‘The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor’: A little film for a big World Food Day and World Food Prize

The prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases from FILM for SCIENCE in AGRICULTURE on Vimeo.

To honour World Food Day today, celebrated every year on 16 Oct in honour of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on this date in 1945, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) invites you to watch a 3-minute film about a new research to reduce agriculture-associated diseases.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI, one of 15 CGIAR centres working for a food-secure world. Grace leads the ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ component of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The latter, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute, was started in 2012 to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations.

Here is Grace on just what ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ are, and why they matter.

The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor.
In hungry countries, most people cannot get enough nourishing and safe food. A third of humankind still grows their own food or buys local food in local markets. But the foods poor people grow, buy and eat often make them sick, and can even kill them.

Food-borne disease is the most common illness in the world.
Milk, eggs, meat and vegetables are especially dangerous. Yet these superior foods provide the world’s poorest two billion people with essential nutrients they need to grow, develop and be healthy and productive.

In addition, more than half of all human diseases are transmitted to people from farm and other animals.
These diseases include those like TB and AIDs, which are catastrophic in the developing world. And every six months, another new disease jumps from animals to people.

In 2012, the A4NH research program was started to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations. A4NH scientists aim  to find ways to lower people’s risk of disease from food farming, food markets and foods, while increasing agriculture’s benefits.

Health problems rooted in agriculture need solutions that start on the farm.And end with safe food in every household.

About World Food Day and the World Food Prize
The annual celebrations for World Food Day help to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. In the US, the associated events include bestowal of the World Food Prize on individuals who have contributed the most to the world’s food supply. Along with former British prime minister Tony Blair and others, ILRI’s director general, Jimmy Smith, is in Des Moines, Iowa, today to participate in the World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony  and Borlaug Dialogue.

The World Food Prize was founded by Norman Borlaug, a CGIAR scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in Mexico, whose work on high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties led to the Green Revolution and his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The winners of this year’s World Food Prize—Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T Fraley—made independent breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology that have made it possible for farmers to grow crops that give greater yields, resist insects and disease, and tolerate extreme climates.

ILRI takes pleasure today in celebrating their achievements, as well as in honouring the following thirteen CGIAR scientists who have received the World Food Prize since the CGIAR’s Borlaug established the award in 1986:

  • 1987: MS Swaminathan, improved wheat and rice varieties in India, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1988: Robert Chandler, improved tropical rice varieties, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1990: John Niederhauser, control of potato late blight, International Potato Center (CIP)
  • 1995: Hans Herren, pest control for the cassava mealybug, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 1996: Henry Beachall and Gurdev Khush, rice breeders, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 2000: Evangelina Villegas and Surinder Vasal, development of Quality Protein Maize, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
  • 2001: Per-Pinstrup Andersen, food-for-education programs, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • 2002: Pedro Sanchez, restoring fertility to soils, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • 2004: Monty Jones, developer of New Rice for Africa (NERICA), International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 2005: Modadugu Gupta, promoter of acquaculture and architect of the ‘blue revolution’, WorldFish Center (WorldFish)
  • 2009: Gebisa Ejeta, sorghum breeder, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

CGIAR on the recent tragic events in Nairobi

Social media symbol of sympathy for Kenya after terrorist attack Sep 2013

Symbol of concern, sympathy, community spirit that quickly spread on Facebook and other social media sites during the 4-day terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which began just after noon on Sat 21 Sep and ended the evening of Tue 24 Sep 2013, at which time Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning, beginning today, Wed 25 Sep 2013 (photo / graphic credit: unknown).

We are all shocked by the tragic events that unfolded in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in recent days. We stand together with the people of Kenya during these three days of national mourning called for by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. We offer our deepest condolences to the many people who have lost loved ones or were hurt or traumatized as a result of this 4-day siege.

We thank everyone who has expressed concern for CGIAR staff members and their families during this time; while several were directly touched by this, we are thankful that we know of no staff member or member of their immediate families who have lost their lives or sustained major injury.

This, the worst terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 US embassy bombing, has touched every life in the nation and many beyond. We share the grief and sorrow that has resulted. We are committed to working with our partners in Kenya and many other countries to fulfill the CGIAR mission to help create a future more secure for all.

Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium
Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Jimmy Smith, Director General, International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

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.

Agricultural research, climate change and ‘social learning’: How did we get here?

'Southern Gardens' by Paul Klee, 1921 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Southern Gardens’ by Paul Klee, 1921 (via WikiPaintings).

An ongoing CGIAR group meeting in Bodega Bay, California, (18–19 Mar 2013) is looking at untapped potential in CGIAR and beyond for actors of diverse kinds to join forces in improving global food security in the light of climate change. Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL). For more information, go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programmeMore information about the meeting is here.

The following opinion piece was drafted by Patti Kristjanson, of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and based at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), in Nairobi, Kenya, with inputs from other ‘climate change and social media champions’, including Sophie Alverez (International Center for Tropical Agriculture [CIAT]), Liz Carlile (International Institute for Environment and Development [IIED]), Pete Cranston (Euforic Services), Boru Douthwaite (WorldFish), Wiebke Foerch (CCAFS), Blane Harvey (International Development Research Centre [IDRC]), Carl Jackson (Westhill Knowledge Group), Ewen Le Borgne (International Livestock Research Institute [ILRI]), Susan MacMillan (ILRI), Philip Thornton (CCAFS/ILRI) and Jacob van Etten (Bioversity International). (Go here for a list of those participating at the CCAFS Annual Science Meeting in California).

Untapped potential
All humans possess the fundamental capacity to anticipate and adapt to change. And of course experts argue that it is change — whether the end of the last Ice Age or the rise of cities or the drying of a once-green Sahel — that has driven our evolution as a species. If we’ve progressed, they say, it’s because we had to. And we can see in the modern world that, with supportive and encouraging environments, both individuals and communities can be highly resourceful and innovative, serving as agents of transformation. The agricultural, industrial and information revolutions were the products of both individual inventiveness (think of Steve Jobs) and social support (Silicon Valley).

Some of the major changes today are occurring fastest in some of the world’s slowest economies. The two billion or so people in the world’s developing countries who grow and sell food for a living, for example, are adjusting to huge changes — to their countries’ exploding populations and diminishing natural resources, to a rural exodus and rush to the cities, to higher food prices, to new lethal diseases, to a single global economy, and, on top of all of that, to a changing climate causing unpredictable seasons and more extreme and frequent ‘big weather’ in the form of droughts, floods and storms.

PETE CRANSTON
The problems generated by climate change requires larger scale, collaborative responses — that is, social learning, requiring collaborative reflection and learning, at scale, and engaging community decision-making processes. 
Collective action, at scale, to systemic problems caused by climate change is the area of interest that came out of a workshop on climate change and social learning held in May 2012.

[The workshop Cranston refers to, held on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was organized by CCAFS; go here for more information.]

When it comes to the food systems that support all of us, that enable human life itself, we’re squandering our innate potential to innovate. What will it take to unleash the potential within all of us — consumers and farmers and farm suppliers, food sellers and agri-business players, agricultural scientists, policymakers, thought leaders, government officials, development experts, humanitarian agents — to make the changes we need to make to feed the world? And what will it take to do so in ways that don’t destroy the natural resource base on which agriculture depends? In ways that don’t leave a legacy of ruined landscapes for our children and children’s children to inherit?

PATTI KRISTJANSON
You don’t hear much about what can be done about it. We need to see major changes in how food is grown and distributed. In Africa and Asia, where millions of families live on one to five hectares of land, we need to see improved farming systems. We  need to see transformative changes, not small changes. But to transform food systems, we also need to transform how the research that supports these transformations is done. We need to think more about partnerships. And learning.

Remembrance of a Garden, by Paul Klee, 1914 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Remembrance of a Garden’ by Paul Klee, 1914 (via WikiPaintings).

How did we get here?
Before attempting to answer those questions, it might profit us to take a look at how agricultural development got to where it is now. Alain de Janvry, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and others argue as follows.

For decades, development agencies put agriculture at the forefront of their priorities, believing it to be the precursor to industrialization. Then, starting in the 1970s and early 1980s, the bias for agriculture began to be seriously eroded, with huge economic, social, and environmental costs.

The good news, de Janvry says, is that ‘In recent years, a number of economic, social, and environmental crises have attracted renewed attention to agriculture as both a contributor to these problems and a potential instrument for solutions. . . . A new paradigm has started to emerge where agriculture is seen as having the capacity to help achieve several of the major dimensions of development, most particularly accelerating GDP growth at early stages of development, reducing poverty and vulnerability, narrowing rural-urban income disparities, releasing scarce resources such as water and land for use by other sectors, and delivering a multiplicity of environmental services.’

The bad news, he says, is that ‘renewed use of agriculture for development remains highly incomplete, falling short of political statements.’

Let’s now return to our questions about what’s missing in agricultural development today, and what that has to do with ‘social learning’, or lack of it.

Apparatus for the Magnetic Treatment of Plants, by Paul Klee, 1908 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Apparatus for the Magnetic Treatment of Plants’ by Paul Klee, 1908 (via WikiPaintings).

Unlocking the human potential for innovating solutions
Agricultural scientists are important actors both in instigating change and in helping people anticipate and adapt to climate and other agriculturally important changes. They have played a key role so far in spearheading major agricultural movements such as the Green Revolution in Asia. Yet one billion poor people have been left behind by the Green Revolution, largely because they live in highly diverse agro-ecological regions that are relatively inaccessible and where they cannot access the research-based information, technologies and support they need to improve, or ‘intensify’, their farming systems.

The complex agriculturally related challenges of today require going way beyond ‘business as usual’. And they offer agricultural scientists unprecedented opportunities to play major roles in some of the major issues of our time, including reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. But we’re not going to make good use of these opportunities if we don’t recognize and jump on opportunities for joint societal learning and actions.

POTATOES IN THE ANDES
Take this example from Latin America, where agricultural researchers set about documenting the biodiversity of potato varieties in the high-elevation Andes. An unanticipated consequence of this activity was learning from local farmers about numerous varieties previously unknown to science. And the scientists realized that traditional knowledge of these hardy varieties and other adaptive mechanisms are helping many households deal with climate variability at very high elevations. Further learning in this project showed that women and the elderly tended to have much better knowledge of traditional varieties and their use than the owners of the land. This kind of knowledge is now being shared widely in an innovative Andean regional network.

RICE IN VIETNAM
Here’s another example. Rice is now being grown by over a million farmers in Vietnam using a new management system that reduces water use and methane gas emissions while generating higher incomes for farm families. This happened through farmers — both men and women — experimenting and sharing experiences in ‘farmer field schools’ that had strong government support. It turns out that the women farmers are better trainers than men. After participating in a farmer field school, each woman helped 5–8 other farmers adopt the new approach, while every male participant helped only 1–3 additional farmers. So making sure women were a key part of this effort led to much greater success in reducing poverty and environmental damage.

Ravaged Land, by Paul Klee, 1921, Galarie Beyeler (via WikiPaintings)

‘Ravaged Land’ by Paul Klee, 1921, Galarie Beyeler (via WikiPaintings).

New opportunities for doing research differently
Back to de Janvry for a moment. ‘Crises and opportunities’, he says, ‘combine in putting agriculture back on the development agenda, as both a need and a possibility. This second chance in using agriculture for development calls for a new paradigm, which is still largely to be consistently formulated and massively implemented. . . [A] Green Revolution for Sub-Saharan Africa is still hardly in the making.’

ALAIN DE JANVRY
In the new paradigm, process thus matters along with product if the multiple dimensions of development are to be achieved. . . . As opposed to what is often said in activist donor circles, it is a serious mistake to believe that we know what should be done, and all that is left to do is doing it. . . . Because objectives and contexts are novel, we are entering un-chartered territory that needs to be researched and experimented with. Extraordinary new opportunities exist to successfully invest in agriculture for development, but they must be carefully identified. . . . Innovation, experimentation, evaluation, and learning must thus be central to devising new approaches to the use agriculture for development. This requires putting into place strategies to identify impacts as we proceed with new options.

The biggest mistake one could make about using agriculture for development is believe that it is easy to do and that we already know all we need to do it. It is not and we don’t. . . . Lessons must be derived from past mistakes, and new approaches devised and evaluated.

So how do we derive lessons from past mistakes? How do we devise new approaches and evaluate them on-goingly?

LIVESTOCK IN EAST AFRICA
One way is to take a proactive social learning approach — learning together through action and reflection, which leads to changes in behaviour. Researchers from ILRI, for example, learned by interacting closely with pastoral groups in East Africa that intermittent engagement is not as powerful a force of social change as is continual engagement, which they achieved by instituting ‘community facilitators-cum-researchers’. This led to transformative changes in land policy and management, with long-lasting benefits for wildlife populations, pastoral communities and rangelands alike.

Public-private partnerships that include researchers can also help. Through active learning together we can reach more people, more efficiently and effectively than before — this approach is further supported through widespread access to the internet and smartphones that allow greater engagement from communities and individuals spread far and wide. We can map the soils and water resources needed to grow food, and try new ‘crowdsourced’ approaches to identify needs for different types of seeds and seedlings. We can democratize research, and make scientists much more responsive to the needs of different groups of people.

Rising Sun, by Paul Klee, 1907 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Rising Sun’ by Paul Klee, 1907 (via WikiPaintings).

Why bother?
What’s the incentive for researchers to do things differently? For all of us, it lies in the opportunity to sharpen our edge, to become better solvers of bigger, more complex problems, or at least to ask better questions about ‘wicked problems’. For scientists in particular, the opportunity to make our research, including fundamental and lab-based research, more relevant and targeted to meeting demand — user-inspired rather than supply-driven research — is tremendous.

RICE IN AFRICA
When researchers at two international rice research institutes, IRRI and AfricaRice, started to include women in participatory varietal selection, different preferences emerged. Women focused more on food security than yields. Through working directly with women as well as men, the nature of research challenges and questions changed to accommodate different needs, values and norms. The use of farmer-to-farmer learning videos accelerated the transfer of different types of learning. Evaluations show that this approach has led to an 80% greater adoption rate of different technologies and practices than previous dissemination techniques.

In these ways, socially differentiated and participatory research approaches hold the promise of making our research more central to the major agricultural problems we’re facing — and to anticipate future problems, issues and questions by sharpening our critical questioning through ongoing learning.

Reconstructing by Paul Klee, 1926 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Reconstructing’ by Paul Klee, 1926 (via WikiPaintings).

How do we learn and make this happen?
We learn by using, by doing, by trying, by failing, by modeling, through engagement, dialogue and reflection. Knowledge links to action more effectively when the users are involved from the problem definition stage onwards, when they ‘co-own’ the problem and questions that could lead to solving it. So a shift towards joint observation, trials, modeling and experimentation is key. CGIAR and its partners have used learning approaches to catalyze transformative change in the ways in which food is grown, distributed and consumed.

LEARNING ALLIANCES IN LATIN AMERICA
CIAT has been taking a ‘learning alliance’ approach, partnering with intermediaries such as the Sustainable Food Lab, global food and commodity corporations, local farmer associations and international development-oriented non-governmental organizations. Innovative networks have been formed that link local producers (rural poor) with global buyers. Executives from global food companies have gone on learning journeys where they hear first-hand from small farmers about 3-month periods of food insecurity; they responded by supplying alternate seed varieties for food security over this period. Global companies have reoriented their buying patterns to accommodate local producer needs. These new alliances are generating longer-term networks that are building the adaptive capacity of both food sellers and producers.

Refuge by Paul Klee, 1930 (via WikiPaintings)

‘Refuge’ by Paul Klee, 1930 (via WikiPaintings).

What are we asking people to do?
We want to see more people embracing the idea of joint, transformative learning, the co-creation of knowledge. This is not a new idea. But the imperatives we’re facing now demand a more conscious articulation, promotion and facilitation of this approach by a wide range of people, especially scientists from all disciplines. More relevant science leads to social credibility and legitimacy, which in turn should lead to the ability to mobilize support — a win-win for researchers.

PATTI KRISTJANSON
To enable social learning, incentives and institutions — the rules of the game — have to change also. This includes our changing how research is planned, evaluated and funded. We need much longer time horizons than those currently in play (with 2–3 year projects the norm). And we need to share this critical lesson with governments and other investors in agricultural research for development.

Our vision of success includes many more scientists engaged in broad partnerships; producing more relevant, useful and used information; doing less paperwork and more mentoring of young people and more interactive science; and more generously sharing their knowledge. This helps us to see — much more clearly than before — our scientific contributions to improved agricultural landscapes, sustainable food systems, profitable and productive livelihoods, and improved food security globally.

EWEN LE BORGNE
For more on social learning, consult these ‘social learning gurus’ cited by Ewen Le Borgne:
•  Mark Reed, author of the definition that a few of us have been quoting — see his What is social learning? response to a paper published in Ecology and Society in 2010.
•  Harold Jarche or Jane Hart, both write well on social learning in an enterprise — see Social Learning Centre website and Jarche’s blog.
•  Sebastiao Ferreira Mendonca — see the Mundus maris website (Sciences and Arts for Sustainability International Initiative)
•  Valerie BrownAustralian academic who worked a lot on multiple knowledges in IKM-Emergent, a five-year research program in ’emergent issues in information and knowledge management and international development’ (blog here)

For more information:
Go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL).

For more on this week’s meeting, see these earlier posts on the ILRI News Blog:
The world’s ‘wicked problems’ need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread, 18 May 2013.
Climate change and agricultural experts gather in California this week to search for the holy grail of global food security, 17 Mar 2013.

And on the CCAFS Blog:
Farmers and scientists: better together in the fight against climate change, 19 Mar 2013.
Transformative partnerships for a food-secure world, 19 Mar 2013.

Read Alain de Janvry’s whole paper: Agriculture for development: New paradigm and options for success, International Association of Agricultural Economists, 2010.

For more on the use of ‘social learning’ and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI’s maarifa blog.

Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers

Strategic research themes of CRP on Dryland Systems

A new CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is being planned to find ways to help dryland communities climb out of poverty while enhancing their food security and protecting their natural resources. This program will conduct four strategic research themes in five regions. Two of the research themes—reducing vulnerability/managing risk and sustainably intensifying production—make up the ‘meat’ of what has come to be called ‘the hamburger’ diagram. The top and bottom ‘buns’ represent the other two research themes:  strengthening innovations systems and measuring impacts/synthesizing knowledge across regions, respectively (figure by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems).

This week in Nairobi, Kenya, opening on a morning as grey and cold as London’s weekend Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the Thames, a Regional Inception Workshop of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems for East and Southern Africa is being held. The 3-day workshop (5–7 Jun) is organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This inception workshop brings together more than 50 experts working in the drylands of eastern and southern Africa to identify key hypotheses and research questions for the research program, to agree on initial sites for its activities and to develop impact pathways and implementation plans. See the introductory slide presentation by Maarten Van Ginkel, deputy director general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA): The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems: Scientific content and progress in the inception phase.

The planners of this CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (the full mouthful of a title of which is ‘Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas’) say this large, multi-institutional, multi-stakeholder and multi-diciplinary research program aims to develop a series of complementary technologies, policies and institutional innovations that will help very poor and highly vulnerable dryland populations improve their livelihoods—and do so over the longer term.

As its full name suggests, this CGIAR research program will apply ‘integrated systems’ approaches, which focus less on technical fixes for discrete problems and more on how interventions can be combined to meet the many needs of a profitable, equitable and sustainable agricultural production system. And the program will use large, so-called ‘landscape level’ frameworks to help scientists think through the links between farm or community practices and the broader ecosystem in which they are located; such analyses should allow, for example, more comprehensive assessments of the increasingly hard trade-offs in use of natural resources.

See consultant John Lynam’s slide presentation (below), which gives a comprehensive overview of ‘systems thinking’. Lynam argued that we need to change our research designs and methods if we’re going to serve the expanding agendas for international agricultural research. In his presentation he asked asked some provocative questions, such as, ‘How do we (should we) understand system performance? Is it by productivity, profitability, or income? Is it levels of vulnerability or food security? Or is it resource efficiency or resilience?. . . . Why do we have plantain (matoke) systems in Uganda while beer banana systems dominate in Burundi and Rwanda? . . . Why are many more people exiting agriculture in Africa than they are in Asia?’

The dry areas of the developing world occupy some 3 billion hectares, which represent 41% of the earth’s land area. These drylands are home to 2.5 billion people, who make up about a third of the population in developing countries. At least 16% of this population lives in chronic poverty.

These people make a living from the drylands by growing and managing a mix of food, fodder and fibre crops; vegetables; rangeland and pasture grasses, shrubs and trees; fruit and fuel-wood trees; medicinal plants; livestock; and fish. These dryland people face enormous environmental challenges, which in many regions are likely only to worsen with climate change.

This program targets two kinds of drylands. The first are those with the deepest endemic poverty and the most marginalized and vulnerable people, the most extreme environmental variability, and often the greatest natural resource degradation as well. The second are those with the greatest potential to increase food security and reduce poverty over the short to medium terms.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI

Table discussions at an ILRI-hosted inception workshop for eastern and southern Africa component of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems, 5-7 Jun 2012 (photo by ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The future of dryland farming communities, the research planners assume, depends largely on their ability to more effectively manage  risk as well as to diversify and intensify their agricultural production systems. The integrated approach the program will take should help people better manage their natural resources and improve their crop, vegetable, livestock, tree and fish production. The approach should also help facilitate for dryland communities the establishment of enabling policy environments; the provision of greater institutional support; and a more equitable distribution of, and control over, resources, access to information, livelihood opportunities and decision-making.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Agenda

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Outcomes

More specifically, this dryland research program aims to:

  • prioritize agricultural systems for impact
  • identify key researchable issues
  • increase the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use
  • develop more resilient agricultural systems to manage risk and production variability
  • promote in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity
  • improve the productivity and profitability of dryland agricultural systems through sustainable intensification, diversification, and creation of value-added products and market links
  • identify niches of importance to the most vulnerable livelihoods (even if they appear to have low marketing potential)
  • address constraints faced by the most marginal farmers
  • develop new partnerships and models of working together.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF

Dryland Systems inception workshop for East and southern Africa organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI (left) and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The structure and process of this workshop, which is focused on eastern and southern Africa, have been developed by an interdisciplinary research team headed by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen, with participants from the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Water Management Institute and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, as well as agricultural research consultants John Lynam and Brian Keating. The lead centre for this CGIAR research program is the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.

In this region, the drylands program plans to work to reduce vulnerability in three areas of three East Africa countries:
Northern Kenya/southeastern Ethiopia: the triangle from Garissa in Kenya to Borana in south-central Ethiopia to Somali Region in southeast Ethiopia
Central Kenya: Baringo District
Southern Kenya/northern Tanzania: Kajiado and Narok districts and Serengeti National Park and Monduli and Samanjiro districts.

The program plans work to intensify agricultural production in three areas of three eastern and southern African countries:
Zambia-Malawi-Mozambique: the Chinyanja Triangle
Northeast Tanzania: from Kahama through Shinyanga to Babati districts
Ethiopia: the Oromia zones of East Shoa, West Shoa, Horogudru and the Amhara zone of North Shoa

For more information, visit the website for this CGIAR Research Program.

See previous blogs about this workshop:

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

A set of images of this workshop are on ILRI’s Flickr site.

 

World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte in Nairobi town hall on ‘big picture agriculture’

Nairobi visit by WB VP Rachel Kyte

On a visit to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)/CGIAR on 2 Feb 2012, World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte listens to presentations made by CIP’s Lydia Wamalwa and ILRI’s Sheila Ommeh (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

As Bill Gates prepares in America’s Pacific Northwest today for a live-streamed session (starting at 2:15 PST, UTC-8 hours), in which he will answer questions about his 2012 Annual Letter, where he argues for the importance of agricultural research for development, a similar Q&A session at a town hall was held early this morning in Nairobi with World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte, who was video-linked so that all staff of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), which hosted the event, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other CGIAR centres in the Kenyan capital, could take part in the event.

The World Bank vice president, who also serves as the chair of the CGIAR Fund Council, covered much ground in her brief statement and responses to questions at the town hall this morning. Thoughtful, knowledgeable, and straight in her speaking, Kyte spoke of the importance of ‘climate-smart agriculture’ and of taking ‘landscape’ rather than piecemeal approaches to agricultural research for development. She spoke of the need to preserve the ‘public-good ethos’ of the CGIAR while reaching out to the private sector, and of the ‘profound commitment’ at the World Bank to increase global food security, reflected in the USD50 million the Bank annually provides to the CGIAR. While underscoring the importance of the work of the 15 CGIAR centres to sustainable development, and confirming donor interest in sustaining those centres, Kyte also said CGIAR donors, which have committed USD700 million of the CGIAR target of USD1 billion annual investment, also are looking for more efficiency and effectiveness in CGIAR centre work and for greater clarity of purpose in some of the proposals being submitted for multi-institutional CGIAR Research Programs.

This June’s Rio +20 conference offers us an opportunity for a greener and more sustainable world over the next 20 years,’ Kyte said. And now, she said, is the time to act, as ‘we’re still riding the “food security tiger”, which has, unusually, remained a high-profile issue ever since the food crisis in 2008.’

Gates and Kyte both appear to be interested in ‘big-picture agriculture’, which may be defined as seeking to understand and manage complex agricultural systems at the landscape level, assessing not only the productivity of these systems but also their sustainability and impacts on livelihoods of the poor. Such big-picture approaches are by necessity highly demanding of complex yet productive partnerships between research groups, governments, civil society and the private sector.

Nairobi visit by WB VP Rachel Kyte: Kyte and Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith (pictured right, above), who came from the World Bank last year to become ILRI’s third director general, and Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), welcomed the CGIAR community and Rachel Kyte to this town hall meeting, which was preceded by a brief tour of a few of ICRAF’s research facilities and short presentations by two early-career CGIAR agricultural scientists.

Nairobi visit by WB VP Rachel Kyte: Sheila Ommeh presents

Sheila Ommeh is a young Kenyan scientist who received her PhD just last week in the field of chicken genetics. Ommeh explained to the Bank vice president that 70% of all chickens raised in Africa are native breeds that are rapidly disappearing through cross-breeding and the introduction of exotic breeds. Ommeh’s research is disclosing the value of conserving and better using many of Africa’s hardy native birds, which are an important source of scarce income and nutrition for poor households, especially the women and children in them.

Nairobi visit by WB VP Rachel Kyte: Lydia Walmalwa presents

Lydia Wamalwa is another Kenyan scientist, about to obtain her doctorate in plant molecular biology. Wamalwa is working with the International Potato Center (CIP) at the ILRI-Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub to develop varieties of sweet potato genetically resistant to disease.

Wamalwa closed her presentation by saying that she hopes in 20 years’ time someone like herself will be in Kyte’s position at the Bank, continuing a winning struggle against poverty and hunger in Africa.

‘Twenty years?’ vice president Kyte said. ‘Make that five.’

For more pictures of the town hall meeting, visit ILRI’s Flickr website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes in Kenya’s dairy policy give wide-ranging benefits to milk industry players, new study shows

Woman milking

A dairy farmer milks a cow in Kenya’s Nyandarua district. Kenyan small-scale dairy farmers are benefitting from  the dairy policy changes that began in 2004. (Photo credit: East African Dairy Development Project)

Recent findings from an assessment of the impacts of the Kenya dairy policy change of September 2004 show that changes in the sector, which incorporated small-scale milk producers and traders into the milk value chain and liberalised informal milk markets, have led to an increase in the amount of milk marketed, increased licensing of milk vendors and an increased demand for milk leading to benefits of US$230 million for Kenyan milk producers, vendors and consumers over the past 10 years (US$33 million per year).

The study, conducted between August 2007 and January 2008 among milk producers, vendors and dairy farmers in Nairobi, Nakuru, Thika and Kiambu towns, shows there was a threefold increase in marketed milk in all the towns with Nairobi recording a fourfold increase between 2004 and 2008. The findings also show that overall, ‘small-scale dairy operators have profited from quick, relatively high volume turnovers and welfare benefits to small-scale vendors have increased,’ since the introduction of the new policies in Kenya’s dairy industry.

According to the study ‘allowing licenced small-scale milk vendors to operate leads to increased milk supply to the retail market’ and it also found a continual increase in the number of small-scale milk vendors acquiring licences since 2004 to run milk bars to meet the increased demand for milk.

The study’s findings show that in Nairobi, the highest profits were gained by non-producer mobile traders, followed by milk bars and mobile transporters while in Nakuru those who benefited the most were producer mobile traders. The study, however, notes that the changes in policy also led to a decrease in market margins for retailers with an average 9% reduction across the surveyed towns. Milk traders in Nairobi experienced a reduction of Ksh 0.80 (US$0.012) per litre of milk sold.

With nearly 800,000 Kenyan smallholder households depending on dairying for their livelihoods and the dairy sector providing employment to over 350,000 people in milk collection, transportation, processing and sales; the dairy industry plays an important role in meeting the livelihood needs of poor Kenyan households as well as in contributing to Kenya’s economic development.

The study ‘Kenyan dairy policy change: influence pathways and economic impacts,’ was carried out by Amos Omore, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), among others researchers from Qatar University, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). It assessed the impact of the Smallholder Dairy Project (SDP) and its contribution to the revised Kenya dairy policy and looked at the behavioural changes among field regulators and small-scale milk vendors resulting from recognition of their role in the milk value chain. The study also estimated the economic impact of the policy on producers, vendor and consumers.

Among the study’s other findings is that as a result of the new policies, milk handlers across the country are better trained, ‘with 85% reporting they had been trained on milk handling and quality control methods’ and that it is now much easier for producers and vendors to acquire licenses for their operations. Training and licensing is carried out by the Kenya Dairy Board and the Public Health Department who are now ensuring that licensed outlets and premises, especially those run by small-scale milk vendors, meet all hygiene, testing, sanitation and health requirements for milk handling. They also assist the milk vendors to meet these condition and this change in approach means that nearly all producers and traders understand the requirements of milk handling and quality control.

Kenya has made significant progress in liberalizing its dairy industry and is working towards training and licensing more small-scale milk vendors to allow them to fully engage in the formal milk sector. As a result of these experiences, the study says, there has been ‘behavioural changes among regulators and small-scale milk vendors that has led to positive economic benefits across Kenya.’

To read the complete report and its findings, visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2010.06.008

The Smallholder Dairy Project which started in 1997 and ended in August 2005 was implemented by ILRI, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the Kenya Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development. It was funded by the UK Department for International Development. To read more about the project and its achievements, visit http://www.smallholderdairy.org/default.htm

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.  

—-

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/

Fruit, catfish and pigeon pea researchers among 60 African women awarded prestigious agricultural fellowships

AWARD ceremony

 Sixty outstanding women agricultural scientists from 10 African countries this week received 2010 fellowships from African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), an initiative of the Gender and Diversity program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

In an award ceremony held at the CGIAR World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 27 July 2010, women scientists from across the continent, including a fruit pathologist, a catfish breeder and a pigeon pea researcher, were recognized and honoured for their contribution to alleviating hunger and poverty in Africa through their agricultural research and innovation.

Over 780 women scientists from 54 institutions competed for this year’s fellowships.

Margaret Lukuyu

One of this year’s winners is Kenyan Margaret Lukuyu, who worked with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in a Kenya Smallholder Dairy Project that helped raise milk production among the country’s smallholder farmers. Lukuyu’s role in this project, conducted from 1997 to 2005, was to research and promote strategic concentrate feeding regimes that could be easily adopted by Kenya’s many smallholder livestock keepers. This project not only helped better the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers in central Kenya but also was instrumental in bringing about national dairy policy reform and increased support for the country’s massive ‘informal milk sector’, which trades in unpasteurized (‘raw’) milk. 

‘I’m excited by the AWARD Fellowship and honoured that my work in improving the dairy sector has been recognized,’ she said. Now working with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Lukuyu is looking forward to the training and other benefits she will now receive from the AWARD program, including building her leadership qualities, learning how to write grant proposals and to access information, and opportunities to network with other scientists as she embarks on her PhD research.

Esther Kanduma

Esther Kanduma, another 2010 AWARD winner, is a researcher based at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI hub located within ILRI’s Nairobi laboratories. Kanduma is focusing her PhD studies on using the genetic diversity of the tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, which transmits the parasite that causes East Coast fever to livestock, to come up with effective anti-tick vaccines. The award recognized her contribution to ILRI’s East Coast fever vaccine project, which is currently piloting a vaccine in East Africa to protect the region’s cattle herds against this lethal infection. ‘Through the exposure that AWARD fellowships provide, I hope to improve my ability to communicate, to increase my professional visibility and to help build a network of scientists researching tick and tick-borne diseases,’ she said.

Other winners of AWARD 2010 fellowships doing agricultural research at ILRI include Bridgit Muasa and Teddy Amuge.

 Speaking during the ceremony, Vicki Wilde, director of the AWARD program, said: ‘Today we debunked the myth that qualified African women researchers “aren’t out there”—an excuse often used to justify why women aren’t hired or promoted within agricultural research institutions, universities and corporations.’ The AWARD fellowships, she added, show that ‘African women are offering smart and innovative solutions that are relevant to real issues in the continent’.

 Now in its third year, the AWARD program has received over 1600 applications by qualified women scientists from all over Africa. It has awarded over 180 fellowships, with the fellows benefiting from two years of hands-on training in mentoring, partnerships, science skills, and leadership. The fellowships are awarded for intellectual merit, leadership capacity and the potential of a scientist’s research to improve the daily lives of the continent’s millions of women and other smallholder farmers. Through its fellowship program, AWARD works directly to break down traditional barriers to the development of female scientific careers. Such roadblocks include a lack of role models and mentors for aspiring African women agricultural scientists.

 The AWARD program is a project of the CGIAR’s Gender and Diversity Program and is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.

 A list of 2010 AWARD Fellowship Recipients including their research topics is available at http://awardfellowships.org/~awfellow/images/stories/award/downloads/2010%20Fellows_research%20areas.pdf  

To watch the speech by Vicki Wilde, Director, CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program and AWARD, please visit  http://www.blip.tv/file/3935740.

To watch the speech by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President (Policy and Partnerships) for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, please visit http://blip.tv/file/3934337.

For a related article please visit http://www.genderdiversity.cgiar.org/newsletter/GD%20News96_AWARD2010_Special%20Issue_full%20story.pdf

For more information please also visit www.awardfellowships.org and www.cgiar.org

Climate experts gather in Nairobi to seek ‘transformative’ solutions for feeding a growing and warming world

Achim Steiner making his introductory remarks at the CCAFS conference

The livelihoods of many of the world’s rural poor are increasingly threatened by climate change. Most of these livelihoods are dependent on farming, fishing and forests. Climate change will affect and worsen the living conditions of people who are already vulnerable and food insecure, especially in developing countries. In the face of what seems an inevitable change, scientists are looking for solutions that will help poor smallholder farmers adapt their agricultural practices to cope with, and mitigate, climate change.

Through a new Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) initiative, a consortium of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is seeking innovative approaches to address the emerging threats to global agriculture and food security. CCAFS is a 10-year initiative launched by the CGIAR and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). CCAFS works to diagnose and analyse threats to agriculture and food security, to provide evidence for development of climate change policies and to identify and develop pro-poor adaptation and mitigation practices that will benefit poor farmers and urbanites alike.

In a CCAFS workshop held at the World Agroforesty Centre (ICRAF), in Nairobi, Kenya, on 4 May 2010, scientists and researchers held discussions on ways of ‘building food security in the face of climate change’. Among the key challenges to food security identified by the participants were: lack of a platform by which developing countries could share their experiences in dealing with climate change; weaknesses in presenting lessons from climate change impacts on farming; and inability to implement policies to address climatic risks to developing-country agriculture because of widespread poverty, limited human capital, and poor governance in many poor countries.

According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), ‘Agriculture needs to be understood within the greater context of livelihood sustainability’. Steiner believes the threat of climate change offers opportunities for agricultural development if new innovative ways of enhancing agriculture are explored. For example, agricultural practices that help communities reduce carbon emissions should be considered. ‘If we can demonstrate that a farming or production system reduces emissions, communities could be paid to develop it for expansion to solve two challenges at the same time. ‘The future of agriculture is not just in increasing production,’ the UNEP head said, ‘but in having working systems that protect the planet and that benefit those who engage in practices that protect the planet and livelihoods of the poor.

Thomas Rosswall, who chairs the CCAFS Steering Committee, noted that the ‘big disconnect [in addressing agricultural production] has been because development and global change have been addressed, researched and funded as unrelated issues’. He said ‘the approach to research needs to change so that it can link the local experiences to global needs while working with the poor to improve agricultural productivity.

Participants of the meeting agreed that ‘transformative solutions’ are needed to address agricultural challenges in the world. These solutions, they agreed, need to work with, not against, nature and they need to address conflicts of interest among farmers, countries and markets. Researchers, they said, need to focus on plant breeding and improving soil fertility. And regional decision-makers need to integrate development and climate-based polices and strategies between countries. In many countries, agricultural productivity is already being linked to climate change. In Africa, for example, an African Bio-Carbon Initiative is working to reduce the impacts of climate change on the continent’s farmers while increasing and sustaining their agricultural production. In India, environmental studies show that climate change is creating opportunities for farmers to increase their vegetable production, and thus their incomes.

According to David Radcliffe, of the European Commission, the CCAFS initiative will build understanding of the problems climate change is causing smallholder tropical farmers and will provide evidence for policies that can reduce these problems. CCAFS will focus on climate hotspots. It will pilot methods to help farmers both adapt to climate change and reduce their production of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. Both adaptation and mitigation methods, Radcliffe said, will be needed to feed the world’s growing population while using fewer resources.

Collective action ‘in action’ for African agriculture

Household takes refuge from the rain in central Malawi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Khulungira: Harvesting hope in an African village


Ireland’s Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr. Peter Power, T.D., has launched an exhibition highlighting the potential of science for Africa’s smallholder farmers at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in Dublin.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power launches ‘Khulungira: Harvesting Hope in an African village’.


Ireland’s Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr. Peter Power, T.D., has launched an exhibition highlighting the potential of science for Africa’s smallholder farmers at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in Dublin.

The multimedia exhibition features videos, posters, photographs and soundscapes that introduce visitors to the people of Khulungira, a village in Malawi that has benefited from advances in agricultural research.

IrishExhibit Poster

www.cgiarkhulungiraexhibit.org

“At present, one in six people worldwide go to bed hungry each night and many more cannot afford a healthy diet,” Mr. Power said. “If we do not do all in our power to reverse the rise in food insecurity and hunger, we will be failing in our basic human obligations, and accepting a scandalous situation which we have the capacity to change.”

The exhibition presents the people behind the grim statistics. The villagers of Khulungira are typical of millions of Africans who depend on smallholder farming for food and income. The challenges they face are daunting: If the rains are late, or crops are infested with a pest or disease, people can starve. If conditions are good, they may have a little extra to sell for income, enabling them to send their children to school. In this sort of scenario, even the smallest improvement in productivity can make a huge difference.

Thanks in part to research undertaken by the members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), farmers in Khulungira and other villages across Malawi have begun to plant new varieties of potatoes, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and trees. Others are improving the composition of soil and expanding their livestock holdings.

In each case, the change has increased production, improved diets and reduced vulnerability to catastrophic loses.

The CGIAR, established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations dedicated to mobilizing agricultural science to reduce poverty, promote agricultural growth and protect the environment. The CGIAR supports an alliance of 15 international agricultural research centres.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power launches

The exhibition in Dublin features the work of four CGIAR centers: the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Potato Center (CIP), and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The creative development of the joint venture was led by ILRI at the request of Irish Aid . Support was also provided by the MDG Centre, East & Southern Africa and Irish Aid, the Government of Ireland’s programme for overseas development.

In 2009, Irish Aid has provided funding of almost €7 million to the CGIAR. “Continued investment in agricultural research is essential to success in transforming African agriculture into a highly-productive, sustainable system that can assure food security, keep children in school and lift millions out of poverty,” Minister Power said.

The exhibition is free and open to the public at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre, 27-31 Upper O’Connell St, Dublin 1 (corner of Cathal Brugha Street). It is scheduled to run through the end of 2009.