Taking Stock: Jul 2012 round-up of news from ILRI

Remembering Jeff Haskins

JEFF HASKINS
Last month, we at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and within CGIAR and the wider agricultural development communities grieved over the sudden loss of American media guru Jeff Haskins, who had spent six years in Africa covering African agriculture news stories for the American PR firm Burness Communications. Haskins, who had just turned 32, died at the Kenya coast on 14 Jul 2012. See online tributes to him from the ILRI News Blog (with links to 25 major news releases and 20 major opinion pieces that ILRI produced with the help of Jeff and his Burness team over the last five years), Pictures of Jeff Haskins (ILRI Pinterest Board), Pictures by Jeff Haskins (ILRI Pinterest Board)Burness Communications Blog, Global Crop Diversity Trust, CGIARInternational Center for Tropical AgricultureLa Vie Verte and Jeff Haskins Facebook page.

Emerging Zoonotic Diseases Events 1940-2012

MAPPING ZOONOSES
Before his untimely death, Jeff Haskins in early Jul orchestrated major and widespread media coverage of a groundbreaking report by ILRI revealing a heavy burden of zoonoses, or human diseases transmitted from animals, facing one billion of the world’s poor. Some 60 per cent of all human diseases originate in animal populations. The ILRI study found five countries—Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria—to be hotspots of poverty and zoonoses. The study also found that northeastern United States, Western Europe (especially the United Kingdom), Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia may be hotspots of ‘emerging zoonoses’—those that are newly infecting humans, are newly virulent, or have newly become drug resistant. The study, Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, examined the likely impacts of livestock intensification and climate change on the 13 zoonotic diseases currently causing the greatest harm to the world’s poor. It was developed with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

An opinion piece by the main author of the study, ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace, wearing her hat as a member of the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium, appeared this Jul in The Guardian‘s Poverty Matters Blog.

Azage Tegegne of IPMS awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science degree

ILRI AWARD
Azage Tegegne, of ILRI and the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree by Ethiopia’s prestigious Bahir Dar University.

Bruce Scott with ILRI Addis colleagues

ILRI STAFF
ILRI bid goodbye to Bruce Scott, who served ILRI as a director for 13 years, the last decade as director of ILRI’s partnerships and communications department. Bruce is moving only down the road in Nairobi, from Kabete to Westlands, where he is taking up the position of deputy director of a new initiative of Columbia University (USA): Columbia Global Centers  ⁄ Africa.

ILRI & FODDER AT RIO+20
We  compiled links to ILRI inputs to the Rio+20 conference, including how to ‘turn straw into gold’ with dual-purpose crop residues and, with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), how livestock feed innovations can reduce poverty and livestock’s environmental ‘hoofprint’.

POLICY BRIEF
ILRI produced a policy brief on ‘Preventing and controlling classical swine fever in northeast India‘.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS
We film interviewed ILRI director general Jimmy Smith on ILRI’s evolving new livestock strategy and on ILRI’s role in providing evidence about the ‘bads’ as well as ‘goods’ of livestock production, marketing and consumption. And we interviewed ILRI scientist Joerg Jores on his research results, which, as reported in Scientific American, show that the pathogen that causes cattle pneumonia (CBPP) arose with domestication of ruminants ten thousand years ago, but only ‘heated up’ and began causing disease relatively recently.

Commissioners in Africa

VIP VISITORS
An Australian contingent visited ILRI this month and launched a new initiative, the Australian International Food Security Centre, to improve food security in Africa. The centre, which falls under the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), will spend USD33.8 million over four years to support food production in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific region.

Visit by Korea's Rural Development Authority (RDA) to ILRI in Nairobi

PROJECT NEWS
We reported on the signing of a memorandum of understanding by ILRI and Korea‘s Rural Development Authority (RDA) for laboratory work in Kenya, innovative platforms in an imGoats project in India and Mozambique, and training sessions on controlling zoonoses conducted by the Vietnamese members of an ILRI-led project known by its acronym EcoZD (‘Ecosystem Approaches to the Better Management of Zoonotic Emerging Infectious Diseases in Southeast Asia’).

Curious pig in Uganda raised for sale

SELECTED RECENT PRESENTATIONS
Azage Tegegne Livestock and irrigation value chains for Ethiopian smallholders (LIVES) project, Addis Ababa, Jun (256 views).
Danilo Pezo Smallholder pig value chain development in Uganda, Wakiso, Jun (1186 views).
Derek Baker Livestock farming in developing countries: An essential resource, World Meat Congress, Paris, Jun (874 views).
Derek Baker Interpreting trader networks as value chains: Experience with Business Development Services in smallholder dairy in Tanzania and Uganda, ILRI Nairobi, Jun (1879 views).
Peter Ballantyne Open knowledge sharing to support learning in agricultural and livestock research for development projects, Addis Ababa, Jun (1589 views).
John Lynam Applying a systems framework to research on African farming systems, CGIAR drylands workshop, Nairobi, Jun (1884 views).
Bernard Bett Spatial-temporal analysis of the risk of Rift Valley fever in Kenya, European Geosciences Union Conference, Vienna, Apr (1164 views).
Nancy Johnson The production and consumption of livestock products in developing countries: Issues facing the world’s poor, Farm Animal Integrated Research Conference, Washington DC, Mar (542 views).

‘Africa’s drylands are productive, and potentially very productive’–ILRI’s Bruce Scott

AU-IBAR livestock consultation to reduce hunger in the Horn

ILRI’s Bruce Scott delivers a talk at an expert consultation on livestock systems in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Bruce Scott, acting director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), delivered the following talk at the opening of an expert consultation convened by the Africa Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), on ‘Interventions for sustainable livestock systems in the Horn of Africa’, held at ILRI’s campus in Nairobi, Kenya, on 2 September 2011.

‘I thank you all for accepting the invitation from the Africa Union to attend this expert consultation.

‘I thank the Africa Union Commission (AUC) and AU-IBAR for convening this meeting, which ILRI is pleased to host.

‘I especially appreciate each of you agreeing to attend this meeting at this time of crisis, where there are so many activities competing for your precious time. We are confident that your presence will help us identify steps towards a more holistic and practical approach for addressing livestock issues in the Horn.

‘I am delighted to welcome His Excellency Erasmus Mwancha, deputy chairperson of the Africa Union Commission, who has kindly agreed to officially open this consultation.

‘I also take pleasure in acknowledging the presence of the chief executive officer of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, Lloyd Le Page. Yesterday (Thursday, 1 September), Lloyd convened a CGIAR media briefing and learning event also here at ILRI, and also on the crisis in the Horn, looking at the most promising agricultural research inputs for addressing these issues in future.

‘The consensus of the Consortium’s learning event was that we need greater investment in agricultural development, greater support for agricultural research, and greater cooperation between research, government, private sector and development actors. These can spread the adoption of innovations by farmers and herders, helping millions of food producers in the Horn of Africa, who are now facing the severest drought in this region in the last six decades.

‘The CGIAR and partner experts gathered yesterday called for a ‘matching of investments in infrastructure development with investments in knowledge’ to get more research into use.

‘We are all here at today’s Africa Union meeting because of our commitment to finding sustainable livestock-based solutions for this region’s food production problems.

‘I’d like to take a minute to set some context for this consultation.

‘Rangelands cover about one-half of the landmass in Africa. In Kenya, about 80 per cent of the landmass comprises arid and semi-arid lands. These drylands can be subdivided into the wetter drylands and the drier drylands. Most of the Horn now afflicted by drought is made up of the drier drylands. I caution us to keep in mind that food production options appropriate for the wetter drylands often are inappropriate for the drier drylands.

‘Droughts have frequented the Horn of Africa for centuries. But in recent decades they have become more frequent and the rainfall has become more variable from year to year. Both of these changes are increasing the vulnerability of the communities that live in these lands.

‘As you know, livestock are a central source of livelihoods in this region and the major way that pastoralists generate income and build their ‘asset base’. A remarkable 70 per cent of all the beef produced in Kenya comes from the arid and semi-arid regions of the country.

‘The Horn of Africa experiences bimodal rainfall, which occurs in only a few regions on earth. That means that the little rain that does fall in these drylands does so in two rather than one growing season, which of course reduces the low levels of annual rainfall available for either of the two annual growing seasons. While this is bad news for cropping, it serves animal production particularly well, with pastures renewed twice a year. Furthermore, the unpredictability of rainfall here is often so great as to allow only one crop every third, fourth or fifth season, which makes crop production unviable without irrigation of some sort.

‘Africa’s dry rangelands are, in fact, productive, and potentially very productive. They are good filtres of water, for example, with some parts of the continent’s drylands, such as in West Africa, having sizable aquifers below their surface (these aquifers, unfortunately, are much smaller in the Horn). The drylands are home to much of the continent’s wildlife diversity. The drylands sequester carbon, and carbon credits might one day provide the local populations with new income streams. And livestock enterprises are not only a major source of income for the peoples of the Horn, they also provide up to 50 per cent of the agricultural gross domestic product of these countries.

‘In spite of all this, the Horn’s drylands have been badly neglected. Governments have neither significantly invested in nor developed these drylands, whose people (pastoral livestock herders) have been marginalized for decades. Donor investments in this region have fallen drastically in the recent past and even ILRI has reduced its attention to these drylands since the late 1990s.

‘Meanwhile, over the last 30 years, more and more people and more and more animals have inhabited these fragile ecosystems, fragmenting the rangelands and reducing the mobility of the herders and their stock in seasonal search of new pasture. Pastoral mobility has also been restricted by governance issues, insecurity, and conflicts over natural resources. And as we well know, Somalia has been a non-state since 1990 and many of the region’s commercial livestock markets are functioning badly or not at all.

‘It is clear to us that the traditional way of managing livestock will need to change to adapt to changes in this region and that we’ll need to identify ways to help the Horn’s pastoralists diversify their incomes and livelihoods.

‘ILRI is investigating promising options for this region’s livestock herders, including better land-use policies, well-functioning livestock markets, pastoral livestock insurance and schemes to pay pastoral herders for their environmental services, such as sequestering carbon, filtering water and conserving wildlife.

‘It’s essential that this expert consultation identifies opportunities to ensure a sustainable future for this sub-region, which is changing rapidly under both external and internal pressures. This meeting should provide a framework for collecting some of our best professional advice on new opportunities for viable livestock enterprises for the future.’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits ILRI’s campus in Nairobi, where agricultural scientists are fighting hunger

Merkel visits ILRI Nairobi: Arrival

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner, and Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), at ILRI’s campus in Nairobi, Kenya, 12 July 2011 (photo credit: ILRI).

Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany visited Kenya today (Tue 12 Jul 2011) as the first part of a three-day, three-nation, African tour.

This morning, in the presence of the Chancellor, Merkel’s ambassador to Kenya, Ms Margit Hellwig-Boette, signed an agreement between Germany and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is headquartered in Kenya. The signing ceremony was part of a press conference given by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga at Nairobi’s Intercontinental Hotel.

Germany has been one of ILRI’s top donors for many years, contributing more than USD11 million in just the past six years.

The new agreement Germany and ILRI signed launches a project Germany is funding in Kenya to be led by ecology researchers at ILRI and local partners in Kenya. The study will assess the state of Kenya’s ‘eco-conservancies’, which strive to benefit both Kenya’s wildlife and the pastoral people who have been stewards of wildlife in this country for centuries. The study will examine the benefits accruing from the establishment of these eco-conservancies in terms of both wildlife conservation and poverty reduction among Kenya’s pastoral communities.

Following the signing ceremony, attended by ILRI Director General Carlos Seré and ILRI’s Director of Partnerships and Communications Bruce Scott, Chancellor Merkel attended a State luncheon given by President Mwai Kibaki, to which ILRI’s director general was also invited. Chancellor Merkel then proceeded to the University of Nairobi, where she gave a keynote address.

Later in the afternoon, the Chancellor paid a visit to ILRI’s campus, in Nairobi’s Kabete suburb. Chancellor Merkel was met by ILRI Director General Seré, who welcomed her with a few remarks, noting in particular the key role science can play in helping the world feed its growing human populations.

‘Our challenge over the next four decades,’ said Seré, ‘is to feed another 2 billion people, nearly 1 billion more people in Africa alone, from the same or smaller resource base. As a scientist,’ Seré told the Chancellor, ‘I’m sure you appreciate how important research is to rising to the global challenge to feed the world sustainably.’

The ILRI director general then described the benefits of ILRI-German partnerships over many years in diverse fields, from climate change adaptation to carbon sequestration schemes to vaccine development, all conducted in Kenya; to increasing water-use efficiencies on mixed crop-livestock farms in the Nile Basin; to forestalling parasite drug resistance in West Africa; to ensuring safe milk, meat and egg production and marketing in southern Africa.

Seré concluded by requesting the Chancellor’s help in raising awareness in Germany and elsewhere of the importance of science in helping this continent to become food secure.

‘Please tell your listeners that science partnerships in this matter matter,’ said Seré.

‘Only through such partnerships will we manage to tackle the world’s increasingly complex development problems.’

Madam Chancellor Merkel visits ILRI Nairobi Campus 11 July 2011

Chancellor Angela Merkel making a few remarks at ILRI (photo credit: ILRI).

Chancellor Merkel than made a few remarks to the ILRI and diplomatic communities assembled outside ILRI’s new greenhouse.

After this, ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Bruce Scott led the German Chancellor on a tour of a few of ILRI’s advanced biosciences laboratories, where Merkel spoke to several scientists about their research on the crops and farm animals that are the mainstay of poor people throughout the developing world.

Merkel visits ILRI Nairobi: Carlos Seré thanks the Chancellor

ILRI Director General Carlos Seré and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at ILRI (photo credit: ILRI).

The afternoon ended with ILRI’s Carlos Seré thanking the Chancellor for taking the time in her busy schedule to see at first-hand some of the high-quality and relevant science being conducted in Africa to solve some of Africa’s most intractable agricultural problems.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Kenya, will visit ‘model research institution in Africa’–ILRI

Biosciences eastern and central Africa hub platform

One of 7 high-tech laboratories at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub, a regional state-of-the-art science platform hosted and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/David White).

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Kenya.

Her busy one-day visit to this country, the first of three countries she is visiting on her African tour, includes talks with Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

As reported in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper on Sunday, Merkel will also hold a joint press conference with Prime Minister Odinga. At the press conference, to be held at the Intercontinental Hotel, in Nairobi’s city centre, Chancellor Merkel will sign a new agreement between her government and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is headquartered in Kenya.

ILRI Director General Carlos Seré and Director for Partnerships and Communications Bruce Scott will attend the prime minister’s press conference and take part in the signing ceremony. Chancellor Merkel and ILRI’s Carlos Seré will then attend a State luncheon hosted by President Kibaki at State House.

After the luncheon, Chancellor Merkel is scheduled to give a speech at the University of Nairobi. She will then pay a visit to ILRI’s headquarters, in the suburb of  Kabete, where she will tour ILRI’s farm and labs, be introduced to some of the research partnerships her country is involved in, and give an address to the ILRI and diplomatic community.

The Daily Nation reports that some of Germany’s scientists are working at ILRI, which is ‘described as a model of a state-of-the-art research institution in Africa.’

