Sustainable intensification of agriculture in Africa: The case for mixed crop-livestock farming

Click to view this slide presentation made by Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thu 19 Sep 2013, at the 22 International Grasslands Congress, which was held in Sydney, Australia, 15−19 September 2013, and had some 800 participants. Other ILRI and former colleagues who developed the presentation with Tarawali are Alan Duncan, Peter Thorne, Diego Valbuena, Katrien Descheemaeker and Sabine Homann-KeeTui.

This ILRI presentation made the case for continued close integration of crop farming and livestock raising in Africa, where such integrated farming systems are key to helping small-scale food producers intensify their production levels while conserving their natural resources and protecting their environments.

Tarawali had three main messages for her audience, for which she and her colleagues provided samples of latest research work at ILRI and its partners around the world.

  1. Don’t decouple crop intensification efforts from livestock intensification work.
  2. Address the biomass challenge.
  3. Improve the efficiencies of smallholder livestock production systems to reduce any harm they cause to the environment.


Mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems are important for feeding the world

Slide 3: Livestock demand is highest in developing countries

Slide 4: Developing countries lead in global food production

Smallholder livestock keepers in developing countries are remarkably competitive

Slide 6: Smallholder livestock keepers are competitive

Slide 7: Smallholder livestock keepers are competitive

Slide 8: Key points related to smallholder competitiveness

Livestock benefit crop production

Slide 9: Soil fertility and manure

Slide 10: Animal traction

Crop production benefits livestock

Slide 12: Crop residues


Slide 13: Importance of grazed biomass for livestock

Slide 14: Sustainable intensification

Slide 18: More biomass?


Improve crop residues for livestock feed

Slide 20: Improve dual-purpise crop-residues for livestock feed

Slide 21: Opportunities to improve livestock efficiencies

Read / view the opening keynote presentation made at the International Grasslands Congress by ILRI’s director general Jimmy Smith on the ILRI News Blog:

Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 1, 16 Sep 2013

Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much: Keynote address at International Grasslands Congress, Part 2, 17 Sep 2013


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

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

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

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

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

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

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

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

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

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

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

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

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

Communications support

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


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

A few of our favourite (missed) livestock presentations in 2012

Here, for your New Year’s reading/viewing pleasure, are 20 slide presentations on 12 topics made by staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in 2012 that we missed reporting on here (at the ILRI News Blog) during the year.

Happy reading and Happy New Year!


>>> Sustainable and Productive Farming Systems: The Livestock Sector
Jimmy Smith
International Conference on Food Security in Africa: Bridging Research and Practice, Sydney, Australia
29-30 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 426 views.

A balanced diet for 9 billion: Importance of livestock
•  Enough food: much of the world’s meat, milk and cereals comes from developing-country livestock based systems
•  Wholesome food: Small amounts of livestock products – huge impact on cognitive development, immunity and well being
•  Livelihoods: 80% of the poor in Africa keep livestock, which contribute at least one-third of the annual income.
The role of women in raising animals, processing and 3 selling their products is essential.

Key messages: opportunities
•  Livestock for nutrition and food security:
– Direct – 17% global kilocalories; 33% protein; contribute food for 830 million food insecure.
Demand for all livestock products will rise by more than 100% in the next 30 years, poultry especially so (170% in Africa)
– Indirect – livelihoods for almost 1 billion, two thirds women
•  Small-scale crop livestock systems (less than 2ha; 2 TLU) provide 50–75% total livestock and staple food production in Africa and Asia
and provide the greatest opportunity for research to impact on a trajectory of growth that is inclusive –
equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable.

>>> The Global Livestock Agenda: Opportunities and Challenges
Jimmy Smith
15th AAAP [Asian-Australasian Association of Animal Production] Animal Science Congress, Bangkok,Thailand
26–30 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 1,650 views

Livestock and global development challenges
•  Feeding the world
– Livestock provide 58 million tonnes of protein annually and 17% of the global kilocalories.
•  Removing poverty
– Almost 1 billion people rely on livestock for livelihoods
•  Managing the environment
– Livestock contribute 14–18% anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, use 30% of the freshwater used for agriculture and 30% of the ice free land
– Transition of livestock systems
– Huge opportunity to impact on future environment
•  Improving human health
– Zoonoses and contaminated animal-source foods
– Malnutrition and obesity

>>> Meat and Veg: Livestock and Vegetable Researchers Are Natural,
High-value, Partners in Work for the Well-being of the World’s Poor

Jimmy Smith
World Vegetable Center, Taiwan
18 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Nov 2012; 294 views.

Livestock and vegetables suit an urbanizing, warming world
Smallholder livestock and vegetable production offers similar opportunities:
•  Nutritious foods for the malnourished.
•  Market opportunities to meet high urban demand.
•  Income opportunities for women and youth.
•  Expands household incomes.
•  Generates jobs.
•  Makes use of organic urban waste and wastewater.
•  Can be considered ‘organic’ and supplied to niche markets.

Opportunities for livestock & vegetable research
Research is needed on:
•  Ways to manage the perishable nature of these products.
•  Innovative technological and institutional solutions for food safety and public health problems that suit developing countries.
•  Processes, regulations and institutional arrangements regarding use of banned or inappropriate pesticides,
polluted water or wastewater for irrigation, and untreated sewage sludge for fertilizer.
•  Innovative mechanisms that will ensure access by the poor to these growing markets.
•  Ways to include small-scale producers in markets demanding
increasingly stringent food quality, safety and uniformity standards.

>>> The African Livestock Sector:
A Research View of Priorities and Strategies

Jimmy Smith
6th Meeting of the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
26−29 Sep 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 25 Sep 2012;  4,227 views.

Livestock for nutrition
• In developing countries, livestock contribute 6−36% of protein and 2−12% of calories.
• Livestock provide food for at least 830 million food-insecure people.
• Small amounts of animal-source foods have large benefits on child growth and cognition and on pregnancy outcomes.
• A small number of countries bear most of the burden of malnutrition (India, Ethiopia, Nigeria−36% burden).

Smallholder competitiveness
Ruminant production
• Underused local feed resources and family labour give small-scale ruminant producers a comparative advantage over larger producers, who buy these.
Dairy production
• Above-normal profits of 19−28% of revenue are found in three levels of intensification of dairy production systems.
• Non-market benefits – finance, insurance, manure, traction – add 16−21% on top of cash revenue.
• Dairy production across sites in Asia, Africa, South America showed few economies of scale until opportunity costs of labour rose.
• Nos. of African smallholders still growing strongly.
Small ruminant production
• Production still dominated by poor rural livestock keepers, incl. women.
• Peri-urban fattening adds value.

>>> The CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish and its Synergies
with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Delia Grace and Tom Randolph
Third annual conference on Agricultural Research for Development: Innovations and Incentives, Uppsala, Sweden
26–27 Sep 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 13 Oct 2012;  468 views.

Lessons around innovations and incentives
• FAILURE IS GETTING EASIER TO PREDICT – but not necessarily success
• INNOVATIONS ARE THE LEVER – but often succeed in the project context but not in the real world
• PICKING WINNERS IS WISE BUT PORTFOLIO SHOULD BE WIDER– strong markets and growing sectors drive uptake
• INCENTIVES ARE CENTRAL: value chain actors need to capture visible benefits
• POLICY: not creating enabling policy so much as stopping the dead hand of disabling policy and predatory policy implementers
‘Think like a systemicist, act like a reductionist.’

>>> The Production and Consumption of Livestock Products
in Developing Countries: Issues Facing the World’s Poor

Nancy Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Mario Herrero, Shirley Tarawali, Susan MacMillan, and Delia Grace
Farm Animal Integrated Research 2012 Conference, Washington DC, USA
4–6 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 7 Mar 2012; 1,108 views.

The rising demand for livestock foods in poor countries presents
– Opportunities
• Pathway out of poverty and malnutrition
• Less vulnerability in drylands
• Sustainable mixed systems
– Threats
• Environmental degradation at local and global scales
• Greater risk of disease and poor health
• Greater risk of conflict and inequity

• Key issues for decision makers
– appreciation of the vast divide in livestock production between rich and poor countries
– intimate understanding of the specific local context for specific livestock value chains
– reliable evidence-based assessments of the hard trade-offs involved in adopting any given approach to livestock development

• Institutional innovations as important as technological/biological innovations in charting the best ways forward
– Organization within the sector
– Managing trade offs at multiple scales


>>> Livestock feeds in the CGIAR Research Programs
Alan Duncan
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) West Africa Regional Workshop on Crop Residues, Dakar, Senegal
10–13 Dec 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare on 18 Dec 2012; 3,437 views.

>>> Biomass Pressures in Mixed Farms: Implications for Livelihoods
and Ecosystems Services in South Asia & Sub-Saharan Africa

Diego Valbuena, Olaf Erenstein, Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Tahirou Abdoulaye, Alan Duncan, Bruno Gérard, and Nils Teufel
Planet Under Pressure Conference, London, UK
26-29 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Mar 2012;  1,999 views.


>>> Assessing the Potential to Change Partners’ Knowledge,
Attitude and Practices on Sustainable Livestock Husbandry in India

Sapna Jarial, Harrison Rware, Pamela Pali, Jane Poole and V Padmakumar
International Symposium on Agricultural Communication and
Sustainable Rural Development, Pantnagar, Uttarkhand, India
22–24 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 30 Nov 2012; 516 views.

Introduction to ELKS
• ‘Enhancing Livelihoods Through Livestock Knowledge Systems’ (ELKS) is an initiative
to put the accumulated knowledge of advanced livestock research directly to use
by disadvantaged livestock rearing communities in rural India.
• ELKS provides research support to Sir Ratan Tata Trust and its development partners
to address technological, institutional and policy gaps.


>>> Introducing the Technical Consortium
for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa

Polly Ericksen, Mohamed Manssouri and Katie Downie
Global Alliance on Drought Resilience and Growth, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
5 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 21 Dec 2012; 8,003 views.

What is the Technical Consortium?
• A joint CGIAR-FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] initiative,
with ILRI representing the CGIAR Centres and the FAO Investment Centre representing FAO.
• ILRI hosts the Coordinator on behalf of the CGIAR.
• Funded initially by USAID [United State Agency for International Development] for 18 months –
this is envisioned as a longer term initiative, complementing the implementation of investment plans
in the region and harnessing, developing and applying innovation and research to enhance resilience.
• An innovative partnersh–ip linking demand-driven research sustainable action for development.

What is the purpose of the Technical Consortium?
• To provide technical and analytical support to IGAD [Inter-governmental Authority on Development]
and its member countries to design and implement the CPPs [Country Programming Papers]
and the RPF [Regional Programming Framework], within the scope of
the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI).
• To provide support to IGAD and its member countries to develop regional and national
resilience-enhancing investment programmes for the long term development of ASALs [arid and semi-arid lands].
• To harness CGIAR research, FAO and others’ knowledge on drought resilience and bring it to bear on investments and policies.


>>> Mobilizing AR4D Partnerships to Improve
Access to Critical Animal-source Foods

Tom Randolph
Pre-conference meeting of the second Global Conference for Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), Punta de Este, Uruguay
27 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 29 Oct 2012; 385 views.

The challenge
• Can research accelerate livestock and aquaculture development to benefit the poor?
– Mixed record to date
– Systematic under-investment
– Also related to our research-for-development model?
• Focus of new CGIAR Research Program
– Increase productivity of small-scale systems
> ‘by the poor’ for poverty reduction
> ‘for the poor’ for food security

Correcting perceptions
1. Animal-source foods are a luxury and bad for health, so should not promote
2. Small-scale production and marketing systems are disappearing; sector is quickly industrializing
3. Livestock and aquaculture development will have negative environmental impacts

Our underlying hypothesis
• Livestock and Blue Revolutions: accelerating demand in developing countries as urbanization and incomes rise
• Industrial systems will provide a large part of the needed increase in supply to cities and the better-off in some places
• But the poor will often continue to rely on small-scale production and marketing systems
• If able to respond, they could contribute, both increasing supplies and reducing poverty
. . . and better manage the transition for many smallholder households.


>>> Index-Based Livestock Insurance:
Protecting Pastoralists against Drought-related Livestock Mortality

Andrew Mude
World Food Prize ‘Feed the Future’ event, Des Moines, USA
18 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 22 Oct 2012; 576 views.

Index-Based Livestock Insurance
• An innovative insurance scheme designed to protect pastoralists against the risk of drought-related livestock deaths
• Based on satellite data on forage availability (NDVI), this insurance pays out when forage scarcity is predicted to cause livestock deaths in an area.
• IBLI pilot first launched in northern Kenya in Jan 2010. Sold commercially by local insurance company UAP with reinsurance from Swiss Re
• Ethiopia pilot launched in Aug 2012.

Why IBLI? Social and Economic Welfare Potential
An effective IBLI program can:
• Prevent downward slide of vulnerable populations
• Stabilize expectations & crowd-in investment by the poor
• Induce financial deepening by crowding-in credit S & D
• Reinforce existing social insurance mechanisms

Determinants of IBLI Success
• 33% drop in households employing hunger strategies
• 50% drop in distress sales of assets
• 33% drop in food aid reliance (aid traps)


>>> Lessons Learned from the Application of Outcome Mapping to
an IDRC EcoHealth Project: A Double-acting Participatory Process
K Tohtubtiang, R Asse, W Wisartsakul and J Gilbert
1st Pan Asia-Africa Monitoring and Evaluation Forum, Bangkok, Thailand
26–28 Nov 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 5 Dec 2012; 1,395 views.

EcoZD Project Overview
Ecosystem Approaches to the Better Management of Zoonotic Emerging
Infectious Diseases in the Southeast Asia Region (EcoZD)
•  Funded by International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC)
•  5-year project implemented by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
•  Goals: capacity building & evidence-based knowledge•  8 Research & outreach teams in 6 countries.

>>> Mapping the interface of poverty, emerging markets and zoonoses
Delia Grace
Ecohealth 2012 conference, Kunming, China
15–18 Oct 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 23 Nov 2012; 255 views.

Impacts of zoonoses currently or in the last year
• 12% of animals have brucellosis, reducing production by 8%
• 10% of livestock in Africa have HAT, reducing their production by 15%
• 7% of livestock have TB, reducing their production by 6% and from 3–10% of human TB cases may be caused by zoonotic TB
• 17% of smallholder pigs have cysticercosis, reducing their value and creating the enormous burden of human cysticercosis
• 27% of livestock have bacterial food-borne disease, a major source of food contamination and illness in people
• 26% of livestock have leptospirosis, reducing production and acting as a reservoir for infection
• 25% of livestock have Q fever, and are a major source of infection of farmers and consumers.

>>> International Agricultural Research and Agricultural Associated Diseases
Delia Grace (ILRI) and John McDermott (IFPRI)
Workshop on Global Risk Forum at the One Health Summit 2012—
One Health–One Planet–One Future: Risks and Opportunities, Davos, Switzerland
19–22 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 5 Mar 2012; 529 views.


>>> African Beef and Sheep Markets: Situation and Drivers
Derek Baker
South African National Beef and Sheep Conference, Pretoria, South Africa
21 Jun 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 24 Nov 2012; 189 views.

African demand and consumption: looking to the future
• By 2050 Africa is estimated to become the largest world’s market in terms of pop: 27% of world’s population.
• Africa’s consumption of meat, milk and eggs will increase to 12, 15 and 11% resp. of global total (FAO, 2009)


>>> Open Knowledge Sharing to Support Learning in
Agricultural and Livestock Research for Development Projects

Peter Ballantyne
United States Agency for International Development-Technical and Operational Performance Support (USAID-TOPS) Program: Food Security and Nutrition Network East Africa Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
11–13 Jun 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 11 Jun 2012; 2,220 views


>>> Strategy and Plan of Action for Mainstreaming Gender in ILRI
Jemimah Njuki
International Women’s Day, ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya
8 Mar 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 8 Mar 2012; 876 views.


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Its Role in Enhancing Science and Technology Capacity in Africa

Appolinaire Djikeng
Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Vancouver, Canada
16–20 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 20 Feb 2012; 2,405 views.


>>> Review of Community Conservancies in Kenya
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A Review of PES from Wildlife Tourism as a Climate Change Adaptation Option, at ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya
15 Feb 2012; posted on ILRI Slideshare 27 Feb 2012; 762 views.

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.’


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]


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

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.



Livestock: The good, the bad and the ugly

Later this month, many staff, partners and members of the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the institute’s annual program meeting. Alan Duncan, chair of the organizing committee, introduces below the theme for this meeting. ‘Livestock: the good, the bad and the ugly’.

ILRI has long promoted the virtues of livestock production for the poor. Our calendars and posters proclaim the value of ‘livestock for culture’, ‘livestock for women’, ‘livestock for food’, and so on. Yet in the wider world it seems that our voice is drowned out by a very different view of livestock: a view that sees farm animals as polluting the planet and degrading landscapes. This meeting is an opportunity for the ILRI community to consider these other perspectives and perhaps to try on some new approaches to livestock research for development.

