New book spells out how investment in livestock production can enhance development in poor countries

New book on livestock in developing countries

Siboniso Moyo, ILRI’s representative for southern Africa, holds a copy of ‘The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality’ which was recently launched in South Africa (photo credit: ILRI).

A new book co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) calls for more investment in livestock production to fight poverty and promote human health in developing countries.

The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality was launched on 9 November 2010 at the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Farm animals continue to play several central roles in the livelihoods of the people in developing countries, ranging from providing households with high-quality foods, good nutrition and regular incomes to providing labourers with jobs, community members with social status and farmers and herders with ways to sustain food production.

This book highlights the livestock sector’s contribution to the social and economic progress of developing communities and advocates public- and private-sector investments in livestock production.

The publication is a product of a satellite symposium that was part of the 10th World Conference on Animal Production, held in Cape Town in November 2008. The symposium, jointly organized by ILRI and the University of the Free State, focused on livestock livelihood strategies for meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

‘We were pleased with the chance to work together with the University of the Free State in a side event during the World Conference of Animal Production 2008, which led to the production of this book,’ said Siboniso Moyo, ILRI’s representative for southern Africa, during the launch.

Moyo, along with Frans Swanepoel, senior director of research and professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, and Aldo Stroebel, director of international affairs and associate professor at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development at the same university, provided editorial oversight for the book.

John McDermott, ILRI’s deputy director general for research; Canagasaby Devendra, a tropical animal production specialist who formerly worked at ILRI, and Akke van der Zijpp, another former ILRI staff member who is now professor in livestock production systems at the Wageningen University and Research Centre, in the Netherlands, served in the editorial advisory committee that steered production of the book.

‘The “multifunctionality” of livestock is an important concept to understand when working with developing communities,’ said Moyo. ‘Viewing research and development challenges through a livestock lens,’ she said, ‘can help us make even greater use of the many functions livestock serve in poor communities and so as to increase their contribution to livelihoods.’

The book launch was attended by Monty Jones, executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, chairperson of the Global Forum of Agricultural Research and a World Food Prize Laureate (2004), who contributed the foreword to the book, and Norman Casey, president of the 10thWorld Conference of Animal Production 2008.

The book describes successful livestock development strategies, including ways to promote gender equality and to empower women through livestock development and ways to develop small-scale livestock enterprises without harming the environment.

Targeting academic professionals, industry experts, government officials and academics interested in increasing the contributions livestock enterprises can make to human well-being and developing-country economies, the new publication includes case studies and frameworks, discussions of key global policy development issues, and the main challenges and constraints of smallholder livestock production systems around the world.

The book is available in South Africa through Sun Media Bloemfontein and can be ordered through their e-shop:

Download the full text

View ILRI slide presentations made at the satellite symposium during the 10th World Conference on Animal Production:

If pigs could fly: Reducing the ‘gender asset gap’ in agricultural development–the beginnings of a ‘transformative gender’ paradigm shift?


RED CARPET WELCOME: His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya, generously allowed his presidential red carpet to be briefly used for a photograph of a group of pro-women agricultural scientists this month at the International Livestock Research Institute (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

Unusually, and, if truth be said, thrillingly, the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute and BecA—a Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub that ILRI hosts and manages—have, within the space of 12 months, been visited by two very seriously important persons: Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in early December 2009; and Mwai Kibaki, president of the Republic of Kenya, early this month (November 2010).

Biotech men
Both VIPs expressed excitement in, and support for, BecA’s recently launched state-of-the-art biosciences facilities, which they happily toured, donning crisp white lab coats to inspect BecA’s ultra-modern, super-molecular laboratories, including a half-million-dollar ‘454’ DNA sequencer, a space-agey-looking biosafety containment facility and a shiny brand-new greenhouse.

Bill Gates visits the BecA Hub at ILRI in December 2009

BILL GATES, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and former CEO of Microsoft, toured the ultra-modern laboratories of BecA at ILRI last December (2009) (photo credit: ILRI/Ouma).

BecA official opening, 5 November 2010

HIS EXCELLENCY Kenya President Mwai Kibaki on a tour of the same labs this November (2010), led by BecA Hub Director Segenet Kelemu (third from left) (photo credit: ILRI/Masi).
The feminization of biotech
While the entourages of both Gates (who was on a private visit) and Kibaki (on a State visit) were mostly male, BecA’s director, Ethiopian Segenet Kelemu; as well as a key initiator and supporter of BecA, Australian Gabrielle Persley; and some half the students and African scientists the VIPs met and interviewed while they toured the labs, were female. On both visits, our male VIPs appeared impressed by the high 'girl power' in these high-tech labs. And so they should have been, both VIPs coming of age (Gates is 55 this year, Kibaki, 79) when such visible expression of the closing of the gender gap was rare.

BecA official opening, 5 November 2010

POLITICIANS AND SCIENTISTS: Segenet Kelemu, director of the BecA Hub at ILRI, explains to President Kibaki the significance of a metal and glass sculpture of a DNA helix unveiled by the president at the official opening of the Hub earlier this month (5 November 2010) (photo credit: ILRI/Njuguna).
Closing the gender gap
Fortuitously and aptly, then, on the morning of President Kibaki’s visit to ILRI on 5 November 2010 to officially open the BecA Hub, another meeting, arranged by research groups much earlier than the State visit was arranged, was starting in another venue on the same ILRI campus, far from the imposing presidential dais, marching band, schoolgirl choir and guest and refreshment tents erected and assembled down the hill, in front of ILRI’s Mara House office building.
Back up the hill, then, in a meeting room adjacent to a quiet quad and out of the fray, a group of (mostly) women experts on gender and agriculture in developing countries opened an ‘inception’ workshop for a new scientific project aiming to reduce inequalities between men and women (and boys and girls) in agricultural development.
We know that Bill Gates supports this work, because his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the project. And we suspect that President Kibaki would also be supportive. (Upon learning that a schoolgirl choir, standing near the presidential dais, had awaited his arrival from the labs for several hours to sing for him, Kibaki admonished his staff that the girls ought to be in school, this being a Friday, and instructed them to have all the schoolgirls immediately seated under the tents.)


GIRL POWER: A schoolgirl choir walks past one of several red carpets laid out in honour of a visit to BecA and ILRI by President Mwai Kibaki (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).
Historic beginnings for closing the gender gap in agricultural projects
The gender research project being quietly kicked off in ILRI’s N’Dama Lounge was, in its way, as much an historic beginning as the advanced labs being opened further down the hill. Scientists at ILRI and elsewhere have known for years that more—much, much, much more—should be done to address women’s issues in agricultural development. And they have struggled for years to incorporate women’s issues into their research programs. With little success.
Women continue to have fewer assets than men
If small-scale agriculture remains the backbone of most developing-country economies, women remain the stuff that makes up that backbone. Across nationalities, cultures and religions, women more than men tend to invest their time and energy and income in the stuff that matters most to most of us, with the greatest benefits provided to the greatest numbers of poor. Yet women have fewer assets than men—whether we look at land, natural resources and other tangible assets or less tangible ones like human capital. This gap between men’s and women’s assets not only reduces agricultural productivity, but also restricts women’s decison-making power, which affects such vital matters as sustainable food production, children’s nutrition and education, and economic development. 
That’s what we know. Not what we do. And the disconnect between what we know to do in ‘gender’ issues in agricultural development and what we do do has been getting bigger and more glaring every year.
When pigs fly, we used to say, not so long ago, we will all be working to help women help the rest of us in development—just because that’s what women tend to do, regardless of their material circumstances. The disjunct between what women do for agriculture and what we in agricultural research and development do for them, we said, was a disgrace. And then we would sigh and crawl back into a ‘what to do?’ cynicism. What our staff lacked, we said, was the training and technical assistance needed first to identify and then to address disparities in agricultural development and in assets. That’s now changing. At ILRI the change is due to the institute’s recent hiring of people who know what to do—and are ready to do it.
These new staff and positions include some of the best scientists in the world who are champions of gender research in agricultural development. These relatively new ILRI staff include Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan leading sociologist in gender and agriculture studies; Nancy Johnson, an American agricultural economist and poverty analyst; and Canadian Patti Kristjanson, a long-term ILRI economist who just two years ago launched a 'Women and Livestock Challenge Dialogue'. (In January of this year, Kristjanson moved to the World Agroforestry Centre, across town from ILRI, to lead a research team that is part of a new global climate change initiative involving all 15 centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, to which ILRI belongs.) These three women formed a Gender, Poverty and Impacts research team which, despite starting only one-and-a-half years ago, has already created the momentum across ILRI for re-focusing on gender and agriculture.


ILRI PUTS WOMEN'S ISSUES FRONT AND CENTRE: Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan expert in gender and agriculture and impact analysis working for ILRI, waits with ILRI's deputy director general-research John McDermott, a Canadian veterinary researcher, beside the red carpet laid down at ILRI's entrance for the presidential visit happening at the same time, in front of an office building down below (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).
Can a few women make a difference?
Can a few committed women and some supportive men make a big difference in gender research for development? With institutional support, we're betting on it. ILRI’s seriousness about, and new serious expertise in, empowering women farmers and marketers got the attention of other groups working toward the same goal. The ILRI group has joined forces with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) team of Ruth Meinzen-Dick and Agnes Quisumbing, long-time researchers on gender and agriculture.
This inception workshop for the ‘Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project,’ held from 5–7 November 2010, is a 3-year initiative of IFPRI and ILRI funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The overall aim of the initiative is to improve rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by helping agricultural development programs significantly reduce inequalities, including disparities in assets, between men and women.
The workshop brought together research and development partners from different organizations. In addition to IFPRI and ILRI, these included BRAC, CARE Bangladesh, East Africa Dairy Development project, Fintrac Inc, Grameen Foundation, Helen Keller International, International Rice Research Institute, Kickstart International, Land O’Lakes, Rural Development Institute, Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility initiative at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and the World Vegetable Centre (AVDRC), as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the United States Agency for International Development.
As part of the initiative, the team will evaluate some 10 agricultural research and development projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and others to identify the impacts of these projects on women’s assets and to clarify which strategies have been successful in reducing gaps between men and women in access to, and control of, assets.


THINKING BIG: IFPRI's Ruth Meinzen-Dick gives an overview of the ambitious aims of the Gender Assets Gaps project (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).
The project is based on several premises: (1) that control over, and ownership of, assets is a critical component of well-being, (2) that increasing control or ownership of assets does more to help create pathways out of poverty than increasing incomes or consumption alone and (3) that the different kinds of assets addressed by a project—whether tangible or intangible, for example, or whether defined as natural, physical, financial, human, social or political ‘capital’—matter. Project staff are investigating the control of assets because who controls assets in households matters a lot. Household members typically do not pool all resources or agree on what their scarce resources should be used for. The benefits of policy changes in any given household or community are determined largely by who in the household or community is the main beneficiary of the new resources. And we now have evidence from many countries that increasing the resources under the control of women not only improves the nutrition and health of children, but also increases agricultural productivity and household incomes.
Astonishingly, although women make a significant contribution to agriculture in developing countries and are much more likely than men to use their (scarce) resources to improve the nutrition, welfare and well-being of their families, they are still neglected in most agricultural research and development programs. At a Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, held in Montpellier, France, last March (2010), IFPRI’s Ruth Meinzen-Dick argued that accounting for gender in our research and development work is not an option but a necessity if we are going to reduce world poverty and feed the world’s growing populations (which are expected to peak at mid-century, falling after that): ‘Changing agricultural research and development from male-dominated to gender-equitable is not merely an issue of political correctness or ideology; it is a matter of development effectiveness that can benefit everyone.’
Although getting reliable, accurate and timely statistics disaggregated by gender remains a formidable challenge for most countries (in 2010, the United Nations found that no census had been carried out in the last three decades in 41 per cent of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa), what we know is probably enough to be getting on with. The following should give a flavour of the depth and scope of the issues.
More women than men:
  • own no land
  • are poor and hungry
  • are illiterate
  • are refugees
  • are living with HIV (in Africa)
  • are caring for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Most women:
  • work longer hours than men
  • work in jobs with lower pay, status, power and authority than men
  • get paid less than men for doing the same work
  • provide most of the family labour and are unpaid for that labour
  • bear double responsibility for household and farm work
  • receive a fraction of the agricultural extension and support services provided to men
  • have half the education levels of men
  • have less access to health care services than men
  • have fewer legal rights than men.
Flying pigs?
Fortunately, as detailed and dissected in this inception workshop, projects from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal) and sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) have potential to address such asset disparities.
These projects are working across the spectrum of women’s rural livelihoods and concerns in these regions, from animal husbandry to vegetable genetics, from nutrition and sociology to agricultural economics and development management. An enumeration of some of the more obvious specific topics tackled in the projects presented at this workshop gives some idea of the broad disciplinary expertise demanded by those working to help women use agriculture to better their lives. These include dairy development, land transfer to girls, vegetable production, development and dissemination of nutrient-rich foods such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, value addition and processing, market information systems, high-value horticulture, crop management and irrigation.
Some of the opportunities described in overviews of these projects include the following.
  • Fully 94 per cent of the vendors in vegetable markets in sub-Saharan Africa are women.
  • Twice as many women as men in Uganda cultivate sweet potatoes, most sweet potato traders in towns as well as villages are women, and women tend to be less risk-averse in crop choice than men.
  • Contrary to previous reports, information tips delivered by mobile phone delivery of market and other agricultural information in Uganda show female farmers are very interested in receiving, and acting on, timely market information.
  • Legumes, once considered a 'woman's crop in much of Africa, can directly benefit the nutrition of poor households.
  • With increasing migration of men from rural to urban areas in South Asia, the roles of women are shifting from unpaid farm labourers to de facto farm managers.
  • Seedling nurseries are an opportunity for women because they require relatively little labour and can be established close to homesteads.
  • East African women dairy producers have most control of the milk they sell informally in the evening.
According to this group of scientists, the gender research areas in greatest need of addressing are:
  • Training in methods to integrate gender and asset-based approaches in agriculture development programs.
  • Evaluating agriculture development programs to understand what works and what does not work in building women’s assets and scaling out those strategies that work.
  • Collecting gender-disaggregated data. 
  • Initiating, and training in, gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation work. 
  • Expanding measurements of income and consumption to include evaluations of how projects build assets.

Village food seller in Nigeria

THE TARGET, THE BENEFICIARY, THE HOPE: A young girl sells food to villagers outside Kano, Nigeria (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).
The gender and agricultural assets initiative wants to learn from the most promising successes in these projects so as to help redress imbalances in power. The project leaders are dreaming and thinking big. They aim no less than pushing a ‘paradigm shift’ in agricultural development programming from ‘gender exploitive’ to ‘gender accommodating’ to ‘gender transformative’. This will of necessity mean taking on a lot, including ‘challenging the ideological, socio-cultural, economic, political and institutional frameworks and structures that create and recreate gender inequalities’. The project leaders are well aware of the danger that such targeting, if not done well, can lead to a backlash that further marginalizes rather than supports poor women. And they recognize the role of men in achieving gender equality.
This project will train teams of experts in how to use tools to assess the assets held by men, women and households as a whole and in how to integrate and measure the effectiveness of strategies for increasing the assets of women. To this end, IFPRI’s Ruth Meinzen-Dick proposed a conceptual framework for analyzing assets while ILRI’s Jemimah Njuki presented different strategies for addressing gender in agricultural programs, explaining why and how to complement quantitative tools in monitoring and evaluation with qualitative tools. IFPRI’s Dan Gilligan described methods for evaluating quantitative impacts and ILRI’s Nancy Johnson and IFPRI’s Agnes Quisumbing discussed different types of assets, data needs and data collection instruments. Project implementers and evaluators in this initiative are expected to work hand in hand over the life of the selected projects, using both qualitative and quantitative methods  to assess and document changes from baselines in levels of control and ownerships of assets.
And pigs, then, will perhaps have a chance to start to fly.
For more information, visit, the following:
The Gender Assets Gap project’s blog:
ILRI’s Gender & Agriculture blog:
All slide presentations given at the workshop:
Pictures of the workshop:
News of a forthcoming ILRI-organized workshop on ‘Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture’, 31 Jan to 2 Feb 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
Announcement of a forthcoming TEDx event at IFPRI, on 14 Devember 2010, in Washington, DC, with talks by ILRI’s Jemimah Njuki and IFPRI’s Agnes Quisumbing and Ruth Meinzen-Dick on gender as the ‘missing ingredient’ in many development policies and programs:
A filmed presentation by ILRI’s Jemimah Njiki making the case that animal agriculture can be used to help redress skewed resources available to rural women worldwide (in societies where women are unable to own anything else, farm animals provide women with incomes; and when those women’s incomes rise, the health, nutrition and education of their whole families also rise, with everybody winning):

Kenya study finds prototype tsetse-repellent technology does not sufficiently protect cattle under normal field conditions

Testing a tsetse-repellent technology

Cattle fitted with tsetse-repellent dispensers suspended from neck collars were used to test the effectiveness of a prototype tsetse repellent in preventing tsetse fly bites (Photo credit: ILRI/Bett).

Recently published findings from a study done among Maasai livestock in Kenya to test whether repellents can successfully reduce tsetse fly bites in cattle show that tsetse-repellent technologies may have some success in typical field conditions but do not yet offer a viable alternative for controlling trypanosomosis in field-based livestock.

The study, ‘Field trial of a synthetic tsetse-repellent technology developed for the control of bovine trypanosomosis in Kenya,’ was the first to evaluate the use of a mobile tsetse repellent in the field. It was conducted between April 2005 and August 2006 in Nkuruman, in Kajiado District, and Nkineji, in Narok District.

Trypanosomosis is the most pervasive and serious cattle disease in sub-Saharan Africa. It kills between three and seven million cattle each year and costs farmers millions of dollars in lost production and treatment costs. The disease is transmitted mainly by blood-feeding tsetse flies that infect susceptible animals with the causative trypanosome parasite during their feeding. Other trypanosome parasites can infect humans, causing sleeping sickness, a disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Animal trypanosomosis is difficult to control because its spread is influenced by many factors, including the age, sex and colour of the cattle at risk as well as the herd size, its geographical area and climate. Adult and male cattle, for example, are more likely to contract the disease than calves and females. And tsetse flies prefer to take their feeds from animals with dark coats.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) researchers Bernard Bett, Tom Randolph and John McDermott participated in the evaluation, which was designed with the help of veteran African tsetse researchers Glyn Vale and John Hargrove, and Steve Torr of Greenwich University (UK). The evaluation involved 2000 cattle: 1000 formed the control group, while the other 1000 animals were fitted with tsetse-repellent dispensers suspended from neck collars. The effectiveness of the repellent was then monitored for 16 months.

The study stipulated at the outset that the repellent would be considered effective if it reduced the incidence of trypanosomosis by 50 percent or more in the repellent-treated animals versus the control animals. Failure to achieve this level of reduction would mean that the repellent technology was clearly not ‘a viable alternative to existing control techniques’.

Results from the trial showed that the technology reduces trypanosomosis infection rates only modestly. ‘The synthetic repellent reduced the incidence of the disease only by 18 percent,’ said Bett, the ILRI scientist who implemented the trial.

Bett went on to explain that the technology had been proposed for evaluation based on initial experiments using stationary cattle that suggested that the repellents could reduce infection rates by more than 80 percent. ‘Under typical field conditions, however,’ said Bett, ‘the repellent did not provide adequate levels of protection, so we are recommending that it not be considered for further commercial development at this point.’

That the effectiveness of the repellent in the field was lower than expected could be attributed to both the fragile nature of the repellent dispensers, which, sensitive to abrasions, often leaked, as well as the repellent itself. Tsetse flies, especially hungry ones, will alight even on animals that smell bad to them. This is why people, for example, whose odour should put off tsetse flies, still get bitten by them.

‘The earlier experiments might have also overestimated the benefit of the technology,’ said Bett. ‘Those initial experiments evaluated the reduction in numbers of flies feeding on tethered cattle; other flies, however, could bite quickly without feeding and still transmit the disease before the repellent drives them away. In addition, while flies mainly use odour to find a stationary cow, they use vision more than odour to guide them to moving animals, such as those in the pastoralist herds used in the field trial.’

The study found that many variables determine the effectiveness of the repellent technology. Among these are changes in grazing (during the dry season, herders tend to move their stock to pastures with higher densities of tsetse) and herd sizes (the larger the herd, the lesser are the chances that an individual animal within the herd will be bitten). Trypanosomosis incidence also differed in the two test districts. While cattle were the preferred hosts for the flies in Narok, the cattle in Kajiado came fifth in fly preference—after warthog, elephant, zebra and buffalo—which reduced the effectiveness of the repellent worn by the cattle.

Bett says that ‘the results of this study show that the tsetse-repellent technologies currently proposed are unlikely to be useful replacements of existing methods of controlling trypanosomosis.’ These include keeping indigenous ‘trypanotolerant’ cattle breeds, which can tolerate trypanosome infections without getting sick; treating sick animals with trypanocidal drugs to cure them of the disease; introducing sterile tsetse flies into an area to reduce its tsetse population; and controlling tsetse populations using pyrethrum-based insecticides.’

The findings of this study should help scientists improve their research on methods for controlling tsetse fly populations and the trypanosomosis they spread. ‘In the short term, however,’ says Bett, ‘we need to continue sensitizing livestock keepers on how to best use the existing control methods.’

‘We also urgently need to develop integrated strategies for controlling the fly and disease,’ concludes Bett, ‘so that we stop over-relying on popular interventions, such as regularly treating cattle with trypanocides, which will inevitably lead to drug resistance in the trypanosome parasites.’

Read the complete findings of the evaluation on this link

This blog entry by Tezira Lore, a communication specialist with ILRI’s Market Opportunities Theme, compares findings of this field trial with findings of other ILRI studies in typanosomosis.

Need for delivery networks for East Coast fever vaccine highlighted in audio interview

ITM Vaccine

East Coast fever is a major livestock disease in eastern, central and southern Africa. Transmitted by ticks infected with a protozoan parasite (Theileria  parva), it kills over 1 million animals each year, damaging livelihoods of poor livestock keepers and farmers in 11 countries. Researchers from organizations such as the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working to find innovative ways to protect African livestock against this and other ‘orphan’ livestock diseases.

One of the successes in the efforts to fight East Coast fever has been the development of a ‘live’ vaccine, which includes the whole parasite, weakened so as not to cause severe disease thatcame after over 30 years of research by organizations including ILRI and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. This long-term research was funded by UK Department for International Development and other donors of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. The vaccine is now registered in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania and its widespread use is being promoted so that it can give protection to the animals on which many poor people in these countries depend.

In the following audio interview, John McDermott, Deputy Director General-Research at ILRI, speaks in Nairobi of the need ‘to develop networks that can distribute and deliver’ the vaccine to those who need it, which should encourage its widespread use. This interview, produced in July 2010 by AFGAX Radio (, also shares the expectations of a veterinarian from Kenya and a farmer from Tanzania of how the vaccine will help livestock keepers.

To listen to the interview, visit:

More information about the East Coast fever live vaccine is available in the following article.

Livestock: ‘Polluters of the Planet’ or ‘Pathways out of Poverty’? A public debate

Small-scale pig farming outside Beijing

Two development experts recently debated the 'public goods' and 'bads' of global livestock production. They debated the question, 'Should we eat less meat to increase food security', in a 'Spat' column in the current (June 2010) issue of People and Science, published by the British Science Association.

Arguing 'no' (with reservations) is John McDermott, a Canadian veterinary epidemiologist who serves the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as Deputy Director General for Research. Arguing 'yes' (also with reservations) is Vicki Hird, a Senior Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, a UK-based environmental non-governmental organization.

The missions of both ILRI and Friends of the Earth have much in common. Both organizations, for example, are investigating ways to reduce climate change. And both want to manage natural resources in ways that conserve as much land, water, biodiversity and air as possible, with everyone getting a 'fair share' of those resources.

But when it comes to their views on livestock — as to whether cows, sheep, goats, pigs and other farm animals do more good than bad, or more bad than good, for people and their environments — each of these development experts sees livestock from a different perspective.

For Hird, who lives in Europe — where environmental concerns are major issues, and where the public embraces environmental causes and activism — livestock are largely 'polluters of the planet'.

For McDermott, who lives in East Africa — where people's greatest concerns are getting a job, putting food on the table and paying school and medical fees, a region where development concerns take centre stage — livestock represent 'pathways out of poverty'.

Large-scale pig production in Beijing

As one might expect, Hird takes a 'global' and 'environmental' view of the impacts of livestock production, focusing on the inhumane industrial 'factory farms' of industrialized countries, the over-consumption of fatty meat by the rich, and the rape of South American forests to make room for cattle, sheep and goat ranches or for growing soy to feed pigs in Europe. McDermott, also as one might expect, takes the perspective of the world's 450 million small farmers, who raise their animals on grass and crop wastes rather than grain, whose children don't yet eat enough meat, milk and eggs, and whose livelihoods depend directly on the natural resources they have at hand.

Both of these development experts, perhaps surprisingly, also agree on quite a lot when it comes to livestock. They agree that factory farming practices are becoming more and more unsustainable as well as inhumane; they agree that most people in rich countries would profit from eating less fatty meats; they agree that South America's forests should not be felled so that rich people can eat more pigmeat; and they agree that finding more sustainable as well as equitable ways of producing livestock is in the general public interest.

What the debate focuses on, then, is not so much what to do but how to do it. And, as we shall see, on how long that should take.

McDermott argues for giving small farmers 'incentives', for example, to redistribute livestock herds or to intensify their crop-plus-livestock farming systems in ways that make more efficient use of natural resources.

Hird argues for more regulation of the livestock industry in richer countries in areas such as farm subsidies and taxation, and for raising awareness of the major environmental, social and health problems that livestock systems can cause so as to change public (meat-eating) behaviour.

McDermott thinks our biggest job is 'to close the selective-evidence divide on both sides of the debate' by getting more evidence in key areas; some industrial practices, he points out, make 'very efficient' uses of environmental resources. To come up with equitable policies in the global livestock sector, McDermott argues, will require better assessments — and at much more local levels — of the differing socio-economic as well as environmental trade-offs of those policies. 'Before taking broad action', he says, 'we should use the best available knowledge to design and test interventions in pilot studies'.

Hird is impatient 'to wait for a perfect evidence base' before acting and says they have 'presented a Sustainable Livestock Bill in Parliament to kick start the dialogue on vital UK action'.

In brief, Hird appears most interested in quickly getting to 'less' livestock intensive production' and McDermott in developing long-term 'smarter' livestock intensive production'.

Let us know below what you think.

More . . . (People and Science Spat, June 2010)

Friends of the Earth

International Livestock Research Institute

In a new 2-minute filmed interview on the 'goods' and 'bads' of livestock by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), scientists Phil Thornton, of ILRI, and Andy Jarvis, of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in Colombia, give their views on whether giving up eating meat altogether would help to save the environment. They describe the importance of livestock to the livelihoods of one billion of the world's poor and caution that removing livestock from the environment would have its own effects. These scientists shared their views during the launch of a new initiative by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) called ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.’


Improving the performance of crop-livestock systems

Last week, the CGIAR System-wide Livestock Programme (SLP) held its annual planning meeting in Addis Ababa.

In this short video, John McDermott, ILRI Deputy Director General for Research introduces the SLP. He argues that its focus on the intensification of crop-livestock systems is critical: More than a billion people in developing countries are involved in these smallholder systems.

The SLP brings together 12 CGIAR centers, and, he mentions, “one of the key things we’ve been struggling with is how to improve the performance of these [crop-livestock] systems” – so people can get more income and more benefits from them; also so the systems can be more sustainable.

Reflecting on the just-completed SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, he highlights one of the major issues under discussion: how the crop biomass from these systems can be used more effectively – as food, as animal feed, and as fuel. Furthermore, how the crop residues can be fed back into the soil.

“Now we are turning our attention more to this tradeoff between whether you actually feed these residues to animals or whether some of them should stay with the soil.”

Watch the video:

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Innovative and collaborative veterinary organizations make vaccine available to Kenyan livestock keepers

A group of determined Kenyan livestock keepers set in motion an innovative collaboration that has benefited cattle-keeping communities throughout Kenya
Starting in 2000, word started getting out among Kenyan pastoralists that a vaccine being administered in Tanzania was succeeding in protecting cattle against East Coast fever. Kenya at that time did not condone use of this vaccine due to perceived safety and other issues, and so Kenya ’s livestock keepers could not get hold of it. In response, they began to walk their calves across the Kenya border into Tanzania to get them vaccinated.

‘East Coast fever is responsible on average for half of the calf mortality in pastoral production systems in eastern Africa . This vaccine represented a much needed lifeline for many pastoralists, and livestock keepers in Kenya wanted access to it,’ Evans Taracha, head of animal health at at ILRI explained.

‘ILRI faced a dilemma. We had produced a vaccine right here in Nairobi, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), that could protect pastoral and other cattle against East Coast fever, but, due to government regulations, our beneficiaries could not get access to it in Kenya.’

Kenya’s livestock keepers then started lobbying national authorities and called upon Vétérinaires sans Frontières (VSF)-Germany, an international veterinary NGO based in East Africa , to help them. Thus began a highly successful multi-partner collaboration.

Besides VSF-Germany, the collaboration includes ILRI, the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the African Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU/IBAR), the Director of Veterinary Services (DVS), the NGO VetAgro, and the community-based Loita Development Foundation.

Gabriel Turasha, field veterinary coordinator for VSF-G said, ‘The demand for this vaccine was evident from the farmers’ actions. What we needed to prove – to the authorities restricting its use – was that the vaccine was safe, effective and a superior alternative to the East Coast fever control strategy already being used in Kenya .’

Armed with scientific evidence, the collaboration successfully lobbied the Kenyan government and then facilitated local production and local access to the vaccine. Three vaccine distribution centres have been established in Kenya and more than 10,000 calves vaccinated.

John McDermott, ILRI’s deputy director general of research, said, ‘This collaboration illustrates how the research from “discovery to delivery” can be facilitated by collaboration between research institutes, which are in the business of doing science, and development partners, which are in the business of on-the-ground delivery. This has been a great success story—and a great win for Kenya ’s pastoralists.’

This innovative collaboration has been selected as a finalist in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) ‘Innovation Marketplace Awards’. These awards recognize outstanding collaborative efforts among CGIAR-supported centres and civil society organizations. Four winners will be announced at the CGIAR’s Annual General Meeting, to be held in Washington, DC , in December 2006.

Carlos Seré, director general of ILRI, said, ‘We are delighted to learn that this partnership has received recognition. ILRI is involved in a host of innovative collaborations and continues to seek new partners—from civil society organizations to the private sector to local research institutions—to help us deliver on our promises to poor livestock keepers in developing countries.’

ollaborative Team Brings Vaccine against Deadly Cattle Disease to Poor Pastrolists for the First Time

Related Articles on Innovation Collaborations
ILRI recently collaborated with VSF-Belgium, VSF-Switzerland and two Italian NGOs in an Emergency Drought Response Program in Kenya.

VSF, ILRI, Italian NGOs, and Kenya Collaborate to Mitigate the Effects of Drought in Northern Kenya

The ILRI collaborative effort described in this Top Story was featured in the Journal of International Development (July 2005) as an example of a ‘potentially new model of research and development partnership’ with a more ‘complete’ approach to innovation.


Further Information
VSF-Germany is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization engaged in veterinary relief and development work. VSF-Germany's primary role involves the control and prevention of epidemics; the establishment of basic veterinarian services and para-veterinarian programs with high involvement of local people; the improvement of animal health, especially among agriculturally useful animals; food security through increases in the production of animal-based food and non-food products; and the reduction of animal diseases that are transferable to humans. VSF-Germany carries out emergency as well as development operations. The organization's area of operation is East Africa.


Battling bird flu: Taking developing countries and their contexts into account is an imperative for success

Fighting deadly bird flu in the developing world is more complex and difficult than in the industrialized west. To be effective, global control strategies must take developing-country contexts and perspectives into account.

A recent consultation on highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) highlighted the complexities of fighting bird flu in the South. The consultation, held in Nairobi 14–16 June 2006, was organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Participants worked towards identifying how the research community can best assist developing countries and frontline personnel in the fight against bird flu both now and in the medium to longer terms.


The consultation report, How Research Can Support Efforts to Control Avian Influenza in Developing Countries: First Steps Toward a Research Action Plan, is now available. The report contains a comprehensive list of service and research needs identified by participants. The next step will involve validating and prioritizing these lists in a broader email-based consultation.

Battling Bird Flu: Developing Country Context & Perspectives
Developing countries have large numbers of widely dispersed small-scale and backyard poultry keepers. This makes detecting and controlling the disease difficult. In addition, these countries generally have insufficient numbers of professional in disease control and communication work and insufficient institutional support for controlling disease. All of this makes it difficult to communicate the risks of the disease and to get people to comply with control efforts. ‘Stamping-out’ (mass culling of poultry infected or suspected to be infected) is routinely adopted in industrialized countries, but this approach is likely to be impractical in developing countries. If our strategies to fight bird flu don’t take developing-country contexts into account, we will fail to control bird flu globally.

As important, John McDermott, ILRI’s Deputy Director General for Research, warns, ‘In the battle against bird flu, the world’s poorest people could become the main victims of the disease. They have little voice in how we control the disease and the burden of controlling it falls disproportionately on the rural poor, who both consume their own poultry and rely on it for their livelihoods.’

McDermott and his colleagues at ILRI and partner institutions in Africa and Asia are saying, in effect, that ‘one size does not fit all’. What works in the North will not necessarily work in the South. To fight bird flu successfully, we must attend to social as well as to economic and technical issues, we must learn from frontline experience, and we must understand the developing-country context for disease control. If we do these things, we will help develop control strategies that countries can tailor to their conditions and circumstances.

The Consultation: Experiences from the Front Line
The Nairobi Consultation opened with interviews of scientists with direct field experience in Asia and Africa. These experts with first-hand knowledge of fighting the disease identified illegal cross-border trade and live bird markets as key vehicles for the spread of bird flu within and between countries. Constraining early notification of disease outbreaks and subsequent control of the disease, they reported, were insufficient or total lack of compensation for lost birds, lack of trust in governments, and the common  farmer experience of losing lots of birds to Newcastle Disease and other, endemic, diseases.

Key Issues Highlighted

  • Well-publicized and carefully thought out compensation plans are critical to achieving early notification of outbreaks and effective control of bird flu. Lessons from the front-line tell us that compensation plans should consider more than just direct compensation for birds lost to the disease or culling operations. While some countries have provided poultry owners with compensation, others have not done so or do not intend to offer any form of compensation. A key message from the experts at this consultation was that compensation matters, and it matters a great deal to millions of poor small-scale farmers.
  • In India, for example, although farmers received compensation within a few hours of their birds being culled, they were compensated for no associated investments. Many farmers had cash tied up in grain bought to feed their chickens and had no other use for the grain once their chickens were gone. India’s experience suggests that a broader view of compensation is required. The bird flu scare in India caused people to panic, poultry prices plummeted, and those directly and indirectly involved with poultry and grain lost their livelihoods as their industry crashed.
  • Implementing different compensation levels for different sizes and/or ages of birds lost could create new problems. Farmers might be tempted, for example, to hide their young birds until they grew to a size that would attract the highest price, thus putting people and animals at greater risk of the disease.

Major threats

  • Migrating birds: Many participants believed that migrating wild birds were not the greatest threat to the spread of bird flu in developing countries. Although southern Africa had not at the time of the consultation had any confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, different forms of bird flu have been present there for some years, typically infecting ostriches. Experts there are concerned about possible introduction of new strains from ostriches and introduction by illegal cross-border movement of people, birds, and avian products, as well as the wild birds who migrate from nothern Europe to this region.


  • Trade: Illegal cross-border transfers of both live poultry and carcasses was identified as one of the biggest threats to the spread of bird flu and a key route for transmission within and between countries. Live birds and poultry carcasses are already being smuggled across borders and this is likely to increase if widespread culling is implemented and little or no compensation is offered. The borders of many developing countries are large and porous with only certain parts patrolled, making illegal cross-border transportation of birds relatively easy.
  • Markets: Live bird markets represent another key route for transmission of bird flu. In some countries, farmers are being advised not to take home any live birds that they are unable to sell at market to avoid infecting flocks at home, but what they should do with their live unsold birds is not specified. And where live bird markets are being made illegal, some are simply going underground.

Diagnosis and control

  • Poor farmers are familiar with dead and dying chickens – this is a fairly regular occurrence for them. Newcastle disease is endemic in many developing countries and can kill many birds fast. Confusion in the diagnosis of poultry diseases – notably in distinguishing the Newcastle disease from HPAI and other diseases  – is a further obstacle to early notification and identification of bird flu. Needed are clear communication and information about the physical signs and symptoms of poultry diseases, what to do if the farmer sees these, and the risks the farmer faces if he or she does nothing about the disease.
  • People’s lack of trust in their governments and/or promises of compensation were identified as key constraints to implementing emergency response and control procedures such as mass culling. The utility of employing mass culling as a means to control the spread of bird flu in developing countries was also questioned by these experts.
  • Most smallholders keep only a few birds in their backyards. Mass culling of all poultry infected and suspected to be infected would be impractical. If no incentives are provided to the smallholders for complying with culling operations, and if most of the smallholders do not recognize the risks of not culling, it is likely that many of them would simply hide their chickens or try to sell them quickly. The incentives provided to poultry keepers have to be sufficient to encourage people to be extra vigilant and to report any suspected cases of bird flu immediately.

Poultry to human transmission

  • Many poor people live close to their livestock, with household members and their chickens often sharing the same small dwelling at night. This increases the potential for transmission of bird flu from poultry to humans. How do you educate people about the dangers of poultry-to-human transmission when practices such as sleeping in the same room with your chickens are widespread? What alternatives do people living in great material poverty have that will ensure their poultry are safe from predators or theft?

The value of chickens to the poor

  • For many small farmers, chickens are ‘coins’ in the bank used for small emergencies: the birds can be sold quickly to raise money for such essentials as food, school fees and medicines.
  • Chicken and eggs are relatively cheap sources of animal protein for the poor. If eggs and chicken become unavailable to the poor, the nutrition and health of many children, women of childbearing age, and other vulnerable groups will be put at risk.
  • Poor people value chickens for more than their market value. For many, chickens represent the first step on the ‘livestock ladder’ out of poverty. Compensation schemes based on market rates are thus unlikely to satisfy farmers or provide them with sufficient incentive to report suspected cases of bird flu.

Alternative investment strategies

  • If chickens are culled and people advised not to restock, what livestock can replace the chickens? Larger livestock are out of the reach of many poor people. And even financial compensation at market values for a small number of chickens would be insufficient to enable the poor to reinvest in other types of livestock. Thus, the living assets of the poor would be liquidized with few alternative (livestock) reinvestment options on offer; other livelihood options would have to be explored.

Information, education and communication

  • Information, Education and Communication has been the mantra working well in Vietnam, one of the first countries to suffer from bird flu. Vietnam has been continually developing, refining and improving its communications to make them relevant to the local communities.
  • Many communications concerning bird flu have been written in English and/or other European languages and do not translate well into local languages. To be effective, communications must consider social and cultural contexts and be open to continual revisions.
  • The bird flu outbreak in Laos highlighted the lack of basic science education and lack of veterinary infrastructure. No veterinarians had been trained there since 1975, leaving only nine veterinarians to serve the whole country. Laos is now working hard, however, to build capacity. The bird flu outbreaks in Laos were largely in commercial poultry farms in urban areas and there were only a few commercial poultry farmers with large numbers of birds. This is in stark contrast to other developing countries in Asia and Africa, where the poultry structure is made up of very large numbers of widely distributed small commercial operations.
  • Community and religious leaders were identified as key players to raise awareness of the dangers of bird flu. Having a series of clear, simple messages conveyed in local languages to communities by trusted sources was viewed as vital to preparedness, emergency response and control. Community action worked well in communities that were relatively stable, and where people were regularly informed and involved and had a vested interest in working together to protect the community as a whole.

According to Dr Carlos Seré, ILRI’s Director General: ‘The global fight against bird flu has to equitable as well as effective – protecting the livelihoods of the world’s poor as well as lives worldwide.

‘To be more effective, efficient and sustainable, bird flu control technologies and strategies must be adapted to the particular realities and constraints of developing countries, including the need to balance public health and poverty reduction objectives. Otherwise, bird flu control will not work in developing countries, and poor control there will continue to threaten the North.’

Short Movie
Robyn Alders of the Kyeema Foundation on The difficulties of diagnosing bird flu in developing countries.