What a 5-degree world will look like in Africa

Mozambique, Angonia province, nr Ulongwe town

At the end of September 2009, Phil Thornton, agricultural systems analyst at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), made a presentation at an international climate conference in Oxford called ‘Four Degrees & Beyond.’ The research he presented was conducted with Thornton’s long-term colleague, Peter Jones, of Waen Associates (UK).

Thornton and Jones have looked at the probable impacts of climate change on agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and what needs to be done about this. Africa’s population will grow from 0.8 billion today to some 1.8 billion by 2050. Already, over 40% of Africans live in urban areas, and this urbanization will only increase in future, greatly increasing the continent’s need for food to feed all its urban dwellers.

The prognosis for agriculture is mixed in Africa, where yields per hectare have already stagnated. Climate change is critically important to Africa because the gross domestic product and levels of rainfall are highly correlated here. Any change in rainfall and rainfall variability is likely to bring associated economic change. Given all this, the authors asked themselves if  ‘it can all be held together’ in the future.

Several research studies indicate that yields of major cereals will be reduced by 10 to 30% to mid-century and beyond, although yields will vary widely depending on the crop grown and the location of the farming system. Regarding the impacts of a temperature increase of 5-degrees centigrade on growing seasons and crop yields, southern Africa is likely to experience 20% or more losses in length of growing periods. Thornton said we can expect under a 5 degree C increase many more ‘failed seasons’ in the 2090s, especially in southern Africa, the northern Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Most of rainfed agriculture in regions south of the Zambezi River is likely to become unviable and in much of East Africa, maize yields could fall by 26% and beans by 54%.

A 5-degree centigrade temperature increase will thus increase crop failure in much of sub-Saharan Africa, which will then require massive increases in intensive cropping in the highlands to feed all the people living in urban areas. In more marginal lands, many farmers will be forced to make radical transitions in their livelihoods, turning from cropping to livestock keeping, for example, or abandoning agriculture altogether.

The prognosis for a +5°C SSA
Croppers and livestock keepers have been highly adaptable to short- and long-term variations in climate. But the changes in a plus five-degree world would be way beyond experience. Number of people at risk from hunger has never been higher: 300 million in 1990, 700 million in 2007, and close to 1 billion in 2010 (FAO).

What needs to be done
We need to assess the limits of adaptation to climate change in Africa. And we need to develop comprehensive tools with which to analyze trade offs between, for example, economic growth and food security. We need to build on the adaptive capacity of Africa’s croppers and livestock keepers, increase our investments in agricultural and livestock development, and get the development paradigm for Africa right—one that builds on local, indigenous skills, knowledge and culture.

Mostly what we need to do is to avoid, at all costs, a 5-degree plus world.

Research project on fodder marketing in Bihar, India

ILRI India

A recently completed research project has, for the first time, systematically studied the trading of fodder in Bihar with a view to determining the importance of fodder trading and marketing as a means of mitigating fodder scarcity. The study has also identified differences in the nutritive value of traded fodders.

Dr Iain Wright of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) which led the study explained, “Scarcity of fodder is one of the key constraints to the development of the livestock sector in Bihar as well as India generally. We know that trading of fodder is important within villages, between villages and even between states, but until now we have not known much about the volumes traded nor the importance of fodder trading in supplying fodder to areas where there is a scarcity. We now understand more about the way in which fodder is moved within Bihar and even outside the state and how the marketing of fodder could be made more effective.”

Crop residues make up almost 50% of the fodder that is fed to livestock in India, and are even more important in Bihar where over 60% of all feed is contributed by wheat and rice straw, with rice straw especially important. Dr Wright explained that recent research by ILRI had shown that there were big differences in the nutritive value of straw from different varieties of rice. ‘We wanted to see whether these differences in the feeding value of rice straw are reflected in the prices paid for straw in the markets.’

The results of the study show the diversity of the supply and demand for fodder in different parts of Bihar. Areas with intensive cereal production supply dry fodder to the rest of Bihar. Dr Nils Teufel an ILRI researcher explained that farmers with small land-holdings have to purchase dry fodder to feed their animals while farmers with surplus fodder are selling about 45% of their dry fodder production. “Within villages, more than 80% of trade in fodder is usually directly between producer and consumers but trade between districts generally involves up to four trade transactions,” he added. Urban dairy producers are major buyers of fodder – they buy about 73% of dry fodder sold by traders.

The type of fodder used also depends on the intensity of production: with increasing intensification of dairy production, the share of wheat straw being fed to dairy animals increases.

Laboratory analysis of fodder samples showed the expected superior nutritional quality of wheat straw compared to paddy straw. In fact, the analysed paddy straw samples showed below average quality characteristics.

Traders and consumers evaluate straw by its appearance, but neither appearance nor the nutritional quality characteristics seem to have a strong effect on prices. This is in contrast to some other parts of India where prices are higher for fodder with better nutritional quality.

A workshop at which the key findings of the project will be presented and discussed is being organized by ILRI on 27 October 2009 at the ICAR Research Complex for the Eastern Region, Patna. The guest of honour will be Sri Anil Kumar Singh, Director, Dairy, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Government of Bihar. Participants will include representatives of the primary stakeholders, i.e. fodder producers, traders and livestock owners of the state as well as research scientists and officials from different government departments. Members of the Press are cordially invited to attend.

For further information
contact Dr Iain A Wright, Regional Representative, Asia. Tel: 987 187 7038, email: i.wright@cgiar.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is one of 15 International Agricultural Research Institutes which are part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. ILRI carries out research to alleviate poverty through the development of the livestock sector in Africa and Asia. Its headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya. It has a team of scientists based in Hyderabad working to alleviate problems of feed scarcity and an Asia Regional Office in New Delhi. For further information on ILRI see www.ilri.org

The research project was funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Vienna, Austria.

Khulungira: Harvesting hope in an African village

Ireland’s Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr. Peter Power, T.D., has launched an exhibition highlighting the potential of science for Africa’s smallholder farmers at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in Dublin.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power launches ‘Khulungira: Harvesting Hope in an African village’.

Ireland’s Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr. Peter Power, T.D., has launched an exhibition highlighting the potential of science for Africa’s smallholder farmers at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in Dublin.

The multimedia exhibition features videos, posters, photographs and soundscapes that introduce visitors to the people of Khulungira, a village in Malawi that has benefited from advances in agricultural research.

IrishExhibit Poster


“At present, one in six people worldwide go to bed hungry each night and many more cannot afford a healthy diet,” Mr. Power said. “If we do not do all in our power to reverse the rise in food insecurity and hunger, we will be failing in our basic human obligations, and accepting a scandalous situation which we have the capacity to change.”

The exhibition presents the people behind the grim statistics. The villagers of Khulungira are typical of millions of Africans who depend on smallholder farming for food and income. The challenges they face are daunting: If the rains are late, or crops are infested with a pest or disease, people can starve. If conditions are good, they may have a little extra to sell for income, enabling them to send their children to school. In this sort of scenario, even the smallest improvement in productivity can make a huge difference.

Thanks in part to research undertaken by the members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), farmers in Khulungira and other villages across Malawi have begun to plant new varieties of potatoes, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and trees. Others are improving the composition of soil and expanding their livestock holdings.

In each case, the change has increased production, improved diets and reduced vulnerability to catastrophic loses.

The CGIAR, established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations dedicated to mobilizing agricultural science to reduce poverty, promote agricultural growth and protect the environment. The CGIAR supports an alliance of 15 international agricultural research centres.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power launches

The exhibition in Dublin features the work of four CGIAR centers: the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Potato Center (CIP), and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The creative development of the joint venture was led by ILRI at the request of Irish Aid . Support was also provided by the MDG Centre, East & Southern Africa and Irish Aid, the Government of Ireland’s programme for overseas development.

In 2009, Irish Aid has provided funding of almost €7 million to the CGIAR. “Continued investment in agricultural research is essential to success in transforming African agriculture into a highly-productive, sustainable system that can assure food security, keep children in school and lift millions out of poverty,” Minister Power said.

The exhibition is free and open to the public at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre, 27-31 Upper O’Connell St, Dublin 1 (corner of Cathal Brugha Street). It is scheduled to run through the end of 2009.

American TV show ’60 Minutes’ features ILRI research in Masai Mara


The work of ecologist Robin Reid, who spent 15 years conducting pastoral research at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and is now Director for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, is featured in a current segment of the American television program ’60 Minutes’, which aired last Sunday, 3 October 2009. You can view the segment on the 60 Minutes website here:

This story of the great annual wildebeest migration, the last such spectacle of big mammals on the move, focuses on two things—the danger that destruction of Kenya’s Mau Forest presents to the Mara River, the artery that keeps the wildlife and livestock in the Masai Mara region alive, and the hope for sustaining both wildlife populations and the Maasai’s pastoral livelihoods presented by new public-private initiatives called wildlife conservancies.

Poverty reduction lies behind both the danger and the hope.

Kenyan governments have allowed poor farmers to inhabit the Mau Forest, high above the Mara Game Reserve, which provides the waters for the Mara River. These farmers fell the trees to grow crops and make a living. The current government has recently acted to evict these communities to protect this important watershed.

Downstream, meanwhile, Maasai livestock herders, who have provided stewardship for the wildlife populations they live amongst for centuries, are bearing the brunt of the declining water in the Mara River, which threatens both their livestock livelihoods and the populations of big mammals and other wildlife that have made the Mara Game Reserve famous worldwide. Robin Reid says that should the Mara River disappear entirely, some experts estimate some 400,000 animals would likely perish in the very first week.

The new wildlife conservancies being developed in the lands adjacent to the Reserve are also about poverty reduction. They are an ambitious attempt by the local Maasai and private conservation and tourist companies to serve the needs both of the local livestock herders and the many people wanting to conserve resources for the wildlife. The conservancies are paying the Maasai to leave some of their lands open for wildlife. They appear to be working well, with the full support of the local Maasai. Dickson ole Kaelo, who is leading the conservancy effort, was recently a partner in an ILRI research project called Reto-o-Reto, a Maasai term meaning ‘I help you, you help me’. Dickson was a science communicator in that 3-year project, which found ways to help both the human and wildlife populations of this region. In his new role as developer of conservancies, Dickson and his community have managed to bring nearly 300 square miles of Mara rangelands under management by the conservancies, which pay equal attention to people and animals.

The long-term participatory science behind this story is demonstrable proof that, difficult as they are to find and develop, ways to help both people and wildlife, both public and private goods, exist, if all stakeholders come together and if the political will and policy support are forthcoming.

In other, drier, rangelands of Kenya, now experiencing a great drought that is killing half the livestock herds of pastoralists, some experts are predicting an end to pastoral ways of life. Other experts are predicting the end of big game in Kenya. Both, ILRI’s research indicates, are tied to one another. It appears unlikely that either will be saved without the other.

Drought hits Kenya’s livestock herders hard

Llivestock in the current kenya drought

Drought hits Kenya’s livestock herders hard, forcing some communities out of self-reliant pastoral ways of life (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Stories of the two-year drought biting deep in pastoral lands in the Horn of Africa are heartbreaking. Kenya’s livestock herders are being hit particularly hard. More than three-quarters of Kenya comprises arid and semi-arid lands too dry for growing crops of any kind. Only pastoral tribes, able to eke out a living by raising livestock on common grasslands, can make a living for themselves and their families here, where rainfall is destiny. With changes in the climate bringing droughts every few years in this region of eastern Africa, some doubt that traditional pastoral ways of life, evolved in this region over some 12,000 years, can long survive. Climate change here is not an academic discussion but rather a matter of life and death. But pastoral knowledge of how to survive harsh climates—largely by moving animals to take advantage of common lands where the grass is growing—is needed now more than ever.

This is especially true in Africa, whose many vast drylands are expected to suffer greater extremes in climate in future. Two of the recent reports are from America’s Public Radio International (‘Drought in East Africa’: <http://www.pri.org/business/nonprofits/drought-east-africa1629.html>) and the UK’s Guardian newspaper (‘The last nomads: Drought drives Kenya’s herders to the brink’: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/13/drought-kenya-nomads>). The Guardian article tells a heart-breaking story about “pastoral dropouts”, a story that may mark “not simply the end . . . of generations of nomadic existence in the isolated lands where Kenya meets Somalia and Ethiopia, but the imminent collapse of a whole way of life that has been destroyed by an unprecedented decade of successive droughts”.

The article says this region has experienced three serious droughts in the last decade, when formerly a drought occurred every 9 to 12 years. This change in global weather patterns ‘has been whittling away at the nomads’ capacity to restock with animals—to replenish and survive—normally a period of about three years”. The Economist in its 19 September 2009 edition says global warming is creating a ‘bad climate for development’ (<http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14447171>). The article says that poor countries’ economic development will contribute to climate change—but they are already its victims. ‘Most people in the West know that the poor world contributes to climate change, though the scale of its contribution still comes as a surprise. Poor and middle-income countries already account for just over half of total carbon emissions (see chart 1); Brazil produces more CO2 per head than Germany. The lifetime emissions from these countries’ planned power stations would match the world’s entire industrial pollution since 1850.

‘Less often realised, though, is that global warming does far more damage to poor countries than they do to the climate. In a report in 2006 Nicholas (now Lord) Stern calculated that a 2°C rise in global temperature cost about 1% of world GDP. But the World Bank, in its new World Development Report <http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14447171#footnote1> , now says the cost to Africa will be more like 4% of GDP and to India, 5%. Even if environmental costs were distributed equally to every person on earth, developing countries would still bear 80% of the burden (because they account for 80% of world population). As it is, they bear an even greater share, though their citizens’ carbon footprints are much smaller . . . . ‘The poor are more vulnerable than the rich for several reasons. Flimsy housing, poor health and inadequate health care mean that natural disasters of all kinds hurt them more. ‘The biggest vulnerability is that the weather gravely affects developing countries’ main economic activities—such as farming and tourism. Global warming dries out farmland. Since two-thirds of Africa is desert or arid, the continent is heavily exposed. One study predicts that by 2080 as much as a fifth of Africa’s farmland will be severely stressed.’