President Kibaki is quite familiar himself with ILRI’s research. The president toured the laboratories at ILRI/BecA late last year (17 Nov 2010) when he officially launched the BecA Hub. And just last Friday (8 Jul 2011), the president paid a visit to an ILRI exhibit at the launch of his government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal,’ the first of its kind in Africa, at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. At this launch, the president and several of his ministers as well as some 1,000 (techie) participants heard from ILRI scientist Andrew Mude, who presented to them a novel livestock insurance product that ILRI has initiated with private and public partners for poor livestock herders living in Kenya’s northern pastoral lands.

After her busy day today in Nairobi, Chancellor Merkel departs tonight (Tue 12 Jul 2011) for  Angola before going on to Nigeria.

This is a red-letter day for ILRI for another reason. ILRI Director General Carlos Seré, an agricultural economist from Uruguay, and his wife, Chrysille Seré, from Germany, will also be departing Kenya tonight, as it is the director general’s last official day in his Nairobi office. Carlos Seré has led ILRI for ten years, having started his tenure in January 2002. He is going on summer leave starting tonight. On 1 October of this year, Jimmy Smith, an animal scientist and policymaker from Guyana, now at the World Bank, will take over from Carlos Seré as director general of ILRI.

ILRI has had several informal goodbye parties for the Seré’s and will have one more opportunity to wish him well in the new position he is taking up in Rome at the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD) at a 1.5-day ‘Seré Seminar’ that will take place this November in Addis Ababa to look back at Seré’s 10-year ILRI legacy and forward to new leadership under Smith.

ILRI staff are thus expressing to themselves how kind it is for Chancellor Merkel and President Kibaki to bid their director general farewell in suitable style at the State and ILRI functions today. :-)

Read the whole article in the Daily NationGerman leader jets in Tuesday, 10 Jul 2011.

ILRI livestock insurance innovation highlighted at launch of Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’

Kenya Government 'Open Data Web Portal' launch: Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and ILRI's Bruce Scott and Andrew Mude

ILRI’s Bruce Scott and Andrew Mude (right) discuss ILRI’s use of open data with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (centre), Minister for Information and Communication Samuel Pogishio (centre left), Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication Bitange Ndemo (centre right), and other dignitaries when they visited ILRI’s booth at the launch of the Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’ on 8 Jul 2011 in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Njiru).

An ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was today (8 July 2011) highlighted as one of the successful, innovative and technology-driven initiatives using open data to create solutions that contribute towards helping Kenya achieve its long-term national development plan.

Speaking during the presidential launch of the ‘Kenya Government Open Data Web portal’ at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Andrew Mude, a scientist with ILRI who leads the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project, described how the project has developed an insurance model for pastoralist livestock keepers using open data. The project uses satellite-based readings of forage cover to find out how much fodder is available for livestock in northern Kenya and the data is combined with livestock mortality data from the Kenya Arid Lands Management project to predict livestock deaths against which livestock herders can insure themselves.

‘This model allows us to predict the current state of livestock mortality in northern Kenya. It currently shows there is a high livestock mortality rate in Marsabit District, which means that insurance may be paid to pastoralists this year,’ said Mude. Marsabit District, in Kenya’s northern drylands, is currently facing a severe drought that is also affecting Somalia and southern Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.

Stared in January 2010, the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project is insuring over 2600 households in Marsabit, which is helping livestock keepers there to sustain their livelihoods. The project is supported by the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development and the United States Agency for International Development, among other donors. It has received considerable support from the Kenya Government and recently received the Vision 2030 ICT award for ‘solutions that drive economic development as outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030.’

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Kenya Government Open Data portal. He said the new open data platform would allow policymakers and researchers to find timely information to guide-decision making. ‘This launch is an important step towards ensuring government information is made readily available to Kenyans and will allow citizens to track the delivery of services,’ Kibaki said.

The new Kenya Government Open Data Web portal will make available to the public several large government datasets, including information on population, education, healthcare and government spending in an easy to search and view format. The portal will allow Kenyans to search and display national and county-level data in graphs and maps for easy comparison and analysis of information.

The launch brought together government officials, policymakers and ICT-sector players who are using open data to build applications that take information closer to Kenyans. Among today’s presentations was the National Council for Law Reporting Kenya Law Reports website, which is making available to the public for the first time the Kenya Gazette (from 1899 to 2011) and all of Kenya’s parliamentary proceedings since 1960.

‘Open data leads to open knowledge, which leads to open solutions and open development,’ said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, who shared lessons from the World Bank’s experience and said open data can ‘fuel innovation in Kenya’s technology sector.’

‘This is a turning point in Kenya’s history,’ said Bruce Scott, ILRI’s director of Partnerships and Communications. ‘Kenya is among the first African countries that have made available this kind of information to their citizens online; this will empower its people in line with the country’s new constitution. ILRI is happy to be associated with this event.’

For more information about IBLI see the following.
ILRI news articles
http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/5000
http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3180

Short video
http://blip.tv/ilri/development-of-the-world-s-first-insurance-for-african-pastoralist-herders-3776231

To read more about the Kenya Open Data portal, visit their website:
http://www.opendata.go.ke

Visit the IBLI project website

Strengthening our walking sticks: Harnessing Africa’s diversity of knowledge sharing methods

IPMS market place

Participants attend the Ethiopian market place on day two of the on-going 'Agknowlege Africa' Share Fair at the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa (photo credit: ILRI/Sewunet)

The second day of the ‘AgKnowledge Africa’ Share Fair in Addis Ababa began sunny and bright. Tuesday 19 October marked the official start of this event, which has never before been held in Africa. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) sees the fair as a chance ‘to get to know the new innovators who are sharing and applying agricultural knowledge in the continent,’ according to Peter Ballantyne, ILRI’s head of Knowledge Management and Information Services.

Following Monday's program that oriented participants to various social media tools used in knowledge sharing, the second day’s main activity centred on the ‘marketplace’, an information exchange set-up to mimic the typical African marketplace. For millennia, marketplaces have let people trade in knowledge as well as goods, allowing them to find solutions to shared problems.

While the real donkeys grazing ILRI’s lawns in this simulated marketplace might not be sold today, various corners of the ILRI compound are hosting different open air sessions where ‘sellers’ and ‘buyers’ are displaying products and talking and exchanging knowledge with the participants who tour their stands. Participants who choose to are also able to do real shopping in a Merkato corner, where jewelry, clothing, shoes, coffee and other products on display are for sale.

In another corner of the compound stands a ‘Seeds for Knowledge’ exhibit, where Roseline Murota is talking about how her organization—the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resource (SAFIRE)—is training local communities in Zimbabwe to use natural resources sustainably to improve their livelihoods. This initiative is helping local people make herbal teas from traditional trees, including Makoni tea, made from a ‘resurrection tree’, so named because it is quick to dry up when the rainy season ends and equally quick to come back to life with start of the rains. The organization is using local knowledge to train farmers in how to produce Baobab oil and Baobab cereal bars, among other products.

Elsewhere in the compound, a group of women are walking slowly, singing songs and carrying water pots on their backs. As women have traditionally borne water from rivers and wells to their homes, they have exchanged information, transferred knowledge and learned how to solve common problems.

The main auditorium is filled with stands displaying various local knowledge exchange platforms used to transfer information and knowledge in Ethiopia. In one corner is Ageno Aweno, a traditional medicine man from the Halaba area of southern Ethiopia, who is displaying various plants that he uses to treat livestock diseases, including internal parasite infections, and to improve animal feeding.

