The ILRI 2019 Annual Report> Building for the future

Mentoring youth about their career choices

ILRI’s internship program has fostered mutually beneficial relationships between students and research organizations and helped launch young professionals on great career trajectories

Wellington Ekaya

In the last six years, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has hosted 206 undergraduate interns in its programs across the institute, including 115 men and 91 women originating from 11 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. The students, mostly from faculties of agriculture, veterinary sciences and environmental sciences, spend three to six months working within ILRI for academic credit and as part of their graduation requirements.

Internships are short-term academic training for young professionals who join ILRI for a short period during their penultimate or final year as an undergraduate. It is a time when they get a life-changing opportunity to connect the theory learned in class to real hands-on experience. Based on the experience and tasks prescribed by the student’s university, each intern gets paired with one or two ILRI scientists. By participating alongside the daily activities of the scientists—whether it be lab-based, field-based, seminars or research management activities—the students get a deeper understanding of critical livestock challenges and how scientists are tackling these.

Former interns report that it is often during the internship that they really learned to appreciate the multiple and important roles of livestock in the lives of the world’s poorest populations. They also learned about the important work ILRI is doing transforming lives through livestock. For many of these students, it is during the internship that they work for the first time with such a large team of researchers from so many disciplines, countries and cultures.

Hosting an intern is an exciting experience for ILRI scientists/mentors, too. Having young inquisitive minds involved in a project gives scientists a feeling, as one of them said, of ‘helping to grow our next generation of scientists, including future ILRI scientists’. Another scientist noted how rewarding it is to see how students, during the three or six months in the program, make decisions regarding their career path.

One outstanding example of the program’s success is Emily Ouma, an agricultural economist working with the policies, institutions and livelihoods (PIL) program at ILRI in Uganda. In 1998, Emily was an undergraduate intern at an ILRI-hosted program. Although many years have passed, Emily still remembers the key learning from the internship experience: namely, that livestock offer a high return on investments to farmers, especially if the markets are functioning well. ‘Livestock are a source of income and prestige, perform a savings and insurance function, and produce manure, which if managed well can be a key resource for fertilizing crop fields and generating energy’, she says. ‘Livestock are a clear demonstration of “getting more from less”.’

The few months Emily spent at ILRI shaped her future academic journey and career. After attaining a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Egerton University, she returned to ILRI in 2001 as a master’s graduate fellow in the same program. She completed an MSc in 2003 and continued to PhD studies in 2004. She then returned to ILRI as a PhD graduate fellow, this time with the animal genetic resources program. She graduated in 2007 from the University of Kiel and proceeded for her postdoc to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in 2008. Four years later she was employed by ILRI. Today, she feels she is using her scientific training to make an important contribution to people’s lives. There are many young people like Emily out there, with an untold story about the many benefits of ILRI’s internship program’.

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