Radio still reaches most Kenyan farmers—but agricultural information still not useful enough

INTERNEWS_NAIROBI

Most Kenyan farmers listen to the radio to learn how to farm better but are not receiving the information they need (photo credit: Flickr/Internews Network).

Radio is still the dominant media channel used by Kenya’s small-scale farmers wanting to learn new techniques to improve their farming methods. But farmers say they’re still not receiving most of the agricultural information they badly need.

Findings of a 2012 study of over 600 small-scale farm households spread across high- to low-yield agricultural regions of Kenya in Nakuru, Nyanza, Nyeri, Machakos, Makueni and Webuye show that farmers receive mostly basic ‘how to’ and technical information; despite its modest usefulness, this kind of information is not enough to enable these Kenyan farmers to improve their food production levels or practices.

Selected findings from this study were shared in a presentation, ‘Shortcomings in communications on agricultural knowledge transfer’, made by Christoph Spurk, a media researcher, at a seminar on 17 Oct 2013 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘Over 75 per cent of the households we reviewed practised mixed crop-and-livestock farming, with an average of 4–6 people in each household occupying 1–3 acres of land. Over half of those we interviewed were women’, said Spurk, who is also an agricultural economist and a professor at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Applied Media Studies.

‘One of our key findings’, says Spurk, ‘was that government extension services are still the “most trusted source” of agricultural information for most farmers, even though many of these services are “difficult to reach and less available than expected”.’

At the same time, the study found significant gaps between the agricultural information farmers would like to receive and what they actually get through different communication channels.

‘The farmers are receiving mostly technical agricultural information even though they prefer information on markets, improving incomes and fighting farm-related diseases’, said Spurk. ‘They also said most of the information they get is presented in simplified top-down “how-to” formats rather than in detailed formats that lay out the different options available to them.’

According to the study’s findings, radio is used by 95% of the households. Even though two-thirds of the households also have access to mobile phones, only 11% of mobile phone owners use these devices to access to agricultural applications such as ‘iCow’, which registered farmers use to receive information on, for example, optimal feeding regimes and gestation cycles for their particular cows.

Although most of the farmers interviewed reported that they regularly listen to vernacular radio stations, nearly all them said their favourite source of information is other farmers and family members. Just under half of the farmers (44%) said government extension services were their most trusted source of information. In terms of sources of detailed farming information, farmers reported preferring first to listen to other farmers, second to take part in field visits and only third to listen to radio programs.

Spurk believes findings from this study highlight a need for greater integration between radio and extension services to better reach small-scale farmers and a need to provide farmers with the kind of information that empowers them in their own decision-making.

Note: In October 2012, this blog reported on a study by Farm Radio International in Africa, which showed that participatory radio campaigns that use local languages, allow farmer participation and highlight tested and available technologies help in hastening the adoption of new technologies by small-scale farmers in Africa.

Download a PDF version of the study report:
http://www.zhaw.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/linguistik/_Institute_und_Zentren/IAM/PDFS/News/final_report_Kenya_agri_communication_IAM_MMU_01.pdf

 

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

 

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

 

‘Livestock insurance project an excellent example of innovative risk management in Kenya’s arid lands’ – Kenyan minister

Kenya Rural Development Programme launch in Kiboko, Kenya

Marjaana Sall, deputy head of delegation of the European Union to Kenya, Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, Mohammed Elmi, Kenya’s minister of state for development of northern Kenya and other arid lands and Romano Kiome, permanent secretary in Kenya’s ministry of agriculture at the launch of the Kenya Rural Development Programme (KRDP) at the KARI centre in Kiboko, Makueni on 7 Sept 2012 (photo credit ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Kenya’s minister of state for development of northern Kenya and other arid lands, Mohamed Elmi, has praised a livestock insurance project implemented in Kenya by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners for its role in improving the productivity of the country’s drought-prone arid and semi-arid lands.

‘The index-based livestock insurance project in Marsabit District is an excellent example not just of innovative risk management, but of how, with thought and imagination, basic services such as insurance can be brought within reach of those previously excluded,’ said Elmi.

The minister was speaking last week (7 Sep 2012) at the launch of a five-year Kenya Rural Development Programme at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute rangeland research station at Kiboko, located in Makueni County. Representatives from the Kenya government, the European Union and international research organizations, including ILRI, participated in the launch.

The Kenya Rural Development Programme is a new five-year agricultural support program funded by the European Union at 66 million euros. It is seeking to improve drought response and management and agricultural productivity in the country’s arid lands and to reduce the vulnerability of people living in these areas.

Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, who attended the launch, said the index-based livestock insurance project is making rangelands-based livelihoods more sustainable.

‘Promoting food security and reducing poverty in arid areas is a key priority for the government. I’m delighted the minister highlighted the role IBLI is playing in this process; ILRI is committed to making an important contribution,’ said Smith.

The insurance project, which was piloted in Marsabit District, in northern Kenya, in 2010, is a component of the Kenya Rural Development Programme. The project is a result of collaborative efforts between ILRI, UAP Insurance, Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative, based at the University of California at Davis. A second phase of the project, which started in southern Ethiopia in August 2012, has received 1 million euros from the European Union.

‘The Kenya Rural Development Programme responds to the development needs of the rural people in Kenya and the support given by the European Union to the agricultural sector will improve the lives of people in the country,’ said Marjaana Sall, deputy head of delegation of the European Union to Kenya.

The event featured displays of European Union-funded activities in Kenya’s rangelands from the Kenya Rural Development Programme, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and ILRI, among other exhibitors, and was attended by local community members and farmers in Kiboko.

Read recent stories about index-based livestock insurance: http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/8149

Read more about the Kenya Rural Development Programme: http://www.dmikenya.or.ke/

Researchers strengthen their partnerships in the fight against Rift Valley fever

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming of western Kenya

A mixed crop-livestock farm in Western Kenya. Livestock researchers are working towards joint efforts of preventing and controlling Rift Valley fever in eastern Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

A new effort to align the work of partners in eastern Africa and implement more synergetic research on Rift Valley fever was the focus of a recent multi-stakeholder workshop that reviewed research strategies and approaches used by veterinarians, epidemiologists, economists and public health experts in projects across Kenya.

The meeting, which was held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 2 February 2012, discussed ILRI’s Rift Valley fever research program, potential collaborations with partners and options of controlling the mosquito-borne viral disease that affects cattle herds in eastern and southern Africa. Epidemics of the disease, which can also infect humans, emerge after above-average and widespread rainfall and lead to death and abortion in livestock.

Participating organizations, which are conducting research on Rift Valley fever, included Kenya’s ministries in charge of livestock development and public health, the universities of Nairobi and Egerton, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Kenya Medical Research Institute. Also attending the workshop were staff of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the Nairobi office of the US Centres for Disease Control and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

‘Our research in Rift Valley fever is benefitting from increasing collaboration,’ said Bernard Bett, an epidemiologist with ILRI. ‘These “joined up” efforts, are supporting joint assessments of the prevalence of zoonotic diseases in both animals and humans and are helping to increase the relevance of the research leading to more effective interventions.’

This strategy should lead to lower costs of doing research and implementing human and animal health interventions and a reduced burden of Rift Valley fever on the region’s livestock, people, wildlife and markets.

Esther Schelling, a epidemiologist with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and formerly a researcher with ILRI, said: ‘Collaborative efforts in addressing the challenge of Rift Valley fever can support “one health” initiatives that seek to raise the research profile of neglected zoonotic diseases in Africa and improve the effectiveness of interventions through joint surveillance, preparedness and contingency planning to reduce the amount of time it takes to control outbreaks of these diseases.’

During the meeting, ILRI shared findings from a collaborative project known as ‘Enhancing prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in East Africa by inter-sectorial assessment of control options.’ For example, an analysis, by the project, of the public health burden of Rift Valley fever outbreaks measured in disability adjusted live years (DALYs) – the first of its kind in Kenya – shows that the 2006 and 2007 outbreak resulted in 3.4 DALYs per 1000 people and household costs of about Ksh 10,000 (USD120) for every human case reported. In 2008, ILRI estimated the disease cost the Kenyan economy USD30 million. Findings from the project also included a dynamic herd model developed for pastoral systems for simulating herd dynamics during normal and drought periods and in Rift Valley fever outbreaks. This model will be used to simulate the impacts of prevention and control options for the disease.

The Nairobi meeting discussed gaps in current research practice including the absence of climate models, sampling tools and methods to support decision support tools. Participants highlighted the need for a vector profile of the disease to enable mapping of most affected and high-risk areas and the need to understand how Rift Valley fever interacts between livestock and wildlife.

The prevention and control options discussed at the meeting will be further simulated using the herd dynamic model, which will be followed by an economic analysis using a process that was agreed on in an earlier (September 2011) workshop that discussed Rift Valley fever surveillance. A cost-benefit analysis of vaccination, vector control, surveillance, and sanitary measures is now scheduled. Results from the analysis will give much-needed evidence to support creation of policies and strategies for appropriate surveillance, prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in eastern Africa.

According to Tabitha Kimani, an agricultural economist with ILRI, ‘preliminary cost benefit analysis is already showing that it is beneficial to control Rift Valley fever through vaccination.’

 

Read more on Rift Valley fever research at ILRI and the region:

ILRI news archive

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php?s=%22Rift+Valley+fever%22&submit=Search

ILRI clippings archive

http://ilriclippings.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/could-rift-valley-fever-be-a-weapon-of-mass-destruction-an-insidious-insect-animal-people-infection-loop-explored/

 

 

 

Policy workshop seeks sustainable practices to preserve livelihoods in Africa’s drylands

Nairobi workshop on Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, social sustainability and tipping points in African Drylands

Policymakers, practitioners and community users discussed, this week, ways to improve the sustainable management of Africa’s drylands at a workshop held at ILRI in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai).

Researchers, policymakers and livestock experts from Africa and the UK met this week to discuss the impacts of land use changes on African drylands  in efforts towards shaping policies that will enhance the sustainable management of these ecosystems.

In a workshop held on 14 February 2012 at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), community representatives, scientists and specialists in ecology, economics and anthropology discussed research that is expected to shape policies for the improvement of poverty alleviation and ecosystems management in eastern Africa’s dryland ecosystems.

African drylands are fast approaching a tipping point brought about by policy-driven changes in land tenure that have transformed communal lands into private enclosures and wildlife conservancies and the closing off of open access lands that have limited livestock and wildlife mobility. These changes have led to environmental and social consequences that are threatening livestock production and and the livelihoods of pastoral people who depend on these lands.

‘This project will get to the heart of the complexities of drylands management because it is seeking to put pastoralists at the centre of managing their resources,’ said Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI. ‘Findings from this project will help us understand how livestock keepers interact with policies, the environment and their economic opportunities,’ said Smith.

The workshop which is part of a 24-month project known as the ‘Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands (BEST).’ It is being carried out by a consortium of international partners who include ILRI, the Institute of Zoology, London, University College London and the African Technology Policy Studies Network who are using their expertise in natural resource and biodiversity assessment, natural resource management and communication to analyze the impacts of the changes taking place in dryland ecosystems. Other partners in the research include the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Association of Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa. The project is funded by a consortium of the Department for International Development and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and  Economic and Social Research Council.

‘We hope to address the very rapidly developing and severe challenges arising in east African arid- and semi-arid rangelands, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania,’ said Katherine Homewood, an anthropologist with the University College London and the principal investigator for the project. ‘These changes have led to significant opportunity costs for pastoralists who depend on livestock production in these areas; some of whom have been displaced or dispossessed of their livelihoods,’ Homewood says, ‘because marginal areas have become immensely important to a huge variety of competing land uses like mining, biofuels production, crop farming and wildlife conservation.’

Despite these changes, findings indicate that livestock production remains the key source of income for pastoralists and the project, now in its first phase, will investigate how households are responding to the changes in dryland ecosystems, how pastoralist households invest time, labour and capital into livestock, farming or wildlife tourism in light of these changes and the consequences of these choices on poverty reduction, biodiversity and the local and national economies.

‘Results from this project will provide the government with useful information on biodiversity management, environmental reporting and land use practices by offering up to date information on social and environmental interactions that are essential for management of environmental risks in rangelands,’ said Ali Mohammed, Permanent Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, who officially opened the workshop.

The project has been implemented for just under one year and  project partners used the workshop to draw on existing expert knowledge of dryland systems. This information will be used in modeling approaches for further analysis of dryland ecosystems. Among others, participants called for better evaluation of the opportunities and tradeoff emerging from differences in land tenure systems, disparities in distribution of  tourism income and displacements of pastoralists and diminishing livestock productivity. Information from this workshop will guide research and deliver findings that will help evaluate policy scenarios and give insights into ecosystem services to inform policymaking and practice.

 

More on the Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands project: http://www.ilri.org/best

 

Watch a 10-minute film about finding ways of balancing the needs of people, lands and wildlife:

http://blip.tv/ilri/counting-in-a-disappearing-land-people-livestock-and-wildlife-1458292