A fine ‘balancing act’ will be needed to guide smallholder livestock development in a changing world

 With about 17 billion domestic animals in the world, with most of them raised on small mixed crop-and-livestock farms in developing countries, livestock production is a major part of global agricultural production. But the sector requires large amounts of feed and water and domestic animals generate significant amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane, which are causing global warming.

One way to make livestock production more efficient is through ‘sustainable intensification’ brought about by farm activities that help close yield gaps while also reducing the level of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk or meat produced.

That was the topic of a recent ‘livestock live talk’ at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) given by agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero.

‘When it comes to production efficiencies’, said Herrero, ‘the livestock sector lags behind crop farming. We’re going to have to find ways of reducing these inefficiencies if we plan on livestock helping to feed a world population reaching some 9 billion people by 2050.’

Livestock and global change

In rich countries and communities, Herrero added, reducing the amount of meat consumed could help lower demand for animal products while also reducing obesity and health problems associated with overconsumption of meat.

‘But in the developing world’, he said, ‘the major health problems are associated with eating too little of nourishing foods such as milk, meat and eggs, which provide the protein and micronutrients needed for a healthy and productive life.’

Although a global reduction in meat consumption might benefit the environment, Herrero said, the social and nutritional impacts of meat reduction in the developing world, where most poor people subsist on diets of cheap starchy grains and tubers, are unknown and could be severely harmful.’

Herrero said the ‘best options’ for making livestock production more efficient will vary considerably depending on the world’s vastly different livestock production systems and regions. What will work in dryland agro-pastoral systems of West Africa, for example, will differ vastly from what will increase efficiencies in pig rearing in southwestern China.

Livestock and global change
One way of moving forward, Herrero suggested, is by viewing the current inefficiencies and yield gaps in the livestock sector in developing countries not as problems but as opportunities. ‘We can, and need to, encourage researchers to come up with promising new ways of reducing these livestock production inefficiencies.’

What this will take, Herrero said, is ‘a balancing act’ to deal with both the opportunities and challenges in livestock production systems.

‘Livestock systems are not the same everywhere; we need to understand the benefits and costs of the different systems and how these relate to the pressures of climate change and rising global food demand,’ he said.

Herrero recommended taking a nuanced approach to smallholder livestock development, which might include:

  • Investing not only in high-potential agricultural areas but also in the more extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems of poor countries, which have been neglected till now and where production levels could be greatly increased.
  • Increasing milk production by finding ways for poor dairy producers to obtain higher-quality year-round livestock feeds.
  • Providing ways for small-scale farmers to ‘intensify’ their mixed farming and become more market oriented.

In future, Herrero said, research needs to help resolve issues such as how best to use rangelands, where and when to invest in commercial large-scale livestock production systems and in smallholder systems, and how to harness biotechnology to help make small-scale livestock production more efficient.

View Mario Herrero’s presentation

Herrero is a senior agro-ecological systems analyst with more than 15 years experience working on livestock, livelihoods and the environment interactions in Africa, Latin America and Asia. At this seminar, which also marked his farewell presentation at ILRI, Herrero looked back at his 13 years work at ILRI and reflected on ways of making the global livestock sector sustainable in the face of global change.


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

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who would want to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at]cgiar.org (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at]cgiar.org (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000).
 

Written by Jane Gitau, Nancy Moss and Paul Karaimu.

Fewer, better fed, farm animals: Good for the world’s climate and the world’s poor

 

‘Fewer but better fed animals can make livestock production more efficient.’ This was said by Mario Herrero at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi. Herrero was speaking on 13 November 2012 in the fourth of a series of science seminars organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food security (CCAFS). The presentation was live-streamed to an online audience of 220 people.

Herrero, an agricultural systems analyst at ILRI, gave an up-to-date overview of ways the livestock sector in developing countries can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing global warming. `We face the challenge of feeding an increasing human population, estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, and doing so in ways that are socially just, economically profitable and environmental friendly,’ he said.

This matters a lot. There are about 17 billion domestic animals in the world, with most of these in developing countries. The raising of these animals generates greenhouse gases such as methane (emitted through enteric fermentation and some manure management practices). And the number of livestock in the developing world will only increase in future decades.

Mitigating potentials of the livestock sector

Livestock benefit many of the world’s poorest people, with at least 1 billion of them depending either directly or indirectly on livestock for nourishment and income and livelihoods. But most of the inefficiencies in livestock production occur in developing countries, where people lack the resources to refine their production practices.

The good news is that livestock production in poor countries can be improved dramatically to close big yield gaps there. Herrero gave some examples:

  • Discourage and reduce over-consumption of animal-source foods in communities where this occurs,
  • Encourage and provide incentives to small-scale farmers to keep fewer but better fed and higher producing animals, and
  • Promote ways of managing manure from domestic animals that reduce methane emissions.

Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector

Herrero leads ILRI’s climate change research and a Sustainable Livestock Futures group, which reviews interactions between livestock systems, poverty and the environment. He says,  `In the coming decades, the livestock sector will require as much grain as people. That’s why there’s great need to keep fewer but more productive farm animals. We need to find ways to produce enough food for the world’s growing human population while reducing global warming and sustaining livelihoods of the poor.’

That, says Herrero, will involve some hard thinking about hard trade-offs.

For instance, while reducing the number of animals kept by poor food producers, and intensifying livestock production systems, could reduce global methane emissions by livestock, we’ll have to find efficient and sustainable ways for small-scale farmers and herders to better feed their animal stock. And while raising pigs and poultry generates lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than raising cattle and other ruminant animals, pigs and poultry cannot, like ruminants, convert grass to meat.

‘There’s no single option that’s best,’ cautions Herrero. ‘Any solution will need to meet a triple bottom line: building livelihoods while feeding more people and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.’

Click on this link to view Mario Herrero’s full presentation: Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector, http://www.slideshare.net/cgiarclimate/livestock-mitigation-mario-herrero-nov-2012

 

Roots and tubers to the fore: Cassava and sweet potato may improve dairy goat production in Tanzania’s drylands, but will women benefit?

Tanzania Dairy Goats and Root Crops Project: M&E training

Harrison Rware, an ILRI researcher, listens to Sinayo Taigo, a farmer in Mvomero District, Tanzania during a review of 3-year work plans developed by women in a program that is setting up community-managed breeding programs for dairy goats and introducing improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato in the country (photo credit: ILRI/Deo Gratias Shayo).

Researchers in Tanzania are exploring how small-scale farmers might better integrate production of root and tuber crops, such as cassava and sweet potatoes, with rearing dairy goats to improve the food and nutritional security of their households.

Surprisingly, few programs in Tanzania have yet focused on integrating these crops with small ruminants, such as goats. This is despite the fact that sweet potato and cassava are among the most important root and tuber crops grown by the country’s farmers, most of whom keep goats. Cassava and sweet potato provide human food in periods of hunger, provide feed for ruminant animals (leaf meal from cassava and vines from the sweet potato plant), and can be grown in semi-arid areas.

With farmers, the scientists are setting up community-managed breeding programs for dairy goats and introducing improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato. Both dairy goats and root crops are new to the study region, the Mvomero and Kongwa districts of Morogoro and Dodoma regions, respectively, where project staff distributed Toggenburg and Norwegian improved breeds of dairy goats to 107 farmers in February 2012.

Drought-tolerant varieties of cassava and sweet potato have never before been farmed at large scale in the region and dairy goat keeping has previously been restricted to the wetter areas of the districts. ‘This is changing now,’ says Faustin Lekule, a professor with Sokoine University of Agriculture, ‘because with the use of these crops, we can now introduce dairy goats in dry agro-pastoral areas.’

Led by Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture and the University of Alberta, in Canada, the project also involves collaboration with the agricultural research institute in Kibaha, the Kongwa and Mvomero district councils and the Foundation for Sustainable Rural Development, a non-governmental organization. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is serving as knowledge-support partner for the project and is providing expertise on goat production, gender integration, monitoring and evaluation, and assessing food and nutritional security.

‘We’re combining project- and community-based indicators to ensure that farmer decisions guide the project’s implementation,’ said Pamela Pali, a scientist at ILRI who is leading the monitoring and evaluation component of the project. The project is using a web-based monitoring and evaluation system, set up by ILRI’s Research Methods Group, to collect and share information on how farmers are responding to the project’s interventions.

A gender analysis has been applied from the start of the project, including in its research design. ‘We analyzed gender roles, time use, labour allocation and other gender-related factors associated with raising dairy goats and cultivating root crops,’ said Pali. This information was used to refine the distribution of goats and planting materials to households.

Tanzania Dairy Goats and Root Crops Project: M&E Training

ILRI scientist Pamela Pali leads a session on community-based monitoring and evaluation to train farmers in Kongwa District, Tanzania on creating project objectives and indicators (photo credit: ILRI/Deo Gratias Shayo). 

Results from the study sites show that few women own goats or have control over the milk produced and sold from dairy goats. As the demand for milk and milk products increases in cities and milk points, men’s role in milk marketing has taken centre stage. ‘But we also know that livestock activities for women in Africa increase with intensification of production’, says Pali. ‘Seasonal and gender differences in livestock activities such as feeding, watering and milking must be well understood so that we avoid the extra work load on women but ensure that their control over the benefits is increased.’

A key input of the project has been capacity building. Both Sokoine University of Agriculture and the agricultural research institute in Kibaha are training farmers how to raise dairy goats.

‘I received a goat in February this year. As a result of the training, I now understand how to feed the animal, construct a better goat house and identify signs of diseases for my goat. This project has improved my farming skills,’ said Subeida Zaidi, a woman farmer in Kongwa District.

Farmers like Zaidi, who keep goats and grow root crops on small plots typically about one-quarter of an acre, both consume the milk produced by their animals at home and will start to sell it to meet their cash needs. Sustainability is built into this project: once a goat produces offspring, its owner gives a female kid to another farmer, thus ‘passing on the gift’, to use the term made popular by the American non-governmental organization Heifer International.

The project’s monitoring and evaluation trainings have helped farmers clarify their objectives, which include increasing the number of goats they keep, the amount of milk their goats produce and the amount of dual-purpose food-fodder root crops they cultivate. The farmers keep records of their milk production, and this information is supposed to be regularly fed into the web-based monitoring and evaluation system. The researchers are using the information generated to put checks against interventions that are likely to impact women and men, especially those that will narrow the gender, nutrition, income and asset gaps between men and women. The information is also helping project staff and the community members to better understand, and make better use of, the informal markets and ‘value chains’ in the region that the farmers use.

In particular, the University of Alberta is using the project to assess the economic impacts of informal markets, trading and gift giving between households at the village level. Knowing how these informal markets for root crops and goats work will broaden understanding of, and inform, ongoing initiatives in the project.

This project, ‘Integrating Dairy Goats and Root Crops Production for Increasing Food, Nutrition and Income Security of Smallholder Farmers in Tanzania’, is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Read more about the project http://ilri.org/node/1177 and https://sites.google.com/a/ualberta.ca/diary-goats-and-root-crops-tanzania/home

For more information, read a working paper about this project published earlier this year: Integrating improved goat breeds with new varieties of sweet potatoes and cassava in the agro-pastoral systems in Tanzania: A gendered analysis, by Petra Saghir, Jemimah Njuki, Elizabeth Waithanji, Juliet Kariuki and Anna Sikira, 2012, ILRI Discussion Paper No. 21, International Livestock Research Institute.

Addressing the issue of our time: Experts meet in Nairobi to shape new nutrition program for Africa by new Australian food security centre


 
This 10-minute film shares the views of 10 nutrition, food policy and food safety experts who discussed gaps between research on food security, agriculture and nutrition in Africa at a meeting in Nairobi on 10–11 Sept 2012. Interviewed are: Mellissa Wood, Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC); Delia Grace, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); Bruce Cogill, Bioversity International; John McDermott, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH); Robyn Alders, University of Sydney; Juliet Ssentubwe, Uganda Ministry of Agriculture; CJ Jones, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); Ruth Oniang’o, member of the policy and advisory council of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); Mateete Bekunda, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA); and Cyprian Ouma, World Vision.
 

A new program to help deliver improved nutrition to Africa was recently designed at a workshop in Nairobi on 10–11 September 2012. The expert panel defined research priorities for Australian investments in the sphere of food and nutritional security in sub-Saharan Africa.

The workshop helped advance progress on what Hilary Clinton and others argue is the issue of our time—food security.

More than one billion people remain malnourished, and another billion suffer from hidden hunger due to lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets—this while another 1.5 billion people are overweight or obese.

A key to achieving lasting food security is meeting the challenge of providing food and adequate daily nutrition to all.

The agricultural sector rarely has ‘enhancing nutrition’ as an articulated objective. Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, says: ‘A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming’. The Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC), a new Australian Government initiative announced in October 2011, and ILRI hosted the 1.5-day workshop to help address this disconnect.

Experts in nutrition, national and subregional food policy, food safety, agricultural production and value chains from across Africa and the world participated.

Participants in the meeting discussed gaps between research on food security, agriculture and nutrition, in line with African priorities and how the  Australian International Food Security Centre can best complement work being undertaken by other organizations. The centre will use the outcomes of the workshop to shape its nutrition program by identifying where to make its initial investments in African food security.

The Australian centre aims to help bridge existing gaps between agricultural innovations and development so as to speed adoption of those innovations for better food and nutritional security of poor people.

Mellissa Wood, director of the Australian International Food Security Centre, says Australia has a role to play in this area. ‘Australia has many similar environments and challenges common to African agriculture. Our expertise in agriculture can help play a role in achieving food security in Africa, including developing more nutritious food,’ Wood said.

Australian agricultural science has experience with climatic variability and extreme climatic events that affect farming, forestry, fisheries and livestock. While eventually working in developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Australian International Food Security Centre is focusing its first efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.

The new Australian centre will work specifically to:

  • increase the nutritional quality, safety and diversity of food
  • reduce food losses after harvest
  • improve access by the poor to markets and other business opportunities
  • build the capacity of local institutions and individuals
  • promote gender equality

For more information, please read this brochure, http://aciar.gov.au/files/node/14087/aifsc_june_update_62995.pdf, or visit this website: aciar.gov.au/aifsc

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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