A project implemented by ILRI in Ethiopia with the Ethiopian Government, ‘Improving the Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’, is sharing cases of how knowledge sharing is empowering farmers in the country. Lessons from a farmer-designed training project in Dale District are highlighted. This project links farmers with extension agents and universities to identify and address farmer needs in participatory ways. It has helped farmers in Dale produce and sell improved avocado and mango trees, which has transformed the livelihoods of 47 families, who now sell grafted seedlings to earn Ethiopian birr 150,000 (US$8,500) per year.

Also among the displays is a livestock market, complete with a pen containing sheep, goats and chickens. Some indigenous sheep from Afar and other parts of Ethiopia are on display, giving participants a chance to see the country’s native stock and share information about livestock breeds.

While opening the Share Fair earlier, Bruce Scott, director of ILRI’s Partnerships and Communications program, said meetings such as this offer ‘innovative ways to make information available to farmers. Our aim should be to reach the millions of smallholder farmers in Africa who are the main drivers of Africa’s agricultural production. These smallholder producers need better access to markets, information and knowledge.’

Edna Karamangi, who is leading a group discussing traditional methods of African knowledge exchange at the Share Fair, summed up in a speech this morning the power that knowledge sharing gives people: ‘Knowledge is like a walking stick; whenever we share knowledge and learn from others, we are patching our walking sticks to keep them from breaking.’

Follow the Share Fair proceedings daily via our:
Blogs: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisblog
Photos: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisphotos
Tweets: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddistweets

On dyeing baby chicks pink and other knowledge worth sharing: 300 experts meet in Addis Ababa to share Africa’s local knowledge

Learning day opening session - participants discussing

Two participants share experiences in the 'AgKnowledge Africa' Share Fair that is taking place this week at the Addis Ababa campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (photo credit: ILRI/Habtamu)  

Over 300 agricultural experts, including researchers, farmers, extension workers, scientists, rural development agents and government representatives from across Africa and other parts of the world are meeting this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to exchange ideas about how Africa’s local knowledge and information can be tapped and applied to drive Africa’s agricultural development.

Meeting at an ‘AgKnowledge Africa’ Share Fair, which began on 18 October 2010 at the Addis Ababa campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), these experts are sharing their experiences in using local African knowledge and related approaches and tools to raise the profile and productivity of African agriculture.

‘Africa and its people have a lot of undocumented knowledge, information and data that could be used to help drive the continent’s development,’ said Nadia Manning-Thomas, a knowledge sharing specialist. Manning-Thomas works with a program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research called ‘Information and Communication Technologies—Knowledge Management. This project (known by a mouthful of an acronym: the CGIAR ICT-KM) and ILRI are two of the organizers of this week’s Addis Share Fair.

‘Our aim in this Fair,’ says Manning-Thomas, ‘is to help Africa’s innovators find and use ways they can apply African knowledge—whether from local communities or regional organizations or research institutions—to drive agricultural growth’.

This week’s Fair (18–21 October 2010) is making use of traditional African ways of sharing knowledge, from traditional story-telling, to Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, to Kenyan barazas (Swahili for gatherings held to raise awareness and to share collective wisdom) to marketplace discussions. The first of its kind in Africa, this event has attracted participants from Europe and Asia as well as the continent.

‘This is an opportunity for ILRI and other researchers to join the conversation taking place among development experts in Africa,’ said Peter Ballantyne, head of ILRI’s knowledge management and information services and a main organizer of the Fair. ‘It’s also an opportunity for all the participants to create new partnerships and to get new ideas. We’re giving people a variety of “spaces” in which to talk that are great opportunities for us at ILRI to “listen” to ideas and innovations in local knowledge, especially among partners driving agricultural development in Africa.’

The Fair’s participants are also reviewing how mobile phones, internet-based tools and other new ways of sharing information are being used to spread knowledge across the continent. A ‘social reporting team’ evolving at ILRI is broadcasting the Share Fair’s proceedings using a variety of tools and platforms, including a daily news sheet, video, radio (podcasting) and blogging.

