Building capacity for better conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources: Burkina Faso workshop

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Burkina Faso












By Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries in Burkina Faso, attended a Regional Capacity Development Workshop in Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in the capital of Ouagadougou, 4 to 6 November, 2013.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only a handful of qualified livestock breeders and geneticists. Regional collaboration among scientists and institutions in this area provides rare opportunities to exchange information, pull together resources, network with other professionals, and partner strategic organizations.

Addressing more than 75 representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries before meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon on 6 November, Minister Ouedraogo highlighted the need for regional cooperation among individuals and institutions given the region’s scarcity of qualified livestock breeders. He pointed out the urgent need for more appropriate breeding strategies and schemes that will ease access by poor farmers herding livestock in harsh environments to superior livestock germplasm. He thanked ILRI and its partners for supporting Africa’s Global Action Plan on Animal Genetic Resources, which was endorsed by African governments in 2007.

The minister referred to collaboration between ILRI and partners that has effectively built investments, programs and capacity in this area. Best practices must be captured for replication and scaling up, he said. While research should benefit local communities, he said, the scale of the impacts of research depend largely on whether national policies, national budget allocations and national development plans reflect the importance of better use of native livestock resources and allocate funds for developing national capacity in this area.

The minister encouraged the workshop participants to engage actively with those developing a second State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources report, due to be published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014.

APM 2013: How can we unlock the genetic potentials of local livestock breeds?

The workshop was organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). In partnership with FAO, the African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism for Africa (TEAM-Africa), ILRI and SLU are holding regional back-to-back workshops this November in Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Botswana. The purpose is to strengthen regional platforms boosting knowledge exchange, collaboration and capacity in improved conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources.

CGIAR and ILRI have worked together with SLU for a decade to develop capacity in animal genetic resources work. Groups of selected ‘champions’ of this work have been given training in their home institutions by the ILRI/SLU project to advance animal genetic resources teaching in higher education and research work within and outside the university.

Abdou Fall

Abdou Fall, ILRI representative for Burkina Faso and West Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan)

In an opening address to the workshop, Abdou Fall, ILRI’s country and West Africa’s regional representative, commended the strong representation from 22 countries in the region: from Senegal to Congo and from Benin to Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

This geographic breadth’, Fall said, ‘should help provoke dynamic discussions on better and more sustainable use of Africa’s livestock breeds and genes and the capacity development programs that underpin this.

Training has long been a central element in the capacity development approaches ILRI and SLU have taken to strengthen Africa’s use of animal genetic resources; indeed, for many partners and donor organizations, Fall said, this training has been a hallmark of the project’s achievements over the past decade. But Fall highlighted that capacity development work in CGIAR/ILRI goes beyond training and transferring knowledge and skills to individuals, and now embraces work effecting change in organizations, institutions, cultures and sectors.

Fall said capacity development activities can serve sustainable use and appropriate management of the continent’s diminishing livestock genetic resources only if they are embedded within broader policies, strategies and frameworks. ILRI takes a systems approach to capacity development, he said, which addresses up front institutional and organizational shortcomings and regulatory and cultural barriers to sustainable development.

Progress in this kind of capacity development work is measured at the following three levels:
Environment: The policies, rules, legislation, regulations, power relations and social norms that help bring about an enabling or disabling environment for sustainable development;
Organization: The internal policies, arrangements, procedures and frameworks that enable or disable an organization to deliver on its mandate and individuals to work together to achieve common goals
Individual: The skills, experience, knowledge and motivation of people.

Taking such a systems perspective, Fall explained, requires finding the right balance between, on the one hand, responding to expressed demand for agricultural research-based knowledge and interventions, and, on the other, jumping on emerging opportunities and innovations with potential for accelerating agricultural development.

This workshop should help AU-IBAR increase its animal genetics work through a 5-year project funded by the European Union and through strengthened collaboration with FAO in this area. Outcomes of the 4-day Burkina Faso workshop — including lessons learned from the past, a prioritized list of new topics/problems for new MSc and PhD students to take on, a list of key messages, and action plans for animal genetic resources work in Western Africa — will help lay the foundations of the West African Platform on Animal Genetic Resources.

More information on ILRI’s contribution to capacity development for animal genetic resource work can be found here: and here

About ILRI
ILRI is one of 15 CGIAR research centres and 16 multi-centre research programs located around the world and dedicated to reducing poverty and improving food security, health and nutrition, and natural resource management. Like other CGIAR centres, ILRI leads, co-leads or supports cutting-edge research on sustainable agriculture and designs, conducts and monitors in-country research-for-development programs and projects with the aim of producing international public goods at scales that make significant difference in the lives of the world’s poorest populations. ILRI does this work in collaboration with many public and private partners, which combine upstream ‘solution-driven’ research with downstream adaptive science, often in high-potential livestock value chains engaging small- and medium-sized agri-businesses and suppliers. In this work, ILRI and its partners are explicitly supporting work to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and their successor (now being formulated), the Sustainable Development Goals.

ILRI envisions a world where all people have access to enough food and livelihood options to fulfill their potential. ILRI’s mission is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock, ‘ensuring better lives through livestock’.

Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.


Gender equity + capacity development: Marriage proposal in the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish

Close up: Oromo jewelerys

If discussions at a recent research for development meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are to be believed, transformations are afoot at the intersection of gender equity and capacity development work in the strategies and approaches, if not (fully) yet on the ground, of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

By Dorine Odongo and Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Development experts these days will, to a man and woman, insist that we need to do more to empower (poor) women in developing countries. A particularly popular target are the women who grow most of the food their families and communities, and their cities and nations, are consuming. Such ‘gender focus’ is all the rage in agricultural research for development circles.

So far, so good, but just what does a ‘gender focus’ look like that actually makes a difference in the lives of some half a billion women producing food in the face of severe material and resource poverty?

Scientists working on gender issues in a new(ish) research program aiming to make more milk, meat and fish available to the poor and to improve food safety in informal markets think they may have a handle on this.

They call their approach ‘gender transformative’. Basically, that means they’re ambitious to increase women’s income from, and employment in, livestock and fish ‘value chains’ in ways that transform, rather than merely incrementally improve, those livelihoods.

Can that work?
The gender experts working with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish think so. They met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 14–18 Oct 2013 to look at how much their ‘transformative’ strategy has succeeded and to define new strategies and entry points for interventions for 2014–2015. They’re looking in particular at how far they’ve managed to do four things:

(1) develop capacity (in individuals, groups, organizations, institutions) to do productive research and development work in relevant livestock-, fish- and gender-related fields

(2) empower women in their work in livestock and fish ‘value chains’ (these involve all the steps and processes from on-farm production of livestock and fish through the marketing, processing, selling and final consumption of livestock and fish products)

(3) improve the nutrition of poor households in selected communities targeted by the Livestock and Fish research program

(4) encourage others to apply gender transformative approaches to this research-for-development work

At the Addis meeting, presentations were made and discussions held on results made so far by gender scientists and country partners from Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), Southeast Asia (Malaysia) and Central America (Nicaragua) involved in the Livestock and Fish research program. Participants heard about an extensive ‘in-depth women-retailer only analysis’ conducted in five Egyptian governorates that support the formation of women retailer committees. The Livestock and Fish program helped members of these committees improve their links to markets and supported them in engaging in public-private partnerships with local governments to construct marketplaces tailored for small- to medium-sized fish sellers.

In another example, members of a project on Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) developed guidelines for mainstreaming gendered approaches to development for the project’s partners at both national and local levels and in both the public and private sectors. In addition, research on food safety and health in Ethiopia led to a research summary report of gender-related consumption practices, as presented here. The issue of food safety and health is crucial in livestock products and as described in this ILRI Livestock Exchange issue brief, safer food can generate both health and wealth for the poor. If women are supported in this area, they have better chances of competing in the markets with higher quality products.

The field trip
On one day, the workshop participants travelled to central Ethiopia’s West Shoa Zone to visit the Biruh Tesfa Dairy Cooperative, the Hunde Hajebatu Small-scale Irrigation Women’s Group, the LIVES Knowledge Centre in the Zonal Office of Agriculture and a model farmer engaging in a traditional mix of livestock keeping, crop farming and beekeeping. The field trip gave the workshop participants an opportunity to observe at firsthand issues affecting small-scale Ethiopian food producers regarding capacity development, ‘gender transformative’ approaches in that capacity development work, agricultural value chains, and gender-related impacts on household nutrition. These field visits served to underscore a need to apply a gender focus to capacity development work.

Reality checks
The Biruh Tesfa Dairy Cooperative was established in 2004. Of 40 founding members, 15 were women. While the membership has grown to 70 in the last 9 years, the number of women remains unchanged at 15, and no woman yet serves on the cooperative’s board. The cooperative has just two basic kinds of equipment for value addition and they do not have information on how to maintain milk quality and safety standards. Despite being registered as a cooperative, the representatives we spoke to appeared to have no knowledge of how to set up a savings scheme from the profits earned by the cooperative. The members of this cooperative are thus not taking full advantage of the benefits accruing to membership in a co-operative, such as access to loans, which they could use to buy equipment and further upgrade their dairy operations. These observations triggered questions from the gender working group on the constraints these farmers face in accessing:

  • credit facilities
  • dairy information, e.g., via agricultural extension and advisory services
  • technical support
  • dairy markets
  • government support

A similar lack of knowledge about technological options available for Ethiopia’s many small-scale farmers was observed in the gender group’s visit to the Hunde Hajebatu Small-scale Irrigation Women’s Group, which is growing and selling potatoes. After receiving a government loan, this group had a hard time identifying technological options they could use to improve their irrigated potato production. They have not been able to improve their production levels over the three years they have been in existence. Although various options exist for improving small-scale irrigation technologies such as those used by this group, Abebeu Gutema, the group’s leader, says the women do not know where to get hold of this information.

The chicken or the egg?
Later in the tour, the gender group visited Gadisa Gobena, a farmer active in dairy production, livestock rearing, beekeeping and crop farming. Over 50 and well past retirement age, this former schoolteacher is now pursuing his passion for agriculture. Gobena keeps more than one hundred dairy cows on his farm. And though he is at times challenged to market all of his milk, he plans both to increase his stock and to invest in improved dairy technologies for making greater efficiencies and profits. Gobena now employs some 40 people.

Accessing knowledge, getting exposure
While the previous groups visited had little information about, or exposure to, latest technologies that could boost their production and diversify their products, Gobena is looking to acquire milking machines and other technologies to enhance his operations. One likely reason for his outward-looking approach is his travel to other countries, where he saw and learned about emerging trends and technologies in small-scale agriculture and its potential. He recently successfully applied for a business loan. Understanding the importance of sharing his knowledge with other farmers and exposing them to new ideas, Gobena gives back to his community through a farmer extension training centre that he has established. His centre provides 50 to 70 farmers with free training, agricultural information, and seeds, insecticides, livestock drugs and other farm inputs at minimal cost. The centre includes demonstration plots where the farmers can observe different farming practices.

Gobena is clearly a ‘change maker’ for his farm community. The LIVES project and gender visitors have a job now to try to determine what has most encouraged Gobena in his development of his own capacity and that of his community. What came first? Did his confidence push him to take the first step in farm improvements? Or did his farm success build his confidence? Was it business sense that set him apart? Or did he acquire that along the way?

At the end of the field tour, the gender group concluded that three major issues were key to capacity development:

  • leadership
  • access to knowledge
  • exposure to emerging trends and technological advances

While effectiveness of the previous groups in maximizing their agricultural production is limited by lack of access to knowledge about the available technological options and leadership ability, Gobena’ s success in his farming activities can be attributed to having been influenced by these three issues.

The time is now
Following the gender workshop in Addis Ababa, ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit hosted a CGIAR capacity development workshop in Nairobi 21–25 Oct 2013. Participants were experts in organizational development, training design and facilitation, social learning, institutional change, ICT innovations and related fields. ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit is looking to influence change at the following three levels.

  • Institutional change: The policies, legislations and power relations that govern the mandates, priorities, modes of operation and civic engagement across different parts of society
  • Organizational change: Formal and informal arrangements, internal policies, procedures and frameworks that encourage and enable individuals and organizations to work together towards mutual goals
  • Individual change: Developing leadership, experience, knowledge and technical skills in people

ILRI’s lead scientist for gender research, Kathleen Colverson, who organized the ‘transformative gender’ workshop in Addis Ababa, participated in the CGIAR-wide capacity development workshop in Nairobi, which was organized by Iddo Dror, head of capacity development at ILRI. At this second workshop, Colverson again emphasized the central role of capacity development in addressing gender issues, an example of which is her recently produced training manual for use in facilitating gender workshops and closing the gender gap in agriculture.

Will these transformative gender and capacity development strategies turn out to be truly transformative? Watch this (ILRI, CGIAR) space. . . .

Gender workshop posters and presentations

Dorine Odongo is a communications consultant with ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender, Impacts and Innovation Program; Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a new staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.

ILRI deputy director-general of research at World Bank summit makes (serious, sane, realistic) case for West African pastoralism


Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Two major recent World Bank agricultural summits in Mauritania and Senegal recently urged African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods.

‘. . . African agriculture employs a massive 65–70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30–40 percent of GDP. It represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region’, said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, who opened the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on 29 Oct 2013.

The statement that follow are by John McIntire, deputy director-general—integrated sciences, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who gave his thoughts at one of these summits on ‘The future of West African pastoralism’.

From ILRI deputy director general John McIntire

• West African pastoralism is biologically and economically sustainable at current levels of animal productivity and personal incomes

• By ‘sustainable’, I mean roughly constant annual average stocking rates (in tropical livestock units [TLU]) and roughly constant rates of personal income growth from animal production

• Beyond current levels of real per capita incomes, the biological facts of pastoralism – heat, aridity, low soil fertility, sharp seasonality – make it difficult to raise productivity and incomes at current shares of livestock in total incomes

• Income can be expected to grow more rapidly among herding peoples who have moved out of pastoralism (into industry, services, and government) and this income will contribute indirectly to the viability of pastoralism per se by providing finance for growth and insurance against calamity

Why pastoralism is sustainable only at roughly constant levels
Adaptation to marginal areas
• In West Africa, pastoralism thrives in marginal areas just as it does in Australia, in the western United States, in Mongolia, in parts of Latin America and even in the Arctic Circle, because it is adapted to such areas and other sectors (arable farming) are not

• The adaptation of pastoralism to marginal areas is, unfortunately, what traps it in a low-productivity equilibrium and subjects it to catastrophic risks that are difficult to insure against

