New leadership in ILRI’s livestock research-for-development work in Asia

Steve Staal, Theme Director

ILRI’s new regional representative for East and Southeast Asia Steve Staal (picture credit: ILRI).

Steve Staal has been appointed the new regional representative of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for East and Southeast Asia. An American citizen who has lived and worked in developing countries throughout his life, Staal will be based at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in Los Baños, The Philippines.

Staal, an agricultural economist by training, has been based at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, for many years, where he recently led ILRI’s Markets, Gender and Livelihoods Research Theme and in the past year served as ILRI’s interim deputy director general for research, during the institute’s transition to a new management team. Among other assignments, he has worked in South and Southeast Asia to enhance smallholder dairy and pig systems in particular. He has a long-standing track record in making a difference in policy analysis and advocacy for inclusive and pro-poor smallholder livestock-based development.

This ILRI position for coordinating and shaping ILRI’s collaborative livestock research in East and Southeast Asia is new. Staal’s appointment to it is a reflection of ILRI’s intent to strengthen its presence in Asia and its productive partnerships there so as to provide better support for livestock research for development in the region. Purvi Mehta-Bhatt (India), who has been heading ILRI’s research in all of Asia, will continue to represent ILRI in South Asia.

ILRI's Purvi Mehta-Bhatt #2 in India

ILRI’s head of Asia Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, taken during a field day In Haryana, India, in 4 Nov 2012 (picture credit: ILRI).

This new assignment for Staal and new focus for Mehta-Bhatt is made to increase ILRI’s engagement with partners throughout Asia.

ILRI stakeholders are encouraged to communicate with Steve Staal, at s.staal [at] cgiar.org, on areas of potential mutual interest, including opportunities for new collaborations and interactions, in East and Southeast Asia.

‘Health is not the absence of disease (and too important to be left to doctors)’–Keynote address

Minoan Bronze Bull Leaper

Minoan bronze bull and bull leaper, from Crete, around 1500 BC (image on Flickr by Ann Wuyts).

Increasing livestock production to meet rapidly growing demands in a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable manner is becoming a major challenge for the Asia-Pacific region. To discuss the challenges and a practical response, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA) organized a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

The Asia and Pacific region has experienced the strongest growth in milk and meat over the last two to three decades. In three decades (1980 to 2010), total consumption of meat in the region grew from 50 to 120 million tonnes, and milk consumption grew from 54 to 190 million tonnes. By 2050, consumption of meat and milk in the region is projected to exceed 220 and 440 million tonnes, respectively. While this growth is creating new opportunities and better diets for many poor people, managing it will be a tall order and involve: stimulating income and employment opportunities in rural areas, protecting the livelihoods of small farmers, improving resource use efficiency at all levels of the livestock value chain, minimizing any negative environmental and health consequences of the growth, and ensuring adequate access by the poor to the food they need to live healthy lives.

The Aug 2012 Regional Livestock Policy Forum was held to find solutions. The 80 stakeholders in livestock development who attended represented governments, research agencies, civil society and multilateral organizations, think tanks, private-sector industries and regional and global networks.

Three keynote addresses highlighted environmental, social and health aspects of uncontrolled livestock sector growth. The director general of ILRI, Jimmy Smith, delivered the keynote on ‘health at the livestock-policy interface’. He described three kinds of health—human, animal and ecosystem—and the close interactions among them. Excerpts of his presentation follow.

Health at the livestock-policy interface: Interdependence

Slide from a presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

Livestock and nutrition
‘Livestock provide about a third of human protein. Even small amounts of animal protein greatly enhance the poor-quality diets of very poor people, many of whom subsist largely, for example, on sorghum and millet. But while 1 billion people are hungry, some 2 billiion are over-nourished, which is often attributed particularly to over-consumption of meat.

HEALTH ONE: Livestock and human health
‘Remarkably, 60% of human diseases, and 75% of emerging diseases (such as bird flu), are ‘zoonotic’, or come from animals, and 25% of all human infectious diseases in least-developed countries is zoonotic. A 2012 study led by ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace estimates that the ‘top 13’ zoonoses each year kill 2.2 million people and make 2.4 billion people ill. The same study found that emerging zoonotic diseases are associated with intensive livestock production systems, with hotspots of these being in western Europe and USA, but that the high burden of neglected zoonotic diseases is associated with poor livestock keepers, with hotspots identified in Ethiopia, Nigeria and India.

HEALTH TWO: Livestock health
‘In developing countries, largely in contrast to developed nations, we still struggle to control what are known as ‘transboundary’ livestock diseases, which include, for example, Newcastle disease in chickens and foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. As important, however, are the common endemic diseases of low-income countries, such as parasitic infections, viral diarrhoea, respiratory and reproductive diseases. While we pay considerable attention to transboundary diseases, and emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential, we are neglecting endemic diseases that hurt the world’s poor the most, and which some estimate are even more costly than transboundary diseases.

Health at the livestock-policy interface: Annual losses

Slide from a presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at a Regional Livestock Policy Forum in Bangkok 16–17 Aug 2012.

HEALTH THREE: Agro-ecosystem health
‘The downside: As many people are now aware, livestock are a significant source of the greenhouse gases warming our planet; they compete for water with staple grains and biofuels, and their diseases can spill over into wildlife populations. On the upside, livestock manure is an important source of organic matter needed for soil fertility (about 50% of the nitrogen used in agriculture in India comes from manure), permanent pastures are potentially an important store of carbon, and the current carbon ‘hoofprint’ can be greatly reduced through more efficient livestock production.’

Jimmy Smith then laid out some ‘prescriptions’.

Prescriptions for human health

  • Manage disease at its (early animal) source, not when it shows up (later) in humans
  • Invest in ‘one-health’ systems for preventing and controlling zoonotic diseases
  • Promote risk- and incentive-based (not regulatory- and compliance-based) food safety systems

Prescriptions for animal health

  • Support smallholder systems to improve livestock production and productivity
  • Use technology and innovations (e.g., vaccines) to improve animal health services
  • Take a whole value-chain-development (not piecemeal) approach

Prescriptions for ecosystem health

  • Manage externalities
  • Close large gaps in ruminant production
  • Reduce livestock-induced deforestation
  • Manage manure
  • Implement payment schemes for livestock-based environmental services

Advice for policymakers
And Smith had some advice for policymakers.

  • Invest in surveillance (re-incentivize disease reporting)
  • Better allocate resources between emerging and endemic diseases
  • Support innovations at all levels in the health sectors
The livestock director concluded his talk by saying:
It is our belief that we can feed the world, we can do so in environmentally sustainable ways, we can do so while reducing absolute poverty, and we can do so while improving the health of people, animals and the planet.
Health is not the absence of disease’, Smith said, quoting his scientist Delia Grace. ‘And it’s too important to be left to doctors.’

See Jimmy Smith’s whole slide presentation, Health at the livestock-policy interface, 16–17 Aug 2012, and/or watch this 25-minute filmed presentation of his presentation.

See a slide presentation made at the Bangkok Forum, Poverty, food security, livestock and smallholders, by ILRI’s Steve Staal and FAO’s Vinod Ahuja.

Presentations made at the meeting, a detailed program and a list of participants are available here.

Get the proceedings of the whole conference: Asian Livestock Sector: Challenges, Opportunities and the Response — Proceedings of an international policy forum held in Bangkok, Thailand, 16–17 August 2012. Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific, International Livestock Research Institute and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013.

For more information, please contact:
Vinod Ahuja, FAO livestock policy officer, based in Bangkok: Vinod.Ahuja [at] fao.org
or
Purvi Mehta, Head of ILRI Asia, based in New Delhi: p.mehta [at] cgiar.org

 

India’s booming livestock sector: On the cusp?–Or on a knife edge?

Jimmy Smith and Purvi Mehta-Bhatt (left and right) with dairy farmer being interviewed by media in Haryana, India

On 4 Nov 2012, an ILRI delegation of 28 visited the village of Araipura, in the Karnal District in the Indian state of Haryana, where they held discussions with dairy farm families. Above are ILRI’s director general Jimmy Smith (left) and ILRI’s Asia program head Purvi Mehta-Bhatt (right) at a media interview of Anil K Srivastava (middle), director of India’s premier dairy research organization, the National Dairy Research Institute, based in Karnal. ILRI’s management team and board of trustees also visited the main campus at National Dairy Research Institute, at Karnal. These field visits preceded a meeting of ILRI’s board and management in New Delhi on 5–6 Nov, followed by an ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue on 7 Nov 2012. (Photo credit: ILRI)

A partnership dialogue organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on livestock, research and development was held yesterday (7 Nov 2012) in New Delhi.

India’s booming livestock sector
With 485 million livestock and 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. India has become the leading exporter of buffalo beef and it has turned from a milk-deficient nation into the world’s largest dairy producer, accounting for close to 17% of global production.

While the contribution of agriculture to the country’s GDP continues to fall with industrialization, the contribution of the livestock sector to India’s agricultural output only continues to increase. Livestock now contribute 28% of the output of the agricultural sector and the sub-sector is growing at a rate of 4.3% a year while that for the agricultural sector as a whole is growing at just 2.8% a year. Last year, India’s livestock sector output value was estimated to be over USD40 billion—more than all grains combined.

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. But while livestock are a prime force in this country’s economy and the well-being of hundreds of millions of its people, the sector has not yet been given the level of attention it warrants.

Livestock are both central to India’s development and a threat to it
Environmental impacts: While millions of people in India are benefiting from better incomes and nutrition due to livestock, there are great environmental and public health risks associated with the country’s livestock sector. For starters, India’s projected spike in demand for milk and meat—176% by 2025—will have tremendous impacts on the environment; already, for example, global livestock production accounts for up to one-fifth of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

Zoonotic diseases: And India’s fast-growing human population and resulting increasing animal-human interactions, combined with changing environmental conditions and inadequate sanitation and regulation, have made India one of the world’s top hotspots for livestock diseases, including zoonotic diseases—those that pass from animals to humans and which make up 75% of all human diseases. Controlling zoonoses is particularly important in developing countries, where the absolute burden of these diseases is up to 130 times greater than in rich countries. An ILRI global report released in July of this year, Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, ranked India near the top of the list globally for the highest burden of zoonoses—in terms of both absolute numbers of those infected with zoonoses and the level of intensity of the  zoonoses infections.

Classical swine fever, a highly contagious pig disease, poses a threat to rural farmers in India’s northeastern states of Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland—80% of whom keep pigs and 46.6% of whom identify pig farming as the most promising source of income. ILRI’s research has shown that nearly USD40 million in income is lost to the disease annually in these three states. As a result of targeted advocacy at the national ministry level, the government is allocating new funds for dealing with classical swine fever.

India’s Operation Flood, which started in the 1970s, has helped to increase national milk consumption by 30% over the last two decades. However, 80% of all sold milk is still marketed by informal traders, often perceived as unreliable, which discourages the investment into more productive animals and better inputs. What should India be doing to reach those farmers still living on the margins and who have yet to reap the benefits of India’s milk boom?

Livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’: The roles of livestock globally–both positive and the negative—must be better understood, particularly why researchers and policymakers must draw a distinction between the developed and developing world when it comes to the future of livestock. The current public debate on livestock is dominated by concerns of the developed world on the negative environmental and health impacts of livestock. Experts at ILRI argue that this one-sided focus can leave the poor as victims of generalizations and justify the neglect of research needed to improve the sector’s environmental performance and management of disease risks, especially in parts of the world where the benefits of livestock, which provide most poor household’s with livelihoods, regular incomes and good nutrition, outweigh its problems.

The ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue
Among those who led the Partnership Dialogue from ILRI are Jimmy Smith, a global expert on livestock production for developing countries who heads up ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya, and Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, who is head of ILRI’s Asia program and based in New Delhi. All of ILRI’s international board of trustees and senior management participated in the Dialogue, as well as the director general of ICAR, the directors of ICAR’s animal science institutes and several vice chancellors and deans, with a total of 12 countries represented. The high-level meeting was inaugurated by MS Swaminathan, India’s foremost geneticist renowned for his role in India’s ‘Green Revolution’, member of India’s parliament and chairman the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. The Dialogue was ably facilitated by S Ayyappan, director general of ICAR and secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education, and KML Pathak, deputy director general of animal sciences at ICAR.

Leaders in government, non-governmental, research and private-sector organizations made presentations and three thematic sessions generated discussions on smallholder dairy and small ruminant value chains, animal health and animal feed and nutrition. A high-profile white paper will be produced from the proceedings of this dialogue to distill the major recommendations made and serve as a basis for pro-poor and sustainable livestock policy interventions in the country.

Notes
Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Jimmy Smith, a Canadian citizen, was born in Guyana, in the Caribbean, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm. He was appointed director general of ILRI in April 2011. Before joining ILRI, Smith served for five years at the World Bank, leading the its Global Livestock Portfolio. Before that, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency (2001–2006). Earlier in his career, Smith had worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (1991–2001). At ILCA and then ILRI, Smith was the institute’s regional representative for West Africa, where he led development of integrated research promoting smallholder livelihoods through animal agriculture and built effective partnerships among stakeholders in the region. At ILRI, Smith spent three years leading the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme, an association of 10 CGIAR centres working on issues at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (1986–1991), where he embarked on his career supporting international livestock for development. Smith holds a PhD in animal sciences from the University of Illinois, at Urban-Champaign, USA.

Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, head  of ILRI Asia
Purvi Mehta-Bhatt is the head of ILRI’s work in Asia and is based in New Delhi, India. Mehta-Bhatt has been involved in many capacity development, outreach and technology transfer initiatives in India and around the world and brings over 16 years of experience in designing and implementing capacity development and stakeholder networking interventions. As director of Science Ashram in India from 1997 to 2005, she worked with more than 60,000 farmers and as country coordinator for the South Asia Biosafety Program. She serves on the board of several organizations, including the International Centre for development-oriented Research in Agriculture, the International Association of Ecology and Health and the Roadmap to Combat Zoonosis in India.

Read more about the ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue on ILRI’s Clippings Blog:  Lessons from India’s smallholder dairy successes can help developing world–ILRI’s Jimmy Smith, 8 Nov 2012.

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: