Research collaboration and capacity development focus of long-term partnership with Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Swedish University of Life Sciences Vice Chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith sign a Memorandum of Understanding (image: SLU/Jenny Svennås-Gillner)

On 26 September 2013, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) signed a memorandum of understanding. The MoU was signed by SLU vice chancellor Lisa Sennerby Forsse and ILRI director general Jimmy Smith. The MoU signing took place in the margins of the ‘Agri4D annual conference on agricultural research for development’,  where Jimmy Smith gave a keynote address.

The main objective is to establish a long-term relationship to exploit complementary research, institutional development and capacity development skills.

It includes a specific objective to establish joint activities associated with the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, including a role in the development and implementation of the program’s research-for-development agenda, which includes research and capacity building.

Some of the specific activities envisaged include:

  • Facilitating research and supervision for PhD students at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners, while course work and main supervision is provided by SLU (i.e., sandwich model)
  • Facilitating opportunities for MSc students to conduct minor field studies of 2–3 months at ILRI’s locations(s) or its partners.
  • Providing post-doc opportunities at ILRI’s location(s) or its partners.
  • Facilitating short-term exchanges and secondments of professional staff from one institute to the other.
  • Exchanging scientific literature and information
  • Facilitating dissemination of scientific information

News item on SLU website

Visit the Animal Genetics Training Resource, a product of SLU-ILRI collaboration

SLU researchers are working in the Livestock and Fish Uganda smallholder pigs value chain as part of the Assessing the Impact of African swine fever (ASF) in smallholder pig systems and the feasibility of potential interventions project

Enhanced cooperation focus of visit to ILRI by Ethiopian State Minister for Livestock Development

Jimmy Smith, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, State Minister for Livestock Development in the Ministry of Agriculture (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Today, Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, newly appointed State Minister for Livestock Development in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, visited the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa.

He was welcomed by ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith, who offered his congratulations on the minister’s appointment. ‘We know you as a scientist; now we know you as a science politician’. Smith explained that ILRI’s research is intended to help people transform their lives through livestock. Ethiopia, with its large livestock sector and population, is a very important focus for ILRI’s work, Smith said: ‘If we can’t make a difference here – where livestock is so important – we can’t do it anywhere!’

Smith emphasized that ILRI aims to add value to the work of the Ethiopian government and institutions. ‘We would like to make a positive contribution to Ethiopian livestock development, and, through this work, to derive and share lessons and learning in other places.’

Shirley Tarawali introduced ILRI’s new strategy – its objectives, focus and current status. She referred to a recent June 2013 discussion of this strategy, in which Ethiopia stakeholders and partners provided feedback on the strategy.

Iain Wright elaborated on the operationalization of this strategy in Ethiopia. His presentation briefly introduced various ongoing projects: Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains, Livestock and Fish small ruminant value chains, Africa RISING, Nile Basin Development Challenge, Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), Safe Food Fair Food and development of a livestock master plan for Ethiopia. He drew attention to the growing role of the ILRI Addis Ababa campus as a CGIAR hub, ILRI’s growth in Ethiopia (more staff, more investments), and initial ideas to develop the campus as a global centre for research on sustainable intensification in the face of climate change.

The State Minister welcomed the renewed ILRI investments in Ethiopia and expressed strong interest in the various ideas and the potential for cooperation. He highlighted existing joint projects, such as LIVES, and the former Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS), that are a good basis for future scaling up of useful technologies. He said that he will also be ‘very strong’ in asking ILRI and CGIAR for support to implement the ministry’s plans for the livestock sector.

We are pleased to be with you . . . and pleased that you are with us! — Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, Ethiopian State Minister for Livestock Development

Subsequent discussion between the State Minister, his staff and ILRI staff covered various topics of mutual interest including animal health, livestock genetic improvement, pastoral development, livestock feed supply, livestock sector transformation, delivery of services to farmers and capacity development. It was suggested that this initial higher level brainstorming could be followed up on a more regular basis to deepen the collaboration.

Livestock research for Africa’s food security: Side session at 2013 Africa Agriculture Science Week

Livestock are a key part of the solution to Africa’s food security challenge.

Did you know?

  • The livestock sector contributes as much as 40% of GDP in many African countries
  • Four of the top five agricultural commodities by value come from livestock
  • In the next 20 years Africa’s demand for beef, dairy products, pork and poultry is expected to rise by between 100 and 200%

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), CGIAR and partners are organizing a side event at this year’s Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) in Accra.