Pasture productivity
• Pasture productivity is low in pastoral areas because of heat, aridity, low soil fertility, and unusually sharp seasonality

• An important system constraint to pastoral growth is that the chief limiting resource – wet season pastures – cannot be expanded easily without inducing conflicts with arable farming

• Sown forages do not complement pastures in pastoralism, as they often do in mixed farming systems, because heat, low soil fertility and aridity make it costly to raise forage yields in pastoral areas without irrigation

• Irrigation is usually too expensive for sown forages in pastoral areas unless used for commercial dairying, which is not common in remote areas because markets are thin

• Sown forages are not a complement to wet season pastures because that is when pastures are cheapest anyway

• Associated with low-growth sustainability are high risks caused by rainfall variability, animal disease, and markets

• Periodic droughts disturb long-term growth of herds, destroying animal capital and forcing herders to restock

• However, the risks of pastoralism now appear to be less of a threat to pastoral livelihoods today than in even the recent past because of higher non-pastoral incomes (which provide diversification), better communications and cheaper transport

• Animal health is better than in the past (less trypanosomiasis because of more intensive land use; elimination of rinderpest, more veterinary services) but gains from better animal health are (partly) self-limiting because they are partly consumed by forage costs; that is, healthy animals consume more feed, causing the price of feed to rise

• The long-term shift from cattle to small ruminants will continue and this will tend to reduce income risks aggregated over time by shortening the periods in which flocks recover compared to the recovery periods of cattle

Competition in market for animal proteins
• West African price trends will be unfavourable to red meat because of faster technical changes in non-ruminant meats, so the value of ruminant sales cannot be expected to grow in real terms relative to other animal-source proteins; the constant pressure of imports harms the economic viability of pastoralism by limiting its traditional markets

A likely future
• From this reasoning – constraints to the asset base of pasture and animal capital, persistent risks and the costs of managing them, competition from other sources of protein – the quantity, quality and productivity of pastoral assets can only grow slowly in real per capita terms

• As long as population growth is vigorous, real per capita income growth is limited by growth of the capital stock in a way that is not typical of the industrial and service sectors

What can be done?
Build pastoral assets
• Defend pasture corridors against crops and towns; corridors maintain mobility and reduce risk of conflict between farmers and herders

• Build roads – roads reduce marketing costs, promote social capital, and insure against distress sales

• Make irrigation more compatible with pastoralism – one idea is to subsidize modest areas dedicated to forage reserves; another is to see that irrigation projects do not deprive pastoralists of access to dry-season water; ensure that irrigation does not aggravate vector-borne diseases of people or animals (such as Rift Valley fever)

Create social capital for pastoral peoples
• Provide free social services – education, health, social protection; they give additional incomes to pastoralists and reduce their income risks and improve life prospects for pastoral peoples outside herding …

• Give pastoralists legal entitlements to rent income (minerals, wildlife, tourism) in their regions; this is controversial and I do not wish to minimize the political problems but we know that the mechanisms for income transfers today are cheaper than ever before and those mechanisms should not be adduced as a pretext not to distribute resources regularly and transparently

• Give legal pasture land entitlements to pastoral associations but do not make them individually tradable because of the risk of land grabs

• Sell commercial index-based insurance products and link the use of those products to participatory disease surveillance via the cellular phone networks market information …

• Invest in public research – especially in veterinary epidemiology, disease surveillance, in diseases related to animal confinement and production intensification

Promote complementary private investments
• Some complementary private investments might be lightly subsidized on the grounds that subsidies contribute to maintenance of a unique livelihood and culture

• Target productive investments – in industrial feedlots, animal waste management, in peri-urban dairying – to the finishing stage of animals’ lives; such investments are crucial for expanding pastoral markets because they offer growth possibilities that other investments at earlier stages do not offer

• Ease resource flows between pastoral and non-pastoral sectors – Remittances of money and knowledge from pastoral peoples working in cities or on arable farms, or return of those people as vets, well diggers, road builders, irrigated farmers, teachers and health workers, are beneficial to total pastoral income, not by direct effects on pastoral incomes but by adapting to risks and by improving resilience

More information from John McIntire: j [dot] mcintire [at] cgiar [dot] org

Read the whole World Bank press release: West Africa: The Sahel—New push to transform agriculture with more support for pastoralism and irrigation, 27 Oct 2013.

Capacity development is ‘back’: Reframing and repositioning an ‘orphaned’ CGIAR function for an expanded future

CGIAR CapDev Workshop: Javier Ekboir (ILAC at Bioversity) and Nicole Lefore (IWMI)

Javier Ekboir, of the Institutional Learning and Change (ILAC) initiative, hosted by Bioversity International, and Nicole Lefore, of the International Water Management Institute IWMI), listen to proceedings of a CGIAR Consortium Workshop, ‘Towards a CGIAR Strategy on Capacity Development’, hosted by ILRI, in Nairobi this week (21–25 Oct 2013); most of the participants are responsible for capacity development or are researchers working in the areas of social learning, innovation or partnership (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Most of those in or around CGIAR institutions for any length of time will have heard, likely absorbed and sometimes themselves promulgated two hoary notions. The first is that CGIAR work is among the world’s ‘best kept secrets’. The second is that a well-trained cadre of developing-country agricultural scientists is among CGIAR’s biggest, if inadequately assessed, impacts. (These views are occasionally conflated, as in ‘The amount and quality of CGIAR training in agricultural sciences over the last four decades is among its best-kept secrets’.)

A group of CGIAR staff meeting in Nairobi this week is dusting off these views (convictions?) in an attempt to reframe what was once known as ‘training’, later transformed into ‘institutional learning’ or ‘capacity development’ (or one of its several [elegant] variations such as ‘capacity strengthening’ or ‘capacity building’), and reposition it at the centre rather than the periphery of CGIAR business.

The goal of the workshop is for CGIAR research centres, programs and partners to identify optimal ways to increase capacity in agricultural research for development work, particularly in achieving the four CGIAR system-level (and development-oriented) outcomes:

  • reduced rural poverty
  • increased food security
  • improved nutrition and health
  • more sustainable management of natural resources

CGIAR CapDev Workshop: Panel

Left to right: Zoumana Bamba (IITA), Joyce Maru (ILRI), Suresh Babu (IFPRI), Iddo Dror (ILRI), Per Rudebjer (Bioversity), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CIAT), Luis Solórzano (Consortium Office) are members of a panel at the CGIAR Capacity Development Workshop in 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

How this work has found itself off-centre (and how far off-centre) in CGIAR institutions and research programs was briefly reviewed in a panel discussion Monday (21 Oct 2013), the first of five days of a workshop on CGIAR Capacity Development organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at its Nairobi headquarters.

The panel session, led by Simone Staiger-Rivas, head of knowledge management and capacity development at the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), comprised seven members who had contributed to a recently published discussion paper, Understanding capacity development experiences and lessons from the past, commissioned by Louis Solórzano, director of staff at the CGIAR Consortium, in France, for the purpose of helping to establish a new CGIAR strategy for capacity development.

Although capacity development at each of the 15 agricultural research centres that are members of CGIAR has had a distinctive trajectory, the following are some of the commonalities, as noted by Staiger-Rivas.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, when CGIAR centres had substantial core funding for training as well as research, many centres built strong training units. Those were among the ‘research support services’ that suffered most from reductions in CGIAR core funding beginning in the 1990s and the restructuring that followed in the next decade. Increasingly in this period, training was embedded directly into research programs.

Starting in the 1990s, a major shift in the amount and type of donor funding to CGIAR had a massive impact on how training was organized, funded and implemented across the system. The decline of core funding led to a reduction or elimination in most Centers of training as a stand-alone activity. The Centers relied on the ability of their scientists to attract funding for training within their research projects. Training units were weakened, with few staff qualified in training, pedagogy or adult education. The responsibility for training itself was often passed on to national or regional partners, with mixed results. On the positive side, this decentralization connected the Centers more directly with field activities, which allowed the Centers to involve extension, farmer, and market capacities (Staiger-Rivas et al. 2013).

In the following decade, as CGIAR centres grew into ‘middle age’ (most are now between 40 and 50 years old), what is now generally called ‘capacity development’ work widened its ambitions to train individuals and groups to include making impacts at the level of institutions and innovations.

The trend towards results-based management in CGIAR includes a perception of [capacity development] as means to enable social learning and innovation and promote sustainable development as a collective achievement (Staiger-Rivas et al. 2013).

Here is how this evolution is described by a group at a former CGIAR centre, the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), which first brought ‘innovation systems thinking’ to the CGIAR table in the early 2000s.

‘If agricultural research organizations are to be more successful in reducing poverty and increasing the sustainability of agricultural production systems, they must become less isolated, more interconnected and more responsive. In so doing, they must transform themselves into learning organizations, more in touch with field realities and better able to learn and to change. . . .

‘[I]f agricultural research centers are to cope with growing complexity and seize opportunities as they arise, they need not merely new approaches to research organization or practice, but more flexible and adaptive institutional arrangements. . . . [T]he CGIAR must change from a supply-led model of centers of excellence to a more responsive mode of operation in which partnership and client orientation are core principles. . . .

‘If scientists and CGIAR Centers are to contribute meaningfully to innovation, they must become continuous learners, evolving and adapting all the time. . . .

‘CG Centers must attempt to become “learning organizations”—organizations that are open and flexible, that identify and recognize both successes and failures as opportunities to learn and improve, and that build relationships with the many and varied participants involved in agricultural development’ (Watts et al. 2007).

The next panel member to speak, Per Rudebjer, of Bioversity International, in Rome, said that training is essential mechanism for partnership. ‘CGIAR has trained some 80,000 people, in formal as well as informal ways. With the funding reductions in the 1990s, centres started training fewer people and offering shorter training courses. In the next decade, we began to take on organizational as well as individual learning. Now we are seeing another change: training in support of outcome delivery.

Training is necessary but not sufficient for capacity development.

Iddo Dror (ILRI), head of ILRI’s capacity development unit, in Nairobi, spoke on the current state of capacity development in CGIAR. The capacity development strategy is not as mature as some of the other cross-cutting work in CGIAR research programs, Dror said.

Although lots of the things we’re grappling with were foreseen, Dror said, they still have little ‘meat’ on them. While CGIAR’s Strategic Results Framework anticipates an expansion in capacity development activities, the role and modalities of capacity development in the new CGIAR structure has not yet been fully fleshed out.

What’s needed now, said Dror, is capacity for applied or downstream agricultural research for development.

We need a new framework, one that helps us move innovations from the lab to the farmers, one that changes what we do as well as how we do it.

Dror then briefly reviewed what Purvi Mehta-Bhatt and Jan Beniest found in their 2011 report as shortcomings in a comprehensive review of capacity development for the CGIAR research programs. These include the following.

  • Capacity development plans are extremely ambitious but have insufficient focus.
  • Most capacity development plans make explicit mention of other cross-cutting kinds of work and expertise—in gender, youth, communications—but it remains unclear as to how these various work agendas interact.
  • CGIAR research programs tend to provide ‘laundry lists’ of capacity development-related activities but are unclear about how these will be coordinated. Some community of practice or other ways of aligning this work is needed.

We’re also grappling with different views of capacity development, Dror said. We have 1960s views, 1980s views, 21st century views, all of them working alongside each other, but not in tandem.

As capacity development practitioners, we haven’t kept up the pace. Our new capacity development approaches have huge implications for how we do research; this is not yet understood by all of us.

We need to look at how we can better embed capacity development in agricultural research for development, at how we can help sharpen, deepen and widen the impact pathways from research products to intermediate development outcomes to system-level outcomes.

The outcome orientation of CGIAR puts new demands on capacity development for partners who will be instrumental in scaling up/out research outputs (Staiger-Rivas et al. 2013)

Zoumana Bamba, of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), spoke on institutional capacity development and the new need for new skill sets among researchers.

We need to research how to up-scale and out-scale our outputs, Bamba said. We don’t know enough about the mechanisms of those processes.

Suresh Babu, of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), spoke on monitoring and evaluation.

We need quantitative and qualitative indicators, Babu said. IFPRI implemented a monitoring system just last year.

If CGIAR is going to be serious about capacity development, it has to be serious about putting in place a monitoring and evaluation system for capacity development.

Babu noted the long struggle in capacity development work to measure its impacts, reminding participants that what you cannot measure you cannot manage. The big changes and reduced funding for CGIAR in the 1990s led to piecemeal approaches, he said. The idea that capacity development was an ‘impact-making’ activity fell away. In some centres, capacity development work was put under the care of new knowledge management teams; in others, it became part of communications; in still others, it ceased as a discrete function altogether.

CGIAR CapDev Workshop: Dileepkumar Guntuku (ICRISAT)

Dileepkumar Guntuku, of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Note on capacity development at the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR)
In their recent (2012) book Capacity Building for Agricultural Research for Development: Lessons from Practice in Papua New Guinea,”Adiel N. Mbabu and Andy Hall describe ISNAR as follows.

ISNAR was unique in the CGIAR system in that unlike all the other international centres it had an explicit capacity building agenda rather than research (although as will be related, this eroded over time). The institute was also unique in that it was staffed by an eclectic set of professionals: economists, sociologists, human resource specialists, organisational development specialists, research management specialists, evaluators and policy researchers. As a result of this, it drew on professional perspectives outside of agricultural research. Many of these perspectives were already using systems ideas, particularly in the fields of evaluation, and organisational development. So, for example, ISNAR’s capacity development activities were already making use of learning and evaluation as ways of upgrading organisational performance (see Horton et al., 2003). The organisation was also unique in that it was focusing on retooling professional skills of agricultural researchers and research managers to help them cope with the changing context of agricultural development. This led to the rolling development of a series of capacity development modules aimed at helping research staff learn their way into new roles and ways of working” (Staiger-Rivas et al. 2013).

Agricultural interventions for food safety and nutrition: Livestock reports at this week’s CGIAR Science Forum

Tea Room in Chinseu

The interior of a tea room in Chinseu Trading Centre, in Zomba West, Malawi (photo on Flickr by John Appiah-Duffell); the menu on the wall, written in Chichewa, lists the following: PRICES FOR TEA: Tea without milk, Tea with milk; EXTRAS: Buns, Nsima with chicken, Nsima with meat, Nsima with beans, Rice.

The following is a report on livestock-related presentations at the on-going three-day CGIAR Science Forum, 23–25 Sep 2013, in Bonn, Germany.

From yesterday’s session on food safety is this brief from veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on the case for agricultural interventions for food safety.

Agriculture has allowed massive expansion of people and their animals.

Yet in a world of more than 7 billion people, more than one billion are hungry and more than 2 billion are sickened each year from the food they ate.

Agriculture is exacting a heavy biological cost, but health policy and programs often stop at the clinic door.

A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming.

‘The new CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Enhanced Nutrition and Health is attempting to bridge this disconnect and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) leads the component focusing on diseases related to agriculture. This session uses the case of fungal toxins to explore how research can contribute to game-changing innovations, powerful incentives and enabling institutions that improve at the same time food safety, food accessibility for poor consumers and access to markets for smallholder farmers.

Towards new ways of managing food safety in developing countries
* Incentives for risk management: In poor countries, where public and private standards are weak and where consumers’ choices are limited by income and information, incentives to safe production are lacking. Novel incentives need to be found to encourage farmers and other value chain actors in poor settings to produce quality and safe products.
* Innovations for risk management: Informal markets and food produced and consumed by smallholders typically have high levels of hazards. Innovations, whether technology, social or market-based, can change the game.
* Institutions for risk assessment: Food safety regulations in developing countries are characterized by complexity, inappropriateness for informal and smallholder production, lack of translation of policy into practice, and frequent negative impacts of policy. Both evidence and effective influence are needed to improve food safety institutions.

Mandela Corks 3

If not stored and dried properly groundnut can get mouldy (photo credit: ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

Controlling aflatoxins as an example of agriculture based interventions for human health
‘Among staple crops (maize, groundnuts, sorghum), the most serious food safety problem is toxins produced by fungi. These cause around 90,000 cases of liver cancer each year and there are strong associations between aflatoxin exposure and stunting and immune suppression in children. There have also major impacts on trade and the livestock sector.

‘Using the example of fungal toxins, especially aflatoxins, we make the case for research investors to support research into agricultural approaches for enhancing food safety in value chains.’

From today’s session on economic implications
‘The objective of the session is to understand better the economic impacts of shifting investments towards more nutrition dense foods for healthier diets. Agricultural interventions in low income countries have often either focused on raising incomes for the poor assuming that nutrition and health benefits follow automatically or focused on improving diets through promotion of specific highly nutritious foods but do not often consider the economic sustainability of the programmes once intervention monies are removed. Furthermore, they may overlook other complex cultural and environmental issues which may be key to their success. For investment to effectively increase nutritional levels and incomes, a multi-dimensional approach including nutrition education, technical assistance, environmental awareness and community organization support may be needed to address the complex economic and social linkages between nutrition and agriculture

‘The session will present results from field research projects aimed at improving nutritional and income outcomes. Among the research questions to be addressed are:

  • How do initiatives to improve dietary and income outcomes need to be structured to reap benefits of both at present and over time?
  • How can the multi-dimensional nature of the nutrition-income linkage be integrated into investment projects in this area?
  • What are the knowledge gaps in developing and implementing these strategies?
  • Are new research approaches needed in developing interventions aimed at double objective outcomes?’

Faith Kivuti and Mom Milking a Cow

An East African smallholder dairy farmer and her cow and child (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).

Tom Randolph, ILRI agricultural economist and director of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, will make a presentation on Supporting the pro-poor transformation of smallholder-based animal-source food systems.

‘The presentation focuses on how food systems could be designed to contribute more directly to the nutritional security of poor rural and urban communities. In particular, how might investments to professionalize smallholder livestock and aquaculture production and informal market systems improve incomes and nutritional food security? The presentation explores the implications of such an objective, and provides an example from a dairy development project.’

Find the program and abstracts of presentations for the CGIAR Science Forum 2013, ‘Nutrition and health outcomes: targets for agricultural research’, 23‒25 Sep 2013, Bonn, Germany. Follow the ongoing discussions on Twitter by searching for the hashtag ‘ScienceForum2013’

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at the city abattoir in Kampala.

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at Kampala City Abattoir (photo credit: ILRI/Albert Mwangi).

Note: This post was developed by Bio-Innovate communications officer Albert Mwangi.

A clamor to improve Africa’s agricultural value chains by greater industrialization of many of Africa’s agricultural processes was heard often at the just-completed sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW6), held in Accra 15–20 Jul 2013 and organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. Most African nations are already pushing to add value to their primary agricultural commodities by supporting the establishment of relevant production and manufacturing processes and industries. Their aim is to transform their role as producers of primary agricultural commodities, such as whole raw coffee beans, into exporters of near-finished agricultural products, such as finely graded and ground coffees, thus earning more from their agriculture sectors.

Several of Africa’s livestock-based economies are working to add value to their production of leather. Rather than drying the skins and hides of slaughtered domestic animals and selling these as is, the skins and hides in addition are softened, graded and cut for various products, and in some cases used to produce finished leather products for export. While economically desirable, the production and manufacturing processes employed in this kind of industrialization can pose significant environmental risks, in this case, for example, by contaminating and/or polluting riverine eco-systems, water bodies and groundwater sources with heavy metals and other toxic substances.

Last week, Nigerian blogger Bunmi Ajilore, an advocate of sustainable agriculture and environmental justice, gave a succinct description of the public health hazards as well as benefits of using wastewater in agricultural activities (The use of wastewater in agriculture: The nagging dilemma, posted on his EcoAgriculturist Blog and reposted on the FARA–AASW Blog).

A research-for-development program based in eastern Africa known as ‘Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development’, or Bio-Innovate for short, is working to deliver innovations in the recycling of agro-wastewater from industrial processes. A pilot project being implemented in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, is working to develop safe and sustainable agro-processes for waste treatment and these will soon be scaled out to other agro-industries in the eastern Africa region.

The city abattoir in Kampala, Uganda, a partner in this Bio-Innovate project, illustrates ways in which the project is helping to make recycling processes both safe and sustainable. These processes are being integrated in ways to, simultaneously, reduce pollution, generate energy and recover nutrients from agro-process wastewaters.

Wastewater recycling at the city abattoir in Kampala
A 2005 publication by Joseph Kyambadde (Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment and Climate Change Mitigation in Eastern Africa) showed that a good number of industrial activities in this region release inadequately treated wastewaters into the environment. The study further indicated that effluent from Kampala City Abattoir significantly harms the ecology and water quality of Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay, source of Kampala’s drinking water.

The abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 500–600 cattle and 200–300 goats/sheep per day, with an estimated wastewater production of 200-400 m3 per day. This wastewater effluent generated by the abattoir is a major factor in nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion in Lake Victoria.

Researchers at Uganda’s Makerere University, who are implementing this project, are working with staff of Kampala City Abattoir to create a ‘value-addition chain’ that involves bioconversion of slaughter wastes to produce biogas and production of nutrient-rich slurry for use in hydroponic systems, where plants are grown without soil, and as bio-fertilizer. In a pilot plant that has been set up, effluent from the abattoir is first treated in anaerobic and aerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBRs) digesters; the resulting digestate is separated into two components: a nutrient-rich sludge that will be converted to bio-fertilizer and treated effluent that has a reduced organic load. This effluent can then be used to cultivate vegetables, flowers and animal fodder in a hydroponic system constructed in an artificial wetland. The treated wastewaters have great potential also for industrial use in cleaning the slaughtering areas, animal storage facilities and public toilets. This system combines bio-digestion of waste to reduce the organic load and generate biogas and electricity; utilization of nutrient-rich effluent for hydroponics; and artificial wetlands to further clean the effluent before release into the environment. This integrated system not only is an innovative way to manage and recycle wastewater sustainably but also provides people with sufficient incentives for such recycling.

The biogas and electricity generated by this integrated wastewater management / recycling system can be used as an alternative energy source, and so help reduce deforestation, which generates the greenhouse gases causing climate change. As noted, other products generated by the system can be used as affordable bio-fertilizer. And of course a further benefit is better protection of freshwater resources.

By treating agro-process waste in such an integrated way, this project is helping Kampala City Abbattoir to protect Uganda’s environment and livestock livelihoods alike. It is the aim of Bio-Innovate and its Ugandan colleagues to replicate this pilot system in suitable places elsewhere on the continent to help Africa’s expanding agro-industries make safer and better use of their wastewater.

About Bio-Innovate
Bio-Innovate makes use of advanced biosciences both to increase efficiencies in agro-processing and to make more sustainable use of local bio-resources. The program is based at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI website). For further information, contact Albert Mwangi, Bio-Innovate communications officer, at a.mwangi [at]

About AASW6
FARA website’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were followed on Twitter (search for #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA-AASW6 blog.

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications writer/editor Paul Karaimu.

The second day of the ongoing (15-20 Jul 2013) sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), in Accra, Ghana, featured conversations on how to develop climate-smart agriculture, how to improve the resilience as well as productivity of Africa’s smallholder farmers and how to make wider use of demonstrable successes in development of the continent’s capacity for agricultural innovation.

Although small-scale farmers and herders produce most of the continent’s food, many of them remain beyond the reach of agencies providing essential, up-to-date and locally relevant information on optimal crop and animal husbandry practices. Indeed, a significant gap continues to divide researchers of food production from the farmers who produce the food.

Monty Jones, executive director of FARA, speaks at AASW6

Monty Jones, executive director of FARA, speaking at AASW6 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

And then there are the disabling gaps between research disciplines and fields related to agriculture.

‘Competitiveness is much needed but often neglected in Africa’, says Monty Jones, the executive director of FARA. ‘We need to look at all the elements in our agricultural value chains, including labour productivity, food safety, retail and consumer preferences. These are all needed to enhance our agricultural productivity. Further, we need to integrate research in agriculture with research on climate change and watershed management and other issues that impinge on agricultural productivity.’

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda at Africa Agriculture Science Week

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda speaking at Africa Agriculture Science Week (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, a policy expert and beef farmer from Zimbabwe who is chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, agrees.

‘We need to listen to trusted messengers, including non-technocrats and community leaders’, Sibanda says. ‘Only by integrating these local views and knowledge in our policymaking will we have a chance of making our interventions sustainable.’

Sibabda, who also serves as chair of the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), also recommends a review of national support to research institutions.

Our African institutions remain weak. They’re weak because we have not invested in research. We still little appreciate the central role of research in development. A starting point in turning this round would be a call on our governments to use African money to invest in African research institutions. That will help us produce researchers who can help us meet our development goals.—Lindiwe Sibanda

FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were captured on Twitter (hashtag #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA AASW6 blog.

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts

Livestock landscapes: Africa

Livestock matter to the livelihoods and ambitions of most people living in Africa and other developing regions of the world (image credit: ILRI/Rob O’Meara).

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications staff Paul Karaimu and Muthoni Njiru.

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is being held this week (15–Jul 2013) in Accra, Ghana. The official opening and plenary sessions start tomorrow, Thu 18 Jul.

Speaking at Monday’s launch of the whole AASW6 week, Tiemoko Yo, chairperson of FARA, said the science week aimed to respond to some of the burning issues in African agricultural research for development. Many if not most of those issues were discussed in more than 50 side events held over the first 2 days of the week, many of them by CGIAR centres.

One such side event organized by the International Livestock Research (ILRI) explored the role of  ‘Livestock research for Africa’s food security and poverty reduction’. Sixty-five people from agricultural and livestock development, extension and government agencies participated in this three-hour session facilitated by ILRI’s Even Le Borgne and held on 15 Jul. Five topics were  discussed:

  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder livestock systems
  • Vulnerability and risk in drylands
  • Food safety and aflatoxins
  • Livestock vaccine biosciences
  • Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

The session started with a look at Africa’s livestock sector as a whole.
After ILRI director Jimmy Smith welcomed the guests to ILRI’s morning discussion, Shirley Tarawali, ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, explained one of the aims of the session. ‘Today, with our partners and stakeholders, we’d like to reflect on where we can work closely with others to influence and develop capacity to enhance Africa’s agriculture.’

Half of the highest-value African commodities are livestock products, including milk and meat.—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Highest value African commodities

Next was a brief look at an emerging ‘biomass crisis’ in African agriculture.
Iain Wright, who leads an Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program at ILRI, said ‘Livestock feed is at the interface of the positive and negative effects of livestock raising. Helping Africa’s many millions of farmers and herders to boost their livestock productivity through more and better feeds while also helping them to conserve their natural resources is a major challenge for livestock scientists.’

Biomass production is the most significant user of land resources and water in livestock production systems. We need to think how to produce this biomass more efficiently.—Iain Wright, ILRI

Biomass crisis

Next up was a quick overview of the public health threats posed by livestock foods and aflatoxins.
‘Ensuring food safety is one of the most important issues facing the agricultural sector today’, said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at ILRI.  ‘This is especially so in developing countries, where food-borne diseases are among the top five health burdens. Livestock diseases and unsafe milk, meat and eggs pose multiple burdens on the poor. They sicken and kill people and animals and burden national economies with huge economic losses’.

Each year, Africa loses billions of dollars due to aflatoxins, which occur on mouldy maize, groundnuts and other crops and crop harvests. The widespread presence of aflatoxins in Africa hurts the continent not only by making people ill but also by contributing to lost market opportunities.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Unfortunately, she said, efforts to improve food safety standards can end up hurting the poor, who, finding it difficult to meet those standards, are often cut off from the informal markets they depend on. Livestock foods also pose problems, she said.

The most nutritious foods—milk, meat, fish and vegetables—are also the most dangerous. These foods are also among the highest-value agricultural products in terms of generating cash incomes and are especially critical for the well-being of Africa’s women.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Food safety and aflatoxins

Next was an introduction to livestock vaccines for African livestock.
Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general biosciences at ILRI, reported on ILRI and partner research to produce vaccines that protect African livestock against disease. ‘We want to simplify vaccine production and to understand how the pathogens that are causing African livestock diseases are developing resistance to the drugs used to treat the diseases.’

We want to work on these issues with the immunology and health departments of African universities.—Suzanne Bertrand, ILRI

Importance of animal health in Africa


ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen also spoke on ILRI-partner approaches to new research on pastoral systems in Africa’s drylands and Ethel Makila introduced the state-of-the art facilities and training opportunities in the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and located in Nairobi, Kenya. ILRI deputy director for research in integrated sciences, John McIntire, provided a synthesis of the morning’s discussions.

From the participants

In agriculture, the livestock sub-sector has been neglected. To meet the Millennium Development Goal of helping people rise out of poverty, we must invest more in smallholder livestock production.Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria

‘When a research-based agricultural intervention is introduced to a community,’ said Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, of Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services, ‘it must be integrated into existing work and involve other stakeholders in development, especially governments, to ensure that use of the intervention is sustained over the longer term.

‘And remember’, Ndlovu said, ‘that the most active members in most communities are women; our interventions must suit their needs.’

We don’t feed ourselves and others with food alone; we also feed ourselves and others in intellectual ways. Capacity is key to driving innovation and change within societies; to build that capacity, we need to change people’s mindsets.—Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services

ILRI's livestock for reILRI side event at AASW6: Group discussions

Group discussions at the ILRI side event on 15 Jul 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/Ewen Le Borgne).

Those participating in this ILRI-hosted side session agreed on the need for livestock scientists to work in multidisciplinary teams and engage in ‘holistic’ research. Only by doing so, they said, would livestock scientists be in position to evaluate all components affecting the livestock sector and thus to help reduce the many risks and burdens faced by Africa’s millions of small-scale livestock producers.

The participants also agreed that it is the responsibility of livestock and other agricultural researchers to provide policymakers with evidence of how each component of smallholder farming links to others and how investing in one component can make a difference to the other components. Improving animal health, for example, can also improve the safety and nutritional value of animal-source foods.

Recommendations put forward at ILRI’s side meeting for enhancing the livestock sector’s contributions to Africa’s food security and poverty reduction include the following.

  • Ensure development of high-quality vaccines is supported by high-quality vaccination campaigns that involve local communities.
  • Incorporate indigenous knowledge to ensure research understands community realities and addresses community needs.
  • Boost the essential roles of continental and sub-regional approaches to development in the livestock research agendas.

FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, includes marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). Follow the discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #AASW6 or visit the FARA AASW6 blog.

View all of the ILRI slide presentations: Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction, 15 Jul 2013.

Spinning through the online media universe (geeky, social and otherwise)

Technical Online Communicators Workshop: Group picture

Group picture of the participants, resource experts and facilitator (Peter Casier, middle of back row, both hands raised) of the first CGIAR Technical Online Communicators Workshop, 27–31 May 2013, Rome.

Twenty-four technical online communicators (aka ‘web geeks’), representing 12 of the 15 centres of the CGIAR Consortium and 5 CGIAR partner organizations, along with a dozen or so experts in various technical web-related matters, recently participated in a five-day workshop at Bioversity International, a CGIAR centre based in Maccarese, outside Rome. This was the first such meeting of CGIAR (and partner organization) staff who, just a few years ago, would probably have been called ‘webmasters’, in the sense of technicians who design or maintain websites.

That designation has changed, however, splintering into dozens of specialities in recent years with the on-going explosion of social media and other online tools, vehicles and platforms. So ours was a motley group of people serving variously (and singly or in combinations) as ‘web developers’, ‘web designers’ or ‘web [or server] administrators’; as ‘social media coordinators’ or ‘content managers’; as ‘knowledge sharers’ or ‘workflow coordinators’. Some were more on the IT side, some more focused on user engagement; some were most interested in ensuring security, some in ensuring open access; some started as content designers, some as content writers; some are now specializing in web analytics, some in social learning. Interestingly, fully a third of the group still work mostly on originating online content (content still king?), while others now focus on ‘spinning’ the content through various social media channels (a task becoming a job on its own).

The online ecosystems in these agricultural research-for-development organizations are thus evolving rapidly. And the byzantine complexity of online expertise, staffing, monikors and structures in CGIAR centres is mirrorred in many other organizations today, some of which are now forming cross-cutting web management teams headed by ‘chief web officers’ operating at the level of chief information officers. What’s clear is the increasing need for better online strategies and coordination to further organizational communications, goals and missions. With CGIAR’s fast-growing online presence, the people who ‘pull the online levers’ should no longer, this group believes, labour in isolation but rather have spaces in which to share their trials, tribulations and successes in revamping websites, optimizing websites for search engines, making web infrastructure more secure, and so on (and on).

What the workshop also made clear is that ‘geeky’ (we have agreed among us that this term, rather than ‘nerdy’, best reflects the group’s persona*), while accurately depicting what might appear as odd or unconventional, as well as technically obsessed, behaviour (and worn as a matter of pride, I suspect, by this group), denotes neither social awkwardness nor social inferiority. The socializing among the group was intense—with the younger participants running a lively online digital conversation in parallel with the ‘real’ conversation in the workshop room every day, and with the online reporting as we went along instantly appearing seemingly everywhere on the web. And every evening almost everyone took the train into Rome—to consume its food, wine, street life, handicrafts, imperial antiquity—till midnight. And then managed the early train the next morning to Maccarese and the workshop. Unstoppable! Further demonstrations of the cultural/humanistic dispositions of these technical enthusiasts came in the course of the week in the form of spontaneous opera singing, a virtuoso violin performance, a love of fine typography, a passion for truffle cream, impromptu dancing and singing contests, and much more.

Peter Casier, the endlessly energetic (and endlessly energizing) Flemish man based in Rome (but self-described ‘serial expat’) who dreamed up, organized and facilitated this workshop, which was sponsored by the CGIAR Consortium, exemplifies the diverse approaches, expertise and passions of the workshop participants. Casier’s professional background is a kaleidescope of work experiences, from graphical engineer, to ecologist, to hightech IT head, to Antarctic explorer, to ham radio operator, to technical advisor for the Red Cross, to manager of relief operations for humanitarian organizations, to sailor of the Atlantic (or was it the Pacific?), to book author, to blogger and social media guru, to (currently) full-time online media consultant for NGOs . . . . With a knack for turning hobbies into professions, and knowledgeable about most of the topics raised in the week’s proceedings (and passionate about all of them), Casier changed ‘hats’ by the hour, going from chief organizer and facilitator to moderator to listener/learner to rapporteur to time keeper to evaluator to strategist . . . Throughout, he championed the work of the participants, calling them and their jobs the ‘orphans of the orphans’ of institutional communications and ICT departments. Time to change that, he thinks. (And he, being a self-confessed ‘agitator’, is probably just the man to do that.)

The purpose of the workshop, Casier says, was ‘to kick-start an active community of practice for this group of expert online workers in CGIAR and partner institutions, a network that each can rely on to help them address common challenges, such as in web management (web monitoring tools, cloud hosting, social media monitoring tools, web development tools and CMS platforms/plugins, web security), and establish common standards (e.g., metrics of reach, basic security measures).’

Among the topics covered in the five-day CGIAR workshop (dubbed TOCS, for ‘technical online communicators’) were:

  • Online media overview and strategy
  • Website revamp process and approach
  • Web usability, optimization and security
  • Online statistics, eNewsletter systems, search engine optimization, latest design technologies/trends
  • Online document repositories, intranets, hosting
  • CMSes (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress)

Links to 180 resources for online work mentioned or discussed in this workshop are posted on Delicious.

For more information, follow the hashtag #TOCS2013 on Twitter and Yammer and read the posts on blogs by Marina Cherbonnier and Codrin Paveliuc-Olariu, both of Young Professionals in Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD).

For a digital conversation running side by side with the physical conversation of the workshop, see the Twitter stream collected by Codrin Paveliuc-Olariu.

Or contact Peter Casier at p.casier [at] (check out his ‘home page’, My House on the Road; his The Road to the Horizon blog; his Blog Tips blog; his Humanitarian and several other news aggregators . . .).

* Antonella Pastore, of the CGIAR Consortium, offers us the following attempt to distinguish connotations of ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ (reminding us of the long period of attempts to reappropriate these terms). The piece includes this delightful, if unappetizing and cautionary, morsel:

The word geek is older [than nerd], starting out in the early 1900s to refer to a carnival performer whose only skill was the ability to bite the heads off chickens.’ — BBC News: Are ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ now positive terms? 16 Nov 2012.

