ILRI deputy director-general of research at World Bank summit makes (serious, sane, realistic) case for West African pastoralism

 

Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Two major recent World Bank agricultural summits in Mauritania and Senegal recently urged African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods.

‘. . . African agriculture employs a massive 65–70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30–40 percent of GDP. It represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region’, said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, who opened the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on 29 Oct 2013.

The statement that follow are by John McIntire, deputy director-general—integrated sciences, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who gave his thoughts at one of these summits on ‘The future of West African pastoralism’.

From ILRI deputy director general John McIntire

Sustainability
• West African pastoralism is biologically and economically sustainable at current levels of animal productivity and personal incomes

• By ‘sustainable’, I mean roughly constant annual average stocking rates (in tropical livestock units [TLU]) and roughly constant rates of personal income growth from animal production

• Beyond current levels of real per capita incomes, the biological facts of pastoralism – heat, aridity, low soil fertility, sharp seasonality – make it difficult to raise productivity and incomes at current shares of livestock in total incomes

• Income can be expected to grow more rapidly among herding peoples who have moved out of pastoralism (into industry, services, and government) and this income will contribute indirectly to the viability of pastoralism per se by providing finance for growth and insurance against calamity

Why pastoralism is sustainable only at roughly constant levels
Adaptation to marginal areas
• In West Africa, pastoralism thrives in marginal areas just as it does in Australia, in the western United States, in Mongolia, in parts of Latin America and even in the Arctic Circle, because it is adapted to such areas and other sectors (arable farming) are not

• The adaptation of pastoralism to marginal areas is, unfortunately, what traps it in a low-productivity equilibrium and subjects it to catastrophic risks that are difficult to insure against

Pasture productivity
• Pasture productivity is low in pastoral areas because of heat, aridity, low soil fertility, and unusually sharp seasonality

• An important system constraint to pastoral growth is that the chief limiting resource – wet season pastures – cannot be expanded easily without inducing conflicts with arable farming

• Sown forages do not complement pastures in pastoralism, as they often do in mixed farming systems, because heat, low soil fertility and aridity make it costly to raise forage yields in pastoral areas without irrigation

• Irrigation is usually too expensive for sown forages in pastoral areas unless used for commercial dairying, which is not common in remote areas because markets are thin

• Sown forages are not a complement to wet season pastures because that is when pastures are cheapest anyway

Risks
• Associated with low-growth sustainability are high risks caused by rainfall variability, animal disease, and markets

• Periodic droughts disturb long-term growth of herds, destroying animal capital and forcing herders to restock

• However, the risks of pastoralism now appear to be less of a threat to pastoral livelihoods today than in even the recent past because of higher non-pastoral incomes (which provide diversification), better communications and cheaper transport

• Animal health is better than in the past (less trypanosomiasis because of more intensive land use; elimination of rinderpest, more veterinary services) but gains from better animal health are (partly) self-limiting because they are partly consumed by forage costs; that is, healthy animals consume more feed, causing the price of feed to rise

• The long-term shift from cattle to small ruminants will continue and this will tend to reduce income risks aggregated over time by shortening the periods in which flocks recover compared to the recovery periods of cattle

Competition in market for animal proteins
• West African price trends will be unfavourable to red meat because of faster technical changes in non-ruminant meats, so the value of ruminant sales cannot be expected to grow in real terms relative to other animal-source proteins; the constant pressure of imports harms the economic viability of pastoralism by limiting its traditional markets

A likely future
• From this reasoning – constraints to the asset base of pasture and animal capital, persistent risks and the costs of managing them, competition from other sources of protein – the quantity, quality and productivity of pastoral assets can only grow slowly in real per capita terms

• As long as population growth is vigorous, real per capita income growth is limited by growth of the capital stock in a way that is not typical of the industrial and service sectors

What can be done?
Build pastoral assets
• Defend pasture corridors against crops and towns; corridors maintain mobility and reduce risk of conflict between farmers and herders

• Build roads – roads reduce marketing costs, promote social capital, and insure against distress sales

• Make irrigation more compatible with pastoralism – one idea is to subsidize modest areas dedicated to forage reserves; another is to see that irrigation projects do not deprive pastoralists of access to dry-season water; ensure that irrigation does not aggravate vector-borne diseases of people or animals (such as Rift Valley fever)

Create social capital for pastoral peoples
• Provide free social services – education, health, social protection; they give additional incomes to pastoralists and reduce their income risks and improve life prospects for pastoral peoples outside herding …

• Give pastoralists legal entitlements to rent income (minerals, wildlife, tourism) in their regions; this is controversial and I do not wish to minimize the political problems but we know that the mechanisms for income transfers today are cheaper than ever before and those mechanisms should not be adduced as a pretext not to distribute resources regularly and transparently

• Give legal pasture land entitlements to pastoral associations but do not make them individually tradable because of the risk of land grabs

• Sell commercial index-based insurance products and link the use of those products to participatory disease surveillance via the cellular phone networks market information …

• Invest in public research – especially in veterinary epidemiology, disease surveillance, in diseases related to animal confinement and production intensification

Promote complementary private investments
• Some complementary private investments might be lightly subsidized on the grounds that subsidies contribute to maintenance of a unique livelihood and culture

• Target productive investments – in industrial feedlots, animal waste management, in peri-urban dairying – to the finishing stage of animals’ lives; such investments are crucial for expanding pastoral markets because they offer growth possibilities that other investments at earlier stages do not offer

• Ease resource flows between pastoral and non-pastoral sectors – Remittances of money and knowledge from pastoral peoples working in cities or on arable farms, or return of those people as vets, well diggers, road builders, irrigated farmers, teachers and health workers, are beneficial to total pastoral income, not by direct effects on pastoral incomes but by adapting to risks and by improving resilience

More information from John McIntire: j [dot] mcintire [at] cgiar [dot] org

Read the whole World Bank press release: West Africa: The Sahel—New push to transform agriculture with more support for pastoralism and irrigation, 27 Oct 2013.

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts

Livestock landscapes: Africa

Livestock matter to the livelihoods and ambitions of most people living in Africa and other developing regions of the world (image credit: ILRI/Rob O’Meara).

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications staff Paul Karaimu and Muthoni Njiru.

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is being held this week (15–Jul 2013) in Accra, Ghana. The official opening and plenary sessions start tomorrow, Thu 18 Jul.

Speaking at Monday’s launch of the whole AASW6 week, Tiemoko Yo, chairperson of FARA, said the science week aimed to respond to some of the burning issues in African agricultural research for development. Many if not most of those issues were discussed in more than 50 side events held over the first 2 days of the week, many of them by CGIAR centres.

One such side event organized by the International Livestock Research (ILRI) explored the role of  ‘Livestock research for Africa’s food security and poverty reduction’. Sixty-five people from agricultural and livestock development, extension and government agencies participated in this three-hour session facilitated by ILRI’s Even Le Borgne and held on 15 Jul. Five topics were  discussed:

  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder livestock systems
  • Vulnerability and risk in drylands
  • Food safety and aflatoxins
  • Livestock vaccine biosciences
  • Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

The session started with a look at Africa’s livestock sector as a whole.
After ILRI director Jimmy Smith welcomed the guests to ILRI’s morning discussion, Shirley Tarawali, ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, explained one of the aims of the session. ‘Today, with our partners and stakeholders, we’d like to reflect on where we can work closely with others to influence and develop capacity to enhance Africa’s agriculture.’

Half of the highest-value African commodities are livestock products, including milk and meat.—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Highest value African commodities

Next was a brief look at an emerging ‘biomass crisis’ in African agriculture.
Iain Wright, who leads an Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program at ILRI, said ‘Livestock feed is at the interface of the positive and negative effects of livestock raising. Helping Africa’s many millions of farmers and herders to boost their livestock productivity through more and better feeds while also helping them to conserve their natural resources is a major challenge for livestock scientists.’

Biomass production is the most significant user of land resources and water in livestock production systems. We need to think how to produce this biomass more efficiently.—Iain Wright, ILRI

Biomass crisis

Next up was a quick overview of the public health threats posed by livestock foods and aflatoxins.
‘Ensuring food safety is one of the most important issues facing the agricultural sector today’, said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at ILRI.  ‘This is especially so in developing countries, where food-borne diseases are among the top five health burdens. Livestock diseases and unsafe milk, meat and eggs pose multiple burdens on the poor. They sicken and kill people and animals and burden national economies with huge economic losses’.

Each year, Africa loses billions of dollars due to aflatoxins, which occur on mouldy maize, groundnuts and other crops and crop harvests. The widespread presence of aflatoxins in Africa hurts the continent not only by making people ill but also by contributing to lost market opportunities.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Unfortunately, she said, efforts to improve food safety standards can end up hurting the poor, who, finding it difficult to meet those standards, are often cut off from the informal markets they depend on. Livestock foods also pose problems, she said.

The most nutritious foods—milk, meat, fish and vegetables—are also the most dangerous. These foods are also among the highest-value agricultural products in terms of generating cash incomes and are especially critical for the well-being of Africa’s women.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Food safety and aflatoxins

Next was an introduction to livestock vaccines for African livestock.
Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general biosciences at ILRI, reported on ILRI and partner research to produce vaccines that protect African livestock against disease. ‘We want to simplify vaccine production and to understand how the pathogens that are causing African livestock diseases are developing resistance to the drugs used to treat the diseases.’

We want to work on these issues with the immunology and health departments of African universities.—Suzanne Bertrand, ILRI

Importance of animal health in Africa

 

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen also spoke on ILRI-partner approaches to new research on pastoral systems in Africa’s drylands and Ethel Makila introduced the state-of-the art facilities and training opportunities in the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and located in Nairobi, Kenya. ILRI deputy director for research in integrated sciences, John McIntire, provided a synthesis of the morning’s discussions.

From the participants

In agriculture, the livestock sub-sector has been neglected. To meet the Millennium Development Goal of helping people rise out of poverty, we must invest more in smallholder livestock production.Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria

‘When a research-based agricultural intervention is introduced to a community,’ said Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, of Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services, ‘it must be integrated into existing work and involve other stakeholders in development, especially governments, to ensure that use of the intervention is sustained over the longer term.

‘And remember’, Ndlovu said, ‘that the most active members in most communities are women; our interventions must suit their needs.’

We don’t feed ourselves and others with food alone; we also feed ourselves and others in intellectual ways. Capacity is key to driving innovation and change within societies; to build that capacity, we need to change people’s mindsets.—Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services

ILRI's livestock for reILRI side event at AASW6: Group discussions

Group discussions at the ILRI side event on 15 Jul at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15-20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) photo credit: ILRI/Ewen Le Borgne).

Recommendations
Those participating in this ILRI-hosted side session agreed on the need for livestock scientists to work in multidisciplinary teams and engage in ‘holistic’ research. Only by doing so, they said, would livestock scientists be in position to evaluate all components affecting the livestock sector and thus to help reduce the many risks and burdens faced by Africa’s millions of small-scale livestock producers.

The participants also agreed that it is the responsibility of livestock and other agricultural researchers to provide policymakers with evidence of how each component of smallholder farming links to others and how investing in one component can make a difference to the other components. Improving animal health, for example, can also improve the safety and nutritional value of animal-source foods.

Recommendations put forward at ILRI’s side meeting for enhancing the livestock sector’s contributions to Africa’s food security and poverty reduction include the following.

  • Ensure development of high-quality vaccines is supported by high-quality vaccination campaigns that involve local communities.
  • Incorporate indigenous knowledge to ensure research understands community realities and addresses community needs.
  • Boost the essential roles of continental and sub-regional approaches to development in the livestock research agendas.

AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, includes marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). Follow the discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #AASW6 or visit the FARA AASW6 blog.

View all of the ILRI slide presentations: Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction, 15 Jul 2013.

The livestock boom in India: Pathways to an increasingly profitable, pro-poor and sustainable sector

Dairy cows, buffaloes and other livestock are kept in India's urban as well as rural areas.

India, already the world’s biggest milk producer and beef exporter (mostly water buffalo), is investing in research to ensure that its poorest people reap increasing benefits from raising farm animals and do so in increasingly sustainable and healthy ways (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Key recommendations from a high-level partnership dialogue held last November (2012) by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) have recently been published. These policy recommendations from ILRI and ICAR were released last week in New Delhi, India, by ILRI’s director general Jimmy Smith and ILRI’s deputy director general for integrated sciences John McIntire.

The ILRI-ICAR white paper distills major recommendations made at the partnership dialogue and serves as a basis for pro‐poor and sustainable livestock policy interventions in India.

The following excerpt is from the executive summary of this new publication.

‘With 485 million livestock plus 489 million poultry, India ranks first in global livestock population. Livestock keeping has always been an integral part of the socio‐economic and cultural fabric of rural India. In recent years, India’s livestock sector has been booming. Livestock now contribute about 25% of the output of the agricultural sector and the sub‐sector is growing at a rate of about 4.3% a year. With over 80% of livestock production being carried out by small‐scale and marginalized farmers, the benefits livestock generate for India’s poor are enormous and diverse.

‘Aimed to help cultivate joint learning, knowledge exchange and future partnership, the meeting brought together participants from 12 countries, including India. The attendance comprised of senior departmental heads in the government, directors of ICAR animal sciences national institutes, university vice chancellors, deans of veterinary universities, senior staff of leading non‐governmental organizations operating, representatives of farmer cooperatives, heads of private‐sector companies, and leaders and managers of international agencies including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank. All members of the ILRI Board of Trustees participated, as did officials of other CGIAR bodies operating in India.

‘The high‐level dialogue was inaugurated by Dr M.S. Swaminathan, renowned for his role in India’s Green Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Dr Swaminathan stressed the urgent need for research and development partnerships to maintain sufficient momentum for the Indian livestock growth story. . . .

Dairy and small ruminant value chains
‘The gathered experts articulated the challenges and opportunities for the country’s millions of farmers trying to earn their living from small dairy and ruminant enterprises. What was critical was the consensus among experts in understanding that development of the country’s livestock value chains depends as much on smallholder access to services and inputs as it does on supply and marketing of livestock and their products. The participants also agreed that transforming India’s livestock value chains required better infrastructure and development of a policy framework for improved animal breeding.

Improved disease control
‘A subsequent session on animal health highlighted the need for better disease diagnostics, more affordable vaccines and better veterinary service delivery for small‐scale livestock keepers if the country was to succeed in better controlling diseases of livestock, as well as the many ‘zoonotic’ diseases that originate in farm animals and infect people as well. The experts in the session agreed that ICAR‐ILRI partnership should aim at capitalizing on ICAR’s excellent decision‐support system for predicting animal disease outbreaks in the country, and modify it further so as to make it highly valued and accessible for extensive use by scientists, administrators and policymakers alike.

Livestock nutrition
‘In another session presenting problems in animal nutrition, it was agreed that both conventional and new technologies should take ecological as well as economic considerations into account. With constant increase of animal numbers anticipated over the coming decades, fodder scarcities will have to be addressed through research work conducted to ensure the bio‐availability and digestibility of fodders available to India’s small‐scale livestock farmers.

‘All sessions of the all‐day dialogue named productive partnerships as crucial to bringing varied expertise together for designing sustainable solutions. In unison, the participants opinioned that such multi‐institutional and multi‐disciplinary expertise must understand that India’s animal expertise needs to ‘go to scale’ even as resources in fodder, land and water become ever more stretched.

‘Speakers and responders in the final session of the dialogue acknowledged the growing need of targeted research and development partnership in the country’s livestock sector. At the close of the day’s discussions, ILRI and ICAR signed a memorandum of understanding to help get research into use so as to accelerate the travel of research from laboratory to field, where it can transform lives of poor people.’

Download/read the publication: Livestock research and development summary report of the ICAR-ILRI Partnership Dialogue, 2013.

Read more about the Partnership Dialogue, 7 November 2012 on the ILRI News Blog:
India’s booming livestock sector: On the cusp?–Or on a knife edge?, 8 Nov 2013.

Experts take up two new director positions at ILRI, world’s leading pro-poor livestock research institute

John Murray McIntire

ILRI’s new deputy director of research in integrated systems John  McIntire.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) last November appointed two new deputy director generals of research at the institute. American John McIntire, formerly of the World Bank, will direct research on integrated livestock systems at ILRI while Suzanne Bertrand, a Canadian who has been working in the private sector in New Zealand, takes on directorship of ILRI’s biosciences research. This month they took up their new positions, where they also serve on ILRI’s senior management team, reporting to ILRI director general Jimmy Smith.

John McIntire, ILRI deputy director general for integrated systems research
John McIntire is a native Californian who graduated from Occidental College, where he was a member of the regional champion cross-country team, in 1972 with a BA in history. He worked in a pharmaceuticals factory until 1975, when he began graduate studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. In 1980, Fletcher awarded him a PhD in agricultural economics, based in part on fieldwork he had conducted near Segou, in central Mali, from 1977 to 1978. That work, done in collaboration with the West African Rice Development Association (now AfricaRice) and the Malian national research program, was one of the original farm-level studies of smallholder crop production done anywhere in francophone Africa and one of the first to study competition between rainfed and irrigated crops.

After receiving his PhD, McIntire took up a job as research associate at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, where he published Food Security in the Sahel: Variable Import Levy, Grain Reserves and Foreign Exchange Assistance (1981). This report was one of the first papers to use a quantitative model of food supply and demand to investigate policies for improving food security in West Africa. In 1980, McIntire was appointed principal economist in the West Africa Program of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), where he was based at the Kamboinse Research Station, near Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. There he worked to identify constraints to improving millet and sorghum production in the sub-humid and semi-arid tropics of Burkina Faso, publishing work on village surveys, intercropping and animal traction. In 1981, he moved with ICRISAT to Niger, where he helped establish the ICRISAT Sahelian Centre at Sadore and conducted village-level studies on farmer-managed experiments with new millet-producing techniques involving improved cultivars, intercropping and mineral fertilizers.

McIntire left ICRISAT and Niger in 1984 to take up a position as principal economist at the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), one of ILRI’s two predecessors, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While at ILCA, he worked on the economics of ILCA’s priority setting, trypanotolerance (genetic resistance to the disease African animal trypanosomosis), smallholder cattle fattening, crop residue management, alley farming and crop-livestock integration. Based on his work at ILCA and ICRISAT, he published Crop Livestock Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa (1992), with Daniel Bourzat and Prabhu Pingali, a book still widely cited 20 years later.

McIntire joined the World Bank in 1989, where he worked until his retirement in 2011. There he developed and managed a National Agricultural Technology Program for Mexico, which was, at the time, the largest Bank investment in national agricultural research in the world. He later worked as country economist for Côte d’Ivoire, where he was instrumental in the reform of the national cocoa marketing institution and in restructuring that country’s international debt as part of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative. From 2000 to 2004, he was World Bank country director for Senegal, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Guinea. From 2004 to 2007, he served as director for Agricultural, Environmental and Social Development in the Africa Region of the World Bank. His final Bank assignment was country director for Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi, where he managed a team of some 200 people that delivered one of the largest IDA (International Development Association) programs in the world. In 2011, he was the second person to receive both the Bank’s ‘Good Manager Award’ and ‘Green Award for Environmental Leadership’, the latter notably for his work in defending Serengeti National Park.

 

Suzanne Bertrand

ILRI’s new deputy director of research in biosciences Suzanne Bertrand.

Suzanne Bertrand, ILRI deputy director general for biosciences research
Suzanne Bertrand’s background is a unique mix of science and managerial roles in government, academia and the private sector, with long interest and hands-on experience in international development. She has expertise in managing stakeholder and client relationships and in building project engagement strategies.

Bertrand earned a PhD in plant molecular biology at Laval University (French: Université Laval), in Canada’s Quebec Province and began her career as a scientist with Agri-Food Canada, working on forage plants. Her focus shifted rapidly from laboratory-based research to the application of modern agri-technology in the developing world. Her first overseas assignment was as a consulting plant physiologist for a Gansu Forest Nursery Project in the People’s Republic of China, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency; Bertrand served as director of this project for its last three years. She then went to North Africa, again as project director, to manage the installation and start-up of five tree nurseries in Tunisia, a project funded by the Nordic Development Bank and World Bank.

Bertrand spent six years in the USA, first as research assistant professor at North Carolina State University and then as a founding principal for a biotechnology start-up company. She was then recruited as group manager for innovation with Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), a large dairy breeding enterprise in New Zealand, where she managed LIC’s Research and Development Group, delivering science-based solutions in the areas of genomics, reproductive health, animal evaluation and commercialization to the dairy sector.

In 2008, Bertrand became director of international linkages for the New Zealand Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. In this role, she established an overarching framework for the ministry’s external engagement and developed an International Linkages Strategy for New Zealand science. She was most recently chief executive officer for NZBIO, an NGO representing the interests and supporting the growth of the bioscience sector in New Zealand. Membership in NZBIO spans the spectrum of agbiotech, human health, industrial, environmental and food bioscience, from start-up companies to Crown research institutes and universities to large corporates and multinationals.

Bertrand has a lifelong interest in fine cuisine, art history, all things gardening, and travel.