The side event takes place on 15 July (from 09:00am) in Executive room 4 of the Accra International Conference Centre.

It provides an opportunity to discuss how ILRI and partners support livestock sector research and development through a strategy that works in partnerships to inform practice, take livestock science solutions to scale, influence decision making and develop livestock capacities.

In-depth discussion topics include:

  • Vaccine biosciences
  • Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI hub
  • Food safety and mycotoxins
  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems
  • Risk and vulnerability in dry lands

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith, senior management and scientists from ILRI and partners will participate. If you are in Accra for the AASW and wish to attend this side event, please send an email confirmation to Ms. Teresa Werrhe- Abira so we can manage logistics and catering:

ILRI and other communication staff are reporting the AASW online and will report this side event – visit the blog


ILRI’s new strategy–with evidence we can raise the livestock game

Last week, we interviewed International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) director general Jimmy Smith on his first eight months in office.

In the first video interview below, he comments on some emerging ‘big issues’ in ILRI’s new strategy. One is that we need to pay far more attention to the wider global debate on livestock; we also need a clear focus on ‘consumption’ and ‘consumers’, as well as climate change and livestock’s environmental footprint [more on ILRI’s ongoing strategy development process].

In the second video below, he comments on global perceptions that livestock are not good for the planet—and what this means for ILRI. He argues that ‘evidence’ is at the heart of ILRI’s contribution. We need better evidence of where livestock contributes positively and negatively, and we need to communicate this. [ILRI’s 2010 annual meeting was on the theme ‘livestock goods and bads.’ In April 2012, a global alliance on sustainable livestock was formed.].

ILRI updates structure and senior staff roles to tackle new challenges

Earlier this month, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) director general Jimmy Smith announced a number of organizational changes. We share these here for the benefit of people we work with outside ILRI.

Leadership changes to ILRI research themes
The ‘Enhancing Markets Theme’ has been renamed ‘Markets, Gender and Livelihoods’ (MGL) and now incorporates the ‘Poverty, Gender and Impact’ group led by Jemimah Njuki. Steve Staal continues to serve as director of this theme.

From 23 January 2012, Iain Wright moves to the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa to serve as director of the ‘People Livestock and Environment‘ (PLE) Theme. Iain will also become the director general’s representative in Ethiopia. The PLE Theme now incorporates the ‘Sustainable Livestock Futures’ group led by Mario Herrero.

ILRI’s ‘Biotechnology‘ Theme continues under the leadership of Vish Nene; the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub is led by Segenet Kelemu.

Both Jemimah’s and Mario’s groups will continue to provide leadership at the institutional level with respect to work on gender and sustainable futures respectively.

Senior staff changes
With the departure of John McDermott to lead the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health (CRP4), we are recruiting a new deputy director general-research (DDG). Steve Staal serves as interim DDG.

From 6 February 2012, Shirley Tarawali assumes the new position of director of institutional planning. She will move from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya.

In January 2012, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt moved from her position as head of the Capacity Strengthening Unit (CaST) to become ILRI’s Head of Asia. At the end of 2011, Purvi relocated from Nairobi, Kenya, to New Delhi, India. Abdou Fall and Boni Siboniso continue as ILRI regional representatives in, respectively, West and Southern Africa

Earlier in 2011, the ICT team under Ian Moore moved from Partnerships and Communications into Corporate Services, reporting to Martin van Weerdenburg.

ILRI and the new CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs)
Depending on the current level of ILRI engagement/responsibility in different CRPs, ILRI staff members have been assigned different roles: ‘Director’, ‘Programme Manager’ or ‘CRP Coordinator’.

  • CRP: Climate change – The program manager responsible for leading and coordinating ILRI aspects is Mario Herrero.

ILRI strategy
Under the leadership of Shirley Tarawali, a process to develop a ‘refresh’ of ILRI’s strategic plan has been initiated. We aim to have a final document for approval by our board of trustees in November 2012.


Livestock Exchange guides ILRI’s research on livestock

LiveSTOCK Exchange LogoOn 9 and 10 November 2011, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ in Addis Ababa to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. It was designed to contribute to the development of ILRI’s strategy in 2012 (see the current strategy). The event brought together about 130 participants from ILRI as well as from research and development partners.

The event was organized in six sessions

  • Livestock market opportunities for the poor: Value chain development, demand for livestock products, market-driven uptake of livestock technologies, market access and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements … See a presentation and related issue briefs
  • Livestock impact pathways: In a session on livestock impact pathways, participants discussed ways to enhance ILRI efforts on capacity development, knowledge, gender, communication, partnerships and innovation platforms. Watch video feedback from the group discussion

Besides the rich discussions, what else came out from the event?

We prepared 19 short issue briefs synthesizing our work in the various areas. Some 30 short reflections and think pieces were also contributed by staff, partners and former staff. These are all accessible on the ILRI Clippings blog – also in ‘PDF format’ in our repository.

Hard seat interview: Brian Perry and Segenet KelemuBetween the sessions, we organized three ‘hard seat’ interviews; read – and see – them here:

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. During the meeting, Carlos reflected on his tenure saying “In some ways ILRI is very different from what it was 10 years ago; in other ways, it still is very much the same.” read the full blog post here and See photos of Carlos in this flickr set

This post is based on a draft prepared by Zerihun Sewunet at ILRI

Biometrics and Research Methods Teaching Resource: Enhanced version 2 released this week

Students and teachers of biometrics and applied statistics in agriculture and livestock have long faced a shortage of case studies and datasets suited to African settings.

Version 2 of the Biometrics and Research Methods Teaching Resource provides 17 case studies (each with its own Excel data sets) prepared by students, lecturers and researchers at the University of Nairobi, University of Swaziland, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Islamic University of Uganda and ILRI).

Each case study follows the typical stages in a research process:

  1. Research strategy (deciding research objectives; choosing the type of study)
  2. Study design (planning the study; accounting for variation; sampling; designing an experiment; designing a survey).
  3. Data management (collecting data; organising data; storing data)
  4. Data exploration (looking at data; describing data; formulating statistical models).
  5. Data analysis (modelling data; handling variation; applying different statistical techniques – analysis of variance, regression analysis, general linear models).
  6. Reporting (interpreting and presenting results; communicating research results).

Six teaching modules complement the cases and provide additional teaching and learning material of a practical nature.
In this second version, users can be linked directly to subjects of interest. The presentation and description of data sets has improved and GenStat dialog boxes now appear within the case studies. The Teaching Resource relies on the statistical package GenStat (two case studies also demonstrate the use of R), which can readily be downloaded with a ’Discovery’ version free for not-for-profit users in sub-Saharan Africa.

To make the resource more usable by teachers and students, this version will include both a zipped website version for those with intermittent internet connections so they can download the CD and separate pdf documents.

View the Teaching Resource online at

A CD version of the Resource is available on request from ILRI (contact

The Teaching resource was funded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.

View an interview with John Rowlands on the resource:

Livestock research for development focus of session at Rome Share Fair

On Tuesday 27 September, the AgriKnowledge Share Fair session on ‘Livestock Research for Development: Shifting the Paradigm’ brought together ILRI Director General Carlos Seré, FAO Assistant Director General Modibo Traoré, and IFAD Senior Technical Advisor on Livestock and Farming Systems Antonio Rota to discuss major changes, innovations and achievements in livestock research for development in the last 5-10 years.

The aim of ther session was to ‘tease out’ their views on 1) the major changes, innovations and achievements in livestock research for development – in the last 5-10 years; and 2) upcoming challenges and opportunities for sustainable livestock sector development, especially of smallholder livestock keepers.

What’s changing?

Responding to the question ‘What’s changing in the livestock sector’, Traoré answered “everything!” – but the most challenges face the smallest and poorest farmers – they are struggling to adapt to changes, to make money, and to benefit from positive trends – such as growing demands for livestock products.

Smallholder focus?

How we ensure that we grasp the opportunities offered by these growing demands is controversial, according to Seré. Should we invest in smallholders or go for large scale more commercial operations?

He argued that smallholders particularly depend much more on communal action and public sector support so we need to decide Where public knowledge will make the most difference for smallholders. Where do we have the best chances to bring people out of poverty through livestock? What will happen to the small livestock keepers when the market changes? Will they disappear?

According to Seré, the future in some areas is a transition [from small to large scale]; in others, smallholder ssytems are more sustainable. Indeed, smallholder livestock “can be very competitive” in some areas or situations.

Rota continued the focus on ‘smallness’ arguing that small livestock are ‘the’ livestock of the poorest. He said that the ere of ‘blanket solutions’ for livestock is over: We have to design projects responding to real needs, projects thast much better target specific needs, services, markets and people.

Traoré concurred that the focus of public investment in livestock development should be on small farming systems, but he cautioned that smallholders and small-scale farming don’t just need small animals; a cow is as much an asset as smaller sheep or goats.

Roles for research?

Seré suggested that livestock research as we know it struggles to meet the smallest scale. Nevertheless, we’ need to keep the focus of our investments on small farmers … as nobody else is interested in them.

A major challenge is to bring research much closer to the clients. Innovation systems that bring in many different actors, also farmers, are important to help us connect to communities.

We still need technologies, but if we want them to make a difference we need to expand what research does, encompassing institutional issues, knowledge, and capacities. For development impact, research needs to be much more than just technologies, vaccines and the like.

Rota further argued that the livestock chosen for research are also important. As a development agency, IFAD helps to catalyze research around promising ‘orphan’ animals (from a developemnt research perspective) – like poultry, camels, or guinea pigs – that offer much to smallholders but which are hardly researched and supported.

A major weakness in our approach, accoridng to Seré is that we have not been able to scale out promising livestock research results. It seems to be much more difficult and complex to design and scale livestock interventions than it is for crops. Innovation systems thinking is again important here as it helps us gain a better understanding of the whole picture.

For Traoré, what is wrong in our approach is not that we have been unable to make many improvements … the problem is that some people see small farming systems as a transition phase only, not something where improvements should be scaled and continued. In his view, small-scale systems will remain and will continue to provide livelihoods for millions of people.

Questions and answers

The panelists reacted to questions from the audience, including:

  • What’s the key factor determining the adoption of livestock technologies? Seré explained that research often does have the solutions and the technologies, but at different times, and for moving targets. If the incentives are right, technologies will get adopted. There is also a good reason why some technologies are [still] on the shelf … they will be needed in the future! Rota added that technologies will be adopted when we put more money in the pockets of the farmers.
  • Why is the livestock sector not better-funded? Is it because the image of livestock in developed countries is rather negative (methane emissins etc) –  and how do we counter this? Traoré commented that the image of livestock in the north is not the same as livestock in the south. We need to convert northern views to see that livestock [in the south] are goods whose development needs to be supported. This is a communication problem that we all need to work on.  Rota further argued that if we want the donors to fund livestock, then we need to have and to present convincing numbers, data and evidencee that show how livestock really do bring people out of poverty. At this time, “we dont have the data” we need.
  • Livestock on farms are integrated, how do we ensure that crops and livestock are integrated in development projects and in research?  According to Seré: we need to make sure that assessments of crops (returns, beenfits etc) also take account of the livestock dimensions.
  • How do farmers get the best advice and information, for instance on the ‘right’ types of cows for their situations? Seré emphasized the important commercial drivers determining what cows (or other technologies) are provided to farmers; it is thus difficult to provide quick clear-cut answers to this question.

View the webcast:

Market-oriented smallholder development in Ethiopia

Today, the ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers Project’ holds an experience-sharing workshop on market-oriented smallholder development.

This project – – is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as a contribution to the Ethiopian Government’s ‘Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty’.

At its establishment in 2005, The project was designed to follow a participatory market-oriented commodity value chain development approach. This is based on the premise that technology uptake is significantly influenced by the profitability of production, and that production is driven by market demands for specific commodities. The approach is participatory in that it involves farmers and other value chain actors as well as associated service providers in diagnosis, planning and implementation of the interventions through formal and informal linkages.

The workshop is designed to facilitate experience-sharing – the 150+ participants are drawn from national, regional and district governments, the private sector, civil society, research institutions and universities, and development agencies. It focuses on specific commodity value chain interventions – livestock and crops – as well as essential enabling methods, approaches, and processes the project has applied. Exhibition-type displays showcase interventions on specific commodity value chains. Cross-cutting issues such as knowledge management, capacity development, and gender, are also explored.

After five years intense applied work, the workshop also provides an opportunity for project lessonsa nd outputs to be shared with the Government’s new Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) that re-emphasizes the role of smallholders in the commercialization of Ethiopian agriculture.

Watch a video with project manager Dirk Hoekstra

Follow the event and its outputs online:

Wiki about the event
Photos from the event
Presentations and posters
Video interviews

Pastoral issues must be part of ILRI’s research agenda – Ian Scoones

In March this year, we asked Ian Scoones, Science Adviser to ILRI, to reflect on the recent conference on the future of pastoralism and the work of ILRI in this area.

He argues that pastoralism “must be part of ILRI’s research agenda into the future.”

He identifies two promising areas for ILRI: First, to engage in technical research on production issues in pastoral areas and pastoral systems – to sustain the enormous economic potential of such areas.

Second, to support the broader area of innovation. As pastoral systems change and evolve, there is enormous innovation in these systems themselves, he gives an example from camel markets in northern Kenya.

“There is a great opportunity for ILRI scientists to engage with innovators outside the formal scientific research system, who are pastoralists themselves.”

The Addis Ababa conference on the future of pastoralism in Africa (21-23 March 2011) was organized by the Future Agricultures Consortium with Tufts University.

See related news items from the conference:

The future of pastoralism in Africa debated in Addis: Irreversible decline or vibrant future?, 21 March 2011.

Climate change impacts on pastoralists in the Horn: Transforming the ‘crisis narrative’, 22 March 2011.

The case for index-based livestock insurance and cash payments for northern Kenya’s pastoralists, 23 March 2011

Punctuated equilibrium: Pastoralist timelines of past and future, 23 March 2011

Making the case for index-based livestock insurance in Kenya, 23 March 2011

Or visit the Future Agricultures Consortium conference page or blog.

India, Mozambique goat value chain project starts

This week, partners in the ‘imGoats’ project meet in India to finalize plans and outcomes for the project.

The project – official title ‘Small ruminant value chains to reduce poverty and increase food security in India and Mozambique’ – is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and is implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute with CARE (Mozambique) and The BAIF Development Research Foundation (India).

The project aims to transform goat production and marketing in dryland India and Mozambique from an ad hoc, risky informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market.

Download the project brochure

Food-feed crops research: A synthesis

In December 2010, a special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology focuses on the fodder quality of crop residues and how this can be improved through the close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multi-dimensional crop improvement programmes.

Over the next two decades, rapid urbanization and rising incomes in the developing world will continue to feed an on-going livestock revolution. In India, this boom in the production of animal products will be driven by a demand for milk that is projected to increase by more than 80 million tons in 15 years.

Smallholder livestock producers will have new opportunities to raise their incomes on the back of this increasing demand, particularly the vulnerable communities occupying dry, marginal and remote lands that rely most heavily on their animals.

Feed scarcity and resulting high feed costs are one of the major constraints and threats to higher benefits from livestock otherwise offered by the rising demand for livestock products. New strategies for improving feed resources are urgently needed, but they need to take into account the increasing scarcity of the natural resource base, particularly of arable land and increasingly water.

Crop residues are the single most important feed resource in India, and the national feed resource scenarios predict that their importance for livestock feeding will further increase. In several parts of India, weight for weight, crop residue prices are now approaching, and sometimes even exceeding, half the prices of their grains.

Crop residues do not require specific land and water allocations, since these are required in any case for the production of grains. Unfortunately, the fodder quality of crop residues is often low, and in the past decades, efforts have been invested in upgrading the feeding value of crop residues (implicitly from cereals since leguminous residues can have excellent fodder quality) through chemical, physical and biological treatments.

However, these approaches have seen little adoption by farming communities. A different paradigm has been developed in this this special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology, namely, the improvement of crop residues at source through close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multidimensional crop improvement programs. Until recently, fodder traits of crop residues were largely ignored in crop improvement, although farmers were traditionally aware of differences in the fodder quality of crop residues even within the same species. Farmers’ perception of crop residue fodder traits could effect the adoption of new cultivars, resulting sometimes in the rejection of new cultivars that have been improved only for grain yields.

In response, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with their partners from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) initiated several multidisciplinary research projects to create crop cultivars that better match the need of farmers, particularly in mixed crop-livestock systems which are dominant in many parts of the developing world.

The fundamental issues explored in these collaborative projects, and expounded in this special issue, are: (1) availability of livestock nutritionally-significant cultivar-dependent variation in crop residue fodder quantity and quality; (2) relationships between crop residue fodder traits and primary food traits and possible trade-offs between the traits; (3) technologies for quick and inexpensive phenotyping of large set of samples for simple fodder quality that are well correlated with actual livestock productivity; (4) breeding techniques for further genetic enhancement towards food-feed traits; and (5) upgrading crop residue fodder in value chains through densification and fortification.

These valuable contributions serve as eye-openers to researchers and present a strong case for further strengthening such collaborations between national and international crop and livestock institutions. More importantly, they pave the way for expanding work on the promising approach of producing dual-purpose varieties of key crops for mixed crop-livestock systems given that these systems will be crucial in feeding the next 3 billion people.

View the special issue