When small is both beautiful and big: Heifer President JoLuck is co-recipient of 2010 World Food Prize

JoLuck With Cow In Europe

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday (16 June 2010) named Jo Luck, President of Heifer International, and David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, co-winners of the 2010 World Food Prize for spearheading two of the world’s foremost grassroots organizations working to end hunger and poverty.

In awarding the World Food Prize to Jo Luck and Beckmann, the World Food Prize Foundation is honouring not only these extraordinary individuals, but also the central role of non-governmental humanitarian organizations generally in mobilizing and empowering everyday citizens to end hunger worldwide.

David Beckmann has been head of Bread for the World — a collective Christian voice to end hunger — since 1991. Beckmann has marshalled some quarter of a million constituents to legislate for changing policies, programs and conditions that allow hunger to persist.

Jo Luck has built Heifer International, founded in 1944 and headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, into one of the world’s premier hunger-fighting non-profit organizations. Her organization provides farm animals to extremely poor families, and in so doing, helps those families to become self-reliant.

Since becoming CEO of Heifer in 1992, Jo Luck expanded both the scope and impact of Heifer’s battle against hunger and poverty. To do this, she and her staff have worked with many local and global partners to institute animal husbandry policies, systems and practices that help people improve their lives.

One of Heifer’s partners is the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Jo Luck has served on ILRI’s board of trustees and her organization works with ILRI on a project to lift one million people in East Africa out of poverty through improved small-scale dairying.

Jo Luck has provided more than 30 kinds of farm animals—from bees to water buffaloes — along with trees, seeds and training — to families in desperate need of assets with which to build sustainable livelihoods. She has increased the number of long-term supporters of Heifer from 20,000 in 1992 to more than 500,000 in 2009. Her organization’s outreach has helped 12 million families –1.5 million families in 2009 alone — to put nutritious food on their tables while also helping to feed others through Heifer’s Passing on the Gift, which asks every family that receives an animal from Heifer to give one of its female offspring to another family in need.

Jo Luck's leadership at Heifer is characterized by full engagement of the hungry families and communities her organization works to benefit. And she has worked tirelessly to ensure that the American public has a better understanding of global issues, and the appropriate roles America and its people can play on the global stage. Heifer now has a broad and innovative portfolio of educational strategies promoting such understanding among its many US supporters. In particular, Jo Luck has raised public understanding of how life choices made by people in rich countries affect people living in chronic hunger and severe poverty.

To complement Heifer’s Passing on the Gift tradition, Jo Luck created an enabling framework, Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, that imaginatively joins concerns for human nutrition and spiritual growth to management of animal and natural resources, gender equity, leadership and organizational and business development.

By placing animals and knowledge directly in the hands of farmers, Heifer has empowered millions of people, particularly women, to convert these assets into foods, jobs and incomes. A lasting legacy Jo Luck’s leadership of Heifer appears to be engaging aid donors and recipients alike emotionally as well as economically, which has proved to be a potent combination that provokes humanitarian action as well as visionary thinking.

Starting at Heifer as Director of International Program from 1989 to 1992, Jo Luck then served as president and CEO of Heifer International from 1992 to 2010. Earlier this year she stepped down as CEO and will remain president until 2011. She is writing a book about her experiences with the organization.

The 2010 World Food Prize will be formally presented to Jo Luck and David Beckmann at a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on 14 October 2010, which will be part of a 2010 Borlaug Dialogue that starts the previous day.

The theme of this year’s Dialogue is ‘Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders.’ Among the dignitaries who will make keynote presentations at the Dialogue are Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Howard Buffett, American philanthropist; Prabhu Pingall, Deputy Director of Agriculture at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Thomas Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture; and Carlos Seré, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute. Seré will speak on the value of livestock in smallholder agriculture. 

Further information about the Laureate Award Ceremony and symposium can be found at The World Food Prize.

Kenya’s agriculture minister opens Africa Agriculture Geospatial Week and calls for efforts to take geospatial information to the ‘last mile’

Hon Japhet Kareke Mbiuki Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Kenya

The 2nd ‘Africa Agriculture Geospatial Week’ opened this week at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Nairobi. While addressing the participants, Kenya’s minister for agriculture, Hon Dr Sally Kosgei, challenged researchers to ‘discuss steps towards the development of delivery mechanisms for making geospatial information accessible to poor smallholders in the villages across sub-Saharan Africa.’

In a speech read on her behalf by Hon Japhet Mbiuki, Kenya’s assistant minister for agriculture, during the official opening of the conference on Wednesday, 9 June 2010, Dr Kosgei noted that geospatial information can help provide ‘relevant and timely agricultural information that will assist smallholder farmers in the continent in their bid to improve agricultural production’.

While acknowledging that Africa still faces the threat of food insecurity, the minister highlighted the need to help farmers produce enough to feed their nations’ people and to create economic opportunities. She particularly emphasized the need to ‘provide seed technologies, explain the appropriate use of fertilization, share techniques to manage land effectively and to create a strong post-harvest infrastructure to help farmers increase their income’.  However, she said that such initiatives ‘will only benefit farmers and producers in general if they are appropriately targeted and if farmers are given easy access to relevant information through appropriate technology transfer mechanisms.’

Dr Kosgei highlighted the critical role geospatial information plays in enabling good decision-making throughout the agriculture sector by providing essential location-specific information. ‘Farmers need early information systems to mitigate the effects of extreme climatic events,’ she said. ‘They need to know which crops are best suited to their land, how to minimize the threats posed by pests and diseases and where to go to sell their products.’

She added that real-time, location-specific (geospatial) information will enable farmers to decide more effectively ‘which crops or livestock will perform best on their farms, anticipate and manage disease outbreaks and rainfall shortfalls, as well as decide when to harvest and in which markets to sell their produce’.

In view of the valuable contribution that geospatial information can make to farming systems and practice in Africa, she challenged participants to find ways of moving geospatial technology from a research-based platform to one that takes such technologies to the ‘last mile’ and makes them accessible to farmers who need this information the most.

She commended the organizers of the conference, which include AGCommons and the Consortium for Spatial Information (CIS) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), for their work towards providing farmers with location-specific information to strengthen agricultural production.

Over 60 organizations, 13 CGIAR partners and 30 students from universities in Kenya have gathered to explore how location-specific intelligence can be used to support agricultural production. This year’s meeting focused on ‘Navigating the change: Highlighting the role of spatial information and analysis in transforming livelihoods and landscapes in a time of change’.

Laban MacOpiyo, the director of AGCommons, says that his organization will use the ideas and lessons shared at the conference in ‘a repository of geospatial information that is easily accessible to farmers in Africa’. More information about the work of AGCommons in using geospatial information can be found here.

This year’s conference is funded by HarvestChoice, AGCommons, and the Information, Communication and Technology–Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) program of CGIAR, among other partners, and follows a similar conference held last year at ILRI. At both conferences, participants shared experiences in using geographical information systems (GIS) for agricultural development and learned from each other’s good practices.

Africa Agriculture Geospatial Week ‘navigates change’ in Nairobi this week


The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) this week is hosting the 2nd Africa Agriculture Geospacial Week (AAGW) on its Nairobi campus.

The five-day event—Taking a closer look at the role of spatial information and analysis in supporting improved agricultural research and development—provides a platform for sharing ideas and knowledge on the use of geographical information systems (GIS) for agricultural development.

Meetings such as the Africa Agriculture Geospatial Week help spatial  groups of all kinds to share lessons from new research and extend the reach and benefits of GIS. ILRI and other centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have been at the forefront of programs that use GIS to help farmers and herders in the developing world make more efficient use of their land and animal resources.

This year’s meeting—Navigating the change: Taking a closer look at the role of spatial information and analysis in supporting improved agricultural research and development—takes the form of a ‘GIS ShareFair’, complete with a marketplace of exhibitors and training sessions provided by ESRi, a world leader in GIS software and technology, Google, and OpenStreetMap, which provides free geographic data.

The event includes the annual meeting of the CGIAR Consortium for Spatial Information, where scientists present the results of their work. It also will launch an AGCommons service bureau and host the third gathering of WhereCampAfrica, ‘a free “unconference” for geogeographers, mobile location experts and social cartographers and all kinds of folks interested in place.’ The first WhereCampAfrica was also held at ILRI’s Nairobi campus in 2009.

In addition, a full day of the program is dedicated to presentations of new and innovative ideas by researchers, professionals and students. Awards will be given for first-time presenters (including students and young professionals), most innovative idea, most innovative medium for presentation delivery and overall best presentation.

Jointly organized by the CGIAR Consortium for Spatial Information, the CGIAR Harvest Choice program and the Agricultural Geospatial Commons (AG Commons) Program, led by the CGIAR in partnership with Spatial Development International, this week’s meeting targets professionals, researchers and students in agriculture who will come together to learn from experts in the field, share experiences and network.


Follow the week’s proceedings on Twitter #aagw10

Gates entry into CGIAR: Will research technologies or innovation systems rule the day?


In SciDev.Net this week, Yojana Sharma describes what people see as benefits and concerns about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joining the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which supports the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and 14 other centres around the world.

Prabhu Pingali, head of agriculture policy at the Foundation, acknowledges: ‘The big player in this game is obviously CGIAR. . . . The CGIAR has a much broader agenda than we do . . . .' This, says Sharma, 'is a reference to the group’s growing engagement with all aspects of improving agricultural productivity in the developing world.

Andy Hall, a researcher into rural innovation for the United Nations University in Maastricht, in the Netherlands, worries that: ‘The underlying thinking at Gates is that science can solve the problems . . . .  This was the way CGIAR was in the past, and the danger is that Gates is reinventing that approach.’

Sharma concludes that: ‘The critics say that the tensions between those who favour a science- and technology-driven approach to increasing agricultural productivity, and others (such as Hall) who prefer to think in terms of promoting broader agricultural innovation systems, are at their acutest when it comes to genetically modified food.’

Which begs the question as to why so many think that a focus on agricultural technology is incompatible with a focus on agricultural innovation systems. Surely both approaches — interacting in synergy since the dawn of agriculture — are still needed.




Livestock vaccine offers lifeline to many

ITM Vaccine

A vaccine is being made available to save the lives of a million cattle in sub-Saharan Africa against a lethal disease and to help safeguard the livelihoods of people who rely on their cattle for their survival.

East Coast fever is a tick-transmitted disease that kills one cow every 30 seconds. It puts the lives of more than 25 million cattle at risk in the 11 countries of sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is now endemic. The disease endangers a further 10 million animals in regions such as southern Sudan, where it has been spreading at a rate of more than 30 kilometres a year. While decimating herds of indigenous cattle, East Coast fever is an even greater threat to improved exotic cattle breeds and is therefore limiting the development of livestock enterprises, particularly dairy, which often depend on higher milk-yielding crossbred cattle. The vaccine could save the affected countries at least a quarter of a million US dollars a year.

Registration of the East Coast fever vaccine is central to its safety and efficacy and to ensuring its sustainable supply through its commercialization. The East Coast fever vaccine has been registered in Tanzania for the first time, a major milestone that will be recognized at a launch event in Arusha, northern Tanzania, on May 20. Recognizing the importance of this development for the millions whose cattle are at risk from the disease, governments, regulators, livestock producers, scientists, veterinarians, intellectual property experts, vaccine distributors and delivery agents as well as livestock keepers – all links in a chain involved in getting the vaccine from laboratory bench into the animal – will be represented.

An experimental vaccine against East Coast fever was first developed more than 30 years ago at the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). Major funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and others enabled work to produce the vaccine on a larger scale. When stocks from 1990s ran low, the Africa Union/Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources and chief veterinary officers in the affected countries asked the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to produce more and ILRI subsequently produced a million doses of the vaccine to fill this gap. But the full potential for livestock keepers to benefit from the vaccine will only be achieved through longer term solutions for the sustainable production, distribution and delivery of the vaccine.

With $28US million provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and DFID, a not-for-profit organization called GALVmed (Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines) is fostering innovative commercial means for the registration, commercial distribution and delivery of this new batch of the vaccine. A focus on sustainability underpins GALVmed’s approach and the Global Alliance is bringing public and private partners together to ensure that the vaccine is available to those who need it most.

Previous control of East Coast fever relied on use of acaracide dips and sprays, but these have several drawbacks. Ticks can develop resistance to acaracides and regular acaricide use can generate health, safety and environmental concerns. Furthermore, dipping facilities are often not operational in remote areas.

This effective East Coast fever vaccine uses an ‘infection-and-treatment method’, so-called because the animals are infected with whole parasites while being treated with antibiotics to stop development of disease. Animals need to be immunized only once in their lives, and calves, which are particularly susceptible to the disease, can be immunized as early as 1 month of age.

Over the past several years, the field logistics involved in mass vaccinations of cattle with the infection-and-treatment method have been greatly improved, due largely to the work of a private company, VetAgro Tanzania Ltd, which has been working with Maasai cattle herders in northern Tanzania. VetAgro has vaccinated more than 500,000 Tanzanian animals against East Coast fever since 1998, with more than 95% of these vaccinations carried out in remote pastoral areas. This vaccination campaign has reduced calf mortality in herds by 95%. In the smallholder dairy sector, vaccination reduced the incidence of East Coast fever by 98%. In addition, most smallholder dairy farmers reduced their acaracide use by at least 75%, which reduced both their financial and environmental costs.

Notes for Editors

What is East Coast fever?
East Coast fever is caused by Theleria parva (an intracellular protozoan parasite), which is transmitted by the brown ear tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus. The parasites the tick carries make cattle sick, inducing high fever and lympho-proliferative syndrome, usually killing the animals within three weeks of their infection.

East Coast fever was introduced to southern Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century with cattle imported from eastern Africa, where the disease had been endemic for centuries. This introduction caused dramatic cattle losses. The disease since then has persisted in 11 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa – Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The disease devastates the livelihoods of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers, particularly smallholder and emerging dairy producers, as well as pastoral livestock herders, such as the Maasai in East Africa.

The infection-and-treatment immunization method against East Coast fever was developed by research conducted over three decades by the East African Community and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) at Muguga, Kenya (www.kari.org). Researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya (www.ilri.org), helped to refine the live vaccine. This long-term research was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) (www.dfid.gov.uk) and other donors of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (www.cgiar.org).

The first bulk batch of the vaccine, produced by ILRI 15 years ago, has protected one million animals against East coast fever, with the survival of these animals raising the standards of living for many livestock keepers and their families. Field trials of the new vaccine batch, also produced at ILRI, were completed in accordance with international standards to ensure that it is safe and effective.

How is the vaccine stored and administered?
Straws of the East Coast fever vaccine are stored in liquid nitrogen until needed, with the final preparation made either in an office or in the field. The vaccine must be used within six hours of its reconstitution, with any doses not used discarded. Vaccination is always carried out by trained veterinary personnel working in collaboration with livestock keepers. Only healthy animals are presented for vaccination; a dosage of 30% oxytetracycline antibiotic is injected into an animal’s muscle while the vaccine is injected near the animal’s ear. Every animal vaccinated is given an eartag, the presence of which subsequently increases the market value the animal. Young calves are given a worm treatment to avoid worms interfering with the immunization process.

Case studies illustrating the impact of the infection-and-treatment vaccine on people’s lives are available on the GALVmed website at: www.galvmed.org/path-to-progress
For more information about the GALVmed launch of the live vaccine, on 20 May 2010, in Arusha, Tanzania, go to www.galvmed.org/

Biologists in Nairobi to take part in two new animal health projects announced this week by the US National Science and Gates foundations

East Coast Fever

The National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States announced on 12 May 2010 that the Foundation, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is awarding 15 grants worth US$20 million in support of basic research for generating sustainable solutions to big agricultural problems in developing countries.

These are the first grants in a new five-year Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, which is jointly funded by NSF and the Gates Foundation.

The awards in this first year of funding will allow leading scientists worldwide to work together in basic research testing novel and creative approaches to reducing longstanding problems faced by smallholder farmers in poor countries.

Scientists from the Nairobi, Kenya, animal health laboratories of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will participate in 2 of the 15 projects selected among the many submitted to BREAD for funding.

Biologists at New York and Michigan State universities and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (USA), the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh (UK) and ILRI (Kenya) will test a novel approach to developing cattle that are resistant to trypanosomosis, a deadly cattle disease that is closely related to sleeping sickness in humans and that holds back animal agriculture across a swath of Africa as large as continental USA.

In another project, scientists from the University of Vermont and Plum Island Animal Disease Center (USA) will work with the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and ILRI on use of advanced genetics to develop vaccines for East Coast fever and other cattle diseases that threaten the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Go here for a 12 May 2010 news release from the US National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116932

A complete list of 2010 BREAD awards can be accessed at: http://www.nsf.gov/bio/pubs/awards/bread10.htm

East Coast fever vaccine comes to market in eastern and southern Africa

As the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) meets in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week, reviewing ILRI’s animal health research among other work, an ILRI vaccine project is highlighted in a new publication, DFID Research 2009–2010: Providing research evidence that enables poverty reduction. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation both support the Global Alliance in Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), which works to convert existing or near-market technologies into livestock medicines and vaccines for use in developing countries. The notable success of this strategy in 2009, says DFID, is an East Coast fever vaccine produced by ILRI. East Coast fever is a tick-transmitted disease that kills one cow every 30 seconds in eastern, central and southern Africa, where it threatens some 25 million cattle in 11 countries and is now putting at risk a further 10 million animals in new regions, such as southern Sudan, where the disease has been spreading at a rate of more than 30 kilometres a year. The disease is a major cattle killer. In herds kept by the pastoralist Maasai, it kills 20–50% of all unvaccinated calves, which makes it difficult and often impossible for the herders to plan for the future or to improve their livestock enterprises. A vaccine for East Coast fever could save over a million cattle and up to £170 million a year in the 11 countries where the disease is now endemic. An experimental vaccine against East Coast fever, which makes use of live but weakened parasites, has existed for more than three decades, with batches mass produced in ILRI’s Nairobi laboratories. Although constrained by the need for a ‘cold chain’ to keep the ‘live’ vaccine viable, field use of this vaccine in Tanzania and elsewhere has proved it to be highly effective and in demand by poor livestock keepers, who are paying for the vaccine to keep their animals alive. GALVmed has worked with ILRI and private companies, such as VetAgro Tanzania Ltd., to make East Coast fever vaccine available to the livestock keepers who need it most and to scale up production in future. With £16.5 million provided by DFID and the BMGF, GALVmed began working on the registration and commercial distribution and delivery of a new batch of the vaccine produced by ILRI. The vaccine was successfully registered in 2009 in Malawi and Kenya, with Tanzania and Uganda expected to follow soon. If it is approved in Uganda, it will be the first veterinary vaccine formally registered in that country. GALVmed is now working to establish viable commercial production and delivery systems, aiming that by the end of 2011, all aspects of the production and delivery of East Coast fever vaccine are in private hands.

Special policy seminar on Millions Fed held at ILRI Nairobi campus

Learning from successes in agricultural development is now more urgent than ever. Progress in feeding the world’s billions has slowed, while the challenge of feeding its future millions remains enormous and is subject to new uncertainties in the global food and agricultural systems. Recently ILRI Nairobi had the pleasure of hosting a special policy seminar titled Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development, organized by The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and CGIAR Collective Action for ESA. The key speaker was Dr. David Spielman, one of the authors of Successes in Agricultural Development: Lessons Learned from Millions Fed, a study from IFPRI, with support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, embarked on to identify and assess interventions in agricultural development that have substantially reduced hunger and poverty; to document evidence about where, when and why these interventions succeeded; to learn about the key drivers and factors underlying success; and to share lessons to help inform better agricultural policy and investment decisions in the future. Following a rigorous review process, the project ultimately identified 20 proven successes in agricultural development, several of which highlight policies, programs and investments in sub-Saharan Africa. This event presented what worked, why it worked and what we can learn from these successes. Decisions rotated around topics of importance on communicating successes in agricultural development, accumulating rigorous evidence on agricultural development and continued investment in agricultural development. Visit www.ifpri.org/millionsfed further details.