Empower local experts to inform agricultural policy in Africa: Short filmed interview of FANRPAN’s Lindiwe Majele Sibanda

One of the more interesting side events at this month’s sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013, was hosted by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water & Food, of which the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is a partner.

In this 2.48-minute filmed interview at AASW6, Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in South Africa, shares how ‘innovation platforms’ have ‘brought a new way of doing business’ that is helping to inform policy changes in the agricultural sector.

‘What is clear was that we have often sidelined traditional leaders and not looked at non-scientists and non-technocrats,’ said Sibanda, who chairs ILRI’s board of trustees. ‘We should be focusing on empowering these local experts, giving them capacity to inform policy processes to ensure sustainability.’

‘For this to happen,’ Sibanda says, ‘we need policies that are created bottom up, where the evidence comes from practitioners but is packaged to feed directly into policy.’

‘This process is about equipping all actors to be drivers of change—change that is driven by evidence that comes from research,’ she adds.

The chain starts from those affected by the problem being around the table with those who want to experiment, research and deliver options for development—sitting as equal partners.—Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of FANRPAN

This session by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water & Food, which was facilitated by ILRI’s knowledge management and communication specialist, Ewen Le Borgne, shared experiences from the Limpopo, Nile and Volta basins on engaging partners, keeping them motivated and sustaining their engagement after the program is completed. The session’s 70 participants discussed how to set up engagement platforms, engage with policy, scale up platforms and how to deal with power and representation in these groups.

About AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15-20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15-16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18-19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were captured on Twitter (hashtag #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA AASW6 blog.

Read more on the ILRI blogs about AASW6

With ‘new road’ for agricultural research, Africa can feed Africa—and will feed Africa, and the world

NEPAD’s Ibrahim Mayaki makes the case for investing in Africa’s agricultural research for development, 23 Jul 2013

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir, 22 Jul 2013

Jimmy Smith and Frank Rijsberman speak out at FARA’s Africa Agriculture Science Week, 22 Jul 2013

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development, 19 Jul 2013

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week, 18 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts, 17 Jul 2013

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July, 9 Jul 2013

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story, 12 Jul 2013

With ‘new road’ for agricultural research, Africa can feed Africa—and will feed Africa, and the world

ILRI's Jimmy Smith with IFAD's Kanayo Nwanze, at AASW6

IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze (left) with ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

This blog post was written by ILRI corporate communications writer/editor Paul Karaimu.

‘Researchers and policymakers in Africa must focus their efforts on supporting smallholder farming. A sustainable smallholder agriculture sector will not only feed more people on this continent but also reduce poverty’, Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said last week.

Nwanze, who chairs an expert panel on the Science Agenda for Africa, gave a keynote address, ‘African agricultural development: Opportunities and challenges’, at the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013.

The ‘golden age’ of Africa’s agricultural development
He began by looking back. ‘When I think about African agricultural development today, I cannot help but remember how promising things looked some 30 to 40 years ago. At the time, we felt we were at the start of a golden age for African agriculture. We had universities with agricultural faculties, research centres and research stations we could be proud of. Our graduates at universities in—Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda— were some of the best in the world, and students came from abroad to study here. . . . In the sixties and seventies, many African countries were net exporters of major food and cash crops, not importers as they are today. About 20 per cent of national budgets at that time went to agriculture. It felt like Africa was on the cusp of eliminating poverty and hunger, and taking its place in the world of research and development.’

What happened?
‘[Y]ears of under-investment and an ill-advised structural adjustment’, Nwanze said; ‘The resulting waste of so much human life and potential is not only tragic, it is a disgrace because there is simply no reason for it.

Agriculture—spanning crop production, fishing, livestock, forestry and pasture—has driven economic growth through the centuries, from 18th-century England, to 19th-century Japan, to 20th-century India, to Brazil, China, South Korea and Viet Nam today. We know what needs to be done. And we know what can be done.—Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD president

The good news
Reporting on the good news about Africa’s potential for agricultural development, Nwanze said: ‘Africa has the largest share of the world’s uncultivated land with rain-fed crop potential. Unlike many other parts of the world, in Africa there is room for agriculture to expand.

Demand exists and is growing, not only for raw, primary produce but also higher-end food products. And there is growing foreign interest in the untapped potential of Africa’s fertile land. Added to this many African countries are doing well economically with GDP growth rates above five per cent; new oil finds across the continent; and an abundance of mineral wealth. So indeed, we do not lack the resources to support agriculture and agricultural research.—Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD president

‘Small farms account for 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa’, Nwanze reported. ‘In some countries, they contribute up to 90 per cent of production. They have the potential to be key suppliers to Africa’s burgeoning urban markets as well as supplying rural markets.’

In addition, he said, in sub-Saharan Africa, ‘growth generated by agriculture is eleven times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth in other sectors. Successful small farms can create vibrant rural economies with a range of non-farm enterprises, providing a variety of jobs, decent incomes and food security.’

New road needed
With these issues in mind, Nwanze asked, ‘Do we want to get back on the road that we left in the 1970s, or do we need a new road?’

He pleaded for ‘a new road’, one that ‘reposition[s] research and development so that it is research for development. This means measuring our results not by higher yields alone but also by reduced poverty, improved nutrition, cohesive societies and healthy ecosystems. In short, it must be inclusive.’

With appropriate policies and investments, he said, Africa’s ‘under-performing agricultural system’ can bring about food and nutritional security throughout the continent.

Efforts by African nations to invest in agriculture for growth were encouraging, Nwanze said, but he argued that much more needs to be done. And he cautioned that ‘technology is only a tool. It is not an end in itself. As a scientist, I understand the excitement of new discoveries. But as a development practitioner I have seen the miracles that take place when we give farmers the tools to enhance existing—and sometimes quite traditional technologies.’

On the role of women in Africa feeding Africa, Nwanze reminded his audience that ‘About half of sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural labour force are women. Yet too often women are the most disadvantaged members of rural societies. To farm successfully, women need agricultural resources and inputs, as well as access to rural finance, education and knowledge. They also need rights to the land they farm and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.’

And he reminded the audience that ‘Agriculture is not just crops alone, and science can also lead to productive livestock and crop integration, aquaculture and fish-crop farming and ways of generating income through agriculture while also meeting nutritional needs.

Development is something people do for themselves. Our challenge is to take what we know works, to develop what we know is needed, and to apply our knowledge, country-by-country, region-by-region.—Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD president

‘If we do this, Africa will not only feed itself, it will also contribute to global food security, economic growth and peace and stability. . . .

Agriculture holds the key to Africa’s development, and development holds the key to a future where Africa is not only feeding itself, but feeding the world.

Read a transcript of Kanayo Nwanze’s whole statement.

Read more on the ILRI blogs about AASW6
NEPAD’s Ibrahim Mayaki makes the case for investing in Africa’s agricultural research for development, 23 Jul 2013

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir, 22 Jul 2013

Jimmy Smith and Frank Rijsberman speak out at FARA’s Africa Agriculture Science Week, 22 Jul 2013

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development, 19 Jul 2013

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week, 18 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts, 17 Jul 2013

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July, 9 Jul 2013

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story, 12 Jul 2013

NEPAD’s Ibrahim Mayaki makes the case for investing in Africa’s agricultural research for development

NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki (photo credit: Africa Renewal / John Gillespie, via Wikimedia Commons).

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive officer the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, delivered an informative keynote address during CAADP Day (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) and the Ministerial Roundtable held last week (17 Jul) as part of the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013.

CAADP is the vehicle for Africa’s response to challenges in agricultural development. It is based on inclusiveness and evidence. Ten years after its launch, CAADP was able to re-mobilize around agricultural development. We are at a time when we need to sustain the momentum, especially in clarifying the vision we have on agriculture in the next decades. This is what should provide a framework for research objectives.—Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD

Below are other research-focused excerpts, edited for brevity, from the keynote Ibrahim Mayaki gave last week.

The importance that NEPAD attaches to science and innovation is reflected in the mandate it received for implementing Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action.

The place given to research as one of the four pillars of CAADP is also a reflection of this fact.

When CAADP was launched, there was the acute perception that research was required to recover the position it had dramatically lost during the structural adjustment period. From 1991 to 1999, public expenditures on agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa fell in real terms while at the same time the demand for crop products in Africa increased by 40%.

Fortunately, things have changed over the last decade, with a renewed interest in research that is reflected in spending increase of about 2.6% per year in real terms against 1% in the previous decade.

However, the expenditure still remains below levels existing prior to the devastating effects of structural adjustment.

Efforts in agricultural research remain below the target of 1% of agricultural GDP which can be derived from the general commitment that African leaders had taken in 2006 to allocate 1% of global GDP to research and development. The number of countries that have achieved it is very close to that of countries that comply with the target set in Maputo in 2008 to spend 10% of public expenditure on agriculture.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for each million agricultural workers, there are less than 70 full-time agricultural researchers.

Involvement of the private sector in financing research has been presented as an option but examples are too few to be presented as a general model.

Most public research institutions have restructured their systems to become more responsive and accountable to stakeholders (clients, farmers, agribusinesses and consumers) and to introduce sound financial and accounting systems.

We need to rebuild institutions and improve governance; the decay of research systems over a long period still undermines the effectiveness of research.
Problems
1. Career advancements have been limited while working conditions have deteriorated, leading to an erosion of skills of researchers.
2. Capital is being eroded, with most funds used to pay wage increases or rehabilitate infrastructure and equipment at the expense of increased research production.
3. Due to lack of means, engagement of researchers in field work is limited, with most researchers remaining in their offices, focusing on desk work disconnected from reality.
4. Research faces cultural and societal prejudice, leading to an overwhelming disproportion of men in its structures while the agricultural world is vibrant thanks to the work of women.

Major areas for further efforts
1 Maintain a critical mass of research at the national level.
2 Have an open approach to private research.
3 Integrate research in a two-way knowledge system with farmers, extension workers and others.
4 Evaluate researchers based on development objectives rather than their publishing record in scientific journals.

Give special attention to the entrepreneurial role of women. Women, not only reinvest in their businesses, but also place high value on social investments in their communities.—Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD

To meet development challenges, research must address political, societal and technical concerns
1 At the political level, we must maintain the control of our knowledge production system and increase our capacity; dependence on external funding will not allow research to take over our agricultural destiny. Tax revenues rose from $140 billion in 2002 to over $500 billion in 2011. We no longer have an excuse not to strengthen our human capital and knowledge.

2 At the societal level, we need to better listen to local knowledge and be open to foreign knowledge. Misunderstandings about the role of innovation, especially in the field of biotechnology, are often indicative of an approach that is too narrow.

3 At the technical level, we need to better align with, and meet, demands while also considering conditions needed for farmer adoption of technologies. Risk aversion should be part of research concerns.

. . . With the growing global uncertainty and external pressure on our natural resources, we should think of upgrading the African food security strategy to a food sovereignty strategy . . . . At a more technical level, we certainly should promote the preference for sustainable farming systems that are labor intensive and we should give much more emphasis to farming as a business. . . .
Change and transformation in agriculture must start from within the continent and its men and women, especially with smallholder farmers that are the majority and have the highest potential for change. . . .—Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD

About AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were captured on Twitter (hashtag #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA AASW6 blog.

About Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive officer of NEPAD, has served his country, Niger, as both minister (in the ministries of African Integration and Cooperation and Foreign Affairs) and prime minister. As prime minister of Niger, Mayaki played a catalyst role in enhancing social dialogue in the country. He holds a master’s degree from the National School of Public Administration, in Québec, and a PhD in administrative sciences from the University of Paris I. Mayaki was professor of public administration and management in Niger and Venezuela and worked for ten years in Niger’s mining sector. From 2000 to 2004, Mayaki was a visiting professor at the University of Paris XI, where he taught international affairs and organizations and led research at the Centre for Research on Europe and the Contemporary World. In 2011, the French government awarded Mayaki the medal of Officer in the National Order of Agricultural Merit.

Read more on the ILRI blogs about AASW6
Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir, 22 Jul 2013

Jimmy Smith and Frank Rijsberman speak out at FARA’s Africa Agriculture Science Week, 22 Jul 2013

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development, 19 Jul 2013

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week, 18 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts, 17 Jul 2013

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July, 9 Jul 2013

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story, 12 Jul 2013

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at the city abattoir in Kampala.

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at Kampala City Abattoir (photo credit: ILRI/Albert Mwangi).

Note: This post was developed by Bio-Innovate communications officer Albert Mwangi.

A clamor to improve Africa’s agricultural value chains by greater industrialization of many of Africa’s agricultural processes was heard often at the just-completed sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW6), held in Accra 15–20 Jul 2013 and organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. Most African nations are already pushing to add value to their primary agricultural commodities by supporting the establishment of relevant production and manufacturing processes and industries. Their aim is to transform their role as producers of primary agricultural commodities, such as whole raw coffee beans, into exporters of near-finished agricultural products, such as finely graded and ground coffees, thus earning more from their agriculture sectors.

Several of Africa’s livestock-based economies are working to add value to their production of leather. Rather than drying the skins and hides of slaughtered domestic animals and selling these as is, the skins and hides in addition are softened, graded and cut for various products, and in some cases used to produce finished leather products for export. While economically desirable, the production and manufacturing processes employed in this kind of industrialization can pose significant environmental risks, in this case, for example, by contaminating and/or polluting riverine eco-systems, water bodies and groundwater sources with heavy metals and other toxic substances.

Last week, Nigerian blogger Bunmi Ajilore, an advocate of sustainable agriculture and environmental justice, gave a succinct description of the public health hazards as well as benefits of using wastewater in agricultural activities (The use of wastewater in agriculture: The nagging dilemma, posted on his EcoAgriculturist Blog and reposted on the FARA–AASW Blog).

A research-for-development program based in eastern Africa known as ‘Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development’, or Bio-Innovate for short, is working to deliver innovations in the recycling of agro-wastewater from industrial processes. A pilot project being implemented in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, is working to develop safe and sustainable agro-processes for waste treatment and these will soon be scaled out to other agro-industries in the eastern Africa region.

The city abattoir in Kampala, Uganda, a partner in this Bio-Innovate project, illustrates ways in which the project is helping to make recycling processes both safe and sustainable. These processes are being integrated in ways to, simultaneously, reduce pollution, generate energy and recover nutrients from agro-process wastewaters.

Wastewater recycling at the city abattoir in Kampala
A 2005 publication by Joseph Kyambadde (Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment and Climate Change Mitigation in Eastern Africa) showed that a good number of industrial activities in this region release inadequately treated wastewaters into the environment. The study further indicated that effluent from Kampala City Abattoir significantly harms the ecology and water quality of Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay, source of Kampala’s drinking water.

The abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 500–600 cattle and 200–300 goats/sheep per day, with an estimated wastewater production of 200-400 m3 per day. This wastewater effluent generated by the abattoir is a major factor in nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion in Lake Victoria.

Researchers at Uganda’s Makerere University, who are implementing this project, are working with staff of Kampala City Abattoir to create a ‘value-addition chain’ that involves bioconversion of slaughter wastes to produce biogas and production of nutrient-rich slurry for use in hydroponic systems, where plants are grown without soil, and as bio-fertilizer. In a pilot plant that has been set up, effluent from the abattoir is first treated in anaerobic and aerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBRs) digesters; the resulting digestate is separated into two components: a nutrient-rich sludge that will be converted to bio-fertilizer and treated effluent that has a reduced organic load. This effluent can then be used to cultivate vegetables, flowers and animal fodder in a hydroponic system constructed in an artificial wetland. The treated wastewaters have great potential also for industrial use in cleaning the slaughtering areas, animal storage facilities and public toilets. This system combines bio-digestion of waste to reduce the organic load and generate biogas and electricity; utilization of nutrient-rich effluent for hydroponics; and artificial wetlands to further clean the effluent before release into the environment. This integrated system not only is an innovative way to manage and recycle wastewater sustainably but also provides people with sufficient incentives for such recycling.

The biogas and electricity generated by this integrated wastewater management / recycling system can be used as an alternative energy source, and so help reduce deforestation, which generates the greenhouse gases causing climate change. As noted, other products generated by the system can be used as affordable bio-fertilizer. And of course a further benefit is better protection of freshwater resources.

By treating agro-process waste in such an integrated way, this project is helping Kampala City Abbattoir to protect Uganda’s environment and livestock livelihoods alike. It is the aim of Bio-Innovate and its Ugandan colleagues to replicate this pilot system in suitable places elsewhere on the continent to help Africa’s expanding agro-industries make safer and better use of their wastewater.

About Bio-Innovate
Bio-Innovate makes use of advanced biosciences both to increase efficiencies in agro-processing and to make more sustainable use of local bio-resources. The program is based at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI website). For further information, contact Albert Mwangi, Bio-Innovate communications officer, at a.mwangi [at] cigar.org

About AASW6
FARA website’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were followed on Twitter (search for #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA-AASW6 blog.

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications writer/editor Paul Karaimu.

The second day of the ongoing (15-20 Jul 2013) sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), in Accra, Ghana, featured conversations on how to develop climate-smart agriculture, how to improve the resilience as well as productivity of Africa’s smallholder farmers and how to make wider use of demonstrable successes in development of the continent’s capacity for agricultural innovation.

Although small-scale farmers and herders produce most of the continent’s food, many of them remain beyond the reach of agencies providing essential, up-to-date and locally relevant information on optimal crop and animal husbandry practices. Indeed, a significant gap continues to divide researchers of food production from the farmers who produce the food.

Monty Jones, executive director of FARA, speaks at AASW6

Monty Jones, executive director of FARA, speaking at AASW6 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

And then there are the disabling gaps between research disciplines and fields related to agriculture.

‘Competitiveness is much needed but often neglected in Africa’, says Monty Jones, the executive director of FARA. ‘We need to look at all the elements in our agricultural value chains, including labour productivity, food safety, retail and consumer preferences. These are all needed to enhance our agricultural productivity. Further, we need to integrate research in agriculture with research on climate change and watershed management and other issues that impinge on agricultural productivity.’

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda at Africa Agriculture Science Week

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda speaking at Africa Agriculture Science Week (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, a policy expert and beef farmer from Zimbabwe who is chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, agrees.

‘We need to listen to trusted messengers, including non-technocrats and community leaders’, Sibanda says. ‘Only by integrating these local views and knowledge in our policymaking will we have a chance of making our interventions sustainable.’

Sibabda, who also serves as chair of the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), also recommends a review of national support to research institutions.

Our African institutions remain weak. They’re weak because we have not invested in research. We still little appreciate the central role of research in development. A starting point in turning this round would be a call on our governments to use African money to invest in African research institutions. That will help us produce researchers who can help us meet our development goals.—Lindiwe Sibanda

AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were captured on Twitter (hashtag #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA AASW6 blog.

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts

Livestock landscapes: Africa

Livestock matter to the livelihoods and ambitions of most people living in Africa and other developing regions of the world (image credit: ILRI/Rob O’Meara).

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications staff Paul Karaimu and Muthoni Njiru.

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is being held this week (15–Jul 2013) in Accra, Ghana. The official opening and plenary sessions start tomorrow, Thu 18 Jul.

Speaking at Monday’s launch of the whole AASW6 week, Tiemoko Yo, chairperson of FARA, said the science week aimed to respond to some of the burning issues in African agricultural research for development. Many if not most of those issues were discussed in more than 50 side events held over the first 2 days of the week, many of them by CGIAR centres.

One such side event organized by the International Livestock Research (ILRI) explored the role of  ‘Livestock research for Africa’s food security and poverty reduction’. Sixty-five people from agricultural and livestock development, extension and government agencies participated in this three-hour session facilitated by ILRI’s Even Le Borgne and held on 15 Jul. Five topics were  discussed:

  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder livestock systems
  • Vulnerability and risk in drylands
  • Food safety and aflatoxins
  • Livestock vaccine biosciences
  • Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

The session started with a look at Africa’s livestock sector as a whole.
After ILRI director Jimmy Smith welcomed the guests to ILRI’s morning discussion, Shirley Tarawali, ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, explained one of the aims of the session. ‘Today, with our partners and stakeholders, we’d like to reflect on where we can work closely with others to influence and develop capacity to enhance Africa’s agriculture.’

Half of the highest-value African commodities are livestock products, including milk and meat.—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Highest value African commodities

Next was a brief look at an emerging ‘biomass crisis’ in African agriculture.
Iain Wright, who leads an Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program at ILRI, said ‘Livestock feed is at the interface of the positive and negative effects of livestock raising. Helping Africa’s many millions of farmers and herders to boost their livestock productivity through more and better feeds while also helping them to conserve their natural resources is a major challenge for livestock scientists.’

Biomass production is the most significant user of land resources and water in livestock production systems. We need to think how to produce this biomass more efficiently.—Iain Wright, ILRI

Biomass crisis

Next up was a quick overview of the public health threats posed by livestock foods and aflatoxins.
‘Ensuring food safety is one of the most important issues facing the agricultural sector today’, said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at ILRI.  ‘This is especially so in developing countries, where food-borne diseases are among the top five health burdens. Livestock diseases and unsafe milk, meat and eggs pose multiple burdens on the poor. They sicken and kill people and animals and burden national economies with huge economic losses’.

Each year, Africa loses billions of dollars due to aflatoxins, which occur on mouldy maize, groundnuts and other crops and crop harvests. The widespread presence of aflatoxins in Africa hurts the continent not only by making people ill but also by contributing to lost market opportunities.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Unfortunately, she said, efforts to improve food safety standards can end up hurting the poor, who, finding it difficult to meet those standards, are often cut off from the informal markets they depend on. Livestock foods also pose problems, she said.

The most nutritious foods—milk, meat, fish and vegetables—are also the most dangerous. These foods are also among the highest-value agricultural products in terms of generating cash incomes and are especially critical for the well-being of Africa’s women.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Food safety and aflatoxins

Next was an introduction to livestock vaccines for African livestock.
Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general biosciences at ILRI, reported on ILRI and partner research to produce vaccines that protect African livestock against disease. ‘We want to simplify vaccine production and to understand how the pathogens that are causing African livestock diseases are developing resistance to the drugs used to treat the diseases.’

We want to work on these issues with the immunology and health departments of African universities.—Suzanne Bertrand, ILRI

Importance of animal health in Africa

 

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen also spoke on ILRI-partner approaches to new research on pastoral systems in Africa’s drylands and Ethel Makila introduced the state-of-the art facilities and training opportunities in the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and located in Nairobi, Kenya. ILRI deputy director for research in integrated sciences, John McIntire, provided a synthesis of the morning’s discussions.

From the participants

In agriculture, the livestock sub-sector has been neglected. To meet the Millennium Development Goal of helping people rise out of poverty, we must invest more in smallholder livestock production.Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria

‘When a research-based agricultural intervention is introduced to a community,’ said Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, of Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services, ‘it must be integrated into existing work and involve other stakeholders in development, especially governments, to ensure that use of the intervention is sustained over the longer term.

‘And remember’, Ndlovu said, ‘that the most active members in most communities are women; our interventions must suit their needs.’

We don’t feed ourselves and others with food alone; we also feed ourselves and others in intellectual ways. Capacity is key to driving innovation and change within societies; to build that capacity, we need to change people’s mindsets.—Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services

ILRI's livestock for reILRI side event at AASW6: Group discussions

Group discussions at the ILRI side event on 15 Jul at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15-20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) photo credit: ILRI/Ewen Le Borgne).

Recommendations
Those participating in this ILRI-hosted side session agreed on the need for livestock scientists to work in multidisciplinary teams and engage in ‘holistic’ research. Only by doing so, they said, would livestock scientists be in position to evaluate all components affecting the livestock sector and thus to help reduce the many risks and burdens faced by Africa’s millions of small-scale livestock producers.

The participants also agreed that it is the responsibility of livestock and other agricultural researchers to provide policymakers with evidence of how each component of smallholder farming links to others and how investing in one component can make a difference to the other components. Improving animal health, for example, can also improve the safety and nutritional value of animal-source foods.

Recommendations put forward at ILRI’s side meeting for enhancing the livestock sector’s contributions to Africa’s food security and poverty reduction include the following.

  • Ensure development of high-quality vaccines is supported by high-quality vaccination campaigns that involve local communities.
  • Incorporate indigenous knowledge to ensure research understands community realities and addresses community needs.
  • Boost the essential roles of continental and sub-regional approaches to development in the livestock research agendas.

AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, includes marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). Follow the discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #AASW6 or visit the FARA AASW6 blog.

View all of the ILRI slide presentations: Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction, 15 Jul 2013.

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

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

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

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

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

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

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

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

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

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

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

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

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

Communications support

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

plus

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

Growing more food using fewer natural resources: Pipe dream or the ‘only’ development pathway possible?

Banalata Das, a shrimp farmer feds her cow at the family home. Khulna, Bangladesh. Photo by Mike Lusmore, 2012

 Banalata Das, a dairy and shrimp farmer, feeds her cow in Khulna, Bangladesh (photo credit: WorldFish/Mike Lusmore).

Ramadjita Tabo, a member of The Montpellier Panel and deputy executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), recently described the recent rather divisive nature of academic discussions on the viability of the ‘sustainable intensification’ of agriculture as follows.

Sustainable intensification, an agricultural development pathway that aims to reconcile food production and environmental protection, is a highly politicised term that divides academics and practitioners alike. Although, when first coined by Jules Pretty, the term was a way of bringing often divergent priorities such as addressing declines in land and agricultural productivity, pollution and food insecurity together under a new paradigm, it has been since accused of being a ruse for big, industrial agriculture. — Ramadjita TaboSustainable intensification: A practical approach to meet Africa’s food and natural resource needs, Global Food Security blog, 18 Apr 2013

Now a team of diverse scientists and other experts, having broadened the concept, make a case in a new report published in the journal Science that sustainable intensification is absolutely central to our ability to meet increasing demands for food from our growing populations and finite farmlands.

Tara Garnett and Charles Godfray, the article’s lead authors, say that we can increase food production from existing farmland if we employ sustainable intensification practices and policies. These, they say, can help minimize already severe pressures on the environment, especially for more land, water, and energy, natural resources now commonly overexploited and used unsustainably.

The authors of this Science ‘Policy Forum’ piece are researchers from leading universities and international organizations as well as policymakers from non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. One of the co-authors is Mario Herrero, an agricultural systems scientist who recently led a ‘livestock futures’ team at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, a member of CGIAR), in Nairobi, Kenya, and who earlier this year moved to Brisbane, Australia, to take up the position of chief research scientist for food systems and the environment at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Another co-author is Philip Thornton, another ILRI systems scientist and a leader of a multi-institutional team and project in the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The authors of this Science paper outline a new, more sophisticated account of how ‘sustainable intensification’ should work. They recognize that this policy has attracted criticism in some quarters as being either too narrowly focused on food production or as representing a contradiction in terms.

Why does articulating this new, more refined, account of sustainable intensification matter so much? ‘We often confuse sustainable intensification as synonymous with increases in productivity and resource use efficiency, but the picture is far more complex’, explains Herrero. ‘We attempted a balanced definition, one that encompasses all major perspectives.’ Such a new definition, Herrero says, can be telling. Take the pig and poultry sub-sectors, he says, which are commonly lauded for being more efficient than raising cattle, goats, sheep, water buffalo and other ruminant animals. ‘Well, that can be true. But not in large parts of Europe, for example, which import grain to feed their pigs and poultry, with one result being that Brazilian farmers are chopping down the rain forest to provide that feed to Europe’s livestock farmers. From this perspective, those “efficient” pig and poultry business are just not sustainable. In our endeavour to intensify’, Herrero continues, ‘we can overlook important aspects of agricultural intensification like ecosystems services, biodiversity and human health. Take the livestock sector, for example. With this sector so intimately connected to land management issues and with so many livestock-based livelihoods of poor people at stake, it’s essential that we don’t pay lip service to the ‘sustainability aspects’ of livestock intensification.

We need to  come up with suitable practical indicators of just what is sustainable, and the fact is that we’ll sometimes need to reduce intensification, as in places where additional increases in yields or efficiencies could place too much pressure on other facets of food systems. — Mario Herrero, agricultural systems scientist, CSIRO (formerly of ILRI)

Herrero’s colleague, Philip Thornton, agrees. And he reminds us of the ‘multi-functionality’ of agricultural production systems in developing countries, particularly livestock systems in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘These ‘multifunctions’ (such as keeping cows for household milk, and/or to generate a daily household dairy income, and/or to produce manure to fertilize croplands, and/or to transport produce to markets, and/or or to build household assets) differ by place and context, and our interventions aiming to enhance them need to differ accordingly, Thornton says. No ‘silver bullets’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, he says, is going to work in these varied smallholder production system contexts.

‘As usual, it’s a matter of scale, with landscape or regional approaches expected to become critical to success. To achieve our desired development outcomes, we’re going to have to “intensify” small-scale livestock, mixed crop-livestock and other agricultural production systems where intensification can be done viably, and we’re going to have to ‘extensify’ these smallholder systems elsewhere in the landscape, where intensification is just not viable.
The main reason for producing this Science paper was to try to wrest the concept of ‘sustainable agricultural intensification’ back from those driving specific agendas. (We may well have to try to do the same for ‘climate-smart agriculture’, but that’s another story.) — Philip Thornton, ILRI and CCAFS

Similar arguments were published in a previous article in Science by Herrero, Thornton and their colleagues (Smart investments in sustainable food production: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, Science, 12 Feb 2010, DOI: 10.1126/science.1183725). This new investigation, Herrero says, is something of a follow-up to that earlier paper. The new Science article stresses that while farmers in many regions of the world need to produce more food, it is equally urgent that policymakers act on diets, waste and how the food system is governed. The authors say we must produce more food on existing rather than new farmland; converting uncultivated land, they say, will lead to greater emissions of greenhouse gases, which are causing global warming, and greater losses of biodiversity.

The authors make a strong case for sustainable intensification being the only policy on the table that could generate ways of producing enough food for all without destroying our environment.

But, warns Charles Godfray, of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, sustainable intensification should be only one part of an agricultural and development policy portfolio. ‘Sustainable intensification is necessary’, he says, ‘but not sufficient’.

Achieving a sustainable food system will require changes in agricultural production, changes in diet so people eat less meat and waste less food, and regulatory changes to improve the efficiency and resilience of the food system. Producing more food is important but it is only one of a number of policies that we must pursue together. — Charles Godfray, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food

Increasing productivity does not always mean using more fertilizers and agrochemicals, which frequently carry unacceptable environmental costs, argue the authors. They say that a range of techniques, both old and new, should be employed to develop ways of farming that keep environmental damage to a minimum.

The authors of the paper accept that the intensification of agriculture will directly as well as indirectly impact other important policy goals, such as preserving biodiversity, improving human nutrition and animal welfare, protecting rural economies and sustaining development generally in poor countries and communities. Policymakers will need to find ways to navigate conflicting priorities, they say, which is where research can help.

Lead author Tara Garnett, from the Food Climate Research Network at the Oxford Martin School, says that food security is about more than just more calories. Better nutrition also matters, she says.

Some two billion people worldwide are thought to be deficient in micronutrients. We need to intensify the quality of the food we produce in ways that improve the nutritional value of people’s diets, preferably through diversifying the range of foods produced and available to people but also, in the short term, by improving the nutrient content of crops now commonly produced. — Tara Garnett, Food Climate Research Network

Michael Appleby, of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, says that ‘Attention to livestock welfare is both necessary and beneficial for sustainability. Policies to achieve the right balance between animal and crop production will benefit animals, people and the planet.’

Agriculture is a potent sector for economic growth and rural development in many countries across Africa, Asia and South America, says co-author Sonja Vermeulen, of CCAFS.

Sustainable intensification can provide the best rewards for small-scale farmers and their heritage of natural resources. What policymakers can provide are the strategic finance as well as institutions needed to support sustainable and equitable pathways rather than quick profits gained through depletion. — Sonja Vermeulen, CCAFS

Get the paper: Sustainable intensification in agriculture: Premises and policies, by T Garnett, MC Appleby, A Balmford, IJ Bateman, TG Benton, P Bloomer, B Burlingame, M Dawkins, L Dolan, D Fraser, M Herrero, I Hoffmann, P Smith, PK Thornton, C Toulmin, SJ Vermeulen, HCJ Godfray, Science, vol. 341, 5 Jul 2013.

Note
ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, Shirley Tarawali, will be travelling to Accra, Ghana, tomorrow (9 Jul 2013) to take part in a 4-day workshop (10–13 Jul 2013) for major stakeholders in sustainable agricultural intensification in Africa. The participants will explore the links between systems research and sustainable intensification to refine and reach a common understandings.

The workshop also aims to help determine:
1) factors critical for successful sustainable intensification
2) institutional arrangements for integrating sustainable intensification into investment and service delivery programs
3)  best mechanisms for sharing and learning across Africa’s major sustainable intensification programs.

About 50 people will participate in this sustainable intensification workshop, representing the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); Africa’s sub-regional and non-governmental organizations, national agricultural research systems, universities and farmer organizations; CGIAR centres and research programs; and major African sustainable intensification programs, financing organizations and investors.

More information
Contact the University of Oxford Press Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email press.office@admin.ox.ac.uk
Contact taragarnett [at] fcrn.org.uk or charles.godfray [at] zoo.ox.ac.uk
Contact Shirley Tarawali: s.tarawali [at] cgiar.org

The Science article follows a workshop on food security convened by the Oxford Martin School and the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford; a more detailed account of the workshop is at: http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/sustainable-intensification

Tara Garnett runs the Food Climate Research Network: http://www.fcrn.org.uk
Charles Godfray is the Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food: http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk
For more information on the Oxford Martin School, please visit http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/
Michael Appleby is chief scientific adviser for humane sustainable agriculture at the World Society for Protection of Animals: www.wspa.org.uk
Sonja Vermeulen is head of research at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security: http://ccafs.cgiar.org

Addendum
Simon West, a PhD student within a GLEAN project and working at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, has an interesting point to make about the importance of ‘learning’ at the interface of ecosystem management and sustainable development (One thought on GLEAN @ STEPS summer school, 30 May 2013).

‘. . . My research examines the production of learning within ecosystem management, and how such learning – informed by mental models, narratives and framing of ecological change – affects the way that people interact with their environment. Learning is increasingly recognized as critical in achieving transitions toward sustainable development – but how does such learning take place, and what types of learning are required? Scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds will answer these questions in very different ways, and such differences reveal the contestation at the heart of any idea of sustainable development. . . .

‘Even in open and inclusive participatory processes decisions have to be made which inherently require closing down around particular courses of action; the success of one narrative (even if the narrative was previously marginalized) will inevitably come at the expense of others. Not everyone in a participatory process can necessarily ‘win.’ . . .

‘[T]oo much emphasis (by any discipline looking at sustainability issues) on developing any kind of “general content” of learning for sustainability is likely to be misguided. . . . I would argue that a more productive goal would be to encourage a new structure to knowledge, moving towards an ability to think in terms of complexity, multiple variables, interaction of social and ecological factors and temporal and spatial variability, in order to facilitate understanding of the adaptive and dynamic relations between values, framings and narratives, and the material environment.

‘Most importantly, this may lead to the realization that others in all contexts . . . will have wildly different, but equally legitimate, understandings of reality and what really matters – and this is perhaps the hardest concept for all of us, not least scientists, to really grasp.’

Livestock research for Africa’s food security: Side session at 2013 Africa Agriculture Science Week

Livestock are a key part of the solution to Africa’s food security challenge.

Did you know?

  • The livestock sector contributes as much as 40% of GDP in many African countries
  • Four of the top five agricultural commodities by value come from livestock
  • In the next 20 years Africa’s demand for beef, dairy products, pork and poultry is expected to rise by between 100 and 200%

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), CGIAR and partners are organizing a side event at this year’s Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) in Accra.

The side event takes place on 15 July (from 09:00am) in Executive room 4 of the Accra International Conference Centre.

It provides an opportunity to discuss how ILRI and partners support livestock sector research and development through a strategy that works in partnerships to inform practice, take livestock science solutions to scale, influence decision making and develop livestock capacities.

In-depth discussion topics include:

  • Vaccine biosciences
  • Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI hub
  • Food safety and mycotoxins
  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems
  • Risk and vulnerability in dry lands

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith, senior management and scientists from ILRI and partners will participate. If you are in Accra for the AASW and wish to attend this side event, please send an email confirmation to Ms. Teresa Werrhe- Abira so we can manage logistics and catering: T.Werrhe-Abira@cgiar.org

ILRI and other communication staff are reporting the AASW online and will report this side event – visit the blog

 

Advancing agricultural research in Africa

Under the theme of 'productivity and competitiveness of African agriculture in a global economy', the 4th Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) General Assembly identified key resolutions for stakeholders to action over the next three years.

‘The fourth FARA General Assembly, with its large, diverse and vigorous participation, provided a fertile source of information and knowledge on the opportunities and problems currently facing African Agriculture’ said the South African Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs, Ms Lulama Xingwana.

The General Assembly took place in Johannesburg, South Africa on 10–16 June 2007 and drew together over 670 delegates including ministers and deputy ministers of agriculture and development partners from all over Africa, together with international collaborating institutions.
 
The General Assembly, which coincided with the Africa Agriculture Science Week and South Africa Day, closed with a number of key resolutions for advancing agricultural research in Africa.

FARA General Assembly key resolutions included:

  • Developing adequate veterinary capacity and livestock disease surveillance, epidemiological and response systems and interlinking them with human disease counterparts to enable nations to cope with disease outbreaks, especially zoonotic diseases, and to comply with international health and safety standards
  • Promotion of intra-African trade in food staples and international trade in high-value products by creating commercial environments that will engage both the private and public sectors, to produce tools to help smallholders invest in change and manage risks
  • Development of endogenous innovation capacity, including the ability to identify and adapt potential foreign innovations to maximize the impact of agricultural research and development, by providing policy makers with evidence-based pragmatic options, preferably developed jointly by researchers and policy makers
  • Mainstreaming indigenous science into agricultural research and development and making the necessary personal and institutional adjustments that are required to enable communication and joint learning between practitioners of the different sciences
  • Recognizing sub-Saharan and North African civil society organizations, support and strengthen them to fulfill their missions
  • Advocating and facilitating the strengthening of research and management, as well as strengthening agricultural sciences 
  •  Recognizing research on peri-urban agriculture as a mainstream activity, but one that requires new approaches to research

 According to the FARA executive secretary Monty Jones, ‘this year’s general assembly was undoubtedly the most successful to date and stakeholders were thrilled with the resolutions that were presented.’

An article in this month’s New Agriculturist (UK) provides a selection of participants’ viewpoints on ways forward including strengthening support systems, the role of institutions and partnerships and ensuring market orientation and access.

Points of view: Transforming agriculture in Africa. New Agriculturist (UK). July 2007

Further information about the FARA General Assembly resolutions is available on the FARA Africa website at http://www.fara-africa.org

Advancing agricultural research in Africa

Under the theme of 'productivity and competitiveness of African agriculture in a global economy', the 4th Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) General Assembly identified key resolutions for stakeholders to action over the next three years.
 

 ‘The fourth FARA General Assembly, with its large, diverse and vigorous participation, provided a fertile source of information and knowledge on the opportunities and problems currently facing African Agriculture’ said the South African Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs, Ms Lulama Xingwana.

The General Assembly took place in Johannesburg, South Africa on 10–16 June 2007 and drew together over 670 delegates including ministers and deputy ministers of agriculture and development partners from all over Africa, together with international collaborating institutions.
 
The General Assembly, which coincided with the Africa Agriculture Science Week and South Africa Day, closed with a number of key resolutions for advancing agricultural research in Africa. 

 

    FARA General Assembly key resolutions included:

  • Developing adequate veterinary capacity and livestock disease surveillance, epidemiological and response systems and interlinking them with human disease counterparts to enable nations to cope with disease outbreaks, especially zoonotic diseases, and to comply with international health and safety standards
  • Promotion of intra-African trade in food staples and international trade in high-value products by creating commercial environments that will engage both the private and public sectors, to produce tools to help smallholders invest in change and manage risks
  • Development of endogenous innovation capacity, including the ability to identify and adapt potential foreign innovations to maximize the impact of agricultural research and development, by providing policy makers with evidence-based pragmatic options, preferably developed jointly by researchers and policy makers
  • Mainstreaming indigenous science into agricultural research and development and making the necessary personal and institutional adjustments that are required to enable communication and joint learning between practitioners of the different sciences
  • Recognizing sub-Saharan and North African civil society organizations, support and strengthen them to fulfill their missions
  • Advocating and facilitating the strengthening of research and management, as well as strengthening agricultural sciences 
  •  Recognizing research on peri-urban agriculture as a mainstream activity, but one that requires new approaches to research

According to the FARA executive secretary Monty Jones, ‘this year’s general assembly was undoubtedly the most successful to date and stakeholders were thrilled with the resolutions that were presented.’

An article in this month’s New Agriculturist (UK) provides a selection of participants’ viewpoints on ways forward including strengthening support systems, the role of institutions and partnerships and ensuring market orientation and access.


Points of view: Transforming agriculture in Africa. New Agriculturist (UK). July 2007

Further information about the FARA General Assembly resolutions is available on the FARA Africa website at http://www.fara-africa.org