Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Animal Science Research Priorities Under Feed the Future

28 July - 1 August 2014. Animal Science Research Priorities Under Feed the Future.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Food Security (BFS) implements the Feed the Future initiative as the United States’ contribution to a collaborative global effort supporting country-owned processes and plans for improving food security. 

The current Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change Innovation Lab ends in April 2015, BFS seeks to develop a new Innovation Lab that defines a livestock-focused research agenda which enhances livelihood possibilities and food security while attending to key value chains and agricultural development priorities identified by USAID Missions in the framework of Feed the Future priorities. 

The USAID Bureau for Food Security (BFS) hosted a web-based Livestock AgExchange July 28 – August 1, 2014 to solicit global, public input in defining key research and capacity development priorities which BFS will use to help inform the development of the new Innovation Lab.

Hereunder are the conclusions of the third and last day

I. Role of Livestock in Global Food Security & USAID’s Scaling-Up Initiative (Moderators: Drs. Betram & Chapotin)
Feed the Future has placed increasing emphasis on "technology scaling" to accelerate delivery and uptake of innovations to enhance food security, smallholder incomes and household nutrition and delivering these advances in ways that enhance the sustainability of systems for innovation and extension, e.g. working in ways that strengthen commercial agro-inputs dealers, and accelerating the rate at which livestock producers adopt new or improved technologies or practices. In this session we have asked: (1) What are the key points of entry for interventions that are likely to enhance the role of livestock in agricultural development and food security? (2) What are some livestock-linked technologies or innovative practices that merit consideration as opportunities for scaling? It is important to determine how innovations and technologies related to livestock can be made to reach smallholder farmers to enable them to strengthen their production systems, reach markets, and get better access to animal source foods. How can we ensure that research partners are building the connections to players along the value chain so that new innovations are tested, adapted and scaled across diverse production systems? 
Small livestock
  • Encouraging and training for small livestock rearing (rabbits, chickens, etc) to promote food security for the urban poor is immediately scalable and both neglected and of considerable potential.
  • As part of a health project targeted to people living with HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, we supported a church-based organization in establishing chicken production in the grounds of their building with community labor and included an egg-hatching machine. Worker profited from sale of chickens and eggs but also consumed eggs.
  • Backyard poultry rearing can be done with local materials for poultry housing and stock is available locally (exotic to be crossed with local breeds).
Training and education for livestock management
  • Donors and other policy makers should work with people at the grassroots level and conduct trainings since diseases are a bother to small-scale livestock farmer in subSaharan Africa. Research centers for diseases and breeding near farmers would be effective along with regular vaccination programs and provision of trained veterinary personnel.
  • For example a goat production/intensification sites of which there are now 203 around the country are close to the farmers and assists the goat group who owned the production site where extension demonstrations are conducted including nutrition & feeding, improved forage feeders, importance of clean water, deworming and other health care, slatted floor dry shelters and their use, intestinal parasite and the cycle of parasitism, salt mineral blocks basically addressing calcium and phosphorous deficiencies in the local forages. 
  • Pastoralists should be encouraged to destock and keep manageable herds but this is difficult since in Africa the number of animals owned is associated with prestige no matter their state of health. Water harvesting technology and climate predictions are needed for this sector of livestock.
  • The role of livestock in agricultural and food security is enhanced by implementation of sustainable management practices. Taking much of the existing knowledge and skills we currently have for the diagnosis and control of many infectious and nutritionally related diseases to the community level would likely eliminate many health problems that constrain livestock production. Merely applying what we already know in a consistent broad based approach could significantly reduce the burden of disease for animals and humans. Buy-in and uptake by communities takes place when we have engaged all stakeholders before, during and after the studies/implementation take place. 
  • In many countries, veterinary and animal health services were hit hard during the period of structural adjustment that occurred back in the 80s and 90s.  We now often look to the private sector to fill the gap, but lack of effective demand (in economic terms) from small producers means that their needs go unmet.  The key it seems would be to think of ways to apply "what we already know" through some approach that would be sustainable, rather than a one-off intervention.  
  • There is a need for public and private sectors to work in sync, including perhaps in the process of engaging stakeholders, e.g., in Kenya there have been several advances in technologies for milk storage, processing and storage of animal products (yogurts, ghee, dried meats, etc) that improve nutritional impacts especially for children (e.g., The BMGF-funded East Africa Smallholder Dairy Program).
  • Introduction of camels in drought prone areas is another example, which provide an important source of milk and foods during dry periods that cattle and other livestock species cannot.  This raises a series of management and possible environmental issues, but there is little doubt that the increased adoption of camels in dry parts of the Horn of Africa has been at least partially a response to improve local food security and nutrition.
Livestock as banking system
  • Livestock as an asset/saving:  there is been little mention of livestock's role as an economic asset, but the asset/savings dimension is an important means for smallholders to address food insecurity through sales and then purchases of cereals during periods of shortage.  Evidence from parts of the Sahel shows that households with livestock often were less vulnerable to severe food insecurity than strictly crop-based systems in the Sahel, because the former could sell off livestock to buy cereals during extreme weather events.  
  • Goats are walking bank accounts and kept for sale during time of need for cash such as school fees, health problems especially since there is no rural banking system. Can goatherds be scaled up with improved management to increase security? 
Attracting the next generation
  • Young people interested in the Peace Corps and NGOs like Heifer International and international studies seem to have waned in number over the last 3 decades. There seems to be a ‘disconnect’ between international animal agriculture at American universities and the concept of globalization. 
  • When faculty interested in international agriculture retired in the 1990s and the concept of globalization took hold there was a loss of attendance at specific ‘international agriculture’ sessions at meetings and more integration of research presentations into specific disciplinary sessions. Do we need to recreate a great interest in our young and older students and faculty in international animal agriculture in order to feed the future, by encouraging scientists to "go out there" and contribute to feeding the world using the latest technologies as we have seen with the boom of mobile phone use in Africa opening up markets for huge numbers of small producers etc.
  • This may be necessary to accomplish the multi-inter-and trans-disciplinary research and extension activities discussed above that lead to many different applied and outreach projects and especially the "farm to fork value chain projects" needed to feed the future.
  • It is imperative to motivate livestock farming among youth and provide conducive environment for the existing farmers so that they can continue to do so. Programs like VFT and CAHF could be helpful to incentivize and bring more youth to this sector.
II. Relationship building with other livestock programs, projects & donors (Moderators: Drs. Richard, Turk, Sukumaran and Yazman) 
70% or 1.5 billion people globally generate a livelihood through livestock and animal source food that is an important part of food security worldwide. Donors want to address the issues of alleviating poverty, increasing incomes, and sustaining livelihoods. While various donors may fund programs in the same region or countries, each has a specific agenda, mandate or vision and programs must align with both donors’ interests as well as beneficiaries’ interests. Lack of co-ordination and learning exists among the many donor organizations involved in research and that are gaining valuable experiences. Even though the expertise and strategies are different for different projects implemented, varying from disaster response to resource management, there is essentially an overlap that needs to be taken care of through principles of inclusion, transparency and focus on work. The ultimate goal would be improving the lives protecting them from hunger, poverty and disease. To do this not only the countries but the donors need to be aligned and kept well informed about the role of the livestock sector in several important aspects of food security, income generation, control of zoonoses and so on. Those in the private sector are interested in becoming engaged because development activities make a profit so while their motivation differs it should have an understanding of what support donors can give and what type of coordination the donors have to align support for achieving objectives and improving the sector. The private sector is important because livestock keeping is a business. Therefore, it is necessary to build relationships and balance support for coordination with the private sector and between donor groups especially considering that funding for livestock is at its lowest point in 30 years.
Coordination through meetings and committees
  • There is much overlap, and very little inter-organizational discussion that includes all players who might be interested in finding common ground.  It requires old-fashioned one-to-one reaching out. Personal interactions that foster true partnership require inter-personal skills, respect and sincere action toward mutual understanding and support. It requires effort, stepping out of one's own comfort zone. Identify organizations and understand their missions/visions/objectives. Thus we need to establish collegiality and opportunities for cooperation and collaboration. Provide a platform for learning from each other so as to avoid redundancy and inefficiency in effort and expenditure (financial and human capital).
  • A multi stakeholder committee needs to be set up at country level by governments to coordinate and complement current donor projects and strengthen future participation of all stakeholders for a pro-poor livestock development. Compare and contrast each currently implemented or planned donor initiatives and determine at what levels of interventions the initiatives work and determine overlaps or synergies and gaps. The Country Co-ordination mechanism followed by the Global Fund is a replicable model for donors in countries to ensure right channeling of funds.
