Investments needed to help poor people take advantage of an on-going boom in livestock production in developing countries

Ploughing with cattle in West Bengal

Farmer Noor Ali ploughs his field in Brahampur, India. A better understanding of the multiple roles played by livestock in developing communities will help improve livestock production and accelerate economic development in poor countries (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Following the 2008/9 global food price crisis, agricultural experts agree that more investment in food production is needed to meet increasing world food demand. Global food security, however, is unlikely to be achieved unless livestock production is made more efficient.

Farm animals fulfil an important role in developing communities, where many people depend on mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems or live in marginal areas where animal agriculture is the only means of producing food. For most of the world’s poorest, about 600 million people, animals provide not only milk, meat and eggs but are also a source of draught power and manure for crop farming, resources that help livestock keepers diversify their income.

For many of these livestock keepers, greater investment in livestock production would make a significant difference in helping them come out of poverty by increasing their sources of food and income. 

The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality, 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), argues that a better understanding of the multiple roles played by livestock in developing communities will help decision-makers and development practitioners not only improve the livestock sector’s efficiency and productivity but, through that, accelerate economic development in poor countries.

Livestock production in the developing world faces the challenge of how to meet an increasing demand for meat, milk and eggs with limited land, water and other natural resources, say two of the book’s authors, Siboniso Moyo, ILRI’s representative in southern Africa, and Frans Swanepoel, senior director of research and professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Examining trends and drivers in livestock production in developing communities, the authors say that the smallholder livestock sector needs to adapt to increasing population and urbanization and the other changes coming in the wake of these changes, such as rapidly changing livestock systems, environments, climates and consumption patterns. All these changes, they say, require stronger policies and institutions.

The authors propose strengthening institutions and policies, providing livestock owners with credit, improving veterinary services, increasing the delivery and uptake of livestock technologies and improving the infrastructure of livestock markets.

The increasing demand for livestock in developing countries due to rising populations and incomes offers many poor livestock keepers new opportunities to raise their incomes by increasing the production and marketing of their livestock products. The main questions are how to include poor people in this livestock boom, and how to help smallholders increase their livestock production while making more efficient use of their land, water and native stock.

Three other big challenges of the fast-changing livestock sector in poor countries are finding ways to feed the increasing numbers of animals in the face of diminishing natural resources, developing diagnostics and vaccines to better protect animals against neglected tropical diseases of livestock as well as zoonotic diseases, which are shared by livestock and people, and finding optimal ways for small-scale livestock keepers to adapt to climate change and reduce their production of greenhouse gases.

The authors, however, note that rising prices of livestock products can open up new market opportunities for small-scale producers, though this alone will not guarantee their competitiveness. Without support, many smallholder livestock producers, especially those in marginal areas, with limited access to information and knowledge, will find it difficult to compete with larger livestock operations in meeting the increasing demand for livestock products while also meeting the more stringent food quality and safety standards the new market is demanding.

‘The livestock sector is an important part of developing communities and the multiple roles that livestock play in meeting the livelihoods of people need to be enhanced for the sector to continue contributing to poverty reduction,’ the book says. ‘Research and development agencies need to come together to address these challenges comprehensively.’

This book provides a list of ‘Livestock development projects that make a difference’ and ways to promote gender equality and empower women through livestock development. Watch for more highlights from the book in upcoming ILRI news articles.

Read more about The role of livestock in developing communities: Enhancing multifunctionality

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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:

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

Improving African food security in the face of climate change

ILRI FANRPAN dialog meeting display

Scientists, policymakers and farmers from across Africa are meeting this week in Windhoek, Namibia to discuss how to improve food security in Africa in the face of climate change. (Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann) 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is this week joining over 200 policymakers, farmers, agricultural product dealers, scientists and non-governmental organizations from across Africa in Windhoek, Namibia, in a week-long Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue organized by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). This year’s dialogue focuses on African priorities for food security and climate change and the impacts of climate change on agricultural development, natural resource management and rural livelihoods.

ILRI agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero and Siboniso Moyo, ILRI representative for southern Africa, are attending this conference, which runs from 30 August to 3 September 2010. The participants are examining ways of helping over 265 million people on the continent overcome chronic hunger.

Lindiwe Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network and member of ILRI’s Board of Trustees, says, ‘Africa’s challenges include stagnant agricultural productivity; limited access to agricultural inputs, water, markets and knowledge. And increasingly, we must also cope with more extreme and erratic weather (floods and droughts), soil salinity and unpredictable rainfall, and the effects of such climate change on agricultural production.’

Because agriculture, including livestock farming, still holds the greatest potential to boost rural livelihoods, reduce poverty and spur growth in other sectors in the continent, forums such as this are needed to pull together high-quality, evidenced-based, information and knowledge that can benefit Africa’s poorest people, most of whom are women who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

With 60 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land, Africa's agricultural sector has potential to feed its own people and grow to a US$880 billion industry if the right production strategies and methods are used to increase production.

‘To achieve this’, said Sibanda, ‘agricultural tools and knowledge must be made accessible to farmers to increase their yields and adapt to new climate scenarios. Africa needs its own agricultural revolution, one built on technology and innovation and facilitated by a conducive policy environment aligned with the needs of African farmers.’

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network works in 13 African countries, encouraging government and civil society to work together in support of demand-driven agricultural policy research and analysis.

For more coverage of the 2010 dialogue, visit: and

To find out more about ILRI's presentation during the meeting (by Mario Herrero) please visit: and

For information about the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network, see

ILRI women in science: What’s changed this International Women’s Day?

8 March is International Women’s Day. ILRI women share their thoughts on what has changed for women in science over the last decade.
Celebrated on 8 March every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) connects women around the world, inspiring them to achieve their full potential ( Three ILRI women share their thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day.

Zimbabwean veterinary scientist Siboniso Moyo

New book on livestock in developing countriesSiboniso (‘Boni’) Moyo, an animal scientist from Zimbabwe, is ILRI’s regional representative in Southern Africa, based in Maputo, Mozambique. Boni spent her youth fighting for her country’s freedom, which she was forced to leave at an early age. She managed to obtain an MSc in animal husbandry from the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in 1984 and went on to obtain a PhD in animal science from the University of Pretoria in 1997. She has spent the last 22 years conducting livestock research in Zimbabwe and the region. Married to Polex, a fellow Zimbabwean veterinary surgeon she met in Russia, she is raising three extraordinary daughters and loves making a difference among the poor in her community.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘The number of women in senior management positions in public-sector science has increased. Although their numbers are still too small, this is an improvement over the situation a decade ago.

‘This should encourage young girls to take up science careers. They now have role models. And these women in senior management are now in position to influence policies for gender equity.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘To women in science I say: Encourage girls to take up science in high schools so that they can be enrolled for science subjects at the tertiary level. Mentor the young to grow in this field!

‘To the women in agriculture in the villages and the cities, I say: Keep up your good work! Your contribution is vital for food security and critical for the survival of each and every human being, family and nation. Use this day to acknowledge yourself and to encourage another woman to rise up to the challenges you and others have faced.

Ethiopian plant scientist Segenet Kelemu

Segenet Kelemu, Director of the BecA-ILRI HubSegenet Kelemu, a molecular plant pathologist from Ethiopia, is research director at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Platform, based in Nairobi, Kenya. Segenet graduated with a PhD degree in molecular plant pathology from Kansas State University, USA in 1989, and is a graduate of Montana State University, USA, where she obtained an MSc in plant pathology/genetics in 1984. Before joining ILRI, she was a senior scientist at the International Centre for Tropical Agricultural Research (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia.

Segenet enjoys reading, spending time with her family and investing in the education of resource-poor and very bright young girls. She is married to Arjan Gijsman, a soil scientist and computer modelling expert, and has one daughter, Finote.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘Things are changing positively for women, slowly but surely. Over the last decade we’ve seen an increased number of women leading research teams, as well as more women in senior management positions.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘Women have penetrated and excelled in fields that were largely perceived as male-only areas. The future for women is a lot brighter and lots of progress has been made around the world. We have elected women presidents and leaders in Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Germany and Liberia and many women now hold top positions in universities, companies and national governments.

‘The acceptance and appreciation of female leaders, by both men and women, represents positive change and progress. Those few women who have made it to the top have demonstrated their effectiveness in their jobs. That is paving the way for other women starting down that road.’

Canadian agricultural economist Patti Kristjanson

Patti Kristjanson, Leader, Innovation WorksPatti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist from Winnipeg, one of the coldest places in Canada, leads ILRI’s Innovations Works, based Nairobi, Kenya.

Married to Frank, a fellow scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre, she has a teenage son and daughter, the latter of whom is already on the path to self-determination.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘The biggest positive change is that there’s beginning to be some critical mass in female scientists working on sustainable poverty issues in the developing world.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘Women in science tend to understand the power of dialogue, where diverse people work together towards common understanding. Scientific debate, on the other hand, is oppositional and assumes one person is right.

‘Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions. Debate defends one’s own position as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

‘Women scientists can and will lead the global dialogue on innovative and collaborative solutions to sustainable poverty.

Improving women’s lives and livelihoods through livestock

ILRI is facilitating a global consultation to improve lives and livelihoods through women and livestock. This consultation aims to bring together men and women who are passionate about fighting poverty and improving women’s lives.

Patti Kristjanson is leading the Global Challenge Dialogue on Women and Livestock.

Why have you organized a global consultation on women and livestock?

‘Because it’s time to bring together the best and brightest minds and experience from all over the world to increase the awareness of the importance of livestock to the poor – it is often the only asset a poor woman has.

‘The goal is to come up with creative new collaborations and solutions that empower women and enhance their incomes through innovations related to this key asset.’

ILRI in Southern Africa

ILRI’s director general and new representative for Southern Africa visit the region to consult with partner organizations and get an update on work of the NEPAD and its establishment of regional African biosciences centres of excellence.

ILRI’s director general, Carlos Seré, and new representative for Southern Africa, Siboniso Moyo, visited Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe in early March 2006 to meet development partners in the region, including public- and private-sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, the secretariats of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and regional offices of other centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), to which ILRI belongs.

ILRI’s new representative in Southern Africa, Siboniso Moyo, called ‘Boni’, joined ILRI in February 2006. She will be based in Maputo, Mozambique. She is an animal scientist graduate of the University of Pretoria and has spent the last 21 years doing livestock research in Zimbabwe and the region.

On their mission, Moyo and ILRI Director General Seré met with John Mugabe, Executive Secretary of NEPAD’s Science and Technology Forum, and Aggrey Ambali, Coordinator of NEPAD’s African Biosciences Initiative, in Pretoria, South Africa. NEPAD’s African Biosciences Initiative, conducted under the NEPAD Science and Technology Programme, is establishing regional networks of centres of excellence comprising hubs and nodes.

Describing the purpose of their mission, Carlos Seré explained that ILRI plans to engage actively in the region’s science and technology agenda for agricultural research. He updated his NEPAD colleagues on the first NEPAD-initiated biosciences centre of excellence to be established, known as Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) and based at ILRI’s laboratories, in Nairobi, Kenya. BecA’s new Network Director, Bruno Kubata, has been on the ground for 100 days, Seré reported, and is working to finalize the BecA implementation plan, with the view to implementing the Network’s research agenda at the BecA hub and nodes from mid-2006.

NEPAD’s John Mugabe said ILRI’s presence in the southern Africa region is welcome. He reported that all the NEPAD-initiated biosciences hubs, and their accompanying networks, are now in place. Besides BecA, based at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and encompassing biosciences nodes throughout eastern and central Africa, there are now three others established: one in Alexandria, Egypt for North Africa, a second in Dakar, Senegal, for West Africa, and a third based at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in Pretoria, South Africa, for southern Africa. Mugabe said staff at all four hubs of these biosciences centres of excellence now need to develop links with each other and to exchange information.

The ILRI team also met with NEPAD’s Agricultural Advisor, Richard Mkandawire. ILRI’s Seré explained that a series of regional consultations were in progress in regard to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The main goal of CAADP, NEPAD’s Mkandawire explained, is to help African countries reach a higher level of economic growth through agriculturally led development that eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity, and enables expansion of exports. A road map for achieving this has been developed by the NEPAD Secretariat to coordinate and facilitate the transition from framework to country-level implementation of the CAADP Agenda. The country-level implementation process seeks to align national agricultural sector policies, strategies and investment programmes with CAADP principles, facilitate better partnerships and alliances, facilitate reliable tracking of the level and efficiency of public-sector investments (target-10%) and growth rate (target-6%) of the sector. It is important, Mkandawire said, that the livestock agenda is tabled during the country round table discussions. CAADP’s technical arm is the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), an umbrella organization bringing together stakeholders in agricultural research and development in Africa with a secretariat in Accra, Ghana.