Taking stock: East Africa Dairy Development project reflects on its achievements and lessons learned

EADD Annual Review and Planning Meeting 2011

A young East African feeds his family’s dairy cows (photo credit: EADD).

From 2008, the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project has been working in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with the aim of transforming the lives of 179,000 families (about 1 million people) by doubling household dairy income in 10 years through integrated interventions in dairy production, market access and knowledge application.

The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by Heifer International, African Breeders Services—Total Cattle Management, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), TechnoServe and the World Agroforestry Centre.

With the first phase of the project ending in June 2013, two members of the project team—Isabelle Baltenweck, agricultural economist at ILRI, and Gerald Mutinda, the EADD regional manager in charge of dairy productivity, gender and youth—recently had the opportunity to take stock of some of the project’s key achievements during a ‘livestock live talk’ held 26 Jun 2013 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus.

Livestock live talk is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

The talk began with a description of the project, its value chain approach, vision and objectives, and followed by an overview of its achievements and lessons learned.

The speakers then highlighted the project’s innovative ‘hub approach’ which was adopted to help overcome the challenges small-scale dairy farmers often face in accessing farm inputs such as feeds as well as animal breeding and health services.

The hub approach takes advantages of economies of scale and enables service providers to have a wider customer base, thereby making it more efficient for them to operate. Through the hub approach, farmers organize themselves into dairy farmer business associations that make it easier for individual farmers to access inputs and services as well as facilities for bulking and cooling of raw milk.

It was noted that the hubs should not be viewed as a ‘model’ per se, but rather as an approach that can be tailored and adapted to suit different regions and countries. For example, the project found that many hubs can be successful by providing milk bulking services alone while others can offer both milk bulking and cooling. For the second phase of the project, the hub approach planned for Tanzania is centred around the provision of inputs and services.

Another key learning point was the importance of ensuring that the due attention is given to gender aspects during the design and implementation of the project. The speakers admitted that key aspect was overlooked during the design of the first phase of the project. As a result, some key gender-based indicators were not properly tracked.

However, this oversight has been corrected and the team now has a comprehensive gender strategy in place to guide the project design for the second phase to ensure that gender mainstreaming is incorporated through gender analysis at various levels of the value chain as well as monitoring and evaluation of thematic gender-based studies.

‘Unlocking the value of the cow’: New project to identify the best breeds for East Africa’s small-scale dairy producers

woman and cows

A small-scale dairy farmer with her cows in Uganda. A new three-year project will identify and make available appropriate dairy cows for smallholders in East Africa to help them increase their milk yields (photo credit: EADD).

A new project identifying appropriate dairy breeds for small-scale farmers in East Africa, and making these breeds more available in the region, was launched in February 2011 at the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The Dairy Genetics East Africa project—a partnership between ILRI; the University of New England, in Australia; and PICOTEAM, a consultancy group facilitating change processes—will help smallholders obtain the most appropriate cows for their farms so as to increase their milk yields and improve their livelihoods.

Speaking to dairy stakeholders from Kenya, including officials from Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development, the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project and other dairy industry development partners, at the launch on 9 February 2011, Okeyo Mwai, a researcher and the project’s coordinator at ILRI, explained that even though smallholder dairying is booming in parts of East Africa, such as in Kenya’s central region and the north and southern Rift Valley areas, where farmers have adopted improved animal breeds and intensified milk production, many more smallholders lack research-based knowledge about which dairy breeds are best suited for their farms and production systems and information about where to obtain them. According to Mwai, ‘Kenya’s dairy sector currently does not have a clear “breeding strategy.”’ That means that many poor smallholders are unable to take advantage of breeds that best suit their situations.

In the absence of appropriate breeding strategies and the ready supply of appropriate replacement stock, farmers face an unpredictable, unreliable and often costly replacement processes. Many are forced to replace their animals from their existing animals or from their neighbours. Others go to large-scale commercial farms and end up ‘upgrading’ to the main commercial dairy breeds even where these don’t suit their farms.

This project will determine the breed composition of cows currently kept in the project areas, the breeds smallholders prefer and the reasons for their preferences, and which breeds perform best under specific conditions. ‘This information will help us assess the relative fit of the various breeds to different production systems,’ says Ed Rege, a team leader at PICO. ‘We’ll then develop partnerships and business models with the private sector to breed, multiply and continuously supply the best-performing dairy breeds to farmers at affordable prices.’

The project will be implemented in five sites in western Kenya and three sites in Uganda. The first phase of the project will start with gathering information to assess the relative performance of breeds in the sites, setting up partnerships with other stakeholders in dairy development in the region and developing business models that will be carried out the later (phase 2 and 3) stages of the project.

In the first phase, project staff will collect information on about 3000 cows based on two monthly farm visits made over a period of 18 months. Field agents will compile information on the performance of the cows vis-vis farm-level inputs for a cost-benefit analysis of the different breeds. The agents will also collect information on farmer-perceived risks associated with different breeds, on means of livelihoods of the farmers, on any gender-specific preferences for certain breeds, and on farmer use of the various breeding services available and their costs.

The breed compositions will be obtained using advanced genotyping technology, which will be led by John Gibson, the project’s principal investigator, who is based at Australia’s University of New England. This information will be combined with cow and household data to identify the most appropriate breeds for various dairy production systems and household circumstances.

‘This project will harness the diverse expertise of the key partners, and combine the latest technologies with tried and tested methods of engaging with the community, to answer critical questions much more rapidly and accurately than has been possible in the past,’ said Gibson, who formerly worked at ILRI as a livestock geneticist.

Participants in the meeting expressed their support for the project, noting its focus on cattle genetic improvement—an area that has received inadequate research attention in the region. Alex Kirui, country director of the non-governmental organization Heifer International, said the project’s focus on ‘giving farmers the right breed for given circumstances’ is an essential requirement if the dairy industry is to be competitive enough to meet the high and increasing regional demand for fresh milk and other dairy products. Moses Nyabila, regional director for the East Africa Dairy Development Project, said the project would ‘unlock the value of the cow, which is a key asset for smallholder farmers.’

Results from the project’s first phase will guide future dairy pilot studies in East Africa and will inform a comparative study of the South Asian dairy industry.

The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It started in September 2010 and is scheduled to end early in 2013.

For more information visit: http://www.ilri.org/node/598

View presentations from the meeting

Empowering female small-scale stock keepers to make decisions is a smart development path for all

Women at work in India's Himalayan foothills

Women at work in India. Empowering women to own livestock and giving them rights to manage incomes can reduce poverty and hunger and improve family welfare (Photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan)

Throughout the developing world, women tend, feed, raise and care for farm animals without, usually, owing the stock, having a say in the business aspects of livestock production, or having rights to the household income it generates. Redressing these gender inequities would improve family welfare and reduce poverty and hunger levels in these countries, say the authors of a new book, The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality, co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

One of the authors, Anne Waters-Bayer, was a speaker this week at a ‘Workshop on Gender and Market Oriented Agriculture (AgriGender2011): From Research to Practice’ that ILRI hosted on its campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the Workshop, Waters-Bayer described ways to promote gender equality and to empower women through livestock development.

Poverty often has a ‘woman’s face’ and livestock researchers have long known that livestock provide women with a rare pathway out of poverty. Even though it is women who are largely responsible for managing animals, especially small stock, in developing-country communities, their role in livestock production and marketing has long been underestimated, even in livestock projects that aim to improve the welfare of women and their families.

Waters-Bayer, who formerly worked as a socio-economist with ILRI and is now with ETC EcoCulture, in the Netherlands, and Brigid Letty, from the Institute of Natural Resources in South Africa, say women continue to be overlooked in many livestock-related interventions ‘despite the many efforts of gender sensitization’ to include gender in agricultural research and development organizations. They say ‘there is still a strong tendency for project planners and implementers to assume that the major actors in livestock production are men, particularly where large ruminants are involved.’

With recent focus on the role of women in livestock development through initiatives such as an international ‘Challenge Dialogue’ that ILRI convened in 2008, there has emerged a new focus on the important role livestock systems play in enabling women to empower themselves. Small-scale livestock enterprises offer opportunities for women not only to increase household income but also to control larger portions of it, which reduces gender inequality.

Changing economic circumstances in many countries are leading more women to take on responsibilities for types of livestock that were traditionally the realm of men, such as cattle in southern Africa. These changes, as well as women’s access to livestock services and markets, should be considered.

To promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through livestock, successful projects, the authors say, should consider lessons drawn from ‘studies of gender roles and relations in livestock-keeping households and communities learnt over the past several decades in research and development related to livestock keeping.’ These lessons include the value of conducting a gender analysis before implementing an initiative. Another lesson has been that focusing on women is more effective in building women’s capacity than just focusing on integrating women into project activities.

Focusing on women starts with focusing on the livestock they keep. The book notes that the most promising interventions for women in resource-poor households appear to be small-scale, low-external-input, income-generating activities involving goats, dairy cows, poultry and other small-scale livestock such as guinea pigs, bees and silkworms.

Strengthening local women’s organizations and improving women’s and girl’s access to education and training is equally important, especially where these are geared to managing livestock-keeping programs. ‘Reducing poverty for the woman,’ the authors say, ‘means not only increasing women’s economic assets but also increasing their capacity and power to act and to change the rules that govern control of resources and to increase both women’s and men’s ability to question established systems to gain greater say in societal decisions beyond just the home and local community.’

Successful livestock projects, such as those run by Heifer International’s Women in Livestock Development initiative, Farm-Africa in southern and eastern Africa and the National Dairy Development Board of India, suggest that the impacts of livestock interventions on women should be measured not only by any changes in women’s economic status, but also by changes in the amount of work the women do compared to the benefits they get from that work, and by changes in how much the women are involved in decision-making.

Download The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality

Anne Waters-Bayer presentation at the AgriGender2011 workshop:

Competitive dairying offers pathways out of poverty, new global study says

woman feeding cow

A dairy farmer feeds her cows in Kenya. A new global study says competitive dairying offers small-scale dairy producers in Africa a pathway out of poverty (photo credit: East African Dairy Development Project)

Investing in the dairy sector and growing it into a competitive industry would offer small-scale dairy producers in sub-Saharan Africa opportunities to increase their incomes, meet food requirements and find a way out of poverty, according to a new study that assesses global perspectives for smallholder milk production by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The status and prospects for smallholder milk production—A global perspective, a study jointly published by FAO and the International Farm Comparison Network and released September 2010, says ‘making smallholder dairy production more competitive could be a powerful tool for reducing poverty, raising nutrition levels and improving the livelihoods of rural people in many developing countries.’

The study notes that rising milk demand, which is growing by about 15 million tonnes per year in developing countries, provides a chance for small-scale dairy farmers to raise their milk production, which would not only create jobs but also help to ‘establish sustainable dairy chains that can meet local consumer and world market demands’. ‘Growing consumer demand for dairy products in developing countries, driven by population growth and rising incomes, offers important market opportunities for smallholders,’ the report adds.

The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is at the forefront of helping small-scale dairy producers benefit from the dairy sector through projects such as the Smallholder Dairy Project, which contributed to a review of the Kenya dairy policies beginning in 2004, eventually leading to remarkable benefits of over US$230 million for Kenyan milk producers, vendors and consumers in the past 10 years. Interventions of this project have also led to a three-fold increase in milk production across areas where the project worked with small-scale dairy farmers.

ILRI is also helping to implement a Heifer-International-led East Africa Dairy Development project in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda that is improving the dairy incomes of over 170,000 dairy farmers. The project is organizing farmers into cooperative groups to pool resources and buy milk cooling facilities, improve animal breeds, improve fodder and train farmers how to better manage their milk business. In the past two years of the project’s implementation, changes in attitude among dairy farmers have led to economic benefits that are improving the livelihoods of East Africa’s small-scale dairy producers.

Around 150 million small-scale dairy farming households (750 million people) are engaged in milk production globally, with most of them in developing countries, according to the study; some six billion people, most of them in developed countries, consume milk and milk products.

With global prices for dairy products expected to rise in coming years, the report notes that small-scale milk producers ‘have very competitive production costs’ and thus calls for small-scale dairy producers to be organized in order for them ‘to compete with large-scale, capital-intensive, “high-tech” dairy farming systems’. ‘Better farm management practices, expanding dairy herd sizes and increasing milk yields could easily improve smallholder labour productivity, making dairy sector development a potent tool for poverty reduction,’ the report says.

The study, however, cautions that ‘smallholder dairy production will only be able to reach its full potential if some of the threats and challenges the sector is currently facing are addressed. In many developing countries, smallholders lack the skills to manage their farms as “enterprises”; have poor access to support services like production and marketing advice; have little or no capital to reinvest with limited access to credit; and are handicapped by small herd sizes, low milk yields and poor milk quality.

Dairy sectors in developing countries also face the challenge of competing with massive policy interventions (price support, milk quotas, direct payments, investment support programmes, export subsidies) in developed countries, which create a competitive advantage for dairy production in developed countries and penalize dairy farmers in developing countries, the report noted.

Smallholders are also affected by trade liberalization, which increasingly exposes them to competition from large-scale corporate dairy enterprises that are able to respond more rapidly to changes in the market environment.

Any dairy development strategy, the study recommends, must not exclusively focus on dairy producers but improve competitiveness throughout the entire dairy production chain, targeting farmers, input suppliers, milk traders, processors, retailers and others.

This article is adapted from a press release ‘Small-scale dairy production: a way out of poverty’ published by FAO on 29 September, 2010.

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To read the complete report please visit: http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i1522e/i1522e00.htm

To find out more about ILRI’s contribution to small-scale dairy production in Africa and Asia read the following related dairy stories from the ILRI news blog:

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/2884

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3010

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3318

Smallholder livestock farmers are ‘big opportunities for global agribusiness and food security’–Sere

éFrom ILRI with love

Jo Luck, co-winner of this year’s World Food Prize (bestowed this week in Iowa) and president of the Arkansas- and livestock-based NGO Heifer International, receives a present from Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), when Jo Luck paid a visit to ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters in August 2010 (photo credit: ILRI/Njuguna).

In an opinion piece published today in the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters blog, Carlos Seré, a leading agricultural economist from Uruguay serving as director general of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that backing smallholder farmers today could avert food crises tomorrow. Agribusiness investment would not only transform the lives of farmers in South Asia and Africa, Seré says, but also boost global food security.

Seré’s editorial follows.

As food riots continue in Mozambique and food crises persist in Niger and elsewhere, leaders in global agriculture, food and development are gathering in Des Moines, Iowa this week to highlight the significant role the world’s smallholder farmers could play in alleviating poverty and hunger.

In sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, most people still live in rural areas, where they farm crops and livestock or derive other livelihoods from agriculture. With few other ways to feed their families or make a living, billions of rural people will continue to cultivate lands and raise farm animals.

These smallholder farmers form the backbone of global food production. Despite climate change, pests, diseases, water scarcity, and myriad other challenges, small family farms produce more than half of the world’s food. Most of the food staples consumed in the developing world come from small ‘mixed’ farms, which make efficient use of the resources at their disposal by combining crop and animal production.

Smallholders also represent an emerging market opportunity for local and international agribusiness alike. Because opportunity costs for their land and labour are relatively low, these farmers are competitive food producers. Their mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems can compete effectively against large scale commercial operations.

Smart investments by agribusiness could help millions of these smallholders in south Asia and Africa. By helping them to become even more efficient and improving their links to other markets, agribusiness could enable them to make the transition from subsistence farming to remunerative enterprise.

Agribusiness can help farmers gain better access to improved seeds, knowledge, and other agricultural inputs, and link smallholders to local and international private sector enterprises, reducing transaction costs and risks as well as adding value to their agricultural products. Farmers would see a sustainable boost in production and income, while agribusinesses would gain new access to billions of potential buyers.

The award of the World Food Prize this week to Heifer International, a livestock oriented non-governmental organisation, should help promote smallholder livestock production, in particular, as a vital pathway out of poverty and hunger.

Farm animals kept on the world’s small farms serve as the building blocks of prosperity. With global human population rising (it is expected to increase by 2 to 3 billion people over the next four decades, after which it should begin to decline), livestock are becoming agriculture’s most economically important sub sector, with demand in developing countries for milk, meat and eggs projected to double over the next 20 years alone.

A wealth of innovative business opportunities exists for companies to invest in livestock-related enterprises by providing infrastructure, credit, feed, vaccines, or milk cooling systems. Smart investments targeting the developing world’s billions of livestock keepers could greatly increase global food security, as well as generate profits for both livestock producers and agribusinesses.

Small scale livestock enterprises drive dairy production in eastern Africa and south Asia. India is now the largest dairy producer in the world, with most of the country’s milk produced by small farmers. More than 80% of the milk output in Kenya is produced not by large milk companies, but rather by approximately 800,000 small scale dairy farmers. It is sold to customers by some 350,000 small scale milk vendors.

The potential of livestock and the ongoing ‘livestock revolution’ to better the lives of poor farmers in developing countries drives the scientific agenda of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). We see the great opportunities livestock offer the poor. Every day, we see how much difference the meat, milk, muscle, manure and money supplied by a cow, goat, pig, camel or other domesticated animal makes to people struggling to produce enough food and income for their families. We see also how much the loss of farm animals – through disease, drought or other disaster – devastates such households.

With the help of agribusiness expertise and increased public investment, we think the world’s smallholder farmers could become a major force in global food security, helping to sustain increasing levels of world food production over the long term.

Read Seré’s opinion piece on the Guardian‘s ‘Poverty Matters’ blog: Backing smallholder farmers today could avert food crises tomorrow, 14 October 2010.

Watch two short filmed interviews of World Food Prize winner Jo Luck on her visit to ILRI in August 2010:

Livestock Catalyze Community Development

Delivering Livestock Research That Makes a Difference

Improved dairying empowers farmers in Kenya’s south Rift Valley region

Saoset village, Bomet

Florence Chepkirui is one of the dairy farmers who are benefitting from improved dairying in Kenya's Bomet district (photo credit: ILRI/Karaimu)

The East African Dairy Development project which is implemented by Heifer International in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), TechnoServe, the World Agroforestry Centre and the African Breeders Service Total Cattle Management, has been working with farmers in east Africa since January 2008. In the past two years, the project has focused on improving the dairy incomes of over 170,000 dairy farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. In Kenya, interventions to improve dairy production in Kenya’s Rift Valley province are transforming the lives of farmers like Florence Chepkirui.

Florence is a resident of Saoset village of Bomet district in Kenya’s south Rift Valley region. The district has a wonderful climate and beautiful farms on rolling hills and valleys. Her two-acre farm supports subsistence crop farming, two dairy cows and fodder that the cows feed on. Florence is one of many smallholder farmers in Saoset and despite her being blind, she has succeeded in earning a living from dairy farming.

Many dairy farmers here are smallholders who keep a few cows in small pieces of land that average about 3 acres. Most of the farming is of a mixed system that also includes tea growing and farming subsistence crops. For a long time, the region’s dairying potential was well known but not realized, but the entry of the East African Dairy Development project there beginning in 2008 is leading to a change in perception about dairy farming and allowing poor farmers to benefit from it.

‘I learnt how to manage my cows – especially better feeding for increased milk production –from the East Africa Dairy Development project staff,’ Florence says. Florence is only able to keep one cow at any one time but she has sold over 6 calves in the past 11 years. She used most of the income from selling the calves – about Ksh 20,000 (US$ 250) per animal – to pay for the education of her three children and to set up a tailoring business which she runs in a shop near her home.

‘Just after calving, the cow produces 16 litres of milk, but at the moment, she is producing 12 litres,’ she says. Florence uses 5 litres of the milk at home and the rest is taken to the nearby Sot milk cooling plant that farmers like her from the village have recently set up with the help of the project. ‘I used to sell most of my milk to informal traders before the Sot cooler plant was established, but income is much better now compared to selling to traders,’ she says.

By working with local community members in Saoset, the project brought farmers together to raise money to set up the milk cooling plant. The contributions of farmers (through shareholding) were supported by funds from the project to purchase a piece of land and set up a building that now houses the cooler. Farmers from the village use the 6000-litre cooler to store their milk before it is collected by a milk processor in Kericho town. 

Florence earns Ksh 19 (US$ 0.23)  for every litre of milk delivered to the plant compared to Ksh 10 (US$ 0.12) hawkers paid her for the same amount of milk. Most dairy farmers relied on hawking milk before the establishment of the cooler which did not guarantee regular or good returns.  

The Sot cooling plant is one of the biggest changes in the village in the recent past and dairy farmers have benefited greatly from its presence. ‘As a shareholder in the cooling plant I feel part of the good things that are happening to our milk business. We have seen many benefits like increased milk production and more money from selling our milk. Our families also benefit from better nutrition,’ Florence says. The partnership between the project and farmers in her village has also opened new opportunities for her to pursue tailoring to supplement income from milk production.

Trainings and farmers visits facilitated by the project have helped farmers in Saoset understand the importance of keeping healthy animals for increased milk production. Currently, the project is facilitating breeding programs to improve cow breeds and many farmers are enthusiastic about the future of the dairy industry in Bomet.  

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The East African Dairy Development project started in January 2008 and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of an agricultural development grant designed to boost the yields and incomes of millions of small farmers in Africa so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty.

For more information about the project please visit:  http://eadairy.wordpress.com/

Livestock researchers in Nairobi honour Heifer President JoLuck, co-winner of the ‘Nobel for Food’

From ILRI with love

The World Food Prize, known as the ‘Nobel for Food’ (no Nobel Prize exists for agricultural science), was created in 1986 by Norman Borlaug, who himself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work creating high-yielding crop varieties estimated to have saved more than 1 billion lives from famine. The World Food Prize honours those who improve the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. A co-winner of this year’s World Food Prize, announced on 16 June by US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, is Jo Luck, president of the popular American charity Heifer International, which provides farm animals to needy families, who then ‘pass on’ the gift of subsequent offspring to others in need.

Speaking in a seminar held in her honour at the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where she served as a member of ILRI’s Board of Trustees between 2002 and 2005, Jo Luck reflected on her life that was a preparation for the role she now plays. ‘All the time I was learning what has brought me to this road. My experiences as a teacher and as a parent taught me how to recognize both the strong and the weak and how to bring people together and empower them by listening and learning from them,’ she said.

‘I represent many people who are receiving this award through me and I hope to honour and represent them properly,’ she said.

Those lucky enough to meet Jo Luck are struck immediately, and almost physically, by the depth of her energy and passion. Her ability to quickly tell a moving story that inspires people to make a difference in the world has more in common with, say, Oprah Winfrey (who has interviewed Jo Luck on her show) or Bill Clinton (who Jo Luck used to work for) than with other heads of charitable or development organizations.

The results of much of Jo Luck’s life’s work can be seen in communities in the developing world. Since joining Heifer in 1992, she has vastly up-scaled Heifer’s programs, which provide food- and income-producing animals to poor families, and helped broaden Heifer’s agenda, which now includes improving livelihoods through education and community development as well as animal husbandry.

With skilful management and superb communications abilities, Jo Luck built innovative educational initiatives that link grassroots donors in rich countries to recipients in developing countries. This not only brought new (and renewable) resources to poor farmers in developing countries but also gave Americans much better understanding of global hunger and poverty issues. As a result of her efforts, both the scope and impact of Heifer International have grown throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia, the South Pacific and Central and Eastern Europe. At least 10 million families, including 1.5 million families in 2009 alone, have been helped both to put nutritious food on their own tables and to feed others.

Carlos Seré, ILRI’s Director General, said that recognition of Jo Luck’s work with Heifer International ‘shows not only that a committed individual can make a difference in addressing global poverty and food insecurity, but also how much livestock matter and to how many people—animals help some one billion people to sustain their livelihoods and helps many of those to escape poverty.’

‘Jo Luck has impacted world poverty through gifts of livestock’, Seré said. ‘Cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, camels and other farmed animals provide poor households with a means of livelihood, with sustenance and with the regular income needed to educate their children, enabling them to finally escape the poverty trap.’

But Jo Luck emphasized that gifts of animal stock, however welcome, are not enough. ‘Livestock production cannot be made sustainable without understanding the environment,’ she said. And this is where she believes researchers, policymakers, government officials and others need to come together. ‘We need to ensure not only that the animals poor people depend on are healthy and productive but also that this livestock productivity can be sustained over the long term without harming the environments of poor communities.’

Jo Luck has worked with ILRI and other groups to bring about closer collaboration between experts and local communities. Such collaboration, for example, is at the heart of a Heifer-run East African Dairy Development Project being conducted in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. ILRI works with Heifer on this project along with TechnoServe, ABS-TCM and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). ILRI researchers are providing technical advice on such matters as improved breeding and feeding and are monitoring and evaluating the project as it goes along. This project, which is creating dairy ‘hubs’ in the three countries, is helping 180,000 households to participate in, and profit from, a booming dairy industry in East Africa. By joining forces, the partners in this project aim to help one million people, mostly poor rural farmers, double their incomes in the next few years.

The key to such collaboration, Jo Luck says, is simple. ‘We work directly with the people we mean to serve. We listen to them and learn from them. They make their own decisions about what works best for them. We then seek the resources that will let them fulfil their goals.’

Jo Luck will receive the 2010 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, on 14 October this year. Both she and her co-winner, David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, another American grassroots organization working to end world poverty and hunger, will make presentations at the event, as will ILRI Director General Carlos Seré and other leading heads of international development work.

For more information about Jo Luck’s work with Heifer please read this related article.

In the following two short video interviews, Jo Luck discusses 'how livestock catalyze community development' and 'delivering livestock research that makes a difference'.

The World Food Prize website has further information about the Laureate Award Ceremony and Borlaug Symposium.

When small is both beautiful and big: Heifer President JoLuck is co-recipient of 2010 World Food Prize

JoLuck With Cow In Europe

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday (16 June 2010) named Jo Luck, President of Heifer International, and David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, co-winners of the 2010 World Food Prize for spearheading two of the world’s foremost grassroots organizations working to end hunger and poverty.

In awarding the World Food Prize to Jo Luck and Beckmann, the World Food Prize Foundation is honouring not only these extraordinary individuals, but also the central role of non-governmental humanitarian organizations generally in mobilizing and empowering everyday citizens to end hunger worldwide.

David Beckmann has been head of Bread for the World — a collective Christian voice to end hunger — since 1991. Beckmann has marshalled some quarter of a million constituents to legislate for changing policies, programs and conditions that allow hunger to persist.

Jo Luck has built Heifer International, founded in 1944 and headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, into one of the world’s premier hunger-fighting non-profit organizations. Her organization provides farm animals to extremely poor families, and in so doing, helps those families to become self-reliant.

Since becoming CEO of Heifer in 1992, Jo Luck expanded both the scope and impact of Heifer’s battle against hunger and poverty. To do this, she and her staff have worked with many local and global partners to institute animal husbandry policies, systems and practices that help people improve their lives.

One of Heifer’s partners is the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Jo Luck has served on ILRI’s board of trustees and her organization works with ILRI on a project to lift one million people in East Africa out of poverty through improved small-scale dairying.

Jo Luck has provided more than 30 kinds of farm animals—from bees to water buffaloes — along with trees, seeds and training — to families in desperate need of assets with which to build sustainable livelihoods. She has increased the number of long-term supporters of Heifer from 20,000 in 1992 to more than 500,000 in 2009. Her organization’s outreach has helped 12 million families –1.5 million families in 2009 alone — to put nutritious food on their tables while also helping to feed others through Heifer’s Passing on the Gift, which asks every family that receives an animal from Heifer to give one of its female offspring to another family in need.

Jo Luck's leadership at Heifer is characterized by full engagement of the hungry families and communities her organization works to benefit. And she has worked tirelessly to ensure that the American public has a better understanding of global issues, and the appropriate roles America and its people can play on the global stage. Heifer now has a broad and innovative portfolio of educational strategies promoting such understanding among its many US supporters. In particular, Jo Luck has raised public understanding of how life choices made by people in rich countries affect people living in chronic hunger and severe poverty.

To complement Heifer’s Passing on the Gift tradition, Jo Luck created an enabling framework, Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, that imaginatively joins concerns for human nutrition and spiritual growth to management of animal and natural resources, gender equity, leadership and organizational and business development.

By placing animals and knowledge directly in the hands of farmers, Heifer has empowered millions of people, particularly women, to convert these assets into foods, jobs and incomes. A lasting legacy Jo Luck’s leadership of Heifer appears to be engaging aid donors and recipients alike emotionally as well as economically, which has proved to be a potent combination that provokes humanitarian action as well as visionary thinking.

Starting at Heifer as Director of International Program from 1989 to 1992, Jo Luck then served as president and CEO of Heifer International from 1992 to 2010. Earlier this year she stepped down as CEO and will remain president until 2011. She is writing a book about her experiences with the organization.

The 2010 World Food Prize will be formally presented to Jo Luck and David Beckmann at a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on 14 October 2010, which will be part of a 2010 Borlaug Dialogue that starts the previous day.

The theme of this year’s Dialogue is ‘Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders.’ Among the dignitaries who will make keynote presentations at the Dialogue are Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Howard Buffett, American philanthropist; Prabhu Pingall, Deputy Director of Agriculture at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Thomas Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture; and Carlos Seré, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute. Seré will speak on the value of livestock in smallholder agriculture. 

Further information about the Laureate Award Ceremony and symposium can be found at The World Food Prize.

Improving cattle genetics with in vitro embryo production technology

Livestock scientists from ILRI and the Clinical Studies Department of the University of Nairobi (UON) recently succeeded in breeding Kenya’s first test-tube calf using a technique called in vitro embryo production (IVEP). IVEP makes it possible to rapidly multiply and breed genetically superior cattle within a short generation interval.
Why is this important?
For several reasons. First, livestock is the fastest growing sub-sector in the world, as increasing trends of 114% in demand for meat and 133% for milk attest. To improve on food security, it is essential to double livestock production in the developing world by 2020. IVEP is clearly one of the most efficient ways to accomplish this.

Second, let’s consider the problem of environmental impact. Doubling livestock production through traditional breeding techniques increases pressure on natural resources—water, land and biodiversity. So the need for enhanced efficiency without degrading natural resources is urgent. Again, IVEP, which requires only laboratory equipment in the production process, comes to the rescue.

Third, there is the biodiversity issue. Matching genotypes to environment is crucial. Scientists need to take several factors into consideration—among them adaptation, tolerance for disease, tolerance for new environments and alignment to market development. Although plenty of genetic diversity exists, thus far we’ve done little with it. Once more, IVEP could be the answer.

Fourth, IVEP has significant commercial potential because farmers can rent their best cows as donors and their lower-quality cows as surrogates.

Most importantly, we need to look closely at the constraints faced by small-scale livestock keepers.

  • Cattle genotypes and production environments, as often as not, do not match. Result:  low productivity.
  • Heifer replacement programs take a long time and are rarely done properly. Result: supply is low, prices are high.
  • Sex ratios are often disadvantageous. Result: too many males and high production costs.
  • The commercial relevance of many indigenous breeds is not optimised. Result: farmers incur unsupportable losses.
  • Programs for breed conservation and preservation are often improper. Result: some breeds are threatened by extinction and no gene pool for replacement exists.

IVEP does not—and should not—completely replace traditional reproductive technologies such as conventional embryo transfer (ET) and artificial insemination. Each of these techniques has its place, and each of them utilizes tissues, embryos and semen for improvement and reconstruction of cattle breeds. The difference is that while the traditional ET techniques involve more animals and are wholly done in the field, IVEP is undertaken in the lab and involves fewer surrogate animals in the field. IVEP eliminates the tedious steps of synchronizing donor cows.

Specifically, IVEP technology as a breeding tool has the distinct advantage of maximizing utilization of appropriate dam and sire genotypes by:

  • increasing efficiency of multiplication in breeding;
  • permitting  determination of sex of the offspring; and
  • permitting pre-testing of actual fertility status of the bull.

Thus, while natural mating or artificial insemination are necessarily slow and inefficient, producing only 10-15 offspring per life span of a cow …

…IVEP can produce up to 300 offspring per life span.

The SIFET Project: a successful IVEP program
The Sexed semen in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (SIFET) project was designed to exploit and promote the potential of applying IVEP reproductive technique to:

  • develop, multiply and disseminate female crossbreeds that appropriately match with production environment;
  • provide a system to preserve top bovine genotypes in cases of accidental culling in a recycle-like scheme (slaughterhouse collection); and
  • identify, multiply and conserve selected superior desirable breed traits.

The project involved collecting ovaries from slaughter houses or picking ovum from live cows. When the genetic material is brought to the lab, oocytes with high developmental competence are selected and morphological evaluation done. Once the ideal oocytes are identified, they are matured in vitro for 22-24 hours. The subsequent in vitro fertilization process is conducted for a period of 18-22 hours with a high sperm concentration. The fertilization itself requires removal of seminal plasma and extenders, separation of motile sperms from dead ones and induction of sperm capacitation. Once the embryos are formed, they are cultured in the lab for 7 days and then transferred to surrogates.

A conception rate of about 40% has been achieved, with calves born without abnormalities.

Conclusions

  1. IVEP technology is feasible in Kenya.
  2. Commercialization of the process should be facilitated as soon as supportive policies and proper legal/regulatory frameworks are in place

Challenges
Poor field heat detections leading to poor uterine synchrony and lower conceptions are concerns, as is the high genotype variability characteristic of animals brought to slaughterhouses.

Way forward and prospects
Looking ahead, the collaborating scientists anticipate bringing ovum pick-up (OPU) and cryopreservation into the picture as well as capacity building.

Clearly, such programs can help match breeds to appropriate production systems to ensure sound breeding programs. Where and when necessary, new breeds can be introduced within a relatively short period of time. Above all, embryos are far easier to transport across continents than live animals.

Through IVEP technology and well-planned crossbreeding programs such as SIFET that integrate the use of indigenous cows as donors and surrogates while using semen from appropriate (more productive and reasonably adapted) dairy breeds such as Jerseys, F1 heifers suited to the smallholder farmers’ conditions can be produced.

Niche markets for the technology and its F1 products should be further explored and exploited, notably with regard to the potential of forestalling the threat to key wildlife species.

Acknowledgements
Funding for the project was made available by Heifer Project International. UON provided the technical team and recipient animals. Administration and laboratory facilities were provided by ILRI. The cooperation of the abattoirs (the source of ovaries) and the animal owners are gratefully acknowledged. The capacity building program through a joint CNPq grant for the Embrapa-UON-ILRI partnership, as well as support from Dr Luiz Carmago and Dr Joao Viana of Embrapa, are highly appreciated.

The collaborating scientists are Mwai Okeyo, Henry Mutembei and Bridgit Syombua from ILRI; and  Erastus Mutiga, Victor Tsuma and Henry Mutembei from Clinical Studies, UON.

For more information, contact Dr Okeyo Mwai, Animal Geneticist/Breeder, Biotechnology Theme, ILRI, at o.mwai@cgiar.org.