Fighting aflatoxins: CGIAR scientists Delia Grace and John McDermott describe the disease threats and options for better control

In this 6-minute film, two leading scientists combatting aflatoxins in the food chains of developing countries describe some of the risks these toxins pose and new options for their better control. Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic byproduct of common fungi that grow on grains and other food crops, particularly maize and groundnuts, as well as in the milk and meat of livestock that have consumed feeds contaminated with aflatoxins. These toxins threaten public health in many poor countries.

In this short film, Delia Grace and John McDermott discuss on-going research to control aflatoxins in developing countries and why this research matters so much.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist who leads research on both ‘food safety and zoonoses’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ‘agriculture-associated diseases’, a flagship project of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). John McDermott, another veterinary epidemiologist by training, who formerly served as ILRI’s deputy director general for research and now works for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is director of A4NH (Agriculture for Nutrition and Health), a multi-centre program led by IFPRI.

Earlier this week (4 Nov 2013), IFPRI and its 2020 Vision initiative jointly with the CGIAR Research Program on A4NH released a series of 19 briefs on the state of efforts to combat aflatoxins. ILRI’s Grace co-edited the series with IFPRI’s Laurian Unnevehr: ‘Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety’. Grace and Unnevehr themselves developed 2 of the 19 briefs: ‘Tackling aflatoxins: An overview of challenges and solutions’  and The role of risk assessment in guiding aflatoxin policy’. In another of the briefs, Grace zeroes in on the dangers of aflatoxins in animal-source foods: ‘Animals and aflatoxins’. Jagger Harvey and Benoit Gnonlonfin, two scientists with ILRI’s Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, along with colleagues in Australia and Cornell University, wrote the last brief in the series: ‘Improving diagnostics for aflatoxin detection‘.

Aflatoxins grow naturally on many farms, infesting grains and groundnuts, particularly after drought or insect damage and are a particularly common problem in developing countries, where aflatoxins not only pose a significant public health risk but also create a barrier to trade in agricultural commodities.

‘These toxins have a range of effects on human and animal health,’ says Grace. ‘High doses are lethal to both humans and animals and chronic consumption of lower levels of aflatoxins is associated with liver cancer and immunosuppression in children.’

Researchers have known about the problem of aflatoxins in developing countries for several decades but because these countries have largely informal markets and minimal trade, people have tended to minimize or ignore the problem.

‘But this is changing’, says McDermott. ‘Recent cases of aflatoxin-related deaths in Africa widened appreciation that this problem is important; there’s been a recent increase in investment in different control methods’, he says.

The series of briefs released this week brings together the experiences of researchers both within and outside CGIAR and contributes to efforts to help smallholder farmers better manage aflatoxins on their farms.

The briefs describe health risks from aflatoxins and the state of research on aflatoxins, including new methods of detection, crop breeding and food storage and handling, as well as ways to overcome the market constraints imposed by aflatoxins.

‘We’ve assembled for policy- and other decision-makers the current state of knowledge on what we need to do about aflatoxins in tropical countries,’ says McDermott.

Read more about the briefs released this week:

http://www.ifpri.org/publication/aflatoxins-finding-solutions-improved-food-safety

Read the whole publication: Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety, edited by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

Download

Table of Contents and Introduction

1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions
by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace

2. Aflatoxicosis: Evidence from Kenya
by Abigael Obura

3. Aflatoxin Exposure and Chronic Human Diseases: Estimates of Burden of Disease
by Felicia Wu

4. Child Stunting and Aflatoxins
by Jef L Leroy

5. Animals and Aflatoxins
by Delia Grace

6. Managing Mycotoxin Risks in the Food Industry: The Global Food Security Link
by David Crean

7. Farmer Perceptions of Aflatoxins: Implications for Intervention in Kenya
by Sophie Walker and Bryn Davies

8. Market-led Aflatoxin Interventions: Smallholder Groundnut Value Chains in Malawi
by Andrew Emmott

9. Aflatoxin Management in the World Food Programme through P4P Local Procurement
by Stéphane Méaux, Eleni Pantiora and Sheryl Schneider

10. Reducing Aflatoxins in Africa’s Crops: Experiences from the Aflacontrol Project
by Clare Narrod

11. Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Reduce Aflatoxin Risk
by Felicia Wu

12. Trade Impacts of Aflatoxin Standards
by Devesh Roy

13. Codex Standards: A Global Tool for Aflatoxin Management
by Renata Clarke and Vittorio Fattori

14. The Role of Risk Assessment in Guiding Aflatoxin Policy
by Delia Grace and Laurian Unnevehr

15. Mobilizing Political Support: Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
by Amare Ayalew, Wezi Chunga and Winta Sintayehu

16. Biological Controls for Aflatoxin Reduction
by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay and Peter J Cotty

17. Managing Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize: Developing Host Resistance
by George Mahuku, Marilyn L Warburton, Dan Makumbi and Felix San Vicente

18. Reducing Aflatoxins in Groundnuts through Integrated Management and Biocontrol
by Farid Waliyar, Moses Osiru, Hari Kishan Sudini and Samuel Njoroge

19. Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection
by Jagger Harvey, Benoit Gnonlonfin, Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell

References

 

Livestock, climate and poverty: A short history of work begun to unravel the complexity, and set useful priorities

RTB East Africa1-94

Farming in eastern Africa (photo on Flickr by CIAT/Neil Palmer).

The story of human settlement and human evolution is very much tied to the fact that the earth’s climate has always been changing, and will continue to do so.

So begins a new brief developed by agricultural systems and climate change scientist Philip Thornton and his colleagues at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

The brief goes on to say the following.

What is known about the likely impacts of climate change on resource-poor livestock keepers in the developing world? Relatively little, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) are working to improve this knowledge.

‘This Brief outlines how a group of scientists at ILRI reviewed some elements of the complex relationship between livestock and climate change in developing countries with a forward-looking approach. The objective was to help set research priorities: to inform the debate as to what research for development organizations such as ILRI could and should be doing in the area of climate change work that could add value to the large amounts of work already being carried out by the Global Change community on cropping systems and natural resources management. . . .

Resource-poor livestock keepers: Mitigate and adapt
‘Changes in climate and climate variability will affect livestock production systems in all parts of the world, and will inevitably impact the 1.3 billion poor people whose livelihoods are wholly or partially dependent on livestock. At the same time, livestock production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, livestock keepers will have to mitigate emissions as well as adapt to change.

‘The adaptation and mitigation that are necessary may require significant changes in production technology and livestock production systems, which could affect productivity, incomes and livelihoods. Livestock production systems are highly heterogeneous, however, and different production systems have different capacities to adapt or to take on board the policy and regulatory changes that may be required in the future.

‘In developed countries, livestock systems are generally adaptable and resilient. In developing countries, in contrast, households that are dependent on livestock keeping may be much more vulnerable to changes in climate and climate variability, with the potential for increased poverty and decreased food security. At the same time, there may be considerable growth potential in the smallholder livestock sector, given projected increases in demand for livestock products globally and for biofuels and the land-use changes these may bring about. . . .

‘No formal evaluation has been undertaken, but this work certainly had some impact in addressing the lack of information on livestock in several integrated global assessments, despite livestock’s being recognized as one of the major drivers of global change. New partnerships have been forged with others working in the realm of global assessment. . . .

Way forward
‘[T]here is a need for improvement in the kind of indicators that are produced to gauge changes in social factors. Currently, impacts are usually expressed in terms of available calories and prices, for example, but there may be many other critical factors to assess future changes beyond food availability and commodity prices. Second . . . [is] the need to undertake priority-setting analyses on a regular basis, linked with other types of foresight and scenario processes . . . [and] explicitly linking priority setting with monitoring and evaluation, to provide more coordinated planning and implementation of research for development to improve its influence and to better demonstrate its value to the resource-poor of the developing world.’

Read the whole brief: Climate change: Do we know how it will affect smallholder livestock farmers? by Philip Thornton, Jeannette van de Steeg, An Notenbaert and Mario Herrero, a GFAR ‘The Futures of Agriculture’ Brief No. 43, May 2013.

This brief is based on two publications by ILRI scientists:
(1) Thornton P K, Notenbaert A, van de Steeg J and Herrero M, 2008, The livestock-climate-poverty nexus: A discussion paper on ILRI research in relation to climate change, published by ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya, 80 pp.

(2) Thornton P K, van de Steeg J, Notenbaert A and Herrero M, 2009. The impacts of climate change on livestock and livestock systems in developing countries: A review of what we know and what we need to know, Agricultural Systems 101: 113–127.

Note
This brief series was developed in preparation for the Foresight Breakout Session of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD 2012) and the Global Foresight Hub. The briefs were written to communicate to a wider audience, such as policy makers, civil society organizations, researchers, and funders.

The livestock boom in India: Pathways to an increasingly profitable, pro-poor and sustainable sector

Dairy cows, buffaloes and other livestock are kept in India's urban as well as rural areas.

India, already the world’s biggest milk producer and beef exporter (mostly water buffalo), is investing in research to ensure that its poorest people reap increasing benefits from raising farm animals and do so in increasingly sustainable and healthy ways (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Key recommendations from a high-level partnership dialogue held last November (2012) by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) have recently been published. These policy recommendations from ILRI and ICAR were released last week in New Delhi, India, by ILRI’s director general Jimmy Smith and ILRI’s deputy director general for integrated sciences John McIntire.

The ILRI-ICAR white paper distills major recommendations made at the partnership dialogue and serves as a basis for pro‐poor and sustainable livestock policy interventions in India.

The following excerpt is from the executive summary of this new publication.

‘With 485 million livestock plus 489 million poultry, India ranks first in global livestock population. Livestock keeping has always been an integral part of the socio‐economic and cultural fabric of rural India. In recent years, India’s livestock sector has been booming. Livestock now contribute about 25% of the output of the agricultural sector and the sub‐sector is growing at a rate of about 4.3% a year. With over 80% of livestock production being carried out by small‐scale and marginalized farmers, the benefits livestock generate for India’s poor are enormous and diverse.

‘Aimed to help cultivate joint learning, knowledge exchange and future partnership, the meeting brought together participants from 12 countries, including India. The attendance comprised of senior departmental heads in the government, directors of ICAR animal sciences national institutes, university vice chancellors, deans of veterinary universities, senior staff of leading non‐governmental organizations operating, representatives of farmer cooperatives, heads of private‐sector companies, and leaders and managers of international agencies including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank. All members of the ILRI Board of Trustees participated, as did officials of other CGIAR bodies operating in India.

‘The high‐level dialogue was inaugurated by Dr M.S. Swaminathan, renowned for his role in India’s Green Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Dr Swaminathan stressed the urgent need for research and development partnerships to maintain sufficient momentum for the Indian livestock growth story. . . .

Dairy and small ruminant value chains
‘The gathered experts articulated the challenges and opportunities for the country’s millions of farmers trying to earn their living from small dairy and ruminant enterprises. What was critical was the consensus among experts in understanding that development of the country’s livestock value chains depends as much on smallholder access to services and inputs as it does on supply and marketing of livestock and their products. The participants also agreed that transforming India’s livestock value chains required better infrastructure and development of a policy framework for improved animal breeding.

Improved disease control
‘A subsequent session on animal health highlighted the need for better disease diagnostics, more affordable vaccines and better veterinary service delivery for small‐scale livestock keepers if the country was to succeed in better controlling diseases of livestock, as well as the many ‘zoonotic’ diseases that originate in farm animals and infect people as well. The experts in the session agreed that ICAR‐ILRI partnership should aim at capitalizing on ICAR’s excellent decision‐support system for predicting animal disease outbreaks in the country, and modify it further so as to make it highly valued and accessible for extensive use by scientists, administrators and policymakers alike.

Livestock nutrition
‘In another session presenting problems in animal nutrition, it was agreed that both conventional and new technologies should take ecological as well as economic considerations into account. With constant increase of animal numbers anticipated over the coming decades, fodder scarcities will have to be addressed through research work conducted to ensure the bio‐availability and digestibility of fodders available to India’s small‐scale livestock farmers.

‘All sessions of the all‐day dialogue named productive partnerships as crucial to bringing varied expertise together for designing sustainable solutions. In unison, the participants opinioned that such multi‐institutional and multi‐disciplinary expertise must understand that India’s animal expertise needs to ‘go to scale’ even as resources in fodder, land and water become ever more stretched.

‘Speakers and responders in the final session of the dialogue acknowledged the growing need of targeted research and development partnership in the country’s livestock sector. At the close of the day’s discussions, ILRI and ICAR signed a memorandum of understanding to help get research into use so as to accelerate the travel of research from laboratory to field, where it can transform lives of poor people.’

Download/read the publication: Livestock research and development summary report of the ICAR-ILRI Partnership Dialogue, 2013.

Read more about the Partnership Dialogue, 7 November 2012 on the ILRI News Blog:
India’s booming livestock sector: On the cusp?–Or on a knife edge?, 8 Nov 2013.

Boosting pig production among India’s poor: Tata-ILRI research partnership helps farmers beat classical swine fever

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

A pig farmer in Nagaland, India. A Tata-ILRI partnership is helping Indian farmers beat classical swine fever to boost pig production (photo credit: ILRI/Ram Deka).

A program that is supporting rural Indian farmers improve their livelihoods by helping them to raise pigs more efficiently is the highlight of a new annual report by a project coordinated by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The project, ‘Enhancing livelihoods through livestock knowledge systems’, is a partnership between the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust and ILRI that was started in 2011. The pig farming component of the project is being implemented in four Indian states: Jharkhand, Arunachal, Mizoram and Nagaland.

‘We support animal breeding, feeding, housing, health care and marketing through appropriate institutions,’ said V Padmakumar, the project’s coordinator from ILRI, who is based in ILRI’s Hyderabad office.

Nearly 80 per cent of the households in the four states rear pigs in smallholder systems, with each household rearing up to three pigs. Pork meets a significant part of the dietary protein needs of these communities.

‘Pig farmers in these remote areas not only have difficulty accessing markets due to poor roads but also have little knowledge on how they can improve their feeds and feeding systems to speed and increase their pig production,’ says Padmakumar. ‘Veterinary services are also scarce,’ he said.

One of the project’s key successes has been to raise attention of the need to improve veterinary services to deal with classical swine fever, a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease of pigs.

The project carried out a survey in 2011 that revealed that smallholder farmers in Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland lose, each year, nearly USD40 million in incomes due to the costs of treating and replacing pigs lost to classical swine fever.

Targeted advocacy by the project has increased government attention to the burden of this disease on the country’s smallholders. As a result, there now exists a nationwide swine fever control program that is prioritizing interventions against the disease in Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland. The project has also managed to raise awareness of control options available for controlling classical swine fever; the government is now supporting increased in-country production of vaccines that will protect pig populations against the disease.

Read the ‘Tata-ILRI Partnership Program’ annual report.

Download the project policy brief.

Animal-to-human diseases: From panic to planning–new recommendations for policymakers

Greatest Burden of Zoonoses Falls on One Billion Poor Livestock Keepers

Map by ILRI, published in an ILRI report to the UK Department for International Development (DFID): Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, 2012.

The UK’s Institute for Development Studies (IDS) has published a 4-page Rapid Response Briefing titled ’Zoonoses: From panic to planning’.

Veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace, who is based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), along with other members of a Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium, based at the STEPS Centre at IDS, c0-authored the document.

The briefing recommends that policymakers take a ‘One-Health’ approach to managing zoonotic diseases.

‘Over two thirds of all human infectious diseases have their origins in animals. The rate at which these zoonotic diseases have appeared in people has increased over the past 40 years, with at least 43 newly identified outbreaks since 2004. In 2012, outbreaks included Ebola in Uganda . . . , yellow fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rift Valley fever (RVF) in Mauritania.

‘Zoonotic diseases have a huge impact – and a disproportionate one on the poorest people in the poorest countries. In low-income countries, 20% of human sickness and death is due to zoonoses. Poor people suffer further when development implications are not factored into disease planning and response strategies.

‘A new, integrated “One Health” approach to zoonoses that moves away from top-down disease-focused intervention is urgently needed. With this, we can put people first by factoring development implications into disease preparation and response strategies – and so move from panic to planning.

Read the Rapid Response Briefing: Zoonoses: From panic to planning, published Jan 2013 by the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium and funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

About the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa
The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa is a consortium of 30 researchers from 19 institutions in Africa, Europe and America. It conducts a major program to advance understanding of the connections between disease and environment in Africa. Its focus is animal-to-human disease transmission and its objective is to help move people out of poverty and promote social justice.

Over the past few decades, more than 60 per cent of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans have had their origin in wildlife or livestock. As well as presenting a threat of global disease outbreak, these zoonotic diseases are quietly devastating lives and livelihoods. At present, zoonoses are poorly understood and under-measured — and therefore under-prioritized in national and international health systems. There is great need for evidence and knowledge to inform effective, integrated One Health approaches to disease control. This Consortium is working to provide this evidence and knowledge.

Natural and social scientists in the Consortium are working to provide this evidence and knowledge for four zoonotic diseases, each affected in different ways by ecosystem changes and having different impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and livelihoods:

  • Henipavirus infection in Ghana
  • Rift Valley fever in Kenya
  • Lassa fever in Sierra Leone
  • Trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe

Of the 30 scientists working in the consortium, 4 are from ILRI: In addition to Delia Grace, these include Bernard Bett, a Kenyan veterinary epidemiologist with research interests in the transmission patterns of infectious diseases as well as the technical effectiveness of disease control measures; Steve Kemp, a British molecular geneticist particularly interested in the mechanisms of innate resistance to disease in livestock and mouse models, and Tom Randolph, an American agricultural economist whose research interests have included animal and human health issues and assessments of the impacts of disease control programs.

Delia Grace leads a program on Prevention and Control of Agriculture-associated Diseases, which is one of four components of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Tom Randolph directs the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish. Steve Kemp is acting director of ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme.

 

 

Fixing fodder shortages for dairy in East Africa and South Asia, beef in West Africa, goat/sheep meat in West and southern Africa

Fodder cut and ready for transporting in northern India

Fodder cut and ready for transporting in northern India (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

In 2012, a group of researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) worked with partners at the World Bank, under the direction of Jimmy Smith, then a senior livestock advisor at the Bank and now director general of ILRI, in identifying investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries.

Excerpts from the executive summary follow.

‘Driven by population growth, increasing demand, stricter quality and safety standards for animal source food and increasing competition for land and water resources, the livestock sector is changing rapidly. Within this changing landscape, smallholders with crops and livestock will remain the mainstay of the sector in developing countries for some decades to come.

For example, the projections in this report foresee an increase in cattle, sheep and goat populations in the mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world from 467 million to 648 million adult cattle equivalents. However, also here, the abovementioned mega-trends and the resulting competition for feed resources imply that these systems will have to intensify to ensure an acceptable livelihood for its producers.

‘Enhancing the quality and quantity of feed, as one of the most important factors of animal production will play a critical role in this process of intensification. However, feed improvement should not be seen in isolation, but rather be assessed as part of the greater value chain, including all stakeholders. For example, investing in feed improvement without markets to sell the increased production from this investment or without an adequate feed quality control regulatory framework, would yield negative returns.

This report follows a step-by-step analytical framework that will provide the priority investments and actions in technologies, policies, and institutions.

‘As the first step in this framework, the most promising value chains, where feed-related strategies and investments are most likely to have significant impacts, have to be identified. On the basis of the key characteristics of (a) growth and market opportunities, (b) number of poor and pro-poor potential and (c) the supply constraints, in particular disease risk and feed resources availability, this report identifies first Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as priority areas, and then, within these areas, it identifies three commodity value chains in five regions of particularly great potential to benefit poor producers and consumers. They are:

  • Dairy in East Africa and South Asia
    because of the expected growth in demand (including export potential), the number of poor involved (135 million), and the moderately adequate situation resource situation
  • Beef in West Africa
    because of its potential for import substitution and potential for improvement, in spite of the resource constraints
  • Small ruminant meat in West Africa and Southern Africa
    because of the number of poor involved (110 million) and new domestic market opportunities.

‘The framework was then used to analyze the diversity of feed types, the availability of feed sources both from within and from outside of local systems, based on informant interviews and quantitative modeling of the current situation and with projections to 2030. Detailed data for each feed type and source are available in the main text, but the general trends show:

  • (a) A reduction in the use of crop residue
    such as straws and stovers, although at a projected between 20 and 50 percent these remain a substantial part of the daily ration of the livestock of those systems.
  • (b) An increase in the use of crop-by-products
    (such as oil cakes and by-products of the milling industry) and concentrates, although staying in 2030 mostly below ten percent, with the exception of the South Asian dairy systems, where they would amount to 25 percent of the total diet. With such a low share of the diet, and with most products not edible for humans, these systems would not endanger global food security.
  • (c) An increase in the area planted for forages,
    in particular in dairy systems; and (d) a sharp increase in feed procurement from the market instead of supply from the own farm.

‘Based on these projections to 2030, opportunities for feed-related investments with major positive impacts on the poor are then identified. A number of strategies, policies, technologies, and services come to light as especially promising areas for such investment in a variety of scenarios. Applying the assessment framework to each of the three value chains yielded similar results for all chains. First of all, they stress that addressing feed related issues in the context of evolving value chains requires combinations of public and private investments: policies, strategies that facilitate adoption and market engagement with reduced transactions costs such as improved access to knowledge and services for smallholder producers and other market agents together with adoption of improved feed technologies.

‘The more specific areas of improvement that warrant priority in targeting investments are:

  • Technological feed improving solutions include in all value chains studied
    (a) more attention to research and development for feed/food crops, i.e., crops that provide both food (mostly grain) for humans and feed (mostly straws) for livestock;
    (b) better ration formulation, through the introduction of feed processing and storage technologies (including micro-sizing, ensiling, etc.) and
    (c) forage seed production. . .
  • Institutional issues include access to land and water for all smallholders, as a primary concern and as the main incentive to improve crop-residues. Effective governance on feed quality is also a common institutional issue raised. Similarly, reduction on transaction costs (both to access the feeds and to participate in product markets) is another key area for institutional investment support. In all value chains, the report strongly advocates support to Business Development Services – interpreted in the broadest sense as a key to facilitating access to feeds, markets and for reducing transaction costs. . . .
  • The policy concerns are more value chain specific, and include the protection against dumping of meat and milk from the OECD countries, reduction of regional tariff barriers (in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa) and lack of investment in infrastructure.

‘While for many households increasing animal numbers is perceived as attractive, there are severe environmental limitations of the extent this is possible. Policies and investment that increase per animal productivity, such as adequate ration formulation and emphasis on mineral supplementation in the feed and nutrition domain, as well as genetic and health improvement related investment will be important. However, in some areas, increased efficiency (producing the same with fewer animals, or more with the same number of animals) can also be achieved through incentive systems such as payment for environmental services.

‘Ranking those investments regarding their economic return constitutes the final step in the analytical framework, underpinning this study. The analysis shows that for an individual household, the increase in animal numbers is the most attractive option, as has also been proven in the past.

Indeed, according to FAOSTAT (2010) data, most (57 percent over the period 1990–2010) of the increased production in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from an increase in animals, and not from increased productivity per animals. This is obviously not sustainable.

‘The key challenge therefore is to increase the profitability of raising productivity per animal. As better feed utilization will be a critical factor in enhancing the profitability and hence in ensuring the long term sustainability of these system, it is therefore encouraging that in most evaluations feed improvements (and in particular the use of crop-residues) rank from the third to the fifth place. The analytical framework also provides a ranking of the importance of timing over the 2010–2030 period in which investments are made. The results show that in general a fast trajectory (i.e. transformation early in the 20-year interval) is associated with relatively higher returns accruing to investments in selected feed types, compared to a “slow” trajectory. Fast action is therefore recommended.

‘The results of this study demonstrate that the assessment framework developed could be applied readily in other systems, and at the same time provides a basis that can be further built upon.

‘This peer-reviewed World Bank report was prepared under the guidance of Jimmy Smith, formerly of the World Bank and (since Nov 2011) now serving as director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and Francois le Gall of the World Bank by an ILRI team consisting of William Thorpe, Derek Baker and Shirley Tarawali with Rainer Asse, Augustine Ayantunde, Michael Blummel, Oumar Diall, Alan Duncan, Abdou Fall, Bruno Gerard, Elaine Grings, Mario Herrero, Chedly Kayouli, Ben Lukuyu, Siboniso Moyo, Ranjitha Puskur, An Notenbaert, Tom Randolph, Steve Staal, Nils Teufel, Francis Wanyoike and Iain Wright. Further inputs were provided by Cees de Haan and Gunnar Larson from the World Bank.’

Read the report: Identifying investment opportunities for ruminant livestock feeding in developing countries, World Bank, 2012.