  • Learn from others about both local and international organizations with complimentary goals and mandates to find new partnerships with experts outside of veterinary medicine: feed experts, soil scientists, aquaculturalists, environmentalists, botanists, horticulturalists, entrepreneur trainers, anthropologists, marketing, communications, media and public relations specialists, since livestock farming in not a standalone sector. It is embedded in the culture and traditions of the country involving positive and negative externalities, very closely linked to climate change and above all the needs of the sector has to be translated to understandable messages for use of policy makers.
  • Leverage interdisciplinary expertise since one organization cannot know all or do all, but there seems to be untapped possibility for exchange of knowledge that would not result in the dreaded "competition for donor dollars.
  • The use of ethics based decision tools can enable agencies to identify stakeholders as well as points of agreements and common interests. This in turn could serve as the starting points for building stronger longterm relations between the administrations and external agencies.
Coordination of donor groups and clients through online forums
  • Few NGO sharing platforms exist like REGLAP in Horn and East Africa, Graziers Diary on Face book. Online forums could go beyond the information exchange about the local problems and challenges to co-operation between countries. It has been used to link One Health veterinarians at Makerere University in Uganda and to support capacity building in Liberia along with US based international development experts.
Crafting and funding the development agenda for ASF
  • Investment plans and policy agendas need to adequately address the issues and opportunities that characterize the livestock sector. Policy makers and budget investment planners need to be provided with the evidence required to make the right decisions on funding livestock sector research and in promoting the right livestock sector policies.
  • As a body researchers have been too introverted, interested in own sub-research fields in animal health, production issues, marketing and not focused sufficiently on addressing the main problem which is the plight of poor livestock keepers. Donors have also been too competitive, often vying with other donors to undertake a piece of developmental research rather than collaborating with them. As long as projects solely deal with sub-systems and not with how they benefit livestock keepers then donors will be seen to be more interested in research than development and thus governments will provide less funding accordingly. We need more joined-up and follow-through research where the benefits of donor investments can be seen as increases nutrition or other food security and livelihoods benefits to discreet livestock keepers - pastoralists, small stock keepers, smallholder dairy farmers etc. Research needs to change from the introverted, individual and sub-research field focusing style to that of a joint venture capable of producing demonstrable outcome for the investment made.
  • Livestock research has generated some amazing pro-poor benefits but donor marketing of such products for wide scale benefit has been lacking partly due to the fact that donors have not appreciated the strengths and experience of the private sector in marketing research products and have relied rather on generally inefficient and cash-strapped extension agencies to do the Scaling-up. We need to embrace both these institutions (extension and private sector) into our research programs right from the program planning stage and provide financial support and training to the national extension agencies. If livestock research is not seen to be delivering wide scale benefits to the target population funding levels will be lower.
  • Provide educational opportunities and future career and volunteer opportunities for veterinarians new to the profession, or interested in changing career paths to engage in development work.
  • The production to consumption value chain provides a basis for identifying common interest in supporting livestock development and thus could be used to define areas and avoid redundancies and provide synergies of efforts. Utilize an approach based on the two components of the livestock value chain in most FtF countries: (1) pre-farm gate production component and (2) post-farm gate marketing/processing/distributing. Agencies primarily concerned with pro-poor development to improve family livelihoods will focus on the pre-farm gate component while development agencies and banks primarily concerned with economic development will primarily focus on the post-farm gate component, not least because they will be addressing macro-economic priorities of national decision makers.
Examples of success
  • East Africa Dairy development Project led by Heifer International and funded by Bill & Melinda Gates and implemented in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania over 2 phases has successfully promoted 40 different practices based on “best fit practice” policy for the local context.
  • The Volunteer Farmer Trainer (VFT) program has proved to be a sustainable one, after the end of the project period. The probable reasons could be early access to new technologies, social status, social networking, altruism and also the fact that this helps them generate income from associated extension activities. VFT has also demonstrated its capability to penetrate across male and female livestock farmers equally.
  • Operation Flood in India is another success story. This is the world’s biggest dairy development program that has led to white revolution in India and made India the largest milk producer in the world. Dairy farming became India’s largest and self-sustaining employment. Operation Flood works through a network of milk co-operatives formed by livestock farmers across the country. The program commenced with the EU assistance through the World Food Program and still continues as a sustainable program. It is important to be cautious about the replication of this in a different environment since there are countries that have been affected by protracted civil conflicts and where education has been disrupted for many years. In such situations, the role of external assistance could be very critical.

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