Uber Uthiru: A very local impact story


Musicians set up their equipment to begin recording at the Uthiru Roundabout, just up the road from ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya (photo ILRI / MacMillan).

A modest urban roundabout, perfectly sized and meticulously maintained, has become an unlikely catalyst of creativity and communion, a place to experience freedom, and, yes, happiness.

The headquarters of Nairobi’s International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), located at Kabete, near Uthiru, has been working to improve the lives of poor people in poor countries through livestock science for nearly four decades. For the most part, ILRI staff work on global livestock development issues—improved animal breeding, feeding, health and the like. But sometimes they take up opportunities to enhance human well being that are found right on their own doorstep. ILRI’s relations with its Uthiru neighbours is a recent example.

Uthiru Street Lighting
Uthiru lies a hundred metres from the entrance to ILRI’s headquarters, on Old Naivasha Road, on the other side of a roundabout. In contribution to Nairobi City Council’s work on the upkeep of public spaces, ILRI for many years has helped maintain the planted vegetation inside the roundabout as well as the grass verge between ILRI’s farm and Old Naivasha Road. In 2006, ILRI installed street lighting along almost a kilometre of public road passing along ILRI’s farm and main gate, starting from an area at the bottom of a hill that gave access to a major garbage dump used by local services like the #1 Junk Removal in Grand Rapids MI | Demolitions – Rubbish Cleanouts. The lighting greatly improved security for pedestrians in an area increasingly prone to muggings due to the growth of the dump. It was applauded by local people, one of whom published his appreciation the popular ‘Watchman’ column of Nairobi’s Daily Nation newspaper. Cries of help at night, once commonly heard by ILRI security guards, are now a thing of the past. Members of the public now regularly walk at night from the Uthiru shopping centre safely to their residences. (ILRI maintains this street lighting at its own cost.)

Uthiru Roundabout
In early 2008 ILRI management changed its gardening contractors and used the occasion to discuss with members of the Uthiru community and City Council officials ways to continue ILRI’s upkeep of the roundabout in simpler, more cost-effective, ways. At that time, this upkeep required two full-time gardeners working 5.5. days a week. The upshot of the discussions was a decision to replace bushy vegetation with easier-to-maintain grass.

This simple decision, to simplify the vegetation and its maintenance, transformed the rugged terrain of the roundabout from something of a public health hazard (used as a convenient toilet by those who had none in their homes and frequented only by young men) into something of a leisure park—a flowery, grassy lawn used by all members of the community. Families and friends now congregate daily within the park to spend quality time. The grounds also serve for amateur photography sessions, with budding musicians having lengthy videos taken as they practice their new numbers.

But weekends are by far the most popular time to visit the roundabout. It’s seen as a place to relax, a place to nap, read a book, study for an exam, meet a friend. Increasingly, it’s becoming a place for weekend weddings—booked through the church across the road. It’s a place for families and friends as well as wedding parties to get their photographs taken by professional photographers (or youths ambitious to be so). It’s a place for members of church choirs to practice on early Sunday mornings.

People come to this public space from as far away as Kiambu and the City Centre to relax in a safe, open, pleasant green space of perfect size—just large enough to allow some privacy for the different groups using it but too small for those wanting to play or watch football and other sports.

For the people of Uthiru, their roundabout has become something of a local attraction (so much so that managing the rubbish left by visitors is becoming a new maintenance issue). Many studies have shown the benefits of a clean, safe, respected public space on local self-esteem, perception and behaviour. Crime rates drop dramatically. Grades of schoolchildren go up. And ILRI’s cost? Just four hours a day of one gardener’s time. Which makes this a great (and surprisingly human) return on a very small (and surprisingly smart) investment.

ILRI board member Dieter Schillinger awarded Wilhelm-Pfeiffer Medal for his contribution to veterinary medicines

Dieter Schillinger

Dieter Schillinger, member of the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), has been awarded the 2010 Wilhelm-Pfeiffer Medal of the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, to honour his 'outstanding contribution and service to promote research and innovation in veterinary medicines'.

The medal is awarded annually by the German university's faculty of veterinary medicine to people who have provided outstanding services to veterinary medicine. Schillinger, a doctor of veterinary medicine, received the award on 16 July 2010 during a graduation ceremony at Justus-Liebig University.

German-born Schillinger is based in Lyon, France, where he has served the pharmaceutical company Merial as Head of Public Affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa since 2006. He is responsible for government relations and the management of Merial’s activities in the political and public policy arenas. Merial is a world-leader in animal health with a proven track record in producing pharmaceutical products and vaccines for livestock, pets and wildlife.

For further information, please see the following news release (in German).

Women scientist leading national project to conserve Vietnam’s native livestock breeds wins prestigious Kovalepskaia Award

Prof Dr Le Thi Thuy Prof Dr Le Thi Thuy, Director of the Department of Science and International Cooperation of Vietnam’s National Institute of Animal Husbandry, has been awarded the 2009 Kovalepskaia Award in recognition of her role as a woman scientist working on conservation of indigenous livestock breeds. The award is named after Sophia Kovalepskaia, an eminent 19th-century Russian mathematician. Thuy is serving as the national project director in Vietnam of a multi-national project scientists are leading at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to help conserve the indigenous farm animal genetic resources of Asia. This project is funded by the Global Environment Facility. The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation of Germany bestows a bi-annual Sofia Kovalevskaya Award to promising young researchers from all fields. From Wikipedia: Sofia Kovalevskaya, 1850–1891, was the first major Russian female mathematician, responsible for important original contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics, and the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe. Despite her obvious talent for mathematics, she could not complete her education in Russia. At that time, women there were not allowed to attend the universities. To study abroad, she needed written permission from her father (or husband). Accordingly, she contracted a "fictitious marriage" with Vladimir Kovalevsky, then a young paleontology student who would later become famous for his collaborations with Charles Darwin. They emigrated from Russia in 1867. In 1869, Kovalevskaya began attending the University of Heidelberg, Germany, which allowed her to audit classes as long as the professors involved gave their approval. Shortly after beginning her studies there, she visited London with Vladimir, who spent time with his colleagues Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin, while she was invited to attend George Eliot's Sunday salons. There, at age nineteen, she met Herbert Spencer and was led into a debate, at Eliot's instigation, on ‘woman's capacity for abstract thought’. This was well before she made her notable contribution of the ‘Kovalevsky top’ to the brief list of known examples of integrable rigid body motion. After two years of mathematical studies at Heidelberg, she moved to Berlin, where she had to take private lessons, as the university would not even allow her to audit classes. In 1874 she presented three papers—on partial differential equations, on the dynamics of Saturn's rings and on elliptic integrals—to the University of Göttingen as her doctoral dissertation. This earned her a doctorate in mathematics summa cum laude, bypassing the usual required lectures and examinations. She thereby became the first woman in Europe to hold that degree. Her paper on partial differential equations contains what is now commonly known as the Cauchy-Kovalevski theorem, which gives conditions for the existence of solutions to a certain class of those equations. In 1889 she was appointed Professorial Chair holder at Stockholm University, the first woman to hold such a position at a northern European university. After much lobbying on her behalf (and a change in the Academy's rules), she was granted a Chair in the Russian Academy of Sciences, but was never offered a professorship in Russia. Kovalevskaya died of influenza in 1891 at age forty-one. Sofja Kowalewskaja

ILRI garners award for spatial mapping


Patrick Kariuki with the ESRI award shortly after the award ceremony held in San Diego, California

Over the past 20 years, research at ILRI has broadened its focus from animal health and systems research to a holistic approach to the livestock chain. This multi-disciplinary approach has necessitated the use of new tools to answer research questions that address the issue of poverty.

One of these tools is spatial mapping.

In the early years of the decade, ILRI, in collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, developed spatial maps of the country to identify where the pockets of extreme poverty lay. In 2003, when the maps were launched, they were immediately adopted to service a newly launched policy initiative called the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which used the poverty index derived from spatial mapping to determine proportionate allocation of funds. ILRI subsequently worked with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to map out areas of extreme poverty in that country.

Another example of how ILRI has put the spatial maps to effective use is its small dairy project. Research findings generated by spatial mapping persuaded Kenyan legislators to support the country’s informal milk market. The value of the government’s research-based policy changes are estimated at USD 33.5 million annually. Other projects where ILRI’s spatial mapping capacity has made significant impact are assessment of and rapid response to Rift Valley fever as well as accurate projections for crops, livestock, water use and malnutrition.


ILRI wins 10 awards for communication excellence

The international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE) recently presented the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with 10 top awards for excellence in communication.
ACE aims to extend knowledge about agriculture, natural resources, and life and human science to people worldwide by developing the professional skills of its members. Members include writers, editors, photographers, web developers and researchers working in universities, government agencies and research organizations in the public and private sectors throughout the world. ACE operates an annual Critique and Awards programme geared toward providing members with professional critiques of their work and recognizing those who have excelled. (www.aceweb.org)

This year ILRI won 10 top awards: two gold, four silver and four bronze awards. The awards were presented to ILRI’s corporate communications officer, Grace Ndungu, by ACE’s president Bob Sams at a banquet organized for the conference participants in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 19 June 2007.


Bruce Scott, ILRI’s director of partnerships and communication, says ‘the efforts that have been put into making sure that ILRI’s communicates to the world professionally – so that science can make the biggest difference on world poverty – are starting pay off significantly. It’s very rewarding that others judge us to excel at this.’

007 ACE Gold Awards

Covers of three ILRI big issue briefs: Saving Lives and Protecting Livelihoods,
Climate Change in Africa and Combating Bird flu

Cover of the sixth Annual Peter Doherty lecture

2007 ACE Silver Awards

Content, images and overall presentation of the ILRI Annual Report 2005 ‘Knowledge to Action’

Film script of the ILRI and Doyle Foundation ‘Trypanosomosis Control’ DVD

Images and overall presentation of ILRI’s information folder

Image of a  woman spinning cotton in her home in southern Mali,
contained in the ILRI Annual Report 2005

2007 ACE Bronze Awards

Cover of the ‘Mapping climate vulnerability and poverty in Africa’ book

Content, images and overall presentation of the
‘Highlights’ section in the ILRI Annual Report 2005

Image, message and overall presentation of ILRI’s 2006 Christmas Greeting Card

Filming of the ‘ILRI at Work 2006’ DVD

In previous years ILRI has won 6 ACE awards: one gold, two silver and three bronze, for its cutting-edge communications products. (https://www.ilri.org/ILRIPubAware/ShowDetail.asp?CategoryID=TS&ProductReferenceNo=TS%5F060905%5F002

Genebank community wins science partnership award

Research centres are honoured for their work to preserve the diversity of the world’s key food and forage crops.

Twelve centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) recently won the CGIAR’s Outstanding Partnership Award for their management of genebanks and effective stewardship of plant genetic resources they hold in trust for the world community.

The Partnership’s genebanks are vital for achieving food security and protecting plant genetic diversity and represent the most important international effort to safeguard the world’s agricultural legacy. ILRI and the other 11 centres of the CGIAR hold more than 600,000 samples of crop-plant diversity. These include wild relatives and more than half of the global total of farmer-created varieties, which are a rich source of sought-after characteristics.

Base genebanks are used for long-term security storage of original germplasm collections. They act as a repository of materials that have been reasonably characterized and which may or may not have current interest or use by plant breeders. Collected materials are preserved until such time as there are enough resources available for them to be characterized and evaluated. Active genebanks are used for current research and distribution of seeds, with all seeds in active collections freely available in small quantities to all research workers and distributed both directly and through networks.

Jean Hanson, a plant geneticist working at the Addis Ababa campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said, ‘This Outstanding Partnership Award recognizes almost 20 years of collaboration between staff of the CGIAR genebanks, first as an ad hoc working group and community of practice and later as the formal steering committee for the CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resources Programme.

‘Partnerships involving staff of 12 CGIAR centres are rare. This award recognizes an active and collegial partnership that has stood the test of time and changes in staffing and funding within the CGIAR genebank community.’

This Outstanding Partnership Award, announced at the CGIAR’s Annual General Meeting in Washington, DC, in December 2006, recognizes the teamwork that provided stewardship of global public goods central to the CGIAR’s work and also provided leadership to the whole plant genetic resources community. While discharging its duties as custodians of the CGIAR in-trust collections, the Partnership has advanced research in the many scientific disciplines providing leadership for germplasm conservation and use, raised awareness world-wide of the importance of genetic resources to development, and represented the CGIAR in important international fora, from the Earth Summit, held in Rio in 1992, to the first meeting of the Governing Body the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in 2006.

Collective action by the Partnership generated common policies and practices with which to administer the CGIAR collections under legal agreements governing their in-trust status. Employing these common policies and practices has ensured the highest standards in germplasm conservation and dissemination of that germplasm and related information. Achieving these two objectives demanded combining conservation and information science with smart legal and policy know-how, skillful negotiation and tactful diplomacy.

To secure the in-trust collections, the Partnership took an open, self-critical approach to meet the highest international standards. The Centres continue their work to take conservation technology forward by convening meetings to explore methodologies; publishing guidelines on field and in vitro genebank management and regeneration and other topics; scoping new areas for action, such as research on underutilized species and holistic approaches to agricultural biodiversity; and tackling research bottlenecks such as difficulties in storing clonal material. The Partnership has also conducted upstream research, examining the application of molecular genetics to genebanking, which led to wider developments such as the CGIAR initiation of a Generation Challenge Program.

Pulling technical, economic, policy and information components together, this Partnership helped materialize a vision of a co-ordinated global system for the conservation and use of plant genetic resources. This Partnership is providing coherent leadership of a global genetic resources system underpinning food security for humanity into the future.
Last October, world leaders in agricultural research signed agreements to guarantee long-term access to some of the world’s most important collections of agricultural biodiversity by placing all their ex-situ genebank collections under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The agreements require commercial users to share benefits with the global community. Eleven centres belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) were party to the agreements, which will allow breeders and other researchers to tap the collections for solutions to some of the world’s most pressing development problems, including drought, desertification and food and nutritional security. ‘World’s Most Diverse Forage Collection Comes under New Treaty’. (https://newsarchive.ilri.org/archives/452)ILRI maintains both an active and base genebank at its principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As part of its commitment to maintaining the collection as a global public good, ILRI claims no ownership nor seeks any intellectual property rights over the germplasm and related information. ILRI conserves its diverse forage collection to make it and relevant information freely available to scientists and the national agricultural research systems of developing and other countries.

CGIAR Genebank Community
The genebanks of the CGIAR Centres
01  International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia (represented by Daniel Debouck)
02  International Potato Center (CIP), Peru (represented by Willy Roca)
03  International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico (represented by Thomas Payne)
04  International Center for Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria (represented by Jan Valkoun)
05  World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Kenya (represented by Tony Simons)
06  International Centre for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India (represented by CLL  Gowda)
07  International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria (represented by Dominique Dumet)
08  International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya (represented by Jean Hanson)
09  Bioversity International, Italy (represented by Laura Snook)
10  International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines (represented by Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton)
11  West African Rice Development Association (WARDA), Benin (represented by Ines Sanchez)

Related organizations
12  United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Italy (represented by Linda Collette)
13  International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC (represented by Melinda Smale)
14  CGIAR Systemwide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP) Secretariat, Italy, (represented by Jane Toll)

ILRI wins five international communication awards

ILRI receives 5 top honours for the institute's communications products.

International communications professionals have awarded ILRI 5 top honours for the institute’s communications products. ILRI’s poster series won gold and four other products won silver: ILRI’s calendar, holiday card, photoessay (‘Niger: Behind the Famine Footage’), and a paid editorial that ran in Scotland’s Herald newspaper during then G8 meeting in Glenneagles in 2005.

Herald Editorial

Photoessay – Niger:Behind the Famine Footage

ILRI Calendar 2006 (front)

Christmas Holiday card (inside)

These awards were bestowed by Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), the world’s leading international professional organization for agricultural communications. They were presented in Quebec City in June 2006. The previous year, ILRI won a bronze award from ACE for the design of its 10-year-anniversary logo.

ILRI's 10th Anniversary Logo



ILRI's Eric Ouma receiving an award from ACE (2005)

In previous years, ILRI has won other design awards for its posters from the International Advertising Society.

ILRI’s director for partnerships and communications, Mr Bruce Scott, said ‘ILRI conducts livestock research to reduce severe poverty, hunger and environmental degradation in poor countries. We try to offer communications that are as compelling as they are authoritative so that our science can make the biggest difference on world poverty. It is particularly rewarding that our communications peers judge us to excel at this.’