Pastoral livestock development in the Horn: Where the centre cannot (should not) hold

Pastoralism and Development in Africa

Who eats better, pastoral children in mobile herding or settled communities? (answer: mobile). Which kind of tropical lands are among those most at risk of being grabbed by outsiders for development? (rangelands). Are pastoral women benefitting at all from recent changes in pastoral livelihoods? (yes). Which region in the world has the largest concentration of camel herds in the the world? (Horn of Africa). Where are camel export opportunities the greatest? (Kenya/Ethiopa borderlands). Is the growth of ‘town camels and milk villages’ in the Somali region of Ethiopia largely the result of one man’s (desperate) innovation? (yes). Which is the more productive dryland livestock system, ranching or pastoralism? (pastoralism). Is irrigation involving pastoralists new? (no). Are we missing opportunities to make irrigated agriculture a valuable alternative or additional livelihoods to pastoralism? (perhaps).

The answers to these and other fascinating questions most of us will never have thought to even ask are found in a new book, Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, of the Feinstein International Center, at Tufts University; Jeremy Lind, of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and Future Agricultures Consortium; and Ian Scoones, of the Institute of Development Studies, the STEPS Centre and the Future Agricultures Consortium. Published in 2012, it includes a chapter by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?

Thirty-six experts in pastoral development update us on what’s so in pastoral development in the Greater Horn of Africa, highlighting innovation and entrepreneurialism, cooperation and networking and diverse approaches rarely in line with standard development prescriptions. The book highlights diverse pathways of development, going beyond the standard ‘aid’ and ‘disaster’ narratives. The book’s editors argue that ‘by making the margins the centre of our thinking, a different view of future pathways emerges’. Contributions to the book were originally presented at an international conference on The Future of Pastoralism in Africa, held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in Mar 2011.

Here are a few of the book’s ‘unstandard’ ways of looking at pastoralism.

‘Overall, mainstream pastoral development is a litany of failure. . . . Pastoral borderlands are . . . beyond the reach of the state, and so the development industry.  ·  Perhaps no other livelihood system has suffered more from biased language and narratives than pastoralism. . . . Hidden in these narratives also are political agendas that perceive mobile pastoralism as a security and political threat to the state, and, therefore, in need of controlling or eliminating.  ·  To avoid the Malthusian label, or simply out of ignorance, many social scientists have neglected the important implications of demographic trends in pastoral areas. . . . Some of the fastest growing towns in Kenya are in pastoralist districts.  ·  Local demand for education is consistently high among pastoralists, a pattern that was not the case even 10–15 years ago.  ·   It seems feasible . . . to propose a pastoral livestock and meat trade value approaching US$1 billion for the Horn in 2010.  ·  The past dominant livestock practice characterized as traditional mobile pastoralism” is increasingly rare. . . . The creation of a relatively elite commercial class within pastoral societies is occurring at a rapid pace in some areas.  ·  . . . [P]astoral lands are vulnerable to being grabbed. On a scale never before envisioned, the most valued pastoral lands are being acquired through state allocation or purchase . . . . The Tana Delta sits at the precipice of an unprecedented transformation as a range of investors seek to acquire large tracts of land to produce food and biofuels and extract minerals, often at the expense of pastoralists’ access to key resources. . . . A notable facet of changing livelihoods in the Tana Delta is the increasingly important role of women in the diversifying economy, a trend seen elsewhere in the region. . . . Until now, pastoralists have been mostly unsuccessful at challenging proposed land deals through the Kenyan courts.  ·  The shift from a breeding herd to a trading herd is perhaps the biggest shift in Maasai pastoralism.  ·  Although drought is a perennial risk to pastoralist livelihoods, an emerging concern is securing access to high value fodder and other resources to support herds, in areas where rangelands are becoming increasingly fragmented due to capture of key resource sites.  ·  During the 2009–2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, several hundred pastoralists who participated in an Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) scheme in northern Kenya received cash payments.  ·  Despite its many challenges, mobile pastoralism will continue in low-rainfall rangelands throughout the Horn for the simple reason that a more viable, alternative land use system for these areas has not been found. . . . But the nature of pastoralism in 2030 will be very different than today in 2012. . . .’

One of the book’s chapters is on Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism? It was written by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen (USA), whose broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies; and her ILRI colleagues Jan de Leeuw (Netherlands), an ecologist specializing in rangelands (who has since moved to ILRI’s sister Nairobi CGIAR centre, the World Agroforestry Centre); Mohammed Said (Kenyan), an ecologist specializing in remote sensing and community mapping; Philip Thornton (UK) and Mario Herrero (Costa Rica), agricultural systems analysts who focus on the impacts of climate and other changes on the world’s poor countries and communities; and An Notenbaert (Belgium), a land use planner and spatial analyst.

The ILRI scientists argue that if we’re going to find ways to adapt to climate change, we’re going to need to learn from pastoralists — who, after all, are demonstrably supreme managers of highly variable climates in addition to rapidly changing social, economic and political contexts — about how to make sustainable and profitable, if cyclical and opportunistic, use of increasingly scarce, temporally erratic and spatially scattered water, land, forage and other natural resources.

In important respects, pastoral people are at the forefront of responses to climate change, given their experience managing high climate variability over the centuries. Insights from pastoral systems are critical for generating wider lessons for climate adaptation responses.’

What scientists don’t know about climate change in these and other drylands, they warn, is much, much greater than what we do know. So:

The key question is how to make choices today given uncertainties of the future.’

Because ‘the more arid a pastoral environment, the less predictable the rainfall’, and because ‘vegetation growth closely follows rainfall amount, frequency and duration, . . . the primary production of rangelands is variable in time and space’, with the primary driver of this variability in livestock production in pastoral areas being the availability or scarcity of forages for feeding herds of ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, sheep, goats, camels). In severe or prolonged droughts, forage and water scarcity become a lethal combination, killing animals en masse. The authors quote former ILRI scientist David Ndedianye, a Maasai from the Kitengela rangelands in Nairobi’s backyard, and other ILRI colleagues who report in a 2011 paper on pastoral mobility that pastoral livestock losses in a 2005 drought in the Horn were between 14 and 43% in southern Kenya and as high as 80% in a drought devastating the same region in 2009. It may take four or five years for a herd to recover after a major drought.

Map of flip in temperatures above and below 30 degrees C
Maps of a flip in temperatures above 30 degrees C. Left: Threshold 4 — maximum temperature flips to greater than 30°C. Right: Threshold 5 — maximum temperature in the growing season flips to greater than 30°C. Map credit: Polly Ericksen et al., Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), 2011.

Evidence from a range of modelling efforts was used by the authors to calculate places in the global tropics where maximum temperatures are predicted to flip from less than 30 degrees C to greater than 30 degrees C by 2050. This temperature threshold is a limit for a number of staple crops, including maize beans and groundnut. Heat stress also affects grass and livestock productivity. Large areas in East African may undergo this flip, according to these models, although the authors warn that these predictions remain highly uncertain.

Thornton and Herrero in a background paper to the World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report investigated the impacts of increased drought frequency on livestock herd dynamics in Kenya’s Kajiado District. ‘Their results indicate that drought every five years keeps the herds stable as it allows sufficient time for the herds to re-establish. A once in three year drought interval by contrast drives livestock density to lower levels . . . . Hence, if there is a greater frequency of drought under climate change, this might have a lasting impact on stocking density, and the productivity of pastoral livestock systems.

The results were extrapolated to all arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya and estimated that 1.8 million animals could be lost by 2030 due to increased drought frequency, with a combined value of US$630 million due to losses in animals, milk and meat production. . . .’

In the face of changes in climate (historical and current), many pastoralists will change the species of animals they keep, or change the composition of the species in their herds. In the space of three decades (between 1997/8 and 2005–10) in Kenya, for example, the ratio of shoats (sheep and goats) to cattle kept increased significantly. Goats, as well as camels, are more drought tolerant than cattle, and also prefer browse to grasses.

Such changes in species mix and distribution will have important implications for overall livestock productivity and nutrition, as well as milk production.’

While change is and always has been fundamental to pastoralist livelihood strategies, much more—and much more rapid and diverse—change is now sweeping the Horn and many of the other drylands of the world, with local population explosions and increasing rangeland fragmentation and civil conflicts coming on top of climate and other global changes whose nature remains highly uncertain. New threats are appearing, as well as new opportunities.

While the ILRI team argues that we can and should look to pastoralist cultures, strategies and innovations for insights into how the wider world can adapt better to climate change, they also say that ‘development at the margins’ is going to be successful only where pastoralists, climate modellers and other scientists  work together:

. . . [A]daptation and response strategies in increasingly variable environments must emerge from grounded local experience and knowledge, as well as be informed by increasingly sophisticated [climate] modeling efforts.’

Support for the conference and book came from the UK Department for International Development, the United States Agency for International Development in Ethiopia, and CORDAID. Purchase the book from Routledge (USD44.96 for the paperback edition): Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, first issued in paperback 2012, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones, Oxon, UK, and New York: Routledge and Earthscan, 328 pages. You’ll find parts of the book available on Google books here.

To read the ILRI chapter—Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?, by Polly Ericksen, Jan de Leeuw, Philip Thornton, Mohammed Said, Mario Herrero and An Notenbaert—contact ILRI communications officer Jane Gitau at j.w.gitau [at] cgiar.org.

More ‘crop per drop’? Only when ‘more milk per drop’ saves the poor as well as Nile Basin waterflows

Now it is time for the herders to cool their body

Herder boys and cattle both cool their bodies in the midday heat in the Awash River in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, posing health problems for people at such shared livestock watering sites (photo credit: ILRI).

Ten years ago, scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) established a partnership centred at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The partnership was formed to address widespread concerns that livestock consume excessive amounts of water and that livestock keeping is a major cause of water degradation. A statistic commonly reported, and believed, was that producing one kilogram of meat required 100,000 litres of water, mainly for production of livestock feed, in contrast to less than 3000 litres needed to grow most crops.

The ILRI-IWMI partners believed that these statements were neither sufficiently nuanced to note huge differences in the world’s livestock systems nor grounded in good science. But it was clear to them that if the figures were true, they needed to find ways to reduce livestock use of water resources and if the figures were not true, they needed to determine accurate estimates of water use. They were fortunate to be welcomed into the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) and the CGIAR Comprehensive Assessment of Water and Agriculture, both of which enabled the new partners to pursue research on what was quickly termed ‘livestock water productivity’ in an African context.

Many unanswered questions remain, but the following consensus emerged from the ILRI-IWMI partnership.
1. African beef production typically uses one-tenth to one-fifth the amount of water used in industrialized countries and livestock systems; 11,000–18,000 litres of water are used to produce one kilogram of beef in Africa compared to the 100,000 litres for beef production that is so often reported (see above). It is clear that industrialized livestock production systems tend to use vastly more water per unit of beef produced than Africa’s livestock keepers, who typically integrate their raising of beef stock with food cropping on small plots of land, where the livestock enhance the cropping (e.g., via manure for fertilizing the soils and draught power for ploughing the land) and the cropping enhances the livestock (e.g., via the residues of grain crops used to feed the farm animals).

2. Because cattle and other livestock serve and benefit the world’s poor farmers in many ways, with meat being only one benefit that usually comes after an animal has served a long life on a farm, the water used in African smallholder livestock production systems generates many more benefits than meat alone.

3. Over the preceding half a century, much research had been conducted to increase crop water productivity, but virtually none to increase livestock water productivity. This dearth, along with the high and rising value of many animal products, suggests that returns on investments made to develop agricultural water resources for crops will be much greater if livestock are integrated in the cropping systems and factored into the water equations.

4. Finally, there still remains much room to increase livestock water productivity in Africa’s small-scale livestock production systems. Four strategies for doing this are outlined below and are included in a book that was launched earlier today in Addis Ababa.

But before we get to that press release, listen for a moment to Don Peden, a rangeland ecologist who led this research at ILRI for many years and who says the IWMI-ILRI partnership ‘was an extraordinary example of the potential for inter-centre collaboration.

I often think the partnership was as important as the research products it generated’, says Peden. ‘Many people and institutions helped make our collaborative work on water and livestock succeed. First on the list is Doug Merrey. Many of the CPWF staff made huge contributions and provided outstanding encouragement. There are too many to mention, but they include Jonathan Woolley, Alain Vidal, Seleshi Bekele, David Molden and Simon Cook.

‘We also owe a great debt to many of our partners’, Peden goes on to say. ‘This includes professors (the late) Gabriel Kiwuwa, David Mutetitka and Denis Mpairwe from Makerere University as well as Hamid Faki from Sudan’s Agricultural Research Corporation. And special mention should be made about Shirley Tarawali, now serving as ILRI’s director for Institutional Planning, who provided day-to-day encouragement and support throughout the project and made a tremendous contribution. And we also had a unique research team in ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme that made successes possible.

In brief, the interpersonal interactions among all of these people and institutions and many others made this work possible. The success of the project lies in the people, and not just in the book.’

5 key messages regarding livestock and water—excerpted in full from the livestock chapter in the new—book follow.
(1) ‘Domestic animals contribute significantly to agricultural GDP throughout the Nile Basin and are major users of its water resources. However, investments in agricultural water development have largely ignored the livestock sector, resulting in negative or sub-optimal investment returns because the benefits of livestock were not considered and low-cost livestock-related interventions, such as provision of veterinary care, were not part of water project budgets and planning. Integrating livestock and crop development in the context of agricultural water development will often increase water productivity and avoid animal-induced land and water degradation. . . .

(2) ‘Under current management practices, livestock production and productivity cannot meet projected demands for animal products and services in the Nile Basin. Given the relative scarcity of water and the large amounts already used for agriculture, increased livestock water productivity is needed over large areas of the Basin. Significant opportunities exist to increase livestock water productivity through four basic strategies. These are:
‘a) utilizing feed sources that have inherently low water costs for their production
‘b) adoption of the state of the art animal science technology and policy options that increase animal and herd production efficiencies
‘c) adoption of water conservation options
‘d) optimally balancing the spatial distributions of animal feeds, drinking water supplies and livestock stocking rates across the basin and its landscapes. . . .

(3) ‘Suites of intervention options based on these strategies are likely to be more effective than a single-technology policy or management practice. Appropriate interventions must take account of spatially variable biophysical and socio-economic conditions. . . .

(4) ‘For millennia, pastoral livestock production has depended on mobility, enabling herders to cope with spatially and temporally variable rainfall and pasture. Recent expansion of rain-fed and irrigated croplands, along with political border and trade barriers has restricted mobility. Strategies are needed to ensure that existing and newly developed cropping practices allow for migration corridors along with water and feed availability. Where pastoralists have been displaced by irrigation or encroachment of agriculture into dry-season grazing and watering areas, feeds based on crop residues and by-products can offset loss of grazing land. . . .

(5) ‘In the Nile Basin, livestock currently utilize about 4 per cent of the total rainfall, and most of this takes place in rain-fed areas where water used is part of a depletion pathway that does not include the basin’s blue water resources. In these rain-fed areas, better vegetation and soil management can promote conversion of excessive evaporation to transpiration while restoring vegetative cover and increasing feed availability. Evidence suggests that livestock production can be increased significantly without placing additional demands on river water.’

Nile

Cows on the banks of the Nile (in Luxor, Egypt) (photo on Flickr by Travis S).

Now (finally) on to that press release.

‘Tens of millions of small-scale farmers in 11 countries need improved stake in development of the Nile River Basin—News conference, Addis Ababa, 5 Nov 2012

Alan Duncan at the Quick Feeds Synthesis meeting

ILRI livestock feed specialist Alan Duncan (right), joint Basin leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme, participated in a news conference today in Addis Ababa launching a new study on the Nile Basin and poverty reduction (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

As planetary emergencies go, finding ways to feed livestock more efficiently, with less water, typically do not find their way into ‘top ten’ lists. But today that topic was part of a discussion by a group of experts gathered in the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to highlight the Nile River Basin’s potential to help 90 million people lift themselves and their families out of absolute poverty.

Despite attempts to cooperate, the 11 countries that share the Nile river, including a new nation, South Sudan, and the drought-ridden Horn of Africa, often disagree about how this precious and finite resource should be shared among the region’s some 180 million people—half of whom live below the poverty line—who rely on the river for their food and income.

But a new book by the CPWF argues that the risk of a ‘water war’ is secondary to ensuring that the poor have fair and easy access to the Nile. It incorporates new research to suggest that the river has enough water to supply dams and irrigate parched agriculture in all 11 countries—but that policymakers risk turning the poor into water ‘have nots’ if they don’t enact efficient and inclusive water management policies.

The authors of the book, The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, include leading hydrologists, economists, agriculturalists and social scientists. This book is the most comprehensive overview to date of an oft-discussed but persistently misunderstood river and region. To discuss the significance of the findings in the book were Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, a senior water resources and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Simon Langan, head of the East Africa and Nile Basin office of IWMI; and Alan Duncan, a livestock scientist at ILRI.

Drawing water from the Nile

Drawing water from the Nile (photo on Flickr by Challenge Program on Water and Food).

Smallholder farmers need improved stake in Nile’s development
There is enough water in the Nile basin to support development, but small farmers are at risk of being marginalized, says the new book, which finds that the Nile River, together with its associated tributaries and rainfall, could provide 11 countries—including a new country, South Sudan, and the drought-plagued countries of the Horn of Africa—with enough water to support a vibrant agriculture sector, but that the poor in the region who rely on the river for their food and incomes risk missing out on these benefits without effective and inclusive water management policies.

The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, published by CPWF, incorporates new research and analysis to provide the most comprehensive analysis yet of the water, agriculture, governance and poverty challenges facing policymakers in the countries that rely on the water flowing through one of Africa’s most important basins. The book also argues that better cooperation among the riparian countries is required to share this precious resource.

This book will change the way people think about the world’s longest river’, said Vladimir Smakhtin, water availability and access theme leader at IWMI and one of the book’s co-authors.

Agriculture, the economic bedrock of all 11 Nile countries, and the most important source of income for the majority of the region’s people, is under increased pressure to feed the basin’s burgeoning population—already 180 million people, half of which live below the poverty line. According to the book, investing in a set of water management approaches known as ‘agricultural water management’, which include irrigation and rainwater collection, could help this water-scarce region grow enough food despite these dry growing conditions.

‘Improved agricultural water management, which the book shows is so key to the region’s economic growth, food security and poverty reduction, must be better integrated into the region’s agricultural policies, where it currently receives scant attention’, says Seleshi Bekele, senior water resources and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and one of the book’s co-authors. ‘It is tempting for these governments to focus on large-scale irrigation schemes, such as existing schemes in Sudan and Egypt, but more attention must also be paid to smaller, on-farm water management approaches that make use of rainwater and stored water resources such as aquifers.’

Lack of access to water is another area that could negatively impact the poor, according to the book. In the Nile Basin, poor people live further away from water sources than the wealthy, which forces them to travel longer distances to collect water. Women that are responsible for collecting water for their households and smallholder farmers who rely on rainwater to irrigate their crops would therefore benefit from policies that give them greater access to water in the Nile Basin.

We need to look beyond simply using water for crop production if we are to comprehensively address the issues of poverty in the region’, says David Molden, IMWI’s former director general and one of the book’s co-authors. ‘Water is a vital resource for many other activities, including small-scale enterprises like livestock and fisheries. This should not be forgotten in the rush to develop large-scale infrastructure.’

Improving governance, especially coordination among Nile Basin country governments, is another crucial aspect of ensuring that the poor benefit from the basin’s water resources. The book argues that the establishment of a permanent, international body—the Nile Basin Commission—to manage the river would play a key role in strengthening the region’s agriculture, socio-economic development and regional integration.

‘The Nile Basin is as long as it is complex—its poverty, productivity, vulnerability, water access and socio-economic conditions vary considerably’, says Molden. ‘Continued in-depth research and local analysis is essential to further understanding the issues and systems, and to design appropriate measures that all countries can sign on to.’

Interestingly, the book counters a common tendency to exaggerate reports of conflict among these countries over these complex management issues. ‘Past experience has shown that countries tend to cooperate when it comes to sharing water’, says Alain Vidal, CPWF’s director. ‘On the Nile, recent agreements between Egypt and Ethiopia show that even the most outspoken Basin country politicians are very aware that they have much more to gain through cooperation than confrontation.’

For more information, visit the website of the Challenge Program on Water and Food.

The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods is available for purchase from Routeledge as of 5 Nov 2012. IWMI’s Addis Ababa office is donating 300 copies of the book to local water managers, policymakers and institutions in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the region. If you are interested in receiving a copy please contact Nigist Wagaye [at] n.wagaye@cgiar.org.

Notes

The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) aims to increase the resilience of social and ecological systems through better water management for food production (crops, fisheries and livestock). The CPWF does this through an innovative research and development approach that brings together a broad range of scientists, development specialists, policymakers and communities to address the challenges of food security, poverty and water scarcity. The CPWF is currently working in six river basins globally: Andes, Ganges, Limpopo, Mekong, Nile and Volta www.waterandfood.org

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a nonprofit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of land and water resources in agriculture to benefit poor people in developing countries. IWMI’s mission is “to improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and the environment.” IWMI has its headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and regional offices across Asia and Africa. The Institute works in partnership with developing countries, international and national research institutes, universities and other organizations to develop tools and technologies that contribute to poverty reduction as well as food and livelihood security. www.iwmi.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles livestock play in pathways out of poverty. ILRI research products 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 their risks of livestock-related diseases. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other hubs in East, West and southern Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia. www.ilri.org

CGIAR is a global research partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. It is carried out by the 15 centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. www.cgiar.org

The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems examines how we can intensify agriculture, while still protecting the environment and lifting millions of farm families out of poverty. The program focuses on the three critical issues of water scarcity, land degradation and ecosystem services. It will also make substantial contributions in the areas of food security, poverty alleviation and health and nutrition. The initiative combines the resources of 14 CGIAR centers and numerous external partners to provide an integrated approach to natural resource management research. This program is led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). www.wle.cgiar.org

Alan Duncan is a livestock feed specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and joint Basin leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme (NBDC). Duncan joined ILRI in 2007 coming from the Macaulay Institute in Scotland. He has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. Livestock-water interactions are a key issue in Ethiopia, particularly in relation to competition for water between livestock feed and staple crops. This is a core research topic for the NBDC and Duncan has built on pioneering work in this field led by ILRI’s Don Peden. 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.

 

 

As the cooking pot turns: Staple crop and animal foods are being ‘recalibrated’ for a warmer world

The cows get automated

CGIAR has just published a really useful snapshot of the world’s major food crops, animals and tree and water resources and what is likely to happen to them in the face of climate change, the effects of which on food production will require reexamining what’s in the cooking pot, especially in regions where people already do not get enough to eat. Above, a worker on a small farm in Limuru, Kenya, pushes maize stalks (after their cobs have been harvested) through a pulverizer before feeding the stover to the cows; this is one way small-scale farmers can improve their dairy cow feeding and milk yields while reducing the amount of methane their cows generate per unit of milk produced. (Photo on Flickr by Luigi Guarino.)

CGIAR, the world’s leading international agricultural-research-for-development organization, has just done something really useful. It has published a snapshot of how climate change is likely to affect key food crops and livestock farming and natural resources in poor countries, where these staple foods and resources remain the backbone not only of food security but also of national economies. What happens to maize and wheat and rice and cattle and goats and sheep and trees and water, for example, will foretell what happens to the 1 billion people living in severe poverty today.

This snapshot summarizes the state of knowledge on 21 CGIAR crop commodities as well as on the ‘living’ livestock assets of the poor and the water and tree resources on which they depend.  The study, Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate, should help decision-makers at all levels prepare better for future food production on our warming planet.

The summaries, written by scientists at 14 of the 15 CGIAR centres, outline the importance of each commodity for food and nutrition security, its biological vulnerability to climate change, and the likely socio-economic vulnerability of the people affected.

The study shows points up some surprising gaps in our knowledge. For example, crops like cassava and yam, which make critically important contributions to the food security of millions of people and are highly climate-resilient, have been little studied in relation to a changing climate. We also know little about how multiple stressors of animals and plants may combine. We also have big knowledge gaps about likely impacts of climate change on weed, pest and disease complexes. We need this information to help identify and evaluate the trade-offs and synergies of particular climate change adaptation and mitigation options in different places.

A few things are already for certain. We must develop hardier varieties of maize, rice and wheat—the three main food staples around the world—quickly to avoid declines in their yields. And the common sources of protein—livestock, fish, and even soybeans—all face difficulties in adapting to the new normal.

Crops and animals till now neglected by major research initiatives, and now considered ‘old-fashioned’ by many, are likely to play an increasingly important role on global food production once again. Drought-resistant camels and goats, ‘famine foods’ such as heat-tolerant cassava and millet, and dual-purpose crops such as protein-rich cowpea (aka black-eyed peas) and groundnut that feed people and animals alike are all likely to come back to the fore in regions with drying or more unpredictable climates.

In some drying regions, smallholders will be forced to switch from crop growing to livestock raising, and/or from raising dairy cows to raising dairy or other goats. This matters to many. As the new CCAFS policy brief reports: ‘In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, nearly one billion people living on less than two dollars per day keep livestock; two-thirds of those are women. Fisheries and aquaculture support an additional half-billion people around the world. There is no easy answer for adapting these sectors to changing climates.

But the benefits to people from eating fish and animal protein—as well as raising livestock for their livelihoods—will not evaporate as the planet warms; answers must be found in securing their continued availability.’

While the news seems grim, adaptation is possible. Recent CCAFS research in Africa found that farmers are already adapting to climate change. Some 34% of the farmers interviewed in Africa, for example, have reduced their livestock herd sizes and 48% are managing their feed resources better. The better livestock diets also lower livestock methane emissions per kilogram of milk or meat produced. On the other hand, only 25% of the farmers interviewed have begun using manure or compost to improve their soils and only 10% have begun to manage or store agricultural water.

For more information, visits the CCAFS blog page on Recalibrating food production in a changing climate—What do we know and what can be done?

Read a new policy brief by CCAFS that outlines the challenges required in feeding the estimated 9–10 billion people who will live in this world by 2050. In the brief, the need for a complete recalibration of what crops we grow and animals we raise around the world is detailed, as climate change will bring challenges in weather, water use, and increased pests and diseases of crops and animals alike.

The policy brief is based on a new CCAFS working paper. Read the paper by Philip Thornton and Laura Cramer (eds.). 2012. Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate. CCAFS Working Paper 23. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

This report was co-edited by ILRI scientist Phil Thornton, who is a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who also coordinates one of CCAFS’ research groups. CCAFS is a global partnership launched in 2011 between the research centres of CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership. CCAFS facilitates and integrates thematic work across multiple CGIAR Centres and other global, regional and local partners. Its key target groups are resource-poor agricultural producers, and rural and urban consumers of food, in low-income and middle-income countries in the tropics and sub-tropics.

Philip Thornton explains about CCAFS: ‘There are many other examples of the way in which CCAFS is working across disciplines and mandates, and across temporal and spatial scales. These include linking to modelling communities from different fields such as crop modelling and global integrated assessment modelling, and partnering with organisations with skills in the development and provision of downscaled models, decision-tools and datasets that provide the necessary granularity for national and sub-national planning. As well as linking across scientific disciplines, CCAFS recognizes the need to span boundaries across research and policy domains. To link knowledge and action entails involvement of policy-makers in all stages of the research cycle, and an understanding of policy as dynamic and polycentric across the public, private and civil society sectors.’

Read of interviews of Phil Thornton in the following media this week:

The Guardian’s Global Development Blog: When the chips are down: potato, maize and rice crop yields set to fall—Farmers in developing world will have to grow different food to prevent world going hungry in changing climate, says report, 31 Oct 2012.

BBC: Bananas could replace potatoes in warming world, 31 Oct 2012.

New ILRI study maps hotspots of human-animal infectious diseases and emerging disease outbreaks

Greatest Burden of Zoonoses Falls on One Billion Poor Livestock Keepers

Map by ILRI, published in an ILRI report to DFID: Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, 2012.

A new study maps hotspots of human-animal infectious diseases and emerging disease outbreaks. The maps reveal animal-borne disease as a heavy burden for one billion of world’s poor and new evidence on zoonotic emerging disease hotspots in the United States and western Europe.

The new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an ‘unlucky’ 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The study, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a ‘top 20’ list of geographical hotspots.

From cyst-causing tapeworms to avian flu, zoonoses present a major threat to human and animal health,’ said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI in Kenya and lead author of the study. ‘Targeting the diseases in the hardest hit countries is crucial to protecting global health as well as to reducing severe levels of poverty and illness among the world’s one billion poor livestock keepers.’

‘Exploding global demand for livestock products is likely to fuel the spread of a wide range of human-animal infectious diseases,’ Grace added.

According to the study, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania in Africa, as well as India in Asia, have the highest zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread illness and death. Meanwhile, the northeastern United States, Western Europe (especially the United Kingdom), Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia may be hotspots of ’emerging zoonoses’—those that are newly infecting humans, are newly virulent, or have newly become drug resistant.

The study examined the likely impacts of livestock intensification and climate change on the 13 zoonotic diseases currently causing the greatest harm to the world’s poor.

The report, Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, was developed with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). The goal of the research was to identify areas where better control of zoonotic diseases would most benefit poor people. It also updates a map of emerging disease events published in the science journal Nature in 2008 by Jones et al.[i]

Remarkably, some 60 per cent of all human diseases and 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.

Among the high-priority zoonoses studied here are ‘endemic zoonoses’, such as brucellosis, which cause the vast majority of illness and death in poor countries; ‘epidemic zoonoses’, which typically occur as outbreaks, such as anthrax and Rift Valley fever; and the relatively rare ’emerging zoonoses’, such as bird flu, a few of which, like HIV/AIDS, spread to cause global cataclysms. While zoonoses can be transmitted to people by either wild or domesticated animals, most human infections are acquired from the world’s 24 billion livestock, including pigs, poultry, cattle, goats, sheep and camels.

Poverty, zoonoses and markets
Today, 2.5 billion people live on less than USD2 per day. Nearly three-quarters of the rural poor and some one-third of the urban poor depend on livestock for their food, income, traction, manure or other services. Livestock provide poor households with up to half their income and between 6 and 35 per cent of their protein consumption. The loss of a single milking animal can be devastating to such households. Worse, of course, is the loss of a family member to zoonotic disease.

Despite the danger of zoonoses, the growing global demand for meat and milk products is a big opportunity for poor livestock keepers.

Increased demand will continue over the coming decades, driven by rising populations and incomes, urbanization and changing diets in emerging economies,’ noted Steve Staal, deputy director general-research at ILRI. ‘Greater access to global and regional meat markets could move  millions of poor livestock keepers out of poverty if they can effectively participate in meeting that  rising demand.’

But zoonoses present a major obstacle to their efforts. The study estimates, for example, that about one in eight livestock in poor countries are affected by brucellosis; this reduces milk and meat production in cattle by around 8 per cent.

Thus, while the developing world’s booming livestock markets represent a pathway out of poverty for many, the presence of zoonotic diseases can perpetuate rather than reduce poverty and hunger in livestock-keeping communities. The study found a 99 per cent correlation between country levels of protein-energy malnutrition and the burden of zoonoses.

Many poor livestock keepers are not even meeting their own protein and energy needs’, said Staal. ‘Too often, animal diseases, including zoonotic diseases, confound their greatest efforts to escape poverty and hunger.’

Assessing the burden of zoonoses
The researchers initially reviewed 56 zoonoses that together are responsible for around 2.5 billion cases of human illness and 2.7 million human deaths per year. A more detailed study was made of the 13 zoonoses identified as most important, based on analysis of 1,000 surveys covering more than 10 million people, 6 million animals and 6,000 food or environment samples.

The analysis found high levels of infection with these zoonoses among livestock in poor countries. For example, 27 per cent of livestock in developing countries showed signs of current or past infection with bacterial food-borne disease—a source of food contamination and widespread illness. The researchers attribute at least one-third of global diarrheal disease to zoonotic causes, and find this disease to be the biggest zoonotic threat to public health.

In the booming livestock sector of developing countries, by far the fastest growing sectors are poultry and pigs.

As production, processing and retail food chains intensify, there are greater risks of food-borne illnesses, especially in poorly managed systems’, said John McDermott, director of the  CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for  Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). ‘Historically, high-density pig and poultry populations have been important in maintaining and mixing influenza populations. A major concern is that as new livestock systems intensify, particularly small- and medium-sized pig production, the more intensive systems will allow the maintenance and transmission of pathogens. A number of new zoonoses, such as Nipah virus infections, have emerged in that way.’

 

Emerging Zoonotic Diseases Events 1940-2012

Map by Institute of Zoology (IOZ), published in an ILRI report to DFID: Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, 2012.


Intensification and disease spread
The most rapid changes in pig and poultry farming are expected in Burkina Faso and Ghana in Africa and India, Myanmar and Pakistan in Asia. Pig and poultry farming is also intensifying more rapidly than other farm commodity sectors, with more animals being raised in more concentrated spaces, which raises the risk of disease spread.

Assessing the likely impacts of livestock intensification on the high-priority zoonoses, the study found that livestock density is associated more with disease ‘event emergence’ than with overall disease burdens. Both the northeastern United States and Western Europe have high densities of livestock and high levels of disease emergence (e.g., BSE, or ‘mad cow’ disease, and Lyme disease), but low numbers of people falling sick and dying from zoonotic diseases. The latter is almost certainly due to the relatively good disease reporting and health care available in these rich countries.

Bovine tuberculosis is a good example of a zoonotic disease that is now rare in both livestock and human populations in rich countries but continues to plague poor countries, where it infects about 7 per cent of cattle, reducing their production by 6 per cent. Most infected cattle have the bovine form of TB, but both the human and bovine forms of TB can infect cows and people. Results of this study suggest that the burden of zoonotic forms of TB may be underestimated, with bovine TB causing up to 10 per cent of human TB cases. Human TB remains one of the most important and common human diseases in poor countries; in 2010, 12 million people suffered from active disease, with 80 per cent of all new cases occurring in 22 developing countries.  

Massive underreporting

We found massive underreporting of zoonoses and animal diseases in general in poor countries’, said Grace. ‘In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 99.9 per cent of livestock losses do not appear in official disease reports. Surveillance is not fulfilling its purpose.’

The surveillance lacking today will be even more needed in the future, as the climate changes, she added. Previous research by ILRI and others indicates that areas with increased rainfall and flooding will have increased risk of zoonoses, particularly those diseases transmitted by insects or associated with stagnant water or flooding.

The main finding of the study is that most of the burden of zoonoses and most of the opportunities for alleviating zoonoses lie in just a few countries, notably Ethiopia, Nigeria, and India. These three countries have the highest number of poor livestock keepers, the highest number of malnourished people, and are in the top five countries for both absolute numbers affected with zoonoses and relative intensity of zoonoses infection.

‘These findings allow us to focus on the hotspots of zoonoses and poverty, within which we should be able to make a difference’, said Grace.

Read the whole report: Mapping of poverty and likely zoonoses hotspots, report to the UK Department for International Development by Delia Grace et al., ILRI, Institute of Zoology, Hanoi School of Public Health, 2012.

Read about the report in an article in NatureCost of human-animal disease greatest for world’s poor, 5 Jul 2012. Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2012.10953

 


[i] Nature, Vol 451, 990–993, 21 February 2008, Global trends in emerging infectious diseases, Kate E Jones, Nikkita G Patel, Marc Levy, Adam Storeygard, Deborah Balk, John L Gittleman and Peter Daszak.

Cattle pneumonia pathogen arose with domestication of ruminants ten thousand years ago, researchers say

In this short (3:45 min) video interview, Joerg Jores, a molecular biologist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), shares new insights from his research on contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, a killer livestock disease endemic in Africa.

Jores describes a recent study by researchers from ILRI, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology and partners in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA that evaluated the history and relationships of pathogens that cause both cattle (contagious bovine pleuropneumonia) and goat (contagious caprine pleuropneumonia) pneumonia.

The study, ‘The origin of the “Mycoplasma mycoides cluster” coincides with domestication of ruminants,’ was published in the April 2012 edition of the Public Library of Science (PLoS, 27 Apr 2012). The researchers found that the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides, which causes contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, arose at the same time as humans first started to domesticate wild ruminants.

The onset of domestication of livestock about 10,000 years ago, which established large ruminant populations and the herding of mixed species, is thought to have contributed to creating the conditions favouring the spread and diversification of the pathogens by allowing them to adapt to different hosts.

Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia can kill up to 80 per cent of animals in infected herds, and the surviving animals often carry the disease for long periods and can introduce it to uninfected herds.

‘This research was the largest comparative study of Mycoplasma mycoides cluster to date,’ says Jores. ‘Our findings are shedding light into the history of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and this new knowledge is expected to guide future research into the disease.’

Read a related ILRI clippings article on the paper: Lethal family tree: ILRI research shows livestock bacterium is as old as the livestock it kills.

Download the paper: The origin of the Mycoplasma mycoides cluster coincides with domestication of ruminants, by Anne Fischer (ICIPE and ILRI), Beth Shapiro (Pennsylvania State University), Cecilia Muriuki (ILRI), Martin Heller (Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute), Christiane Schnee (Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute), Erik Bongcam-Rudloff (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Joachim Frey (University of Bern) and Joerg Jores (ILRI), 2012, PLoS ONE 7(4): e36150.

 

Better support for, and integration of, mixed crop and animal farming is key to increasing and sustaining world food production

Gita Kothari, crop-livestock farmer in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

A crop and livestock farmer in Uttarakhand, India. Integrated crop and livestock farming systems can play a significant role in improving global food security (photo credit: ILRI/Susan Macmillan).

Gita Fartiyal is a master’s student at Almora University, in Uttarakhand, India. She is also a small-scale livestock keeper. The money she makes from selling milk and animals is helping pay for her schooling. Fartiyal and her brother keep about 40 goats on a family crop-and-livestock farm in the mid-Himalayan region of northern India. Gebremicheal Desta grows crops and keeps dairy cows on a small farm in Ethiopia’s’s northern region of Tigray. His family depends on the income it gets from farming to pay for food, daily expenses and school fees.

Smallholder farmers, especially those in mixed crop and livestock systems like Fartiyal and Desta, produce milk, meat and eggs not only for their families but also to meet growing demands for foods of livestock origin. In much of the developing world, increasing population, economic growth and urbanization is driving a rapid demand for livestock foods. In India, for example, smallholders are producing more milk (105 million tons of milk in 2009 compared to 74 million tons in 1999) to respond to an increasing demand for dairy products. With the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, smallholder farmers are expected to play an important role in meeting global food demand in coming years.

Mixed crop and livestock farming systems support nearly 1 billion poor people across the world. Most of these are smallholders working a couple of hectares and relying on family labour to grow crops and keep livestock. But questions remain about how best to intensify production in these mixed systems so as to increase food yields and do so sustainably.

A report released last year, ‘Integrating crops and livestock in subtropical agricultural systems’, produced by researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, evaluates options to sustainably intensify production in these smallholder mixed systems. The 2011 report explores ways of refining the integration of crop growing and animal husbandry in the face of ever-diminishing land and water resources and climate change.

‘We need to help these small-scale farmers make the most efficient use of their land and water resources to increase productivity while at the same time sustaining and enhancing their natural resource base’, said Iain Wright, a science leader at ILRI and one of the report’s authors.

According to the paper, a key to global food security is helping tropical smallholders produce more food more efficiently through smart integration of their crop and livestock production.

The authors recommend three practical ways to both improve and sustain smallholder crop production.

First, crop and animal scientists should work together in crop improvement programs to improve the fodder quality of cereal and legume food crops. The resulting new varieties of sorghum and other crops would provide good yields of both human food and livestock feed. Second, farmers should make greater use of crop residues as animal feeds, which will make better use of water resources by ‘spreading the “cost” of the water used for growing crops across the grain and animal feed components’. Third, farmers should more effectively harness manure for crop production by adopting the ‘technology of storing and distributing manure to avoid the loss of nutrients and biomass’.

In the battle to produce more food to feed the world, smallholder mixed crop and livestock systems are increasingly seen as competitive because they make efficient use of natural resources, spread risk across several enterprises and allow for more flexible and profitable use of family labour, all of which can translate into much lower costs and environmental impacts in producing food compared to large specialized and industrialized farms. The increasing demand for livestock products is also making it possible for farmers to access local markets and increase their incomes.

The report also acknowledges that mixed crop and livestock farming systems alone will not produce all the food the world will need. ‘Specialised cropping systems and intensive livestock systems will [also] play their part’, the paper says. The rapid transition to industrial production of poultry, pig and dairy production systems in Asia is an example of how intensified agricultural production systems are helping to meet food demands for growing populations in that part of the world.

At the same time, the vast army of small-scale farmers like Fartiyal and Desta will be able to fulfill their potential and fully participate in more efficiently integrated agricultural systems that improve global food security only if they have access to ‘appropriate technologies, supportive policies at local, national and regional level and dynamic markets that can supply inputs and channel outputs to consumers more efficiently’.

Download the report: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/5556

Watch a related ILRI photofilm: ‘A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production’, http://blip.tv/ilri-photofilm/tribute-to-the-unsung-heroes-of-small-scale-food-production-5225764