in Africa. More than half of CGIAR funding (52% in 2012) targets African-focused research.

The theme of next week’s AASW6 is ‘Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation’. CGIAR is supporting African-driven solutions to food security by partnering with FARA and the African Union, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), sub-regional organizations, national agricultural research systems and many other private and non-governmental as well as public organizations.

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

Ten ILRI scientists and staff will briefly speak and then engage with other participants in a side event ILRI is organizing at AASW6 on the topic of Livestock research for Africa’s food security. This three-hour morning side event will be facilitated by ILRI’s knowledge management and communication specialist, Ewen Le Borgne, and will be highly participatory in nature.

If you plan to attend this session, please shoot an email confirmation to Teresa Werrhe-Abira(t.werrhe-abira [at] cgiar.org) so we can organize refreshments.

And if you’d like to use this opportunity to talk with or interview one of the ILRI staff members below, or just meet them, please do so! ILRI communication officers Muthoni Njiru (m.njiru [at] cgiar.org) and Paul Karaimu (p.karaimu [at] cgiar.org) will be on hand at the ILRI side session (and you’ll find one or both at the CGIAR booth most of the rest of the week) to give you any assistance you may need.

Among the speakers at the ILRI side session will be the following.

Jimmy Smith, a Canadian, became director general of ILRI in Oct 2011. Before that, he worked for the World Bank in Washington, DC, leading the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Before joining the World Bank, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency. Still earlier in his career, he worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and subsequently managed the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR, involving ten CGIAR centres working at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Smith is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed a PhD in animal sciences. He was born in Guyana, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm.

John McIntire (USA) is ILRI deputy director general for research-integrated sciences. He obtained a PhD in agricultural economics in 1980 from Tufts University using results of farm-level field studies of smallholder crop production in francophone Africa. He subsequently served as an economist for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, and the West Africa Program of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in Burkina Faso and Niger, and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), one of ILRI’s two predecessors, in Ethiopia. He is co-author of Crop Livestock Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa (1992), a book still widely cited 20 years later. McIntire joined the World Bank in 1989, where he worked (in Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi) until his retirement in 2011. In 2011, he became the second person to receive both the Bank’s ‘Good Manager Award’ and ‘Green Award for Environmental Leadership’.

Shirley Tarawali (UK) is ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships. Before taking on this role, Tarawali was director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, with responsibilities spanning sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. She holds a PhD in plant science from the University of London. Previously, Tarawali held a joint appointment with ILRI and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Her fields of specialization include mixed crop-livestock and pastoral systems in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

Delia Grace (Ireland) is an ILRI veterinarian and epidemiologist who leads a program at ILRI on food safety and zoonosis. She also leads a flagship project on ‘Agriculture-Associated Diseases’, which is a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), USA. Grace has broad developing-country expertise in food safety, risk factor analysis, ecohealth/one health, gender and livestock, participatory methods, randomized trials and health metrics.

Questions Grace will address in ILRI’s side event are:
What are risk-based approaches to food safety in informal markets where most of the poor buy & sell?
How should we deal with food safety dynamics: livestock revolution, urbanization, globalization?
How can we better understand the public health impacts of aflatoxins?

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

Polly Ericksen (USA) leads drylands research at ILRI and for the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems in East and Southern Africa, where, in the coming years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over some 600,000 square kilometres. That CGIAR research  program as a whole is led by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria. Ericksen also leads a Technical Consortium for Ending Drought Emergencies and Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa. Her broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies.

Questions Ericksen will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can commercial pastoral livestock production lead to growth in risk-prone drylands?
Is there a long-term role for livestock insurance in pastoral production systems?

  • Iain WrightAlan Duncan and Michael Blümmel: The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems

Iain Wright (UK) is ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia and head of ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus, where over 300 staff are located. He also directs  ILRI’s Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program, a USD15-million global program working to increase the productivity of livestock systems in developing countries through high-quality animal science (breeding, nutrition and animal health) and livestock systems research. Before this, Wright served as director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment theme. And before that, from 2006 to 2011, he was ILRI’s regional representative for Asia, based in New Delhi and coordinating ILRI’s activities in South, Southeast Asia and East Asia. Wright has a PhD in animal nutrition. Before joining ILRI, he managed several research programs at the Macaulay Institute, in Scotland.

Alan Duncan (UK) is an ILRI livestock feed specialist and joint leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme. Duncan joined ILRI in 2007, also  coming from Scotland’s Macaulay Institute. Duncan has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. He also works on livestock-water interactions, which are a key issue in Ethiopia, where he is based, particularly in relation to the competition for water occurring between the growing of livestock feed and that of staple crops. Duncan manages a range of research-for-development projects and acts as ILRI’s focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, which is led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria.

Michael Blümmel (Germany) is an ILRI animal nutritionist with PhD (1994) and Habilitation (2004) degrees from the University of Hohenheim, in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in research, teaching and development in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. Blümmel’s major research interests include feeding and feed resourcing at the interface of positive and negative effects from livestock, multi-dimensional crop improvement concomitantly to improve food, feed and fodder traits in new crop cultivars, and optimization of locally available feed resources through small business enterprises around decentralized feed processing.

A question they will address in ILRI’s side event is:
What are the options for sustainable intensification through livestock feeding?

  • Ethel Makila: Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

Ethel Makila (Kenya) is ILRI communications officer for the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub. She is a graphic designer expert in development communication, media and education. At the BecA-ILRI Hub, she is responsible for increasing awareness of the Hub’s activities, facilities and impacts among African farmers, research institutes, government departments, Pan-African organizations and the international donor and research communities.

Questions Makila will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can we build bio-sciences capacity in Africa to move from research results to development impacts?
How can we keep the BecA-ILRI Hub relevant to the research needs and context of African scientists?

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

Suzanne Bertrand (Canada) is ILRI deputy director general for research-biosciences. With a PhD in plant molecular biology from Laval University, Bertrand began her career as a scientist with Agri-Food Canada, working on forage plants. Her focus shifted rapidly from laboratory-based research to application of modern agri-technology in the developing world. Her overseas assignments included spells in the People’s Republic of China and Tunisia. She spent six years in the USA, first as research assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and then as a founding principal for a biotechnology start-up company. She then joined Livestock Improvement (LIC), a large dairy breeding enterprise in New Zealand, where she managed LIC’s Research and Development Group, delivering science-based solutions in the areas of genomics, reproductive health, animal evaluation and commercialization to the dairy sector. In 2008, Bertrand became director, International Linkages for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology in New Zealand. She was later chief executive officer for NZBIO, an NGO representing the interests and supporting growth of the bioscience sector in New Zealand.

Questions Bertrand will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How do we stimulate and sustain an African vaccine R&D pathway to achieve impact?
How can we grow a biotech and vaccine manufacturing sector in Africa?

Find more information about AASW6, including a full agenda, and follow the hashtag #AASW6 on social media.

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

  • Jimmy Smith, director general, based at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya
  • John McIntire, deputy director general-Integrated Sciences, Nairobi
  • Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general—Biosciences, Nairobi
  • Shirley Tarawali, director of Institutional Planning and Partnerships, Nairobi
  • Iain Wright, director of ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture Program, based at ILRI’s second principal campus, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Abdou Fall, ILRI regional representative and manager of conservation of West African livestock genetic resources project, based in Senegal
  • Iheanacho (Acho) Okike, manages project of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, based in Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Iddo Dror, head of ILRI Capacity Development, Nairobi
  • Delia Grace, leads ILRI Food Safety and Zoonosis program and also an ‘Agriculture-Associate Diseases’ component of CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Nairobi
  • Joy Appiah, former student in ILRI Safe Food, Fair Food project; ILRI is supporting his participation at AASW6; he is now at the University of Ghana
  • Polly Ericksen, leads dryands research within ILRI Livestock Systems and Environment program, serves as ILRI focal point for two CGIAR research programs—on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and Dryland Systems—and leads a Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa, based in Nairobi
  • Katie Downie, coordinator of the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of AfricaHorn of Africa, Nairobi
  • Alan Duncan, leads feed innovations research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program and serves as ILRI focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on the HumidTropics, Addis Ababa
  • Michael Blümmel, leads feed resources research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program, based at ICRISAT, in Hyderabad, India
  • Allan Liavoga, deputy program manager of Bio-Innovate, Nairobi
  • Dolapo Enahoro, agricultural economist within ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chains program, based in Accra

Communications support

  • Ewen LeBorgne, ILRI knowledge management and communications specialist; is facilitating ILRI’s side session at AASW6 on 15 Jul; based in Addis Ababa
  • Muthoni Njiru, ILRI communications officer in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing media relations, exhibit materials, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Paul Karaimu, ILRI communications writer/editor in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing blogging, photography, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Ethel Makila, ILRI communications specialist for the BecA-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Albert Mwangi, ILRI communications specialist for Bio-Innovate, Nairobi

plus

  • Cheikh Ly, ILRI board member, from Senegal, veterinary expert at FAO, based in Accra, Ghana
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, ILRI board chair, from Zimbabwe, livestock scientist, agricultural policy thinker, and CEO and head of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, South Africa

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

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

Tassells Farm

ALiCE2013: Dairy cows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Livestock Breeders Show

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

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

Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Kenya Animal Genetic Research Centre

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

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

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

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

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

This post was written by Alexandra Jorge and Paul Karaimu.

Read other ILRI news stories from the ALiCE2013 conference.

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

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

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

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Rapidly growing global livestock sector

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

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

Key messages

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

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

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

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

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

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Major opportunities for Africa's livestock sector

Slide from presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition 2013 (credit: ILRI/Jimmy Smith).

Yesterday, Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), briefed Felix Kosgey, Kenya’s new cabinet secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, who was guest of honour at the opening of the African Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE), on key messages delivered during the opening session of the conference.

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith took the opportunity at this conference, being held this week (26–28 Jun 2013) in Nairobi, Kenya, to speak about the enormous opportunity, as well as special challenges, the livestock sector presents Africa at this particular moment, with the sector’s many direct current and potential twin benefits in terms of both agricultural prosperity and agricultural sustainability.

‘The theme for this conference and exhibition is Towards a competitive and sustainable world-class livestock sector. This theme addresses the global concern, even anxiety, about how the world will feed itself by the time the human population is expected to stabilize at over 10 billion by about mid-century. By then, with about 2.5 billion more people than there are now, 60–70% more food will have to be produced on a fixed land base that some argue is reaching its ecological limits.

The livestock sector must play a major role in meeting our food and nutritional security here in Africa and the world over. I say food and nutritional security because one can be fed but not be nourished; the livestock sector contributes to both.

‘The livestock sector in the developing world is growing very rapidly. In these regions, the sector contributes between 30 and 40% of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), with this growth driven by increasing population, urbanization and, in particular, incomes.

‘This rapid growth in demand for animal-source foods will continue well into the future because per capita consumption of milk, meat and eggs is still quite low in the developing world. Here in Africa, for example, per capita consumption is only about 10kg a year, whereas in the USA it’s about 100kg. As incomes continue to rise in Africa, which has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, so, too, will demand for animal-source foods.

Little known or appreciated is that more than 50% of the world’s supply of animal-source foods comes from small-scale livestock producers. Here in Africa, some 70% of the supply of milk, meat and eggs is produced by smallholder farmers and herders.

‘Also here in Africa, consumption of animal-source foods will increase greatly between 2000 and 2030. The total percent increases between actual 2000 and anticipated 2030 figures are dramatic:

Africa’s consumption of poultry meat will increase by 200%, beef by over 100%, pork by 150% and milk by about 100%.

In Africa in 2006/07 (base years), the value of all animal-source foods consumed, excluding eggs, was USD33 billion.

Around the time population growth is expected to stabilize on the continent, in 2050, the value of animal-source foods consumed is projected to reach USD107 billion.

A critical part of our deliberations at this conference will be how to facilitate full participation of smallholder producers in this rapidly expanding livestock market.

‘There is a sobering side to this livestock growth story; increasingly, a larger and larger share of this rapidly rising demand for animal-source foods in Africa is being met by imports, despite the fact that the continent is extremely well endowed with livestock resources and the potential of the sector is vast.

Despite the importance of the livestock sector, it remains largely neglected, with discussions on agriculture by policymakers and others invariably still focused on crops.

‘The neglect of the sector, and in particular the potential of 200 million small-scale livestock producers, not only condemns the continent to steeply rising import bills but also ensures that we will miss an enormous opportunity to meet the need for food and nutritional security while also creating prosperity and transforming rural economies.

‘Here in Kenya, I’m happy to say, the livestock sector receives more attention than in most other countries and we can see its commensurate growth and development.

‘I know that there are many powerful voices out there who say that the neglect of the livestock sector is justified because livestock contribute to global warming, and high levels of meat consumption contribute to obesity and the poor health that often comes with it.

‘Regarding the livestock and environment issue, we can make livestock systems much more environmentally sustainable and we are working to do so. For example, we can cut the carbon footprint per unit of livestock product as aggressively as we can increase the productivity of cattle, sheep and goats.

Regarding the meat and obesity issue, I would argue that there is no moral equivalent between those who make poor a choice of food and those who have no choice of food.’

Jimmy Smith made his presentation to Kenya cabinet secretary Felix Kosgey on behalf of all the co-organizers and co-hosts of ALiCE, including:

  • African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal resources (AU-IBAR)
  • Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF)
  • Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA)
  • Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed)
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
  • Kenya Livestock Producers Association (KLPA)
  • New Kenya Co-operative Creameries (New KCC)
  • Unga Ltd.

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

More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor: CGIAR research initiative boosts livestock and fish production and food security in eight developing countries

Livestock and Fish research program: Focus value chains and countries

A map showing the focus value chains and countries that are part of a CGIAR Program on Livestock and Fish (photo credit: ILRI). 

In the face of rising global demand for animal-source foods, leading livestock and agricultural researchers from CGIAR are meeting this week (20–22 May 2013) in Ethiopia to explore ways to help poor people play a bigger role in feeding the planet’s growing populations by producing more livestock-based foods.

These researchers are part of a CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, an initiative of four international research centres working with many other partners, which are all taking a new approach to tackle old problems. The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and WorldFish are collaborating on research into sustainable ways of increasing smallholder production of meat, milk and fish by and for poor people in developing countries. This collaborative research-for-development team is also working to help small-scale farmers sell more of their animal products in markets so they can improve their incomes and livelihoods.

‘We’re hoping that through this program smallholders and medium-sized livestock enterprises can do more than just escape poverty’, said Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI. ‘We can do this by helping them to become better food producers and suppliers and by building partnerships that get this research used at scale’, he said.

Started in January 2012, this Livestock and Fish Research Program focuses on eight value chains (processes through which commodities are produced, marketed and accessed by consumers): dairy, pigs, aquaculture, sheep and goats. Program staff members are currently working with farmer groups and other partners in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Mali, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam.

Most of the program’s work to date has been to establish the institutional and scientific frameworks within which program staff will operate, work that is highlighted in the program’s annual report, published this past April.

According to Tom Randolph, an ILRI agricultural economist who directs this multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research program, in the past year and a half the program has succeeded (through some legacy as well as new projects) in helping to improve tilapia fish strains in Egypt, developing a thermostable vaccine for a highly contagious disease of goats and sheep (peste des petits ruminants, or PPR) in Kenya, improving varieties of a popular grass fodder (Brachiaria) for dissemination to farmers, and promoting pro-poor dairy development in Tanzania.

‘This program enables us to do agricultural research differently’, says Randolph. ‘It provides a novel, value chain framework, clear goals, and a 12–15 year timeframe in which to meet those goals—things we’ve not had in the past.’

Participants in this meeting, drawn from the four CGIAR research centres and other institutions based in Ethiopia that are participating in this Livestock and Fish Research Program, this week are devising the strategies, targets and action plans for the next phase of the program.

For more information, visit the CGIAR Livestock and Fish Research Program blog:

http://livestockfish.cgiar.org/

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.