Experts meet to share tactics in fight against ‘goat plague’: Filmed highlights

 

Watch this short (3:50 minutes) film on the views of participants at a recent meeting to coordinate research strategies for a disease of small ruminants known as peste des petits ruminants, or PPR. This second meeting of the Global Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) Research Alliance, held 29–30 April 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, brought together over 60 livestock experts from across the world.

The harm caused by PPR, also known as ‘goat plague’ because it is closely related to ‘cattle plague’, or rinderpest, has been increasing in recent years, especially across Africa and Asia. This infectious viral disease of sheep and goats poses a major threat to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The disease is highly contagious, with roughly an 80 per cent mortality rate in acute cases.

‘We’re bringing together the relevant animal health experts so that we can find ways to better coordinate the diverse research on PPR, and determine the fastest and most effective and efficient ways to better control it in different developing-country regions and circumstances’, said Geoff Tooth, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya.

The meeting was co-hosted by four institutions: the African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

A current AusAID-funded project being conducted by the BecA-ILRI Hub and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific, Industrial and Research Organisation (CSIRO) has supported development of a thermostable vaccine that is now being piloted in vaccination campaigns in Sudan and Uganda, with similar work proposed for Ethiopia.

Read more about efforts to develop a pan-African strategy to fight goat plague: http://www.ilri.org/node/1344

Cultivate the future! How learning together can mean learning better and faster–speeding research into use

If you missed it earlier this month, watch this animated 5-min video on what can help agricultural research by CGIAR and others ‘go to scale’.

Below is the full transcript of the video, which public awareness staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) helped to create with Patti Kristjanson and others working in and with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The narrator is Zimbabwean food policy expert Lindiwe Sibanda, who is chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and chairs ILRI’s board of trustees. The developers are  artist/illustrator James Durno and videographer Dale Ballantine, both of South Africa (Indie Village Creative).

‘The world is changing fast. We don’t know how we’re going to produce enough food to feed nine billion people and not destroy the environment in the process. So many more people to feed, escalating food and energy crises, water shortages, a changing climate, and the list goes on . . . .

‘So here we are, a group of scientists working for a food-secure future, meeting in sunny California. We’re here to rethink how we do science to make a bigger difference. We want to help transform the developing world’s agriculture and food systems. (We’re nothing if not ambitious!)

‘People are adaptable. Farmers are adaptable. So are scientists. We’re changing how we work and trying new approaches to solve the big, so-called ‘wicked problems’: e.g., poverty, climate change, environmental destruction and loss of species.

‘This is good, but it’s not good enough.

We’re running out of time; our wicked problems are likely to overrun our solutions unless we learn together, better and faster.

‘Here is the good news: We have evidence that we can speed things up, bring real benefits to people and bring these to scale. (Well, maybe the latter is more of a hypothesis, one that this group wants to test.)

‘Here are some examples of what we’re doing differently.

  • Crowd-sourcing is now being tested to understand what seeds and seedlings different people want, and how to best serve those diverse needs.
  • Learning alliances are bringing private-sector executives to farmers’ fields to learn first-hand from farmers struggling to feed their families; they then work with the farmers and scientists to develop and release varieties that make a difference on those small farms.
  • Innovative mentoring programs are speeding women’s advancement in agricultural sciences and their institutions in the developing world.
  • Farmer-business hubs are bringing together farmers, agri-businesses, NGOs. Farmers get training, seeds, credit and market information. They sell their milk, share their knowledge and earn money.
  • Participatory selection and breeding of crops is addressing women’s needs for foods that use less wood and take less time to prepare.
  • Farmer-to-farmer learning videos, radio and tv programs are spreading the word of best practices based on science and speeding adoption of new technologies.

‘And I’m sure all of us can think of many other examples. Whatever fancy terms we use, at the end of the day, it’s all about people, people from different backgrounds, people with different perspectives and expertise forming partnerships to learn from each other and solve complex problems.

But here’s the rub. We’ve all experienced how messy and time-consuming partnerships can be and how hard it is to take successes to scale.

‘What we may not always appreciate is just how beneficial this joint learning can be. These approaches tend to level the playing field, empower individuals and communities, create benefits that endure, and truly build local capacity.

‘So we can see that shifting how we do science in this way really works. What we can’t see yet is how to involve more people and speed it all up so that our solutions appear to us as to be big as our problems.

‘Let’s focus less on the present and instead view the present through the future we want to create. Just recall the skepticism around the sequencing of the human genome, and yet now, we are in that world.

Our research suggests that what’s going to be critical in the future is creating and nurturing spaces to innovate. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. What it will take is being strategic and intentional about spanning boundaries.

‘Imagine a fertile safe space where diversity is embraced and where we can together grow, spread and harvest our best ideas and successes.

‘We have the pieces; we don’t yet have all the people. But we can create these environments that attract more people and allow us to learn together, better and faster.

Learning together transforms agriculture and lives.

‘Cultivate the future!’

Note: This animated 5-minute video was produced by and for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and launched at CCAFS’ annual science meeting, held in Bodega Bay, California 18–19 Mar 2013.

For more information:
Go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event were shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (search for #2013CCSL).

For more on the value of social learning and the March CCAFS science meeting, see these earlier posts on the ILRI News Blog:
Agricultural research, climate change and ‘social learning’: How did we get here? 19 Mar 2013.
The world’s ‘wicked problems’ need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread, 18 Mar 2013.
Climate change and agricultural experts gather in California this week to search for the holy grail of global food security, 17 Mar 2013.

And on the CCAFS Blog:
Farmers and scientists: better together in the fight against climate change, 19 Mar 2013.
Transformative partnerships for a food-secure world, 19 Mar 2013.

Read Alain de Janvry’s whole paper: Agriculture for development: New paradigm and options for success, International Association of Agricultural Economists, 2010.

For more on the use of ‘social learning’ and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI’s maarifa blog.

Misku’s story: How sheep fattening is transforming lives in western Ethiopia

This very brief photofilm (1:41 minutes) shares the story of Misku Abafaris, a woman farmer in Ethiopia, who was interviewed in 2010 about the changes in her life as a result of interventions by an ILRI-led Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project. Since 2006, ILRI has been working closely with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

When asked what life was like a decade ago, Misku Abafaris immediately says: ‘In those days I was never exposed to any new ideas, any new approaches.’ Then, after more consideration, the 40-year old mother of six turns to practical matters. ‘I used to spend most of my time caring for my children and preparing food. And I’d look after our cow and help my husband when the crops needed weeding.’

In short, her daily routine in Gudeta, a small village some 30 minutes’ walk from a tarmac road, was little different from that of earlier generations of women in Ethiopia’s Oromiya Region. There were good years, when the coffee harvest was plentiful, and bad years, when the coffee failed or drought shrivelled their food crops.

Five of Misku’s children still live at home, chickens still wander in and out of their mud-walled, tin-roofed dwelling, and it’s still a long walk to the nearest well to get drinking water. But new ideas and new approaches, so lacking in the past, have recently helped to transform their lives. Their most obvious manifestation can be seen in the fields below the village, where half a dozen handsome sheep are being fattened for the market.

‘With the profits I’ve made from my sheep, I’ve been able to buy a Boran heifer, which will yield much more milk than our local breed of cow’, says Misku, ‘and last year, when we didn’t get a coffee harvest, we still made enough money from the sheep to pay all our household expenses.’ She’s particularly proud of the fact that her sheep-fattening business has paid for her eldest daughter, now 21 years old, to live and study in the nearby town of Agora.

Misku’s forgotten to tell you about the chairs we’re sitting on’, says Abafaris Abamaliky, her husband. ‘It was the money from the sheep that paid for the timber and the carpentry. And it paid for the wooden box where I now keep my clothes and my private things.’ The pride he takes in his wife’s achievement is plain to see.

The power of knowledge
Misku and her husband are among tens of thousands of farmers to benefit from a project which has helped them to improve the productivity of their livestock and crops and—crucially—market their produce more effectively. Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project was launched in 2006.

Goma, where Misku and her family live, is one of 10 districts where the project operates. The early stages involved the identification of crops and livestock which could benefit from activities to improve production and marketing. This followed lengthy consultations with farmers and local government staff. In Goma the focus has been on improving ‘value chains’—linking production, the supply of farm inputs and the markets—for coffee, poultry, honey, fruit and sheep.

‘Many farmers were keen to develop sheep fattening, but they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to improve production’, explains Yisehak Baredo, the project’s research and development officer in Goma. ‘Their sheep were in poor health, and it took them up to a year to fatten them.’ Misku’s experience was typical: she used to keep just one sheep, whose only food supplement was kitchen scraps, and she made hardly any money fattening its lambs.

In 2008, the project provided training on sheep fattening for Misku and 119 other farmers. They learned, among other things, about the importance of providing their animals with protein-rich food supplements and how to keep them in good health. Such was the success of the first training program that the project repeated the exercise for 92 farmers a year later.

None of this would have been possible without access to credit, which was provided through a local microfinance institution. Talk to any of the farmers who benefited and they’ll tell you in great detail precisely how they spent their first loans.

Misku borrowed 1500 birr (USD115). With this she bought five young sheep, a supply of cotton-seed meal, life insurance for herself and insurance for her five sheep, and de-wormers and other veterinary medicines. Three months later, she sold the fattened sheep and paid back the loan, leaving her a net profit of 1200 birr (USD90)—a considerable sum of money in one of the poorest countries in the world. Subsequent fattening cycles have provided her with similar profit margins.

So is her story unusual? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that she is a strong and respected leader, and the group of 30 smallholders which she chairs was immediately able to repay its loans in full—something several other groups failed to achieve. As a result, the microfinance institution has been happy to provide further loans. And no, in the sense that many other farmers have made a success of fattening their sheep and increasing their income. Over four out of five who received training shortened the fattening period to just three months.

‘With the profits I’ve made from the sheep, we’ve built an extension to our house and bought a high-yielding Boran cow’, says Suchare Abamaliky, one of Misku’s neighbours. Musa Kadir, who belongs to the same peasant association, has used the profits from his sheep to pay school fees for his children. ‘I’m now earning as much money in three months as I used to make in a year from the sale of coffee beans’, he says. He has ambitious plans to expand the number of sheep he fattens, and he’s also begun to raise avocado and mango seedlings, having observed the activities of one of his neighbours. Shito Nasir had received training on how to graft superior varieties of fruit tree. ‘I could see she was making such a good business that I decided to do the same’, explains Musa Kadir. This is the way new ideas are beginning to spread, across hedges and fields from farmer to farmer.

A rural revolution?
Abafaris Abamaliky is some 20 years older than his wife, Misku, and he has lived, as he puts it, through three governments. Life is now better than it ever was in the past, he says. ‘We now have electric light in the village and better health care.’ Just as importantly, he and his neighbours now feel they can talk openly to government officials. Indeed, the success of the IPMS project owes much to the close relationship between villagers and the staff at the district offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Besides introducing new technologies to Ethiopian farmers, the project has begun to change the way government staff approach agricultural development. ‘Before the project began, we used to focus on increasing the production of particular commodities, but we knew nothing about value chains’, explains Tanashe Eyasu at the local Office of Agriculture and Rural Development. ‘Now, we’re changing the way we work, and we’re linking producers with suppliers of inputs like fertilizers and feed, and sometimes even linking them with buyers as far away as Addis Ababa.’

Although the IPMS project will come to an end at the end of this year (2012), its impact is assured. ‘You can already see the knowledge being transmitted from farmer to farmer’, says Tsegaye Umeta, Goma’s district administrator, ‘and local government staff will continue to promote the knowledge and practices introduced by IPMS to new areas.’ It shouldn’t be a hard sell: when farmers are making good money, others will follow where they lead. And already, new businesses have sprung up to provide feed, fertilisers, medicines, beehives and other equipment.

If you ask Misku about her hopes for the future, she lists her priorities without hesitation. ‘My first desire is to support my children, so they can go to college’, she says. ‘Then, if God is willing, I would like a better house, with a cement floor, not a mud floor like this one, and with brick walls painted a nice colour. I’d also like a well.’ A while ago, she went on a farmers’ study trip to the capital, where she saw a small pump for drawing well water. ‘I’d like that too’, she says.

But is this a dream too far for a family which has just three hectares of land, a pair of oxen, two cows, ten chickens and a small flock of sheep? ‘No’, she replies. ‘If we continue to work hard, I’m sure this will happen.’ Her husband nods in agreement.

As we leave the village, we are accompanied by a chattering crowd of children, including Misku’s eight-year-old boy. When Ariso is not at school, he helps to look after the family’s sheep, but he also has a lamb of his own, which he recently bought with money he earned picking coffee.

‘Once I have fattened it up’, he says, ‘I will make a good profit.’ He probably hasn’t heard of ‘value chains’, but he is very much his mother’s son: he understands the importance of the market.

Story and photofilm by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

Read and view other stories/photofilms by Charlie Pye-Smith:

Gebremichael’s story: Changing the fortunes of farmers in Ethiopia through better livestock feed, 28 May 2012 (story and photofilm).

Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012 (story).

The connection between animal disease and human health, 13 Jan 2012 (photofilm).

 

 

Addressing the issue of our time: Experts meet in Nairobi to shape new nutrition program for Africa by new Australian food security centre


 
This 10-minute film shares the views of 10 nutrition, food policy and food safety experts who discussed gaps between research on food security, agriculture and nutrition in Africa at a meeting in Nairobi on 10–11 Sept 2012. Interviewed are: Mellissa Wood, Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC); Delia Grace, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); Bruce Cogill, Bioversity International; John McDermott, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH); Robyn Alders, University of Sydney; Juliet Ssentubwe, Uganda Ministry of Agriculture; CJ Jones, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); Ruth Oniang’o, member of the policy and advisory council of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); Mateete Bekunda, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA); and Cyprian Ouma, World Vision.
 

A new program to help deliver improved nutrition to Africa was recently designed at a workshop in Nairobi on 10–11 September 2012. The expert panel defined research priorities for Australian investments in the sphere of food and nutritional security in sub-Saharan Africa.

The workshop helped advance progress on what Hilary Clinton and others argue is the issue of our time—food security.

More than one billion people remain malnourished, and another billion suffer from hidden hunger due to lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets—this while another 1.5 billion people are overweight or obese.

A key to achieving lasting food security is meeting the challenge of providing food and adequate daily nutrition to all.

The agricultural sector rarely has ‘enhancing nutrition’ as an articulated objective. Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, says: ‘A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming’. The Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC), a new Australian Government initiative announced in October 2011, and ILRI hosted the 1.5-day workshop to help address this disconnect.

Experts in nutrition, national and subregional food policy, food safety, agricultural production and value chains from across Africa and the world participated.

Participants in the meeting discussed gaps between research on food security, agriculture and nutrition, in line with African priorities and how the  Australian International Food Security Centre can best complement work being undertaken by other organizations. The centre will use the outcomes of the workshop to shape its nutrition program by identifying where to make its initial investments in African food security.

The Australian centre aims to help bridge existing gaps between agricultural innovations and development so as to speed adoption of those innovations for better food and nutritional security of poor people.

Mellissa Wood, director of the Australian International Food Security Centre, says Australia has a role to play in this area. ‘Australia has many similar environments and challenges common to African agriculture. Our expertise in agriculture can help play a role in achieving food security in Africa, including developing more nutritious food,’ Wood said.

Australian agricultural science has experience with climatic variability and extreme climatic events that affect farming, forestry, fisheries and livestock. While eventually working in developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Australian International Food Security Centre is focusing its first efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.

The new Australian centre will work specifically to:

  • increase the nutritional quality, safety and diversity of food
  • reduce food losses after harvest
  • improve access by the poor to markets and other business opportunities
  • build the capacity of local institutions and individuals
  • promote gender equality

For more information, please read this brochure, http://aciar.gov.au/files/node/14087/aifsc_june_update_62995.pdf, or visit this website: aciar.gov.au/aifsc

 

Experts comment on new drylands research program for eastern and southern Africa

Watch this brief ILRI video (run-time under 7 minutes) of quick comments made by six participants following a recent inception workshop hosted by ILRI to plan work in eastern and southern Africa by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

Excerpts of the filmed interviews follow.

Iain Wright, CGIAR/ILRI

There’s been lots of discussions on what we call the ‘impact pathway’—how do we get our research products and research outputs to have an impact on the lives of tens of millions of people who live in these drylands?

Peter Thorne, CGIAR/ILRI
We’re trying to get to what are the desirable developmental outcomes of this program and what research outputs will contribute to those outcomes.

As we move into the more marginal areas, issues of risk, vulnerability and resilience become much more important and we have to tread much more carefully intensifying those kinds of systems. It’s not us researchers who have to bear the risk; it’s the farmers or pastoralists who are engaged in them. So we have quite a lot of responsibility.

Farmers with vulnerable livelihoods have to be risk averse. If we produce technologies that don’t account for that, then we run into this longstanding problem of lack of adoption.

There’s no point our doing the research if it can’t be adopted. And that’s why we want to tie research outputs to developmental outcomes.

Jonathan Davies, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
This meeting has brought all these different disciplines together, which is what’s necessary. It resonates with what I’m trying to work on, which is ecosystem-scale planning.

If you want to protect ecosystems as the basis of life, as the basis of food or other kind of welfare, you can’t approach them from different sectors. You have to treat them as one thing, one entity, and figure out how to manage them as such.

And people don’t deal well with that sort of complexity, especially when you add people and livelihoods and economies into the mix. That’s far too complex for people to handle; they need much more simple things to deal with.

I think this meeting might take us towards that, not just to have tools or research but to have people who can think across all the different systems and at the necessary scale.

John Lynam, consultant/smallholder agricultural specialist
One of the challenges and opportunities of these new CGIAR research programs is determining how research can be better integrated into the development process. We have been too separate in the past. That integration necessarily is going to involve partnerships.

You can’t work with everybody, so there’s going to have to be some whittling down to a number of partnerships that actually work. But that’s one of the opportunities of these new CGIAR research programs.

Florence Wambugu, NGO/Africa Harvest
Regarding adoption of technology, the main thing the farmer wants to know is, ‘Can I find those improve breeds of cows or seeds or whatever it is—can I find it? Where do I find it?’ The next information farmers want to have is agronomic: ‘How do I get value from recommended foliage, from health care, from vaccination’. And the most important market is the home market: ‘Can I drink the milk? What kind of surplus and income can I generate?’

We have to consider the whole value chain and to begin to think of how to remove barriers and bottlenecks in the value chain. We need to take the research into farmer’s lives, and to do that we need partnerships that can make this work.

Wycliffe Kumwenda, NGO/National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi
Several factors are responsible for technologies not being adopted by farmers. In Malawi, like in other countries of Africa, the landholding size is small—on average, one hectare. From that one hectare, the smallholder farmer is supposed to produce enough to eat, and at the same time, to have money to send the children to school and to hospital.

The key drivers of adoption of technology by the smallholder farmer are the principles of extension, which are: The farmer wants to see, the farmer wants to hear, and the farmer wants to touch.

 

Who’s who

Iain Wright is an animal nutritionist with 30 years of experience in developing agricultural systems for both agricultural and environmental objectives, the effect of policy on livestock systems and the role of agriculture in rural development; Wright is director of People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, one of ILRI’s three global research themes, and is based in Addis Ababa, where he also serves as ILRI’s representative to Ethiopia.

Peter Thorne, also based in Addis Ababa, is a crop-livestock systems scientist with expertise in feed, water, information and other resources needed by smallholder mixed crop-livestock farmers. Formerly working for the Natural Resources Institute, at the University of Greenwich, in Kent, UK, Thorne joined ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment Theme at the beginning of 2012.

Jonathan Davies, an agricultural economist specializing in rangeland ecology and nomadic pastoralism, heads the Global Drylands Program at IUCN, in Nairobi, which works to overturn the widely held belief that drylands are wastelands by providing evidence that conservation of drylands, which cover 40 per cent of the earth’s surface, is critical not only to millions of their inhabitants but also to our global environment.

John Lynam, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation and an independent Nairobi-based consultant since 2000, has worked for three decades for smallholder-led agricultural development in Latin America, Africa and Asia within diverse programs and approaches, from commodities to farming systems to natural resource management.

Florence Wambugu, a plant scientist and biotechnology expert and the founder, director and chief executive officer of the non-profit, Nairobi-based Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, has won numerous awards and served on many distinguished boards of directors due to her longstanding work and commitment to increase food production in Africa.

Wycliffe Kumwenda is with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, which, through a network of smallholder-owned business organizations, promotes farming as a business, develops the commercial capacity of its members and enhances their productivity.

For more on this workshop and related matters, see:

ILRI News Blog: Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers, 6 Jun 2012

ILRI News Blog: Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012

ILRI Clippings Blog: Hunger in Sahel worsens as ‘lean season’ begins: ‘The worst is yet to come’, 14 Jun 2012.

CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems website.

Catalogue of high-quality photofilms that highlight connection between people and livestock now online

ILRI photofilms available on the web

A screenshot of a film from the catalogue of ILRI photofilms that are available online (photo credit: ILRI).

An updated catalogue of high-quality photofilms that tell livestock-for-development stories from the field is now available for downloading.

The new catalogue lists 14 films produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), starting in 2010, to capture event highlights and tell stories about people who depend on livestock for their livelihoods, food, income and cropping.

Featuring the use of (mostly still) photographs and audio recordings that have been combined into short films of a few minutes in length, the photofilms in the catalogue tell about the impact of livestock on the livelihoods of people across the world.

The collection includes a film on the experiences of a women’s group in Kenya whose cultural project is raising incomes to complement their livestock-based earnings, stories of Ethiopian farmers who benefited from a project that improved the productivity of their livestock and skilled them to participate in markets and a tribute to the millions of ‘unsung heroes of small-scale food production’– farmers of both crops and livestock – who hold the key to feeding the world in coming years.

The catalogue also contains a film highlighting a modern laboratory facility at ILRI where African researchers are using the latest tools and technologies to find solutions for Africa’s most pressing agricultural problems.

Download the catalogue:  http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/17152

Watch ILRI photofilms: http://blip.tv/ilri-photofilm

 

 

 

 

Planet under pressure / Bits and pieces

This 6-minute animated film explains how we can feed the world by 2050; it was produced by CCAFS and first shown at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, Mar 2012.

In this last posting from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)  about the recent Planet Under Pressure (PUP) conference (London, 26-29 Mar 2012), we highlight a few of our favourite things.

Animated film on a ‘safe operating space’ for food security to 2050
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change launched a short animation that illustrates key actions needed for a ‘safe operating space’ for food security in 2050. An integrated approach must balance how much food we produce, how we adapt to a changing climate and how much agriculture contributes to further climate change. The film offers a summary of steps needed to meet food needs and stabilize the climate. It is short (6 minutes) and very good. Watch it here: How to feed the world in 2050: actions in a changing climate, Mar 2012.

Report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change
Efforts to alleviate the worst effects of climate change cannot succeed without simultaneously addressing the crises in global agriculture and the food system and empowering the world’s most vulnerable populations. Many of these issues have commonly been ‘stovepiped’ into different scientific disciplines, economic sectors, policy processes and geographic regions. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was set up in 2011 to come up with an integrated approach for dealing with these urgent, globally interconnected challenges. Their final report and summary for policymakers, launched at PUP, offer concrete actions to transforming the food system to achieve food security in the face of climate change.

Intensifying agriculture within planetary boundaries
Deborah Bossio, a soil scientist who in Feb 2012 took up the position of research area leader of the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT-TSBF), led a session on ‘Intensifying agriculture within planetary boundaries’. One of the panel speakers was Kate Brauman, one of the authors of a paper published in Nature last October, Solutions for a cultivated planet, led by Jon Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, and co-authored by many others.

‘We are adding 2 billion people to the world by 2050’, Brauman said, ‘by which time we’ll need to double food production. We need to do this in a sustainable way; we need to do this while keeping a world we’d like to live in. But agriculture’s environmental footprint is big: Agriculture uses 40 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, is responsible for 70 per cent of all water use, and generates about 35 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are warming our Earth, mostly deforestation.’

We have a three-part challenge’, Brauman said. ‘Feed  everyone today. Double food production by 2050. And do that in a sustainable way.’

The ‘Solutions for a cultivated planet’ paper offers a 5-part solution:
(1) Slow agricultural expansion: Most expansion will give us relatively small gains at very great environmental costs.
(2) Close yield gaps to increase agricultural productivity: Increase production through intensification where ag systems are already in place
(3) Improve resource efficiency of agriculture: Grow smarter by noting where there is excessive and insufficient nitrogen sources, water sources, etc., and get more bang for our buck.
(4) Close diet gaps: Only 60% of global production is directly consumable, with much going to animal feed, etc.
(5) Reduce food waste, whether stored on poor farms or thrown away in the refrigerators of the rich

‘There is no single way’, Brauman concluded. ‘We need to use all five of these strategies. It can’t be about organic vs commercial, but about both. We’ve only got one planet. We really have to do this right.’

Justin Gillis, in the New York Times Green Blog (Deep thinking about the future of food), points out what is special about Foley’s study: ‘The group finds, as others have before them, that the challenge of doubling global food production in coming decades can probably be met, albeit with considerable difficulty. The interesting thing to me about the analysis is that it doesn’t treat any of the problems confronting the food system as superior to the others—it treats the environmental problem, the supply problem and the equity problem as equally important, laying out a case that they all need to be tackled at once.’

Read an earlier post on this ILRI Clippings Blog about the ‘Solutions for a cultivated planet’ paper: A BIG conversation starts on ways to increase food supplies while protecting environments and eradicating hunger, 14 Oct 2011.

CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems
A CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems was launched at PUP. This multi-institutional program is led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), recently named this year’s Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. The new program embodies a ten-year commitment to bring about a radical transformation in the way land, water and natural systems are managed. ILRI is one of its 11 CGIAR partners. The new research program is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to promote more joined-up-thinking on agricultural research for development at CGIAR, the world’s largest consortium of agricultural researchers. The program’s newly appointed director, Simon Cook, says that more effective, equitable and environmentally sensitive pricing of natural assets like water needs to be mainstreamed. And the fragmented ways in which river basins are managed—with different sectors, such as agriculture, industry, environment and mining, considered separately rather than as interrelated and interdependent—needs to be fixed. ‘A re-think is needed’, Cook says.

Biomas under pressure
ILRI scientist Diego Valbuena gave a handsome presentation on Biomass pressures in mixed farms: Implications for livelihoods and ecosystems services in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa at a ‘Food security’ session on the first day of PUP.  The work behind this presentation was conducted by members of the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme. If the planet is under pressure (and it is), the pressure on biomass might serve as its poster child. Most of the world’s small-scale farmers mix crop growing with livestock raising, with each activity supporting the other. One of the major synergies exemplified by kind of integrated farming is the use of crop residues—the leaves, stalks and other remains of crops after their grain or legumes have been harvested—for feeding livestock as well as for conserving soil nutrients (through mulching), for fuel and for construction. As agricultural systems intensify, the pressures on the biomass available increase. This research is identifying optimal ways of using crop residues in different regions and circumstances.

And the one that got away
One session that never happened was on ‘Livestock and global change: A dialogue on key pressures and potential solutions’. To have been led by systems analysts Mario Herrero, of ILRI, and Philip Thornton, of ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS), and to have included on the panel ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace and ILRI partner Tara Garnett, who leads the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Surrey, this session was cancelled due to an emergency. The session was sorely missed since there was a dearth of discussion at PUP on livestock issues, which  these scientists and others believe need to have a higher profile at such events. What the session would have covered:

Due to the magnitude of the livestock sector, the pressures it exerts on the world’s natural resources, and the multiple socio-economic benefits it provides, this session will span across many subject areas of interest (food security, poverty reduction, vulnerability, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, competition for biomass, land, water, and others). The topic is central to developing-country agendas, which often have large livestock sectors and people depending on them.’

Read previous about the Planet Under Pressure conference on the ILRI News Blog
Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / A numbers game–but which numbers are the numbers that matter?, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Food security policy brief, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / ‘Get out of the nerd loop’–NYT environmental reporter, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Agriculture (finally) at the global change table, 28 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Navigating the Anthropocene, 29 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Where’s the beef? 9 Apr 2012.

 

Planet under pressure / Navigating the Anthropocene

Surviving The Drought from duckrabbit on Vimeo.

Discussions on the second day of the four-day Planet Under Pressure (PUP) conference ending today (29 Mar 2012) in London focused on options and opportunities; this was something of a relief, following the first day that was full of dire statistics on the current state of our planet, and even more depressing prognoses for its future if we do not change our ways and our course, and do so more quickly and radically than most of us are contemplating, or preparing, for.

The thinking behind most of the discussions is of the ‘whole systems’ sort, with the scientific options being cited as helpful in solving our problems tending to involve ‘holistic approaches’ that integrate many different scientific disciplines and methods.

Those disciplines represented here—whether the expertise on display be focusing on ice sheets and glaciers, or ocean acidification, or earth system science or biophysical ecology and social tipping points, or CO2 emissions and sinks, or the ‘global commons’—are all attempting to help define our ‘planetary boundaries’, whether in terms of sustainable water footprints, environmental governance, the rise of eco-consumerism, or ‘the Anthropcean, Earth’s newest epoch’.

The concept of ‘Anthropocene’, writes Elinor Ostrom, a 2009 Nobel Laureate and chief scientific advisor to the conference, indicates that humanity is now a force on par with major geological events such as ice ages or meterorite impacts. This shift in our perception of our place in the world came from scientific findings since the first Rio Summit on Sustainable Development in 1992. ‘Within one lifetime, humanity has become the prime driver of change on the planet. We are pushing Earth towards thresholds in the Earth system; we have many solutions but lack the urgency to implement them. We must set the scientific agenda, she says, to set the world on the path of ‘transforming our way of living’ (one of three official themes of this conference) and ‘fundamental reform needed to create a genuinely sustainable society’.

The lack of urgency noted by Ostrom is perhaps most immediately manifest in the assembly of delegates themselves. The incongruities are everywhere, of course.

Conspicuous consumption
While we the ‘delegates’ (aka participants) at this conference, organized by the science publishing giant Elsevier, tend to be sleek, stylish, well-shod (caramel-coloured knee-high leather boots for the women, soft-laced suede shoes for the men, in soft greens and browns) and well-fed representatives of the academic and global environmental, systems and change communities, a group of mostly young and student-looking ‘conference helpers’ (in PUP-branded blue t-shirts) appears in every break out room to assist with technical and other matters and a small army of mostly older clean-up workers (in unbranded red tops and black trousers) appears at the end of each day to sweep up the discarded coffee cups, soft drink cans, wine glasses, lunch bags and other food detritus of this food-enriched, food-obsessed conference. (We are being provided with daily packed lunches, morning and afternoon refreshments, welcome and dinner receptions, catered lunch sessions and numerous launches of books, reports, studies and assessments that come with wine and finger food.)

Are the distinguished (and privileged and entitled) leaders here—serving such rarified positions as heads of royal societies, corporate social responsibility, climate change institutions, and geosphere and biosphere programs; chief political and scientific advisors; refined academics (with a sprinkling of professors emeritus); and members of a group calling itself the ‘future Earth transition team’—really the most appropriate group to advocate for reducing the world’s economic disparities to make the world more sustainable?

Conspicuous ambitions
No one could fault the organizers of this conference for lack of ambition or vision. Sir Paul Nurse, 2001 Nobel Laureate and president of the Royal Society, describes PUP as a landmark meeting bringing together the key players to plan the integration of science, policy, industry and society to tackle what is arguably humankind’s great challenge over the next several decades. This conference is to bring together scientists and what are being called ‘practitioners’ to empower them with the knowledge and networks necessary to find solutions. John Ingram, of the University of Oxford and the UK Natural Environment Research Council, speaks of building ‘a strong scientific bridge’ to the Rio+20 Earth Summit this June.

Conspicuous reporting
The Fourth Estate is here in earnest, with hundreds of reporters, journalists and television news anchormen and women sitting through plenary sessions, roaming the halls and scanning the break-out rooms in search of an angle, a headline, a deliverable message, a quotable quote and, in the midst of all the dire warnings, especially on the first day, some hopeful idea to latch onto. An odd dearth of electrical outlets in the conference venue means that these reporters, along with many mandarins of the global change community, are often found sitting cross-legged on the carpeted hall floors, where they have deposited themselves next to wall plugs for transacting business on their laptops, iPads, cell phones and other now-necessary tools of the professional trades. Sitting thus, they are exposed to the repeated blasts of industrial-sized hand blowers available in the nearby vast gleaming restrooms (where, unexpectedly, this writer could, and did, actually go to rest from all the planetary debates).

Conspicuous absence
If indeed we manage to better understand whole systems through more holistic scientific approaches, we may have to break out of the not-so-holistic scientific conference ecosystem, with its endless enumerations of facts in parallel panel discussions, earnest poster sessions, and prosaic powerpoint presentations. If we are indeed entering (creating) a new formal unit of geological time, which may be said to have started in the late 18th century with the rise of the Industrial Revolution, or even the development of agriculture some 10,000 years ago (the formal admission of the Anthropocene to our geological time periods is a matter still under deliberation by a Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London), perhaps we need to evolve a new kind of scientific response. The term Anthropocene, after all, has Greek roots, says Wikipedia, with anthropo- meaning ‘human and -cene meaning ‘new’. Might we in future, when navigating ‘whole systems’ and ‘holistic solutions’,  find new ways to get more diversified examples of the ‘whole’ ‘human’ family into our scientific meetings?

Read more about the Planet Under Pressure conference on the ILRI News Blog
Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / A numbers game–but which numbers are the numbers that matter?, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Food security policy brief, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / ‘Get out of the nerd loop’–NYT environmental reporter, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Agriculture (finally) at the global change table, 28 Mar 2012.

 

Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda

Those interested in the future of the livestock sector—particularly in its potential to help alleviate world poverty and hunger without harming human health and the environment—will want to watch this 10-minute film of brief comments made by seven leaders in livestock development thinking. These comments were captured at the end of a recent (12–15 Mar 2012) ‘High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020’, which was co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and held at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The seven participants interviewed are (1) Francois Le Gall, co-host of this consultation and livestock advisor at the World Bank; (2) Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); (3) Kristin Girvetz, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; (4) Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); (5) Boni Moyo, ILRI representative for southern Africa; (6) Carlos Seré, chief development strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and (7) Jimmy Smith, co-host of this event and director general of ILRI.

Eight other leaders in global livestock issues took part in last week’s consultation in Nairobi:

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): Soloman Benigno, project manager and animal health expert

AU-IBAR (African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources): Ahmed El-Sawalhy, director; Bruce Mukanda, senior program and projects officer; Baba Soumare, chief animal health officer

EU (European Union) Delegation to Kenya: Bernard Rey, head of operations

OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health): Walter Masiga, sub-regional representative for Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa

UN (United Nations): David Nabarro, special representative of the UN secretary general for food security and nutrition (via filmed presentation)

World Bank: Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

Read more about this consultation on this ILRI News Blog: Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012.

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr

WILD: Take a look at the Women in Livestock Development

Women in Livestock Development

To celebrate International Women’s Day today, 8 Mar 2012, those of us at the International Livestock Research Institute, who work in Africa and Asia to reduce poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation through livestock- and research-based interventions, have put together 100+ pictures of women in Livestock Development, or WILD, for short.

Go to this board on the Pinterest site, WILD: Women in Livestock Development, to view these women, each of whom is making a difference through livestock-related work.

Or watch this 13-minute filmed presentation of ILRI gender expert Jemimah Njuki explaining why women are import in livestock development and also why livestock development is important: ILRI Film: Farm animals can help millions of women raise the well-being of their households and communities, 30 Mar 2010.

Or watch this 6-minute documentary about Mary, a widow in Malawi who has used the products of agricultural research to improve her (very hard) life and livelihood: ILRI Film: One woman’s struggles in rural Malawi, 8 Mar 2010.

Or watch some short interviews of women involved in research at the crossroads of women’s issues and agricultural research for development:
ILRI News Blog: 8 films, 4 women, a 30-year-old problem: Where we are in gender research for agricultural development, 10 Mar 2011.

Enjoy the day! And remember—hundreds of millions of women living in absolute poverty matter to livestock development, and livestock development matters to hundreds of millions of women living in absolute poverty.

 

Frontline livestock disease research in, and for, Africa highlighted in White House conversation today

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with many partners to improve control of major diseases of cattle in Africa.

East Coast fever in African cattle, one of the target diseases of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is included in a message today at the White House delivered by Raj Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Shah will remind his audience that East Coast fever kills one cow every 30 seconds in Africa. Watch the live stream and join the conversation at 11am ET at the White House today, when Shah and others will answer questions about Innovations for Global Development.

Two other target diseases of ILRI’s are contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and trypanosomosis. All three diseases affect millions of the world’s poorest farmers. And all remain underfunded because they occur mostly in developing regions of the world.

ILRI recently produced three short films on research battles against these diseases.

CBPP: A new vaccine project starts
Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (known by its acronym, CBPP) is found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, where it causes most harm in pastoralist areas. The disease kills up to 15% of infected animals, reduces the meat and milk yields of infected cows (milk yields drop by up to 90%), and reduces the ability of infected oxen to pull ploughs and do other kinds of farm work. An existing ‘live’ vaccine against this disease produces severe side effects and gives only limited protection.

Watch this short (runtime: 2:35) ILRI film, ‘Developing a Vaccine for a Highly Contagious Cattle Disease’, on the research recently begun at ILRI and its partner institutes, including the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, to develop a more effective vaccine against this form of acute cattle pneumonia. This research is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Trypanosomosis: A genetic approach to its control
Trypanosomosis, called sleeping sickness in humans, is a wasting disease that maims and eventually kills millions of cattle in Africa and costs farmers billions of dollars annually.

In 2011, using the latest gene mapping and genomic technologies, researchers at ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, animal health laboratories and at institutes in the UK and Ireland identified two genes that enable Africa’s ancient N’Dama cattle breed to resist development of the disease when infected with the causative, trypanosome, parasite.

This breakthrough should eventually make it easier for Africa’s livestock breeders to breed animals that will remain healthy and productive in areas infested by the parasite-carrying tsetse fly. The international team that came together in this project is an example of the disciplinary breadth and agility needed to do frontline biology today, and the complex research approaches and technologies now needed to unravel fundamental biological issues so as to benefit world’s poor.

ILRI’s collaborating institutes in this work include Liverpool University; the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh; Trinity College, Dublin; and the University of Manchester. The Wellcome Trust funded the bulk of the work in this project.

Watch this short (runtime: 5:28) ILRI film, ‘Battling a Killer Cattle Disease’, on the international partnership that made this breakthrough in trypanosomosis research.

 

Trypanosomosis: A community-based approach to its control
Another ILRI research team has been working with partners and livestock keepers in West Africa to develop safer ways to treat their cattle with drugs to protect them from trypanosomosis. Parasite resistance to the trypanocidal drugs used to treat and prevent this disease has emerged in many areas and is a growing problem for farmers and governments alike. This collaborative research team recently developed good practices in the use of trypanocides to slow the emergence of drug resistance in the parasites that cause the disease. This film describes the disease and these practices, known as ‘rational drug use’, clearly and in detail to help veterinary workers and farmers treat animals safely.

ILRI’s partners in this project include the Centre International de Recherche-Développement sur l’Elevage en Zone Subhumid, Freie Universität Berlin, Laboratoire Vétérinaire Centrale du Mali, Centre Régional de la Recherche Agricole Sikasso, Project de Lutte contra la Mouche Tsétsé et la Trypanosomose (Mali), Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (Mali), University of Hannover, Direction Nationale de l’Elevage et l’Institut de Recherche Agronomique de Guinée, Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Control Unit (Ghana), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Bénin and the Nigerian Institute of Trypanosomiasis Research. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Watch this ILRI film, ‘Community-Based Integrated Control of Trypanosomosis in Cattle’ (runtime: 12.48), for clear instructions on how to deploy drugs to better control trypanosomosis over the long term.

Angela Merkel at ILRI’s African biosciences labs: A photofilm memento

DSC_6439

Lydia Wamalwa talks with German Chancellor (and former scientist) Angela Merkel at ILRI-BecA labs (photo credit: ILRI/Njoroge).

Through photographs and quotations, this photofilm celebrates a visit Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, paid to the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 12 July 2011.

This afternoon, staff at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are holding their annual Christmas/holiday party, so we’re in an early festive mood and think this as good a time as any to post this ILRI photofilm (marriage of still photographs with sound) of a visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid to ILRI on 12 July 2011, which happened to be the last day of work of Carlos Seré, whose ten-year tenure as director general of ILRI was ending.

(We like to remark around here about how kind it was of the German Chancellor to come all the way to Nairobi to bid our director general farewell!)

The visit went well, with the sun—and ILRI’s newly refurbished and state-of-the-art biosciences laboratories—shining and ILRI’s young bioscientists from across Africa and other parts of the world standing ready to provide the Chancellor with a lab coat, a theory, an answer, an explanation—and, as you shall see in the photofilm, a smile.

Take a look at the 2-minute photofilm. And allow us to take this early holiday moment in Nairobi to wish you early season’s greetings.

Read more about the Chancellor’s visit:
on ILRI’s News Blog
In Nairobi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel puts on lab coat, meets young bioscientists fighting hunger in Africa, 13 Jul 2011.

on ILRI’s Clippings Blog
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel to tour ILRI’s advanced biosciences labs in Nairobi today, 12 July.
German chancellor and minister of agriculture and Kenyan ministers of agriculture and health visit ILRI’s research laboratories, 13 Jul 2011.
Germany and ILRI sign agreement in Nairobi to collaborate in research to assess the pastoral-livestock-wildlife benefits from Kenya’s eco-conservancies, 13 Jul 2011.