Pastoral livestock development in the Horn: Where the centre cannot (should not) hold

Pastoralism and Development in Africa

Who eats better, pastoral children in mobile herding or settled communities? (answer: mobile). Which kind of tropical lands are among those most at risk of being grabbed by outsiders for development? (rangelands). Are pastoral women benefitting at all from recent changes in pastoral livelihoods? (yes). Which region in the world has the largest concentration of camel herds in the the world? (Horn of Africa). Where are camel export opportunities the greatest? (Kenya/Ethiopa borderlands). Is the growth of ‘town camels and milk villages’ in the Somali region of Ethiopia largely the result of one man’s (desperate) innovation? (yes). Which is the more productive dryland livestock system, ranching or pastoralism? (pastoralism). Is irrigation involving pastoralists new? (no). Are we missing opportunities to make irrigated agriculture a valuable alternative or additional livelihoods to pastoralism? (perhaps).

The answers to these and other fascinating questions most of us will never have thought to even ask are found in a new book, Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, of the Feinstein International Center, at Tufts University; Jeremy Lind, of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and Future Agricultures Consortium; and Ian Scoones, of the Institute of Development Studies, the STEPS Centre and the Future Agricultures Consortium. Published in 2012, it includes a chapter by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?

Thirty-six experts in pastoral development update us on what’s so in pastoral development in the Greater Horn of Africa, highlighting innovation and entrepreneurialism, cooperation and networking and diverse approaches rarely in line with standard development prescriptions. The book highlights diverse pathways of development, going beyond the standard ‘aid’ and ‘disaster’ narratives. The book’s editors argue that ‘by making the margins the centre of our thinking, a different view of future pathways emerges’. Contributions to the book were originally presented at an international conference on The Future of Pastoralism in Africa, held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in Mar 2011.

Here are a few of the book’s ‘unstandard’ ways of looking at pastoralism.

‘Overall, mainstream pastoral development is a litany of failure. . . . Pastoral borderlands are . . . beyond the reach of the state, and so the development industry.  ·  Perhaps no other livelihood system has suffered more from biased language and narratives than pastoralism. . . . Hidden in these narratives also are political agendas that perceive mobile pastoralism as a security and political threat to the state, and, therefore, in need of controlling or eliminating.  ·  To avoid the Malthusian label, or simply out of ignorance, many social scientists have neglected the important implications of demographic trends in pastoral areas. . . . Some of the fastest growing towns in Kenya are in pastoralist districts.  ·  Local demand for education is consistently high among pastoralists, a pattern that was not the case even 10–15 years ago.  ·   It seems feasible . . . to propose a pastoral livestock and meat trade value approaching US$1 billion for the Horn in 2010.  ·  The past dominant livestock practice characterized as traditional mobile pastoralism” is increasingly rare. . . . The creation of a relatively elite commercial class within pastoral societies is occurring at a rapid pace in some areas.  ·  . . . [P]astoral lands are vulnerable to being grabbed. On a scale never before envisioned, the most valued pastoral lands are being acquired through state allocation or purchase . . . . The Tana Delta sits at the precipice of an unprecedented transformation as a range of investors seek to acquire large tracts of land to produce food and biofuels and extract minerals, often at the expense of pastoralists’ access to key resources. . . . A notable facet of changing livelihoods in the Tana Delta is the increasingly important role of women in the diversifying economy, a trend seen elsewhere in the region. . . . Until now, pastoralists have been mostly unsuccessful at challenging proposed land deals through the Kenyan courts.  ·  The shift from a breeding herd to a trading herd is perhaps the biggest shift in Maasai pastoralism.  ·  Although drought is a perennial risk to pastoralist livelihoods, an emerging concern is securing access to high value fodder and other resources to support herds, in areas where rangelands are becoming increasingly fragmented due to capture of key resource sites.  ·  During the 2009–2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, several hundred pastoralists who participated in an Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) scheme in northern Kenya received cash payments.  ·  Despite its many challenges, mobile pastoralism will continue in low-rainfall rangelands throughout the Horn for the simple reason that a more viable, alternative land use system for these areas has not been found. . . . But the nature of pastoralism in 2030 will be very different than today in 2012. . . .’

One of the book’s chapters is on Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism? It was written by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen (USA), whose broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies; and her ILRI colleagues Jan de Leeuw (Netherlands), an ecologist specializing in rangelands (who has since moved to ILRI’s sister Nairobi CGIAR centre, the World Agroforestry Centre); Mohammed Said (Kenyan), an ecologist specializing in remote sensing and community mapping; Philip Thornton (UK) and Mario Herrero (Costa Rica), agricultural systems analysts who focus on the impacts of climate and other changes on the world’s poor countries and communities; and An Notenbaert (Belgium), a land use planner and spatial analyst.

The ILRI scientists argue that if we’re going to find ways to adapt to climate change, we’re going to need to learn from pastoralists — who, after all, are demonstrably supreme managers of highly variable climates in addition to rapidly changing social, economic and political contexts — about how to make sustainable and profitable, if cyclical and opportunistic, use of increasingly scarce, temporally erratic and spatially scattered water, land, forage and other natural resources.

In important respects, pastoral people are at the forefront of responses to climate change, given their experience managing high climate variability over the centuries. Insights from pastoral systems are critical for generating wider lessons for climate adaptation responses.’

What scientists don’t know about climate change in these and other drylands, they warn, is much, much greater than what we do know. So:

The key question is how to make choices today given uncertainties of the future.’

Because ‘the more arid a pastoral environment, the less predictable the rainfall’, and because ‘vegetation growth closely follows rainfall amount, frequency and duration, . . . the primary production of rangelands is variable in time and space’, with the primary driver of this variability in livestock production in pastoral areas being the availability or scarcity of forages for feeding herds of ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, sheep, goats, camels). In severe or prolonged droughts, forage and water scarcity become a lethal combination, killing animals en masse. The authors quote former ILRI scientist David Ndedianye, a Maasai from the Kitengela rangelands in Nairobi’s backyard, and other ILRI colleagues who report in a 2011 paper on pastoral mobility that pastoral livestock losses in a 2005 drought in the Horn were between 14 and 43% in southern Kenya and as high as 80% in a drought devastating the same region in 2009. It may take four or five years for a herd to recover after a major drought.

Map of flip in temperatures above and below 30 degrees C
Maps of a flip in temperatures above 30 degrees C. Left: Threshold 4 — maximum temperature flips to greater than 30°C. Right: Threshold 5 — maximum temperature in the growing season flips to greater than 30°C. Map credit: Polly Ericksen et al., Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), 2011.

Evidence from a range of modelling efforts was used by the authors to calculate places in the global tropics where maximum temperatures are predicted to flip from less than 30 degrees C to greater than 30 degrees C by 2050. This temperature threshold is a limit for a number of staple crops, including maize beans and groundnut. Heat stress also affects grass and livestock productivity. Large areas in East African may undergo this flip, according to these models, although the authors warn that these predictions remain highly uncertain.

Thornton and Herrero in a background paper to the World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report investigated the impacts of increased drought frequency on livestock herd dynamics in Kenya’s Kajiado District. ‘Their results indicate that drought every five years keeps the herds stable as it allows sufficient time for the herds to re-establish. A once in three year drought interval by contrast drives livestock density to lower levels . . . . Hence, if there is a greater frequency of drought under climate change, this might have a lasting impact on stocking density, and the productivity of pastoral livestock systems.

The results were extrapolated to all arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya and estimated that 1.8 million animals could be lost by 2030 due to increased drought frequency, with a combined value of US$630 million due to losses in animals, milk and meat production. . . .’

In the face of changes in climate (historical and current), many pastoralists will change the species of animals they keep, or change the composition of the species in their herds. In the space of three decades (between 1997/8 and 2005–10) in Kenya, for example, the ratio of shoats (sheep and goats) to cattle kept increased significantly. Goats, as well as camels, are more drought tolerant than cattle, and also prefer browse to grasses.

Such changes in species mix and distribution will have important implications for overall livestock productivity and nutrition, as well as milk production.’

While change is and always has been fundamental to pastoralist livelihood strategies, much more—and much more rapid and diverse—change is now sweeping the Horn and many of the other drylands of the world, with local population explosions and increasing rangeland fragmentation and civil conflicts coming on top of climate and other global changes whose nature remains highly uncertain. New threats are appearing, as well as new opportunities.

While the ILRI team argues that we can and should look to pastoralist cultures, strategies and innovations for insights into how the wider world can adapt better to climate change, they also say that ‘development at the margins’ is going to be successful only where pastoralists, climate modellers and other scientists  work together:

. . . [A]daptation and response strategies in increasingly variable environments must emerge from grounded local experience and knowledge, as well as be informed by increasingly sophisticated [climate] modeling efforts.’

Support for the conference and book came from the UK Department for International Development, the United States Agency for International Development in Ethiopia, and CORDAID. Purchase the book from Routledge (USD44.96 for the paperback edition): Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, first issued in paperback 2012, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones, Oxon, UK, and New York: Routledge and Earthscan, 328 pages. You’ll find parts of the book available on Google books here.

To read the ILRI chapter—Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?, by Polly Ericksen, Jan de Leeuw, Philip Thornton, Mohammed Said, Mario Herrero and An Notenbaert—contact ILRI communications officer Jane Gitau at j.w.gitau [at] cgiar.org.

Straw matter(s) in Nepal

Nimala Bogati feeds her cows in Nepal

Dairy woman Nimala Bogati feeds her improved dairy cows green fodder. An ILRI-CSISA project on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of Chitwan District, in south-central Nepal, began in Sep 2010. Project staff are introducing residue-based feeding strategies supplemented with green fodder and concentrates to increase cattle and buffalo milk production (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Starting in 2010, feed‐related aspects of dairying in two municipalities of Chitwan District in south-central Nepal have been investigated by staff members from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a local Nepali non-governmental organization called Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD). This study set out to gain an understanding of the overall dairy production system in this district, with a particular focus on the livestock feeding strategies employed by farmers, and to identify key areas of the feeding strategy that could be altered to improve livestock productivity. A feed assessment tool called FEAST—a questionnaire that combines informal group discussions with structured interviews of key farmer informants—was used to rapidly assess on‐farm feed availability in a smallholder context.

FORWARD's Deep Sapkota and ILRI's Arindam Samaddar in Nepal

FORWARD’s Deep Sapkota and ILRI’s Arindam Samaddar confer on a visit to a smallholder dairy producer in Gitanagar, Chitwan District, south-central Nepal (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Project staff from ILRI and FORWARD selected the municipalities of Gitanagar and Ratnanagar for this study because these sites were to become part of projects conducted by a multi-institutional Cereal Systems Initiative of South Asia (CSISA) in Nepal.

Farmers in this area generally have very small plots of land, averaging just 0.24 hectares, from which they produce a wide variety of crops. Rice, maize and wheat are the dominant cereal crops here. Goats and dairy cattle, predominately Holstein-Friesian and Jersey, are the main livestock kept. Some households also keep dairy buffaloes and poultry.

Dairying and other livestock activities contribute 63% of household income, cropping the remaining 37%.

Crop residues (most of which until recently were purchased) are the primary component of the feed for the farm animals and are relied on throughout the year.

Purchased concentrate feeds such as wheat bran and commercially mixed rations provide a significant portion of the dietary metabolizable energy and crude protein.

ILRI has been working with FORWARD for just over one year to improve understanding in these farming communities of key animal health, nutrition and reproduction concepts, so that the farmers can reduce the costs of their milk production, with purchased feed being the main cost.

Farmhouse goats in Nepal

Two goats kept by a farm household in Nepal in a community served by the ILRI-FORWARD-CSISA project (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Goats are the most popular livestock species kept within the area. Eighty percent of households keep 2–3 goats, which are used to fulfil household meat requirements and/or sold at irregular intervals for slaughter. Half the households here keep improved dairy cows, primarily Holstein-Freisian and Jersey, with each household keeping some 2–3 cows. About 10% of the households maintain local buffalo, and 5% improved buffalo such as Murrah, for milking, with each household keeping 1–2 animals. Local cows and buffalo are the cheapest dairy animals available, costing about 10,000Rs (USD$141) and 30,000Rs (USD$423) per head respectively. Improved cows and buffalo are available for 80000–90000Rs (USD$1128–USD$1269) per head. Dairy animals in this area produce approximately 3141 litres of milk per head per year, with sales of milk generating 249446Rs (USD$3519) per household annually.

Man and buffalo in Nepal

Bhim Bahadur Bogati, father-in-law of dairy woman Nirmala Bogati, and his son’s staff-kept buffalo cow (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The dairy animals are usually maintained in purpose built sheds in close proximity to the household and stall fed throughout the year. The shed will generally only have temporary walls that are erected during winter months to keep the animals warm. During summer months, the walls are removed to allow air to circulate around the animals to keep them cool.

To find out more, read: Characterisation of the livestock production system and the potential of feed‐based interventions in the municipality of Ratnanagar and Gitanagar in the Chitwan district of southern Nepal, September 2010.

Notes
About FEAST
Feed for livestock is often cited as the main constraint to improved productivity in smallholder systems. Overcoming this constraint often seems an elusive goal and technical feed interventions tend to adopt a scattergun or trial and error approach which often fails to adequately diagnose the nature of the feed problem and opportunities and therefore the means to deal with problems and harness opportunities. The purpose of the Feed Assessment Tool described here is to offer a systematic and rapid methodology for assessing feed resources at site level with a view to developing a site-specific strategy for improving feed supply and utilization through technical or organizational interventions. Output from FEAST consists of a short report in a defined format along with some quantitative information on overall feed availability, quality and seasonality which can be used to help inform intervention strategies. The tool is aimed at research and development practitioners who are working in the livestock sector and need a more systematic means of assessing current feed-related strategies and developing new ones.

About CSISA
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) applies science and technologies to accelerate cereal production growth in South Asia’s most important grain baskets. CSISA works in partnerships in 9 intensive cereal-production ‘hubs’ in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to boost deployment of existing crop varieties, hybrids, management technologies and market information. CSISA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development and conducted by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Program (CIMMYT), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), ILRI and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

ILRI DAIRY FEED INTERVENTIONS IN SOUTH ASIA
Last September, ILRI held a workshop in Dehradun, northern India, to develop a tool for feed technology screening and prioritization. Last December, ILRI and national research institutions and NGOs from Bangladesh, India and Nepal conducted dairy feed experimental trials and demonstrated better use of crop residues for feeding to their dairy cows. Thirteen participants from four sites in Haryana, India (National Dairy Research Institute); Bihar, India (Bihar Veterinary College, Sarairanjan Primary Agricultural Cooperative Society); Chitwan, Nepal (Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development); and Dinajpur, Bangladesh (Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) shared their results of the feed intervention trials and related training activities.

ETHIOPIAN LIVESTOCK FEEDS PROJECT (ELF)
This week (21–22 Feb 2012), an inception workshop for an Ethiopian Livestock Feeds Project (ELF) is taking place at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The project involves a short scoping study that will be used to help further develop and test rapid livestock feed assessment methods such as FEAST and Techfit. This work is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Frontline livestock disease research in, and for, Africa highlighted in White House conversation today

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with many partners to improve control of major diseases of cattle in Africa.

East Coast fever in African cattle, one of the target diseases of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is included in a message today at the White House delivered by Raj Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Shah will remind his audience that East Coast fever kills one cow every 30 seconds in Africa. Watch the live stream and join the conversation at 11am ET at the White House today, when Shah and others will answer questions about Innovations for Global Development.

Two other target diseases of ILRI’s are contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and trypanosomosis. All three diseases affect millions of the world’s poorest farmers. And all remain underfunded because they occur mostly in developing regions of the world.

ILRI recently produced three short films on research battles against these diseases.

CBPP: A new vaccine project starts
Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (known by its acronym, CBPP) is found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, where it causes most harm in pastoralist areas. The disease kills up to 15% of infected animals, reduces the meat and milk yields of infected cows (milk yields drop by up to 90%), and reduces the ability of infected oxen to pull ploughs and do other kinds of farm work. An existing ‘live’ vaccine against this disease produces severe side effects and gives only limited protection.

Watch this short (runtime: 2:35) ILRI film, ‘Developing a Vaccine for a Highly Contagious Cattle Disease’, on the research recently begun at ILRI and its partner institutes, including the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, to develop a more effective vaccine against this form of acute cattle pneumonia. This research is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Trypanosomosis: A genetic approach to its control
Trypanosomosis, called sleeping sickness in humans, is a wasting disease that maims and eventually kills millions of cattle in Africa and costs farmers billions of dollars annually.

In 2011, using the latest gene mapping and genomic technologies, researchers at ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, animal health laboratories and at institutes in the UK and Ireland identified two genes that enable Africa’s ancient N’Dama cattle breed to resist development of the disease when infected with the causative, trypanosome, parasite.

This breakthrough should eventually make it easier for Africa’s livestock breeders to breed animals that will remain healthy and productive in areas infested by the parasite-carrying tsetse fly. The international team that came together in this project is an example of the disciplinary breadth and agility needed to do frontline biology today, and the complex research approaches and technologies now needed to unravel fundamental biological issues so as to benefit world’s poor.

ILRI’s collaborating institutes in this work include Liverpool University; the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh; Trinity College, Dublin; and the University of Manchester. The Wellcome Trust funded the bulk of the work in this project.

Watch this short (runtime: 5:28) ILRI film, ‘Battling a Killer Cattle Disease’, on the international partnership that made this breakthrough in trypanosomosis research.

 

Trypanosomosis: A community-based approach to its control
Another ILRI research team has been working with partners and livestock keepers in West Africa to develop safer ways to treat their cattle with drugs to protect them from trypanosomosis. Parasite resistance to the trypanocidal drugs used to treat and prevent this disease has emerged in many areas and is a growing problem for farmers and governments alike. This collaborative research team recently developed good practices in the use of trypanocides to slow the emergence of drug resistance in the parasites that cause the disease. This film describes the disease and these practices, known as ‘rational drug use’, clearly and in detail to help veterinary workers and farmers treat animals safely.

ILRI’s partners in this project include the Centre International de Recherche-Développement sur l’Elevage en Zone Subhumid, Freie Universität Berlin, Laboratoire Vétérinaire Centrale du Mali, Centre Régional de la Recherche Agricole Sikasso, Project de Lutte contra la Mouche Tsétsé et la Trypanosomose (Mali), Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (Mali), University of Hannover, Direction Nationale de l’Elevage et l’Institut de Recherche Agronomique de Guinée, Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Control Unit (Ghana), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Bénin and the Nigerian Institute of Trypanosomiasis Research. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Watch this ILRI film, ‘Community-Based Integrated Control of Trypanosomosis in Cattle’ (runtime: 12.48), for clear instructions on how to deploy drugs to better control trypanosomosis over the long term.

‘Feed the Future’: Connecting ALL the (agricultural research) dots in the Ethiopian highlands

Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands: Project Design Workshop—Project Outline and concepts

Watch and listen to a 17-minute (audio-enhanced) slide presentation made by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali on the ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands,’ 30 Jan 2012.

Can scientists make the whole of agricultural research for development greater than the sum of its parts? That’s the aim of a new initiative starting this year in three regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of an American ‘Feed the Future’ initiative to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three agricultural research projects aiming to help Africa’s smallholders intensify their production systems and do so in ways that are sustainable.

These projects will be conducted in three regions of Africa: Sustainable intensification of cereal-based farming systems (1) in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa and (2) in East and Southern Africa, both led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria; and (3) Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands, led by the International Livestock Research Institue (ILRI).

These three African agricultural intensification projects were all launched this year (2012) with design workshops. A wiki has information on the three workshops, including their agendas and outputs.

The design workshop for the project in the Ethiopian highlands has just started at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. ILRI’s director for its People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, agronomist Shirley Tarawali, who will soon take up a new position as ILRI’s director of institutional planning, gave a 17-minute slide presentation on the project (above).

Tarawali said in her presentation that the project is ambitious to fix the disconnect between separate research projects on separate agricultural topics (livestock, cereals, water, and so on) by identifying and then pulling together the best research outputs from the separate research projects. Such outputs include, for example, the identification of legumes and cereals that will better feed livestock as well as people (and sometimes soils as well); ways to make more strategic use of scarce fertilizers and optimal combinations of organic (manure) and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers; and more efficient ways to use water resources.

Add these kinds of useful products together and we could benefit whole farming systems,’ says Tarawali.

To learn more, or to contribute to the discussions, visit a blog about this Feed the Future initiative in the Ethiopian highlands.

Read an ILRI Clippings Blog about this initiative: Experts meet in Addis Ababa to design new agricultural research project for Ethiopian highlands, 30 Jan 2012.

Read more about the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems in the developing world:

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection, 7 Dec 2011.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system, 23 Jun 2011.

 

 

Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments

Education on livestock insurance

Pastoralists from Marsabit, in Kenya’s remote northern drylands, play a game crafted by ILRI scientists to simulate livestock losses that could occur due to drought, in which the local herding communities are educated about how index-based livestock insurance works (image credit: ILRI).

As livestock deaths mount, a small group of herders in Kenya’s Marsabit District is first to benefit from program that tracks forage conditions via satellite.

In the midst of a drought-induced food crisis affecting millions in the Horn of Africa, an innovative insurance program for poor livestock keepers is making its first payouts today, providing compensation for some 650 insured herders in northern Kenya’s vast Marsabit District who have lost up to a third of their animals.

Known as index-based livestock insurance, or IBLI, payouts are triggered when satellite images show that grazing lands in the region have deteriorated to the point that herders are expected to be losing more than 15% of their herd. The current readings for which indemnities are now being paid show that between 18 and 33% of livestock have been lost to drought this season.

‘It’s terrible that we are seeing this level of loss, but gratifying that the policies are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to help herders avert disaster when weather conditions dry up pasture lands and animals begin to perish,’ said Isaac Magina, head of agriculture insurance at UAP Insurance Ltd.

‘When you look at a 33% loss, that is a significant portion of the asset base of any business and it would be difficult to survive without insurance,’ added Magina.

The insurance project was developed in partnership by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative program at the University of California at Davis. Commercial partners Equity Bank and UAP Insurance Ltd implement the program. The IBLI project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union, the British Government, the World Bank, the Microinsurance Facility and the Global Index Insurance Facility.

The Marsabit District alone is home to some 86 thousand cattle and 2 million goats and sheep that generate millions of dollars in milk and other products and serve as the main source of sustenance and income. ILRI estimates that up to one-third of all livestock in the region have perished during the current drought.

In East Africa, an estimated 70 million people live in the drylands, and many of them are herders. In Kenya, the value of the pastoral livestock sector is estimated to be worth USD800 million. And the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa, which takes a regional approach to combating drought in six countries of the Horn, estimates that over 90% of the meat consumed in East Africa comes from pastoral herds.

Under the terms of the policy, insured herders are compensated for any losses above 15%, with the 15% threshold acting as a sort of deductible. For example, a cattle herder who lives in an area with a livestock mortality rate of 33% receives a payout covering 18% of his or her animals. With cattle valued at about 15,000 Kenyan shillings (Ksh) per head (about USD150), an insurance policy covering 10 animals, or Kshs150,000 in cattle, would pay out at about Kshs27,000 (about USD270).

When the 15% deductible is factored in, compensation ranges from 3% in areas where the drought has been more moderate to 18% in the areas where herders were hit particularly hard. But in an indication of the severity of the drought, all of the areas where the policies were sold have exceeded the 15%mortality threshold that triggers a payout. Thus far, the policies cover about 1,100 animals—mostly cattle, but some goats and sheep and a few camels as well.

The payments are being dispatched in the middle of a humanitarian crisis endangering 12 million people in the Horn that is prompting a call for new ways to manage food security risks in East Africa’s arid drylands. For example, a recent report from ILRI has found that the pastoral approach to livestock production, in which herders make do with marginal lands by regularly moving their herds, could be very effective at averting weather-related food shortages. ILRI experts say that in arid and semi-arid regions, keeping livestock can be a more effective coping strategy than cultivating crops—if herders have options for reducing their vulnerability to drought.

‘Drought insurance is one important way to help livestock keepers maintain food security even in very harsh environments,’ said Andrew Mude, the IBLI project leader at ILRI. ‘Insurance is not by itself sufficient,’ he added, ‘But if it is accompanied by other risk-reducing strategies, such as better access to grazing lands and watering areas, then the pastoralist approach, which some people dismiss as a backward lifestyle of the past, emerges as a very effective way to meet future food needs.’

Mude said that it is too early to tell just how the payouts from the policies will affect food security and other welfare indicators. For example, it’s not yet clear how many herders will use the compensation to replace animals lost to the drought. But Mude said one major success thus far is that the livestock mortality index that is at the heart of the program appears to be working. The fatality rate predicted by the satellite assessments of forage loss is tracking very closely surveys of animal deaths on the ground.

That’s crucial because using freely available satellite images of pasture lands to accurately predict animal deaths overcomes a major barrier that has bedeviled past efforts to provide livestock insurance in poor regions: the prohibitively high costs and logistics of confirming animal deaths in herds that roam across vast distances in extremely remote areas.

‘This is all still a work in progress,’ said Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI. ‘But the fact that our relatively inexpensive approach to estimating livestock deaths seems to be accurate could open the door to making livestock insurance widely available in many parts of Africa.’

Going forward, experts believe a key issue will be whether livestock insurance in East Africa would be commercially viable by itself or whether its ability to protect herders from the impact of prolonged drought might justify some level of financial support from governments or donors, as agricultural insurance programs in Western countries often do.

‘This is asset insurance for animals that are the centerpiece of livelihoods, providing a stream of income and nutrition for years and years,’ said Mude. ‘The investment in insurance=based asset safety nets protecting these herds could have a more cost-effective welfare impact over the longer term than other forms of response such a food and cash assistance.’

‘This insurance scheme is a great example of how partnerships with the private sector can lift people out of poverty and provide long-term solutions to food crises,’ said Andrew Mitchell, the British international development secretary.

‘To many farmers, losing their cattle means losing everything, as they are not just a source of income but are their only source of food. Support from Britain and others means that more than 600 herders in Northern Kenya can buy more cattle to replace those they have lost. This means they are better able to cope with this and future devastating droughts.’

CGIAR media briefing on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa: A strengthened and joined-up approach is needed

CGIAR Consortium Media Briefing at ILRI in Nairobi 1 Sep 2011

A journalist at the CGIAR Media Briefing held on 1 September 2011 at ILRI: Experts have called for a strengthened and joined-up approach of addressing food crises in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Meredith Braden).

A panel of experts on the Horn of Africa has called for greater investment in agricultural development, greater support for agricultural research, and greater cooperation between research, government, private sector and development actors. These can speed the adoption of innovations by farmers and herders, helping millions of food producers in the Horn of Africa now facing the severest drought in this region in six decades.

Speaking today at a news briefing organized by the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres, with the briefing hosted and backstopped by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, the experts called for a ‘matching of investments in infrastructure development with investments in knowledge’ to get more research into use.

The experts were interviewed by more than 20 journalists on the subject of ‘Famine in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigating Drought-Induced Food Crises’. The experts were leaders of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the CGIAR, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Food Program.

‘It is not drought but vulnerability to drought that is eroding livelihoods in these areas,’ said Jeff Hill, Director of Policy, Bureau for Food Aid, at USAID. ‘And this vulnerability is largely a result of decades of under-investment in agriculture and sustainable food security in the region.’ This is despite the fact that livestock production in the arid and semi-arid lands in the Horn of Africa contributes 35–45 and 45–50 percent of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) in Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively. ‘However,’ Hill said, ‘the current national development plans in Ethiopia and Kenya recognize the value of these regions and should be supported by all because they are offering a chance to build a coalition of support to sustainably address and tackle the challenges experienced in the arid and semi-arid lands.’

Mark Gordon, from the World Food Programme, co-chair of Somalia Interagency Food Cluster, reported that ‘Below-normal rainfall in recent seasons has dried up water points used for animals and crops, increased the prices of food and fuel, tightened global food supply chains, and led to more political- and resource-based conflicts.’

The solutions to the current problem ‘have been discussed for decades,’ noted the expert panel. It reminded the journalists that the current drought is not a ‘one-off event.’ The current problem offers an opportunity to ‘scale up the use of tested knowledge, and make research a key investment area,’ said Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. He added that ‘We have to adapt agriculture to the changing nature of our environment, change our market structures to accommodate and promote drought-tolerant crops and we should consider adjusting our food habits to make better use of crops that are adapted to the region.’

The panel proposed the creation of commodity exchanges for food crops to help reduce speculation on food prices and widening insurance protection for livestock keepers to help them rebuild their livelihoods after drought. Other ways of helping to avert future food crises mentioned include the application of community-based emergency recovery and resilience-building interventions, such as sustainable land management programs, construction of soil banks and underground reservoirs. ‘There is need to use proven, tested and appropriate technologies to work with vulnerable households for “the next time, the next shock” happens,’ said Gordon.

‘The current drought is a warning shot, an early indication of the immense challenges that we face in the future, not only in [the Horn of Africa] but around the world,’ said Lloyd Le Page, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. ‘Despite the challenges to livestock herding and crop farming in this region, we can prevent [food crises] from happening,’ said Le Page, ‘if we are willing to embrace research and policies that give farmers in the region the tools they need to be resilient in the face of increasing uncertainty.’

Find out more about the media briefing on the CGIAR Consortium website: http://consortium.cgiar.org/hoa/

Ongoing drought in Horn may trigger first-ever insurance payments to remote African livestock herders

ILRI researcher with local people in Marsabit, Kenya

ILRI researcher holds discussions with local pastoral herders in Marsabit, in Kenya’s northern drylands, for ILRI’s Index-based Livestock Insurance project (photo credit: ILRI/Mude).

SciDevNet reports that, due to the great drought engulfing the Horn of Africa, an ‘index-based’ livestock insurance scheme for herders in Kenya’s remote Marsabit District may make payments to those who had earlier purchased the insurance. This is the first time insurance has ever been offered Kenya’s remote livestock herders, and these would be the first payments for those who have insured their stock.

What is ‘index-based’ livestock insurance?
Index-based livestock insurance makes the risk-management benefits of insurance available to poor and remote clients. The product being piloted in Marsabit District by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners, including the private sector, aims to provide compensation to insured pastoralists in the event of livestock losses due to severe forage scarcity. Incorporating remotely-sensed vegetation data in its design, delivered via mobile ICT-based transactions platforms, and with experimental extension methods used to educate the remote pastoral herders, this insurance product boasts many firsts in product development. Payments are triggered when severe drought makes forage scarce over a long period and when it can be predicted from that that more than 15 per cent of livestock in the area will have died of starvation.

SciDevNet reports the following.
‘Insurers will assess in October whether Kenyan farmers signed up to the Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme will receive their first payment, after the worst drought in the region for 60 years.

‘The scheme, which has been piloted in northern Kenya since early 2010, uses freely-available satellite data to assess the state of pastures. When the images show that pastures have dried up, farmers can claim compensation for animals that have died as a result—without insurers having to verify the deaths in person.

‘In Kenya about 2,500 farmers have purchased the product since its inception, paying a yearly premium of up to US$100 for 6–8 animals. . . .

‘”So far, the predicted mortality [rate is] high—but we have to wait for the final tally at the end of October in order to determine whether or not there will be a payout,” said Brenda Wandera, project development manager at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya, which implemented the scheme.

‘The scheme will be extended to southern Ethiopia in February 2012 to help mitigate the effects of drought. It will initially target 2,700 pastoralists.

The aim is to find a viable insurance tool that could cushion pastoralists from heavy losses experienced during droughts, according to Wandera.’

‘ILRI will partner with the Nyala Insurance s.c. company in Ethiopia, with support from the International Food Policy Research Institute, the US international development agency USAID and the World Bank. . . .’

The technical partners in this project
Cornell University
Index Insurance Innovation Initiative
Syracuse University (Maxwell School)
University of Wisconsin (BASIS Research Program)

The implementing partners
Equity Insurance Agency
UAP Insurance Limited
Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya
Kenya Meteorological Department
Kenya Ministry of Development of Northen Kenya and other Arid Lands
Kenya Ministry of Livestock

The donor agencies
UK Department for International Development (DFID)
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
World Bank

Read the whole article at SciDevNet: Kenyan farmers may soon receive first drought payout, 15 Aug 2011.

For more information, visit the blog of ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance project.

American researchers publish timely book on East African pastoralism: ‘Build on–don’t replace–the region’s livestock economies’

Peter Little

Peter Little, co-author of the timely new publication, Risk and Social Change in an African Rural Economy: Livelihoods in Pastoralist Communities, and  leader of a recent review of ILRI’s pastoral research (photo credit: Emory University).

Risk and Social Change in an African Rural Economy: Livelihoods in Pastoralist Communities is a new book published by research partners John McPeak and Peter Little, of a Livestock-Climate Change initiative of the Collaborative Research Support Program (Livestock-CC-CRSP).

The book summarizes the results of a multi-year interdisciplinary research project in pastoral areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. The authors describe the ecology and social context in which pastoralism takes place, with a particular focus on the risks that confront people living in these drylands, and how these risks are often triggered by highly variable rainfall conditions, a symptom of climate change.

The authors go on to describe the livelihood strategies employed by pastoralists in these areas, with a focus on how well-being is tied to access to livestock and the cash economy. They conclude that the future development activities need to be built on the foundation of the livestock economy, instead of seeking to replace it.

Those wanting expert advice on how to help pastoralists suffering from a great drought afflicting the Horn of Africa today either to rebuild their shattered lives when the next rains come or to help them prevent such a catastrophe from occurring again in this region will profit from reading this book, which concludes with how development activities ‘are assessed by people in the area and what activities they prioritize for the future.’

John McPeak is an associate professor and vice-chair in the Department of Public Administration in the Maxwell School of Syracuse University; he is a member of a Livestock-CC-CRSP project in Mali and leads another project in Senegal. Peter Little is professor of anthropology and director of a Program in Development Studies at Emory University and leads a Livestock-CC-CRSP project in Ethiopia and Kenya. This project is known as CHAINS, which stands for ‘Climate variability, pastoralism, and commodity chains in Ethiopia and Kenya.’ The CRSP initiatives are funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Co-author Peter Little headed a recent review of pastoral research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Addis ababa, Ethiopia, two countries whose dryland pastoralists are suffering from the current drought in the Horn of Africa. Little concurs with many others when he says that, ‘The famine in Somalia is an unfortunate intersection of failed rain, politics and conflict.’

The following is a description of the book from Routledge.

‘Pastoralists’ role in contemporary Africa typically goes underappreciated and misunderstood by development agencies, external observers, and policymakers.

Yet arid and semi-arid lands, which are used predominantly for extensive livestock grazing, comprise nearly half of the continent’s land mass, while a substantial proportion of national economies are based on pastoralist activities.

‘Pastoralists use these drylands to generate income for themselves through the use of livestock and for the coffers of national trade and revenue agencies. They are frequently among the continent’s most contested and lawless regions, providing sanctuary to armed rebel groups and exposing residents to widespread insecurity and destructive violence.

The continent’s millions of pastoralists thus inhabit some of Africa’s harshest and most remote, but also most ecologically, economically, and politically important regions.

‘This study summarizes the findings of a multi-year interdisciplinary research project in pastoral areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. The cultures and ecology of these areas are described, with a particular focus on the myriad risks that confront people living in these drylands, and how these risks are often triggered by highly variable rainfall conditions. The authors examine the markets used by residents of these areas to sell livestock and livestock products and purchase consumer goods before turning to an analysis of evolving livelihood strategies. Furthermore, they focus on how well-being is conditioned upon access to livestock and access to the cash economy, gender patterns within households and the history of development activities in the area. The book concludes with a report on how these activities are assessed by people in the area and what activities they prioritize for the future.

‘Policy in pastoral areas is often formulated on the basis of assumptions and stereotypes, without adequate empirical foundations. This book provides evidence on livelihood strategies being followed in pastoral areas, and investigates patterns in decision making and well being. It indicates the importance of livestock to the livelihoods of people in these areas, and identifies the critical and widespread importance of access to the cash economy, concluding that future development activities need to be built on the foundation of the livestock economy, instead of seeking to replace it.’

Get the book—Risk and Social Change in an African Rural Economy: Livelihoods in Pastoralist Communities, by John G McPeak, Peter D Little, Cheryl R Doss, published 28 Jul 2011, by Routledge, 206 pages—from Routledge online.

Best ways to manage responses to recurring drought in Kenya’s drylands

cattle carcass_Kitengela_NNP_border_1

The carcass of a cow that died of starvation in the Kitengela rangelands, near Nairobi National Park, in the great drought of 2009 (photo on Flickr by Jeff Haskins).

Those working to mitigate the impacts of the current drought in the Horn of Africa and to help prevent severe hunger and starvation from occurring here in future will profit from a close reading of a 2010 report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This report—An Assessment of the Response to the 2008–2009 Drought in Kenya: A Report commissioned by the European Delegation to the Republic of Kenya—reviews the effectiveness of livestock-based drought response interventions during Kenya’s devastating 2008–2009 drought and suggests ways to improve the current drought management system and to incorporate climate change adaptation strategies into the country’s drought management policies.

Major findings of the report

The overriding importance of mobility
Without a single exception, all pastoralist groups interviewed consider mobility and access to natural resources as the most potent mechanism for coping with drought. Ironically, this is also the activity that is increasingly the most impeded. Interventions that facilitate and/or maintain critical migratory movement and/or allow access to unused grazing areas will continue to serve as the most powerful way to mitigate livestock losses during a drought. Often the funds required to achieve this are minimal compared to other interventions and as such it is also the most cost-effective intervention. Interventions targeting the removal of restrictions to mobility and access should be considered as prime activities during preparedness.

The importance of functioning livestock markets
Participants of a one-day workshop on commercial destocking in Marsabit District said that a successful commercial de-stocking intervention is next to impossible if the district does not already have a functioning, fully fledged, dynamic livestock trade as an ongoing activity during ‘normal’ times. ‘Emergency’ commercial de-stocking, they said, should in that case not be necessary because the commercial sector, if functioning, should be capable to up-scale its activity if and when there appeared a drought-related market surplus of stock.

Drought responses are falling behind
Although the drought responses presented here appear to be more effective and timely than responses to earlier droughts, these recent responses are not keeping up with an ongoing decline in many pastoral households in livestock assets and coping capacities. Furthermore, poor governance, lack of political will and mismanagement of funds plague efforts to move from relief responses to longer term development interventions. And conflicts over land, closely linked to a rapid population growth in Kenya, remain largely unresolved, with indications that these conflicts are only increasing and severely restricting pastoral mobility.

Lack of involvement of local communities
Local communities were not involved in the design and implementation of most interventions to help them cope with the drought. The single community to be consulted was in Laikipia, and that consultation was restricted to just one topic: livestock off-take. A Kajiado Naserian community that wanted support with finding alternative livelihoods so that it could stop relying on relief food actually found a goat distribution project that involved the community to be more successful than any relief interventions. Another community, in Isiolo’s Merti location, prefers a viable livestock market to any government-funded livestock off-take program and sees investments in pasture management as one way to solve the feed problems during drought.

Lessons learned
The good news
Increased semi-permanent presence of key non-governmental organizations in critical areas that are able to encompass a realistic drought management cycle approach has substantially improved information and speed of response. This, in combination with improved collaboration between agencies, together with improved coordination has at face value improved both the quality and timeliness of responses to droughts. The continued implementation of a basket of suitable preparedness activities remains the most cost-effective approach to reduce the impact of shocks. Activities such as those implemented by a regional ‘Drought Preparedness’ program of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and a project on ‘Enhanced Livelihoods in the Mandera Triangle’ funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are beginning to show a marked impact.

The bad news
But this good news is largely negated by other factors, such as reduced line ministry capacity, administrative/institutional changes such as the relentless creation of new districts, and conflicts. In some arid districts and in overall humanitarian terms, drought emergencies are no longer caused solely by prolonged periods of rainfall deficit; rather, such emergencies are increasingly provoked by many factors acting in concert, with the most important contributing factor being reduced access to high-potential grazing lands. This situation is itself caused, and heavily exacerbated, by a relentlessly increasing demographic pressure that is creating whole populations with scarce access to any animal resources at all. These dryland communities are left highly vulnerable to shocks.

Other major findings

The problems underlying dryland livestock-based livelihoods cannot be solved by relief interventions alone; their solutions require long-term research and development strategies and programs that build on and strengthen rather than undermine local institution, livelihood strategies and coping strategies.

Population growth and the continued and unplanned creation of settlements without access to permanent water continue to put a huge burden on humanitarian sources during a drought.

Communities found corruption and mismanagement to be bigger problems than ineffective interventions.

A Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS, 2009) handbook, summarizing livestock-specific interventions, is an excellent toolkit supporting relief practitioners, but much remains to be improved regarding the appropriate timing of such interventions.

The lack of a coordinated approach in, and access to, reliable livestock statistics, both numerical and distribution wise, remains a huge constraint in the overall management of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands.

To prevent delays in the release of emergency funds, drought contingency plans should be regularly updated and contain agreed-upon quantitative triggers for the release of funds to implement interventions and creation of a sufficiently endowed national drought contingency fund deserves the highest priority.

About the report
In late 2009, at the conclusion of Kenya’s 2008–2009 drought, the European Union delegation funded this review of responses to the drought to help Kenya improve its drought management system by recommending more appropriate, effective and timely livestock-based interventions. The report begins by characterizing the severity of the two-year drought and assessing how well its impacts were forecasted. It then reviews 474 livestock-based interventions carried out during the 2008–2009 drought in six arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya. It recommends which livestock-related interventions to implement during drought (including specific advice on commercial destocking) and provides a checklist of advised livestock-based interventions for different scenarios. It offers guidelines for effective monitoring and evaluation. And it identifies where the drought response intervention cycle is hampered by policy constraints and how these might be addressed.

About drought in Kenya
Drought is the prime recurrent natural disaster in Kenya. It affects 10 million, mostly livestock-dependent, people in the country’s arid and semi-arid lands; remarkably, these non-arable lands cover more than 80 per cent of the country’s land mass. While reducing the country’s economic performance, recurring droughts particularly erode the assets of the poor, who herd cattle, camels, sheep, goats over the more marginal drylands. This regular erosion of animal assets is undermining the livelihoods of Kenya’s pastoral herding communities, provoking many households into a downward spiral of chronic hunger and severe poverty.

About Kenya’s drought management system
Since 1996, the Office of the President in Kenya, supported by the World Bank, has been implementing an Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP) in the country’s drought-prone and marginalized communities. The ALRMP, further supported by the European Union, funded a Drought Management Initiative and consolidated a national drought management system with structures at the national (Kenya Food Security Meeting, Kenya Food Security Steering Group), district (District Steering Group) and community levels. This drought management system includes policies and strategies, an early warning system, a funded contingency plan and an overall drought coordination and response structure. The main stakeholders involved, in addition to the Government of Kenya and its line ministries, are various development partners and non-governmental organizations. The most far-reaching changes to Kenya’s drought management system since its inception are now under way and include major institutional changes through the creation of a Drought Management Authority and a National Drought Contingency Fund.

About the drought of 2008–2009
The results of this study confirm that the 2008–2009 drought was extreme not only in meteorological and rangeland production terms, but also in terms of its devastating impacts on livestock resources. It is estimated that some 57 per cent of cattle and 65 per cent of sheep, for example, perished in Samburu Central District in 2009; in Laikipia North District, it is reported that 64 per cent of the cattle and 62 per cent of the sheep died over the 2008–2009 period. (Note that these estimates, being mostly subjective, give more of an impression than a reliable estimate of the impacts of the drought on Kenya’s livestock populations.)

What’s in this report?
Chapter 3 provides a general characterization of Kenya’s 2008/2009 drought. Chapter 4, assesses the drought responses in six arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya (Kajiado, Isiolo, Samburu, Laikipia, Turkana and Marsabit), incorporating feedback from a variety of stakeholders at district and national levels. Chapter 5 provides a checklist for drought-response scenarios; Chapter 6, guidelines for monitoring and evaluating responses to drought; and Chapter 7, a plan for commercial destocking in one of these districts. Chapter 8 summarizes climate change forecasts for Kenya and assesses the need for incorporating climate change adaptation policies into the country’s drought management strategies. Chapter 9 discusses the implications of the findings and makes recommendations. Chapter 10 distils lessons learned. This report is similar to an evaluation of responses to the 2000/2001 drought in Kenya (by Y Aklilu and M Wekesa) and reviews to what extent their recommendations were effectively implemented.

The report’s findings in a nutshell
The number of livestock interventions made increased dramatically between the 2000/2001 and 2008/2009 droughts. The total expenditure was also greater in 2008/2009 (USD4.6 million for 6 districts) than in 2000/20001 (USD4 million in 10 districts). ALRMP and the Kenya Government were the main funders of the efforts. Unfortunately, most livestock-related interventions began very late, in early to mid 2009, well past the optimal timing closer to the onset of the drought, in mid-2008. The ALRMP interventions started earliest, reportedly because it was the only organization with funds readily available through its Drought Contingency mode, when the drought became apparent to all. A total of more than 1.5 million people benefited directly from the interventions made in 2008/2009. The cost per individual reached was Kshs3,362, ranging from Kshs163 for water trucking to Kshs8,652 for emergency destocking. An estimated 15,873 tropical livestock units were purchased as part of emergency off-take. Over 5.7 million animals were reached by health interventions between July 2008 and December 2009. Over 1.5 million people were reached by interventions, 413,802 with traditional livestock interventions (destocking, animal health and feeds).

Practical lessons learned

Lesson 1
The most effective interventions were those that facilitated access to under-utilized grazing and watering resources. Those districts in Kenya with little new access to these natural resources are the most vulnerable.

Lesson 2
So-called ‘commercial de-stocking’ remains the least cost-effective drought intervention in Kenya. Long distances to markets, poor timing of interventions and lack of economies of scale all play important roles in making this kind of de-stocking unviable. But more than anything else, lack of an existing dynamic marketing system virtually precludes a commercial de-stocking operation from being cost-effective.

Lesson 3
‘Livestock-fodder-aid’ comes a close second in terms of poor cost-effectiveness. Shipping substantial quantities of bulky commodities such as hay to remote locations is extremely costly and moreover has had little if any measurable impact.

Lesson 4
Slaughter off-take, preferably carried out on the spot, with the meat distributed rapidly to needy families, is a popular intervention with beneficiaries and can provide substantial benefits. Those that sell a live animal often benefit also from the distribution of its meat. And the availability of this high-protein food can benefit household nutrition while allowing the selling households to maintain a little purchasing power a little longer.

More specific findings

The number of livestock-related interventions and the funding associated with these both increased considerably over the interventions carried out during the last drought in Kenya, in 2000/2001.

Once established, risk management systems tend to become static, but effective risk-management systems need to be adaptive and to build in mechanisms for people to ‘learn’.

Few interventions were made by mid-2008, when the drought was already apparent. Early interventions are preferable as they are more effective. Yet 63 per cent of all interventions, and all destocking programs, were conducted after June 2009, when the drought was at its peak.

Centrally managed interventions from Nairobi, such as the provision of fodder and the Ministry of Livestock Development-funded market off-take through the Kenya Meat Commission, had little impact and would have been many times more effective if funds had been made available through Drought Management Structures. (Considerable harm was done when publicized sales of stock never materialized, with large numbers of the animals herded to specified collection points suffering horribly and dying for lack of water and fodder.)

Unmanaged resource-related conflicts among ethnic groups were reported to be a major constraint to an equitable use of the diminishing natural resource base.

Bringing in water with tankers, maintaining and developing boreholes and destocking by slaughter in the affected areas were generally considered to be the most effective interventions. Most ‘other water’ and animal feeding interventions were considered ineffective.

Being more effective is not simply a question of spending more money; significant gains can be made by improving the way current resources are spent. (Across all types of interventions, no significant relationship was found between the effectiveness of a given intervention and its cost per individual reached.)

The problems of many unsuccessful interventions, such as animal feed and health, were due largely to inefficiency of implementation and/or poor timing.

A third more animals were moved in 2008/2009 than in 2000/2001. As disease killed many of the animals that migrated, animal health interventions should be included in future migration strategies.

Hay provisioning, which when well done might be an appropriate intervention, was generally too late and too little to have any significant impact on supporting animal herds through the drought.

Apart from Turkana and Samburu districts, no information on livestock marketing was disseminated or off-take exercises publicized, resulting in late off-takes and a greater expenditure of resources for off-take during the emergency stage than during the alert/alarm stage.

Bulletins put out by EWS (Early Warning Systems) provide overly generalized information, with no specific livestock focus, making the information inappropriate for livestock interventions. The information also often appears late, is too generic for district-specific interventions, and defines no thresholds for the release of contingency funds.

A lack of publicly available near-real-time and historic rainfall data hampered the real time analysis of rainfall anomalies. From a timeliness perspective, rainfall data is the most appropriate source of information for early warning, as it allows the longest response time to scale up relief operations. A number of organizational issues in the hands of government could improve this situation.

Analysis of monthly vegetation greenness anomalies does not appropriately reveal rangeland drought conditions relevant for livestock, as livestock manages to cope with shorter periods of reduced forage availability. A twelve-month running average of NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) detected historic droughts much more precisely, indicating the usefulness of running average techniques for rangeland early warning purposes.

Satellite imagery allows near real time to screen opportunities for migration and identify for remedial conflict resolution in areas of high insecurity.

The reporting on livestock body condition, milk production and productivity proved to be inconsistent across districts, frequently incomplete and with units of measurement unspecified, indicating the need to harmonize the collection of livestock statistics.

Read ILRI’s whole report: An assessment of the response to the 2008–2009 drought in Kenya: A report to the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kenya, 2010, by Lammert Zwaagstra, Zahra Sharif, Ayago Wambile, Jan de Leeuw, Mohamed Said, Nancy Johnson, Jemimah Njuki, Polly Ericksen and Mario Herrero.

* * *

Read an earlier ILRI News blog on this report: Livestock-based research recommendations for better managing drought in Kenya, 18 Jul 2011.

Three other recent ILRI research reports, published since that above, also assess the effectiveness of past drought interventions in Kenya’s northern drylands and offer tools for better management of the region’s drought cycles.

(1) ILRI research charts ways to better livestock-related drought interventions in Kenya’s drylands. ILRI Policy Brief (this is a distillation of recommendations in the report above), Jul 2011, by Jan de Leeuw, Polly Ericksen, Jane Gitau, Lammert Zwaagstra and Susan MacMillan

(2) The impacts of the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMPII) on livelihoods and vulnerability in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya. ILRI Research Report 25, 2011, edited by Nancy Johnson and Ayago Wambile.

This study assesses the impacts of the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMPII), a community-based drought management initiative implemented in 28 arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya from 2003 to 2010 to improve the effectiveness of emergency drought response while at the same time reducing vulnerability, empowering local communities, and raising the profile of ASALs in national policies and institutions.

(3) Livestock drought management tool. Final report for a project submitted by ILRI to the FAO Sub-Regional Emergency and Rehabilitation Officer for East and Central Africa, 10 Dec 2010, by Polly Ericksen, Jan de Leeuw and Carlos Quiros.

In August 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sub-Regional Emergency Office for Eastern and Central Africa contracted ILRI to develop a prototype livestock drought management decision support tool for use by a range of emergency and relief planners and practitioners throughout the region. The tool, which is still conceptual rather than operational, links the concepts of ‘drought cycle management’ with best practice in livestock-related interventions throughout all phases of a drought, from normal through the alert and emergency stages to recovery. The tool uses data to indicate the severity of the drought (hazard) and the ability of livestock to survive the drought (sensitivity). The hazard data has currently been parameterized for Kenya, but can be used in any countries of East and Central Africa. The tool still lacks good-quality data for sensitivity and requires pilot testing in a few local areas before it can be rolled out.

ILRI livestock insurance innovation highlighted at launch of Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’

Kenya Government 'Open Data Web Portal' launch: Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and ILRI's Bruce Scott and Andrew Mude

ILRI’s Bruce Scott and Andrew Mude (right) discuss ILRI’s use of open data with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (centre), Minister for Information and Communication Samuel Pogishio (centre left), Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication Bitange Ndemo (centre right), and other dignitaries when they visited ILRI’s booth at the launch of the Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’ on 8 Jul 2011 in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Njiru).

An ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was today (8 July 2011) highlighted as one of the successful, innovative and technology-driven initiatives using open data to create solutions that contribute towards helping Kenya achieve its long-term national development plan.

Speaking during the presidential launch of the ‘Kenya Government Open Data Web portal’ at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Andrew Mude, a scientist with ILRI who leads the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project, described how the project has developed an insurance model for pastoralist livestock keepers using open data. The project uses satellite-based readings of forage cover to find out how much fodder is available for livestock in northern Kenya and the data is combined with livestock mortality data from the Kenya Arid Lands Management project to predict livestock deaths against which livestock herders can insure themselves.

‘This model allows us to predict the current state of livestock mortality in northern Kenya. It currently shows there is a high livestock mortality rate in Marsabit District, which means that insurance may be paid to pastoralists this year,’ said Mude. Marsabit District, in Kenya’s northern drylands, is currently facing a severe drought that is also affecting Somalia and southern Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.

Stared in January 2010, the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project is insuring over 2600 households in Marsabit, which is helping livestock keepers there to sustain their livelihoods. The project is supported by the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development and the United States Agency for International Development, among other donors. It has received considerable support from the Kenya Government and recently received the Vision 2030 ICT award for ‘solutions that drive economic development as outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030.’

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Kenya Government Open Data portal. He said the new open data platform would allow policymakers and researchers to find timely information to guide-decision making. ‘This launch is an important step towards ensuring government information is made readily available to Kenyans and will allow citizens to track the delivery of services,’ Kibaki said.

The new Kenya Government Open Data Web portal will make available to the public several large government datasets, including information on population, education, healthcare and government spending in an easy to search and view format. The portal will allow Kenyans to search and display national and county-level data in graphs and maps for easy comparison and analysis of information.

The launch brought together government officials, policymakers and ICT-sector players who are using open data to build applications that take information closer to Kenyans. Among today’s presentations was the National Council for Law Reporting Kenya Law Reports website, which is making available to the public for the first time the Kenya Gazette (from 1899 to 2011) and all of Kenya’s parliamentary proceedings since 1960.

‘Open data leads to open knowledge, which leads to open solutions and open development,’ said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, who shared lessons from the World Bank’s experience and said open data can ‘fuel innovation in Kenya’s technology sector.’

‘This is a turning point in Kenya’s history,’ said Bruce Scott, ILRI’s director of Partnerships and Communications. ‘Kenya is among the first African countries that have made available this kind of information to their citizens online; this will empower its people in line with the country’s new constitution. ILRI is happy to be associated with this event.’

For more information about IBLI see the following.
ILRI news articles
http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/5000
http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3180

Short video
http://blip.tv/ilri/development-of-the-world-s-first-insurance-for-african-pastoralist-herders-3776231

To read more about the Kenya Open Data portal, visit their website:
http://www.opendata.go.ke

Visit the IBLI project website

‘Virtual Kenya’ web platform launched today: User-friendly interactive maps for charting human and environmental health

Map of the Tana River Delta in Nature's Benefits in Kenya

Map of the the Upper Tana landforms and rivers published in Nature’s Benefits in Kenya Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, published in 2007 by the World Resources Institute, the Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing of the Kenya Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Kenya Ministry of Planning and National Development, and ILRI.

For the last nine months, the World Resources Institute (USA) and Upande Ltd, a Nairobi company offering web mapping technology to the African market, have been working to develop what has been coined ‘Virtual Kenya,’ an online interactive platform with related materials for those with no access to the internet.  The content was developed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Kenya Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (previously the Central Bureau of Statistics). The Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Jacaranda Designs Ltd developed offline educational materials. Technical support was provided by the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

The Virtual Kenya platform was launched this morning at Nairobi’s ‘iHub’ (Innovation Hub), an open facility for the technology community focusing on young entrepreneurs and web and mobile phone programers, designers and researchers. Peter Kenneth, Kenya’s Minister of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, was the guest of honour at the launch.

The minister remarked that:

Given that the government has facilitated the laying of fibre optic cabling across the country and is now in the process of establishing digital villages in all the constituencies, the Virtual Kenya initiative could not have come at a better time. I hope that it will accelerate the uptake of e-learning as an important tool in our school curriculum.

Virtual Kenya is designed to provide Kenyans with high-quality spatial data and cutting-edge mapping technology to further their educational and professional pursuits. The platform provides, in addition to online access to publicly available spatial datasets, interactive tools and learning resources for exploring these data.

Users both inside and outside of Kenya will be able to view, download, publish, share, and comment on various map-based products.

The ultimate goal of Virtual Kenya is to promote increased data sharing and spatial analysis for better decision-making, development planning and education in Kenya, while at the same time demonstrating the potential and use of web-based spatial planning tools.

The Atlas
At the moment, the Virtual Kenya platform features maps and information based on Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, published jointly in 2007 by the World Resources Institute (USA), ILRI, DRSRS the National Bureau of Statistics. Publication of the Atlas was funded by Danida, ILRI, Irish Aid, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida and the United States Agency for International Development.

The Atlas overlays geo-referenced statistical information on human well-being with spatial data on ecosystems and their services to yield a picture of how land, people, and prosperity are related in Kenya.

By combining the Atlas’s maps and data on ecosystem services and human well-being, analysts can create new ecosystem development indicators, each of them capturing a certain relationship between resources and residents that can shed light on development in these regions. This approach can be used to analyze ecosystem-development relationships among communities within a certain distance of rivers, lakes and reservoirs; or the relations between high poverty areas and access to intensively managed cropland; or relations among physical infrastructure, poverty and major ecosystem services.

Decision-makers can use the maps to examine the spatial relationships among different ecosystem services to shed light on their possible trade-offs and synergies or to examine the spatial relationships between poverty and combinations of ecosystem services.

Virtual Kenya Platform
The Virtual Kenya platform is designed to allow users with more limited mapping expertise, specifically in high schools and universities, to take full advantage of the wealth of data behind the Atlas. The website also introduces more advanced users to new web-based software applications for visualizing and analyzing spatial information and makes public spatial data sets freely available on the web to support improved environment and development planning.

The Virtual Kenya website provides users with a platform to interactively view, explore, and download Atlas data in a variety of file formats and software applications, including Virtual Kenya Tours using Google Earth. In addition, GIS users in Kenya will—for the first time—have a dedicated online social networking community to share their work, comment and interact with each other on topics related to maps and other spatial data.

For those with limited mapping and GIS experience, Virtual Kenya will increase awareness of resources and tools available online to visualize and explore spatial information. For users and classrooms that do not have access to the Internet yet, other materials such as wall charts, student activity booklets, teachers guide, as well as the DVD with all the Virtual Kenya data and software will be available, giving them the opportunity to interact with tools available on the Virtual Kenya website.

Virtual Kenya email: info@virtualkenya.org

Virtual Kenya on the web:
Website: http://virtualkenya.org
Twitter: @virtualkenya
Facebook: VirtualKenya
YouTube: http://youtube.com/user/VirtualKenya

Read more about Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, or download the Atlas, published by World Resources Institute, ILRI, Kenya Central Bureau of Statistics, and Kenya Department of Remote Surveys and Remote Sensing, 2007.

Editor’s note: The Kenya Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) was incorrectly named in the original version and corrected on 26 June 2011.

Amid soaring meat costs, officials from East Africa and Middle East seek plan to keep animal diseases from disrupting livestock trade

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya

New approach to Rift Valley fever outbreaks aims to ensure food safety as region boosts livestock imports from Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Dolan)

With increased trade in livestock products offering a possible antidote to high food prices, livestock experts from the Middle East and 12 African countries are meeting this week (13-16 June, 2011) in Dubai to develop a strategy that eliminates the need to impose devastating bans on livestock imports from the Horn of Africa, as prevention against the spread of Rift Valley fever. The strategy should expedite the flow of livestock products while increasing safety of the overall livestock trade in the region.

Convened by the African Union’s Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the workshop will encourage officials and livestock traders to use a simple ‘Decision Support Planning Tool’ to guide and moderate their responses to Rift Valley fever outbreaks.

The ‘decision support tool’ for Rift Valley fever was developed by 30 experts and decisions-makers from across the Horn of Africa with technical assistance from researchers at ILRI, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and other partners. The tool will be used by chief veterinary officers and other national decision-makers. Its framework identifies the sequence of events likely to occur as the risk of a disease outbreak increases.

Rift Valley fever is a mosquito-borne virus found in eastern, western and southern Africa, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Epidemics emerge periodically with prolonged rains. Climate and land-use changes could make outbreaks more frequent. A study done by ILRI economists Karl Rich and Francis Wanyoike indicated that the Rift Valley fever outbreak in 2007 cost Kenya at least USD32 million.

‘We must avoid unnecessary disruptions in agricultural trade between East Africa and the Middle East,’ said Ahmed El Sawalhy, director of AU-IBAR. ‘Livestock products must be safe and action concerning disease outbreaks must be in line with the actual threat.’ To this end, an animal health certification model suitable for pastoral livestock production systems and that promotes OIE standards has been developed by AU-IBAR in partnership with FAO and the Royal Veterinary College, London. The model is based on risk assessment and involves integration of both upstream animal health inspection and certification at entry points, markets and at the quarantines.

Time is also of critical importance in prevention and control of transboundary animal diseases. ‘In the last Kenyan Rift Valley fever outbreak, control measures were implemented late—not until there were definitive signs of an outbreak,’ said Jeffrey Mariner, an epidemiologist at ILRI. ‘This tool links early warning signs to control measures that can be implemented before animals or people begin falling ill. The new tool could reduce the impact of Rift Valley fever, and maybe even prevent some local outbreaks and has the potential to prevent the spread of Rift Valley fever through trade.’

‘The good news,’ says Bernard Bett, an epidemiologist at ILRI, ‘is that the impact of Rift Valley fever can be mitigated with early action during an outbreak, but veterinary officers and  decision-makers need to know what interventions to implement—and when—as the  stages of an epidemic  unfold.’

Rift Valley fever is best prevented through animal vaccination. But vaccines are expensive and few governments are willing to pay for expensive vaccines unless evidence indicates an epidemic is imminent. Regional cooperation is required to build consensus on managing the disease and to prevent trade disruptions.

Larry Meserve, USAID/EA’s regional mission director commented, ‘President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative aims to increase food security throughout Africa. To succeed, we must all help to improve the capacity of leadership in the Horn of Africa to anticipate potentially disastrous events like disease epidemics so that appropriate preventive or mitigating measures are taken before it is too late. Livestock is a vital staple crop in this part of the world, and both the private and public sectors have to do everything possible to prevent unnecessary disruptions in the trade of livestock and other commodities.’

Visit the official workshop blog site: http://rvfworkshop2011.wordpress.com