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its local and international partners are working to help pastoral communities in this region increase their resilience in the face of the current drought, as well as population growth, climate change, and other big changes affecting pastoral ways of life.

  1. Scientists are helping Maasai communities in the Kitengela rangelands of Kenya (outside Nairobi) obtain and use evidence that new schemes to pay herders small sums of money per hectare to keep their lands unfenced are working for the benefit of livestock and wildlife movements alike.
  2. Scientists are helping Maasai communities in the rangelands surrounding Kenya’s famous Masai Mara National Reserve to obtain and use evidence that public-private partnerships now building new wildlife conservancies that pay pastoralists to leave some of their lands for wildlife rather than livestock grazing are win-win options for conservationists and pastoral communities alike.
  3. Scientists have refined and mass produced a vaccine against the lethal cattle disease East Coast fever—and are helping public-private partnerships to regulate and distribute the vaccine in 11 countries of eastern, central and southern Africa where the disease is endemic—so that pastoral herders can save some of their famished livestock in this drought from attack by disease, and use those animals to rebuild their herds when the drought is over.
  4. Scientists are characterizing and helping to conserve the indigenous livestock breeds that Africa’s pastoralists have kept for millennia—breeds that have evolved special hardiness to cope with harsh conditions such as droughts and diseases—so that these genetic traits can be more widely used to cope with the changing climate.

But much more needs to be done. And it needs to be done much more closely with the livestock herding communities that have so much to teach us about how to cope with a changing and variable climate.

African cattle to be protected from killer disease

ITM Vaccine

Millions of African families could be saved from destitution thanks to a much-needed vaccine that is being mass-produced in a drive to protect cattle against a deadly parasite.

East Coast fever is a tick-transmitted disease that kills one cow every 30 seconds – with one million a year dying of the disease.

Calves are particularly susceptible to the disease. In herds kept by the pastoral Maasai people, for example, the disease kills from 20 to over 50 per cent of all unvaccinated calves. This makes it difficult and often impossible for the herders to plan for the future, to improve their livestock enterprises and thus to raise their standard of living.

An experimental vaccine against East Coast fever was first developed more than 30 years ago. This has been followed by work to allow the vaccine to be produced on a large scale, with major funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and others.

East Coast Fever puts the lives of more than 25 million cattle at risk in the 11 countries where the disease is now endemic, and endangers a further 10 million animals in new regions such as southern Sudan, where the disease has been spreading at a rate of more than 30 kilometres a year. The vaccine could save the 11 affected countries at least £175 million a year.

The immunization procedure – called “infection-and-treatment” because the animals are infected with whole parasites while being treated with antibiotics to stop development of disease – has proved highly effective. However, initial stocks produced in the 1990s recently ran low.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), at the request of the Africa Union/Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources and chief veterinary officers in affected countries, produced one million doses of vaccine to fill this gap. However, for the longer term it is critical that sustainable commercial systems for vaccine production, distribution and delivery are established.

With UK£16.5 million provided by DFID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charity GALVmed is fostering innovative commercial means to do just this, beginning with the registration and commercial distribution and delivery of this new batch of the vaccine. This will ensure that the vaccine is made available, accessible and affordable to livestock keepers who need it most and to scale up its production for the future.

International Development Minister Mike Foster said:

“Some 1.3 billion of the world's poorest people rely on livestock for their livelihoods. Many Africans depend on the health of their cattle for milk, meat and as their only hard asset for trade and investment. A smallholder dairy farmer can take years to recover economically from the death of a single milking cow. That’s why it’s vital that every possible step is taken to ensure that these essential vaccine doses are sustainably produced, tested and made available to the people who need them.

“DFID is supporting GALVmed to explore ways of transferring the production and distribution of the vaccine into the private sector through local manufacturers and distributors. This is extremely important in making the vaccine affordable, accessible and – crucially – sustainable.”

GALVmed CEO Steve Sloan said:
“Funded by DFID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GALVmed is working to protect livestock and the livelihoods of their owners. Thanks to the highly effective East Coast fever vaccine developed over many years by researchers working in East Africa and then refined and mass produced by ILRI, cattle invaluable to pastoralists such as the Maasai as well as smallholder dairy farmers are being protected. 
“The survival of cattle for the millions who live on tiny margins has a direct effect on quality of life and the dignity of choice and self-determination. Collaborating with ILRI and partners in the developing world, including governments and veterinary distributors and those from the private sector, GALVmed is working to embed the vaccine through registration in East African countries and to scale up its production so that it remains accessible to poor people.
“This pioneering registration effort aims to ensure that the vaccine is approved and monitored by affected nations and enables local firms to sell and distribute it, embedding its sustainability. Registration in Malawi is already complete, with significant progress in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.”
ILRI veterinary scientist Henry Kiara, who has conducted research on the live vaccine for 20 years, explains that ILRI is “looking forward to commercialising the production, distribution and delivery of the vaccine to the smallholder and emerging dairy producers as well as livestock herders” in this region of Africa. “Now that all the building blocks are in place, thanks to past investments by DFID and others”, he says, “we are excited to be at a stage where this vaccine can ‘take off’.”

Over the past several years, the field logistics involved in mass vaccinations of cattle with the infection-and-treatment method have been greatly improved, due largely to the work of a private Company called VetAgro Tanzania Ltd, working with Maasai cattle herders in northern Tanzania. Sustainability underpins GALVmed’s approach and the charity is working with developing world partners to ensure that the vaccine is available to those who need it most, bringing public and private partners together.

About the vaccine
The infection-and-treatment immunisation method against East Coast fever was developed by research conducted over three decades by the East African Community, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) at Muguga, Kenya (www.kari.org), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya (www.ilri.org). This long-term research was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) (www.dfid.gov.uk) and other donors of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (www.cgiar.org). The first bulk batch of the vaccine, produced by ILRI 15 years ago, has protected one million animals, whose survival raised the standard of living for livestock keepers and their families. Field trials of the new vaccine batch, also produced at ILRI, are being completed in accordance with international standards to ensure that it is safe and effective.

About East Coast fever
East Coast fever was first recognized in southern Africa when it was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century with cattle imported from eastern Africa, where the disease had been endemic for centuries. It caused dramatic losses with high cattle mortality. It has persisted in 11 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa – Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The disease devastates the livelihoods of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers and smallholder and emerging dairy producers, as well as pastoral livestock herders, such as the Maasai in East Africa.

East Coast fever, or theileriosis, is a devastating cancer-like disease of cattle that often kills the animals within three weeks of infection. It is caused by the single-celled parasite Theileria parva, which is transmitted by the brown ear tick (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) as it feeds on cattle. In addition to producing the infection-and-treatment vaccine, ILRI is also working to develop a genetically engineered next-generation vaccine.

Some 70 per cent of the human population of sub-Saharan Africa – around half a billion people – depend on livestock for their livelihoods, with farming and herding families relying on cattle for vital sources of food, income, traction, transportation and manure to fertilise croplands.

A case study showing the impact of the disease on Maasai herders is included below. Further case studies illustrating the impact of the infection-and-treatment vaccine on people’s lives are available on the GALVmed website at: www.galvmed.org/path-to-progress

Case Study: East Coast fever in Tanzania

Maasai herders in Tanzania have been particularly devastated by East Coast fever. In parts of northern Tanzania, more than 1 in 5 calves die before reaching maturity (54 months) in the lowlands and more than one third fail to reach maturity in the (wetter) highlands, where tick-borne and other diseases are more prevalent.

Although the infection-and-treatment vaccine is a “live” vaccine, and thus needs to be stored in liquid nitrogen and administered by skilled practitioners, after which the animals must be monitored by experts for several days, the Maasai here are desperate for the new batch to be ready.

Introduction of the previous batch in recent years has drastically reduced calf mortality, from up to 80 per cent to less than 2 per cent. The protection afforded by the vaccine is so good that Maasai herders are willing to pay for these vaccinations. The vaccine appears to protect the animals against other ailments as well and, in addition, those mature animals that are marked with ear tags as having been vaccinated are fetching up to 50 per cent higher prices in the market. The vaccine is allowing these cattle herders to sell more animals and to invest their new income in, for example, bettering their household diets or paying for their children’s education. The new access to this vaccine is facilitating a transition among the Maasai in herd management, from a subsistence- to a market-orientation.

GALVmed has regular contact with those on the ground to improve access to the vaccine, including a meeting with 25 Masaai livestock keepers in Arusha, in northern Tanzania, earlier this year. At that meeting a Masaai representative stated:

“Please thank all those people who made the vaccine and also those who make it available for us to buy. Tell them not to stop their good work. No cattle means no Maasai – and no East Coast fever vaccine means no cattle.”