‘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)

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.

 

Five ways to enhance agricultural markets in hungry regions of East and West Africa

 

Causes of livestock deaths

Causes of livestock deaths, figure reproduced in ILRI-AGRA book: Towards priority actions for market development for African farmers: Proceedings of an international conference, Nairobi, Kenya,13-15 May 2009. Nairobi (Source of figure: J McPeak, PI Little and C Doss. 2010. Livelihoods in a Risky Environment: Development and Change among East African Pastoralists, Routledge Press, London.)

With food shortages being predicted for dryland communities in both East and West Africa this year, it seems an appropriate time to revisit a major way African experts see that the continent can feed itself: Get Africa’s markets working.

Three years ago, 150 of the world’s leading market experts gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, to document the best ways to drive agricultural market development in sub-Saharan Africa. Both the proceedings of this international conference, Towards Priority Actions for Market Development for African Farmers, held 13–15 May 2009, and a synthesis of its outcomes, Priority Actions for Developing African Agricultural Markets, were published last year by ILRI and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The synthesis of this major African markets conference begins by referring to the sudden escalation in food costs that began in late 2010 and persisted into 2011—the second time in only three years that rapid food price rises, caused by a combination of production shortfalls and market failures causing dramatic gaps between supply and demand, rocked developing countries worldwide. With Africa’s long-term struggle with food insecurity, this continent and its economies and people are especially vulnerable to any sudden rise in food prices.

Even before the price shocks of 2008 and 2011, expert opinion had begun to coalesce on the centrality of agriculture in addressing African hunger and poverty. Much of the discussion has focused on increasing agricultural productivity through improved crop varieties and animal breeds, along with increased access to inputs and veterinary services, to boost farm yields. And, indeed, with crop and livestock yields on African farms typically a fraction of that in other regions, there appear to be big opportunities for new breadbaskets and milk sheds emerging across the continent.

But it will not be enough to simply produce more food from Africa’s fields and grazing lands. First, most Africans—including most smallholder, and even subsistence farmers—are net purchasers rather than growers of food.  Also, as more and more people migrate from rural to urban areas, more and more Africans are relying on markets to meet their food needs. And because most rural as well as urban Africans spend a significant proportion of their income on food, even modest increases in food prices can tip millions of them into poverty.

Efficient and vibrant agricultural markets would help. But Africa’s agricultural markets suffer from a dearth of processing and storage facilities, pricing information, smallholder credit, and transport. These create inefficiencies that both raise prices for consumers and restrict sales opportunities for farmers, who are stopped from selling their food surpluses in nearby food-deficit regions.

View or download the full proceedings of this international conference:
Towards Priority Actions for Market Development for African Farmers, 13–15 May 2009, published by ILRI and AGRA, 2011.

and a synthesis of the outcomes of the conference:
Priority Actions for Developing African Agricultural Marketspublished by ILRI and AGRA, 2011.

Five recommendations
The following five recommendations, highlighted here for their special pertinence to the drylands of East and West Africa, are presented in case studies published in the ILRI-AGRA markets book:
1 Support village seed trade in semi-arid areas
2 Manage pastoral risk with livestock insurance
3 Employ ICTs to raise smallholder income
4 Embrace informal agro-industry
5 Encourage intra-regional trade

Details of these recommendations follow.
1 Support village seed trade in semi-arid areas
Section 2 of the proceedings volume, Seed and Fertilizer Markets, includes a case study of the utility of Tapping the potential of village markets to supply seed in semi-arid Africa in Mali and Kenya. This paper, written by Melinda Smale, (Oxfam America), Latha Nagarajan, Lamissa Diakité, Patrick Audi (ICRISAT), Mikkel Grum (Bioversity International), Richard Jones (ICRISAT) and Eva Weltzien (ICRISAT), shows that village markets have the potential to supply high-quality pigeon pea and millet seed in semi-arid areas of Kenya and Mali, respectively.

The problem: Periods of seed insecurity occur in remote, semiarid areas when spatially covariate risk of drought is high and many farmers fall short of seed. In these remote environments, seed systems are typically informal, and farmers rely on each other for locally adapted varieties. They are not reliable clients for private seed companies because they purchase seed irregularly. Less improved germplasm has been developed for semiarid environments because of the high costs of breeding and supplying seed—a situation that has worsened with decreasing public funding for agricultural research. In the Mali study, village markets assure a supply of seed of identifiable, locally adapted, genetically diverse varieties as a final recourse in a risky environment where there are as yet no reliable formal channels, for which competitive varieties have not yet been bred, and the potential of agro-dealers to supply certified seed has not yet been exploited. In the Kenya study, well-adapted varieties have been bred, but no formalized channels of seed provision exist for pigeon pea and agro-dealers are active in selling improved varieties of maize and vegetables. In both studies, farm women are major seed trade actors. Interestingly, the characteristics of seed vendors and the locations of seed programs—not the price of seed—tend to determine the quantities of seed sold. The authors argue for strengthening and linking both formal and informal systems for non-hybrid dryland crops.

Some solutions: Several approaches piloted recently are potential candidates for improving the supply of good-quality seed on a large scale.

The West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Seed Alliance (ESASA) work to help local entrepreneurs expand existing seed companies and create new ones.

Since private seed companies do not yet operate in the sorghum- and millet-based systems of the Sahel, where state agencies are underfunded, scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (lCRISAT) have tested several models that draw on the comparative advantages of farmer organizations.

2 Manage pastoral risk with livestock insurance
Section 3 of the ILRI-AGRA markets proceedings, Strengthening Finance, Insurance and Market Information, has two case studies of particular relevance to the food problems facing the drylands of West and East Africa.

First is a report on Insuring against drought-related livestock mortality: Piloting index-based livestock insurance in northern Kenya, written by ILRI’s Andrew Mude and his partners Sommarat Chantarat, Christopher Barrett, Michael Carter, Munenobu Ikegami and John McPeak.

The problem: Climate extremities pose the greatest risks to agricultural production, with droughts and floods not only causing crop failures but also forage and water scarcity that harms and kills livestock. The number of droughts and floods has risen sharply worldwide in the last decade, with disaster incidence in low-income countries rising at twice the global rate. In much of rural Africa, where water harvesting, irrigation and other similar water management methods are under developed, the impacts of climate change are expected to be especially pernicious.

A solution: In the last several years, new ways to manage weather-related agricultural risk have been developed. Of these, index-based insurance products represent a promising and exciting market-based option for managing climate-related risks faced by poor and remote populations.

This paper describes research to design commercially viable index-based livestock insurance for pastoral populations of northern dryland Kenya, where the risk of drought and drought-related livestock deaths is high.

The analysis indicates a high likelihood of commercial sustainability in the target market and describes events leading up to the pilot launch in Marsabit District in early 2010. The paper concludes that this insurance tool has largely succeeded in helping Marsabit’s livestock herders better manage their risk of drought. Growing interest from both commercial and development partners is helping to take this instrument to other arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya and other countries and regions.

3 Employ ICTs to raise smallholder income
The same Section 3 of the ILRI-AGRA book offers a case study from West Africa, written by Kofi Debrah, coordinator of MISTOWA, supporting the Role of ICT-based management information systems in enhancing smallholder producers’ incomes.

The problem: Smallholder African farmers typically have little access to reliable marketing outlets in which to sell their surplus produce at remunerative prices. Furthermore, their ability to respond quickly to market opportunities is constrained by lack of labour, credit, market information and post-harvest facilities. As a result, West African farmer incomes from agriculture are low and variable and little agricultural produce is traded in the region.

A solution: A project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ‘Strengthening Regional Networks of Market Information Systems for Traders’ Organizations in West Africa’ (MISTOWA), helped build a private-public partnership to develop and deploy an ICT-based market information system that improved farmers’ access to markets. Some 12,500 agricultural producers and traders from 15 West African countries benefited from the project, with the beneficiaries reporting USD4,080 in benefits, or USD4.33 per dollar of donor funds invested.

Evidence from the beneficiaries suggests that access to real-time market information provides smallholder farmers with incentives for investing in agriculture.

 

4 Embrace informal agro-industry
Section 4 of the markets book, High-Value Commodities and Agroprocessing, includes a paper by ILRI scientists Amos Omore and Derek Baker on Integrating informal actors into the formal dairy industry in Kenya through training and certification.

The problem:  Throughout the developing world, most food produced by smallholder farmers is delivered and processed by an ‘informal’ agro-industry, which is the principal source of food for most poor consumers and a major source of employment of poor people as traders and service providers. In spite of this, agro-industrial policy has historically tended to displace this informal sector with a formal one featuring relatively large-scale and capital-intensive production and marketing. Other policy concerns, such as public health and municipal planning, have further selected against informal agribusiness, particularly livestock’s informal agro-industry.

A solution: This paper presents a case study of interventions in the Kenyan informal milk industry that led to changes in dairy policy that in turn reduced poverty levels in the East African country. The paper identifies the informal agribusiness sector as fertile ground for alleviating poverty and supporting vulnerable groups.

Policies do well to embrace informal agro-industry, the research indicates, while helping it transform itself into a more formal industry.

The ILRI scientists show that the informal dairy industry can respond well to consumer demand for quality, particularly for safe food, and, when unjustified policy barriers are removed, can compete well when price alone becomes the basis of competition. These achievements support much conjecture in the development literature about the centrality of markets, and access to them, for pro-poor development and the idea that pro-poor markets rely heavily on policy and institutional change. The lessons of this project are being transferred to other informal commodity sectors (goats, beef cattle and pigs) in Africa and Asia and the policy changes seen in the Kenya dairy project have been adopted across the East African region.

5 Encourage intra-regional trade
Section 6 of the markets book, Encouraging Regional Trade, includes a paper on The impact of non-tariff barriers on maize and beef trade in East Africa. The paper is written by Joseph Karugia (ILRI and ReSAKSS-ECA), Julliet Wanjiku (ILRI and ReSAKSS-ECA), Jonathan Nzuma, Sika Gbegbelegbe, Eric Macharia, Stella Massawe, Ade Freeman, Michael Waithaka and Simeon Kaitibie.

The problem: In 2004, the East African Community member states established an East African Community Customs Union, committing them, among other things, to eliminate non-tariff barriers to facilitate increased trade and investment flows between member states and to create a large market for East African people. However, several such trade barriers are still applied by member states and there exists little reliable information about how, and how much, these non-tariff barriers are actually hurting regional trade. This study identified the existing non-tariff barriers on the trade of maize and beef in East Africa and quantified their impacts on trade and citizen welfare in the region. The study found that the main types of non-tariff barriers within the three founding members of the East African Community (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) are similar and include administrative requirements, taxes/duties, roadblocks, customs barriers, weighbridges, licensing, corruption and transiting.

Some solutions: The study recommends taking a regional approach to exploit economies of scale by eliminating non-tariff barriers, since they are similar across the member countries and across commodities. Specific policy recommendations include streamlining administrative procedures at border points to improve efficiency; speeding up implementation of procedures at point of origin and at the border points; and implementing monitoring systems to provide feedback to relevant authorities on progress in removing unnecessary barriers to trade within East and Central Africa. The welfare analysis of the study shows that abolishment or reduction of the existing non-tariff barriers in maize and beef trade increases trade flows of maize and beef within the East African Community, with Kenya importing more maize from both Uganda and Tanzania and Uganda exporting more beef to Kenya and Tanzania. As a result, positive net welfare gains are attained for the entire East African Community maize and beef sub-sectors.

These findings give compelling evidence in support of the elimination of non-tariff barriers within the East African Community Customs Union.

In Nairobi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel puts on lab coat, meets young bioscientists fighting hunger in Africa

DSC_6439

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

Yesterday (12 Jul 2011), Lydia Wamalwa, a PhD student from the International Potato Center doing her research at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) labs at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave Chancellor Angela Merkel an overview of her research to improve the resistance of sweet potato to the sweet potato weevil, a pest that causes major losses to this, the third most important food crop in eastern and southern Africa.

Merkel visits ILRI Nairobi: Lab tour

Apollinaire Djikeng, BecA’s technology manager, introduces BecA, which is hosted and managed by ILRI, to Chancellor Merkel (photo credit: ILRI/Njoroge).

On the same lab tour, the Chancellor also heard from Appolinaire Djikeng, a Camerounian bioscientist who is BecA’s technology manager.

Djikeng explained that ILRI established BecA in 2006 with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and funding from Canada. BecA provides state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to African scientists conducting research on the continent’s biggest food production problems.

In its first 5 years of operation, Djikeng said that BecA has:

  • strengthened biosciences capacity in the region and trained hundreds of young African agricultural scientists;
  • generated productive collaborations between dozens of scientists working in Africa with other experts working in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, in North America and in Asia; and
  • convened donor representatives, agricultural scientists and civil society leaders in dozens of high-quality meetings to identify research gaps and ways to close them.

‘You’re now standing in BecA’s crop research laboratory,’ Djikeng said. ‘Many institutes have recently relocated their agricultural research programs here to take advantage of BecA’s resources, unique in sub-Saharan Africa.’

Among the international teams hosted by ILRI-BecA are those leading work on:

  • cassava, banana and yams (IITA [International Institute for Tropical Agriculture], based in West Africa)
  • sorghum, millet and other cereals of drylands (ICRISAT [International Centre for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics], based in India)
  • potato and sweet potato (CIP [International Potato Center], based in Peru), and
  • drought-tolerant maize for Africa (CIMMYT [International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre], based in Mexico).

One of BecA’s trainees, Rachel Aye, then told the Chancellor about how German support and BecA facilities are enabling her to advance development of a vaccine against a disease that is ravaging the livestock of Africa, including in her country, Uganda.

Djikeng and Aye thanked Chancellor Merkel on behalf of all their colleagues for making this historic visit and for her country’s longstanding support of agricultural research for development.

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis

In December 2010, a special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology focuses on the fodder quality of crop residues and how this can be improved through the close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multi-dimensional crop improvement programmes.

Over the next two decades, rapid urbanization and rising incomes in the developing world will continue to feed an on-going livestock revolution. In India, this boom in the production of animal products will be driven by a demand for milk that is projected to increase by more than 80 million tons in 15 years.

Smallholder livestock producers will have new opportunities to raise their incomes on the back of this increasing demand, particularly the vulnerable communities occupying dry, marginal and remote lands that rely most heavily on their animals.

Feed scarcity and resulting high feed costs are one of the major constraints and threats to higher benefits from livestock otherwise offered by the rising demand for livestock products. New strategies for improving feed resources are urgently needed, but they need to take into account the increasing scarcity of the natural resource base, particularly of arable land and increasingly water.

Crop residues are the single most important feed resource in India, and the national feed resource scenarios predict that their importance for livestock feeding will further increase. In several parts of India, weight for weight, crop residue prices are now approaching, and sometimes even exceeding, half the prices of their grains.

Crop residues do not require specific land and water allocations, since these are required in any case for the production of grains. Unfortunately, the fodder quality of crop residues is often low, and in the past decades, efforts have been invested in upgrading the feeding value of crop residues (implicitly from cereals since leguminous residues can have excellent fodder quality) through chemical, physical and biological treatments.

However, these approaches have seen little adoption by farming communities. A different paradigm has been developed in this this special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology, namely, the improvement of crop residues at source through close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multidimensional crop improvement programs. Until recently, fodder traits of crop residues were largely ignored in crop improvement, although farmers were traditionally aware of differences in the fodder quality of crop residues even within the same species. Farmers’ perception of crop residue fodder traits could effect the adoption of new cultivars, resulting sometimes in the rejection of new cultivars that have been improved only for grain yields.

In response, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with their partners from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) initiated several multidisciplinary research projects to create crop cultivars that better match the need of farmers, particularly in mixed crop-livestock systems which are dominant in many parts of the developing world.

The fundamental issues explored in these collaborative projects, and expounded in this special issue, are: (1) availability of livestock nutritionally-significant cultivar-dependent variation in crop residue fodder quantity and quality; (2) relationships between crop residue fodder traits and primary food traits and possible trade-offs between the traits; (3) technologies for quick and inexpensive phenotyping of large set of samples for simple fodder quality that are well correlated with actual livestock productivity; (4) breeding techniques for further genetic enhancement towards food-feed traits; and (5) upgrading crop residue fodder in value chains through densification and fortification.

These valuable contributions serve as eye-openers to researchers and present a strong case for further strengthening such collaborations between national and international crop and livestock institutions. More importantly, they pave the way for expanding work on the promising approach of producing dual-purpose varieties of key crops for mixed crop-livestock systems given that these systems will be crucial in feeding the next 3 billion people.

View the special issue

Feed-plus-food sorghum crop varieties are feeding India

CGIAR Annual Report 2009 cover

Cover of the CGIAR Annual Report 2009 (photo credit: CGIAR/Palmer).

The annual report for 2009 for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is out.

The International Livestock Research Institute contributed the following article about development of crops that feed people and animals both.

'New varieties of sorghum are bred to better meet the needs of India’s 208 million livestock farmers for animal feed, as well as to feed its growing human population.

'Throughout the tropics, a lack of feed keeps farm animals underweight and underproductive, thereby preventing some 600 million poor farmers and herders from meeting fast-rising global demand for milk and meat. But thanks to a partnership between India ́s National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), new varieties of sorghum are being developed that can provide both nutritious food for humans and high-quality feed for livestock.

'The single most important source of animal feed on many small farms in Asia and Africa is not grass but rather the stalks, leaves and other residues of crop plants after harvesting. In India, for example, 44% of the feed that annually sustains all the country ́s cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep and camels is made up of such crop wastes. The rest comes from planted forages and a shrinking area of pastures and other common lands. Expensive feed concentrates—the mainstay of livestock production in rich countries—are used only occasionally.

'Although crop residues (also known as stover) have become the main source of feed for farm animals in developing countries, crop breeders have continued to focus their efforts solely on increasing grain yields and not on improving the yield and quality of stover. The NRCS-ICRISAT-ILRI partnership seeks to redress this oversight by focusing on sorghum, an important staple crop in India that is grown on nearly 10 million hectares throughout the country.

'Small-scale entrepreneurs in India are developing new livestock feeds using new dual-purpose, food-plus-feed sorghum varieties.

'The researchers incorporated fodder quality traits in India ́s sorghum crop breeding trials and, in so doing, led breeders to identify sorghum varieties that give high yields of both grain and stover, as well as improved stover quality. The result is dual-purpose, food-plus-feed sorghum varieties that are now helping India’s 208 million livestock farmers close the livestock feed gap and feed India’s growing human population.

'The initiative has proved groundbreaking in demonstrating that traits for stover fodder quality and quantity can be incorporated into existing breeding programs to improve grain yields and has led the way for similar work on other major crops such as millet, groundnut, rice, maize and cowpea. New initiatives are also beginning for wheat and various leguminous crops.'

Read the whole CGIAR Annual Report 2009: From research to results, November 2010.

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.

New dual-purpose sorghum: Food for people and livestock

New varieties of food-feed sorghum are meeting the basic needs of India?s 208 million crop-livestock farmers, as well as feeding its growing human population.
 

India, Andhra PradeshThroughout the tropics, farm animals are kept underweight and underproductive due to lack of feed. This constraint is stopping some 600 million poor farmers from meeting a fast-rising global demand for milk and meat. But a new partnership, developing dual-purpose food-feed sorghum varieties is helping to meet the basic needs of India’s farmers and leading to similar work in other crops and other countries.

The single most important ruminant  feed resource on many of the small crop-livestock farms of Asia and Africa is not grass but rather the stalks, leaves and other remains of crop plants after harvesting. In India, for example, 44% of the feed annually sustaining all the country’s cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep and camel populations is made up of such crop ‘wastes’. The rest comes from planted forages and a shrinking area of pastures and other common lands. Expensive concentrates—the mainstay of livestock production in rich countries—are used only very occasionally.

While crop residues (straw and stover) have become a main feed for farm animals of the South, crop breeders until recently continued to focus solely on increasing grain yields. But a research partnership between India’s National Research centre for Sorghum (NRCS), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and ILRI is redressing this oversight in India’s all-important sorghum crop, grown on nearly 10,000,000 hectares on the country. The research partners incorporated fodder quality traits in India’s crop breeding trials and in doing so, led breeders to identify sorghum varieties with high yields of both grain and stover as well as improved stover quality.

 Partners in the sorghum food-feed collaboration

India’s National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS) leads the All-India Coordinated Sorghum Improvement Program mandated to test and release new cultivars. It also assesses the socio-economic importance of sorghum-based livelihoods.
Website:  http://www.nrcsorghum.res.in

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) provided conventional and molecular sorghum breeding, global crop economics and assessments of the impacts of crop interventions for the poor.
Website: http://www.icrisat.org


The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) conducted the livestock nutrition work and provided expertise in global livestock economics and assessments of the impacts of livestock interventions for the poor.
Website: http://www.ilri.org


Summary of results from the sorghum trials
The research partnership began in 1999 by assessing the potential impacts on India’s smallholder livestock productivity of planting sorghum and millet varieties with genetically enhanced stover fodder quality and quantity. Remarkably, results indicated that a 1% increase in just one livestock productivity-related parameter—stover digestibility—would result in increases in milk, meat and draught power outputs ranging from 6-8%. The net present value of the research was estimated to range from US$42-208 million, with predicted high rates of return to the research investment of 28-43% and corresponding high benefit:cost ratios of 15 to 69:1.

ILRI then proceeded to establish facilities for animal nutrition studies using large and small ruminants at ICRISAT’s Patancheru headquarters, close to the NRCS. These facilities enabled the research partners to make a stepwise evaluation of the relationships between fodder from different sorghum lines and livestock productivity—and to find a simple way of assessing these. Animal experimentation, while itself impractical as a routine screening tool, quickly laid a sound basis for developing and validating simple laboratory assessment methods and for quantifying potential impacts on livestock productivity.

In 2001 work began with combined feeding and laboratory trials of stover obtained from a wide range of sorghum varieties and hybrids. The trials simulated diverse on-farm circumstances, including those where stover is scarce, abundant and supplemented with other forages, because fodder qualities depend on a farm’s total feed resources. Across India’s great drylands, for example, where insufficient feed prevents animals from eating until they have satisfied their appetites, a fodder trait for ‘voluntary feed intake potential’ is likely to be irrelevant while another for ‘feed digestibility’ is critically important.

Sorghum varieties were investigated for their morphological characteristics and structure (leaf blade:leaf sheath:stem proportions, plant height, stem diameter, residual green leaf area), chemical constituents (protein, fiber, sugar) in the stover and in vitro fermentation characteristics (true and apparent digestibility, rate of fermentation, partitioning of fermentation products). Results showed that fodder quality traits measured in the laboratory could be used to predict and account for at least 80% of the variation in relevant livestock productivity traits, such as digestible organic matter intake and nitrogen balance.

Traits were chosen also for the ease with which they could be measured (e.g. plant height, stem diameter) and/or be accurately predicted by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Importantly, use of NIRS technology allowed all the partners in the project, including those with no livestock feeding facilities, easy access to developed and validated NIRS prediction equations and consequently phenotyping for stover fodder quality capability. NRCS staff seconded to ILRI’s livestock nutritional facilities on ICRISAT’s Patancheru campus used the facilities and NIRS equations to comprehensively assess all newly submitted sorghum cultivars.

Breaking new ground in food-feed crops
Identification of superior dual-purpose food-plus-feed sorghum varieties is now helping India close its livestock feed gap as well as feed its growing human population. By increasing the country’s livestock productivity, this research is improving the livelihoods of some 100 million mixed crop-livestock farmers —and doing so in ways those small farmers should be able to sustain over the longer term. This partnership also led the way for similar work on millet, groundnut, rice, maize and cowpea and new collaborations are about to begin on wheat and various leguminous crops.

By generating superior dual-purpose sorghum varieties suited to India’s millions of smallholder farmers, this collaborative research has been path-breaking in demonstrating that traits for stover fodder quality and quantity can be incorporated into existing breeding programs to improve grain yields—and with minimum investments in equipment, staff and labour and minimum transaction costs for the collaborating institutions.

It further offers a practical two-step approach to development of food-feed crops. First, exploit dual-purpose traits in existing cultivars by complementing traditional crop improvement programs with information about the quantity and quality of expected yields of crop residues for livestock feed. Second, target dual-purpose crops for genetic enhancement. The first approach, comparatively cheap and logistically feasible, promises quick benefits for resource-poor farmers. The second, more strategic, approach requires more investments and benefits farmers later and over the longer term. In a world of scarce and rapidly diminishing land, water, fodder and other natural resources, both approaches merit the world’s attention.


ILRI Top story 22 August 2007 
Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'

 

Contacts
For further information about this project contact:
Michael Blummel
ILRI c/o ICRISAT
Patancheru 502 234AP India
Email:
m.blummel@cgiar.org

For further information about ILRI’s activities in Asia contact:

 

Iain Wright
ILRI’s regional representative in Asia
Email: i.wright@cgiar.org

 

Sweet sorghum: Utilizing every ‘drop’

Poor livestock keepers in the drylands point to feed shortages as one of their biggest animal production constraints. Research in India is demonstrating that sweet sorghum's traditional use as a dual-purpose food and feed crop and its modern day use as a bio-fuel need not be mutually exclusive

Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'

Sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is well adapted to the semi-arid regions of the tropics. One of its main advantages is that it is very water-use efficient  It has long been used by farmers as a multi-purpose crop from which they extract grain for human consumption and stover for livestock feed. Today, sweet sorghum is becoming increasingly used in industrial bio-fuel production in India. It is one of the most efficient dryland crops to convert atmospheric CO2 into sugar and is therefore a viable alternative for the production of ethanol.

 

 

Sweet sorghum’s role in India’s bio-fuel plans
‘All countries, including India, are grappling with the problem of meeting the ever-increasing demand for fuel within the constraints of international commitments, legal requirements, environmental concerns and limited resources. In this connection fuels of biological origin have drawn a great deal of attention during the last two decades.
 
‘India wishes to consider the use of bio-diesel and ethanol for blending with petro-diesel and petrol. Oil provides energy for 95% of transportation and the demand for transport fuel continues to rise. The extract from the third assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that global oil demand will rise by 1.68% from 75 million barrels per day (mb/d) in the year 2002 to 120 mb/d in 2030. Energy input in agriculture is also increasing. Part of this energy should come from bio-based fuel, which is short term renewable.
 ‘Ethanol is used as a fuel or as an oxygenate to gasoline. In India, raw material used for producing ethanol varies from sugar, cereals (sweet sorghum), sugar beet, and molasses. Brazil uses ethanol as 100% fuel in about 20% of vehicles. Use of a 5% ethanol gasoline blend is already approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and is in a progressive state of implementation in India.’

Excerpted from: ‘Development of Value Chain for Bio-fuel in India’, National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP). NAIP website: http://www.naip.icar.org.in

 

Win-win situation
Increasing industrial usage of sweet sorghum for ethanol production does, on one hand, provide important income for dryland farmers, but it can also divert biomass away from livestock, thus adding to the feed scarcity problem being faced by livestock keepers. However, scientists are demonstrating that full use of all parts of the sweet sorghum plant can meet both industrial and livestock feed needs.
Collaborative work between the International Crop Research Center for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Rusni Distillery in Sanga Reddy Medak District, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Research Center for Sorghum (NRCS), in Hyderabad, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing marketable sweet sorghum feed blocks using the stripped leaves and the crushed stalks (bagasse) remaining after juice extraction for ethanol. A bagasse-based feed block has been manufactured in collaboration with Miracle Fodder and Feeds in Hyderabad and is currently being tested with large and small ruminants with very promising results.Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'
Full utilization of crops and their by-products in the balanced production of food, feed and industrial products is likely to become increasingly important in developing countries. Total utilization of all parts of the sweet sorghum plant for use in the manufacturing and food industries would help compensate for fodder loss and provide an additional source of income for farmers.

Value-added products from by-products

Surveys of fodder markets in Hyderabad showed that stover from ordinary grain sorghum is widely traded as livestock fodder. This stover is sourced from several Indian States, transported over distances of more than 350 km and fetches retail prices that are about half the value of the sorghum grain. Higher quality stover fetches premium prices ranging from 3.1 to 3.9 Indian rupees per kilogram of dry stover.
  The fodder quality of feed blocks made from sweet sorghum leaf strippings and bagasse is similar to premium stover made from grain sorghum. Scientists estimate that this feed could fetch prices of 6 rupees per kg and more. The manufacturing of feed blocks could therefore offer attractive additional income along a sweet sorghum utilization chain. The feed blocks could be made more nutritious by adding sorghum grain distillery by-products—where the grain is used for biofuel production—and/or by targeted fortification with other supplements. The end product would be an attractive sweet sorghum by-product based feed block of good quality and with a high density, making

Fodder innovations for smallholders in India

Improved fodder varieties and technologies offer better quality feed all year through for highly valued livestock in Hyderabad.

The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
http://www.new-agri.co.uk/06-2/focuson/focuson5.html.

Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI's website and its 2004 annual report;
http://www.ilri.org/home.asp?CCID=61&SID=1.

smallholders in IndiaHyderabad is one of India's fastest growing cities. The local markets in the central square sprawl onto the road, sellingcredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI everything from black pearls and embroidered rugs to plastic key rings. Fresh fruit stalls steadied on bicycles cluster by the side of the main road as motorbikes and rickshaws weave their paths through the chaos. Like the markets, the Indian economy is thriving and in the farming state of Andhra Pradesh, where Hyderabad is the capital, livestock produce is at the heart of development. Throughout India, livestock are highly valued for their agricultural products and buffalo, cattle, goats and pigs are the most important source of livelihood for poorer people in the state. Livestock supply daily food and milk, as well as draft power and manure, and the dairy industry provides valued employment for the poor, especially women. But many farmers cannot produce quality fodder – or enough of it – which prevents them from taking advantage of increased market opportunities and demand.


Rapid population growth, particularly in urban areas, has increased demand for produce such as milk and meat. However, the population expansion also means that there is little land available to support fodder production, in addition to the area needed for food crops. Family plots are divided and reduced over generations, making many plots too small to sustain livestock. And while public land is often used as a grazing area for livestock among marginal communities, the areas are shrinking. Consequently, over 40 per cent of fodder resources in India come from crop residues and are of poor quality.

Food and fodder

To help the poor in Andhra Pradesh benefit from India's livestock revolution, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is co-ordinating a project under the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) enabling smallholders to build on their assets by exploiting the growing market for livestock products. The aim of this work has been to improve fodder varieties and technologies in order to provide livestock with more and better quality feed throughout the year. Under the project, over 500 farmers from 47 villages have tested seed delivery systems and evaluated fodder and feed technologies. This process has included the farmers evaluating their own 'food-feed' crops (those that provide both grain for human consumption and fodder for livestock) and management systems, testing varieties provided by the research team, and evaluating researcher-managed demonstration trials. During the trials, farmers consistently found improved varieties to be superior to local cultivars.


smallholders in IndiaThe project has also supported seed supply for forage crops, since these are scarcely available from the commercial seed companies operating in Andhra Pradesh. Young people and women's self-help groups from several villages have been trained in seed multiplication and distribution, and village seed banks have been given support in sourcing germplasm from the public sector. In 2005 over 350 farmers attended field days and seed multiplication plots to learn about forage seed production.

Including fodder in food crop development

Credit:Stevie Mann/ILRIA third focus has been in raising awareness about fodder quality in India's crop improvement programmes. Nutritional studies have shown a wide variability in digestibility in stover from different sorghum varieties. But is has also been shown that high yield in food (grain or legume pods), can be compatible with high quality and quantity in crop residue. As a result, indicators of stover quality have now been incorporated into the sorghum and millet breeding programmes of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and India's National Research Centre for Sorghum has included stover quality in its release criteria for the last two years.


There is more work to be done, with the researchers continuing to find new ways of working with partners to increase the uptake of the technologies. A particular challenge will be to involve more women and minority groups in testing and evaluating new seed varieties. Partnerships with the private sector are also being explored, to investigate employment opportunities and further broaden seed choice and variety. Private sector dairy companies are being encouraged to promote fodder seeds in locations not served by dairy co-operatives. Looking more widely, the research team are hopeful that lessons from this project can be applied internationally.

‘Healing wounds’ in the Horn of Africa

Two livestock projects show how research can help emergency agencies deliver more relief per dollar.

Healing WoundsA cow killed by starvation in Ethiopia, a vast and poor cattle-keeping country in the drought-hammered Horn of AfricaResearch can benefit vulnerable communities facing natural disasters such as the current drought in Africa’s Horn. Research-based interventions like those provided by ILRI and other CGIAR Future Harvest Centres and partners help NGO, aid and emergency agencies deliver more relief per dollar.

Mitigating the effect of drought on livestock and their keepers in northern Kenya

The Horn of Africa is one of the poorest, driest, most conflict- and disaster-prone regions in the world. Livestock provide 25 percent of the region’s gross domestic product and up to 70 percent of household income. As drought intervals shorten and crop farmers plough up more and more former relatively wet rangelands, which were crucial dry-season grazing grounds for nomadic herders, the pastoralists are squeezed ever tighter. They lose their primes assets as animals die and every time they begin to recover it seems another drought or war strikes, knocking them another step down the poverty ladder.

In 2005, livestock scientists got together with a group of NGOs involved in emergency aid in northern Kenya to do something to keep those ‘living assets’ alive and productive.

ILRI scientists teamed up with two Italian NGOs—Cooperazione Internazionale, or COOPI, and Terra Nuova—as well as Vétérinaires Sans Frontières(VSF)-Belgium and VSF-Switzerland to run a Drought Response Program delivering essential animal health services to vulnerable pastoral communities across nine of Kenya’s most arid districts in the north. With the Department of Veterinary Services of the Government of Kenya, this Program in 2005 vaccinated over 2 million head of livestock (20 percent of the livestock population of the area), treated over 1 million animals and rehabilitated or constructed more than 35 water sources along livestock routes. The Program focused on sheep and goats, since small ruminants provide most of the cash and high-quality foods available to poor pastoralists.

‘We are targeting animal health because animals are the backbone of the pastoral economy,’ says COOPI’s Andrea Berloffa. ‘We want to do more than to intervene in a drought with food relief. We want to help people help themselves by supporting their traditional systems for overcoming drought and related emergencies.’ By reducing death and disease among their ruminant animals, the Program is helping pastoralists raise the productivity of their animal husbandry, and thus improve their livelihoods and nutritional status at the same time. The objective of the COOPI-VSF-ILRI Drought Response Program in northern Kenya is to keep the occurrence of infectious diseases among small ruminants under 20 percent.

This Program is funded by ECHO, the European Commission Directorate for Humanitarian Aid, the world’s largest source of humanitarian aid. ECHO has funded relief to millions of victims of natural and man-made disasters outside the European Union.

Belgian scientist Bruno Minjauw, who is the ILRI collaborator in this Program, strongly believes that researchers need to join hands with emergency as well as development workers if they want their products to speed benefits to people facing disasters. ‘We researchers want to be relevant!’ he says. ‘Too often research is totally separate from development and emergency work. Researchers have analytical tools that can improve drought relief’, he says. ‘ILRI, for example, has models for monitoring and evaluating emergency programs—and for reliably assessing their impacts. We have tools that are allowing COOPI to obtain the data they need quickly. For example, we provided high-resolution maps that this Program used to target its immunization campaign in northern Kenya.’

COOPI’s Berloffa agrees. ‘We need research centres to get reliable information on the impact of our projects. It’s easy to link development and research projects; what’s difficult is to link emergency and research programs because the window for action after an emergency is very short, while research is long-term by its nature.’

ILRI director general Carlos Seré says that the urgency of relief action often prohibits informed intervention. ‘Aid agencies are supposed to know, for example, where the most vulnerable pastoral communities in northern Kenya are located. However, there is no disaster so fortunate as to have at hand lots of pertinent information when it is needed. That’s where research institutions can help.’

For more information, contact ILRI scientist Bruno Minjauw at b.minjauw@cgiar.org or Francesca Tarsia of Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) at tarsia@coopi.org.

Building early warning systems to help pastoralists cope with disasters in the Horn of Africa
Another ILRI project is working with partners to develop ‘early warning systems’ to mitigate the effects of drought on pastoralists in northern Kenya and neighbouring countries.

Concerned that its relief aid in the Horn of Africa was fostering a culture of dependency rather than development, the United States Agency for International Development’s Office for Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) asked researchers to help them find a better way. A network run by the Association for Strengthening Agricul¬tural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), known as the ASARECA Animal Agriculture Research Network (A-AARNET), has worked with ILRI and staff at Texas A&M University working on a GL-CRSP LEWS project (Global Livestock-Collaborative Research Support Program on Livestock Early Warning Systems) to better understand how pastoralists in the Horn of Africa deal with drought on their own, and how their systems could be reinforced instead of being replaced by handouts.

Project staff first determined what are the traditional coping mechanisms already employed in pastoral systems in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. Staff also undertook a compre¬hensive resource mapping initiative to develop a GIS-based Crisis Decision Support System. This system will provide timely and accurate information to enable policymakers and affected communities to reduce losses occasioned by drought.

By conducting socio-economic surveys of critical areas along the Ethiopia-Somali border and in Burundi, the team constructed a detailed picture of the situation as pastoralists see it.  They learned how sales of livestock forced by drought can erase years of hard work, because large numbers of simultaneous sellers cause livestock prices to plunge. Many animals that had been donated to help rebuild herds were instead sold by herders to meet emergency food and income needs: farmers selling at any price just perpetuated the cycle of their poverty. Aid donors often bought animals for restocking within the same merchant channels, creating an illusion of restocking when actually the same animals were just being recycled, benefiting merchants the most.

Migrating herds and herders are plagued not only by shortages of water, pasture and fodder, but also by livestock diseases, to which exhausted and malnourished livestock easily fall prey. Diseases in a drought from 1995 to 1997 in Africa’s Horn, for example, killed an astonishing one-third to one-half of the all cattle of pastoral communities of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

The improved understanding of the nomad’s dilemma obtained in this research revealed a number of opportunities being missed. Early-warning systems could help herders prepare for droughts by enabling them to sell animals in a coordinated fashion rather than in distress sales. Improved health care could save many animals stressed by drought. Working together, pastoralists could manage their herds to avoid over-grazing. This research project uses a biophysical model to predict forage availability; the forage map is updated every 10 days and forage availability is predicted three months down the line. (Visit the Teas A&M website to see these maps.) Using satellite radio, project scientists are able to upload this early warning information onto World Space Radio, which disseminates the information to scientists and animal owners in remote areas. (Mobile phones will be used for the same in the near future.)

Click here for the ILRI publication Coping Mechanisms and Their Efficiency in Disaster-Prone Pastoral Systems of the Greater Horn of Africa: Effects of the 1995–97 Drought and the 1997–98 El Niño Rains and the Responses of Pastoralists and Livestock, a project report published in 2000 by ILRI, A-AARNET and GL-CRSP LEWS (Global Livestock-Collaborative Research Support Program Livestock Early Warning System). Or email the ILRI coordinator of A-AARNET, Dr Jean Ndikumana at j.ndikumana@cgiar.org.

The disaster-to-development transition

The two reports above illustrate how livestock research is aligning with emergency and development projects in the Horn of Africa. The reports are encouraging. In agriculture, as in life, prevention is better than cure. Studies show that for every dollar spent on disaster preparedness, between US$100 and $1000 are needed after the event. Part of being prepared for a disaster is the ability to diagnose the problems. ‘Medical doctors don’t operate, even in an emergency, without first diagnosing the problem and applying the best science they can’ says Dr Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). ‘Agricultural researchers need to team up with aid agencies to help guide relief aid so it does the most good.’

Around the world, from New Orleans to Mogadishu, the poor are the most vulnerable to disasters, whether natural or human-made. The poor in East Africa, for example, have no access to insurance to help them withstand otherwise catastrophic livestock losses in severe and long-lasting droughts. The rural poor are the most vulnerable, being located furthest from public services. ‘Reducing the vulnerability of the poor to disasters and conflicts should be approached through agriculture, because most of the poor are farmers’, says Dr Dennis Garrity, who directs ILRI’s sister centre in Nairobi, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

The ‘Healing Wounds’ initiative of the CGIAR
The statements above were made by a panel of experts that met in Nairobi last October to discuss whether and how to pair emergency aid with research. The experts were brought together by the Alliance of Future Harvest Centres, 15 non-profit institutions, including ILRI and ICRAF, supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The panelists focused on a report called Healing Wounds published earlier in 2005. This book analyses the impacts of twenty years of CGIAR and partner research to bridge relief and development work in 47 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

This Healing Wounds panel discussion, facilitated by popular Kenyan news moderator Wahome Muchiri, was convened by ILRI on behalf of the CGIAR on 13 October 2005. Initial presentations provided case studies of the role research has played in helping countries of the Horn of Africa rebuild their agricultural sectors after natural disasters and human conflicts. The discussion helped raise awareness among aid agencies, research and development organizations, the relief aid community and the general public about the ways in which research can contribute to disaster relief. Nairobi was chosen for this event because, as ILRI’s director general pointed out, Kenya is a ‘hot spot’ for CGIAR activities, with 13 of the 15 centres belonging to the CGIAR conducting work in the country and the East Africa region as a whole.

The panelists, in addition to the director generals of the two CGIAR centres ILRI and ICRAF, included Glenn Denning, Director of the Nairobi-based Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Centre of the UN Millennium Project, and Mark Winslow, an international development consultant and co-author of the Healing Wounds study.

Scientific experts gave evidence from the following research projects supporting the argument that research can magnify the benefits of emergency aid investments.

  • Building early warning systems to help pastoralists cope with disasters in the Horn of Africa. For further information, contact Nairobi-based ILRI coordinator of A-AARNET, Dr Jean Ndikumana: j.ndikumana@cgiar.org.
  • Mitigating drought effects on livestock in the nine most drought-afflicted districts of  northern Kenya. For further information, contact in Nairobi ILRI’s Dr Bruno Minjauw: b.minjauw@cgiar.org or COOPI’s Francesca Tarsia: tarsia@coopi.org.
  • Enhancing pastoralism in Africa’s arid and drought-prone Horn, home to 25 million nomadic herders. To buy a copy of the following book published in late 2005, Where There Is No Development Agency: A Manual for Pastoralists and Their Promoters, contact the book’s author, Dr Chris Field: camellot@wananchi.com.
  •  Alleviating hunger through vitamin A-enhanced sweet potato in conflict-ridden northern Uganda. For further information, contact Dr Regina Kapinga, a scientist from the International Potato Center (CIP), based in Uganda: r.kaping@cgiar.org.
  • Optimizing seed aid interventions to rebuild agriculture after disasters in Sudan, Uganda and Somalia. For further information, contact Dr Richard Jones, a scientist from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in Nairobi: r.jones@cgiar.org.