The road back to Rio: Turning straw into gold — Crop ‘wastes’ at the heart of greener livestock development

Cow consumes the wastes of a crop harvest in West Bengal

A West Bengal cow consumes straw (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Key findings were presented today on ways to enhance the value of coarse crop ‘wastes’—better termed ‘residues’—as feed for cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats and other ruminant farm animals. The talk was given at a ‘learning event’ that is part of Agriculture Day at the Rio-20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Carlos Seré, former director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) now serving as chief strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), delivered this presentation on behalf of Michael Blümmel, an animal nutritionist based in ILRI’s office in Hyderabad, India, who could not make the event as scheduled.

The gist of the presentation is that wheat and rice straw, maize stover, groundnut haulms and other residues of crops that remain after their grain or pods have been harvested for human consumption are major feed resources for livestock in developing countries. Widespread and increasing shortages of arable land and water in these countries are increasing the importance of these crop residues for livestock feed, and their importance will only increase over the coming decades as human population grows and as more and more people move out of poverty and begin adding more milk and meat to their diets.

In recent years, livestock and crop improvement researchers have worked together to improve the fodder value, in terms of both quantity and quality, of crop residues at their source. They’ve done this in crop improvement programs that incorporate fodder traits in crop selection, breeding and new cultivar release criteria. Key cereals and legumes are tackled and both conventional and molecular breeding techniques are employed. Fodder traders and feed processors have started employing additional interventions to further improve the superior crop straws and stover.

The following examples illustrate the many promising findings from this collaborative fodder research.

01  Nutritionally significant variations exist in crop residue fodder value among existing cultivars that can be exploited through simple phenotyping without detriment to primary crop traits such as grain and pod yields.
As a ballpark figure, 5 percentage units in digestibility can be exploited in crop residue fodder quality without detriment to gain or pod yield in all key cereal and leguminous crops. The advantage of daily milk yield accruing from 5% difference in digestibility of basal diet in well designed ration is about 5 kg per day due to a multiplicator effect from both higher energy concentration in the diet and higher intake.

02  Simple and network-sharable food/feed/fodder nutritional phenotyping techniques have been established, such as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) platforms that support whole-plant crop improvement paradigms and programs.
ILRI NIRS platforms in India and Ethiopia are being used by other research programs (e.g., the new CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish) and research organizations (e.g., the International Center from Tropical Agriculture and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas). Staff of national agricultural research institutions from the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have been trained in the NIRS technology and have access to network-shared NIRS equations. NIRS is increasingly being used to test for more qualitative grain traits such as lysine, tryptophan, iron, zinc and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with the aim of optimizing whole plants. This collaborative research is facilitating the analysis of 50 to 100 cultivars every day and gaining information about all their pertinent grain and crop residue traits.

03  Fodder value can be further increased through conventional crop breeding (such as recurrent selection) and molecular crop breeding (such as quantitative trait loci [QTL] identification and backcrossing).
Identification of stay-green QTLs and their backcrossing into elite sorghum varieties could increase stover digestibility by 3 to 5 percentage units while also increasing the sorghum plant’s drought resistance and water-use efficiencies.

04  In mixed crop-and-livestock agricultural production systems, the rates of adoption of new crop cultivars improved for both food and feed/fodder traits appear to be better than that for adoption of new cultivars improved for food traits only.
In a recent maize project in East Africa, farmers ranked stover traits 2.4 and grain yield 2.9 on a scale of 3. Farmers were most likely to adopt new maize cultivars that had improved stover as well as grain traits. Anecdotal  evidence from groundnut adoption studies in India suggests that farmers prefer relatively small additive advantages—say 10% more pod + 10% more haulm + 10% more haulm quality—over (often theoretical) drastic increases in pod yield.

05 Participants in fodder value chains for straw and stover profit from superior straw and stover.
Price premiums for 3 to 5 percentage units in digestibility are in the range of 10 to 30%. There is higher demand for higher quality crop residues and superior sorghum stover is now regularly transported more than 400 km in parts of India. There are significant employment opportunities in harvesting, chopping, transporting and selling these crop residues.

06  Further improvement of superior straw and stover, in the form of supplementation, fortification or densification, can be done in feed processing, with productivity levels achieved from such processed but largely by-product-based feeds being four or more times greater than current levels of production.
Complete rations based on more than on 80% by-products (50–60% straws and stovers) can support 15–16 kg of milk daily in dairy buffaloes, about 1 kg live-weight gain in cattle and 120–130 g in sheep. Complete rations are suitable for smallholder farmers because the rations need not entail complex feed processing options; simply chopping and supplementing residues can suffice.

07  Increasing current yields of animals in India, such as by doubling the average daily yield of 3.6 kg of milk (across buffalo, crossbred and local cattle herds), would reduce levels of greenhouse gases dramatically, decreasing methane emission from dairy production by more than 1 million tons per year.
This is straightforward; increasing average daily milk yields in India from 3.6 to 6 to 7 kg per animal per day would reduce methane production from dairy animals relative to the same amount of milk produced by about 1 million tons per year.

In addition, there are good prospects for mainstreaming such multi-dimensional crop improvement outputs. For example, new CGIAR Research Programs (such as those on maize, rice, dryland cereals, and grain legumes) have already adopted the approach and have incorporated fodder value as high-priority traits in these crops.

Read more
Read more about the context for this livestock feeds learning event at Agriculture Day at Rio+20 on this ILRI News Blog:
The Road Back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’, 18 Jun 2012.

Follow the presentations and discussions of this learning event on Twitter as @agricultureday and check updates via the Twitter-tags #RioPlus20 and #Rio4Ag and the Facebook page for ARDD. You can also follow CGIAR at Rio on this landing page on the CGIAR Consortium website.

Read more about ILRI’s crop residue research:
Dual-purpose groundnut, pigeonpea, millet and sorghum raise milk yields in dairy-intensive India, 8 Apr 2012.

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis, 17 Jan 2011.

The road back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’

NP Llanos51_lo

Cattle graze on Colombia's eastern plains, or Llanos (photo on Flickr by CIAT/Neil Palmer).


Several hundred people in Rio de Janeiro today will be discussing and debating a topic not often included in high-profile meetings. The topic is how we can use improved livestock feed to reduce both poverty and climate change.

The discussions today will take place at one of 13 ‘learning events’ that are part of an Agriculture and Rural Development Day at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Staff from CGIAR  Centres are helping to organize and are participating in events throughout this day.

Given that the key messages of this particular learning event run counter to much current thinking about livestock, the participants will share and discuss scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of improved feeding practices, particularly their potential for contributing significantly to climate change mitigation while improving livestock production.

On the table today are both fodders, coarse foods composed of entire plants or the leaves and stalks of cereal crops, and bulky grass or hay forages. The learning event, titled ‘LivestockPlus—How can sustainable intensification of livestock production through improved feeding practices help realize both livelihood as well as environmental benefits?’, will deliver the following three fundamental messages.

New feeding practices can increase livestock production while decreasing its ecological ‘hoofprint’

New livestock feeding practices, like the use of improved dual-purpose crops and high-quality forages, offer significant potential for sustainable intensification of agricultural production to enhance livelihoods while also reducing livestock’s ecological ‘hoofprint’.

Improved forages, like forests, will capture carbon

Improved tropical forages offer the further advantage of sequestering large amounts of carbon—on a scale similar to that of forests—with the possibility of reducing emissions of nitrous oxide and methane per unit of livestock product. There is evidence that the potential of sown forages to sequester carbon (assuming good pasture and livestock management) is second only to that of forests and that sown forages could realize 60–80% of agriculture’s total potential to mitigate climate change.

Better feeding practices will allow mixed crop-livestock farmers to produce more food more sustainably

If widely applied by the vast army of ‘mixed’ smallholder farmers, who raise livestock as well as grow crops, and who are the mainstay of global food security, improved livestock feeding practices could deliver huge increases in food production at reduced environmental cost against a background of rising livestock production and consumption in the developing world.

The result of numerous global initiatives and extensive testing, this work offers practical examples of how improved feeds can raise the production and incomes of smallholder farmers. Superior forage grasses widely adopted in Latin America, for example, already generate up to USD4 billion in Brazil alone. And improved tropical forages have also been adopted widely in Southeast Asia since the start of their promotion in 1995. A recent review indicates that continued adoption of improved feeds, including sown forages, could significantly reduce greenhouse gases on a global scale, while enhancing the livelihoods of the one billion people dependent on livestock-cropping systems.

What remains to be done
To scale up these improved feed resources so that they contribute to a transformed food system, we need more precsie understanding of the impacts of livestock on climate change, with the impacts differentiated by specific livestock-cropping systems, as well as of the potential for improved feeding practices to mitigate climate change. To make livestock and crop production in the tropics more climate friendly through improved feeding practices, smallholders must be given stronger incentives to market their livestock products and to sequester carbon through improved land management. Smallholders might be encouraged to adopt sown (and carbon-storing) forages, for example, through schemes instituted to pay them for the environmental services they provide.

What could be achieved
With donor support for research to obtain conclusive data and to provide policymakers with support for their decision-making, a functional system for implementing the LivestockPlus concept and associated strategies could be available within the next 5–6 years.

The program for this learning event
The program for this learning event includes a keynote presentation on the role of forages and livestock production in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by CIAT soil scientist and agroecologist Aracely Castro; this keynote will be followed by three short case-study introductions on the following topics.

Carbon sequestration in livestock production for climate change mitigation: Implications for policy development in Brazil, presented by Embrapa beef cattle researcher Davi José Bungenstab.

Livestock production and climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia: Technical innovation for environmental and livelihood benefits, presented by Carlos Seré, former director general of ILRI and now chief strategist for IFAD (note: Seré is speaking on behalf of ILRI animal nutritionist Michael Blümmel).

Climate-smart silvopastoral systems for a green livestock economy, presented by CATIE director Muhammad Ibrahim.

These case study presentations will be followed by parallel group discussions on each of the three cases to answer such questions as:
What are the main research findings that support the technological or policy innovation, including evidence of livelihood and environmental benefits?
What were key lessons learned from the research leading to this innovation?
What are the requirements for scaling it up?

The session will close with a moderated panel discussion in plenary with the keynote speaker and case study presenters.

Institutions involved
CATIE is a regional centre of excellence based in Costa Rica that works on solutions for the environment and development in rural communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CIAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Colombia, works to increase the eco-efficiency of agriculture to reduce hunger and poverty and to improve human health in the tropics.

EMBRAPA is the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, which works for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness.

ILRI, the International Livestock Research Institute, based in Africa, works to reduce hunger, poverty, ill health and environmental degradation through enhanced livestock systems for poor people in the developing world.

Presenters at the event
This learning event will be chaired by Elcio Guimarães, who is director of research for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Discussions at the session will be summarized by Nathan Russell, a key organizer of this session who leads corporate communications work at CIAT. One of the three scheduled case study speakers, Michael Blümmel of ILRI, is unable to attend; his presentation will be made by Carlos Seré, former director general of ILRI and now chief strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Follow the event on the web
Today, 18 Jun 2012, proceedings of the Agriculture and Rural Development Day will be webcast live (the event takes place from 11.30–13.00 Rio time), and you can ask questions and interact with the organizers via Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow the presentations and discussions of this learning event on Twitter as @agricultureday and check updates via the Twitter-tags #RioPlus20 and #Rio4Ag and the Facebook page for ARDD. You can also follow CGIAR at Rio on this landing page on the CGIAR Consortium website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Bank: Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

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

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr

Towards a more coherent narrative for the global livestock sector

Jimmy Smith and Henning Steinfeld (FAO)

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith (left) and FAO’s Henning Steinfeld confer at a high-level consultation for a global livestock agenda to 2020 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week.

High-level leaders in the livestock world have agreed on major ways to fulfill on an ambitious global livestock agenda to 2020 that would work simultaneously to protect the environment, human health and socioeconomic equity. The heads of ten agencies met earlier this week in Nairobi to hammer out the outlines of a consensus on strategies for a global livestock agenda to 2020. This High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020 was co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Three ‘pillars’ for the future of livestock were discussed: the environment, human health and social equity.

Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy analysis at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), gave a presentation on the livestock-environment interfaceGlobal environmental challenges [and livestock].

Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), spoke on issues at the livestock-human health interfaceGlobal animal health challenges: The health pillar.

Carlos Seré, chief development strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), described livestock and equity issuesGlobal poverty and food security challenges: The equity pillar.

A major issue raised repeatedly throughout the 1.5-day consultation was the need to work in closer partnership not only to create synergies in institutional work programs but also to begin creating a more coherent narrative for the livestock sector. This new narrative is needed, it was said, both for some simple messaging to counter misunderstandings about the essential role livestock play in the lives and livelihoods of one billion poor people (e.g., dairying in poor countries feeds hungry children and pays for their schooling) and for more nuanced communications that help decision-makers and their constituencies better distinguish among livestock production systems, which vary vastly according, for example, to the different species kept (e.g., the rearing of pigs vs goats vs chickens), the environments in which the animals are raised (remote mountains vs fertile plains vs dry grasslands) and the particular livestock production system being employed (pastoral herding vs mixed smallholder farming vs industrial farming).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Topic 1

François Le Gall (World Bank)

François Le Gall, senior livestock advisor at the World Bank, co-hosted an ILRI-World Bank High-Level Consultation on the Global Livestock Agenda by 2020, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 12-13 Mar 2012 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 3

World Bank's Stephane Forman and François Le Gall

Stephane Forman (left) and François Le Gall, both livestock experts at the World Bank (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 4

ILRI animal health scientist Jeff Mariner

ILRI animal health scientist Jeff Mariner led discussions of one of several working groups at the consultation (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 7

Carlos Seré (IFAD) and Baba Soumare (AU-IBAR)

IFAD’s Carlos Seré (left) and Baba Soumare (centre), chief animal health officer at AU-IBAR (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 8

Walter Masiga and Bernard Vallet (OIE)

Walter Masiga and Bernard Vallet of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 9

Kristin Girvetz, Gates Foundation

Kristin Girvetz, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 13

In total, 14 leaders in global livestock issues took part in this week’s Nairobi consultation:

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

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

BMGF (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Kristin Girvetz (formerly Grote), program officer

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

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy

IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)
Carlos Sere, chief development strategist

ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute)
Jimmy Smith, director general (co-host)

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

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

World Bank
Francois Le Gall, livestock advisor at the World Bank (co-host)
Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

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

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr.


Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands

Jimmy Smith and Francois Le Gall (WB)

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith (left) and the World Bank’s Francois Le Gall are co-hosting a high-level consultation for a global livestock agenda to 2020 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week.

Can our global livestock systems meet a triple bottom line—protecting health, the environment and equity? Can 14 high-level leaders and thinkers outline and agree on a strategy that can help the world fulfill on that ambitious livestock agenda to 2020? Can all this be done in one and a half days?

Three weeks after Bill Gates announced at a meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome new grants of USD200 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to support the world’s smallholder farmers—a meeting in which Gates called on the big United Nations food-related agencies to work together to create a global productivity target for those small farmers—those agencies are meeting this week in Nairobi to hammer out the outlines of a consensus regarding strategies for a global livestock agenda to 2020.

This High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020 is being co-hosted by:
Francois Le Gall, livestock advisor at the World Bank, and
Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The dozen other heads of institutions and departments among the world’s leading bodies for food security that are taking part are:

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

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

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
Kristin Girvetz (formerly Grote), program officer

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

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Carlos Sere, chief development strategist

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

World Bank
Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

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

Among the ideas rising to the surface for these leaders of global livestock departments and institutions are the need to shift focus from livestock per se to livestock-based lives and lands. The discussions are centering initially on three pillars of livestock development: health, environment and equity.

David Nabarro, the UN special representative for food security and nutrition, in a filmed presentation for this high-level consultation, said:

There is a movement for the transformation of food systems throughout the world. Livestock is an essential part of this equation. ILRI and the World Bank are key actors in seeing that science is applied for effective action for improved livestock systems. This meeting is important and happening when it should.

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith then gave an overview of the trends, opportunities and challenges of livestock development.

Feeding the world is possible, Smith concluded, as is sustaining our natural resource base and reducing absolute poverty.

Our challenges in achieving these, the livestock director said, include ‘improving our methodologies to develop more reliable assessments of the hard trade-offs involved in choosing ways forward for livestock development, managing those trade-offs at multiple scales, and ensuring institutional innovations, which will be as important as technological innovations—and perhaps harder to achieve’.
Watch and listen to Smith’s presentation.

Among the trends Smith highlighted are:

  • Demand for livestock products continues to rise
  • Livestock systems will continue to produce much of the world’s food
  • There remains a vast divide between developed and developing regions in kinds of livestock systems and their costs and benefits, but those different worlds are increasingly interconnected

Smith stressed the need for more reliable evidence-based assessments of the hard trade-offs implicit in our choices for the livestock sector, which will differ greatly in different regions and circumstances, especially in light of the fact that livestock impact so many important global development issues (e.g., human health, environmental protection, global food security)

An example of how critical livestock issues are for human well-being that Smith pointed out is the interface between livestock and human health.

Animal source foods are the biggest contributor to food-borne disease, Smith said. Diseases transmitted from livestock and livestock products kill more people each year than HIV or malaria. Indeed, one new human disease emerges every 2 months; and 20 percent of these are transmitted from livestock.

This consultation on a global livestock agenda comes at an appropriate time for Jimmy Smith, who started his tenure as director general of ILRI only late last year and who has instituted a task force, headed by ILRI’s director for institutional planning Shirley Tarawali, to refresh ILRI’s long-term strategy for livestock research for development. As several of the other institutions represented at this meeting are also in the thick of rethinking their strategies, this 1.5-day intense consultation is able to harvest the fruits of much recent hard thinking that has already been done in these global and regional institutions.

Angela Merkel at ILRI’s African biosciences labs: A photofilm memento


Lydia Wamalwa talks with German Chancellor (and former scientist) Angela Merkel at ILRI-BecA labs (photo credit: ILRI/Njoroge).

Through photographs and quotations, this photofilm celebrates a visit Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, paid to the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 12 July 2011.

This afternoon, staff at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are holding their annual Christmas/holiday party, so we’re in an early festive mood and think this as good a time as any to post this ILRI photofilm (marriage of still photographs with sound) of a visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid to ILRI on 12 July 2011, which happened to be the last day of work of Carlos Seré, whose ten-year tenure as director general of ILRI was ending.

(We like to remark around here about how kind it was of the German Chancellor to come all the way to Nairobi to bid our director general farewell!)

The visit went well, with the sun—and ILRI’s newly refurbished and state-of-the-art biosciences laboratories—shining and ILRI’s young bioscientists from across Africa and other parts of the world standing ready to provide the Chancellor with a lab coat, a theory, an answer, an explanation—and, as you shall see in the photofilm, a smile.

Take a look at the 2-minute photofilm. And allow us to take this early holiday moment in Nairobi to wish you early season’s greetings.

Read more about the Chancellor’s visit:
on ILRI’s News Blog
In Nairobi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel puts on lab coat, meets young bioscientists fighting hunger in Africa, 13 Jul 2011.

on ILRI’s Clippings Blog
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel to tour ILRI’s advanced biosciences labs in Nairobi today, 12 July.
German chancellor and minister of agriculture and Kenyan ministers of agriculture and health visit ILRI’s research laboratories, 13 Jul 2011.
Germany and ILRI sign agreement in Nairobi to collaborate in research to assess the pastoral-livestock-wildlife benefits from Kenya’s eco-conservancies, 13 Jul 2011.

Livestock systems in Africa: The big picture–by livestock economist Carlos Sere

Watch this 11-minute video of a slide presentation made by ILRI Director General Carlos Seré in Los Banos, the Philippines, in late 2010 (video produced by the International Rice Research Institute).

In a slide presentation on ‘Reinventing Agriculture in the 21st Century: Livestock Systems in Africa,’ Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), made three main points.

First, livestock is the fastest growing part of developing-world agriculture. It’s the ‘demand pull’ that can drive these agricultural systems.

Second, these are all ‘mixed systems’, with crop growing mixed with livestock raising; understanding the interactions between them is essential for the design of any strategy for agricultural development.

Third, we have a lot of the building blocks to achieve ‘sustainable intensification’ of smallholder agricultural production, but the real challenge is much more institutional in nature—how do we tie everything together, scale out the best interventions, and deliver them effectively?

Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) tells us that the most important agricultural commodity in the world is cow’s milk, followed by rice, cattle meat, pig meat, chicken, wheat and eggs . . . So we can see that livestock is central to the global agricultural sector and becomes increasingly so as societies develop. In developing countries, rice is the number one commodity, followed by indigenous cattle meat and cow’s milk.

Due to population growth and other factors, the developing world’s livestock systems are changing fast and in big ways. Science can help the world’s poorer livestock keepers to work with these trends.

Most people in developing countries live in areas where mixed crop-livestock systems predominate. That is something we tend to forget: we tend to come in with a specific disciplinary approach, looking at crops or trees or livestock in isolation, when all these and more are integrated in a whole agricultural system that we must attend to.

Seré summed up his presentation by saying that livestock is the motor that brings in cash to smallholder mixed farmers. While cereals sustain the family, animals are the cash source. There’s a lot of potential to help small-scale livestock keepers to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced per kilo of livestock output. A lot of the techniques and interventions needed to intensify smallholder food production are already there; the challenge is how to bring them all together at scale and in useful ways for the farmer.

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.

Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures

Cow in Rajasthan, India

Profile of a cow kept by the Rajasthani agro-pastoralists who have inhabited India’s state of Rajasthan (‘land of kings’ or ‘colours’), from the Great Thar Desert in the northwest to the better-watered regions of the southeast, since parts of it formed the great trading and urban Indus Valley (3000-500 BC) and Harappan (1,000 BC) civilizations (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

We know that livestock produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Just how much remains somewhat contentious, with the estimated contributions of livestock to global greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 10 to 51%, depending on who is doing the analyses, and how.

A new commentary, published in a special ‘animal feed’ issue of the scientific journal Animal Feed and Technology, examines the main discrepancies between well known and documented studies such as FAO’s Livestock Long Shadow report (FAO 2006) and some more recent estimates. The authors of the commentary advocate for better documentation of assumptions and methodologies for estimating emissions and the need for greater scientific debate, discussion and scrutiny in this area.

The authors of the new article, ‘Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right,’ are a distinguished group of experts from diverse institutions working in this area, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, Rome), Wageningen University and Research Centre (Netherlands), the Food Climate Research Network at the Centre for Environmental Strategy (FCRN, University of Surrey), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (JRC, Italy), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL, Bilthoven), Aarhus University’s Department of Agroecology and Environment (Denmark), New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Wellington), the Institute Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique (France), the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada group at Lethbridge Research Centre (Alberta) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Nairobi).

This group of international scientists presents the case of one recent argument as follows.

‘In 2006, the FAO’s Livestock’s Long Shadow report (FAO, 2006), using well documented and rigorous life cycle analyses, estimated that global livestock contributes to 18% of global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions. According to the study the main contributors to GHG from livestock systems are land use change (carbon dioxide, CO2), enteric fermentation from ruminants (methane, CH4) and manure management (nitrous oxide, N2O).

‘A . . . non-peer reviewed report published by the Worldwatch Institute (Goodland and Anhang 2009) contested these figures and argued that GHG emissions from livestock could be closer to 51% of global GHG emissions. In our view, this report has oversimplified the issue with respect to livestock production. It has emphasised the negative impacts without highlighting the positives and, in doing so, has used a methodological approach which we believe to be flawed.’

Mario Herrero, lead author of the Animal Feed and Technology paper, is a systems analyst and climate change specialist working at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Herrero argues that Goodland and Anhang, while claiming in the non-scientifically peer-reviewed World Watch Magazine (which is published by Worldwatch Institute) that livestock generate 51% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions rather than the 18% reported by FAO in 2007, fail to detail the methodologies they used to come up with this new figure, fail to use those methods consistently across different sectors, and fail to follow global guidelines for assessing emissions set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol.

Furthermore, Hererro says, the World Watch authors’ solution to livestock’s contribution to global warming—’to eat less animal products, or better still, none at all’—could push some 1 billion livestock keepers and consumers living on little more than a dollar a day into even greater poverty (small livestock enterprises are the mainstay of many poor people) and severe malnourishment (milk is among the few high-quality foods readily available to many poor people, with consumption of modest quantities of dairy making the difference between health and illness, especially in children and women of child-bearing ages).

Goodland and Anhang also fail to enlarge on any counterfactuals, such as what a world without domesticated livestock would look like.

Over a billion people make a living from livestock, says ILRI director general Carlos Seré. Most of them are among the poorest of the poor. What, other than livestock keeping, would most African and Indian farming households turn to in order to meet their needs for scarce protein, fertilizer, employment, income, traction, means of saving, and insurance against crop failure?

While many of us may find the factory farming of animals in rich countries objectionable on several grounds, Seré says, we must be responsible not to conflate industrial grain-fed livestock systems of rich producers with the family farming and herding practices of hundreds of millions of poor producers, most of whom still maintain their animals not on grain but on pasture grass and other crop wastes not edible by humans.

The biggest concern of many experts regarding livestock in developing countries, Seré says, is not their impact on climate change but rather the impact of climate change on livestock production.

The hotter and more extreme tropical environments being predicted threaten not only up to a billion livelihoods based on livestock but also supplies of milk, meat and eggs among hungry communities that need these nourishing foods most. For people living in absolute poverty and chronic hunger, the solution is not to rid the world of livestock, but rather to find ways to farm animals more efficiently and profitably, as well as sustainably.

Tara Garnett, a co-author of the new paper and a research fellow at the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, in the UK, investigates issues around livestock and greenhouse gas emissions in her highly credible and readable publication Cooking up a Storm: Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Our Changing Climate (2008). Garnett, who also runs the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), which brings together nearly 2,000 individuals from a broad variety of disciplines to share information on issues relating to food and climate change, agrees with Seré on this.

By 2050, on current projections, Garnett reports, the developing world will still, on average, be eating less than half as much meat as people do in the rich world, and only a third of the milk. There is a long way to go before they catch up with developed world levels.

While there is an increasingly urgent need to reduce demand for meat and dairy products among consumers in developed countries, and also to moderate rapid growth in demand for these foods in emerging, rapidly industrializing, countries, for the world’s poorest people, small-scale livestock enterprises can increase household incomes and improve livelihoods. Greater consumption of meat and dairy products—in addition to a more diverse range of plant-based foods—can play a critical role in combatting malnutrition and enhancing nutritional status.’

Herrero and Garnett and their other co-authors conclude that ‘Livestock undoubtedly need to be a priority focus of attention as the global community seeks to address the challenge of climate change. The magnitude of the discrepancy between the Goodland and Anhang paper (2009) and widely recognized estimates of GHG from livestock (FAO, 2006), illustrates the need to provide the climate change community and policy makers with accurate emissions estimates and information about the link between agriculture and climate.

‘Improving the global estimates of GHG attributed to livestock systems is of paramount importance. This is not only because we need to define the magnitude of the impact of livestock on climate change, but also because we need to understand their contribution relative to other sources. Such information will enable effective mitigation options to be designed to reduce emissions and improve the sustainability of the livestock sector while continuing to provide livelihoods and food for a wide range of people, especially the poor. We need to understand where livestock can help and where they hinder the goals of resilient global ecosystems and a sustainable, equitable future for future generations.

‘We believe these efforts need to be part of an ongoing process, but one that is to be conducted through transparent, well established methodologies, rigorous science and open scientific debate. Only in this way will we be able to advance the debate on livestock and climate change and inform policy, climate change negotiations and public opinion more accurately.’

Read the whole post-print paper by Mario Herrero, P Gerber, T Vellinga, T Garnett, A Leip, C Opio, HJ Westhoek, PK Thornton, J Olesen, N Hutchings, H Montgomery, J-F Soussana, H Steinfeld and TA McAllister: Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right, a special issue on ‘Greenhouse Gases in Animal Agriculture—Finding a Balance between Food and Emissions’ published this month in 2011 in Animal Feed Science and Technology 166–167: 779–782 (doi: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.04.083).

Read the Goodland and Anhang article in World Watch Magazine: Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are…cows, pigs, and chickens? November/December 2009.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system

Extensive farming in central Malawi

An extensive agricultural landscape typical of central rural Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero, who leads a Sustainable Livestock Futures group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, gave a slide presentation last November at an invitation-only US National Academy of Sciences’ scoping meeting on The role of animal agriculture in a sustainable 21st century global food system, held in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle.

Among the conclusions Herrero makes in his slide presentation, Food security, livelihoods and livestock in the developing world, is the need to change our agricultural investment paradigms so that we invest not only in the high-potential agricultural lands of the past (many of which, he says, are already ‘maxed out’), but also in the agricultural lands of the future.

What are these ‘agricultural lands of the future’? Well, those on which relatively extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems are being practiced, for one.

For more on this topic, see ILRI’s current corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010, the foreword of which, by ILRI director general Carlos Seré and ILRI board chair Knut Hove, follows.

ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2011: Cover

ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Knut Hove say it’s ‘mixed farms’,
more than breadbaskets or ricebowls,
that will feed the world over the next two decades.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

This year’s corporate report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

Scientists at ILRI and seven other leading international agricultural research organizations around the world recently looked at the future of this form of farming and determined that it is ‘mixed farms’—not breadbaskets or ricebowls—that will feed most people over the next two decades.

Their report shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today. This same group, the report indicates, is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Remarkably, this is the first study ever to investigate the state of the world’s most prevalent kind of farmers—those who keep animals as well as grow crops. A major implication of the new report is that governments and researchers are mistaken to continue looking to high-potential lands and single-commodity farming systems as the answer to world hunger. As the study shows, many highly intensive agricultural systems are reaching their peak capacity to produce food and should now focus on sustaining rather than increasing yields.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

The authors of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary study, most belonging to centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agree with many other experts that we need to bring our focus back to small-scale farms. But this report goes further, distinguishing one particular kind of small-scale farmer that should be our focus: this is the mixed farmer growing crops and raising animals in the world’s more extensive agricultural systems, which are described in detail on the next page.

These ‘mixed extensive’ farms make up the biggest, poorest and most environmentally sustainable agricultural system in the world. It is time we invested heavily in this particular kind of farming system. Here is where there remain the biggest yield gaps. Here is where we can make the biggest difference.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale farming in developing countries are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards this particular, most ubiquitous, and till now most neglected, form of agriculture. What this ‘extensive frontier’ needs are the most basic forms of infrastructure and services. With these at hand, the world’s extensive mixed farmers will be in good position to scale up their food production to meet future needs.

Read ILRI’s corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010.

Watch a 4-minute ILRI photofilm (audio with still pictures) illustrating the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers: Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Small-scale Food Production, 2011.

Those wanting more detail on the future of mixed farming should consult the research report by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme: Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030, 2009.

Comprehensive dialogue on agricultural development in Ethiopia published

Cover of 'Dialogue on Ethiopian Agricultural Development'

Cover of the ILRI-published proceedings of a 2009 Dialogue on Ethiopian Agricultural Development (cover image credit: ILRI/Mann).

Proceedings of a comprehensive review of the history and current state of Ethiopia’s agricultural development, made in a 2009 ‘Dialogue on Ethiopian Agricultural Development’ held in Addis Ababa have been published by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The 2009 Dialogue was jointly organized by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and ILRI to honour Gebisa Ejeta, winner of the 2009 World Food Prize. Held on 12 November 2009 at the United Nations Conference Centre, the Dialogue was opened by Ethiopian President Ato Girma Woldegiorgis.

Gebisa received the prestigious prize on 15 October 2009 at Iowa’s state capital, Des Moines, USA. His research with sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the devastating Striga weed have dramatically increased the production and availability of one of the world’s five principal grains and enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub- Saharan Africa.

Gebisa’s high academic standing in his undergraduate years paved the way to financial assistance and entrance into higher education institutions, leading to his bachelor’s degree in plant science in 1973 from the Alemaya College of Agriculture. In 1973 his mentor Berhane Gebre-Kidan introduced Gebisa to a renowned sorghum researcher, John Axtell of Purdue University, who invited him to assist in collecting sorghum species from around Ethiopia. Axtell was so impressed with Gebisa that he invited him to become his graduate student at Purdue University. Gebisa entered Purdue University in 1974, earning his PhD in plant breeding and genetics. He later became a faculty member at Purdue, where today he holds a distinguished professorship.

Gebisa’s dedication to helping poor farmers feed themselves and their families and rise out of poverty has propelled his life’s work. At the Dialogue, he spoke on science-based agricultural development with particular emphasis on Ethiopia. Abera Deressa, state minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Solomon Assefa, director general of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; Belay Kassa, president of Haramaya University, made presentations on the challenges, opportunities and achievements of agricultural research in Ethiopia and the role of agricultural universities. These presentations were followed by others, including one by Carlos Seré, director general of ILRI, and a panel discussion by representatives of key institutions and universities.

This ILRI proceedings volume includes all the papers presented and slide presentations given and transcripts of the panel discussion. Some excerpts of the presentations follow.

World Food Prize Laureate and Purdue University Distinguished Professor Gebisa Ejeta
on enhancing science-based development in Ethiopia
‘. . . African farming has not been significantly influenced by advances in the agricultural sciences that have benefited the rest of the world. Contributions from improved genetic stocks of plants and animals have been limited. Currently less than 20% of African farms use modern seed, and even fewer have access to improved stocks of livestock. Use of modern plant and animal husbandry has been very limited. African farmers grow their crops and raise their animals using traditional practices that have been passed through the generations. African farming has been organic with a continental average use of inorganic fertilizers still standing well below 10 kg/ha. Uses of other chemical inputs for control of weed, pest, and diseases in Africa have been nearly insignificant. The strongest limitations are imposed by lack of knowledge of modern farming practices. And when smallholder farmers develop some awareness through organized public interventions, they often lack the financial means to purchase inputs and tools that enhance efficiency and lessen the family burden on their livelihoods. Overall, the vital institutions of agricultural research and extension services in nearly all African countries lack the needed full capacity and institutional infrastructure to reach out to smallholder farmers and to readily generate and dispense badly needed new science-based technology or to effectively deploy those from past findings. . . .’

Haramaya University President Belay Kassa
on Ethiopian agriculture and institutions of higher learning

‘. . . Ethiopia is one of the largest countries in Africa both in terms of land area (1.1 million km2) and human population (estimated at 82 millions in 2010). Agriculture is the basis of the Ethiopian economy. It accounts for about 40% of the GDP and 90% of the total export revenue and employs 85% of the country’s labour force (FDRE 2010). Ethiopian agriculture is virtually small-scale, subsistence-oriented and crucially dependent on rainfall. About 90% of the country’s agricultural output is generated by subsistence farmers who use traditional tools and farming practices ( MoFED 2008; Dercon et al. 2009). Low productivity characterizes Ethiopian agriculture. The average grain yield for various crops is less than two tonnes per hectare (Byerlee et al. 2007; Dercon et al. 2009). The livestock subsector plays an important role in the Ethiopian economy. The majority of smallholder farms depend on animals for draught power, cultivation and transport of goods. The subsector makes also significant contribution to the food supply in terms of meat and dairy products as well as to export in terms of hides and skins which make up the second major export category. However, the productivity of the subsector is decreasing as a result of poor management systems, shortage of feed and inadequate health care services (FDRE 2010). Despite the importance of agriculture to the Ethiopian economy, food insecurity has been an enormous challenge to the nation since the early 1970s. In this connection, it is important to note that over the last three decades Ethiopian agriculture has been unable to produce sufficient quantities to feed the country’s rapidly growing population (Gill 2010). As a result, the country has been increasingly dependent on commercial food imports and food aids. . . . Available evidence shows that yields of major crops under farmers’ management are still far lower than what can be obtained under research managed plots (Abate 2006; EIAR 2007). This is a clear indication of the gap, which exists between researchers and farmers. The absence of effective linkage between agricultural research and extension systems has repeatedly been reported as one of the major reasons for the low productivity of Ethiopian agriculture. There had been no forum where this linkage problem had not been raised as a result of which it has become a concern among policymakers, researchers, development workers and funding organizations (Belay 2008). . . .’

ILRI Director General Carlos Seré
on the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security in Ethiopia
Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), whose principal campuses are located in Ethiopia and Kenya, spoke of the need to enhance the capacity of societies to learn quickly and respond to climate and other changes. ‘I do not think there is a trade-off between climate change and food security,’ Seré said. ‘Our agricultural and climate challenges have much in common. Agriculture has to be central to climate change discussions.’ The ILRI director general remarked on Ethiopia’s rare agricultural, biological, human and institutional diversity: ‘There will be a lot of variability in how the climate changes. Ethiopia has greatly diverse farming regions. It has great biodiversity. How can we use cutting edge science to understand that diversity and use it better? Lessons learned in one place may be valuable in another. We need to empower people at the local level to provide solutions. Science can quicken this work. The centres of the CGIAR have been working side by side with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and other institutions in this country. We stand ready to deepen our cooperation with the diversity of institutions in Ethiopia.’

Find all these presentations and more in Dialogue on Ethiopian Agricultural Development, held at United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12 November 2009, published by ILRI in 2011.