‘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

Experts comment on new drylands research program for eastern and southern Africa

Watch this brief ILRI video (run-time under 7 minutes) of quick comments made by six participants following a recent inception workshop hosted by ILRI to plan work in eastern and southern Africa by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

Excerpts of the filmed interviews follow.

Iain Wright, CGIAR/ILRI

There’s been lots of discussions on what we call the ‘impact pathway’—how do we get our research products and research outputs to have an impact on the lives of tens of millions of people who live in these drylands?

Peter Thorne, CGIAR/ILRI
We’re trying to get to what are the desirable developmental outcomes of this program and what research outputs will contribute to those outcomes.

As we move into the more marginal areas, issues of risk, vulnerability and resilience become much more important and we have to tread much more carefully intensifying those kinds of systems. It’s not us researchers who have to bear the risk; it’s the farmers or pastoralists who are engaged in them. So we have quite a lot of responsibility.

Farmers with vulnerable livelihoods have to be risk averse. If we produce technologies that don’t account for that, then we run into this longstanding problem of lack of adoption.

There’s no point our doing the research if it can’t be adopted. And that’s why we want to tie research outputs to developmental outcomes.

Jonathan Davies, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
This meeting has brought all these different disciplines together, which is what’s necessary. It resonates with what I’m trying to work on, which is ecosystem-scale planning.

If you want to protect ecosystems as the basis of life, as the basis of food or other kind of welfare, you can’t approach them from different sectors. You have to treat them as one thing, one entity, and figure out how to manage them as such.

And people don’t deal well with that sort of complexity, especially when you add people and livelihoods and economies into the mix. That’s far too complex for people to handle; they need much more simple things to deal with.

I think this meeting might take us towards that, not just to have tools or research but to have people who can think across all the different systems and at the necessary scale.

John Lynam, consultant/smallholder agricultural specialist
One of the challenges and opportunities of these new CGIAR research programs is determining how research can be better integrated into the development process. We have been too separate in the past. That integration necessarily is going to involve partnerships.

You can’t work with everybody, so there’s going to have to be some whittling down to a number of partnerships that actually work. But that’s one of the opportunities of these new CGIAR research programs.

Florence Wambugu, NGO/Africa Harvest
Regarding adoption of technology, the main thing the farmer wants to know is, ‘Can I find those improve breeds of cows or seeds or whatever it is—can I find it? Where do I find it?’ The next information farmers want to have is agronomic: ‘How do I get value from recommended foliage, from health care, from vaccination’. And the most important market is the home market: ‘Can I drink the milk? What kind of surplus and income can I generate?’

We have to consider the whole value chain and to begin to think of how to remove barriers and bottlenecks in the value chain. We need to take the research into farmer’s lives, and to do that we need partnerships that can make this work.

Wycliffe Kumwenda, NGO/National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi
Several factors are responsible for technologies not being adopted by farmers. In Malawi, like in other countries of Africa, the landholding size is small—on average, one hectare. From that one hectare, the smallholder farmer is supposed to produce enough to eat, and at the same time, to have money to send the children to school and to hospital.

The key drivers of adoption of technology by the smallholder farmer are the principles of extension, which are: The farmer wants to see, the farmer wants to hear, and the farmer wants to touch.

 

Who’s who

Iain Wright is an animal nutritionist with 30 years of experience in developing agricultural systems for both agricultural and environmental objectives, the effect of policy on livestock systems and the role of agriculture in rural development; Wright is director of People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, one of ILRI’s three global research themes, and is based in Addis Ababa, where he also serves as ILRI’s representative to Ethiopia.

Peter Thorne, also based in Addis Ababa, is a crop-livestock systems scientist with expertise in feed, water, information and other resources needed by smallholder mixed crop-livestock farmers. Formerly working for the Natural Resources Institute, at the University of Greenwich, in Kent, UK, Thorne joined ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment Theme at the beginning of 2012.

Jonathan Davies, an agricultural economist specializing in rangeland ecology and nomadic pastoralism, heads the Global Drylands Program at IUCN, in Nairobi, which works to overturn the widely held belief that drylands are wastelands by providing evidence that conservation of drylands, which cover 40 per cent of the earth’s surface, is critical not only to millions of their inhabitants but also to our global environment.

John Lynam, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation and an independent Nairobi-based consultant since 2000, has worked for three decades for smallholder-led agricultural development in Latin America, Africa and Asia within diverse programs and approaches, from commodities to farming systems to natural resource management.

Florence Wambugu, a plant scientist and biotechnology expert and the founder, director and chief executive officer of the non-profit, Nairobi-based Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, has won numerous awards and served on many distinguished boards of directors due to her longstanding work and commitment to increase food production in Africa.

Wycliffe Kumwenda is with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, which, through a network of smallholder-owned business organizations, promotes farming as a business, develops the commercial capacity of its members and enhances their productivity.

For more on this workshop and related matters, see:

ILRI News Blog: Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers, 6 Jun 2012

ILRI News Blog: Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012

ILRI Clippings Blog: Hunger in Sahel worsens as ‘lean season’ begins: ‘The worst is yet to come’, 14 Jun 2012.

CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems website.

Better support for, and integration of, mixed crop and animal farming is key to increasing and sustaining world food production

Gita Kothari, crop-livestock farmer in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

A crop and livestock farmer in Uttarakhand, India. Integrated crop and livestock farming systems can play a significant role in improving global food security (photo credit: ILRI/Susan Macmillan).

Gita Fartiyal is a master’s student at Almora University, in Uttarakhand, India. She is also a small-scale livestock keeper. The money she makes from selling milk and animals is helping pay for her schooling. Fartiyal and her brother keep about 40 goats on a family crop-and-livestock farm in the mid-Himalayan region of northern India. Gebremicheal Desta grows crops and keeps dairy cows on a small farm in Ethiopia’s’s northern region of Tigray. His family depends on the income it gets from farming to pay for food, daily expenses and school fees.

Smallholder farmers, especially those in mixed crop and livestock systems like Fartiyal and Desta, produce milk, meat and eggs not only for their families but also to meet growing demands for foods of livestock origin. In much of the developing world, increasing population, economic growth and urbanization is driving a rapid demand for livestock foods. In India, for example, smallholders are producing more milk (105 million tons of milk in 2009 compared to 74 million tons in 1999) to respond to an increasing demand for dairy products. With the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, smallholder farmers are expected to play an important role in meeting global food demand in coming years.

Mixed crop and livestock farming systems support nearly 1 billion poor people across the world. Most of these are smallholders working a couple of hectares and relying on family labour to grow crops and keep livestock. But questions remain about how best to intensify production in these mixed systems so as to increase food yields and do so sustainably.

A report released last year, ‘Integrating crops and livestock in subtropical agricultural systems’, produced by researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, evaluates options to sustainably intensify production in these smallholder mixed systems. The 2011 report explores ways of refining the integration of crop growing and animal husbandry in the face of ever-diminishing land and water resources and climate change.

‘We need to help these small-scale farmers make the most efficient use of their land and water resources to increase productivity while at the same time sustaining and enhancing their natural resource base’, said Iain Wright, a science leader at ILRI and one of the report’s authors.

According to the paper, a key to global food security is helping tropical smallholders produce more food more efficiently through smart integration of their crop and livestock production.

The authors recommend three practical ways to both improve and sustain smallholder crop production.

First, crop and animal scientists should work together in crop improvement programs to improve the fodder quality of cereal and legume food crops. The resulting new varieties of sorghum and other crops would provide good yields of both human food and livestock feed. Second, farmers should make greater use of crop residues as animal feeds, which will make better use of water resources by ‘spreading the “cost” of the water used for growing crops across the grain and animal feed components’. Third, farmers should more effectively harness manure for crop production by adopting the ‘technology of storing and distributing manure to avoid the loss of nutrients and biomass’.

In the battle to produce more food to feed the world, smallholder mixed crop and livestock systems are increasingly seen as competitive because they make efficient use of natural resources, spread risk across several enterprises and allow for more flexible and profitable use of family labour, all of which can translate into much lower costs and environmental impacts in producing food compared to large specialized and industrialized farms. The increasing demand for livestock products is also making it possible for farmers to access local markets and increase their incomes.

The report also acknowledges that mixed crop and livestock farming systems alone will not produce all the food the world will need. ‘Specialised cropping systems and intensive livestock systems will [also] play their part’, the paper says. The rapid transition to industrial production of poultry, pig and dairy production systems in Asia is an example of how intensified agricultural production systems are helping to meet food demands for growing populations in that part of the world.

At the same time, the vast army of small-scale farmers like Fartiyal and Desta will be able to fulfill their potential and fully participate in more efficiently integrated agricultural systems that improve global food security only if they have access to ‘appropriate technologies, supportive policies at local, national and regional level and dynamic markets that can supply inputs and channel outputs to consumers more efficiently’.

Download the report: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/5556

Watch a related ILRI photofilm: ‘A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production’, http://blip.tv/ilri-photofilm/tribute-to-the-unsung-heroes-of-small-scale-food-production-5225764

 

 

 

‘Feed the Future’: Connecting ALL the (agricultural research) dots in the Ethiopian highlands

Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands: Project Design Workshop—Project Outline and concepts

Watch and listen to a 17-minute (audio-enhanced) slide presentation made by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali on the ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands,’ 30 Jan 2012.

Can scientists make the whole of agricultural research for development greater than the sum of its parts? That’s the aim of a new initiative starting this year in three regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of an American ‘Feed the Future’ initiative to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three agricultural research projects aiming to help Africa’s smallholders intensify their production systems and do so in ways that are sustainable.

These projects will be conducted in three regions of Africa: Sustainable intensification of cereal-based farming systems (1) in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa and (2) in East and Southern Africa, both led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria; and (3) Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands, led by the International Livestock Research Institue (ILRI).

These three African agricultural intensification projects were all launched this year (2012) with design workshops. A wiki has information on the three workshops, including their agendas and outputs.

The design workshop for the project in the Ethiopian highlands has just started at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. ILRI’s director for its People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, agronomist Shirley Tarawali, who will soon take up a new position as ILRI’s director of institutional planning, gave a 17-minute slide presentation on the project (above).

Tarawali said in her presentation that the project is ambitious to fix the disconnect between separate research projects on separate agricultural topics (livestock, cereals, water, and so on) by identifying and then pulling together the best research outputs from the separate research projects. Such outputs include, for example, the identification of legumes and cereals that will better feed livestock as well as people (and sometimes soils as well); ways to make more strategic use of scarce fertilizers and optimal combinations of organic (manure) and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers; and more efficient ways to use water resources.

Add these kinds of useful products together and we could benefit whole farming systems,’ says Tarawali.

To learn more, or to contribute to the discussions, visit a blog about this Feed the Future initiative in the Ethiopian highlands.

Read an ILRI Clippings Blog about this initiative: Experts meet in Addis Ababa to design new agricultural research project for Ethiopian highlands, 30 Jan 2012.

Read more about the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems in the developing world:

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection, 7 Dec 2011.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system, 23 Jun 2011.

 

 

New training manuals for improving small-scale pig production: With lessons from northeastern India

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

Children of a smallholder pig-farming household in Mon District, Nagaland, in the far northeastern corner of (tribal) India, which is participating in an ILRI project to help the rural poor enhance their production of pigs and pork (photo credit: ILRI/Ram Deka).

A new set of training manuals for pig farmers is now available. The manuals inform poor rural pig farmers in developing countries how to ‘intensify’ their production, using lessons gathered from a research-for-development project in India. Among other recommendations, the manuals offer ways of improving smallholder pig farming, including basic veterinary care, and pork production and marketing.

‘These manuals are the result of an analysis of the main gaps in small-scale pig production in India,’ said Rameswar Deka, a scientist from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Guwahati, in northeastern India. ‘They are a response to farmer needs and offer a reference for best practices in managing small-scale pig systems.’

The manuals are a result of a project called ‘Livelihood Improvement and Empowerment of Rural Poor through Sustainable Farming Systems in Northeast India’. The five-year project, in India’s Assam and Nagaland states, was started in 2007 with funding from the Government of India, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), ILRI and the World Bank.

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

Raising pigs is a particularly important livelihood for smallholders in northeast India, where hilly terrain, poor roads and widespread poverty hamper crop cultivation. ‘Crop farming alone cannot meet the needs of families in these areas and many rely on livestock–mostly pigs and chickens–to supply much needed nutrition and income,’ said Deka.

The livelihood improvement project is working with farmers to develop pig production in particular because the region has a history of pig rearing and because keeping pigs requires minimal investments at the outset. Pig production is also easily intensified using locally available resources.

There are three well-illustrated manuals. Smallholders’ pig management offers a detailed look at pig systems in India, including features of common breeds, how to care and manage piglets, the reproductive cycle of pigs, breeding methods and how to cultivate feed-food crops. Veterinary first aid for pig offers information on organisms that cause common pig diseases, how to identify them and basic ways of controlling their spread. Hygienic pork production and marketing details how to hygienically process pork, follow slaughterhouse and meat inspection procedures and how to pack and preserve pork for sale.

ILRI pig production project in Nagaland

ILRI scientist Ram Deka (middle) distributes training manuals to Livestock Service Providers participating in an ILRI pig production project in the state of Nagaland, in northeast India, 2011 (photo credit: ILRI).

The manuals provide easy-to-apply principles in improving pig management, feeding, and care to enhance yields. Farmers in areas where the project is implemented say the manuals are helping them to increase their production. Project staff have set up systems for collecting feedback from farmers and trainers so as to improve future editions of the manuals.

‘We hope these manuals will serve other countries as well,’ said Iain Wright, ILRI’s former representative in Asia. ‘This information can be adapted to make relevant training tools for smallholder pig farmers in other areas of the world where small-scale pig production systems are growing rapidly.’

Download manuals:

Training manual on smallholders’ pig management

https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/12533

Training manual on veterinary first aid for pig

https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/12534

Training manual on hygienic pork production and marketing

https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/12535

Research group helps pig business become bigger business in northeastern India

 Pig in Nagaland, India

Pig kept in Nagaland, in northeastern India, where pig production and consumption by poor tribal peoples is commonplace (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Small-scale pig production is the basis of livelihoods of many poor tribal people living in India’s remote northeast corner. Pigs could provide a pathway out of poverty for many people if they were able to transform their subsistence production into market-oriented systems. Few people in India’s state of Nagaland are vegetarian and pork is the most preferred meat (50% of all pork consumed in India is consumed in the northeast). Although only about a quarter of all pigs in India are in the northeastern states, some 80% of tribal families keep at least 2 to 3 pigs. Pig meat is so in demand that these states import pigs from northern Indian states and Myanmar. Nagaland alone imports about 10,000 pigs per month.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) undertook the first comprehensive assessment of the whole pig value chain in northeast India in 2006–07. Reports were published for the state of Assam as well as Nagaland and set out the role of pig production in people’s livelihoods and the current state of pig production here, identifying some of the sector’s technical, economic, social and institutional constraints and opportunities.

As part of a National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) funded by the World Bank, the Government of India and the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), ILRI is implementing a project with other local partners in Mon District of Nagaland to improve livelihoods through development of the pig sector. With few good roads or other infrastructure, most people here are very poor, and their pig farming remains very traditional. The small, local pig breeds raised here are fed forages harvested from the jungle and kitchen wastes and are housed in unhygienic pens with virtually no veterinary care. With no concerted effort made to improve pig production in the villages, it remains very traditional and largely unprofitable. While most of the farmers produce one mature pig, of 70–80 kg, in a span of 3–4 years, the same sized pig can be produced within 8–10 months through adoption of a few relatively simple improved practices.

In the pilot project in Mon, ILRI and members of the community together identified a package of integrated, locally appropriate interventions: (a) improvement of the local pig genotype through distribution of higher-producing pig breeds, (b) development of community-based veterinary first aid services, (c) cultivation of dual-purpose crops that can feed pigs as well as people, (d) better pig housing, sanitation and quarantine measures (e) closer links among stakeholders in the value chain, from input suppliers to pork sellers, (f) creation of business development services and (g) building the capacity of target groups using local resource persons and influential groups.

ILRI’s initiatives raised the level of interest of community members in pig keeping, especially for breeding. The ILRI project promoted the adoption of clean and hygienic practices in the pig sty and encouraged the cultivation of food-feed crops. Two trained paravets in each village became sufficiently confident to provide veterinary first aid and business development services. And household income from pigs increased from one year to the next by 133–457 per cent.

With funding from the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust under their North East Initiative and in collaboration with several local non-governmental organizations, this successful model will be extended to other parts of Nagaland and into Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Several government and non-government organizations in northeast India are interested in replicating this model and have sought not only ILRI’s technical support but also its help in framing a people-centric policy for development of the pig sub-sector initiated by the government’s North East Council.

For more information, contact Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia, at i[dot]wright[at]cgiar.org

Livestock sector in India’s Jharkhand could move millions out of poverty

A woman in Jharkhand tends her goats
A woman in Jharkhand, in eastern India, tends her goats (photo credit: BAIF).

A new report from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) highlights the potential for the livestock sector in the state of Jharkhand, in eastern India, to move millions of people out of poverty.

Jharkhand, formerly part of Bihar, was created as a new state in 2000. Despite having rich mineral resources and some of India’s most industrialized cities, its population of 27 million are amongst the poorest in India. Some 26% of the population is classified as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ and a further 12% as ‘Scheduled Castes’.

The rural economy is dominated by smallholder rain-fed farming and use of extensive common property resources. Nearly 56% of holdings are less than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in size. Most farmers here raise livestock and grow rice, although pulses, maize, wheat and oil seeds are also grown. Lack of investment in infrastructure (only 9% of the sown area is irrigated), poor extension services, lack of input supplies and services as well as a lack of training have led to low agricultural yields and very low incomes.

The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which has been funding rural livelihood programs in Jharkhand for several years, commissioned ILRI to undertake a study of the livestock sector to explore its potential for improving livelihoods in this state. As in the rest  of India and other developing countries, the demand for livestock products in Jharkhand is increasing. With 90% of rural households in the state keeping livestock, there is a huge opportunity for these small and marginalized farmers to supply the growing livestock markets with livestock products. In areas around towns, the study found a booming demand for milk, much of which has been met by imports from neighbouring states, but peri-urban dairies are developing to supply the demand locally.

Dairying, however, is not an option for all. As Iain Wright, ILRI’s regional representative for Asia and one of the report’s authors, explains, ‘In the tribal societies, there is no tradition of milk consumption or of producing milk, so there  are no traditional skills in dairy production. These communities do, however, have a long tradition of keeping goats and pigs. And with high goat meat and pork prices driven by growing demand, many rural communities, including those of “Scheduled Tribes” and “Castes”, have the potential to supply pork and goat meat for markets outside as well as within the state.’

Assessing the results of surveys carried out in different parts of the state, the authors of the report recommend the following ways to overcome the technical, institutional and policy constraints to livestock development, especially among poor and marginalized livestock keepers: (1) tailor development programs to suit different ethnic communities and locations and build on the traditional skills and knowledge of local communities, (2) help livestock producers to access markets and improve their marketing skills, and (3) implement community-based programs to support livestock development.

The report concludes that poor coordination among the key stakeholders in the livestock sector—from government officials to livestock researchers to staff of non-governmental organizations, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions—is what is most hindering the development of the livestock sector. A main recommendation, therefore, is to establish a common platform, facilitated by the government, where key players can come together to exchange information and experiences and identify knowledge gaps.

ILRI will be implementing some of the recommendations of the report in two new projects in Jharkhand. An imGoats project will work to strengthen goat value chains in Mozambique and India, including Jharkhand, and as part of an ELKS Project, ILRI is supporting an organization called ‘Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), which is supported by the Sir Rattan Tata Trust, in the design of a new project to improve the livelihoods of goat and pig keepers.

For further information, contact Iain Wright (i.wright@cgiar.org), the author of this blog post, or read the ILRI report by Rameswar Deka and Iain Wright: Potential for livelihood improvement through livestock development in Jharkhand, January 2011.

Joint efforts needed to help Nepalese livestock owners combat climate change

Why is climate change so important to agriculture-based countries?

Slide from ILRI presentation made at Nepal livestock and climate change workshop in October 2010: 'Adapting livestock systems to climate change in South Asia,' by Mario Herrero, Philip Thornton and Iain Wright (Graphic credit: de Jong 2005, World Bank 2005).

Participants in a workshop on livestock and climate change held last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, have called for greater collaboration in work to help Nepalese livestock producers adapt to climate change.

At the opening session of a ‘Consultative Technical Workshop on Climatic Change: Livestock Sector Vulnerability and Adaptation in Nepal’, held 28–29 October 2010, Iain Wright, regional representative for Asia at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said that the challenges of climate change in Nepal were too great for any one organization to tackle on its own.

‘Researchers’, Wright said, ‘must work more closely with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations, as well as with aid agencies and local communities, to help Nepal reduce the vulnerability of its livestock sector, and the many people who depend on it, to climate change.

Nepal, a landlocked Himalayan country with a human population 27 million, is ranked as one of the world’s poorest countries (142 of 147) by the recent Human Development Report, with one-third of the population living below the poverty line and a per capita annual income of just US$250. More than three-quarters of the population (85%) lives in rural areas and the agricultural sector employs 66% of the labour force and contributes 38% of the country’s gross domestic product.

A ‘Climate Change Vulnerability Index’ compiled by a UK-based firm, Maplecroft, has recently placed Nepal as the world’s fourth most vulnerable country to climate change, while the country produces less than 0.025% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent climate change scenarios suggest that mean temperatures in parts of Nepal are likely to rise faster than the global average, especially at higher altitudes, leading to less snow and ice. Farmers in the mountains are already feeling the effects of the higher temperatures. More climatic variability and extreme climatic events, including floods and droughts, are expected in future. Researchers anticipate an overall increase in precipitation in the region’s wet season, but a decrease in precipitation in the mid-latitude hills. Nepal’s relatively low rates of development render its population particularly vulnerable to these ongoing and future climate changes.

Nepal’s Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mrigendra K Singh Yadav, told the workshop participants that measures to adapt to climate change are necessary to protect the country’s many small-scale farmers. Tek Gurung, Director of Livestock and Fisheries with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, called the workshop ‘a milestone’.

‘This is the first time that the main stakeholders in Nepal’s livestock development have come together with international organizations to assess the vulnerability of the livestock sector to climate change and to determine ways to increase the sector’s resilience,’ Gurung said.

‘While Nepal’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is trivial’, Wright explained, ‘it is one of the countries that will be affected most by climate change. Therefore, it does not make sense for Nepal to devote its scarce resources to research on ways to mitigate the effects of agriculture on climate change.’

‘Rather’, Wright said, ‘we urgently need to develop strategies that will allow poor Nepalese farmers and herders, who are among most vulnerable people in the world, to cope with changes in climate. We know the livestock sector will be affected by these changes, but there is a dearth of information and data on exactly what those consequences will be.'

The workshop was organized by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council in partnership with ILRI; Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (a non-governmental organization in Nepal); and Heifer Project International–Nepal.

See the slide presentation made at the workshop by ILRI scientists Mario Herrero, Philip Thornton and Iain Wright: Adapting livestock systems to climate change in South Asia.

The common practice of pig-rearing in northeast India would profit from better breeding and feeding programs and greater involvement of women

ILRI India

A woman pig farmer in northeastern India. Pig-rearing there can benefit from better coordinated breeding and greater involvement of women in the sub-sector. (Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

Livestock researchers are recommending improved feeding systems, better coordinated breeding and more involvement of women to increase pig production in poor communities of northeastern India.

In a paper on the pig sector in northeast India, a group including Iain Wright, who leads and coordinates research by the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Asia, provides detailed analysis of the pig sub-sector in the states of Assam and Nagaland and key recommendations to improve the sub-sector’s productivity and its benefits to farmers. The paper also provides the first systematic review of the pig value chain in the region.

India’s northeastern region has over 3 million pigs, which is about one-quarter of the country’s pig population. Most of the tribal peoples who live in this remote region rely on raising pigs to sustain their mixed farming systems. Farmers here who can take advantage of a growing demand for pork and related products in the region—a rising demand brought about by urbanization and a rising middle class—will be able to increase their incomes from their animal enterprises and escape poverty in one of India’s poorest areas.

The paper notes, however, that the region’s pig sub-sector faces many problems that keep farmers from exploiting the great potential it offers. These challenges include a largely unstructured pig sub-sector, low-producing breeds, insufficient feed resources and little animal health care services. In addition, the infrastructure available for slaughtering pigs and selling pork meat is inadequate, compromising food safety and putting public health at risk.

Following field surveys carried out over several months in 2006 and 2007, researchers are recommending that the region’s pig producers adopt better feeding and management methods, including better use of local feeds and cross-bred pigs. In addition to these traditional approaches to improved livestock production, the researchers are also recommending that more women, who already provide most of the labour in pig rearing at the household level, become much more involved in pig development programs.

These findings are reported in a paper presented in July 2010 at a symposium in Hanoi, Vietnam. The authors also recommend using current venues for pig slaughtering as main entry points for interventions made to increase food safety in the region’s pork supply chain.

The researchers commend on-going efforts by government and donor agencies to create programs that support the pig sub-sector. These efforts include supplying research information, improving breeding stock, and provision of extension services and credit, which are encouraging people to take up pig rearing and introducing better breeds to farmers.

The authors say that breeders should be encouraged to include the region’s indigenous ‘large black’ pig, a breed preferred by most producers, in their breeding programs. Consumer preferences should be studied and built on, the report says, and a planning and coordination group should be established to oversee policies and programs for the region’s pig sub-sector.

‘Some of these recommendations are already being tested or implemented in ongoing work by ILRI and its partners,’ says Wright, ‘but much more can be done to help this region’s millions of smallholder pig-keepers climb out of poverty—and do so on the backs of their backyard pigs.’

The report is available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/2233

Research project on fodder marketing in Bihar, India


ILRI India

A recently completed research project has, for the first time, systematically studied the trading of fodder in Bihar with a view to determining the importance of fodder trading and marketing as a means of mitigating fodder scarcity. The study has also identified differences in the nutritive value of traded fodders.

Dr Iain Wright of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) which led the study explained, “Scarcity of fodder is one of the key constraints to the development of the livestock sector in Bihar as well as India generally. We know that trading of fodder is important within villages, between villages and even between states, but until now we have not known much about the volumes traded nor the importance of fodder trading in supplying fodder to areas where there is a scarcity. We now understand more about the way in which fodder is moved within Bihar and even outside the state and how the marketing of fodder could be made more effective.”

Crop residues make up almost 50% of the fodder that is fed to livestock in India, and are even more important in Bihar where over 60% of all feed is contributed by wheat and rice straw, with rice straw especially important. Dr Wright explained that recent research by ILRI had shown that there were big differences in the nutritive value of straw from different varieties of rice. ‘We wanted to see whether these differences in the feeding value of rice straw are reflected in the prices paid for straw in the markets.’

The results of the study show the diversity of the supply and demand for fodder in different parts of Bihar. Areas with intensive cereal production supply dry fodder to the rest of Bihar. Dr Nils Teufel an ILRI researcher explained that farmers with small land-holdings have to purchase dry fodder to feed their animals while farmers with surplus fodder are selling about 45% of their dry fodder production. “Within villages, more than 80% of trade in fodder is usually directly between producer and consumers but trade between districts generally involves up to four trade transactions,” he added. Urban dairy producers are major buyers of fodder – they buy about 73% of dry fodder sold by traders.

The type of fodder used also depends on the intensity of production: with increasing intensification of dairy production, the share of wheat straw being fed to dairy animals increases.

Laboratory analysis of fodder samples showed the expected superior nutritional quality of wheat straw compared to paddy straw. In fact, the analysed paddy straw samples showed below average quality characteristics.

Traders and consumers evaluate straw by its appearance, but neither appearance nor the nutritional quality characteristics seem to have a strong effect on prices. This is in contrast to some other parts of India where prices are higher for fodder with better nutritional quality.

A workshop at which the key findings of the project will be presented and discussed is being organized by ILRI on 27 October 2009 at the ICAR Research Complex for the Eastern Region, Patna. The guest of honour will be Sri Anil Kumar Singh, Director, Dairy, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Government of Bihar. Participants will include representatives of the primary stakeholders, i.e. fodder producers, traders and livestock owners of the state as well as research scientists and officials from different government departments. Members of the Press are cordially invited to attend.

For further information
contact Dr Iain A Wright, Regional Representative, Asia. Tel: 987 187 7038, email: i.wright@cgiar.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is one of 15 International Agricultural Research Institutes which are part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. ILRI carries out research to alleviate poverty through the development of the livestock sector in Africa and Asia. Its headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya. It has a team of scientists based in Hyderabad working to alleviate problems of feed scarcity and an Asia Regional Office in New Delhi. For further information on ILRI see www.ilri.org

The research project was funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Vienna, Austria.

Renewed invitation! Join our e-consultation on livestock research in Asia – deadline 31 August

Over the next few months, ILRI will be facilitating the development of an ‘Action Plan for Pro-Poor Livestock Research for Sustainable Development in South and South East Asia’ and invite you to contribute your views on livestock research in Asia

Approximately 300 million poor people in Asia depend to some extent on livestock for their livelihoods. The livestock sector in Asia is undergoing unprecedented rapid and dynamic change which presents huge opportunities for improvement in livestock-related livelihoods as well as posing a number of challenges to poor livestock keepers. Rapidly growing demand for livestock products are creating new opportunities for poor livestock keepers, but changes in processing and retailing – such as the supermarket revolution – increased concerns about environmental impacts of livestock production, and new and emerging diseases could threaten the access of poor livestock keepers to these opportunities. Coupled with concern that much past livestock research has not contributed to a reduction in poverty in many parts of Asia, now is the time to take a fresh look at how livestock research can contribute to poverty reduction.

In the coming months ILRI will be facilitating the development of an Action Plan for Pro-Poor Livestock Research for Sustainable Development in South Asia and South East Asia. As part of this process ILRI will be conducting an electronic ‘Challenge Dialogue’ in which stakeholders from all areas of livestock research and development will be invited to put forward their views.

Challenge Dialogue: a new kind of consultation

A ‘Challenge Dialogue’ is a disciplined process of defining a specific challenge, engaging diverse stakeholders in a productive conversation focused on co-creating a solution, and taking action towards the solution.

It is a proven vehicle for taking groups of 10-100 people through a structured conversation over several months focused on developing alignment and agreement around a plan for solving complex tasks.

‘Challenge Dialogue’ is particularly useful when faced with a significant opportunity or problem to be solved, when you need to bring people together that don’t normally work as a team and get them collaborating quickly and effectively, and you want to move to action within a defined timeframe.

Patti Kristjanson, ILRI’s Innovation Works leader says ‘The idea behind the Challenge Dialogue is that we involve as many diverse participants as possible and engage them in a bigger conversation. Everyone’s opinions are encouraged – thus we get diversity of views and a free flow of innovative ideas.

Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative in Asia said ‘we want to engage in dialogue with anyone who has views to share in what livestock research is needed, what new ways of working are required and what partnerships need to be developed in South Asia and South East Asia – and most importantly how that research can benefit the poor.

‘It’s important that we get the views of not only the research community, but also government departments, development agencies, donors, NGOs, the private sector and particularly representatives of farmers’ organizations.

‘We want the Action Plan to help all organizations involved in livestock research for development to ensure that their activities can have an impact on poverty reduction,’ said Wright.

Following the electronic consultation, two workshops will be organized to draft the Action plans, which will then be presented for final discussion at a meeting of representatives of key stakeholders in Beijing in early December, at the time of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Annual General Meeting.

Download the Challenge Dialogue paper: http://192.156.137.110/ILRIPubAware/Uploaded%20Files/2007824629490.Challenge%20Paper%20Asia%20.pdf