The ‘cream’ from more efficient dairying: Kenya to pilot scheme to pay smallholders for their environmental services

Global Agenda: 1 of 3 objectives

One of three objectives of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development. Its Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22-24 Jan 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Guest blog post by ILRI’s Simon Fraval

In collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development, researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are assessing the feasibility of the Kenyan dairy industry obtaining payment for its environmental services through productivity gains. (See this ILRI position paper for more information on ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes).

Reducing the level of greenhouse gases generated per unit of milk produced by smallholder farmers could be attractive to environmental markets. While this project will not provide direct money transfers to Kenya’s dairy farmers, it will support agricultural extension for better cow nutrition and other interventions made to increase milk production while also reducing emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of milk.

The concept gained momentum at an interim preparatory committee meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development held in Rome in September 2012.

The Global Agenda is committed to broad-based, voluntary and informal stakeholder actions improving the performance of the livestock sector. It ambitiously aims to protect natural resources as well as to reduce poverty and protect public health. The Agenda’s stakeholders have agreed initially to focus on the following three objectives: Close the efficiency gap in livestock production systems, restore value to grasslands’ environmental services and sustainable livelihoods, and recover and recycle nutrients and energy contained in animal manure. The Agenda is working to achieve these objectives largely through consulting and networking, analyzing and informing, and guiding and piloting.

Progress on the Kenya dairy pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project was presented at the third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 22–24 January 2013. This project provided a practical example of the Agenda’s core activity in piloting novel approaches to ‘close the efficiency gap’. The presentation to the Global Agenda meeting can be found on its Livestock Dialogue website.

Pilot workshop on payment for environmental services for Kenya's dairy sector

A stakeholders’ workshop on a pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project for Kenya’s dairy industry was held in Jan 2013. Pictured left to right: Luke Kessei, Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development; Julius Kiptarus, Director of Livestock Production in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development; Pierre Gerber, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; and Isabelle Baltenweck, ILRI (photo credit: MLD/Henry Ngeno).

Following the progress update provided at the mid-January 2013 Global Agenda meeting, a stakeholder workshop was held later in the month (29 Jan 2013) engaging representatives from the Kenya Dairy Board, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the Kenya Dairy Processors Association, Kenyan livestock and cooperation ministries, development organizations and ILRI. The workshop was attended by Julius Kiptarus, Director of Livestock Production in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development.

Stakeholders of the pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project for Kenya’s dairy industry discussed the intricacies of such schemes, particularly carbon markets; site selection; potential greenhouse gas mitigation activities; and the design of a feasibility study. View slide presentations from this workshop here.

Technical mitigation options in dairy from ILRI: By Caroline Opiyo, of FAO.

This pilot project is the first to access markets for payment for environmental services schemes through productivity gains in smallholder livestock enterprises. With the setting of this precedent and development of an internationally recognized methodology, development organizations will be able to replicate this pilot project and draw funding from the carbon market and other providers of ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes.

For more information, please contact Simon Fraval, a volunteer with AusAID’s Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program placed at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, where he supports CGIAR research programs on ‘Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security’ and ‘Livestock and Fish: More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor’. Fraval brings to ILRI expertise in livestock value-chain development and life-cycle assessment. Contact him at s.fraval [at]

A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector

Representatives of global and regional institutions

Eight major organizations working in livestock development are issuing a joint communiqué today, committing themselves to working in closer alliance to develop and fulfill on a global agenda for the livestock sector that is safer, fairer and more sustainable. The organizations are:

  • African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources
  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • International Livestock Research Institute
  • World Bank
  • World Organisation for Animal Health

This communiqué was developed by participants of a High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020, co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, 12–13 Mar 2012. At that meeting, leaders in livestock development issues exchanged ideas, concerns, experiences and expertise with the aim of developing closer partnerships, a shared vision and more complementary programs for a global livestock agenda. They agreed on the outlines of a consensus regarding strategies for a safer, fairer and more sustainable global livestock agenda to 2020. The full joint communiqué follows.

A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector
In the face of a fast-growing, resource-hungry and commonly misunderstood livestock sector, it is clear that increased investment in the sector is essential to livelihoods, global health and the environment. To address livestock as a global public good, a strengthened alliance has been formed among key institutions charged with shaping and steering the global livestock agenda.

We, the representatives of global and regional institutions whose mandates cover livestock, met in Nairobi, Kenya, 12-13 March 2012. We exchanged ideas, concerns, experiences and expertise with the aim of developing closer partnerships, a shared vision and more complementary programs for a global livestock agenda.

Our consultation came at an opportune time. Global production and consumption of meat, milk and eggs are growing fast, especially in developing countries, in the face of diminishing natural resources. Decision-makers and investors continue to under-appreciate the critical role that livestock play in the lives and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people. The world remains alert to the risk of pandemics arising at the interface between people and animals.

We agreed that social equity, global health and the environment should be considered among the strategic ‘pillars’ of the global livestock agenda. There was also much concurrence on the issues and challenges facing the livestock sector and the ways to address them.

We are building this alliance to work in closer partnerships, with each organization bringing to bear its comparative advantage. Together we aim to be more effective in explaining to the world better why livestock are essential to the society and to the health and wellbeing of the poor and to show leadership in addressing the challenges and opportunities that livestock can bring.

We will do this by marshalling the best evidence to support our case; directly addressing the harm as well as benefits generated by livestock; learning from successes and failures to design and implement the most appropriate programs and policies; exploiting advances in our understanding of complex systems and powerful new technologies; and building on existing successful initiatives. We aim to develop strategic goals, and to create, and share publicly, a means to measure progress against these goals.

We invite our colleagues in other institutions, public and private, to join us.

View and download the official version of the communiqué, with logos of the organizations of its eight authors: A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector, 11 April 2011.

Read more about the high-level consultation in previous posts on this ILRI News Blog:
Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012.
Towards a more coherent narrative for the global livestock sector, 15 Mar 2012.
Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda, 20 Mar 2012.



Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda

Those interested in the future of the livestock sector—particularly in its potential to help alleviate world poverty and hunger without harming human health and the environment—will want to watch this 10-minute film of brief comments made by seven leaders in livestock development thinking. These comments were captured at the end of a recent (12–15 Mar 2012) ‘High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020’, which was co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and held at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The seven participants interviewed are (1) Francois Le Gall, co-host of this consultation and livestock advisor at the World Bank; (2) Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); (3) Kristin Girvetz, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; (4) Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); (5) Boni Moyo, ILRI representative for southern Africa; (6) Carlos Seré, chief development strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and (7) Jimmy Smith, co-host of this event and director general of ILRI.

Eight other leaders in global livestock issues took part in last week’s consultation in Nairobi:

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): Soloman Benigno, project manager and animal health expert

AU-IBAR (African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources): Ahmed El-Sawalhy, director; Bruce Mukanda, senior program and projects officer; Baba Soumare, chief animal health officer

EU (European Union) Delegation to Kenya: Bernard Rey, head of operations

OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health): Walter Masiga, sub-regional representative for Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa

UN (United Nations): David Nabarro, special representative of the UN secretary general for food security and nutrition (via filmed presentation)

World Bank: Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

Read more about this consultation on this ILRI News Blog: Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012.

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr