The ILRI 2019 Annual Report> Building for the future

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ILRI Addis Ababa Ethiopia campus, April 2018

ILRI leading the ’CGIAR-as-One' charge in Ethiopia

A ‘mayor-city council’ relationship on ILRI’s Ethiopia campus allows eleven CGIAR centres to collaborate and build synergies

By Michael Victor

Agricultural transformation is at the heart of Ethiopia’s efforts to improve rural livelihoods, end hunger and build up a sustainable food system. CGIAR has a long history working with national partners to support agricultural development in Ethiopia.

Much of this has been facilitated by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). ILRI’s Ethiopian campus currently hosts ten other CGIAR centres—Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Potato Center (CIP), International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF). ILRI also hosts the East Africa office of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The ILRI Ethiopia campus in Addis Ababa was first established in 1974 as the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA). When ILCA and the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD) of Kenya merged in 1994, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was formed. Through the generosity of the Government of Ethiopia, ILRI was provided a 10-hectare site on the outskirts of Addis Ababa for the headquarters of ILCA. The site was later expanded to 34 hectares.

ILRI’s Ethiopia campus offers a model for future CGIAR regional and country collaboration

As of 2019, the ILRI Ethiopia campus supported nearly 486 full-time staff. ILRI employs 334 locally recruited staff: 192 for ILRI itself and additional 142 on behalf of CGIAR-hosted institutions. ILRI also supports the needs of over 82 expatriate staff (26 from ILRI and 56 from hosted CGIAR institutions) by facilitating residential permits, customs clearance, local licenses/permits and exit processes.

ILRI appreciates the value of having a high concentration of CGIAR centres on its campus, and, under the leadership of its Director General Jimmy Smith, has committed to host other CGIAR centres in the way it would wish to be hosted. As Smith notes:

As Smith notes: ‘We want to see this as a “mayor/city council relationship” as opposed to a landlord/tenant relationship. We take seriously the need to build a strong CGIAR as one presence in Ethiopia to ensure activities are coordinated and in line with government priorities.’

The benefits of working as one

Centers benefit by working as one in various ways. Collaboration allows them to approach the government and partners in unison; it creates synergies and strengthens cooperation for greater efficiency and impact. One example of these benefits is a Feed the Future initiative, of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in Ethiopia. In this initiative—Africa Research In Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING)—eight CGIAR centres partner with several others to address sustainable agricultural intensification. Centres are able to leverage one another’s partnership networks in the field. Finally, shared services allow centres to focus on the science and obtain greater value for money for every dollar spent on operations.

ILRI facilitates country collaboration across CGIAR centres through a number of activities including:

  • Acting as the representative of CGIAR to the platform for the Government of Ethiopia/Development Partners Sector Working Group on Rural Economic Development and Food Security (RED&FS). Various centres coordinate their efforts to represent the CGIAR on RED&FS sub-committees.
  • Facilitating campus-wide events which include monthly seminars featuring presentations from the various CGIAR centres, knowledge share fairs, monthly coffee mornings where highlights of ongoing activities are shared and visitors and newly recruited staff are introduced.
  • Branding the campus as a place of CGIAR collaboration. Signs at the entrance of the campus prominently display the CGIAR logo next to the ILRI logo, and the CGIAR flag flies next to the ILRI and Government of Ethiopia flags.

In 2019, the Ethiopia campus hosted the CGIAR System Council and brought together CGIAR centre research around the key CGIAR themes.

With over 35 displays, researchers from the 11 CGIAR research centers at the Ethiopia Share Fair showcased how they work together in partnership with the Ethiopian government and key partners from the private sector, civil society and funders to transform local food systems. A short film produced by ILRI about CGIAR’s contributions to Ethiopia’s agricultural transformation was shown.

Collaboration allows the centres to approach the government and partners in unison; it creates synergies and strengthens cooperation for greater efficiency and impact.

‘Despite some rain, there was an incredible enthusiasm because of what was demonstrated. For many members of the CGIAR System Council it was the first time they saw how centres, CGIAR research programs and partners are working in an integrated fashion around the grand challenges in a specific country’, said Siboniso (Boni) Moyo, the ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia.

‘The event gave CGIAR funders a unique chance to learn more about the partnerships and innovations that make CGIAR a unique contributor to development in Ethiopia’, said Jurgen Voegele, chair of the CGIAR System Council.

The mode of working in Ethiopia offers a model for future CGIAR regional and country collaboration. It builds upon current arrangements and allows for bottom-up innovation to emerge while also ensuring synergies and collaboration.

Better lives through Livestock

How the other half works:
Making a living with livestock

International Livestock Research Institute2019 Annual Report

Photo credit: ILRI/Georgina Smith
Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general (l) with ILRI board chair Lindsay Falvey(photo credits: ILRI/Alexandra de Athayde and ILRI/Susan MacMillan)


We are publishing the 2019 annual report of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) during a global pandemic whose impacts on human health and the global economy have already proven catastrophic. Both COVID-19 and recent events around the world have shown that inequalities of various kinds—social, racial and economic, among others—remain powerful forces that need to be addressed. At ILRI, we are committed to ensuring that our research on livestock contributes in a multitude of ways to addressing the current crisis, from preventing future pandemics to helping those most impacted by the present one. We are working on livestock solutions that help re-ignite economies, support health and nutrition, and build up sustainable and resilient food systems in the poorer parts of the world.

This report’s focus on gender is especially timely. Few societies in the world are free from inequalities arising from gender, as few are free from inequalities of race, status and multiple other kinds of division.

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A gendered lens: Women, men and the future of livestock

Picture a livestock keeper in the developing world. In all likelihood, you are visualizing a man, perhaps herding cows and goats across a savanna or ploughing a piece of farmland with bullocks. The very term ‘animal husbandry’—which refers to the care, cultivation and breeding of animals—denotes masculine qualities, deriving as it does from late Old English (‘male head of a household’). But of course, it is not only men who keep livestock.

In fact, some two-thirds of the developing world’s hundreds of millions of poor livestock keepers are women, not men. In these countries, women, not men, perform most of the work in farm and herding households that goes into caring for animals. It is these women, not their menfolk, who do most of the day-to-day farm animal management as well as the processing, marketing and selling of the milk and eggs their animals produce. And it is developing-country women, not men, who typically make daily household decisions regarding a family’s chickens and other small stock.

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Nicoline de Haan, ILRI gender team leader(photo credit: CGIAR CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems)

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The animals they keep

Feature stories highlighting ILRI's gender work

ILRI is a research-for-development institute, dedicated to a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. Its projects and initiatives reach beyond the library or the laboratory to the real world. The four stories that follow depict with journalistic flair and photographic detail the opportunities and challenges facing women and men building a better future for themselves through livestock.

The CGIAR gender platform

A renewed platform on gender aims to give greater voice to women farmers in the developing world Hosted by ILRI, the multi-centre collaborative effort will focus on gender equality and transformative food systems

Women farmers in the developing world face a host of challenges, from balancing domestic and agricultural chores to securing access to land and markets. To help women achieve gender equality in food systems, and to sustainably defeat hunger and enhance nutrition, CGIAR has launched a CGIAR GENDER Platform. The platform aims to create a ‘new normal’-a world in which greater gender equality drives more equitable, sustainable, productive and climate-resilient food systems.
ILRI is proud to serve as host for a new CGIAR-wide platform on gender issues in global agricultural research for development. Known as GENDER (Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results), the platform aims to help transform the way gender research is done, both within and beyond CGIAR, and to help kick-start a process of genuine change towards greater gender equality and better lives for smallholder farmers everywhere.

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, stated, 'GENDER is well positioned to produce far-reaching and enduring impacts because it will aim to give a voice to the millions of women who today are mostly excluded from the extremely urgent efforts to produce enough, and good enough, food under the climate crisis. Only when both women and men are empowered to transform food systems can they successfully nourish families, communities and entire nations, today and in the future.'
Launched in January 2020, GENDER builds on a wealth of research and learning generated by the previous CGIAR Gender Network and the Collaborative Platform for Gender Research (2011–2019). It includes all 14 CGIAR research centres, 12 collaborative CGIAR research programs and 3 other CGIAR system-wide research support platforms and will forge alliances with change-makers in government, academia, national agricultural research extension systems and non-governmental organizations.

ILRI's gender team

It begins in the lab

But extends to the field

Fighting animal disease, planting better forages, preventing the dangerous spread of antimicrobial-resistant infections and improving food safety all require meticulous scientific work. ILRI’s biosciences division provides researchers with the time and resources to carry out that painstaking research. These stories show how ILRI is working to find solutions that will progressively reduce poverty and improve human health.

Building for the future

Making tomorrow’s breakthroughs possible

Tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs can only happen if we invest in people and institutions today. ILRI maintains a variety of programs to enhance mission effectiveness and stimulate global research on livestock in the developing world. Its internship program has hosted scores of undergraduate interns from the world over—the next generation of livestock scientists. Its Ethiopia campus provides a model of how CGIAR centres can work synergistically. And its pioneering genotyping platform is helping scientists throughout Africa to modernize and strengthen breeding programs.

The right policies

The science of livestock systems

Because they are embedded in structures that extend from the family home to global trade, the economics, policies and social science of livestock systems remain ILRI's focus. ILRI’s scientists are helping the Kenyan government develop land-use policies to ensure a viable future for the country’s millions of pastoralists. They are identifying sustainable, bottom-up, stakeholder-led interventions in livestock value chains. And they are ensuring that farmers in Africa participate in climate-smart solutions that maximize productivity while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

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Top 2019 science journal articlesfrom ILRI programs