Livestock Exchange guides ILRI’s research on livestock

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

The event was organized in six sessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection

Watch the whole of this filmed slide presentation by ILRI’s Mario Herrero on ILRI’s film channel: The future of livestock in feeding the world (duration: 28 minutes, 25 Nov 2011).

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2‐day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. ILRI systems analyst Mario Herrero gave a keynote presentation titled ‘Global Livestock: Drivers, Trends and Futures’. What follows are highlights of the first half of his talk.

We need to feed 9–10 billion people by 2050 and we need to do so at a far lower environmental cost, basically with the same amount of land and less greenhouse gas emissions and water and nutrient use and at the same time in socially and economically acceptable ways.

Food systems have been changing and they’re likely to change even more as our population increases. So the target is moving.

Livestock systems are in transition
The drivers and trends playing key roles in these changes include: the increasing human population, the ‘livestock revolution (as people get richer in emerging economies, they consume more animal products), and an unprecedented movement of people to cities.

The demand for livestock products to 2050 is going to be enormous. Total consumption is likely to be 2.5 times more than what we’ve experienced in the last decades. Just image the resource-use implications of producing all this meat and milk.

What are people eating and how are we going to produce all the new feed and food needed?
People want chicken, pork and milk; these are the livestock foods growing at the fastest rates across the world. We need to see how we can increase our efficiencies in use of fresh water, 70% of which is used for agriculture. How do we increase efficiency gains of water use in the livestock sector?

Climate change
To complicate the picture even further, we have climate change. Recent assessments are telling us that the costs of the agricultural sector adapting to climate change go as high as USD145 billion per year. That figure represents 3% of global agricultural costs per year. The $145 billion represents the cost of the added technological change that we are going to need to produce food and counteract the impacts of climate change. This is no small sum of money! Remember that the G20 committed to give USD20 billion for agricultural development. This is simply not enough.

Reality check
Food prices have been decreasing until recently. It’s likely that the increasing food prices, which severely affcct the poor, will keep on increasing. We need to be able to plan how to adjust our agricultural systems to produce more food and dampen those prices and do this without incurring a big environmental cost.

The livestock ‘balancing act’
We know that keeping livestock has many advantages—they are an important source of nutrition, especially for poor people; they generate great incomes (the value of production of livestock is in many cases far higher than that for crops); and they help poor people to manage risks; they help maintain productive landscapes; and they are raised on many lands unsuitable for other kinds of food production.

Of course, on the other hand, livestock are inherently inefficient users of land; they are large users of natural resources; they are polluters in places; they produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases; and they are an important vector for human diseases.

What is key is realizing that livestock systems differ greatly by region and circumstance. We need a nuanced understanding of how this livestock ‘balancing act’ plays out in different parts of the world. . . .

Watch the whole of this filmed slide presentation by ILRI’s Mario Herrero on ILRI’s film channel: The future of livestock in feeding the world, duration: 28 minutes, 25 Nov 2011.

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General.  See all posts in this seriesSign up for email alerts

Livestock research for development focus of session at Rome Share Fair

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

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

What’s changing?

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

Smallholder focus?

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

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

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

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

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

Roles for research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and answers

The panelists reacted to questions from the audience, including:

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

View the webcast: