Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system

Extensive farming in central Malawi

An extensive agricultural landscape typical of central rural Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero, who leads a Sustainable Livestock Futures group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, gave a slide presentation last November at an invitation-only US National Academy of Sciences’ scoping meeting on The role of animal agriculture in a sustainable 21st century global food system, held in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle.

Among the conclusions Herrero makes in his slide presentation, Food security, livelihoods and livestock in the developing world, is the need to change our agricultural investment paradigms so that we invest not only in the high-potential agricultural lands of the past (many of which, he says, are already ‘maxed out’), but also in the agricultural lands of the future.

What are these ‘agricultural lands of the future’? Well, those on which relatively extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems are being practiced, for one.

For more on this topic, see ILRI’s current corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010, the foreword of which, by ILRI director general Carlos Seré and ILRI board chair Knut Hove, follows.

ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2011: Cover

ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Knut Hove say it’s ‘mixed farms’,
more than breadbaskets or ricebowls,
that will feed the world over the next two decades.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

This year’s corporate report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

Scientists at ILRI and seven other leading international agricultural research organizations around the world recently looked at the future of this form of farming and determined that it is ‘mixed farms’—not breadbaskets or ricebowls—that will feed most people over the next two decades.

Their report shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today. This same group, the report indicates, is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Remarkably, this is the first study ever to investigate the state of the world’s most prevalent kind of farmers—those who keep animals as well as grow crops. A major implication of the new report is that governments and researchers are mistaken to continue looking to high-potential lands and single-commodity farming systems as the answer to world hunger. As the study shows, many highly intensive agricultural systems are reaching their peak capacity to produce food and should now focus on sustaining rather than increasing yields.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

The authors of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary study, most belonging to centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agree with many other experts that we need to bring our focus back to small-scale farms. But this report goes further, distinguishing one particular kind of small-scale farmer that should be our focus: this is the mixed farmer growing crops and raising animals in the world’s more extensive agricultural systems, which are described in detail on the next page.

These ‘mixed extensive’ farms make up the biggest, poorest and most environmentally sustainable agricultural system in the world. It is time we invested heavily in this particular kind of farming system. Here is where there remain the biggest yield gaps. Here is where we can make the biggest difference.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale farming in developing countries are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards this particular, most ubiquitous, and till now most neglected, form of agriculture. What this ‘extensive frontier’ needs are the most basic forms of infrastructure and services. With these at hand, the world’s extensive mixed farmers will be in good position to scale up their food production to meet future needs.

Read ILRI’s corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010.

Watch a 4-minute ILRI photofilm (audio with still pictures) illustrating the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers: Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Small-scale Food Production, 2011.

Those wanting more detail on the future of mixed farming should consult the research report by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme: Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030, 2009.

Seeing the beast whole: When holistic approaches ‘come out of Powerpoints’ for better health

Purvi Mehta, Capacity Strengthening Officer

Head of capacity strengthening ILRI, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt delivered a lively presentation yesterday in New Delhi explaining how capacity building is an ‘impact pathway’ linking agriculture, nutrition and health for human well being (photo credit: ILRI).

Yesterday in New Delhi, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, head of Capacity Strengthening at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was one of three speakers to make a presentation during a side session at the international conference ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health’ being put on this week by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Saying it was ‘great to be home, in India’, Mehta-Bhatt, who is an Indian national based at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, started her 12-minute talk by getting down to basics—the basics of an elephant, that is. She told a ‘small story’ of an elephant that landed in a land where nobody had seen an elephant before. Everyone looked at this new beast in different ways, each seeing only a part of the animal. Even though all were looking at the same object, each interpreted the beast very differently, according to the small part they could see of it and according to their own interpretations. ‘This is pretty much the story of the three sectors we are talking about—agriculture, nutrition and health,’ said Mehta-Bhatt.  ‘We are all in our own silos’, she said, and need to see the beast whole.

Mehta-Bhatt sees capacity strengthening work as an important ‘impact pathway in linking these three sectors together’.

‘A piecemeal approach won’t work,’ she warned.  And although ‘this is nothing new’, she said, we still have limited capacity and understanding in this area, and only a few concrete case studies to show where linking different stakeholders in a health outcome has worked. As someone recently complained to her, it’s all very well talking about bringing all stakeholders together, but when has that ever ‘come out of Powerpoints’?

‘Capacity development is not just about training programs,’ says Mehta-Bhatt; ‘it goes beyond individual capacity building; it brings in systemic cognizance and impinges on institutional architecture, and all this happens in a process of co-learning, where messages are taken both from lab to land and from land to lab.’

Among ongoing ILRI initiatives that make use of multi-national, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral capacity building approaches are an ILRI-implemented Participatory Epidemiology Network for Animal and Public Health (PENAPH) with seven partners; a NEPAD-sponsored Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub facility managed by ILRI in Nairobi and hosting many students from the region; a Stone Mountain Global Capacity Development Group of 11 members that is mapping existing capacities in the field of ‘one-health’ and co-led by the University of Minnesota and ILRI; and an EcoZD project coordinated by ILRI that is taking ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in six countries of Southeast Asia and helping to set up two regional knowledge resource centres at universities in Indonesia and Thailand.

All of these projects, she explained, have capacity strengthening as a centrepiece; all are working with, and building on, what is already existing at the local and regional levels; and all are being conducted in a process of co-learning.

Mehta-Bhatt finished by finishing her elephant story. Capacity development, and collective action for capacity development, she said, can link the three sectors—agriculture, nutrition and health—allowing them not only ‘to recognize the elephant as a whole but to ride it as well.’

Watch the presentation by Purvi Mehta-Bhatt here:

Livestock boom risks aggravating animal ‘plagues,’ poses growing threat to food security and health of world’s poor

Shepherd in Rajasthan, India

Research released at conference calls for thinking through the health impacts of agricultural intensification to control epidemics that are decimating herds and endangering humans (Picture credit: ILRI/Mann).

Increasing numbers of domestic livestock and more resource-intensive production methods are encouraging animal epidemics around the world, a problem that is particularly acute in developing countries, where livestock diseases present a growing threat to the food security of already vulnerable populations, according to new assessments reported today at the International Conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition & Health in New Delhi, India.

‘Wealthy countries are effectively dealing with livestock diseases, but in Africa and Asia, the capacity of veterinary services to track and control outbreaks is lagging dangerously behind livestock intensification,’ said John McDermott, deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which spearheaded the work. ‘This lack of capacity is particularly dangerous because many poor people in the world still rely on farm animals to feed their families, while rising demand for meat, milk and eggs among urban consumers in the developing world is fueling a rapid intensification of livestock production.’

The global conference (http://2020conference.ifpri.info), organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute, brings together leading agriculture, nutrition and health experts to assess ways to increase agriculture’s contribution to better nutrition and health for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The new assessments from ILRI spell out how livestock diseases present ‘double trouble’ in poor countries. First, livestock diseases imperil food security in the developing world (where some 700 million people keep farm animals and up to 40 percent of household income depends on them) by reducing the availability of a critical source of protein. Second, animal diseases also threaten human health directly when viruses such as the bird flu (H5N1), SARS and Nipah viruses ‘jump’ from their livestock hosts into human populations.

McDermott is a co-author with Delia Grace, a veterinary and food safety researcher at ILRI, of a chapter on livestock epidemics in a new book called ‘Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction.’ This chapter focuses on animal plagues that primarily affect livestock operations—as opposed to human populations—and that are particularly devastating in the developing world.

‘In the poorest regions of the world, livestock plagues that were better controlled in the past are regaining ground,’ they warn, with ‘lethal and devastating impacts’ on livestock and the farmers and traders that depend on them. These ‘population-decimating plagues’ include diseases that kill both people and their animals and destroy livelihoods.

Livestock-specific diseases include contagious bovine ‘lung plague’ of cattle, buffalo and yaks, peste des petits ruminants (an acute respiratory ailment of goats and sheep), swine fever (‘hog cholera’) and Newcastle disease (a highly infectious disease of domestic poultry and wild birds). The world’s livestock plagues also include avian influenza (bird flu) and other ‘zoonotic’ diseases, which, being transmissible between animals and people, directly threaten human as well as animal health.

McDermott and Grace warn that new trends, including rapid urbanization and climate change, could act as ‘wild cards,’ altering the present distribution of diseases, sometimes ‘dramatically for the worse.’ The authors say developing countries need to speed up their testing and adoption of new approaches, appropriate for their development context, to detect and then to stop or contain livestock epidemics before they become widespread.

In a separate but related policy analysis to be presented at the New Delhi conference, McDermott and Grace focus on links between agricultural intensification and the spread of zoonotic diseases. The researchers warn of a dangerous disconnect: the agricultural intensification now being pursued in the developing world, they say, is typically focused on increasing food production and profitability, while potential effects on human health remain ‘largely ignored.’

A remarkable 61 percent of all human pathogens, and 75 percent of new human pathogens, are transmitted by animals, and some of the most lethal bugs affecting humans originate in our domesticated animals. Notable examples of zoonotic diseases include avian influenza, whose spread was primarily caused by domesticated birds; and the Nipah virus infection, which causes influenza-like symptoms, often followed by inflammation of the brain and death, and which spilled over to people from pigs kept in greater densities by smallholders.

The spread and subsequent establishment of avian influenza in previously disease-free countries, such as Indonesia, was a classic example, McDermott and Grace say, of the risks posed by high-density chicken and duck operations and long poultry ‘value chains,’ as well as the rapid global movement of both people and livestock. In addition, large-scale irrigation aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, they say, has created conditions that facilitate the establishment of the Rift Valley fever virus in new regions, with occasional outbreaks killing hundreds of people along with thousands of animals.

The economic impacts of such zoonotic diseases are enormous. The World Bank estimates that if avian influenza becomes transmissible from human to human, the potential cost of a resulting pandemic could be USD3 trillion. Rich countries are better equipped than poor countries to cope with new diseases—and they are investing heavily in global surveillance and risk reduction activities—but no one is spared the threat as growing numbers of livestock and easy movement across borders increase the chances of global pandemics.

But while absolute economic losses from livestock diseases are greater in rich countries, the impact on the health and livelihoods of people is worse in poor countries. McDermott and Grace point out, for example, that zoonotic diseases and food-borne illnesses associated with livestock account for at least 16 percent of the infectious disease burden in low-income countries, compared to just 4 percent in high-income nations.

Yet despite the great threats posed by livestock diseases, McDermott and Grace see a need for a more intelligent response to outbreaks that considers the local disease context as well as the livelihoods of people. They observe that ‘while few argue that disease control is a bad thing, recent experiences remind us that, if livestock epidemics have negative impacts, so too can the actions taken to control or prevent them.’

An exclusive focus on avian influenza preparedness activities in Africa relative to other more important disease concerns, they point out, invested scarce financial resources to focus on a disease that, due to a low-density of chicken operations and scarcity of domestic ducks, is unlikely to do great damage to much of the continent. And they argue that a wholesale slaughter of pigs in Cairo instituted after an outbreak of H1N1 was ‘costly and epidemiologically pointless’ because the disease was already being spread ‘by human-to-human transmission.’

McDermott and Grace conclude that to build surveillance systems able to detect animal disease outbreaks in their earliest stages, developing countries will need to work across sectors, integrating veterinary, medical, and environmental expertise in ‘one-health’ approaches to assessing, prioritizing and managing the risks posed by livestock diseases.

More information on why animals matter to health and nutrition: http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/3152 and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/3149

What will it take for women farmers to break away from the hearth–and into the marketplace?

AgriGender 2011 logo

A three-day international workshop opens tomorrow (Monday 31 January 2011) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focusing on women’s place in market-oriented agriculture in developing countries.

The workshop is being convened by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of a project of the Ethiopian Government implemented by ILRI called ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS). It is being held at ILRI’s principal, Ethiopian, campus.

The workshop organizers hope to identify the most useful products of gender research for the commercialization of smallholder agriculture—and to get these into wider practice.

Most development experts agree that gender is arguably the biggest ‘missing link’ holding back agricultural development in poor countries. But as Madeleine Bunting argued recently in the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog:

‘It’s odd. There is now a powerful consensus about the central role of women in development. They are the key agents of change given their impact on the health and education of the next generation. Everyone is agreed that women’s empowerment is vital, and it crops up in countless speeches by politicians all over the world. And yet change is achingly slow—embarrassingly so. . . . Women’s rights are in danger of becoming a wordfest.’

The participants at this week’s workshop in Addis Ababa are aware of the danger of saying too much and doing too little. The workshop participants include scientists, development experts, donor representatives and policymakers already working in Africa and other regions to give women greater access to markets and agricultural ‘value chains’.

They will present and discuss research-based evidence on promising strategies for addressing this missing link and hope to begin work to develop a new paradigm for market-oriented research and funding that directly serves women’s interests.

The workshop will draw heavily on experiences of the IPMS project, which started six years ago with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.

IPMS published a full report of its gender research in a working paper that appeared in December 2010, ‘Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture’, and yesterday released a 13-page brief for the general public, ‘Empowering women through value chain development’, that highlights findings and lessons the project learned, and the good practices it supported, in its four years of implementing projects in ten pilot learning woredas (districts) in four regions of the country. In this work, an IPMS gender research team set out to ‘mainstream’ best gender practices, specifically by increasing access by rural Ethiopian women to market-oriented agricultural resources, technologies and knowledge.

The IPMS gender working paper adds significantly to the literature available on women and agricultural development, which despite demonstrable need, remains thin. Few studies have ever been conducted on women’s role in Ethiopian agriculture, for example. This is despite the fact that 85% of Ethiopian women live in rural areas where virtually all households are engaged in small-scale farming of one kind or another, and despite the fact that most Ethiopian women continue to have far fewer opportunities than men for personal growth, education and employment.

The unequal power relations in Ethiopia, as elsewhere, are maintained by policies, programs and information systems that reman directed primarily at men. A recent paper published by Agnes Quisumbing and Lauren Pandolfelli, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), demonstrates how dysfunctional it is to ignore or marginalize women in development interventions: reviewing 271 World Bank projects, the authors found that by addressing the needs of both men and women, projects increased by 16% the long-lasting value of the benefits the projects generated.

Across four major regions and ten pilot learning communities, the IPMS gender researchers worked with Ethiopian research and development officers to strengthen women’s leadership and negotiating skills not only in farmer groups and local associations but also in their own households. The specific aim was to increase the women’s participation in market-oriented agricultural production. The project and government staff encouraged women to organize themselves into producer groups for various agricultural commodities and into marketing groups that could collectively demand and get higher market prices than individuals could get.

Women throughout the developing world suffer from unequal access to agricultural training and other resources, despite recent World Bank estimates that they carry out 40–60% of all agricultural labour in the world. The lead author of the IPMS working paper, Ethiopian scientist Lemlem Aregu, says: ‘Having only second-hand information passed on by their husbands and other men greatly reduces women’s ability to innovate and fulfil their productive potential. And this, of course, holds back commercial agriculture in these countries.’

Ranjitha Puskur, an Indian scientist who has led a gender research team in the IPMS project and now leads an Innovations and Livestock Systems project in ILRI’s Markets Theme, says that one way to start to change this situation is to scale up women’s work in agricultural commodities that have traditionally been the province of women.

‘Women posses animal-raising skills honed by years of living in rural areas,’ Puskur says. ‘A good entry point for helping them to better market those skills is to focus on poultry raising and other agricultural work that is often left to women to oversee. These enterprises then become sources of self-reliance, providing women with the means of generating a daily small income, with which they can meet their household expenses. With this experience, women are encouraged to move further up the ‘livestock ladder’ and to begin participating in other, traditionally male-dominated, kinds of livestock production.’

Follow discussions at this workshop on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011’ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read the full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read the 13-page general brief: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

Read more of what Madeleine Bunting has to say on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog: Women’s rights are in danger of becoming a wordfest, 27 January 2011.

Empowering women in agriculture means sharing benefits with men–ILRI TEDx Talk

Jemimah Njuki gives a TEDx Washington Circle talk

ILRI's Jemimah Njuki gives a TEDxWashingtonCircle talk in December 2010 on gender and agricultural development (photo credit: IFPRI).

On 14 December 2010, Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan sociologist and gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a TEDxWashingtonCircle talk in Washington, DC, organized independently of TED events by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Njuki joined IFPRI's Agnes Quisumbing and Ruth Meinzen-Dick in a conversation, 'Igniting change: The gender match', arguing that gender remains the 'missing ingredient' in many development policies and programs.

In her talk, Njuki agrees that gender is still the missing link in agricultural development. But while gender mainstreaming has become 'a standard discourse' in agricultural development, she says, we have moved from gender-blind approaches to focusing exclusively on women. 'We have forgotten,' says Njuki, 'that women are situated in societies, that women live with men in their households, that women have to get power from those that are holding power within these communities.'

Focusing exclusively on women to advance their development is a mistake, says Njuki. A mistake for women. A mistake for men. A mistake for families. A mistake for their communities. A mistake for development projects aiming to empower women.

'Men have to be part of the solution', says Njuki. If we're going to put money in the pockets of women, she says, we have to put money also in the pockets of men. We won't elevate women without elevating whole households and communities.

Njuki provides a cautionary tale from Malawi, where a project to empower women through better marketing of their bean crops was soon taken over by men, disempowering women's involvement in, and benefits from, this traditionally female crop. She describes taking home that lesson in a subsequent project in Africa 'to change the face of women in agriculture' that made its starting point not problems (there were too many of them) but rather with opportunities—opportunities for both women and men. The project managed to improve food security and women's empowerment, but not at the expense of men.

Leadership and assertiveness training for women? Check. Training for women in group organization skills? Check. Gender training for households and villages? Check. But also—training in gender equality rather than 'women's empowerment'.

Watch this 19-minute TEDxTalk by ILRI's Jemimah Njiuki.

ILRI's Carlos Sere on expert panel on sustainable food production at University of Minnesota

Carlos Sere, Director General

Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute and member of a forthcoming expert panel on sustainable food production at the University of Minnesota (credit: ILRI).

Carlos Seré, director general of the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is one of three leaders of worldwide agricultural research centres who will discuss how increasing global demands for food can be addressed in sustainable ways during a forum on 'Sustainably Feeding the World' next week at the University of Minnesota (USA). The panel discussion will start at 1:30pm, on Monday, 18 October 2010, in the university's Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics.

All three panelists are directors-general of international research institutes that are part of the 15-member network known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Besides Carlos Seré, who leads the International Livestock Research Institute, based in Nairobi, Kenya, the panelists include Shenggen Fan, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, based in Washington, DC, and Ruben Echeverria, of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Cali, Colombia.

'This is a rare opportunity to hear from some of today's most knowledgeable experts on global food prospects and policy,' said professor Brian Buhr, head of the university's Department of Applied Economics. 'To have all three of them together on one panel is unprecedented.'

Fan and Echeverria are graduates of the university's Department of Applied Economics. Later in the afternoon of 18 October 2010, Echeverria will be awarded the university's Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals. The department also will celebrate the accomplishments of the late Vernon Ruttan, who advised both Echeverria and Fan, with a ceremony officially naming its home building 'Ruttan Hall'.

Philip Pardey, of the university's Department of Applied Economics, co-directs a CGIAR HarvestChoice project and will moderate the panel of speakers. HarvestChoice works with all three international centres with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director of the Agricultural Development Program of the Gates Foundation and an international expert on global food issues, also will attend.

Reducing the risks of bird flu in poor communities in Indonesia

Poultry seller in Indonesia

Poultry seller in Indonesia (photo by ILRI / C Jost)

To reduce risks faced by poor communities to outbreaks of bird flu (highly pathogenic avian influenza), experts in Indonesia say poultry farmers, traders and transporters, as well as the general public, need to be better educated about the disease and its control. They also recommend strengthening the capacity of Indonesia's institutions to control the country's bird flu pandemic.

These recommendations were made during a workshop held in Bogor, Indonesia, 5–6 August 2010, that concludes the research activities of an Indonesian component of a project to develop strategies for reducing the risks of bird flu among poor communities in countries of Asia and Africa.

The two-year project is supported by the UK Department for International Development and is implemented in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.

About 40 participants attended the Bogor workshop, some drawn from the key partners in the project: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the Royal Veterinary College. Other participants represented a variety of stakeholders in better control of bird flu in poor communities. These included local universities such as Gadjah Mada University, in Yogyakarta, and Bogor Agricultural University; local poultry farmer groups and members of the poultry industry; and international researchers and donor agents conducting similar projects in the country.

The workshop participants made 5 key recommendations regarding better control of bird flu in poor communities:

  1. widen uptake of basic biosecurity measures through education
  2. provide targeted subsidies
  3. develop professional actor associations with certification schemes
  4. find ways to encourage prompt reporting of outbreaks of bird flu
  5. build public awareness campaigns to promote changes in public behaviour that reduce risks to the disease 

Ad hoc institutions set up after the initial outbreaks of bird flu in the country played a key role in the subsequent dissemination of information on  bird flu. The Indonesia National Committee for Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness is one such institution, which usefully brought together animal and human health authorities in a joint response to the pandemic. The workshop members recommended that these institutions be integrated into relevant government departments throughout the country’s administrative units. These recommendations will be further developed in consultation with the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture.

This piece is adapted from an original story posted on the Market Opportunities Digest blog drafted by ILRI staff members Fred Unger and Bernard Bett, scientific members of the project who attended the Bogor workshop, and Tezira Lore, communications specialist for ILRI's Markets Theme.

Read more on the website of the collaborative research project: Pro-poor HPAI Risk Reduction

Research shows bird flu still a threat to poultry production in Kenya

Chicken

Risk assessment shows Avian Influenza still a threat to poultry production in Kenya

The risk of avian flu on poultry production continues to be a threat to the livelihoods of many poor and livestock-reliant farmers in developing countries such as Kenya, researchers say.

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have found that poultry farmers in Kenya are ‘highly susceptible to the introduction and spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)’ because of the country’s location along key wild birds’ migratory routes and the absence of strong mechanisms to deal with a possible outbreak of the disease.

Like in many developing countries, poultry production is an important livelihood activity in Kenya. Most poultry is kept by small-scale farmers in non-commercial settings, who depend on income from the sale of eggs, animals and meat to sustain their livelihoods.

Results from a 2009 impact assessment conducted by ILRI, IFPRI and the Royal Veterinary College in London with support from the Department for International Development (DFID) on the ‘Role of Poultry in Kenyan Livelihoods and the Ex Ante Impact Assessment of HPAI on Livelihood outcomes’ show that farmers in the key poultry producing regions of the country are not adequately prepared to deal with an outbreak of avian influenza.

Though the country has not had an outbreak of avian flu, there were two scares in 2005 and 2005.  The scares led to a slowdown in the industry as farmers, in fear of making losses, reduced flock sizes by up to 40 per cent. The two scares also led to a depressed market for poultry and poultry products and lowered the prices which negatively impacted farmers. The assessment showed that farmers in Kenya are still at risk especially because the country’s human and animal health services are not adequate. Coupled with the fact that most of the poultry farming in the country is a ‘backyard poultry system’ preventing and controlling disease outbreaks would be significantly difficult.

Among others, the results of the assessment also showed, like other studies had confirmed, that poultry production is largely done by women and children to support livelihoods and that most of the poultry in Kenya is produced in the country’s western and eastern regions. Farmers in these places are most at risk of loses in the event of a HPAI outbreak. Kenyan farmers keep an average flock size of 18 birds across the country but there are significant variations across regions mostly determined by ease of access to markets. Nairobi province, for example, has large producers (though fewer in number compared to other regions) with an average of 158 birds per flock because of access to ready market for their animals.

The assessment found that ‘households with “larger” small-scale flocks as well as those located in high risk areas (Western, Nyanza and parts of Eastern provinces) are vulnerable to HPAI.  In the event of an outbreak, the disease would cause ‘significant reduction in livestock income and wealth (asset value) and total annual household income would be reduced.’

The results of this assessment were first published as ‘The role of poultry in Kenyan livelihoods and the ex ante impact assessment of HPAI on Livelihood outcomes’ by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).  A full report of the assessment can be found in the following link http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/hpairb11.pdf

For more information visit www.hpai-research.net


Special policy seminar on Millions Fed held at ILRI Nairobi campus

Learning from successes in agricultural development is now more urgent than ever. Progress in feeding the world’s billions has slowed, while the challenge of feeding its future millions remains enormous and is subject to new uncertainties in the global food and agricultural systems. Recently ILRI Nairobi had the pleasure of hosting a special policy seminar titled Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development, organized by The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and CGIAR Collective Action for ESA. The key speaker was Dr. David Spielman, one of the authors of Successes in Agricultural Development: Lessons Learned from Millions Fed, a study from IFPRI, with support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, embarked on to identify and assess interventions in agricultural development that have substantially reduced hunger and poverty; to document evidence about where, when and why these interventions succeeded; to learn about the key drivers and factors underlying success; and to share lessons to help inform better agricultural policy and investment decisions in the future. Following a rigorous review process, the project ultimately identified 20 proven successes in agricultural development, several of which highlight policies, programs and investments in sub-Saharan Africa. This event presented what worked, why it worked and what we can learn from these successes. Decisions rotated around topics of importance on communicating successes in agricultural development, accumulating rigorous evidence on agricultural development and continued investment in agricultural development. Visit www.ifpri.org/millionsfed further details.

Agricultural research ‘masterplan’ unveiled

[COPENHAGEN] A “masterplan” for agricultural research and technology transfer was unveiled at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen today by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the world’s largest alliance of agricultural scientists.

The 45-page strategy calls for, on the one hand, action that harnesses multiple advances that the group says are waiting to be rolled out. The second strand is to boost research into longer-term solutions.

The report thus calls for an intensive effort to “speed the development and dissemination of dozens of existing improved technologies”, including hardier crop varieties and more efficient ways to manage water, trees, soils, livestock, fish and forests. These have emerged from more than 30 years of research, the group says.

“Turning this wealth of knowledge into action will create immediate benefits, bolstering food security and adapting agriculture to climate change impacts in the near term, while mitigating future impacts through reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” said Thomas Rosswall, chair of the CGIAR Challenge program on climate change, agriculture and food security.

“A quick response now will also buy us time to develop the more potent climate change solutions that will be needed 10 years from now.”

CGIAR experts also argued that the proposed adaptation fund “to enable developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change“ should cover agriculture.

“Agriculture is part of the [climate change] problem and part of the solution,” said Rosswall.

Agriculture contributes to a third of the total global greenhouse gas emissions but is also highly vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall, and extreme weather events.

An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) analysis published this month (December) predicts a 10–40 per cent decline in crop yields by 2050. Food prices are projected to rise by 30–70 per cent by 2050 even without climate change and by an additional 30–100 percent due to the impact of climate change.

The CGIAR report highlighted the use of computer modelling to inform decisions about difficult trade-offs, such as those between environmental impacts and socioeconomic benefits in the global livestock sector.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, for example, is modelling ways of making crop and livestock production more profitable without depleting natural resources, said Philip Thornton, senior scientist at ILRI.

It has prepared maps indicating where the environmental pressures of such production are most intense.

Computer simulations are also helping to explore the potential of crop substitution, for example, replacing beans, a major crop that is declining in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with the more drought-tolerant cassava.

African meat for global tables

Mozambique, Maputo

As new channels for African exports become increasingly available, economists and policy makers are focusing more attention on how best to match producers to buyers in Europe and elsewhere, including Africa itself. A recent paper explores the potential and pitfalls of exporting African livestock products.

‘What can Africa contribute to global meat demand?’ recently appeared in Outlook on Agriculture (Vol 38 No 3, pp. 223-233, September 2009). It is authored by Karl M Rich, who works with both the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the American University in Cairo, and will move to the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) in Oslo, Norway, in February 2010.

Observing that global demand and prices for meat are currently at unprecedented highs, Rich cites International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) data that project that annual per capita meat demand in Africa will double to 22 kg by 2050. This increase will necessitate corresponding rises in demand for cereals as well as livestock. Estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggest similar increases in demand throughout the developing world.

These increases bring new opportunities for alternative sources of supply. At first glance, it would seem that Africa would have a distinct advantage in meeting the increasing demand within the continent. However, Africa’s ability to compete with Europe, Asia and the Americas has historically been constrained by low productivity, prevalence of animal diseases and the difficulty of meeting high global standards for health and safety. These constraints must be addressed before Africa can become a major player, and Rich’s paper examines the possibilities of bringing this happy situation about.

Rich begins with an overview of Africa’s role in the global meat trade, both imports and exports. His efforts in this regard are nothing less than heroic. The data from each of Africa’s fifty-odd countries are accumulated in enormously different ways, and the most recent data for some countries are several years old. Nonetheless, the figures are important, and to date no other author has made comparable efforts to get a handle on the situation. Rich does not express a great deal of optimism for the short or medium term. He estimates, for example, that at present Africa provides only about 1% of global meat exports for beef, pork and chicken.

A comparison of regional export shares is even more daunting. Table 1, which presents FAO data, indicates that the overwhelming majority of products come from southern Africa, notably South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, while goat and pig products are sourced predominantly from East Africa. Sheep products come mainly from North Africa (mainly Sudan). Meat exports from the rest of Africa, especially Central and Western Africa, are miniscule. Eight other tables and five figures in the paper provide detailed information of the variety and amount of meat imports and exports among African countries. In the case of exports, information is provided concerning the countries importing African meat products.

Among significant competitor nations are the emerging giant economies of the developing world, especially Brazil and India. These two countries account for a huge slice of the African market, constituting the main source of beef imports—both frozen and fresh—to seven of the largest African customer countries.

Rich points out that one important advantage that India, Brazil and other Latin American countries (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) have over Africa is scale. According to the most recent data from FAO (2006), the total stock of cattle in Africa is about 232 million head. By contrast, Brazil alone has over 207 million head, while India has 180 million as well as nearly 100 million head of buffalo. The African countries with the largest stocks are Ethiopia and Sudan, but neither comes close to those of Brazil or India, and both have fewer head than Argentina.

While African exporters will not be able to compete with Brazil or India in the short to medium term, inroads to foreign markets have been made by some southern African countries to the European Union (EU). This trade is driven by preferential access to the EU brought about through the Cotonou Agreement which provides tariff reductions for African and other developing economies. But even with such international agreements in place, African countries have been unable to fill the quotas provided, largely because of the rigourous standards for compliance with EU sanitary regulations. To retain access to European markets, for example, Botswana and Namibia have had to set aside areas free from foot and mouth disease (FMD)—an expensive arrangement that precludes raising cattle by traditional African husbandry methods. Furthermore, without these preferences it is unlikely that southern African producers could compete with the likes of Brazil.

Rich concludes his paper with a section entitled The road ahead: where and how can Africa contribute to global meat demand?  Before discussing the most likely methods for improving Africa’s competiveness with other meat-exporting nations, however, he cautions that ultimately, significant improvements in productivity, breeding, infrastructure and marketing will be required over and above the options he identifies.

The author identifies five options.

  1. Commodity-based trade. Diseases such as FMD persist in developing countries, limiting market access from developing markets to lucrative ones in the developed world. Commodity-based approaches focus on attributes of a product such as quality and safety rather than the disease status of its place of origin. It is argued that deboned and properly matured beef, for example, poses virtually no threat of transmission of diseases such as FMD. While commodity-based approaches could pave the way for increased trade from Africa, a number of gaps remain. In particular, will African countries be the major winners? If not, what further constrains Africa’s market access? A recent report by Karl Rich and Brian Perry to the UK Department for International Development explores this option further.
  2. Certification programs and disease-free compartments. Africa can raise its profile in global markets by demonstrating compliance with SPS standards. A compartment is a network of micro-level disease-free areas linked to each other and maintained through high levels of monitoring. A good example of this option is discussed in the paper mentioned in the box item above, a USAID-funded program currently under way in Ethiopia.
  3. Branded niche products. This option focuses on the strengths that Africa can offer global buyers by building and encouraging trade associations and marketing organizations. The author cites several examples—Farmer’s Choice of Kenya, Farm Assured Namibian Meat, the Kalahari Kid Corporation, the Namibian Meat Board, the South African Meat Industry Company and the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation. These associations promote local products, engage in branding and quality assurance and build the capacity of emerging farmers.
  4. Regional integration and trade. Rich points out that despite the existence of regional cooperation agreements, barriers between member countries continue to hamper trade. Reducing these barriers will be crucial if Africa is to develop and harness the scale necessary to compete in international markets and lower costs. Investments in marketing and promotion among regional partners will be required for countries to enter and sustain effective trading in high-value markets.
  5. Domestic markets. Both formal and informal channels for meat products have been developed within each African country over the past several years. Because domestic prices in fact frequently exceed international prices, finding ways to deliver local products at competitive prices is an option with good potential, though these products will increasingly compete with low-cost imports. Competing effectively on price will be crucial for African producers to be successful in such channels.

The abstract of the paper can be accessed online.
For additional information, contact Karl Rich at k.rich@cgiar.org.

New study warns that climate change could create agricultural winners and losers in East Africa

While predicting highly variable impacts on agriculture by 2050, experts show that with adequate investment the region can still achieve food security for all

Forage Diversity field on ILRI Addis campus

As African leaders prepare to present an ambitious proposal to industrialized countries for coping with climate change in the part of the world that is most vulnerable to its impacts, a new study points to where and how some of this money should be spent. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Agricultural Systems, the study projects that climate change will have highly variable impacts on East Africa’s vital maize and bean harvests over the next two to four decades, presenting growers and livestock keepers with both threats and opportunities.

Previous estimates by the study’s authors projected moderate declines in the production of staple foods by 2050 for the region as a whole but also suggested that the overall picture disguises large differences within and between countries. The new findings provide a more detailed picture than before of variable climate change impacts in East Africa, assessing them according to broadly defined agricultural areas.

‘Even though these types of projections involve much uncertainty, they leave no room for complacency about East Africa’s food security in the coming decades,’ said the lead author of the new study, Philip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). ‘Countries need to act boldly if they’re to seize opportunities for intensified farming in favored locations, while cushioning the blow that will fall on rural people in more vulnerable areas.’

The researchers simulated likely shifts in cropping, using a combination of two climate change models and two scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions, together with state-of-the-art models for maize and beans, two of the region’s primary staple foods.

In the mixed crop-livestock systems of the tropical highlands, the study shows that rising temperatures may actually favor food crops, helping boost output of maize by about half in highland ‘breadbasket’ areas of Kenya and beans to much the same degree in similar parts of Tanzania. Meanwhile, harvests of maize and beans could decrease in some of the more humid areas, under the climate scenarios used in the study. Across the entire region, production of both crops is projected to decline significantly in drylands, particularly in Tanzania.

‘The emerging scenario of climate-change winners and losers is not inevitable,’ said ILRI director general Carlos Seré. ‘Despite an expected three-fold increase in food demand by 2050, East Africa can still deliver food security for all through a smart approach that carefully matches policies and technologies to the needs and opportunities of particular farming areas.’

At the Seventh World Forum on Sustainable Development, held recently in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, African leaders announced a plan to ask the industrialized world to pay developing countries USD67 billion a year as part of the continent’s common negotiating position for December’s climate talks in Copenhagen.

The ILRI study analyzes various means by which governments and rural households can respond to climate change impacts at different locations. In Kenya, for example, the authors suggest that shifting bean production more to the cooler highland areas might offset some of the losses expected in other systems.

Similarly, Tanzania and Uganda could compensate for projected deficits in both maize and beans through increased regional trade. In the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), maize trade is already worth more than USD1 billion, but only 10 percent of it occurs within the region. As grain prices continue to rise in global markets, several East African countries will be well positioned to expand output of maize and beans for regional markets, thus reducing reliance on imports and boosting rural incomes.

Where crop yields are expected to decline only moderately because of climate change, past experience suggests that rural households can respond effectively by adopting new technologies to intensify crop and livestock production, many of which are being developed by various CGIAR-supported centres and their national partners.

Drought-tolerant maize varieties, for example, have the potential to generate benefits for farmers estimated at USD863 million or more in 13 African countries over the next 6 years, according to a new study carried out by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Meanwhile, new heat-tolerant varieties of productive climbing beans, which are traditionally grown in highlands, are permitting their adoption at lower elevations, where they yield more than twice as much grain as the bush-type beans grown currently, according to Robin Buruchara of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

In areas that face drastic reductions in maize and bean yields, farmers may need to resort to more radical options, such as changing the types of crops they grow (replacing maize, for example, with sorghum or millet), keeping more livestock or abandoning crops altogether to embrace new alternatives, such as the provision of environmental services, including carbon sequestration.

This latter option could become a reality under COMESA’s Africa Biocarbon Initiative, which is designed to tap the huge potential of the region’s diverse farmlands and other rural landscapes, ranging from dry grasslands to humid tropical forests, for storing millions of tons of carbon. The initiative offers African negotiators an appealing option in their efforts to influence a future climate change agreement.

‘If included in emissions payment schemes, this initiative could create new sources of income for African farmers and enhance their resilience to climate change,’ said Peter Akong Minang, global coordinator of the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn (ASB) Programme at the World Agroforestry Centre. ‘Its broad landscape approach would open the door for many African countries to actively participate in, and benefit from, global carbon markets.’

‘Rural people manage their livelihoods and land in an integrated way that encompasses many activities,’ said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR’s Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. ‘That’s why they need integrated options to cope with climate change, consisting of diverse innovations, such as drought-tolerant crops, better management of livestock, provision of environmental services and so forth.’

How rapidly and successfully East African nations and rural households can take advantage of such measures will depend on aggressive new investments in agriculture, CGIAR researchers argue. According to a recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it will take about USD7 billion annually, invested mainly in rural roads, better water management and increased agricultural research, to avert the dire implications of climate change for child nutrition worldwide.

About 40 per cent of that investment would address the needs of sub-Saharan Africa, where modest reductions projected for maize yields in the region as a whole are expected to translate into a dramatic rise in the number of malnourished children by 2050. Thornton’s projections probably underestimate the impacts on crop production, because they reflect increasing temperatures and rainfall changes only and not greater variability in the weather and growing pressure from stresses like drought and insect pests.

‘Farmers and pastoralists in East Africa have a long history of dealing with the vagaries of the weather,’ said Seré. ‘But climate change will stretch their adaptive capacity beyond its limits, as recent severe drought in the region has made abundantly clear. Let’s not leave rural people to fend for themselves but rather invest significantly in helping them build a more viable future.’

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About ILRI:
The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development. ILRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It has its headquarters in Kenya and a principal campus in Ethiopia. It also has teams working out of offices in Nigeria, Mali, Mozambique, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and China. www.ilri.org.

About the CGIAR: The CGIAR, established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations supporting the work of 15 international Centers. In collaboration with national agricultural research systems, civil society and the private sector, the CGIAR fosters sustainable agricultural growth through high-quality science aimed at benefiting the poor through stronger food security, better human nutrition and health, higher incomes and improved management of natural resources. www.cgiar.org