People in the developed North have heard a lot recently about the negative impacts of livestock production. Many of these are concerns for animal welfare in so-called ‘intensive systems’, such as factory-farmed poultry, pigs and cattle. Other concerns are about the obesity, heart disease and other ailments and illnesses caused by over-consumption of fatty red meat, eggs and milk products. Still other concerns are for the global health scares provoked by livestock diseases that become human diseases (mad cow disease, bird flu) or for the economic devastation wrought by livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.

Working in the developing South, we have taken it for granted that such negative views of livestock do not extend to poor livestock keepers in smallholder systems in Africa and Asia. Yet it seems that the world doesn’t appreciate such subtleties. We are surrounded by some very negative blanket opinions about livestock. As a livestock research institute, have we neglected to conduct research on the ‘bads’ of livestock production?

At this meeting, we will face some of these issues head on and review the facts around livestock goods and bads. We’ll start with some scene setting: what are the goods and bads? What are the key facts and figures? What do the experts think? We’ll go on to look at what ILRI is doing in the area of livestock goods and bads and where it should be heading. While many of the goods and bads seem clear, there are many issues that don’t fit our neat categories – we aim at this meeting to tease out some of these ‘ugly’ issues. We won’t redesign our research program at this meeting, but we will start conversations that will shape our thinking about where we are and where we need to go. — Read more about livestock goods and bads …


ILRI’s Alan Duncan on livestock and poor people in Ethiopia

In October 2009, Danielle Nierenberg of the Worldwatch Institute’s ‘Nourishing the Planet‘ project began a visit to Africa to document agricultural innovations. Her aim: “to tell stories of hope and success in food production from all over Africa.”

Early in the trip she visited the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa; she has subsequently been in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa … reporting on the project blog. This month, Danielle’s blog includes a profile of ILRI’s Alan Duncan, member of the project’s advisory group.

Responding to a question on the association between livestock production and climate change and other negative environmental impacts, Alan argues that “the blanket condemnation of livestock as ‘polluters of the planet’ misses the nuances of differences between livestock’s role in the rich North and the poor South. Limiting intensive livestock production which oversupplies protein to those in developed countries is probably good for the planet. But in places like Ethiopia, livestock are a crucial element of poor people’s livelihoods and their nutrition. They utilize byproducts of cereal production (straw) and turn them into high-quality protein (meat and milk) for hungry people. They also serve as a source of security in marginal environments, acting as a buffer against disaster in drought-prone environments. Reducing livestock numbers in Africa would have a relatively minor effect on global GHG emissions but would have many negative consequences for the world’s poorest.”

Read more … (Nourishing the Planet Blog)

Follow Danielle on the the Nourishing the Planet project blog

Alan Duncan’s Blog

Moving from project mode to innovations systems thinking?

Reflecting on some ILRI experiences in Ethiopia, Alan Duncan explores some challenges associated with innovation systems approaches that focus less on promoting a specific technical solution and more on facilitation of innovation, learning and joint actions among groups of people and organizations. He poses two important generic questions:

  • facilitating stakeholder platforms is quite demanding of time and resources in itself. Is the use of stakeholder platforms just another project-led approach? Who will take responsibility for facilitating these platforms when we are gone?
  • Is our focus on planted fodder and improving feed supply for production of livestock commodities untenable in a food insecure area?

Read more and comment … (ILRI Fodder Adoption Project)

See his video interview on this topic (

Promising technologies not enough on their own to bring about widespread change in livestock systems

In this short video, ILRI’s Alan Duncan introduces the IFAD-funded ‘Fodder Adoption Project’ based at ILRI.

He outlines the approach followed in the project – trying to strike a balance between the technological and institutional angles.

The project helps groups of stakeholders – farmers, private sector, dairy coops, the government – get together in ‘innovation platforms’ where they can develop joint actions that address livestock fodder problems.

Initially the project went with a traditional approach, focusing on technologies. As the process evolved, other issues came in, more actors joined the platforms, and the technologies – growing improved fodder – acted more as a catalyst for people to come together to discuss a wide range of other issues (dairying, health, etc).

Fodder proved to be a useful ‘engine’ for the group to identify a much wider range of issues to address – along the whole value chain.

He explains that this type of work facilitating stakeholder platforms is “not trivial.” But it is essential: “Technology is only one small part of the equation and really a lot of it is about human interactions and how organizations behave.”

He concludes: “We have lots of promising technologies, but in themselves they are not enough to bring about widespread change in livestock systems.”

See his presentation with Ranjitha Puskur

More information on this project

View the Video:

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