The Fair started on 18 October 2010 with a ‘learning and training day’ before the official opening on 19 October, made by Bruce Scott, head of ILRI’s partnerships and communications programs, representing ILRI’s director general, Carlos Seré. The topics being debated by the 300 participants include agriculture, water, climate change, land and livestock.

More than 10 organizations—including the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, and the Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia—have erected exhibits illustrating particular ways of sharing knowledge.

Among the Fair’s more exciting exhibits is one about Shujaaz FM, a cutting edge comic set in Kenya targeting the half of Kenyans under the age of 18. Although this new multimedia initiative leads with a comic book, it also is pulling together all the existing communications technologies, including a daily radio show, a website, and downloadable comics for mobile phones (sms), computer television, newspapers, etc. The aim of the comic is both to entertain the young and to help them put money into their pockets, and thus help them build livelihoods. Among the first stories in the series is a cracking tale on how to dye baby chickens pink (and why) and another on how to grow kale (the popular Kenyan dish made with sukuma wiki) in sacks in slums.

Want to know more?
Listen to an IRIN radio podcast for more about Shujaaz FM.
Read an earlier story on the AgKnowledge Africa Share Fair on the ILRI News blog.

And follow the Share Fair proceedings daily via our:
Blogs: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisblog
Photos: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisphotos
Tweets: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddistweets

Collective action ‘in action’ for African agriculture

Household takes refuge from the rain in central Malawi

Collaborative agricultural research in Africa gets a welcome boost; village farm household in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

In recent months, an,  initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) called the Regional Plan for Collective Action in Eastern & Southern Africa (now simply called the ‘Regional Collective Action’) updated its ‘CGIAR Ongoing Research Projects in Africa Map’: http://ongoing-research.cgiar.org/ This collaborative and interactive map will be launched in the coming weeks through fliers, displays and presentations at agricultural, research and development meetings that have Africa as a focus. Although much of Africa’s agricultural research information has yet to be captured in this map, 14 centres supported by the CGIAR have already posted a total of 193 research projects and much more is being prepared for posting.

The newsletter of the Regional Collective Action—Collective Action News: Updates of agricultural research in Africa—continues to elicit considerable interest and feedback. Recent issues reported on the CGIAR reform process (November 2009) and agriculture and rural development at the recent climate change talks in Copenhagen (December 2009). The January 2010 issue reflects on the achievements of the Regional Collective Action since its inception three years ago (http://www.ilri.org/regionalplan/documents/Collective Action News January 2010.pdf).

Several high-profile African networks, including the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), are helping to disseminate the newsletter of the Regional Collective Action as well as information about its consolidated multi-institutional research map. Coordinators have now been appointed to lead each of four flagship programs of the Regional Collective Action.

Flagship 1 conducts collaborative work on integrated natural resource management issues and is coordinated by Frank Place at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
Flagship 2 conducts research on agricultural markets and institutions and is led by Steve Staal of ILRI.
Flagship 3 conducts research on agricultural and related biodiversity and is led by Wilson Marandu of Bioversity International with support from Richard Jones of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
Flagship 4 conducts research on agriculturally related issues in disaster preparedness and response and is led by Kate Longley and Richard Jones of ICRISAT.

These four flagships programs of the Regional Collective Action are expected to play crucial roles in advancing collaborative discussions and activities in the new CGIAR, which is transforming itself to better link its agricultural research to development outcomes. ILRI’s Director of Partnerships and Communications, Bruce Scott, represented the CGIAR Centres at the December Meeting of the ASARECA Board of Trustees.

‘ASARECA continues to value the work of the CGIAR Centres in this region and welcome the Regional Collective Action,’ Scott said. With the four Flagship Programs off and running, the interactive Regional Research Map live on the web, and Collective Action News reporting on regional agricultural issues regularly, collaborative agricultural science for development in Africa appears to have got a welcome boost.